There are no rivals to the cross. There is nothing that God has created, said or done that unseats the cross of Jesus Christ from the supreme demonstration of the divine character. It here at the blood stained wood of Calvary where God communicates in the clearest terms who he is and how he acts.
Therefore to begin to understand God is to begin to understand the cross. In this section of Scripture, Romans 3.21-28, God amplifies his righteousness to infinite decibels through the explanation of the death of his only Son.
In Romans chapter one Paul announces his desire to come and to preach to those in Rome. The specific content of his message is clear: the gospel (1.14-15). However, he does not immediately jump to unpack this sacred treasure, instead he proceeds to quarentine all of humanity into the category of sinful rebellion. This includes those who deny God (Rom. 1), are “moral” (Rom. 2) and those who are religious (Rom. 2-3). As he says in Romans 3.9, all are “under sin”. And not just under sin, but controlled by, in love with and characterized by sin (v.10-17). It is clear that Paul’s point before proceeding with the glorious truth of salvation through the gospel, is to render all peoples in need of righteousness. All people are to be silent, without excuse, realizing and lamenting their deficient righteousness before the unbending righteousness of God.
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
It is here that Paul labors to take all of his hearers before giving them the truth of the gospel. There is a great lesson for us here in evangelism; for we cannot show the pearls of the gospel without clear and articulate explanation of the filthiness of personal sin and rebellion. Otherwise, the glories of the cross will be undervalued, and so therefore Christ will be robbed of the glory due him.
It is here that we’ll look at three Christ centered truths that amplify divine righteousness.
1. The RIGHTEOUSNESS of God SUPPLIED (Rom. 3.21)
This is the greatest news the sinner’s ever heard, “But now…” The whole point of chapters 1-3 has been that we do not have sufficient righteousness…but now, the righteousness of God has been revealed…
This righteousness does not refer specifically to the character of God, but rather the provision of righteousness that is consistent and satisfactory to his character. It is God revealing sufficient righteousness to those who are deficient in righteousness.
This righteousness is revealed, apart from the Law. The righteousness of God is not attained but provided. No one in the spiritual condition outlined in Romans 1-3 could ever attain this righteousness, therefore God has to supply it.
2. The RIGHTEOUSNESS of God is APPLIED (Rom. 3.22-24)
This righteousness is received exclusively through faith (v.22), and this faith is not faith in faith but faith in Christ! Notice that the righteousness of God is not automatically bestowed on everyone! It is not like some type of unalienable spiritual right, like voting or something, rather the righteousness of God is for the believers! Literally those who are believing. This righteousness is applied through the instrument of faith in the substance that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
God provides this righteousness by grace! Since we are busy sinning and falling short of the glory of God (v.23)! We are not just missing the bull’s eye by a hair, we are missing the whole target. We have missed the whole point of life! Instead of living for and aiming for the glory of God we are living for and aiming for the glory of self! This is why we are continuing to fall short of the glory of God!!
But all of those who are wayward and rebellious may be justified, may be credited with divine righteousness through faith (cf. also Romans 4.1-7).
Justification is the instantaneous and irreversible legal act of God’s grace in which he forgives the believer’s sin and credits Christ’s righteousness to them. This divine declaration of the unrighteous as righteous in his sight is not due to the believer’s merit, but is solely through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The participle translated justified, is passive here. Man who is dead in trespasses and sins, is not able to attain the righteousness of Christ, so God, being rich in grace and mercy, actively apprehends the sinner and imputes the righteousness of his Son to the sinner! The sinner is busy sinning and God is busy loving and lavishing grace! It is God who acts, it is God who justifies.
The basis for the righteousness is clearly unpacked in the following verses. It is the death of Jesus Christ that is the means for supplying this righteousness.
As Derek Thomas said, The gospel is not 'God loves us,' but 'God loves us at the cost of his Son.'"
God has provided Christ as the sacrifice that is sufficient to satisfy and provide divine righteousness. It is redemption that is “in Christ Jesus” (v.24). God has acted, just as he did with the nation of Israel, to redeem with an outstretched arm those who were unable to redeem themselves.
Consider the depths of the cost of this redemption!
Stephen Charnock once said: The dying groans of Christ shew (sic) the horrible nature of sin in the eye of God; as he was greater than the world, so his sufferings declare sin to be the greatest evil in the world. How evil is that sin that must make God bleed to cure it! To see the Son of God haled to death for sin, is the greatest piece of justice that ever God executed…” (Stephen Charnock, The Necessity of Christ’s Death)
It is free because we have no means to pay, it is by grace because we have no means to earn, it is redemption because we were in bondage, it is in Christ Jesus because He is uniquely and supremely not only able but willing to redeem!
3. The RIGHTEOUNESS of God is JUSTIFIED (Rom. 3.25-26)
Who is displayed publicly? Christ Jesus. Who displayed Him? God. Why? To demonstrate His righteousness!
It is the will of God that initiates not only redemption but also the crucifixion!
Make sure that we understand that it is God who takes the initiative; it is God who acts in redemption, for it is only with this backdrop can we properly understand biblical redemption:
I like how one Bible teacher summed this up: “The prime doer in Christ’s cross was God. Christ was God reconciling. He was God doing the very best for man, and not man doing his very best for God.” (P.T. Forsyth)
So as we learn in Isaiah, the cross pleases God, it pleases God to “crush Him” as it says in the prophet. Why?
It demonstrates His righteousness! The Father, Son, & Spirit, all harmoniously committed to the ultimate goal of exalting the glory of the Godhead, they would of course all be unanimously united on the most vivid and glorious amplification of the character of God….so therefore, the Son is set forth to be the propitiatory.
Propitiation is both the satisfaction of the wrath of God and the removal of the personal guilt before God. The biblical definition must include both…God’s wrath is satisfied and our guilt is removed.
In the OT the priests would bring the blood offering into the Holy of Holies and apply it to the mercy seat. Paul is no doubt here, in using the same language (hilastarion) showing that Jesus Christ is the believer’s mercy seat. In the death of Jesus Christ, God’s anger is satisfied. He goes from wrathful to propitious (favorable).
This is the only way in which God can be satisfied. For it is only in the eternal Son of God, with eternal righteousness that an eternal sacrifice can be offered to satisfy eternal anger and remove eternal guilt, that the sinner might have eternal life. I agree with Charles Spurgeon here, “Jesus Christ is a better Savior than you think him to be!” Amen!
It is only in Christ where God is shown to be JUST and the JUSTIFIER (v.27)!! There is no other way for God to have his wrath justly dealt with. There is no other way, save the cross of Jesus, that God can harmoniously be loving, just, holy, righteous, merciful, and forgiving. It is only through Christ!! God does not compromise his justice for the sake of his love, but rather he amplifies his justice through his love with infinite decibels!!
How righteous is God? See the Savior nailed upon the cross.
How loving is God, hear the savior say I must go to the cross!
How holy is God? Hear the savior cry It is finished!
1. Why is it so important that we are standing in the spiritual posture of Romans 3.19 while agreeing with 20 before we can properly receive and understand versus 21-27?
2. In your own evangelism do you labor to explain the need (sin) before supplying the solution (Christ)?
3. Why do we need Christ’s righteousness? Or in other words, why has our sin demanded that our penalty be eternal?
4. In Ephesians 4 & 5 we are given numerous commands for living godly lives as a response to being saved. What are we fundamentally misunderstanding when we live in disobedience? (cf. Eph. 5.1-2 ff).
5. Why is it so important to preach the gospel to yourself daily?
6. What is the fruit of such a discipline? What does it do to your heart?