“. . . that every mouth may be stopped. . .” – Romans 3:19

 

People like to talk, especially when the conversation is about themselves. The average person speaks sixteen thousand words per day.[1] Some would argue women speak more words than men per day but there are studies that refute that. Maybe for some it simply feels that way. People expend a lot of verbal resources pushing their opinions and beliefs as well as defending themselves against accusations. In Romans 1:18 through 3:18 the Holy Spirit inspires the Apostle Paul to show conclusively that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In Romans 3:19 to the end of the chapter Paul provides from the Lord some jaw-dropping, mouth shutting, conversation ending truth. Such a verbal truth bomb is worth our attention. Maybe it’s time we all just shut up and consider what God, by His grace, has offered to us in Christ.

“That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

Romans 3:19 – “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” 

When Paul refers to “those who are under the law,” he is speaking to those from a Jewish background. The section on justification by faith is opened by addressing those who have traditionally put their trust for salvation in keeping the law of God. When Paul speaks of “all the world” as “guilty before God,” he broadens the conviction for sin and expands it to the entire world Jew and non-Jew. The word “guilty” (Greek hypodikos) means one under a sentence, one under judgment, liable to punishment, guilty, a debtor. The entire world is under a death sentence because of the sins they have committed (cf. Romans 6:23a). In Romans 3:10-18 Paul has rattled off a series of Scriptures that testify to the sinfulness of all humankind. That is jaw dropping to those who depend on their own righteousness. That truth should shut the mouth of those who would boast in their own self-righteousness. What Paul is going to affirm from this point on ends the discussion about anyone who thinks they will get to heaven in their own strength and achievements.

Romans 3:20 – “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Paul is here speaking to a people, (the Jews) who thought they could be righteous by keeping laws. The person who attempts to establish their righteousness by keeping laws, is trusting in themselves, not a Savior. Because no one can justify themselves by keeping a set of rules or laws, they need saving.

In this verse Paul points out the fallacy of righteousness by rule keeping. The Perfect Holy Judge of the Universe isn’t going to entertain the idea that any amount of good works can compensate for the crimes of sin we’ve committed. No, when judgment is being enforced, the punishment or compensation must fit the crime. There is nothing we can do to compensate for the sins we have committed.

What is “justification”?

The word “justified” is translated from the Greek term dikaioo and means to render (i.e. show or regard as) just or innocent; free, justify (-ier), be righteous.[i] It means “‘acquit’, ‘declare righteous’, the opposite of ‘condemn’” [ii] The idea is to denote “the act of pronouncing righteous, justification, acquittal.”[iii] Justification is predominantly a legal declaration of God. In the Old Testament “to justify” is seen as a legal action (Exodus 23:7; Isaiah 5:23; 5311-12; Romans 3-5). Justification is God declaring a person righteous on His just basis. When one is justified their record of sin is wiped out and they are put in a position before God just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. God eradicates our record of sin and will remember it no more.

Justification is a Declaration by God

That justification is a declaration of God is seen in the key Old Testament verse that reads:

Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

Notice, Abraham was “accounted” (“imputed; reckoned; counted; credited”) righteous based on His faith in God. When we look at Abraham’s life, we see that he was less than perfect or righteous morally. He caved in to seeking an heir by way of fleshly means (Genesis 16; Galatians 4:21-31). He lied about Sarah’s identity (Genesis 20). But righteousness was “accounted” to Abraham by God. God declared Abraham righteous, apart from His works (Romans 4:1-8).

There are two aspects of God’s righteousness God provides for us. First, by faith God imputes righteousness to us at justification. This is His declaration that we are righteous before Him based on our faith in Him. Secondly, God imparts righteousness to us at our sanctification. This happens when we are born again, and the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. This is the actual work God does in a person who has been justified.

How Can a Just and Holy God Declare the Ungodly Just?

On what basis did God declare Abraham just even though he was a man who had some obvious moral flaws (i.e., was sinful)? Justification is God making a declaration that a person is in right standing before Him JUST AS IF that person HAD NEVER SINNED. Justification is to have a legal standing before God just as though you had never been guilty before God of any sin. Imagine that justification is a standing before God just as if we’d never sinned. Even though we all have sinned, there is a way to stand before Holy God, just as if we’d never sinned. In justification God erases our slate or record of sin. In justification God wipes out any recollection of our sin. To that we should shout, “Praise the Lord!”

