It should be noted that here the apostle is introducing the vital subject of justification, which some have rightly called “the heart of the Gospel.”  Paul’s doctrine of justification is the answer to that question litigated between Job and his friends, “How shall man be just with God?”  Paul begins by showing one of the ways we may not be justified, though vain men to this very day are attempting to make themselves acceptable to God by their own works.  But no, every such attempt is in vain, for one simple sin brings us under condemnation, even as Adam and Eve discovered in the garden.  How, then, when we are in such a helpless condition, finding it impossible to do good perfectly and perpetually, can we be justified?  How can we have a righteousness in which we may appear before God, and be accepted of Him Who is so just and holy that no sin or blight of uncleanness can dwell in His presence?  This is the perplexing question which Paul is going to answer, an answer which yields comforts to the hearts of the millions who have embraced the message of the Gospel by faith.

Since the law utterly fails as a system of helping the sinner to save himself, and does nothing except reveal sin in all its heinous colors, and strip away our self-righteousness to reveal us as the rebels we truly are, it would seem that all the human race is left without hope.  But this is not the case, for God is rich in mercy, and will not permit all the creatures made in His image to be destroyed in their rebellion.  The apostle begins to explain how God can save wicked rebels against His righteous law, making them acceptable to Himself.  This is that Gospel message of which the apostle was not ashamed, and of which no Christian should ever be ashamed.  It is the message of righteousness given freely to sinners, apart from their law-keeping.  If only churches and preachers understood this message, how much more joy and zeal should there be in Christianity around the world!