God’s Remedy for Mankind’s Condition Part 2 – Romans 3:24-26
Pastor Mark Hardy March 4, 2012
Many years ago when Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but he was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court.
When he appeared before the judge, Graham was asked if he was going to plead, “Guilty or Not guilty?” When he pleaded guilty, the judge then replied, “That will be ten dollars—a dollar for every mile you went over the speed limit.”
Suddenly the judge recognized the famous evangelist and said, “You have violated the law, and therefore, the fine must be paid, but I am going to pay it for you.” The judge then took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet and attached it to the speeding ticket. Afterwards, the judge also took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! Billy Graham said about the incident, “That is how God treats repentant sinners!”
This is a good example of what is called grace, which is one of the things we are going to look at this morning. Many Christians today are shocked by the sin of others, but they should be staggered by the grace of God in their lives. The apostle Paul, who was once the greatest persecutor of the church, never got over what God in Christ had done for him by His grace. This is why he declared in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” Can you truly say that? Turn in your Bible to Romans 3.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 3:21-26, we are looking at six characteristics of divine justification whereby God imparts the gift of righteousness to believing sinners. Thus far we have seen the first three characteristics in vv. 21-23:
1) Righteousness is apart from legalism (v. 21)
2) Righteousness requires faith in Christ (v. 22a)
3) Righteousness is available for everyone (vv. 22b-23)
This morning we will see the remaining three characteristics in vv. 24-26. The fourth characteristic of divine justification is this:
IV. Righteousness is Bestowed by Grace
A. Look at v. 24: being justified as a gift by His grace… (Stop there)
1. The one Greek word translated “being justified” (dikaioumenoi) is a legal term borrowed from the courtroom. As we saw last time, the word “justified” is practically identical to the word “righteousness” (dikaiosune), for they come from the same root word and both emphasize the idea of righteousness.
2. God’s saving righteousness or right standing before God through faith in Jesus Christ is known as the doctrine of “Justification by Faith.” Justification is far more than mere pardon or forgiveness, which have to do with the remission or release of a penalty, debt, or punishment.
3. Justification is actually a declaration that no ground whatsoever for the infliction of penalty, debt, or punishment even exists. Therefore, to be “justified” is the instantaneous judicial act of God by which He declares those sinners who believe in Jesus Christ (v. 22) to be righteous or have a right standing before God.
4. Justification is to be totally acquitted or set free by God of all charges that could be brought against us because of our sin. Our record so clean that God now treats the believing sinner just as if he had never sinned.
5. This happens because the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer’s account at the moment of salvation. For 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
6. The sinless Son of God was treated by God the Father as if He were a sinner and guilty of all the sins ever committed even though He never committed one, and had Him die as a Substitute to pay the penalty for the sins of those who believe in Him. Just as Christ was not a sinner, but was treated as if He were, so believers who are sinners are treated as if they are righteous, being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
7. Therefore, justification relates to the believer’s positional standing not to his practical condition. It is when God “declares us righteous” not when He “makes us righteous,” which won’t be complete until glorification.
8. Leon Morris said it well, “It is true that the Christian salvation includes being “made righteous,” but it is not this truth to which justification points us. We must not confuse justification with sanctification” (footnote pg. 178)
9. Whereas justification is a once-for-all verdict and is a matter of imputation, sanctification is a lifelong process and is a matter of transformation.
10. Therefore, justification and sanctification are distinct, but they can never be separated. For God always sanctifies those whom He justifies.
11. The whole of the Christian life is about becoming in our daily practice what we already are in our divine position in Christ. We see this in Philippians 1:6 where Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you (i.e. justification) will perfect it (i.e. sanctification) until the day of Christ Jesus” (i.e. glorification).
B. Now notice in v. 24 that God justifies believers “…as a gift by His grace.”
1. The word “gift” (dorean) here speaks of the free character of a gift. When you give a person a gift it is to them absolutely free and without cost.
2. That is the way our salvation is received—absolutely free and without cost or human merit in any way. This is because salvation is “by His (i.e. God’s) grace.”
3. The word “grace” (chariti) here speaks of the unmerited, undeserved favor of God. A.W. Tozer described it this way, “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.”
4. Whereas God’s mercy is not giving us what we do deserve, God’s grace is giving us what we don’t deserve. Both are involved in our salvation.
5. By God’s mercy He doesn’t give believing sinners the hell that we deserve because of our sinfulness, instead by His grace He gives us heaven as a free gift that we don’t deserve. What a deal!
6. Grace is everything for nothing. God in His great love and amazing grace has done for us what we could never do by ourselves.
7. This is why another watchword of the Reformation is sola gratia, meaning grace alone. We see this clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
8. Our salvation is free, but it is not cheap! We see this in the fifth characteristic of divine justification, which is this:
V. Righteousness was Accomplished by Christ
A. Look again at v. 24: Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
1. God’s saving righteousness or justification was all accomplished on the basis of “…the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” The word “redemption” (apolutroseos) is a commercial term borrowed from the marketplace.
