“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. 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 3:21-26).
Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.
We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous. How then can fallen and condemned sinners (Romans 3:9-20) stand accepted before the just and righteous God of heaven and earth?
The answer can be found in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The Apostle Paul explains in detail what the gospel contains and proclaims in Romans 3:21-26. Four times in this section Paul refers to the righteousness of God. It is a righteousness which He alone possesses and originated. Righteousness is inherent within God’s being but is foreign in the being, nature, heart and soul of fallen mankind.
Therefore, how may God declare a sinner righteous in His sight when the sinner stands condemned before Him? The Apostle Paul sets forth the truth that Jesus Christ alone has bridged the huge gulf which exists between the righteous God and the unrighteous sinner.
Jesus Christ has alone provided justification (Romans 3:24). God can declare the sinner righteous in His sight solely based upon the merits of Christ’s righteousness. As one pastor explains, “God imputed a believer’s sin to Christ on account in His sacrificial death (Isaiah 53:1-5; I Peter 2:24), and He imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to God’s law to Christians (Romans 5:19; I Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). The sinner receives this gift of God’s grace by faith alone (Romans 3:22, 25).”
Jesus Christ not only justifies, He also redeems (Romans 3:24). The image behind the Greek word ἀπολύτρωσις; apoloytrosis comes from the ancient slave market. It meant paying the necessary ransom to obtain a prisoner’s or a slave’s release. While gold of silver could redeem an ancient slave, the only adequate payment to redeem sinners from sin’s slavery and its deserved punishment is “in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter 1:18–19), and was paid to God to satisfy his justice.
Jesus Christ not only justifies and redeems, Paul also explains that Jesus Christ alone has satisfied all of God’s just and righteous demands for the sufficient payment of sin’s penalty. The word which describes this is propitiation.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Crucial to the significance of Christ’s sacrifice, this word carries the idea of appeasement or satisfaction—in this case Christ’s violent death satisfied the offended holiness and wrath of God against those for whom Christ died (Isaiah 53:11; Colossians 2:11–14). The Hebrew equivalent of this word was used to describe the mercy seat—the cover to the ark of the covenant—where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the slaughtered animal on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for the sins of the people. In pagan religions, it is the worshiper not the god who is responsible to appease the wrath of the offended deity. But in reality, man is incapable of satisfying God’s justice apart from Christ, except by spending eternity in hell (1 John 2:1-2).“
It is because of the person and work of Jesus Christ that we can refer to this day as Good Friday. Dr. R.C. Sproul comments:
“If I’m happy with my life, why do I need Jesus? I hear that from a lot of folks. They say to me, “I just don’t feel the need for Christ.” As if Christianity were something that were packaged and sold through Madison Avenue! That what we’re trying to communicate to people is “Here’s something that’s going to make you feel good, and everybody needs a little of this in their closet or in their refrigerator,” as if it were some commodity that’s going to add a dash of happiness to our lives.”
“If the only reason a human being ever needed Jesus was to be happy and a person is already happy without Jesus, then they certainly don’t need Jesus. The New Testament indicates, however, that there’s another reason you or somebody else needs Jesus. There is a God who is altogether holy, who is perfectly just, and who declares that he is going to judge the world and hold every human being accountable for their life. As a perfectly holy and just God, he requires from each one of us a life of perfect obedience and of perfect justness. If there is such a God and if you have lived a life of perfect justness and obedience—that is, if you’re perfect — then you certainly don’t need Jesus. You don’t need a Savior because only unjust people have a problem.”
Dr. Sproul continues by writing, “The problem is simply this: If God is just and requires perfection from me and I come short of that perfection and he is going to deal with me according to justice, then I am looking at a future punishment at the hands of a holy God. If the only way I can escape punishment is through a Savior and if I want to escape that, then I need a Savior. Some people will say that we’re just trying to preach Jesus as a ticket out of hell, as a way to escape eternal punishment. That’s not the only reason I would commend Jesus to people, but that is one of the reasons.”
Dr. Sproul concludes, “I think that many people in today’s culture don’t really believe that God is going to hold them accountable for their lives—that God really does not require righteousness. When we take that view, we don’t feel the weight of the threat of judgment. If you’re not afraid to deal with God’s punishment, then be happy as a clam if you want. I would be living in terrible fear and trembling at the prospect of falling into the hands of a holy God.”
What about you? Are you attempting to live your life as if you do not have to face the justice and righteousness of Almighty God? The only hope is to repent of your sins and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and receive His righteousness. Only then can this day truly be a Good Friday for you.
Soli deo Gloria!