Romans 3 is really interesting! In a startling "reveal," Paul says that it turns out that God can - and does - save people apart from the Law.
Paul points out that the Law was never intended to save people. The sacrificial system could not accomplish that (Heb. 10:4). Abraham was saved before he became Jewish because (Rom 3:21), 'God has shown a becoming-saved-process that is not at all linked to The Law.' The Law doesn't save - it brings death and even greater realization that we are doomed. But God - all along - had this undercurrent of salvation by grace through faith. God's salvation was always apart from The Law. The Jewish mindset was that they needed to obey the rules to get God to like them more.
The author of Hebrews says a similar thing as Paul when he does a "reveal" that there's another order of priesthood that you-all forgot about. Everybody was fixated for the longest time on the Aaronic Priesthood. But there was this other priest - no relation to Aaron at all - that was a priest of God whom even Abraham showed submission to. This guy with the crazy name, Melchizedek, was a believer in Yahweh and acted as his priest hundreds of years before Aaron came along.
I have to chuckle at this. It's a bit like the illusionist who distracts your attention away from what's really going on and it when the effects are shown, it looks like "magic." All this time God had a righteousness and a priesthood working in the background ready to be used when The Law and Aaronic priesthood had fully taught us what we didn't want to believe. Because what we wanted to believe was that we could try really hard and get God to like us.
That could be confusing so let me restate the lesson: it is absolute folly to think you can do anything to make yourself acceptable to God.
Go 'head, try it! Here's a list of 613 commands - just 613 of them. Go ahead, keep them all.
OK, OK, that's too many and too hard. Here - let's start you out on just ten rules. Live your life so as to not violate just those ten. Hmmmm. Can't do that either.
Well, by the time people are figuring this all out, Jesus comes along and says there really are just two: love God and love neighbor. We still can't do it.
Have we learned the lesson? We can't do anything to gain acceptance by God. OK, now let's get to the real point: it's about grace and it always has been.
This must have been an earth-shattering realization for both Jews and Gentiles. An earned righteousness that is apart from rule-keeping. Mind boggling!