This does not exclude our responsibility to work for the purpose of sanctification. Works are not for justification but for sanctification. Works do not save us, but they are essential for transformation! To put it bluntly, we have to practice being God; we have to learn to live as God lives. Is that not how one becomes proficient at something?
God shows in many places in the Bible that He is pleased with our obedience. Our works do not save us, but they please Him (see Hebrews 13:16; Colossians 3:20; I John 3:22; etc.). He is so happy when we work at sanctification because they assist in the transformation process.
Parents ought to understand this. We are pleased by the stumbling efforts of our child to please us. So is God! He looks on our motives, intentions, and the principles involved in what His child is doing. He does not just look at the quantity or the quality—He looks at us as His children, who are trying to imitate Him.
Sanctification is absolutely necessary to prove to God our righteous character and belief in Jesus Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Nine)
God can forbear with us because Jesus Christ came to this earth and died for all of us. If we repent and ask God forgiveness, then Christ's blood covers all of our sins. Justice has been done. The sin has been paid for by the blood of Christ. God can thus forbear with us and allow us to "get away" with our sins for a while, because if we repent, then Jesus Christ's blood covers our sins, and justice is done. A person died for those sins—our Creator, Jesus Christ.
But if we do not repent, what happens? We die, and the penalty is paid. So this is a kind of legal maneuver by God. His forbearance is allowed under His legal system because Jesus Christ's blood pays the penalty for our sins. He can be merciful and lenient for a while, and whether we repent, or whether we do not repent, justice is ultimately served because a death occurs—either Jesus' or ours. This is the legal basis for why He can be forbearing. He has already taken care of it, one way or the other.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
This passage shows us the foundation of understanding justification by faith and thus where we stand in our relationship with God. Paul explains that, regardless of who one is and what he has done that might be considered as righteousness, God owes Him nothing but death because "all have sinned." Sinners are those under the law, and the law condemns them, making them subject to its power to take the sinner's life. Each person's own transgressions against the law and God place him in that position.
Sin is something each sinner is responsible for, and once the individual has sinned and earned the death penalty, the sin cannot be forgiven simply because he does good to make up for it. God did not make him sin. A clear example is Adam and Eve: God obviously did not make them sin; each of them chose to sin. Romans 3:20 clearly states that no sinner can justify himself through law-keeping. The law's purpose is to make known what sin is.
Once a person sins, everything is seemingly stacked against him. The sinner can in no way make up for what he has done. Therefore, since justification cannot be claimed as a right due to his keeping the law, if a person desires to be forgiven, the only alternative is that justification must be received as a gift.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)
Here Paul explains that God has provided a means whereby we may receive forgiveness of sins and be accounted righteous in His sight. It is separate and distinct from obedience to the law. This forgiveness comes by having faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?
We are justified through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He is the payment for our sins, thus freeing us from sin's penalty, and at the same time, God accounts—or imputes—Christ's righteousness to us. The righteousness that enabled Him to be the perfect sacrifice is accounted as if it is ours! This then makes it possible for us to have access into the presence of the holy God.
But this does not do away with law. It establishes it! It places the law in its rightful position in our understanding of what God is working out in our lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Nine)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Romans 3:22: