Book of Romans: Chapter 3 Part 3 - Three important words - Justification, redemption and propitiation

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Book of Romans: Chapter 3 Part 3 - Three important words - Justification, redemption and propitiation

by F Gordon

Last time we looked at the purpose of the law, how it was a picture of God's character, but also how it was actually to bring sin out into the open so that it could be manifested for all to see. The law was also given so that every mouth would be stopped and shut. In other words, the law told you what sin is but you couldn't live up to that law. So it actually stopped your mouth before God. You had nothing of which you could claim that you had done well. So in this chapter God is bringing the whole world into His court room and declaring them guilty. They have all sinned; they have all fallen short of the glory of God. W saw last time that the glory of God was His character and life and every single one of us has fallen short of who God is - except one man and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is said of Him 'that we beheld His glory, as of the only begotten of the Father.' John chapter 1 verse 18 says 'No man has seen God at any time', but this Man has brought Him out into the open - where He can be seen. So when you looked at the Lord Jesus Christ you knew what God was like in the way that He acted and from the things that He said which gave full expression of what God was like.

Today I want to look at verses 24, 25, and 26:

Romans 3:24-26 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (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, (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.

So after declaring all men guilty, in the very next breath we see that we can be 'justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.' So he says 'Yes, all men are guilty' but here He is changing tack and is saying that through the Lord Jesus Christ, through someone giving their life to Him, they can be justified freely in His sight.

What is justified?

What does 'justification' mean? It means 'just as if I had never sinned', and this is actually true because the whole sin issue has been dealt with by God. God is no longer an offended character. The sin issue has been dealt with by Christ upon the cross and He now looks at every single child that has come unto Him 'as if they had never sinned'. For the born again believer the sin issue has been dealt with and your slate is clean. But that alone would just leave you in a neutral position. But God goes a whole step further. He doesn't just leave you with all your past sins being dealt with. There is a second stage to be made aware of:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The second half of justification is that you are actually declared righteous. Not only has your sin been dealt with, but He actually puts you in a completely new standing where you are declared righteous because you are in a resurrected Son. It is not that you are righteous but He declares you to be so because of a simple faith in His Son and the work that he has done upon the cross. So the benefit of justification is not only that sin has been dealt with and you have a clean slate but you are now declared the righteousness of God in the risen Lord Jesus Christ and that doesn't change. That is how God sees you. It doesn't go up and down with your behavior because it is something that Christ has done, and God now declares you to be that way because of what Christ has done and you are in that risen Christ.

Benefits of justification

The benefits of justification are mentioned in Romans chapter 5 which talks about two main benefits.

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have* peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

The first benefit mentioned in Romans 5, (we will look at this deeper when we get to this chapter), is that we have peace with God. This is not the peace of God which is something different. We have peace with God. This is no longer God as an offended character. The sin issue has been dealt with by Christ upon the cross, and there is now peace toward all men as far as the Father is concerned. There is no longer a barrier that stands between man and God. So first of all there is peace and the second thing is that the believer, from the moment he comes into a relationship with Christ, steps into a completely new standing in God. It is a standing in grace where everything that the Lord Jesus Christ has done is now credited to His account. He is in the risen Christ and so therefore when God looks at him, He looks at him through the eyes of His risen Son. It is not that he has to work to be good any more it is a completely new standing in grace that the believer can only get and accept by faith.

I heard a really good illustration - and I know it has been said before in church, but I like it anyway. There was a man in Britain who owned a Rolls Royce and he put it on a boat and travelled over to Europe. During his travels around Europe in his Rolls Royce he had a bit of motor trouble so he phoned the people in England and said 'look I am having a bit of trouble with the car' and they replied 'stay where you are '. So they flew a mechanic over to Europe to fix the car. He repaired the car and the man was able to continue his travels around Europe. On his return to England he thought 'What is this going to cost, they have flown a mechanic over to Europe and they have done all this work!' So he wrote a letter to Rolls Royce enquiring about the cost and when he received a reply it said 'Dear Sir, there is no record anywhere in any of our files that at any time anything ever went wrong with a Rolls Royce!' This is what justification is. You are in a risen Christ and when God looks at you and at me and at every child that has come into faith, through His eyes we are in a risen Christ and there is nothing wrong with the Lord Jesus Christ. When I heard that story I thought that is a really good example. The Rolls Royce Company so back their name that they were willing to actually say that. Nothing has ever gone wrong with a Rolls Royce! Quite often as Christians, we don't realise what kind of engine we have under the hood. We have a Rolls Royce in the Lord Jesus Christ living within us but we don't often see that. Sometimes we travel around on our journey through life like we are in a cranky old Skoda. Now, I hope there are no Skoda owners or drivers here, but sometimes we are like that. It's got broken wing mirrors so that we can't see what is behind us and a stone chip on the windscreen so we can't actually see what is in front. It is only running on two and a half cylinders so that every time you travel from destination to destination it is coughing and spluttering and it sounds like a nervous wreck. When I was reading that example about the Rolls Royce I thought that is amazing because really we have someone that we have put our faith in; who is in our lives and He is all powerful and is ready for every single circumstance that we are ever going to come across. He is reliable and He doesn't break down.

