Now a righteousness for us sinners that comes from God has been revealed, the same righteousness to which the entire Scriptures bear witness. It is a righteous that we obtain by faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed faith is the only way to obtain this righteousness. We are declared right in God’s sight because of what Jesus did for us as our redeemer, removing us from this slavery to sin and guilt and because of what Jesus did for us as our propitiation, turning away God’s holy wrath that was against us on account of our sin and guilt. We are declared righteous, not guilty, we are acquitted because of what Christ did for us, in our place, and this happens when we trust what Christ has done and forsake all hope of earning our peace with God through our own efforts. This is the only way sinners, Jews and Gentiles alike, can be put right with God because we are not righteous in ourselves and never shall be as the result of our own efforts and because God, just judge that he is, must deal justly with our sin and guilt. He cannot declare us righteous unless in some real sense we have become so. And the only way we can become righteous is for the righteousness of Christ, his satisfaction of divine justice, his paying the debt of our sin, the ransom price of our redemption, to be made ours through faith.
There is a righteousness before God, before the judgment of God, for the unrighteous; there is a deliverance from eternal punishment and it is available to any and every sinner if only he or she will turn away from the futility of supposing he or she can earn a right standing before God and instead trust himself or herself to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ in the place and for the sake of sinners. That is the gospel, that the good news.
Taken from a sermon on Romans 3:21-26 by Dr. Robert S. Rayburn