ROMANS 3:19-31 (Romans 3:19– 5:21)

 

Romans 3:19 – “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”  [1]

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law

The section on justification by faith is opened by addressing those who have traditionally put their trust for salvation in keeping the law of God. In Romans 3:10-18 Paul has rattled off a series of Scriptures that testify to the sinfulness of humankind. When Paul says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law,” the implication is that Gentiles are not under the law.

In Acts 15 a council meeting was held in Jerusalem by the early church and it’s leadership to determine the applicability of the Jewish law to Gentile converts to Christianity. The early church decided at this council that circumcision and the law (except for a very few stipulations i.e. abstain from things offered to idols; abstain from blood; abstain from things strangled; abstain from sexual immorality – Acts 15:28-29) would not be imposed on Gentile converts. Paul’s letter to the Galatians explains the use and abuse of the law in the early church.

That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

 

Paul has shown in the opening chapters that Gentiles who do not have the law and Jews who do have the law are both guilty in their sin before God.

 

Romans 3:20 – “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” [2]

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight

Paul is here speaking to a people, (the Jews) who thought they could be righteous by keeping laws. In this verse he points out the fallacy of such a notion.

 

Legalism

 

The Jews has been taught and believed that keeping the law obediently saved a person. They believed that if a person tries hard enough, they could keep the law. This is the attitude of the legalist.

 

LEGALISM = I CAN BE RIGHTEOUS BY KEEPING LAWS/RULES IF I JUST TRY HARD ENOUGH. RIGHTEOUSNESS/HOLINESS DEPENDS ON WHAT I DO.

 

Legalistic examples:

 

·         Sabbath Rules – 7th Day Adventists and some church denominations contend that Saturday is the only acceptable Sabbath. They contend that worshipping on Sunday is a work of the devil and is the mark of the beast.

 

·         Holiness by Rule Keeping – Some try to bring the church under law by measuring righteousness by a set of rules, e.g. no dancing; no movies; no coffee; no smoking; etc. They gauge holiness by a rigid set of rules and standards. Holiness is viewed as something people do.

 

The Problem With Legalism

 

Legalism leads to frustration and is not an acceptable way to attain righteousness before God.

 

·         LEGALISM LEADS TO SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS – Any righteousness dependent upon what I do is self-righteousness, it depends on what I do, not what Christ has done. .

 

  • LEGALISM LEADS TO PRIDE – People who are legalists gauge their righteousness on how they measure up to other people and how other people measure up to them. If your righteousness is based on what you do, then when you do something good, you’re going to have a boast in it. I’m going to boast about how much of the Bible I’ve read, how long I prayed today, how many souls I’ve won, how long I’ve fasted, how I wouldn’t think of drinking coffee or coke which would defile my body, etc. This is exactly what the Jews demonstrated – Romans 2:17,23

 

  • LEGALISM LEADS TO JUDGING – If righteousness is based on what I do, then I am going to measure others by my standard of what I think they too should do. If I can live by my standard and you can’t, I’m going to look down at you. Those who can’t live like you are lesser than you. We see this in the Jews as well – Romans 2:1.

 

  • LEGALISM LEADS TO FRUSTRATION – Since legalism makes righteousness dependent upon what I do, when I inevitably fall short, I will become frustrated. If I keep the law for a day, a week, a month, a year, and then slip up, my righteousness is lost. I might think, “From now on I’m going to change.” Perhaps you will last for a period of time, but eventually you will fall. When we factor in that our thoughts as well as our actions are considered in determining righteousness by works, then we realize the impossibility of legalism.  I can never be good enough in my own strength. Righteousness is not based on resolutions; it is based on God’s righteousness in Christ.

 

·         LEGALISM IS IMPERSONAL; FAITH IS PERSONAL IN ESTABLISHING A RELATOINSHIP WITH GOD IN CHRIST. – God’s law was written on stone tablets. His desire is to write them on a person’s heart. Keeping laws puts a wedge between the law-keeper and the Lawgiver because keeping law is a work and creates a situation whereby if the law-keeper keeps the law, the Lawgiver owes the law-keeper wages. Law short circuits God’s grace when it is not used as God intended it to be used. Legalism puts the focus on “me,” what “I,” need to do, rather than on what Jesus has done and wants to do in and through me.