Paul states, “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law was never intended by God to be a means of attaining righteousness. The law makes us aware of sin. The purpose of the law is to expose a person’s utter sinfulness so that they see their need for salvation. The law can only tell you what God requires, it has no power to forgive, no power to justify, no power to make you righteous before God. The power of the Law is only to condemn.

The Law Doesn’t Make You Righteous, it Clarifies, Confirms Your Sinfulness, and Condemns You as a Sinner

The law of God is meant to show a person how sinful they are and that they can’t attain righteousness before God in their own strength and therefore the law leads a person to the cross of Christ (cf. Galatians 3:9-25).

The Law teaches us that we are sinful. It shows us the standard of righteous required by God which is the righteousness of Christ. The Law brings us to Jesus, walks us around Jesus, and shows us the contrast between our “righteous” efforts and Jesus true righteousness. Our righteousness doesn’t come close to Jesus’ righteousness. Therefore, we learn the futility of our works-righteousness. But one of the hardest things for us to overcome is a mindset that our righteousness is based on what we do.

“The righteousness of God apart from the law”

Romans 3:21 – “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” 

Instead of legalism’s attempt to be righteous by our works, we, by faith, need to replace such a mindset with the awareness that our righteousness is based on WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE FOR US ON THE CROSS. We appropriate God’s righteousness in Christ by way of faith in Christ and His cross work.

“But” indicates now a contrasting thought being brought by Paul. Paul is going to contrast trusting in our works under a legal system with the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus.

“Now the righteousness of God” begins Paul’s explanation of God’s alternative to works-righteousness. “Righteousness,” is “the character or quality of being right or just.” The word “righteousness” was formerly spelled “rightwiseness,” which clearly expresses the meaning. When this term is used regarding God (Romans 3:5,20,25-26) it refers to God’s faithfulness and truthfulness, that which is consistent with His holy character as especially seen in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

When righteousness is used regarding human beings, it connotes a right standing before God imputed by God to the one who puts faith in Jesus Christ. Our righteousness is imputed or put to our account by God. In sin, we are out of whack, out of sync with God, out of relationship with God. Through faith in Christ God declares we are right before Him and brings us into a right relationship with Him.

God imputes His righteousness to us, but He, through the Holy Spirit imparts the holy ways of righteousness in the process of sanctification in the one who is justified. There is an actual change worked in the justified person by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who regenerates and indwells the person who puts their faith in Jesus, begins a life transforming holy work in the that person. This is called sanctification, and we will consider what exactly that entails when we get to Romans 6-8.

Righteousness is Our Justified Position before God by Faith in Christ

“Now the righteousness of God apart from the law” speaks of a righteousness that legalists had not considered before. The righteousness Paul is talking about here is a righteousness apart from the Law in that it is not attained through keeping law. Paul points out that what he is discussing is nothing new, it has been witnessed to in the Law.

In the Pentateuch, the righteousness of Abraham is a perfect example of what Paul is speaking about. There it states:

Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

This same concept of righteousness by faith is also witnessed to in the Prophetic Books of the Old Testament:

Habakkuk 2:4 – “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.”

Righteousness, even in the Old Testament, is not attained with legalistic works or efforts, it is something received by faith. We see Paul elaborate on this truth with his own personal testimony (Phil. 3:4-11).

“Is revealed” tells us that this is something God reveals to us. God’s word testifies to and delivers God’s revelation truth. That which was witnessed to in the Old Testament is now amplified and explained in the New Testament here by Paul. “Revealed” means to render apparent (lit. or fig.), to appear, manifestly declare, (make) manifest (forth), shew (self).[iv]

Romans 3:22 – “even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;” 

Paul continues, “even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ.” Paul wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. The righteousness Paul is teaching about is “through faith in Jesus Christ,” it is based on and attained through trusting or relying upon Jesus Christ.