2. It basically means “liberation through the payment of a price,” and was commonly used of paying a ransom to free a prisoner from his captors or a slave from his master (Lev. 25:47-55).
3. Because of man’s utter sinfulness and total inability to become righteous on his own, as we saw in 1:18-3:20, God graciously provided his redemption in Jesus Christ. Only the sinless Son of God could pay the price to redeem sinful men.
4. Christ’s death on the cross was the ransom price that provides freedom from bondage to sin and Satan for all those who believe in Him. Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6)
5. That’s why the eternal Second Person of the Trinity stepped out of heaven to become the God-man in Jesus Christ. And the effect of redemption is seen in Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (1 Cor. 1:30; Gal. 3:13; Col. 1:14; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 9:15)
6. Without this there would be no forgiveness of sin and everyone would be exposed to divine wrath forever. But God in Christ did for us what we could never do for ourselves!
B. Notice that Paul goes on to show that Christ’s redemption is initiated by God the Father in the first part of v. 25: whom (i.e. speaking about Christ) God displayed publically as a propitiation in His blood through faith. (Stop there)
1. The death of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, was not made in private, but openly on the hill of Calvary for the entire world to see. It was there that God displayed publicly His Son as a propitiation for man’s sin.
2. The word “propitiation” (hilasterion) means “to appease or satisfy” and refers to the removal of God’s wrath, as well as sin, thereby allowing believing sinners to be reconciled to God. This is why Christ’s death is called an atoning sacrifice.
3. Since man is utterly sinful, the only acceptable satisfaction that could reconcile a holy God to sinful man had to be made by God Himself. Therefore, God took the initiative to appease and satisfy His own wrath in the Person of His Son. In other words, God gave Himself to save us from Himself.
4. God is a loving and merciful God who doesn’t want to punish us (1 Jn. 4:8), but He is also a holy and just God who must punish sin (Ex. 34:7b; Num. 14:18). Because all mankind is guilty before God, right now God’s wrath presently rests on every unregenerate person.
5. We see this in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
C. However, Jesus took upon Himself the Father’s holy wrath against sin that we deserved.
1. This is recorded for us in Mark 15:33-34: Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
2. The “sixth hour…until the ninth hour” was noon until 3:00pm by Jewish reckoning, which was the last part of Jesus’ 6 hours on the cross. During that time “there was darkness over the whole land,” signifying divine judgment.
3. And at the ninth hour just before Jesus died (Matt. 27:50), His heart-wrenching cry revealed just how deeply He felt His abandonment as God the Father poured out all of His holy wrath against sin upon His own Son. Then after exhausting His wrath upon Him, God had the sinless Christ die on the cross as our Substitute to pay in full the penalty for our sins.
4. What mercy and grace! Therefore, God’s holy wrath was completely appeased and satisfied in Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice on the cross. Whereas our salvation is free, it cost God the unfathomable price of the life of His Son.
5. The price of Christ’s propitiation was “His blood,” which is a reference to His sacrificial death on the cross (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Blood is always required for atonement.
6. Hebrews 9:22 states, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
7. This is a reference to Leviticus 17:11, which says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”
8. Now although Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6), once again Paul shows as he did in v. 22 that the only way that Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross can become effectual or appropriated in a person’s life is “through faith” in Jesus Christ.
9. Jesus Christ is the one and only propitiation for people’s sins. In 1 John 2:2 we read, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (4:10) “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Heb. 2:17)
10. Now the Hebrew equivalent of the word “propitiation” is used in the Old Testament in reference to the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies (Heb. 9:5). The Mercy Seat was the golden lid on the Ark of the Covenant that had a golden cherub at each end facing one another and covering the mercy seat with their wings. And right above the Mercy Seat rested the Shekinah glory of God’s presence (Ex. 25:20-22).
11. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of the animal sacrifice on and before the Mercy Seat, symbolizing the payment of the penalty for his own sins and the sins of the people (Lev. 16:13-15).
12. John MacArthur accurately states, “But that yearly act, although divinely prescribed and honored, had no power to remove or pay the penalty for a single sin. It could only point the true and effective ‘offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10, 14).’” (pg. 209-210)
13. All of the former animal sacrifices appointed by God merely pointed to Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Mercy Seat where God and sinners can be reconciled as they put their faith in Him and His atoning sacrifice on their behalf.
14. The sixth characteristic of divine justification is this:
VI. Christ’s death Demonstrated God’s Righteousness
A. Look at vv. 25b-26: This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
1. Here we see the purpose for which God displayed publicly Christ’s wrath-removing atoning sacrifice on the cross. It was to “demonstrate His righteousness,” which is stated twice in these verses
2. Here “His (i.e. God’s) righteousness” refers to God’s “righteous or just character” not to His saving righteousness that we saw in vv. 21-22.