·         LEGALISM IS NOT ONLY UNSPIRITUAL BUT ANTISPIRITUAL -

Paul wrote to the Galatians that you don’t live by the law after your conversion:

  • Galatians 3:1-3 – “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” [3]

The one who works legalistically crowds out the Spirit. Legalism focuses upon what a person must do rather than what the Spirit wants to do in and through them.

 

This is not God’s plan for us. He doesn’t want us to be self-righteousness, spiritually proud, judging and frustrated. THEREFORE, GOD REJECTS THE SELF-EFFORT OF LEGALISM AS A MEANS TO BE RIGHTEOUS BEFORE HIM.

 

 

What is “justification”?

 

The word “justified” (Strong’s #1344) is translated from the Greek term DIKAIOO ( µ, dik-ah-y´-o; from 1342; to render (i.e. show or regard as) just or innocent:— free, justify (-ier), be righteous.[4] “‘acquit’, ‘declare righteous’, the opposite of ‘condemn’” [5] dikaiosis (1347) denotes “the act of pronouncing righteous, justification, acquittal”;[6]

James R. White explains justification in the following way:

 

“You are justified only when God the Father, based upon the meritorious work of Jesus Christ in your place, declares you to be so upon the exercise of the gift of faith. This faith is directed solely to the God who “justifies the ungodly” (NASB). To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believer’s sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree. Justification is from the beginning to end a divine action, based upon the mercy of God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ the Son.” [7]

 

Justification is predominantly a legal declaration of God. In the Old Testament “to justify” is seen as a legal action (Exodus 23:7; Isaiah 5:23; 5311-12; Romans 3-5).

 

Justification is a Declaration by God

 

That justification is a declaration of God is seen in the key Old Testament verse that reads:

 

  • Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  [8]

Notice, Abraham was “accounted” (“imputed; reckoned; counted; credited”) righteous on the basis of His faith in God. When we look at Abraham’s life we see that he was less than perfect or righteous morally. He caved in to seeking an heir by way of fleshly means (Genesis 16; Galatians 4:21-31). Lied about Sarah’s identity (Genesis 20). Therefore, righteousness was “accounted” to Abraham, by God declaring Him righteous apart from His works (Romans 4:1-8).

How Can a Just and Holy God Declare the Ungodly Just?

On what basis did God declare Abraham just even though he was a man who had some obvious moral flaws (i.e. was sinful)? James R. White states in answer to that question:

“The righteousness that is imputed to the believer comes from outside himself: it is something given to him, not something done within him.” [9] God declared Abraham righteous based on His faith in Him, and passed over His sin based on the foreknowledge of God regarding the future work of Jesus (Romans 3:25). “When a man is justified, he himself is not changed (the change takes place in regeneration and sanctification).  Instead, God declares that he is no longer under the penalty or curse of the law . . . . [Galatians 3:10-13] Justification, while intimately connected to sanctification (both are actions of God’s free grace), is a separate divine act, with a differing time frame of operation. That is, while it is completely true that everyone who is justified will also be sanctified (made experientially holy – conformed to the image of Christ, made more like Him through growth in grace and knowledge of Christ), it is likewise just as true that justification must be distinguished from sanctification.” [10] Justification is the singular declaration of God in a person’s life while sanctification is ongoing. Justification is the starting point of the sanctifying process, yet both works are separate and distinct. Justification is an imputation by God. Sanctification is a transformation by God.

“Justification, in the biblical sense, is a declaration concerning the relationship of a man to God and His law. It is a legal statement that a man is no longer under the curse of the law but stands righteous, just, before the bar of God. The Scriptures distinguish between justification and sanctification, teaching that justification is a statement about a man, while sanctification is an action that changes man.” [11]

JUSTIFICATION = God making a declaration that a person is in right standing before Him JUST AS IF that person HAD NEVER SINNED. Justification is to HAVE A LEGAL  STANDING BEFORE GOD JUST AS THOUGH YOU HAD NEVER BEEN GUILTY BEFORE GOD. GOD HAS ERASED THE SLATE SO THAT THERE IS NO RECOLLECTION OF SIN.

