Paul has proved beyond a shadow of doubt in the Book of Romans that the whole of mankind is under condemnation. That is the problem that these doctrines solve. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 NKJV). Some might try to argue that they have tried to live a good and honest life, but the Bible tells us that our righteousness, our good works and best efforts are like filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6). We do not possess a righteousness that is acceptable to God.
If that was the end of the matter then we would be left with a very sorry picture indeed; everyone of us on our way to a lost eternity. But Paul is going to show that where there was no way, God made a way.
Where we had no acceptable righteousness, God Himself provided a righteousness for us. Paul is going to show how this righteousness makes you absolutely and perfectly acceptable to God. In fact “so acceptable” that you can go boldly and with total assurance enter into the presence of God.
Defining this righteousness
Romans 3:21-24 “21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all[h] who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”It is a righteousness from God
Paul provides 4 word pictures to spell out the detail.
1. Justification – a picture from the law courts
2. Redemption – a picture from society
3. Propitiation – a picture from religion
4. Imputation – a picture from business life
If you like you could call it 4 angles for looking at the cross! This gives us the full picture of how God accomplished this amazing feat. If you really understand this you will walk out feeling 10 ft tall.
1. JUSTIFICATION – A picture from the law courts.
Here is the big question – How can a holy God be justified in accepting me, a sinner, into His Heaven?
This word takes us into Gods court. God is the judge. His judgement is thorough, perfect and infinite.
The prosecuting counsel is the law. It is the law of God that declares our guilt. It makes incriminating statements such as: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NKJV). “The soul who sins shall die…” (Ezekiel 18:20 NKJV). “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23 NKJV). The law stands as a mirror revealing our sin and demanding that in all righteousness we should die.
The prisoners in the dock are you and me, in fact the whole of mankind. It is useless for any defence counsel to look for loopholes in the law because there are none. It would be useless for the defence counsel to try to hoodwink the judge because the judge is the all seeing, all knowing God. When everything is looking at its bleakest the door of the courtroom opens and in walks a mediator.
The mediator who comes to our aid is none other than Jesus Himself. He stands in the position of the defence lawyer and declares before the judge. Yes the prisoners in the dock are indeed guilty.
He turns to the prosecuting lawyer – the law – and says, yes the righteous verdict is death and separation from God. But I will accept the punishment for the whole world, I will pay the penalty. That will satisfy the demands of the law.
On the cross Jesus did just that – he paid for your sin and mine, past sin, present sin and future sin. That means that the demands of the law against you and me have been satisfied, the price and penalty paid.
God is seen to be just in offering salvation to you and me. You and I are justified in being called the children of God.
2. REDEMPTION – A picture from society
In Jewish society redemption was a well known and well used word. It was the act of buying back what previously belonged to you. We have a similar thing today in the pawnshop. Recently on the news it was said that with the difficult economic situation people were going to the pawn shop and handing over their goods for a price and then they had a specified time when they could redeem – buy back – their property.
In Jewish society there was an added aspect that is important for us today. It is clearly revealed in the story of Ruth and Naomi (in the book of Ruth). Naomi, her husband and her two sons Mahlon and Chilion leave Bethlehem because there is a famine and go down to Moab where there is food. Whilst there the two sons marry two young women, Ruth and Orpah. But tragedy strikes and Naomi’s husband and two sons die leaving the three women. Naomi sets out to return to Bethlehem, it is a fascinating story but Ruth is determined to travel with Naomi and Orpah decides to stay. The two women return to Bethlehem but now everything is different, they are poor with no land having sold it before they left for Moab. According to the laws in their society that land could only be bought back or redeemed by someone rich enough and also closely related to them. The story continues how Ruth meets a man called Boaz who is rich and is closely related. He goes to the gate of the city, which is the equivalent to our council chambers, meets with the elders of the city and buys back (redeems) the land.
Likewise, in order for someone to lift us out of the pit we were in. And in order for someone to walk into that court room and become our mediator and Saviour, there were two requirements:-
a. He had to have the right standing, be totally sinless and righteous
b. He had to be related to us, one of us
Jesus fulfilled the first requirement; He was sinless, and totally righteous. To fulfil the second he had to be born into the human race, hence the first Christmas “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born[a] of a woman, born under the law“ (Galatians 4:4 NKJV)
What Jesus did was not only to redeem us giving us an eternal salvation but also bought back our whole inheritance lost in the Garden of Eden.