Faith, translated from the Greek term pistis means persuasion, i.e., credence, conviction of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher. Trust is the best synonym for the word “faith.” Faith is especially a reliance upon Christ for salvation and constancy in that profession. Faith can also refer generally to the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself. And “faith” can refer to assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.[v]

God created humanity in His image. That image of God includes the will. God’s image in us provides us with the ability to choose, to make decisions, to determine our courses of action in life. And this creative quality that God puts in humanity is a gift of His grace. Therefore, when we do make decisions, we have nothing to boast about, it simply is the way God has created us. Faith is not a work.

Paul says, “to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; . . .” No matter who you are, justification by faith in Christ is the only acceptable means of being made right before God. These are God’s terms, and they use faith to make salvation available to everyone, not just a select few.

Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” 

Here is the great statement of equity, “for all have sinned and fall short.” Everyone has sinned, both Jews and Gentiles. Everyone is guilty before God. And all efforts, all alternative attempts to be righteous apart from faith in Jesus, “fall short of the glory of God.” “The glory of God” is an exaltation of God’s justifying plan of salvation in Christ. Truly justification by faith in Jesus is a glorious thing!

The phrase, “fall short” means, to be later, to be inferior; to fall short (be deficient). It means to come behind (short), be destitute, fail, lack, suffer need, (be in) want, be the worse.[vi] These words paint a picture of beggarliness before the Lord. No matter how high we try to jump, we can jump high enough. Whatever we do, we fall short of what is needed. Whatever we do we fail, we prove inferior, we are always behind, we just can’t catch up. Ananias and Saphira attempted to present themselves as righteous before God with a good but dishonest show of faith by their giving. They ultimately fell short by depending on their own wits (Acts 5:1-10).

The glory of God here is the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. “Glory” means dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, worship.[vii] The redemptive work of God in Christ deserves our worship for it is glorious.

Freely Justified by Grace

Romans 3:24a – “being justified freely by His grace . . .

Here are some profoundly inspired words, “being justified freely by His grace.” Our efforts have nothing to do with God justifying us. Our justification flows purely from the gracious heart of God. And justification is the wiping clean of one’s slate of sin. When God justifies us, He makes it as though we had never sinned; He wipes the slate clean; He burns your files of sin; your record of sin is destroyed, forgotten. When we are justified God has no more charges filed against us. It’s just as though you had never sinned. And God does this freely by His grace.

Our problem is that we have difficulty forgetting our past sins. God has wiped them out, but we still have the memory in our consciousness. That is part of our limited humanity. When sinful memories haunt us, we need to give it to Jesus and take them captive in Him (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

The word “freely” means gratuitously or without a cause. Something freely given is a gift (Matt. 10:8; Rom. 3:24; 2 Cor. 11:7; Rev. 21:6; 22:17.)  Here the prominent thought is the grace of the Giver. [viii] God in His graciousness gives us freely the means to be justified by faith in Jesus.

This idea of God’s grace is not only for our justification. God is thoroughly and continuously gracious. That’s why Paul attributed all that he was to Gods’ grace (1 Corinthians 15:10). “Freely” means freely. You don’t have to make vows, make promises or deals with God to get Him to save or bless you. That only serves to cheapen your relationship with God. GOD’S BLESSINGS ARE NOT EARNED; WE DON’T HAVE TO DO WORK FOR GOD TO BLESS US. GOD’S BLESSINGS ARE NOT CONTINGENT UPON US, THEY FLOW FREELY OUT OF GOD’S GRACIOUS LOVING NATURE.

When you understand God’s grace, you will come to expect God’s blessings, you will realize you are never deserving enough or worthy enough to be blessed. But that’s not a bad thing because our unworthiness makes God’s provision and generosity all the more glorious. That is the nature of God’s grace. Grace is unmerited, undeserved favor from God.

God watches us constantly. He doesn’t watch us like a police officer waiting to catch us in a crime. He watches us like a loving heavenly Father who loves us so much He just can’t take His eyes off of us. God loves us incredibly and proved that in the redemptive work of Jesus at the cross.

This is stated by Paul later in our study. But it should be mentioned here to prepare us for what follows:

Romans 8:31-32 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

God is for us. He loves us. He graciously wants to bless us with everything we need. Don’t ever forget that.