For by the law is the knowledge of sin

The law was never intended by God to be a means of attaining righteousness. The purpose of the law is to expose a person’s utter sinfulness so that they see their need of salvation. The law can only tell you what God requires, it has no power to forgive, no power to justify, no power to make you righteous before God. The power of the Lord is only to condemn.

 

THE LAW DOESN’T MAKE YOU RIGHTEOUS, IT CLARIFIES, CONFIRMS AND CONDEMNS YOU AS A SINNER.

The law of God is meant to show a person how sinful they are and that they can’t attain righteousness before God in their own strength and therefore the law leads a person to the cross of Christ. Paul says this in Galatians when he is inspired to write:

  • Galatians 3:19-25 – “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”  [12]

ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS FOR US TO OVERCOME IS THE MINDSET THAT OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS BASED ON WHAT WE DO RATHER THAN BY WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE AND OUR FAITH IN HIM AND HIS WORK.

Romans 3:21 – “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,”  [13]

But

“But” indicates now a contrasting thought being brought by Paul.

Now the righteousness of God

“Righteousness,” is translated from the Greek term  dikaiosune (Strong’s #1343)and  is “the character or quality of being right or just”; it was formerly spelled “rightwiseness,” which clearly expresses the meaning. When this term is used in regard to God (Romans 3:5,20,25-26) it refers to God’s faithfulness and truthfulness, that which is consistent with His holy character as especially seen in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

 

When righteousness is used in regard to human beings, it connotes a right standing before God imputed by God to the one who puts faith in Jesus Christ. In sin,  we are out of wack, out of sync with God, out of relationship with God. Through faith in Christ God declares we are right before Him and brings us into a right relationship with Him.

It appears that righteousness broadly used can refer to the declaration of God that makes one righteous by faith in Jesus as well as the sanctifying results that follow (Romans 6:18-22).

 

RIGHTEOUSNESS = OUR JUSTIFIED POSITION BEFORE GOD BY FAITH IN CHRIST

Now the righteousness of God apart from the law

The righteousness Paul is talking about is a righteousness apart from the Law in that it is not attained through keeping law.  Paul points out that what he is discussing is nothing new, it has been witnessed to in the Law (Pentateuch):

  • Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  [14]

It has been witnessed to in the prophets (Prophetic Books of OT):

  • Habakkuk 2:4 - “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.”  [15]

Righteousness is not attained with legalistic works or efforts

We see Paul elaborate on this truth with his own personal testimony. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

  • Philippians 3:4-11 – “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  [16]

Is revealed

That which was witnessed to in the OT is now amplified and explained in the NT here by Paul.

Revealed - 5319.         phaneároáoµ, fan-er-´-o; from 5318; to render apparent (lit. or fig.):— appear, manifestly declare, (make) manifest (forth), shew (self).[17]

 

Romans 3:22 – “even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;”  [18]

even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ

The righteousness Paul is teaching about is “through faith in Jesus Christ,” it is based on and attained through trusting or relying upon Jesus Christ.

Faith -  4102 pistis, pis´-tis; from 3982; persuasion, i.e. credence; mor. conviction (of relig. truth, or the truthfulness of God or a relig. teacher), espec. reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstr. constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:— assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.[19]

THE FAITH IN CHRIST THAT JUSTIFIES COMES FROM GOD NOT US –

  • Romans 12:3 – “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”  [20] (See also Acts 3:16)
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  [21] (See Ephesians 2:1-10)

Faith comes from God and therefore salvation is by grace, pure grace. The sinner can do no sufficient work to make themselves acceptable to God. All the sinner can do to be saved from their sin is receive the gift of faith from God. The sinner simply holds out an empty hand as a beggar holds out a hopeless hand.