These first two word pictures (Justification and Redemption) pave the way for what is to follow because God does not only pull us out of the mess we were, causing His Son to take our punishment and buy us back to Himself, but does something even greater. We will see this next as we look at the final two Word pictures: Propitiation and Imputation.
3. PROPITIATION – A picture from religion
This word means “To gain the favour of…….To placate” (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
“Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith…” (Romans 3:25 NKJV). This was a well worn word years ago in religion, generally.
Pagans would use this word ‘Propitiation’ to describe sacrifices brought to their gods to turn away their anger. Sometimes even human sacrifices would be used to placate the anger of their gods and to win their favour. Any natural catastrophe would usually be seen as the gods being angry with them and would be followed by a propitiation to ward off the anger.
In Scripture we have mentioned the ‘Wrath of God’. God’s anger is against all sin. This is mentioned 580 times in the Bible, so it is a very prominent subject. Paul’s argument here is that the blood of Jesus covers and protects us from the ‘Wrath of God’. It wards off the ‘Wrath of God’. We must not think that Jesus died to persuade God to love us, that is very wrong. What God’s justice demanded, God’s love provided.
Redemption describes the death of Christ in relation to us. Through His shed blood we were bought back.
Propitiation describes the death of Christ in relation to God. Through Christ’s shed blood God is just in averting His wrath from us. Covering us – we are protected.
You have the picture of the exodus from Egypt where the Israelites applied the blood to the doorposts and the lintel as the death angel passed over. They were protected by the blood.
This propitiation justifies God’s past actions “…to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed” (Romans 3:25 NKJV).
So why did God not punish sin in the Old Testament? Did He think lightly of it? No! In light of what Jesus would accomplish on the cross, they were allowed to bring their sacrifices as an act of faith that God somehow would make it right in the future. So the cross is effective both ways. It looks back and forgives those who looked forward in faith, and it looks forwards and saves those who look back in faith.
This doctrine has a 3-fold implication. Romans 3:27-31
4. IMPUTATION – A picture from business life.
“just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works” (Romans 4:6 NKJV) ….”Now it was not written for his (Abrahams) sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus from the dead” (Romans 4:23-24 NKJV).
The word ‘Impute’ means to ‘Credit’, to ‘Account’ or to ‘Place to ones account’. We are using terms from the business world to illustrate what happens at salvation. What happens is that when we believe in Jesus, His righteousness is placed to our account.
There is a fantastic story in the New Testament that perfectly illustrates this. Paul writes a small Epistle to a man called Philemon. Philemon was a Christian and a friend of Paul, but he was also rich and owned slaves. When Paul was under house arrest in Rome, one of Philemon’s slaves, Onesimus, who had stolen from him and run away, arrives in Rome and on hearing that Paul was there went to see him. Whilst with Paul this slave gets converted and is of great help to Paul. But the time came for the slave to go back to his master Philemon. Normally slaves, who had run away, if caught, would be severely beaten or even put to death. Paul writes this letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus pleading with him to treat Onesimus well (Philemon 1:10-19)
Two things Paul pleads for “Receive him as you would receive me” (Philemon 1:17 NKJV) and “If he has wronged you or owes you anything, put that on my account” (Philemon 1:18 NKJV). Put all his wrong on my account, and put all my credit on his account. That is exactly what happens at salvation:- All my wrong doing and sin is placed on Jesus account and He pays for it all, and all his righteousness is placed to my account. When God the Father looks into my account He does not see all my demerit, He sees the righteousness of Jesus.
Righteousness imputed is not righteousness imparted!! This act of God does not make me righteous!! I am counted or reckoned by God to be righteous; that is different.
Paul gives the example of Abraham (Romans 4:1-15) Illustrates the following:-
* Abraham accounted righteous by his faith v3
* For Jew (circumcised) and Gentile (uncircumcised) v9-12
* Abraham accounted righteous independent of the law. v13-15
* Abraham believed the promise (Romans 4:18,19)
* For this reason it was credited to him as righteous (Romans 4:20-22)
* Just as righteousness is credited to Abraham in the same way it is to us (Romans 4:23-25)
What do you do with what is in your account in the bank? You draw on it, otherwise it is useless.
Throughout our Christian lives we should be drawing on our account. Righteous imputed becoming bit by bit righteousness imparted. Our lives should be changing to be more like Jesus.
“(We) are being transformed into the same image (Christ’s) from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV). This is the way of justification. This is how God is changing and transforming our lives, the righteousness of Jesus is already placed in our account and we have the responsibility to draw on that account with the help of the Holy Spirit.