What about redemption?

Romans 3:24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

So what does redemption mean? Redeem is to buy back, to set free. It was a really common slave market term in Paul's day. In our days it is not so common but in Paul's day you had slaves everywhere and the word was in common usage. For myself, I have never redeemed anyone but I could redeem my dog from the pound. However a slave couldn't redeem another slave, it took a free man to redeem a slave. So the Lord Jesus Christ had to be a sinless man to redeem, and this is why the concept of His being born without sin, being born of the Holy Spirit through Mary; the whole conception is vital because Christ had to be a free man. He had to be separate from sinners. Only someone that was without sin could actually purchase sinful man. That is why it is so important that Christ is the second Adam born into this world but without sin. He had to be a willing redeemer. He had to be willing and He had to be a kinsman redeemer, he had to be born of flesh and blood. A man like we are but without sin. Hebrews tells us that the High Priest had to be the same in type. So we are all actually under bondage. As we look back at the passage in Romans chapter 3, we read 'that all men are under sin'. The word for 'under sin' means 'a slave to sin'. So each one of us, when we are born are slaves to a sinful nature, but also in a world that is controlled by the evil one, so in a sense we are a slave to his bidding as well. So the Lord Jesus Christ needed to redeem us from this slavery by buying us back to Himself.

Colossians 2:13-14 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (14) having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

What this is saying is that there was a hand writing of requirements that stood opposed to us which is the law and we have broken every single part of it. Christ has actually redeemed us from all of those things that stood against us, that hand writing of requirements; He has taken it away and He has nailed it to the cross. So He has bought us back and redeemed us from all condemnation. When the Lord Jesus Christ hung upon the cross, He was actually made sin and darkness covered the earth for those few hours and for the first time in all of eternity the Father actually had to separate Himself from the Son. There had never been separation between the Father and the Son up until this point. But at the point where He was made sin and He was paying a sin debt, there was a separation and this is why you hear the words of Christ 'My God, My God why have you forsaken Me'. But it didn't end there because you get those great words 'it is finished'. Tetelestai means paid in full. It means to complete something, to fulfill something and to actually pay a debt.

Christ laid down His life and paid a debt and after that debt had been paid He said 'it is finished' it is complete, paid in full and the resurrection came later. The debt had to be paid first and resurrection is proof that the Father was satisfied with the fact that the Son had laid down His life to redeem mankind. So when Christ cries out 'it is finished' that is what it means. It means freedom for all who actually come to faith in Him. So, if you were in prison and someone stamped 'freedom' on your cell, would you walk out? Many don't. Many hear that their sins have been forgiven but they choose to remain in their sin. I actually read a true story of a man in the States who was guilty of murder, put in prison and was going to be executed. He had really wealthy parents and they appealed to the governor and because of their wealth he was granted a pardon. His parents went back to him and said 'we have guaranteed a pardon for you' and he replied 'well I don't accept it, I am guilty and I want to die'. His parents couldn't accept that, so they went to the highest court in the land to get a pardon for the son who didn't want it and the court wrote back and said 'a pardon is not a pardon unless it is accepted by the one to whom it is given.' So he went to his death because he refused to accept the pardon that was given. A lot of mankind is in that same boat spiritually. > The The Lord Jesus Christ has finished the work for the world, but many refuse to accept the work that He has actually done. It is our job really to show them the debt that has been forgiven them but still many will refuse it just as this man did. He wouldn't accept the pardon. He was free to go but he said 'no'.

Here is another biggy - Propitiation

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,

Straight away Paul is saying here that God is putting someone out there for everyone to look at. It means to 'display publicly', 'to put on exhibit', and he is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. God is displaying Him publicly as a propitiation. The word 'propitiation' means to appease, to render favorable, to turn away wrath. So here God is saying 'I am putting this Man out in the open so that everyone can see Him' He is the propitiation between Myself and mankind. If you have ever travelled into any of the tribal areas, you will know that they all have a sense of a god or gods being angry. There is a sense there that god is offended and certain things need to be done to appease that anger. In many tribes it will be that you have to sacrifice things so the gods won't be so angry. You need to pay money and things like that. So this thought of propitiation is widespread in the world. However, biblical propitiation is actually very different because with the animistic Gods you actually never know what you have done wrong in order to appease them. But biblical truth is very different. God straight away warned Adam and Eve of the consequences of their sin. If you eat, the day that you eat of the fruit you will die. There will be consequences. The ground will be cursed and you will be banished. Through Moses and the law, God spelled out what sin was. He spelled out that there would be sin and this is how you were to approach God if you sinned. The Greek word for propitiation is a word that is usually termed 'mercy seat' and is the place where propitiation between God and man can be satisfied. So I want to have a little look at that.