 

to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;”

These are God’s terms and they use faith so as to make salvation available to everyone, not just a select few. God’s terms cut against prejudice e.g. the Jew thinking him or herself better or superior to the Gentile.

 

Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”  [22]

for all have sinned and fall short

Everyone has sinned, both Jews and Gentiles, and all efforts, all alternative attempts to be righteous apart from faith in Jesus, “fall short of the glory of God.”

Fall short - 5302.         husteáreáoµ, hoos-ter-eh´-o; from 5306; to be later, i.e. (by impl.) to be inferior; gen. to fall short (be deficient):— come behind (short), be destitute, fail, lack, suffer need, (be in) want, be the worse.[23] hustereo (5302), “to come late, to be last, behind, inferior,” is translated “falleth short” in Heb. 12:15, rv, for kjv, “fail,” and “fall short” in Rom. 3:23, for kjv, “come short,” which, in view of the preceding “have,” is ambiguous, and might be taken as a past tense. [24]

Ananias and Saphira attempted to present themselves as righteous before God but ultimate fell short by depending on their own wits (Acts 5:1-10). 

the glory of God

What does the phrase “glory of God” refer to? Jesus spoke of the glory of God as it related to Himself and His work when He said:

  • John 17:1-4 – “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,2 “as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.4 “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.”  [25]

THE GLORY OF GOD HERE IS THE REDEMPTIVE WORK OF JESUS ON THE CROSS!

Glory - 1391 doáxa, dox´-ah; from the base of 1380; glory (as very apparent), in a wide application (lit. or fig., obj. or subj.):— dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, worship.[26]

The Glorious Holiness of God

In the presence of God’s glory we are exposed as sinners deserving of the judgment of God (Isaiah 6). The law cannot make us righteous and fit to enter into God’s holy presence. God is holy and cannot fellowship with sin. Only through faith in Jesus can we be made righteous (Psalm 68:10; Isaiah 59:2).

 

Romans 3:24 – “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”  [27]

being justified freely by His grace

Our efforts have nothing to do with God justifying us. Our justification flows purely from the gracious heart of God. And justification is the wiping clean of one’s slate of sin. When God justifies us He makes it as though we had never sinned, He wipes the slate clean, He burns your files of sin, your record of sin is destroyed, forgotten. When we are justified God has no more charges filed against you. It’s just as though you had never sinned. And God does this freely by His grace.

Our problem is that we have difficulty forgetting our past sins. God has wiped them out, but we still have the memory in our consciousness. That is part of our limited humanity. When sinful memories haunt us, we need to give it to Jesus and take them captive in Him (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Freely - 1432.  doµreáan, do-reh-an´; acc. of 1431 as adv.; gratuitously (lit. or fig.):— without a cause, freely, for naught, in vain.[28] dorean (1432), from dorea, “a gift” is used as an adverb in the sense “freely,” in Matt. 10:8; Rom. 3:24; 2 Cor. 11:7 (rv, “for nought”); Rev. 21:6; 22:17. Here the prominent thought is the grace of the Giver[29]

‘FREELY’ MEANS FREELY. YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE VOWS, MAKE PROMISES OR DEALS WITH GOD TO GET HIM TO SAVE OR BLESS YOU. THAT ONLY SERVES TO CHEAPEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. 

WHO DOES GOD FREELY JUSTIFY? IT IS SINNERS HOPELESSLY LOST IN SIN – Romans 3:23; 5:8

IF GOD’S BLESSINGS ARE CONITINGENT ON SOMETHING WE DO, THEN THEY ARE NOT RECEIVED BY GRACE, BUT EARNED AND DUE US – Romans 4:4.

GOD’S BLESSINGS ARE NOT EARNED; WE DON’T HAVE TO DO SOMETHING FOR GOD TO BLESS US. GOD’S BLESSINGS ARE NOT CONTINGENT UPON US, THEY FLOW FREELY OUT OF GOD’S GRACIOUS LOVING NATURE.

When you understand God’s grace, you will come to expect God’s blessings, you will realize you are never deserving enough or worthy enough to be blessed. But that is the nature of God’s grace. GRACE IS UNMERITIED, UNDESERVED FAVOR FROM GOD.

