Romans 3:21-26 is considered the greatest paragraph of the Bible. It has been called the very heart of the Bible—
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
The whole OT pointed to what is contained in this paragraph. Paul has proved in the preceding paragraphs that no one is righteous or good, not even one. BUT NOW there is a righteousness of God to which the OT testified. This righteousness has been manifested in Jesus Christ.
This righteousness of God is needed, it is manifested, it is provided. Romans 3:23-24 states—
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
The Christian Scientist’s solution to sin and death is put its head into the sand and blithely assure us they do not exist, that they are an “error of mortal mind.” The Word of God is party to no such folly. Sin and sickness are dreadful facts and are not be airily dismissed by metaphysics. God’s plan of salvation does not turn a blind eye to man’s lost condition. It takes it full into account.
Because of man’s ruined condition, salvation is based on A REMARKABLE DOCTRINE. Sinful man can be jUSTIFIED FREELY BY GOD’S GRACE. God meets ruined man in all his need.
The noun JUSTIFICATION and verbs JUSTIFIED or JUSTIFY are used to denote the legal and formal acquittal from guilt by God as Judge, and the pronouncement and treatment of the believing sinner as righteous in His sight.
JUSTIFICATION is different from SANCTIFICATION. Justification is to be declared and treated as righteous by God. Sanctification is to make righteous. Justification is a judicial pronouncement and sanctification is the process of becoming what one is declared to be—righteous! These two are inseparable in Christian experience, however, they must always be distinguished in our thinking. Justification occurs when the sinner is still in the ungodly state. When God justifies, he sees and treats the sinner just as if he had never sinned.
FREELY denotes without cause or undeserved. No one deserves to be made right right! Hence, God’s grace is unmerited. Salvation is the gift of God that no one deserves, not even one! For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
There is all the difference in the world between being FORGIVEN and being JUSTIFIED. Suppose a woman incurred a debt at a large department store and she were unable to pay it. If after hearing your case, the store were to cancel her debt, that would be forgiveness. Under these circumstances, she would be no longer liable for the account, but she would always have a feeling of personal discomfort about the whole transaction. If, on the other hand, the legal department of store decided to press for payment, that would be JUSTICE.
Suppose that while awaiting trial for her undischarged account, the woman were to marry the wealthy son of the owner of the store who personally assumed responsibility for her account and paid it in full. There would be no legal claim against her any more and in the unlikely event of her case ever getting to court, she could plead “not guilty” to all charges on the grounds that her debts had been fully paid by her husband. The court would say that she was JUSTIFIED in pleading “not guilty” and her case would be dismissed.
If a person is to be forgiven, he must plead “guilty” and plead for mercy. If a person is to be justified, he must not plead “not guilty” and show that the opposition has not case against him at all. Of course both forgiveness and justification enter into the our salvation, but it is the higher truth of justification that Paul is presenting in Romans.
The Lord Jesus has fully discharged all our obligations sot hat there is no legal ground for charges to be pressed against us anymore. Moreover, He has given us a perfect standing before God so that we are fully acceptable in His sight.
We are justified FREELY. That is just like God! He does not charge us for anything. He is liberal and lavish in His dealings with men. Seedtime and harvest, warm sunshine and soft, refreshing rain, everything is free from God. Nor does God charge for saving us!
Then there is that word GRACE. Grace is unmerited favor. It is getting something we do no deserve. All we deserve from God is His eternal punishment for our high-handed rebellion, but instead He offers us salvation through His Son at the infinite cost of Calvary. So we are JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE. Truly God’s righteous plan is based on a most remarkable doctrine.
Mark well the words of the Gospel. Not only is our salvation is based on a a most remarkable doctrine of JUSTIFICATION, it is based on the remarkable price of REDEMPTION.
REDEMPTION is a common word today. We find this language in the pawn shop. The article that is left in pawn can be redeemed by paying the money that was borrowed. A person gives money to the bank and in return they receive a certificate of deposit. When they present the certificate of deposit for payment, they redeem it.
REDEMPTION in the NT means a releasing or deliverance effected by payment of ransom, that is liberation procured by the payment of a ransom. That’s what Jesus meant by Mark 10:45—
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
RANSOM is the price paid to purchase or liberate captives and slaves. Paul’s readers in the first century would have understood redemption. In the Roman Empire, there was a slave market that operated almost every day, and the traffic in slaves was very great. In fact, almost half of the population were slaves. That Christ should have walked into the slave market and purchased or redeemed men and women who were slaves of sin, would be an idea that would be completely understandable.
The Bible is the amazing story of redemption. It contains numerous accounts of redemption. I like the one in the Book of Hosea. God told the prophet to marry a prostitute because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.