Redemption in Christ

Romans 3:24b – . . . through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” 

It states, “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” – The word “redemption” is one of the most glorious words in all our vocabulary because of the price paid by Jesus to secure it for us. Redemption is a theme throughout the Old Testament and is most fully explained at the cross of Christ.

The word “redemption” is translated from the Greek term apolutrosis. [ix] At the root of the word is the idea of a loss. What have we all lost? We have all lost an eternal relationship with God. We owe a debt of death because of our sins. Death is separation from God who is Life (cf. Luke 15:24). Jesus has made a way to redeem us in that He has paid our death penalty for sin on the cross (e.g., Romans 6:23). Jesus has made a way to redeem us through His atoning redeeming death on the cross.

The word means, “a releasing for a ransom.” We owe a debt to God because of our sin. There is a wage of sin that we owe to God to pay for our offenses. Jesus, on the cross, pays to redeem us from that penalty price. Some in history have mistakenly thought Jesus paid Satan to redeem us from him. That is a terribly mistaken notion. No, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins to God who is the Just Judge. And therefore, those who trust in Jesus are redeemed from sins’ penalty price.

Propitiation by His Blood

Romans 3:25a – “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood,

Our salvation is provided to us freely by God’s grace. God has made a way for us to be justified before Him. Sometimes when someone gives us something “free” it turns out to be cheap. This Is not one of those times. God in His grace freely offers us redemption and justification through faith in Jesus. God offers this freely by His grace, but it wasn’t cheap; it cost Jesus His life.

The English word “Propitiation” is translated from the Greek term hilasterion. Hilasterion refers to “expiation,” it is used to refer to “an atoning victim/sacrifice,” or, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple, the “mercy seat.” One commentary expresses well the relational aspect of this term: Propitiation means bringing together, making favorable, thus enabling someone to act with mercy and forgiveness. A propitiation is a sacrifice or gift which averts the wrath of God and enables Him to be merciful and favorable to the sinner. [x] Propitiation is God’s ordained means by which sinful humanity can be brought back to Him. It is what needs to be done to reconcile the sinner to Himself in a satisfactorily just way.

Propitiation by blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Leviticus 17:11; and Hebrews 9:22). The blood represents life and in its shedding pints to the necessity of giving life to atone for sin that causes death. Jesus atoned by His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). The blood of Jesus is the basis of God’s forgiveness, no other blood but the blood of Jesus is satisfactory for the just basis for forgiving sin (cf. Hebrews 8-10).

Propitiation involves the Old Testament imagery of the sacrificial system. On the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) the High Priest would select two goats and by lot, one would be sacrificed, the other would be led out into the wilderness. This later goat was referred to as “the scape goat.” Upon the goat that was sacrificed the priest would lay his hands and confess the sins of the people while sacrificing it. The priest would then take the blood of the sacrificed goat and go behind the veil and sprinkle it on the mercy seat, (the cover of the ark of the covenant which was a box shaped structure). He would sprinkle the blood on the seat seven times.

The sacrifice of the goat, the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat seven times, completed the propitiatory act. God accepted the shedding of blood of the goat on behalf of the people and then the people would be acceptable to Him. The scapegoat was led off into the wilderness and when it disappeared there, the priest would give a signal and the people would rejoice before the LORD. The shedding of blood made propitiation for sins and those sins were removed from the presence of God and the people.

David pictured this for us in the Psalms when he was inspired to wrote:

Psalm 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

In the New Testament Jesus became our sin offering to God.

1 Peter 1:18-19 – “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

The Book of Isaiah is often referred to as the Fifth Gospel. It is a book rich with gospel truth. In chapter 53 Isaiah is inspired to speak of the sacrifice of the Savior who was to come. One of the things that makes these words so incredibly magnificent is that they were written eight centuries before the birth of Christ. These are powerful words that express the extent of the propitiatory cost Jesus paid for us. Take a moment to pause and read them:

Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:10-12 – “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

God is absolutely righteous. The propitiatory cost paid by Jesus was profoundly expensive.