GOD IS WATCHING US CONSTANTLY. HE DOESN’T WATCH US LIKE A POLICEMAN WAITING TO CATCH US IN A CRIME. HE WATCHES US LIKE A LOVING HEAVENLY FAITHER WHO LOVES US SO MUCH HE JUST CAN’T KEEP HIS EYES OFF OF US. GOD LOVES US SUPREMELY AND HAS PROVED IT IN JESUS.

  • Romans 8:31-32 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  [30]

the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

The word “redemption” is one of the most glorious words in all our vocabulary because of the price paid by Jesus to secure it for us.

(See study on Revelation 5 Panorama of Redemption)

REDEMPTION IS A THEME THROUGHOUT THE OT AND IS  MOST FULLY EXPLAINED IN CHRIST IN THE NT.

RedemptionThe word “redemption” is tranlsted from the Greek term APOLUTROSIS (Strong’s #629 - ap-ol-oo´-tro-sis). [31] The word means, “a releasing for a ransom.” Examples of the use of the word are:

(a)    deliverance” from physical torture, Heb. 11:35;

(b)   the deliverance of the people of God at the coming of Christ with His glorified saints, “in a cloud with power and great glory,” Luke 21:28, a “redemption” to be accomplished at the “outshining of His Parousia,” 2 Thess. 2:8, i.e., at His second advent;

(c)    forgiveness and justification, “redemption” as the result of Christ’s work  Rom. 3:24, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”; Eph. 1:7, defined as “the forgiveness of our trespasses,” rv; so Col. 1:14, “the forgiveness of our sins,” indicating both the liberation from the guilt and doom of sin and the introduction into a life of liberty, “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4); Heb. 9:15, “for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant” 

(d)   the deliverance of the believer from the presence and power of sin, and of his body from bondage to corruption, at the coming (the Parousia in its inception) of the Lord Jesus, Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:4; 4:30[32]

 

Romans 3:25 – “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,”  [33]

The English word “Propitiation” is translated from the Greek term HILASTERION (- 2435. hil-as-tay´-ree-on). HILASTERIO refers to “expiation,” it is used to refer to “an atoning victim/sacrifice,” or, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple, the “mercy seat.” A word similar to HILASTERION is used in Greek religion, which is HILASKOMAI  (2433).  The idea in Greek religion for this word was, “to make the gods propitious, to appease, propitiate.” Greek gods were capricious and were by nature not kindly inclined to their subjects. Therefore, the goodwill and favor of pagan gods had to be earned by appeasing them with sacrifices and good works.  Such a use of the word is foreign to the God of the Bible. Vine’s Expository Dictionary states the following:

 

It is never used of any act whereby man brings God into a favorable attitude or gracious disposition. It is God who is “propitiated” by the vindication of His holy and righteous character, whereby through the provision He has made in the vicarious and expiatory sacrifice of Christ, He has so dealt with sin that He can show mercy to the believing sinner in the removal of his guilt and the remission of his sins. . . . The expiatory work of the Cross is therefore the means whereby the barrier which sin interposes between God and man is broken down. By the giving up of His sinless life sacrificially, Christ annuls the power of sin to separate between God and the believer.  [34]

 

Propitiation involves the OT imagery of the sacrificial system. On The Day of Atonement  (Leviticus 16) the High Priest would select two goats and by lot, one would be sacrificed, the other would be led out into the wilderness. This later goat was referred to as “the scape goat.” Upon the goat that was sacrificed the priest would lay his hands and confess the sins of the people while sacrificing it. The priest would then take the blood of the sacrificed goat and go behind the veil and sprinkle the mercy seat, (the cover of the ark of the covenant which was a box shaped structure) seven times with the blood. The sacrifice of the goat, the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat seven times, completed the propitiatory act, i.e. GOD ACCEPTED THE SHEDDING OF THE BLOOD OF THE GOAT ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE AND THEN THE PEOPLE WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO HIM. WHEN THE SCAPEGOAT DISAPPEARED INTO THE WILDERNESS AND OUT OF SIGHT, THE PRIEST WOULD SIGNAL THIS DISAPPEARANCE OF THE SCAPEGOAT AND THE PEOPLE WOULD WORSHIP AND REJOICE. THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD MADE PROPITIATION AND THE SINS WERE SENT AWAY AND REMOVED.