So Hosea married Gomer, a prostitute. True to her sinful nature, Gomer lusted after sin and went after lovers for pay! Eventually, she ends up naked and destitute on the auction block in the slave market. At this point, God spoke to the prophet in Hosea 3:1-3—
The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”
John 3:16 is the favorite verse of many people—
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It may be your favorite! Let me ask you: What is meaning of the word SO in that For God SO loved the world? You can best answer me by taking me to the auction block where Hosea is commanded to purchase his wife, an adulteress, who is being sold, naked, in the sight of all. Then hear Yahweh telling the prophet to buy back this adulteress wife, in terms of love. Love her according to the terms that the LORD loves Israel—in the same way that God SO LOVES THE WORLD!
God SO LOVED ME that he bought me when I was naked on the auction block. WITHOUT CAUSE— NOT DESERVING HIS LOVE—GOD SO LOVED ME, HE REDEEMED ME!
Even though Gomer belonged to Hosea, he had to pay a price to redeem her—to set her free to live with him. The only demand he placed on his wife was that she was to remain faithful to him.
Just as Hosea sought out his wife and brought her back, so the LORD seeks out His people and sets them free, and restores them to His love and blessing. Surely there is no greater love than this!
However, the redemption price for sinful humanity was much greater than the fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley it took to purchase back Gomer. 1 Peter 1:18-19 asserts—
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Jesus came to liberate many who are slaves of sin, Satan; and under the curse of the law, the wrath of God, and eternal death.
So REDEMPTION suggests more than being purchased or ransomed out of the slave market; it means to be delivered, to be set free, to belong to the one who paid the redemption price according to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20—
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
We are a purchased possession. Christ Jesus paid Himself for us that we might live with Him and Him with us. Christ liberates the slaves of sin and Satan, who are exposed to the wrath of God and eternal death.
It must ever be pointed out that God does not save His people in their sins, but from their sins. It is true that Christ died for the ungodly. It is true that we were declared righteous when were still in our sin, but he purpose of all this is our holiness.
There can be no true comprehension of redemption apart from the fact that He bought us to set us free from sins in order that we might become the servants of righteousness. This deliverance includes freedom from the guilt or penalty of sin, from the mastery or power of sin in our daily lives, and, ultimately, our deliverance from even the presence of sin—that’s salvation!
Salvation is free, but it is not cheap! For a human judge to pronounce a man innocent, who is innocent, is an easy matter. But consider the kind of people God must pronounce righteous. He deals only with sinners and the ungodly. Since God considers it an abomination for a human judge to justify the wicked, it is no surprising to hear Him declare in Exodus 23:7—
Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.
But God does justify the wicked! How does He do it? He puts an innocent and honest person to death for the guilty! How can that be justice? The answer is given in this section of Romans.
THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST is the REMARKABLE REDEMPTION PRICE that God paid for sinners! Romans 3:25 tells how, why and to whom the redemption price was paid—
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
There is no more important statement in Scripture than this one; for no one, not even one is saved without it.
The word for ATONEMENT is the same word the Greek OT uses for the ATONEMENT COVER or MERCY SEAT on the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle. On this cover, the High Priest sprinkled the blood of a bull for himself and the blood of a goat for the nation on the annual Day of Atonement.
By this ceremony, God’s wrath was propitiated (appeased) and Israel’s sins expiated, atoned; hence the lid of the Ark was called the ATONEMENT COVER. Ever since the NT was written the significance of every part of the Tabernacle, its furnishings and worship have been understood to reveal the work of the Messiah Savior whom God had sent forth to bear the sins of men.
On Passover A.D. 33, the High Priest did not approach the ark and sprinkle blood on the cover of the ark. Instead on the Cross at Calvary, God presented Jesus as A SACRIFICE OF ATONEMENT. The blood of His Son, the Lamb of God, atoned for sins of the world and propitiated, that is appeased the wrath of God.
On the cross, God the Father presented His Son as a sacrifice of atonement. The Son paid the ransom to the Father and redeemed all mankind with His blood.
BLOOD is used by the NT writers for Christ’s death since all thought of His death in terms of the OT sacrifices for sin. The NT writers pictured the blood of the Passover Lambs being sprinkled on the door posts in Egypt for the deliverance of God’s people from death; the burnt offerings made for sin at the bronze altar; the Day of Atonement—all pointed to the blood sacrifice—Jesus Christ!
No blood of the Passover Lamb was to sprinkled on the door step or threshold for the simple reasons that it was a covering, and there was to be no trampling on the blood.
In the opening pages of Scripture, we find that the first time blood was ever shed in the history, it was shed by God Himself in order to provide the covering of skins for Adam and Eve after they rebelled and became sinners.
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor (Genesis 4:3-5, NIV).
Why did the LORD God require a lamb instead of a sheaf of wheat? The answer is found in the blood itself.
God made it absolutely clear what Hebrews 9:22 asserts—
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
The cost of Calvary is beyond human computation and comprehension. Our justification cost God His beloved Son, and it cost the Lord Jesus a death of shame and agony on the Cross.