God Forgives us Through Faith in Jesus’ Propitiatory Sacrifice on Our Behalf

Romans 3:25b – through faith,

How can what Jesus did for us, be put to our account? How can we receive such benefits of Christ’s propitiatory work? By faith. When we trust in Jesus’ propitiatory work on the cross, when we receive it to ourselves, God applies the benefits of Jesus’ cross work to us. When we trust in Jesus and His shed blood for us, God forgives our sins based on Jesus’ death on the cross. It is through faith that we are justified. That should be crystal clear by now.

Why? To Demonstrate God’s Own Righteousness

Romans 3:25c – to demonstrate His righteousness,

Satan is not equal to God. Satan is a created being. But Satan is the primary adversary against God and He is constantly bringing accusations against God. His accusations are baseless. He bolsters them up with deception and lies. Such lies will one day be trashed for the garbage they are. And God does not merely do what He does in answer to Satan. God in Christ and His propitiatory atonement acts according to His Perfect Nature. His perfect holy actions quench and squash the enemies’ accusations. God demonstrates His righteousness simply because that is Who He is. God is righteous. “You are righteous, O Lord, . . . even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments” (Revelation 16:5-7).

Satan challenges God’s righteousness, His fairness. Satan did this in the Garden of Eden when he insinuated that God was keeping something good from Eve by not allowing her to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:4-5). Objections by people to accepting the gospel often involve people’s challenge to God’s fairness about damning anyone to hell. But God is absolutely righteous and fair and therefore, whatever judgment He imposes we can be confident that it will be just and fair.

How Can a Just God Forgive Sin Fairly, Justly?

Since God is totally fair and just, how can He forgive your sins? You have broken His laws and sinned repeatedly. You are hopelessly condemned by the law of God. How can a just God forgive sin? How can God be in harmony with His law and forgive those who break that law?

Sin is missing the mark. How could a just judge who keeps the law perfectly treat those who miss the mark or break His law, as though they had never missed the mark? How could a just judge set a criminal free who had obviously committed the crime they are accused of committing?

When God forgives a person, He must do so with a righteous basis. God doesn’t just say, “Okay, you’re forgiven.” God will not break His own law to forgive the sinner. The law must be satisfied. God will not contradict His own system of justice. God is always consistent to Himself.

The lawful penalty for breaking God’s law is death. The sinner must die in accordance with the law. How can God accomplish this? God sent his Son into the world who lived a perfectly sinless life. Jesus never missed the mark. BECAUSE JESUS LIVED WITHOUT SIN, HE IS QUALIFIED AND SUITBALE TO FREELY OFFER HIMSELF IN OUR PLACE AS PAYMENT FOR OUR DEBT OF SIN. By justifying us this way God forgives us justly because Jesus pays our penalty for us. The penalty for our sin is paid, but by Jesus. The death of Jesus, God’s innocent Son, is the righteous basis of God’s forgiveness of our sins.

The Shedding of Blood

It is the shedding of blood that is required to forgive sin justly according to God’s system of justice. Scripture states:

Hebrews 9:22 – “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

Leviticus 17:11 – “‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’”

The shedding of blood is the evidence that a life has been given in payment. Under Gods system of justice, the seriousness of sin is emphasized by the shedding of blood. Sin causes pain, suffering, it victimizes, it destroys. Sin is the worst thing in this universe. Sin breaks relationships and it breaks those God loves. Sin can’t just be overlooked. Sin needs to be atoned for. Sin is a terrible thing and requires a terrible cost to be eradicated. Sin causes death. Therefore, by death, the giving of life, sin must be atoned.

There is no other way to justify humanity righteously than by the death of Jesus on the cross, the shedding of His blood. Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane to the Father for an alternative. The Father’s silence confirmed there was and is no other way (Matthew 26:39,42,44). Jesus death on the cross and the shedding of His blood is the only way to justly forgive humanities’ sin. It is only through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross that sin can be justly forgiven (John 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 2:2).

God’s Wrath and Propitiation 

It is frequently said in modern times that, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” We need to ask whether or not such a statement jives with Scripture. Certainly, it is true that God desires all people to repent and be saved (2 Samuel 14:14; Lamentations 3:33; Ezekiel 18:23,32; 33:11; Hosea 11:8; 2 Peter 3:9). But we need to take the scriptures as a whole to determine God’s attitude toward sin and sinners. What does the Bible say?

