By Doug Bell
22 ”the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Romans 3:23 is probably one of the best known of New Testament verses. It’s used as part of the ’Roman Road,’ presentation. And it is one of the clearest texts that is shown to prove every single person ever born is a sinner, and is hell-bent unless they become believers in the Finished Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Only mediator, the Only Savior, the Only one who is able to reconcile God and Man!
But, when we come to vs. 25-26, we ask; “Why did Jesus have to be sacrificed, why did He have to die?” The answer to this is the “heart“ of the Gospel. It is by the ‘Objective’ work that Jesus accomplished over two thousand years ago on the Cross that saves. Nothing else. Not good works, not church membership, not even being baptized. Nothing!
look first at v.25 ”whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood,” the words ‘put forward,’ (ESV), or ‘displayed publicly’ (NASB), even ‘set forth’ (KJV). In the Greek means ‘place-carded’ or better in English ‘Billboarded.’ As we drive down our interstates, we are bombarded by all the advertisements on ‘billboards!’ So, in essence God put Jesus on a cross, high on Mt. Golgotha for everyone could see what He was doing. It wasn’t done in secret, Jesus wasn’t a victim, this was a part of the Divine Plan from eternity past! 2 Timothy 2:9- “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
And then we have in v.25 whom God put forward as a “propitiation by his blood,”
That word propitiation is a rich word that is pregnant with Theological meaning. (And within a three minute read can’t possibly due justice.) Nevertheless, basically and simply it tells us: Jesus‘ substitutionary Sacrifice ‘propitiated’ or ‘Satisfied’ all of God’s Judgment against us sinners. And it also ‘appeased’ the Father’s Wrath that was against us, bringing about His complete forgiveness and our justification.
But, Why did He have to ‘Billboard’ Him? Why did it have to be done publicly, so everyone could see? Vs. 25b. “...This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”
The word ‘Forbearance’ isn’t a word that’s used very much anymore. It speaks of one who displays much restraint and patience. Now, According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means; “a refraining from the enforcement of something (such as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due.”
so we have to ask, ’WHAT’ was it that God was refraining from enforcing? For that we have to read on. 1
Paul tells us plainly that God had “passed over former sins.” What sins? Whose sins is it that God ‘passed over?’ In the context of the heart of the Gospel, it can only be speaking to the sins of the Old Testament believers! Regardless of different theories, people in the Old Testament were NOT saved by their sacrifices, NOT by keeping the Law, NOR by their good works! They looked forward to and believed in the coming Messiah for their salvation, just as we look backward. But I can almost hear someone protest and exclaim, “but they didn’t have the Gospel in Old Testament”
Is that so? NO, not according to scripture. Galatians 3:8 ”And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” And Jesus even tells us in; John 8:56 ”Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” Now, how did Abraham see Jesus day and rejoice in it, if not by faith?
So let’s complete this though in vs. 25. First, we are told that the Father had ‘Billboarded’ Jesus and held Him to public humiliation as a sacrifice to satisfy God’s judgment and appease His Wrath. And the reason it had to be public was so all the world would know God was, and still is, righteous! Why could anyone think He was anything other than righteous? Because He had passed over the OT believers sins and allowed them into Heaven when they died; And He did it before Jesus paid the price for sin in space, time, and history! Being that God is Sovereign, He knew positively that Jesus Would die for every believers’ sin. But to keep unbelievers from being able to make the accusation; when Jesus was crucified in such a public way, it was as if God was saying, “See my righteousness! I may have passed over sin for a time, But LOOK NOW! See, all the sins; past, present, and future of my sheep, are being punished in the body of My precious Son!”
Why did God do it this way? Vs. 26 “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
How could a perfect ‘Just‘ God punish sin and at the same time ‘Justify’ I.e., save the sinner? There was only one way! God Himself would have to come down from Heaven, live a perfect life, and die on the cross while bearing our sins. And was Jesus able to accomplish this? Yes! He was our ’propitiation,’ saving us from God’s Holy Justice and Wrath. And the Father showed His approval of Jesus’ sacrifice by raising Him from the dead. And scripture tells us our Lord is right now at the right hand of Our Father, making intercession for us!
This Objective truth is at the heart of the Gospel! And we, who have received this Mercy and Grace, are to live our lives for His Glory. For this is the payment that can never be repaid! Thank You Jesus!