  • Psalm 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  [35]

IN THE NT, JESUS BECAME OUR SIN OFFERING TO GOD.

  • 1 Peter 1:18-19 – “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  [36]

GOD FORGIVES US THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS’ PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE ON OUR BEHALF.

  • Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  [37]
  • Isaiah 53:10-12 – “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.”   [38]

God is absolutely righteous. Satan challenges God’s righteousness, His fairness. Satan did this in the Garden of Eden when he insinuated that God was keeping something good form Eve by not allowing her to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:4-5). Objections by people to accepting the gospel often involve people’s challenge to God’s fairness about damning anyone to hell. But God is absolutely righteous and fair and therefore, whatever judgment He imposes we can be confident that it will be just and fair.

How can a just God forgive sin justly?

Now, since God is totally fair and just, how can He forgive your sins? You have broken His laws and sinned repeatedly. You are hopelessly condemned by the law of God. How can a just God forgive sin? How can God be in harmony with His law and forgive those who break that law?

Sin is missing the mark” (see below HAMARTIA). How could a just judge who keeps the law perfectly, treat those who miss the mark or break His law as though they had never missed the mark? How could a just judge set a criminal free who had obviously committed the crime they are accused of committing?

When God forgives a person, He must do so with a righteous basis. God can’t just say, “Okay, you’re forgiven.” God can’t break His own law to forgive the sinner. The law must be satisfied. The lawful penalty for breaking God’s law is death. The sinner must die in accordance with the law. How can God accomplish this? God sent his son into the world who lived a perfectly sinless life. Jesus never missed the mark. BECAUSE JESUS LIVED WITHOUT SIN, HE WAS ABLE TO FREELY OFFER HIMSELFIN YOUR PLACE AS PAYMENT FOR YOUR DEBT OF SIN. IN DOING SO, GOD IS ABLE TO JUSTLY FORGIVE YOUR SIN BASED ON THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS IN YOUR PLACE. THE DEATH OF JESUS, THE INNOCENT SON OF GOD, IS THE RIGHTEOUS BASIS OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS OF SIN.

It is the shedding of blood that is required to forgive sin justly

  • Hebrews 9:22 – “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”  [39]
  • Leviticus 17:11 – “‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’”  [40]

THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO REDEEM MAN THAN BY JESUS DEATH ON TH CROSS, OTHERWISE WHEN JESUS PRAYED IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMENE, GOD WOULD HAVE TOLD HIM SO – Matthew 26:39,42,44. THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY FOR GOD TO JUSTLY FORGIVE AND DEAL WITH SIN, THROUGH THE ATONEMENT OF JESUS – John 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 2:2

God’s Wrath and Propitiation

 

It is frequently said in modern times that, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” We need to ask whether or not such a statement jives with Scripture. Certainly it is true that God desires all people to repent and be saved (2 Samuel 14:14; Lamentations 3:33; Ezekiel 18:23,32; 33:11; Hosea 11:8; 2 peter 3:9). But there are also verses that tell us the view of God toward those who sin that must be held in equal balance with His desire that all sinners repent.

 

God’s Wrath on Sinners

 

Does God only, “hate the sin but love the sinner”? What of such verses that state:

 

  • Psalm 5:5 – “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.”  [41]
  • Psalm 11:5 – “The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”  [42]
  • John 3:36 - “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” [43]

When we look at such verses it is clear that the separation of God’s hate and wrath seems less based on Scripture and more based on human efforts to make God in their own image so that He will be more palatable for the public. But God knows what He is doing and sinners need to see their tenuous and dangerous position before a holy God. The position of the sinner as on the receiving end of God’s wrath is an awareness that God uses to draw the sinner to Himself. Without such awareness, the sinner sees no immediate need for salvation. Furthermore, if the idea of God’s “wrath” is excluded as it so often is by liberal parts of the church, then other biblical doctrines fly out the window as well because there is no need. Such doctrines as atonement, sacrifice, justice, justification, holiness, and punishment are all removed from their biblical moorings when God’s wrath against sinners is ignored.

