Title: The Righteousness of God Part II
Text: Romans 3.21-26
Introduction: We’re picking up today with part 2 of The righteousness of God. I always thought that meant that God was good and perfectly good. And it does. But, there is so much more to it than that. And, as we make our way through Romans, I hope we’ll gain a fuller, even clearer understanding of what that means. You remember my three points from last week?
- The Righteousness of God Declared
- The Righteousness of God Explained
- The Righteousness of God Demonstrated
Let’s do a quick review of the 1st two and then we’ll continue on w/ #3.
I. The Righteousness of God Declared: Declaration: rd 21-22a; I told you that most scholars hold this particular part of Romans to be the heart of the epistle. One of those scholars I quoted was CEB Cranfield who also said so scholarly what Leighton Ford says so plainly: God loves us just as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way. Cranfield said that God is Worthy of what we bring to him in worship and devotion because of all that God has done for us. To be sure, He is worthy of praise and worship no matter what he does or has done. But, that fact that God demonstrates his love toward sinful humanity through the work of Christ on the Cross, in the Tomb, by his Resurrection and His Ascension should lead us to devotion. God does not mock or insult his created beings by pretending that sin doesn’t matter. It does. Tremendously! And so his action demonstrates just how much he loves us and just how far he would go to redeem us.
Ill.: It attests the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness, which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously– lovingly.
So now, the righteousness of God, something truly inconceivable before, has been manifested to the world. It is brought to us and made available to us.
t.s.: Paul makes this declaration, and now explains it in v22bf;
II. The Righteousness of God Explained: Explanation: rd 22b-23;
exp.: rd 22b-23; You probably remember me saying something about God’s perfect ability to demonstrate judgment apart from favoritism or partiality. God sees no distinction between people: not race, not color, not ethnicity, not social status, not age, not income brackets… God see the soul of a person. He sees is if a soul is blemished or pure. He sees even the smallest stain!
ill.: yesterday Go Light Your World finished up here. That’s why there are so many chairs in the Worship Center. Hundreds of folks from many different states converged upon Calvary for the Speech and Debate Tournament. I was privileged to serve as a judge and I was asked to judge without partiality. Cute 12 year olds went up against strong, smart 18 year olds who have been doing this for some years. I wasn’t allowed to give a cute 12 year old bonus points because he was so adorable. I was to make no distinction and judge impartially. And so I did my best, but it is hard – and we as humans are imperfect judges.
But with God, there is no partiality, no favoritism, and no distinction. Everyone is classified the same. All are the same, on the same level, measured by the same standard. Consider what he says: all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.
All are sinners. No distinction – no favoritism. But, as we see in the next verse, justification comes to all through the demonstration of God’s Righteousness…
t.s.: And that’s Paul’s third point…
III. The Righteousness of God Demonstrated: Demonstration (24-26)
I asked these three questions last week, but didn’t have time to answer them. As we consider the demonstration of God’s righteousness this morning, I’d like to outline this section with three question:
So let’s do that now…
What is being accomplished here through this demonstration? rd 24-25a; 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.
Answer: Justified; we are being justified (pres pass ptc); I like and being made righteous; Do you remember last week I told you: justify and righteous are the same word in the Gk. One is a noun and the other is a verb. You probably remember that faith and believe are the same word in Gk. It is just one is a verb and the other a noun. So, in English we have two different words. It is the same with righteous, righteousness and justify or justification. This will be important as we make our way through the text. We’ll come back to it. I mention it now because of how I like to translate this phrase.
Transition: for now, let’s move to the next question: How.
How? How will God justify or make us righteous? Paul’s answers are in the rest of 24 and 25a; 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. That’s how. Paul gives us three categories or parts to work through in understanding just how God’s justified us or has made us righteous:
- The Purchase:
- The Price:
- The Process
t.s.: look at the purchase first.
- The purchase –it almost seems contradictory in this statement. We’re justified by his grace as a gift. So, God’s great mercy poured out on us by his grace has made this justification available to us totally free of charge to us. It is a gift. Humm… let’s keep reading in v 24; through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He redeemed us; if it is free, then why did something have to be bought back? See what I mean by ‘contradiction’? Well, it is free to us, because it is a gift freely given. But it wasn’t really free, because a price had to be paid. That’s #2 here…
- The price – I get this from the word propitiation in v25; propitiation means a sacrifice or a payment that is offered with the purpose or intent of appeasing the wrath of God. So according to our verse Jesus was put forward as a sacrificial offering or payment to appease the wrath of God.
Now, read v 25 with me again: 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood…
I touched on this last week, but let me revisit it for the benefit of others who might not have been here, or for those who were asleep. Put forward has the connotation of a public display. The NASB translates this: whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation bin His blood through faith. That’s an accurate translation and so are all of the other English translations; however, I think there is a better way to think about this. This is a good translation because it is so very literal and it is so very true.
- Christ was made a spectacle. He was very publicly humiliated and killed.
- Much of scholarship over recent years has leaned heavily toward this meaning of Public Display, which is why I think all of translations lean this way (like the NASB which I quoted).
- This word can mean a public display. And it often does in extra-biblical material.
But there are some very good reasons to consider this word as being presented from a different perspective.
- Some of the earliest of scholars (Augustine, Origen, Chrysystom) understood this word differently than a ‘public display’. Instead, they understood this word to mean purpose or
- When this word appears in the NT, it has the context of plan and purpose. This is very compelling for me. We find this word three times in the NT. The two other times in the NT both deal with idea of ‘purpose or plan’.
