Two Glorious Words: ‘But Now’

Posted on November 24, 2020

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By David Ettinger

How Fitting
The Book of Romans has been referred to as “the greatest document ever written.” This is because of its soaring doctrine and theology, and its message to the human race. It is only fitting then, that the two most glorious words in all of Scripture are found in this greatest of all documents. These two words are, “But now.”

Crucial Background
These two little – but supremely meaningful – words are found in Romans Chapter 3. Basically, the first 20 verses of this chapter speak of humanity’s innate sinfulness and how the Mosaic Law cannot save us.

Don’t let the term “Mosaic Law” fool you; this is not just a reference to the Jewish people. Verse 9 tells us: “For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin” (emphasis added). As such, verse 20 delivers this somber verdict upon us: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin” (emphasis added).

This tells us that every human being is born a sinner, and condemned to eternal judgment because of it. Furthermore, left to our own devices, there is nothing we can do about it. We have no ability to save ourselves from this fate.

But Now …
And then we reach verse 21, which starts off with these two glorious words: “But now.” It is fair to ask, “But now what?”

Clearly, the word “but” indicates a change of direction from what comes before. What comes before is verse 20, that “no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law.” Therefore, we’re doomed!

But verse 21 says: “Not so fast,” or stated more eloquently, “But now.” And what the “but now” is, is the remainder of verse 21 and verses 22-23:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (emphasis added).

The great message here is that though the human race cannot save itself from God’s wrath, God Himself has provided a way of salvation apart from the feeble efforts of humanity. Jesus Christ – who died on the cross for the sins of the world – is God’s provision for our salvation.

However, note that Jesus’ sacrificial death is not an “automatic” antidote for humanity’s condemnation. Only those “who believe” (v. 22) in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will be saved (Romans 10:9).

The key is not human works, but faith in Jesus Christ. And what is the reward for those who do put their faith in Jesus? Verse 24 tells us, “and all [who believe] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

“But Now” – Before and After
There are two sides to those words “but now” – a before and after.

Before “but now,” the human race was condemned and separated from God because of sin, thereby destined to an eternity of darkness and separation from God.

However, after “but now,” humanity’s condemnation brought on by innate sin can be wiped clean for those individuals who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. After “but now” and our declaration of Christ, the tag of “unrighteousness” – unworthiness before God – is erased, and we are declared “righteous” – made worthy in God’s sight.

The “But now” of Romans are two glorious words rich with marvelous truth. For those of us on the after side of “but now,” we humbly rejoice that God has opened our eyes to this wondrous truth.

And for those of us on the after side of “But now,” let us fervently pray for God’s mercy on those living on the before side that they, too, may make that marvelous transformation from condemnation to life eternal!