 

How Can a God of Love Be Wrathful?

 

It is difficult for some to reconcile or picture a God of love being characterized as wrathful. But the problem is not with God but with us. Leon Morris makes the following comment in this regard:

 

“Perhaps the difficulty arises because we are making a false antithesis between the divine wrath and the divine love. We are handicapped by the fact that we must necessarily use terms properly applicable to human affairs, and for us it is very difficult to be simultaneously wrathful and loving. But, upon analysis, this seems to be largely because our anger is such a selfish passion, usually involving a large element of irrationality together with a lack of self-control. . . . Those who object to the conception of the wrath of God should realize that what is meant is not some irrational passion bursting forth uncontrollably, but a burning zeal for the right coupled with a perfect hatred for everything that is evil. . . . The writers of the New Testament know nothing of a love which does not react in the very strongest fashion against every form of sin.” [44]

 

Propitiation and the Wrath of God

In Romans it states:

 

  • Romans 3:25 – “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,” [45]

What is “propitiation”? Propitiation (Greek ILASTERION) is a term whose roots are in the OT. In the Septuagint (Greek version of OT) ILASTERION is used to translate the Hebrew word for “mercy seat.” Therefore when propitiation is used in reference to Jesus it means that just as the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies was the place where atonement for the people was made, so too is Jesus the place where atonement is made. The sacrifices of the OT point to Jesus. The sacrifices of the OT depict the severity of sin, i.e. it takes a life to atone for. PROPITIATION IS THAT SACRIFICE WHEREBY GOD’S JUST WRATH AGAINST SIN IS SATISFIED BY A SUITABLE PENALTY, THE SACRIFICIAL DEATH OF JESUS.

Therefore, propitiation is the sacrifice of Jesus that removes the wrath of a just God against sin and opens the door for God to forgive sin. God dealt with the sin of the OT, NT and all time not simply by passing over and simply dismissing it no, He exercised patience in light of the certainty that Jesus would go to the cross and pay the satisfying and just penalty for sin and in the process demonstrate in the greatest of ways, His love.

The Jesus Seminar

The modern liberal scoffs at the idea of God’s wrath and propitiation. An example of this is Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar; a group of “scholars” who meet annually to determine which part of the words of Jesus in the gospels were actually His words. They put themselves in the seat of judge, (they in reality make themselves to be an authority over God) over the word of God.

 

Robert Funk said the following:

“The doctrine of the atonement – the claim that God killed his own son in order to satisfy his thirst for satisfaction – is subrational and subethical. The monstrous doctrine is the stepchild of a primitive sacrificial system in which the gods had to be appeased by offering them some special gift, such as a child or an animal.”

James R. White in his book The God Who Justifies responds with the following comment:

“Enemies of the faith often point to the alleged parallel between the biblical doctrine of atonement and the ancient pagan religions that required sacrifice, whether animal or human. But it has been rightly pointed out that the Christian doctrine of atonement is significantly different than that of the religions of men. While in paganism sacrifices make it possible for the deity to be forgiving, in Christianity God himself provides the propitiation because of His grace and mercy. (Emphasis added.) [46]

 

Demonstrate1732.             eándeáixis, en´-dike-sis; from 1731; indication (abstr.):— declare, evident token, proof.[47]

 

Righteousness - 1343.             dikaioásuneµ, dik-ah-yos-oo´-nay; from 1342; equity (of character or act); spec. (Chr.) justification:— righteousness.[48]

 

Forbearance - 463.     anoácheµ,an-okh-ay’; from 430; self-restraint, i.e. tolerance:— forbearance.[49]

 

Sins – To miss the mark. In the Middle Ages there was a game where a ring was placed on the end of a long pole and raised in the air. The players would try to shoot arrows through the ring. When then missed, it was called a “sin,” because he had missed the mark. This is the meaning behind the English word “sin.” 265.     hamarteµma, ham-ar´-tay-mah; from 264; a sin (prop. concr.):— sin.[50]

Romans 3:26 – “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  [51]

The word “demonstrate” (Strong’s # 1732) is translated from the Greek term ENDEIKESIS (, en´-dike-sis) from which we get another English word indication.” ENDEIKESIS means, “declare, evident token, proof.” [52] God has worked this plan of salvation as evidence of His righteousness.