Verse 26 on the surface is very difficult to understand.—
He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—
Let’s see if we can put this verse in perspective. How could a just God let sins go unpunished? Consider a few men: Abraham, Moses and David. Abraham is the called “the friend of God.” He lied about his wife Sarah to save his own skin. Moses (“the most humble man on the face of the earth”) murdered the Egyptian taskmaster. David (“the man after God’s heart”) committed adultery and murder. How could God let those sins go unpunished? Romans 3:26 is the solution.
God condescends to to explain to us that He was able to pardon men at that time because He knew that He was going to justify Himself even in the sight of the heathen some day. For the day will come when even the atheists will be forced to admit that God has solved this problem that seems to them unsolvable.
The heathen claim that it is not moral to forgive sinners without punishing their sin. God makes the same claim. He will by no means clear the guilty. Every sin that has ever been committed must be punished by God. The heathen think that the men of the OT, Abraham, Moses and David, and the rest of them, deserved a quite different fate than that which they received. If God is holy and these men were sinners, then they should be separated from God forever.
The heathen are right. All of these men deserved to go to Hell. So do I. So do you! Instead, we find they went to heaven! How could that be possible? They found the way in the blood sacrifices they offered at the altar! Each sacrifice offered in faith pointed forward to the Cross of Christ.
God accepted the blood of unblemished animals to cover sin, knowing that He would present Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in blood. Abraham, Moses and David as well as every OT saint’s faith in the blood was credited as righteous by God.
Suppose you had been there when Abel brought a little lamb to God. “Abel, do you think this little lamb is gong to take away your sin?” He would have told you no. And you would have said, “Then why did you bring it?” His answer would have been, “God required it. God commanded us to bring it.” Hebrews 11:4 tells us—
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
You might have said to Abel, “Specifically what do you think God has in mind?: And he might have answered, “Well, God has told my mother that there’s coming a Savior. We don’t know when, but until He comes, we’re to do this because we’re to come by faith.” And so God left the sins of committed beforehand unpunished. He accepted the blood of Abel’s lamb on credit until Christ paid the debt in full.
Thousand of books have been written to tell sinners that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ took away their sin, but too little has been said to show that the death of Jesus removed a scandal from the name of God. The LORD was always just when He forgave sins on basis of shed blood because He Himself would pay the penalty of sin—death!
The Cross is the public declaration that God is righteous in the way He has handled the sin question. During the OT era it looked as if God dealt lightly and superficially with sin. Animal sacrifices could not remove sin, and there were times when God seemed to over looked sin or winked at it. But Calvary reveals that this was not really true. The entire sacrificial system of the OT declared that God is holy, and Calvary reveals how a holy God has righteously dealt with sin.
Two great OT offerings can be taken together to illustrate perfectly the transaction which takes place when a sinner accepts Christ as Lord and Savior. These were the SIN OFFERING and the BURNT OFFERING. To some extent the ritual was similar in both sacrifices, for in both cases the offer brought his lamb and placed his hand upon it to identify himself with the sacrifice.
The typical meaning of the two sacrifices, however, was different. In the sin offering, all the vileness of the sinner was transferred to the substitute; but in the burnt offering, all the virtue of the substitute was transferred to the sinner. Certainly, Paul had these two offerings in mind when he wrote 2 Corinthians 5:21—
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When God made Christ sin for us that was the SIN OFFERING. When God makes us righteous, that is the BURNT OFFERING. The Cross of Calvary makes it possible for God to be both JUST and JUSTIFIER. Verse 27—
He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Justification, however, is only for those who have faith in Jesus and who have faith in His blood. This cannot be overemphasized. God justifies only those who believe Christ shed His blood for their sins!
Some people believe in themselves instead of Christ. They believe their works will get them into heaven. The boaster will not enter heaven! God has eliminated such a possibility, for He levels human pride to the dust and denies the possibility of salvation by works. Ephesians 2:8-9—
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
There’s that NO ONE again! Never forget what the Word of God says in Romans 3:10-12—
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Man needs to be MADE RIGHTEOUS in God’s sight by faith in the blood of Christ since we cannot achieve righteousness by works.
It was not the life which Jesus lived that saves any person, but the life He poured out in the shedding of His blood which redeems us from our sins. The lamb scampering around the house of the Israelite at the time of the Passover could not save the older son from God’s judgment. It was the lamb slain and the blood applied to the door which brought deliverance. The lamb gave his life and blood for the eldest son, so the Lamb of God gave His life and blood for you and me. There is life out death!
God is Just and the Justifier! It is at the Cross of the Savior that a holy God finds it possible to remain holy, even though He is pardoning sinners. You can become the friend of God, the child of God, a man after God’s own heart, providing that you will submit to His verdict about the sinfulness of your sin and submit to His verdict that the death of Jesus Christ perfectly satisfies all that is in His holy Being.