“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; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” —Romans 3:24-26
When we consider the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, let us not corrupt the holy work of God in it by trying to close our eyes and imagine the nails, the thorns, the beatings, and so forth. Beloved, you and I can never fully imagine the holiness of God’s infinitely glorious work upon Calvary’s tree.
Every movie that has attempted to capture what was going on in the Cross will ALWAYS fail because the truth of the Cross can only be revealed by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” —Romans 3:24
To be justified is “to be declared legally righteous.” Freely is translated “gift” in the New American Standard Bible. It means “undeservedly.” Grace means “favor” or “free gift.” Redemption comes from a compound of two Greek words: apo, meaning, “cast away” or “cast off,” and lutron, meaning “redemption” or “ransom price.” This Greek word would seem to present the majesty of Jesus’ statement from the Cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). “It is finished” is translated from the Greek word, tetelastai, which means, “paid in full.”
Because of the villainy and wretchedness of our sin and rebellion against a holy God, we owe a debt that we cannot possibly pay. Therefore, Jesus Christ pays the penalty Himself, with Himself. My paraphrase of Romans 3:24 would sound like this: “Being declared legally righteous, and although we are undeserving of it, God cast the ransom price off of us as His free gift because the redemption price was channeled through and paid by 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 3:25
Propitiation is the act of appeasing wrath and winning the favor of an offended person. It has been said by some that “propitiation” may be one of the most important words in our English Bible. The Greek word translated “propitiation” in our text is also translated “mercy seat” in Hebrews 9:5, “And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.”
The mercy seat in the Old Testament is translated from a Hebrew word that literally means “the lid” or “the covering.” The book of Exodus gives instructions for how the mercy seat was made, &etc. The mercy seat was a separate item that sat upon the ark of the testimony.
According to Numbers 7:89, it was from the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that the voice of God spoke to Moses. We get our most significant insights to the mercy seat in Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 9. These chapters provide us the insights into another Feast of the LORD, Yom Kippur; also known as the Day of Atonement. On this appointed day, the high priest performs all the sacrifices to atone for the sins of Israel, and then enters into the Holy of Holiest places by himself with the shed blood of innocent sacrifices to sprinkle that blood upon the mercy seat. The observance of this commandment of God brought mercy upon the people for their sins. In the Holy of Holies, the high priest is the mediator for the people.
This is a prophetic foreshadow of Jesus, our Mediator and Intercessor: “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus Christ, by the righteous Sacrifice of Himself, enters into heaven, the holiest place, sprinkling His blood upon the true seat of mercy, the very throne of God, representing redeemed souls before His heavenly Father, and making intercession for the people of God (Hebrews 7:25).
The sins of believers, those saved by grace through faith, were not atoned for because the Jews and Romans brutalized and tortured the Lamb of God. The total disfigurement of the Son of God before He went to the Cross was the evidence that sinful man utterly hates God. The sacrifice for our sins that provides us forgiveness was made by God at Calvary when, in His holy justice, God poured out His righteous anger upon His only Son because Jesus became the curse for us, as it is written, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). He shed His blood for the remission of sins. He gave His life a ransom for many. He paid the sin debt by suffering the unbridled wrath of God when He hung upon that tree.
Three very important things are revealed to us here: Remission; Sins; That are Past. Remission “letting pass” or “disregarding.” Sins means “sins” or “damnation” just as it is used here: “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3:28-29). “That are past…” means “past” or “already” or “previously transpired.”
The display of God’s righteousness through the crucifixion of Christ was so powerful, so effective, so sufficient, that all the sins that have transpired in the past among Old Testament saints, looking forward to the promised Messiah are forgiven by God, “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16); “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
If God’s forbearance for sins committed by mankind from Adam until the crucifixion of Christ have been justified, vindicated at the Cross of Calvary, because through faith in Jesus Christ God has forgiven them; it is most certainly powerful enough to forgive us our sins and transgressions against 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 3:26
The entire heavenly host sees the holiness of God every single moment behind eternity’s veil, unless of course they are sent with a message from the throne of God. All the angels know God’s holy justice and holy righteousness. They declare God’s three-fold holiness around His throne: “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). This is why, when angels see the grace of God bestowed upon sinful men, they examine it with utter awe and amazement, as it is written, “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).
In the crucifixion of Christ, God is just and righteous in pouring out His holy wrath upon a Man for sin. Also in the Cross, God is the Justifier of sinners who have been saved by faith in the only work God has declared acceptable: the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life on Calvary’s Tree.
God could have wiped out all sin, beginning with Satan, without any explanation whatsoever, and all of creation would have said, “Amen, amen.” Yet, God, who had “winked at” the sins that had gone on from Adam until the Cross, was just in His holy and righteous work upon the Cross, and therefore, the Justifier of all those to whom He would show mercy, because of the Cross. Yet having done this incredible thing, because God is good, and He is absolutely good in His holiness, He sets out to explain what He has done so that all of His creation will see His glory. That’s what the whole Bible is about: God explaining what He has done upon the Cross at Calvary in His only Son, Jesus Christ (John 5:39).
Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 3:24-26, “Propitiation Through Faith,” on September 13, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.
Read the previous article in this series, “God’s Righteousness Manifested” (Romans 3:21-23).