 

That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” 

God is just because He is also the justifier, or One who paid the debt of His own law on behalf of the sinner. GOD WAS IN CHRIST PROVIDING HIMSELF AS THE MEANS TO MEET THE RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENT OF HIS LAW –

  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 – “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [53]

 

Romans 3:27 – “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.”  [54]

Pride is one of the most reprehensible sins a person can commit because it demonstrates that a person has not recognized the grace of God in Christ. If God justifies me on the basis of faith in Jesus and HIS work, not MY work, then I have no basis or reason to boast.

Some like to think that they earn God’s blessing and approval, (e.g. Legalists) but if such were true, then Gods’ approval would not be by grace, but would be owed to the person (Romans 4:4). In effect such an arrangement would make God a debtor to people, would put God in a position where He was obligated to bless someone. GOD WILL NEVER BE A DEBTOR TO ANYONE. A DEBTOR IS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE ONE TO WHOM A DEBT IS OWED –

  • Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.”  [55]

 Those who try to earn God’s blessing are involved in a subtle attempt to usurp the control of God in their lives. God will not allow that.

When we get to heaven and see Jesus the Lamb on His throne we will worship Him and focus upon Him (Revelation 4-5). No one will be able to stand up and say, “Wait a minute, don’t forget about me! I visited a lot of people going door-to-door you know.” Or, “Wait a minute, I paid double tithes . . . I didn’t drink coffee . . . I never danced or went to a movie . . . etc. you know!” You won’t even be saying, “Oh wow! Look, there’s Billy Graham, and there’s Chuck Smith, and there’s  . . “ No, there will be no room for boasting in heaven, we’ll all be sinners saved by God’s grace and all eyes will be on Jesus.

All God seeks from us is our love and appreciation (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

We need to learn to accept God’s grace gracefully. Enjoy the goodness and blessings of God even though you will never deserve it. Don’t work for it, just receive and enjoy it. God has stamped us with the stamp of Jesus. You can’t improve on that. Yet so often we try to do so. You simply can’t. Just receive the blessings of His grace and enjoy them.

Boasting - 2746.          kaucheµsis, kw´-khay-sis; from 2744; boasting (prop. the act; by impl. the obj.), in a good or a bad sense:— boasting, whereof I may glory, glorying, rejoicing.[56]

 

Romans 3:28-30 – “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”  [57]

God’s principle of justification by faith in Christ apart from any good works that a person can do, is the great equalizer. This was a tremendous conclusion for a Jew such as Paul to come to. Justification by faith eliminates any cause for boasting or claiming God owes us anything. Both Gentiles and Jews are justified by faith. God is Lord of all, of the entire universe.

 

Romans 3:31 – “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”  [58]

Some might say that the law is made void or unnecessary if one is justified by faith. But the law is necessary to lead one to their conviction of need of Christ (Galatians 3). The law helped sinful people to see their sinfulness and lead them to Jesus (Romans 3:20). By justification coming by faith in Jesus, the aim of the proper use of the law is accomplished.

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[5]The New Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1962.

[6]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[7] James R. White, The God Who Justifies, (Bethany House: Minneapolis, MN. 2001) p. 73

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9] James R. White, Ibid. p. 84

[10] James R. White, Ibid. p. 88

[11] James R. White, Ibid. p. 93

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[24]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[29]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[32]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44] Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Eerdmeans, 1983) p. 208-210

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46] James R. White, the God Who Justifies, (Bethany House: Minneapolis, MN, 2001) p. 196

[47]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[48]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[49]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[50]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.