God’s Wrath on Sinners 

Does God only, “hate the sin but love the sinner”? I don’t know if that’s an accurate portrayal of God’s revealed attitude toward the sinner. What about such verses as the following?

Psalm 5:5 – “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.”

Psalm 7:11 – God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

Psalm 11:5 – “The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”

John 3:36 – “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

When we look at such verses it is clear that the separation of God’s hate and wrath seems less based on Scripture and more based on human inclinations. Sometimes people view or make God in their own image so that their version of who He is will be more palatable for the public. But God knows what He is doing, and sinners need to see their tenuous and dangerous position before a holy God. God is big enough to defend Himself. He needs no defending. He is perfect in all His ways.

The position of the sinner as on the receiving end of God’s wrath is an awareness that God uses to draw the sinner to Himself. The sinner needs to understand that they are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Without such awareness, the sinner sees no immediate need for salvation. Furthermore, if the idea of God’s “wrath” is excluded as it so often is by liberal parts of the Church, then other biblical doctrines fly out the window as well because there is no need. Such doctrines as atonement, sacrifice, justice, justification, holiness, and punishment are all removed from their biblical moorings when God’s wrath against sinners is ignored.

How Can a God of Love Be Wrathful?

It is difficult for some to reconcile or picture a God of love being characterized as wrathful. But the problem is not with God but with us. Leon Morris makes the following comment in this regard:

“Perhaps the difficulty arises because we are making a false antithesis between the divine wrath and the divine love. We are handicapped by the fact that we must necessarily use terms properly applicable to human affairs, and for us it is very difficult to be simultaneously wrathful and loving. But, upon analysis, this seems to be largely because our anger is such a selfish passion, usually involving a large element of irrationality together with a lack of self-control. . .. Those who object to the conception of the wrath of God should realize that what is meant is not some irrational passion bursting forth uncontrollably, but a burning zeal for the right coupled with a perfect hatred for everything that is evil. . .. The writers of the New Testament know nothing of a love which does not react in the very strongest fashion against every form of sin.” [xi]

We need to understand that any attribute associated with God shown be viewed with the awareness of God’s perfection. If God is angry, or wrathful, or judges, He does all of those things according to His perfect goodness. There is no injustice with God. His sending His Only Son Jesus to the cross to satisfy His justice should be proof enough of His goodness. God doesn’t cut corners. God doesn’t take shortcuts. God operates like no other. God is perfect in all His ways. God says, “There is none like Me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14). The Psalmist stated, “Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works” (Psalm 86:8; cf. also Isaiah 46:9; Jeremiah 10:6 and 7). Only God can perfectly love and be perfectly wrathful.

Passover

Romans 3:25d – because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,” 

The cross of Christ stands in the center of history. History, is His-story. All sin is forgiven based on the cross work of Jesus Christ. In Exodus 12 we have the first Passover. It is there that God passed over the homes of His people that were marked with blood of a sacrificial lamb. Those homes not marked with the blood of a lamb, the LORD took the first born from. This symbolized God passing over the sins of the people based on the blood of a sacrifice lamb.

The concept of blood and sacrifice were first seen in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21). And here in Exodus the concept was reinforced. Soon thereafter, on Mount Sinai, when Moses was given the Law by God, the sacrificial system would be thoroughly instituted.

But how could God pass over sins by virtue of the shed blood of a sacrificial animal? Romans 3:25 explains this for us. God passed over sin in the Old Testament, because in foreknowledge of Jesus going to the cross, He knew the actual propitiating atoning sacrifice would be paid by Jesus. God in “forbearance” (Greek anoche), or tolerance, passed over Old Testament sins for those who trusted in Him, knowing that Jesus would eventually pay the actual death penalty for sin at the cross.

The cross of Christ – the centerpiece of history. The cross os Christ stands in the center of History. The cross of Christ stands in the middle of the Testaments. The Old Testament looks forward to the cross of Christ. The New Testament and beyond looks back to the cross of Christ. At the cross of Christ, all sin is propitiated and atoned.

