The Righteousness Of God:

6th & 7th Beams

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 15c of 83


21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 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;   26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

[Paul has been, as it were, painting with one stroke of the brush, a beautiful depiction of the righteousness of God, or the righteousness acceptable to God. We may describe what he is painting as a burst of sunshine with seven beams. In our first two instalments of this article, we saw in the first five beams that God’s righteousness (1) arises not from law-keeping; was (2) already witnessed by the Law and the Prophets; (3) is obtained by faith in Christ; (4) is provided for anyone who believes in Christ; and (5) it is given freely.]

But sixthly, Paul teaches us that though Justification is free for us, it is not free to God. For God’s righteousness was…

6. Paid for by the Blood 
of Christ

[Our justification is] 24b through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,

The term redemption speaks of an ancient practice of buying back slaves. In those days whenever an army conquers another nation, it will lead some of the people into captivity to sell as slaves. Redemption describes the practice of (the relatives of the captives) paying a sum of money to buy back those being held bondage.

As sinners we are slaves to sin and Satan. As such we cannot come into the presence of God, for God is holy and hates sin. How then can we be justified and come into the presence of God? How can we qualify for heaven?

Paul teaches us that we qualify because the Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us by his blood. We are redeemed by the “precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” says the apostle Peter (1 Pet 1:19). That is, Christ shed his blood at the Cross of Calvary in order to redeem us from bondage of sin and Satan.

But take careful note. The ransom price was not paid to Satan. There was an ancient heresy that taught that. But no, the ransom price was paid to God. Paul teaches us that Christ was “set forth to be a propitiation.” That is, He died to appease the wrath of God.

God must punish sin. And He is angry against sinners. Those who place their faith in Christ, believing that He died for them, would be redeemed.

Now, take note that when Christ redeems us, two things happen: First, we have our sins paid for. Secondly, we are given a righteousness which is acceptable to God! There is, in other words, a double transfer. Our sins were transferred to Christ. He paid for our sin. But at the same time, His righteousness is imputed to us.  

Because Christ died for sin that is not His own, I now have a righteousness not of my own. Therefore, I am not my own. I belong to Him, for He died for me.

But what is the rationale behind this elaborate scheme of redemption. Paul explains, seventhly, that God’s righteousness is…

7.  Given in the context of 
Divine Justice

25b to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

I mentioned earlier that the word “righteous” and “just” are the same word in the Greek. Now, the words “righteousness” and “justice” are also the same word. Here (in v. 25-26) when the apostle speaks of God declaring His righteousness, he is referring directly to His justice. In other words, Paul is now speaking of the righteousness of God in a different sense. In verse 21, the righteousness of God is the righteousness that is acceptable to God. In verse 25 & 26, the righteousness of God is the judicial righteousness of God, or the justice of God.

But what is Paul saying? He is saying that the death of Christ vindicates God’s righteous justice. You see, God has His saints in all the ages. And it is a known fact that God forgives the sins of His saints. The Jews knew very well that God can forgive sin. They would know the words of David in Psalm 32 very well:

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” (Ps 32:1-2).

But the question is: How could God forgive? How could God pass over their sins? The word ‘remission’ (v. 25) means ‘passing over’, or, in other words, forgiveness. David wrote Psalm 32 after his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah were discovered. He sinned most grievously. On what basis did God forgive him?  It does not seem right for God to forgive him when he does not deserve forgiveness. Where is justice? If God could forgive David, what about the millions of other people who sinned much less grievously?

Paul is saying that the Cross of Calvary vindicated God’s righteous justice. The Cross “declare[s] [God’s] righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” God forbore to punish the sins of the saints in the Old Testament. He did not punish their sin immediately. But that does not mean that He simply overlooked them. If He did so, He would not be just.

No, no; in the fullness of time God sent His Son. He came to live and to die on behalf of the sinners whom God forgave and would forgive. Justice demands that all sins be punished. God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex 34:7). If he did so, He would be unjust. But God is able to forgive us our sins. Why? Because Christ, His only begotten Son was punished on our behalf!

The Cross of Calvary, therefore, vindicates the justice of God. By it God does two things. First, He proves himself to be a just God; secondly, He justifies those who believe in Christ (v. 26). 

The Cross of Calvary, then, is where “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps 85:10).

Where? O Where in the history of the world do we find the greatest expression of God’s justice and wrath? It was there at the Cross. It was there that God showed how much He hates sin and how severely He will punish sin. He hates sin so much, that He punished his only begotten Son with an infinite outpouring of His righteous wrath.

But where? O where in the history of the world do we find the greatest expression of God’s love and mercy? It was there at the Cross too. It was there that God showed how much He loves us and how much He would do to show mercy to us. He loves us so much, that He punished His eternally beloved Son with the infinite wrath that we deserve.

O beloved reader, what is the Cross of Calvary to you? If it does not excite great love and gratitude in your heart for God, you have not understood Paul.

Conclusion

We must conclude. We have seen the apostle Paul’s sevenfold description of the righteousness that is acceptable to God. He tells us that (1) it is apart from the deeds of the law; (2) It was witnessed by the law and the prophets; (3) It is obtained by faith in Christ; (4) It is provided for anyone who believes in Christ; (5) It is given freely; (6) It was paid for by the blood of Christ; and (7) It is given in the context of God’s righteous justice.

Here then are the seven sunbeams breaking upon the darkness of our depravity and wretchedness.

What shall we do with these things? Let me leave you with three simple applications:

(1) Let me address you who are believers: The righteousness of God is given freely to you who believe in Christ. But remember that it is not free. It was purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. May I therefore remind you that you are not your own. You belong to Christ. Will you not live for Him? Will you not love Him and serve Him with nothing less than your whole heart.

Hitherto you have served Him half-heartedly. You have given greater priority to your own convenience and whims and fancies. Will you not at this moment take the crown off your head, and put it back on the head of Christ you King. Will you not consider Him in all your decisions and plans?

(2) Let me address you who are unconverted: The righteousness of God is provided for all who come unto Christ. The very reason why God provides this righteousness is that we are all sinners. And sinners must be punished. God cannot even forgive His adoptive children without punishing their sins. He punished their sins in His only begotten Son. How then will you escape punishment for your sin if you remain in them? May I appeal to you, flee from your sin. Flee to Christ. He will not turn back any sinner who goes to Him for salvation. Will you not go to Him?

(3) But finally, let me address you who are children and parents. Why do we baptise infants? Do you realise that the reason we baptise them is because they are guilty sinners like every one of us? They need the blood of Christ to wash away their sin. But thank God for His mercy, for His Word assures us that the children of believers are not to be regarded as the same as the children of the world. We can have no assurance that Christ died for the children of the world, but we have reason to believe that Christ died for our children. Over and over again, the word of God gives us this assurance.

Children, if you have been baptised, let me tell you that Christ died for you to purchase your salvation. But you must repent of your sin. You must not count the blood of Christ a useless thing. You must love the Lord Jesus and serve Him. Otherwise your baptism will be meaningless and useless for you. Amen

 

JJ Lim