- Romans (1.13): 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
- The other time is also used by Paul in Ephesians 1.9: 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time…
So, put these words together now: One understanding of v25 would be God publicly displayed Christ’s sacrifice to appease His wrath. That would be a true statement, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying. I think Paul is declaring here that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t something God used as a display, but rather it was his plan. God purposed in His heart, according to the counsel of His Will, to put Christ to death as a payment for our sins. So, taking those same words with our better understanding: 25 whom God purposed as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Or, 25 whom God planned as an appeasement of his wrath by his blood, to be received by faith.
Paul isn’t saying that Christ was hung on a tree to show us how mad God was about our sin. But rather, Paul is saying that Christ was hung on the Cross of Calvary because it was God’s plan and purpose from before time even began to satisfy the payment of sins through his death.
I think in coming to this solution it clarifies for us the love of God: the amazing, wonderful love of God. Who can truly grasp it? Before time began, even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had a plan – he intentioned it in his heart, to present his son as a sacrifice for our sins: a sacrifice that would pay the due penalty (redemption) and appease the wrath of a righteous God (propitiation).
That should blow your mind. Not only did God know Adam and Eve would sin before he created them, but he had a plan in place to redeem them. It wasn’t a contingency plan. It was THE plan all along.
Transition: So, we’ve seen the purchase (redemption) and the price (propitiation). Now let’s look at the process…
- The process – the answer is at the end of 25a: to be received by faith. I can stand here and offer you this free gift of God’s grace, but I can’t make you take it. Some folks are uncomfortable with gifts. Some people want to achieve this redemption – some, to somehow earn it. It has to be received.
Ill.: I could tell you each that someone has blessed us here today with a gift of $10,000. All you have to do is come forward and receive this free gift. But, what if you began to celebrate and then you left this building without picking up your check? How much of it could you spend? What could you buy with all that money still in my hand? You would have to receive it… deposit it into your account.
God did all of the work necessary for your salvation, but the process still involves you. You must receive this precious gift.
Transition: now, let’s turn our attention to the last question.
Why would God do all of this in this particular manner? Why not something different? Let’s first look at Paul’s answer and then whatever other options God had. Rd 25b;
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.
Well, there is your ‘why’: To show God’s Righteousness; it is to illustrate for us that God just and the justifier; we see it again in v 26; But here is where we need to go back to the words righteous and justify. Do you remember I told you that they are the same word in the Greek, its just one is a verb and the other is a noun? I think it might do us some good to keep those words the same in both places.
- And are being made righteous by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s righteousness because…
- And are justified by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s justification..
I like that phrase: the justification of God. The first time I ever heard it used was by John Piper. It felt weird to me – unnatural even. But, now I get it. And that is strengthened by these verses: rd 25b-26. 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.
God is justified in his actions because what he does is right. He has perfect intentions, perfect motives and perfect actions. Look at that last line: that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
- God is just. Perfectly so!
- God is the one who justifies. And perfectly so!
As CEB Cranfield stated previously, God does what he does because he loves us so. He could have just annihilated us. He could have just spoken forgiveness. But there are two truths we are reminded of here:
- Sin really does matter. It really does separate us from God and it really has consequences that are eternal. I think that was one of Satan’s ploys when he told Eve unequivocally: You will not surely die! Listen, God was truthful with them and Paul is with us, too. Sin really does matter to God.
- God’s Holiness and Glory matter. To not act justly would lessen the value of God’s holiness and glory. And you can’t really do that. Anything less than holy isn’t holy at all! Any thing less and God would not be God – and you can’t have that. It just doesn’t work mathematically. God wants you to know he is holy and he won’t cheapen it.
Cliff Barrows, long time song leader for Billy Graham tells the story of when his kids were little. They hadn’t obeyed him in something he had told them to do and so he gave them a fair warning. He said if he came home the next day and they had disobeyed him, he would have to spank them.
Well, as the story goes, he came home the next day and they hadn’t done what they had been told to do. They simply rebelled against their father. Barrows says they were real little back at that time in their lives, but he had told them of the consequences. The truth was he didn’t want to punish them. But he’d already told them what would happen. Billy Graham tells the story in his book, How to be Born Again.
He quotes Cliff here: Bobby and Bettie Ruth were very small. I called them into my room, took off my belt and then my shirt, with a bare back I knelt down at the bed. I made them both strap me with the belt ten times each. You should have heard the crying. From them, I mean. The crying was from them. They didn’t want to do it. But I told them the penalty had to be paid and so through their sobs and tears they did what I told them.
I smile when I remember the incident, he told me. I must admit I wasn’t much of a hero. It hurt. I haven’t offered to do that again. It was a once-for-all sacrifice, I guess you could say, but I never had to spank those two children again, because they got the point. We kissed each other. And when it was over we prayed together.
God is the perfect parent. The consequence of our sin remains. We will surely die. But, God has made a way. In his just and righteous nature, he can’t allow sin into his presence. So he punished sin by sending his son to die on the Cross of Calvary for your sins and my sins. And because he is righteous and because he demands a penalty for sin, he alone has provided a means of escape by pouring out his wrath on Christ and allowing him to die in our place.
I’d love to visit with you some more about this if you’re interested. We’ll close our service now with a moment of silence and then afterward we’ll have a benedictory prayer by … If you have a decision or commitment you wish to talk with us about, we’ll be at the back of the worship center in the Cornerstone area, where coffee and cookies will be available while we talk and fellowship.