The word “sins” (Greek hamartema) means to miss the mark. In the Middle Ages there was a game where a ring was placed on the end of a long pole and raised in the air. The players would try to shoot arrows through the ring. When they missed, it was called a “sin,” because he had missed the mark. This is the meaning behind the English word “sin.” 265.        Where we, by our sins, missed the mark, Jesus in life, always hit the target of holiness. And because of that, Jesus was qualified to atone for our sins on the cross.

God – The Just and the Justifier

Romans 3:26 – “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” 

The word “demonstrate” is translated from the Greek term endeikesis from which we get another English word “indication.” Endeikesis means, “declare, evident token, proof.” [xii] God has worked this plan of salvation as evidence of His righteousness. And what an incredible righteousness it is!

Paul continues, “That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  God is just because He is also the justifier. God is the One who paid the debt of His own law on behalf of the sinner. Ponder this thought prayerfully. Read the inspired words of scripture that emphasize this truth:

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 – “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

God is the just and the justifier. GOD WAS IN CHRIST PROVIDING HIMSELF AS THE MEANS TO MEET THE RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENT OF HIS LAW. This is why justification and salvation, and everything connected to it is a product of God’s grace. This is why one can boast about salvation. Salvation is a work of God! Fathom the thought of God Almighty, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Incredible. Too profound to fully comprehend. We will have an eternity to try to figure it all out.

Absolutely No Room for Boasting

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

Pride is one of the most reprehensible sins a person can commit because it demonstrates that a person has not recognized the grace of God in Christ. If God justifies me on the basis of faith in Jesus and HIS work, not MY work, then I have no basis or reason to boast.

When we get to heaven and see Jesus the Lamb on His throne, we will worship Him and focus upon Him (Revelation 4-5). No one will be able to stand up and say, “Wait a minute, don’t forget about me! I visited a lot of people going door-to-door you know.” Or “Wait a minute, I paid double tithes . . . I didn’t drink coffee . . . I never danced or went to a movie . . . etc. you know!” You won’t even be saying, “Oh wow! Look, there’s Billy Graham, and there’s Chuck Smith, and there’s. . . “No, there will be no room for boasting in heaven, we’ll all be sinners saved by God’s grace and all eyes will be on Jesus.

It’s Conclusive, Man is Justified by Faith Apart from the Law

Romans 3:28-30 – “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” 

God’s principle of justification by faith in Christ apart from any good works that a person can do, is the great equalizer. This was a tremendous conclusion for a Jew such as Paul to come to. Justification by faith eliminates any cause for boasting or claiming God owes us anything. Both Gentiles and Jews are justified by faith. God is Lord of all, of the entire universe. No one, not the Jew, not the Gentile, has any basis for boasting. All either can and should do is praise the Lord of our salvation.

Romans 3:31 – “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” 

Some might say that the law is made void or unnecessary if one is justified by faith. But the law is necessary to lead one to their conviction of need of Christ (Galatians 3). The law helped sinful people to see their sinfulness and lead them to Jesus (Romans 3:20). By justification coming by faith in Jesus, the aim of the proper use of the law is accomplished. And when we get to Romans 13, we will see how indeed the Law can be fulfilled. I’ll give you a taste of how that can happen with these words:

Romans 13:10 – Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love it the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 3:19-31 transitions us from the dark poison of sin and its consequences to God’s antidote solution of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have so much to look forward to. We will discover as we study on that truly, God’s gracious provision for us is always “much more” than we could ever have expected. For that we must always be grateful. Do you see now what I mean when I said at the start the truth conveyed in this passage is “jaw-dropping, mouth shutting, conversation ending truth”? Truly we should just shut our mouths and thank God for His glorious and costly provision in Jesus. All we can say is, thank You, Amen.

 

[1] https://wordsrated.com/how-many-words-does-the-average-person-say-a-day/

[i]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[ii]The New Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1962.

[iii]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[iv]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[v]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[vi]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[vii]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[viii]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[ix]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[x] Complete Biblical Library Commentary – The Complete Biblical Library – Romans-Corinthians.

 

[xi] Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Eerdmans, 1983) p. 208-210

[xii]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

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