Leviticus 16:7-8 He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. (8) Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat.

Here we read of two goats, one is for the Lord and the other is the scapegoat. We will talk about the scapegoat later on. The priests presented these goats on the outskirts of the tabernacle; the one that was for the Lord would be killed and would be taken in to the tabernacle by the priest once a year to cover the sins of the nation. Only the high priest could perform this. On top of the Ark of the Covenant you had the mercy seat and God had already told His nation in Exodus 25 that 'I will meet with you above the mercy seat'. That was the place where God met with mankind and propitiation would take place, where God's offended character would be satisfied. Inside the ark there were certain articles. The tablets represent who God is in His character and His laws. They declare that He is Righteous. He is Holy. They declare the full picture of God's character, but they also picture man's rejection of those laws and their failure to live up to them, so you have both sides. What else was in the Ark of the Covenant? Aaron's rod. What does Aaron's rod speak of? It speaks of resurrection because it was just a dead rod but it budded and brought forth almonds and so it speaks of life that can come out of death. It speaks of leadership. Aaron was God's appointed leader but we know that the rest of the twelve leaders all came to Moses and said 'We are sick of you guys. We are sick of Aaron, we don't like your leadership programme, we want a complete change, we want to appoint our leaders, and we want to do things our way.' So God said to Moses 'put 2 rods before Me and in the morning we will see who are going to be leaders,' and it was Aaron's rod that budded. So here you have a picture of God's provision for leadership; the resurrection that can come forth, but also again man's rejection of what God had provided. The last one was manna which speaks of God's provision for His people. It was enough to sustain them. It was enough to get them through the wilderness. However, they soon got sick of it and hungered after the food of Egypt. Give us the cucumbers, the leeks and all of those things, so again it speaks of God's provision but also of man's rejection. All of these things are within the Ark of the Covenant and on top you have the mercy seat which is the place where God would meet with mankind and His offended character would be satisfied by the blood of the goat that was put upon it.

The blood was put on the heavenly Mercy Seat

Hebrews 9:11-14 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, [36] with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. (12) Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (13) For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, (14) how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

So in other words, even though there was an earthly tabernacle that God had provided for His people but there is also a heavenly one and the earthly one mirrored the one that is in heaven. So there is a heavenly tabernacle and it is interesting to note that when Christ was an equal member of the trinity He laid that all aside to take on humanity. He left heaven as God, came to earth as a man, but when He returned, He returned as a Man, but with His own blood. Not the blood of a goat or a bull but His own blood. It says here that He entered the most holy place once and for all. All through this book of Hebrews there is this constant theme, one sacrifice for all time. Hebrews 10:11-14

There is your Rolls Royce again. By one offering He has perfected forever those that are being sanctified. It is a process but as far as God is concerned there is no fault in your life because you are in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though you are being molded into a complete and full Christian, when God looks at you He sees Christ's righteousness and He sees perfection. It is a wonderful thing.

So that goat that the old priest used to take into the Tabernacle was once each year, but the blood of Christ was once for all time, never to be repeated. Remember he had to take two goats, and the second was the scapegoat. The priest would lay his hands upon this goat and he would confess all the sins of the people over it and then they would lead it out of the camp, out into the wilderness, and it would be driven away. What it represents is that not only has Christ dealt with your sin upon the cross as far as God is concerned but your sins are removed from you as far as the east is from the west. I read a story where it said that they would actually take this goat out and they would lead it down into the valleys and would go miles and miles until it was as far away as possible from the Camp. Then they would send back messengers who would say he is gone, the scapegoat is gone from the hilltops. The message then made its way back to the temple. It pictures that our sins are removed as far as from the east to the west. These are the two aspects of Christ's work; not only is God's offended righteousness satisfied, but your sins are removed as far as from the east to the west.

Christ was judged for us - where then is our boasting?

Romans 3:25-26 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, (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.

He has judged His Son for sin and He has put Him on public display and it's about God's righteous character that was offended. He goes on to say 'because in His forbearance, God had passed over the sins that were previously committed'. What that means is that from Adam to Christ God had not judged sin as a principal, once and for all. He had passed over it. There are times in the Old Testament where God had had enough. Do you remember that He brought in the flood in the time of Noah? He made a judgment against sin in that area, and also in Sodom and Gomorrah. But as a whole, He passed over all of the sins from Adam to Christ for 4,000 years; He had passed over sin, but now He was actually going to judge sin and its principal and Christ was to become the propitiation at that place, the mercy seat.

So, when you look at salvation, it is all of God. He is the One that does all of this work that He might be just and that He might actually be the justifier of those that put simple faith in Christ's blood for their own benefit.

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

In other words, you and I have nothing which we can claim or boast of; we cannot do anything. The whole working of salvation is a work done by Christ for the Father and for your benefit and so you have got nothing to boast about. You don't deserve it, you couldn't earn it but it is all a free gift given to you by simple faith. So it is wonderful salvation, and a wonderful God that we have; He has done wonderful things.