“This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25b-26)
Arguably, the most familiar and popular attribute of God among people of many different backgrounds and theological persuasions would be the attribute of God’s love. There is no question that God is the God of love. Scripture certainly teaches this. The following is but a sampling of New Testament texts proving that God’s love is important with respect to the atonement of and by Jesus Christ.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 5:8 – “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I John 4:7-11 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
However, equally important is the matter of God’s justice. God is not only love but He is also just. In fact, it is the satisfaction of God’s justice which is inherent in the definition of the doctrine of propitiation (Romans 3:25a; I John 2:2).
The word “just,” as it used in today’s text comes from the Greek word δίκαιον (dikaion) meaning to be righteous, to put right, and to be in unity and accord with God’s righteous standard. It is not only acting, but being, in unity with what God requires.
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), a theologian and philosopher, wrote that the reason why Jesus Christ needed to become a man and to die on the cross was to satisfy the justice of God. He argued that God’s justice is His internal righteousness. God never violates any of the standards of His righteousness. It is part of His eternal and internal character. Therefore, God’s judgment of sinners is not because He is cruel but rather because He is just and righteous. God will never negotiate His justice. That is why the cross is so significant.
Jesus Christ satisfied God the Father’s demand for justice. In doing so, God would not only be just in punishing sin by punishing Jesus on behalf of the sinner, but also be the justifier of the individual sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “God’s judicial righteousness is demonstrated in the gospel. Under the Mosaic sacrificial system, forgiveness was offered through, but not on the basis of, animal sacrifice. As the NT recognizes (Heb. 9:11-15; 10:1-4), such sacrifices cannot substitute for the sins of humans. The real significance of the OT sacrifices was found in the way they pointed forward to Christ, through whom God would deal with human sin in an appropriate and final way. In view of what He would later do, God could righteously pass over “former sins” (vs. 25) –for example Abraham (4:1-5) and David (4:6-8) when they believed His promise about the Redeemer to come. The work of Christ reveals both the justice of God (He does punish sin in the person of His own Son; 8:32), and the righteousness of God’s way of salvation by “faith in Jesus” (vs. 26).”
Dr. Sproul concludes his comments, and our series on the atonement, with this final thought. “In dealing with Christ as the sin-bearer and the human person as sinner, God does not compromise His own holiness, nor the necessity of sin’s being atoned for. Yet He graciously provides a salvation that mankind is incapable of obtaining. In this respect, Paul sees the cross as the manifestation of the glorious wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:23-24).”
May I never lose the wonder, oh the wonder of God’s justice, mercy and love.
May God’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!