“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (Romans 3:24-25)
Continuing our look at the “Righteousness from God” in Romans 3, we come to the term redemption in Verse 24. Interestingly, we read in the very same sentence that states God has justified us freely, costing us nothing that we might be saved, that our redemption is in Christ Jesus. Freely and without cost for us, but a price of redemption paid by God in Christ. The word rendered redemption speaks of a captive set free, a slave loosened from his bonds, liberated from his imprisonment and bought with a price by someone else, a price that he himself could never be able to pay, without the which his bondage would interminably remain. Though all men are born with an inherent pride, moving them in their arrogance and rebellion to declare in agreement with the Pharisees: “Never have we been in bondage…” (John 8:33), the words of the Apostle Paul here in the Third Chapter of Romans prod us from our sinful slumber, the Spirit of God confirming to our hearts that we are the “captives” to whom the Lord Jesus came to preach deliverance, we are the bruised whom He came to “set at liberty” (Luke 4:18).
That God did not arbitrarily convey upon a sin-stained humanity a righteousness void of substance is a truth further developed throughout this passage of Scripture. Lest anyone conclude that the absence of payment on the part of man should depreciate the value of our Salvation, we see that the Lord has accomplished His great Plan of Redemption by settling the accounts Himself. Jesus Christ was “set forth to be a Propitiation” for us. Typically carrying with it the idea of man sacrificing something to appease the Divine, propitiation as used in the Word of God indicates something (or rather, Someone) that God has provided on man’s behalf. We see the same Greek term translated here as propitiation one other time in the New Testament:
“And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the MERCYSEAT; of which we cannot now speak particularly.” (Hebrews 9:5, emphasis added)
Looking back at the Old Testament foreshadow of Christ’s Atonement in the ceremony of the Day of Atonement (described in Leviticus 16), Hebrews 9 shows us that not only is the Lord Jesus our Mercy Seat, but He is also our High Priest (Heb. 9:11). Christ fulfills the role of High Priest, Mercy Seat, and Sacrifice Whose blood is poured out for Atonement (Heb. 9:12). It is no wonder that we are told with no uncertainty that boasting is wholly excluded on man’s part, for he has no part in the process of redemption whatsoever! Through faith in His blood is the only action that we contribute.
Previously, we considered the definition of the Righteousness from God. Let us now look at what it is that the Righteousness from God does:
It Declares God’s Righteousness
“… to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25b-26)
There are actually two different groups of people in view in these two statements: 1.) Those who committed sins that are past, and 2.) Those which believeth in Jesus. Having misinterpreted the meaning behind Verse 25, concluding that “past sins” are those in the believer’s past the moment he comes to Christ, some have erroneously deduced that it is the sins perpetrated before an individual receives Salvation that are completely blotted out by the Redemption of Christ, the iniquities and transgressions committed afterward being the joint responsibility of the individual and the Lord to rectify. At one time in the earlier days of the Church, the rite of Baptism was sometimes deemed advisable to postpone as long as possible, since it was held that only the offences carried out prior to this Sacrament were definitively pardoned. Anything afterward might require additional penance or even rituals of contrition in the afterlife. Such concepts, of course, find no real support in the Bible.
Sins that are past actually refers to the sins of those living before the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected. In the very next chapter (Romans 4), we will be given two examples of people who were saved many centuries before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; how were they saved? Their faith was counted as righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Faith in what? Faith in God. Not having lived to see the coming of Jesus Christ, nor the Atonement that He accomplished, those who believed God and trusted God in the days before were also saved by the Redemption paid for by the Cross of Christ. Their faith served as a type of credit given to them until that day would come when their Salvation would be realized. This is why we see the graves of the Old Testament saints opening after the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 27:52-53); their Redemption was secured by the Blood of Christ in the same manner as all of us living thereafter.
No one can accurately accuse God of capriciousness or injustice regarding Salvation: He is Just and He is the Justifier of all who believe in Jesus. The Lord is not letting anyone slip into Heaven, awarding a free pass to those seeking to come in some other way. He is fair — everyone has equal opportunity to partake of His grace. Some people justify others, some justify themselves, but only those whom God justifies are truly justified.
It Excludes Boasting
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” (Romans 3:27)
As we looked at earlier: being that Christ is the High Priest, the Mercy Seat, and the Sacrifice, there remains no part for us to boast about having played. Our works contribute absolutely nothing to the entire process of Redemption. Only our faith has any role in procuring Salvation. We have nothing of which to boast.
It Demonstrates The Universal Sovereignty Of God
“Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” (Romans 3:29-30)
If Salvation came by keeping the Law of Moses, then God would be God of the Jew alone. Any Gentile would necessarily convert to Judaism before he would be able to find Salvation, perfect law-keeping being the requirement to being made right with God. But since faith is the key and Christ the Door, all people, Jew and Gentile alike, are able to come to God, the Sovereign, universal Lord of all, on equal ground. The bold declaration of Romans 1:16, the declaration that Salvation is given to everyone who believes, both Jew and Gentile, now rings with a resounding clarity; its cause having been demonstrated, its veracity having been verified.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
The Lord is One God, but not just over Israel. He is God and Lord over all people.
It Establishes The Law
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)
Christ came not to nullify the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The Redemption that God has set forth in Christ, too, does nothing to diminish the Law of Moses, but fulfills it. The purpose of the Law is to bring a person to the place where they recognize indisputably that they are a depraved sinner beyond hope of self-reformation, the Law itself being our Schoolmaster, bringing us to Christ that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). If the Law of God accomplishes this in a person’s life, bringing them to a faith and trust in Christ, Who alone is able to save man from his iniquities, then it has achieved its end and purpose.
May we come to Him today that He would cleanse us from all unrighteousness and redeem us by His precious Blood. To Him goes all glory. In service to Him,