3. Since justice demands that a guilty person be punished, Paul anticipated that God’s righteous character before men would be at stake and they would accuse Him of being unjust, “…because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.”
4. The word “forbearance” (anoche) here is the same word translated “tolerance” in 2:4. This is a kind of temporary truce whereby in mercy God does not immediately punish the sinner when he sins, but holds back and delays the full measure of punishment he deserves, so that he has time to repent and turn to God.
5. Contrary to what people might think, forbearance is not a sign God’s injustice, moral indifference, or condoning evil but is rather the exercise of His patience and loving grace. For we read in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
6. Now out of forbearance, notice that God “passed over” (paresin)—He overlooked (Acts 17:30-31) or better postponed temporarily, the immediate and full punishment of “sins previously committed,” which refers to the Old Testament era before Christ. This was the accusation—“How can God really be just if He lets sin go and doesn’t punish it?”
7. From the time of Adam to Christ God didn’t pass over all sin because we see His wrathful judgment throughout the Old Testament. It is seen in the garden toward Adam and Eve after the fall in the curses upon Satan, mankind, and creation itself, in the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues in Egypt, the dispersion of rebellious Israel, and in His many judgments upon specific individuals and nations.
8. However, here Paul is talking about how God often passed over in forbearance the sin of human beings in the past because He looked forward in His eternal plan to the death of His Son on the cross that would fully and ultimately atone for all human sin—past, present, future.
9. John MacArthur goes on to say, “Through that incomparable sacrifice, God provided punishment for sin sufficient to forgive and blot out every sin that would ever be committed by fallen mankind—including the supreme sin of crucifying His own Son, for which every unregenerate person shares the guilt (Heb. 6:6). (pg. 217)
10. Although Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross did many things, here in vv. 25 and 26 Paul emphasizes it’s “demonstration” (endeixin) or proof of God’s righteous character to the world. C.E.B. Cranfield observes correctly that “God would not be righteous, if He neglected to show Himself to be righteous.” (pg. 213)
B. That’s exactly what God does in Christ’s public death at Calvary.
1. It proved that God did not simply let mankind’s sins go unpunished. Not in the past or “at the present time,” which refers to the present era of salvation history.
2. The demonstration of Christ’s death on the cross was the ultimate vindication of God’s righteous character before men. Notice its result at the end of v. 26, “…so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
3. God displayed publicly Christ’s atoning sacrifice so that it would be clear to the world that God is first of all “just” (dikaion) or righteous in that He does punish sin. And secondly, that He is the “justifier” (dikaiosunes) or the One who grants saving righteousness, to “the one who has faith in Jesus.”
4. God Himself solved the problem of how a perfectly holy God can forgive sinful men without compromising His justice. He did it in Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross. Since God is just, no sin will ever go unpunished; yet because God is merciful and gracious, no sin is beyond forgiveness in Jesus Christ to those who believe in Him.
5. Therefore, the cross forever demonstrates that God is both a righteous and merciful God. Charles Hodge said it this way, “It is thus that justice and mercy are harmoniously united in the sinner’s justification. Justice is no less justice, although mercy has her perfect work; and mercy is no less mercy, although justice is completely satisfied.” (pg. 98)
6. And William Newell states, “But in the atoning death of Christ, God’s righteousness was fully exhibited in His wrath against sin as it was in His holy sight. He was shown righteous, at the very moment He was, in love, working out the deliverance of the sinner from the wrath due.” (pg. 125)
7. Praise God that through the atoning death of His Son, God has redeemed His people, propitiated His wrath, and demonstrated His righteous character. We as believers can only marvel at the amazing wisdom, mercy, and grace of God in doing for us what we could never do.
8. And since we have been “bought with (the) price” (1 Cor. 6:20) of Jesus own “precious blood” (1 Pet. 1:18-19), we should continually worship Him with hearts full of gratitude and praise and determine to live our daily lives in faithful obedience to Him.
In closing, no wonder Martin Luther said that vv. 22-26 are “…the chief point and the very center place of the epistle and of the whole Bible.” The heart of the gospel is justification, which we have seen is according to Scripture alone by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There is no other way of salvation!
In our utter sinfulness and total inability to become righteous on his own, God has taken the initiative to provide for us His only Son who took upon Himself all of God’s holy wrath against sin that we deserved and paid in full the penalty for our sins. Therefore, if we will simply believe and receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus then His perfect righteous becomes ours. But since God is just, those who reject Him will one day pay in full the penalty for their every sin themselves and experience His terrifying wrath in eternal hell. May this not happen to you!
If you haven’t done so already, put your trust in Jesus Christ today and received Him as your personal Savior and Lord. For those of us who already have, may we be like Paul and never get over what God in Christ has done for us by His grace.