Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 23

This entry is part 23 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

“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; To declare, I say, at this time
his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him
which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).

Part 23

“Whom God set forth”, that is, publicly exhibited him. To
propitiate is to appease, to render favorable. When Jacob was to
meet Esau, he sent gifts to Esau to appease his wrath, to cause
him to have a favorable feeling toward Jacob. It is not meant that
God was angry toward the sinner in the same sense that men
become angry. On the contrary, the whole plan of redemption grew
out of God’s pity and compassion for sinful men. But God’s law had
been violated, his authority had been disregarded, and man was
under condemnation. There is, so to speak, such a thing as legal or
judicial wrath. A judge and a jury may find that a man is guilty as
charged in the indictment; and yet the man’s sorrow and
repentance may be so manifest that both judge and jury would
earnestly wish that there might be some way to clear him, and at
the same time uphold the majesty of the law; but there is no way
that they can show that they are right in freeing him. To maintain
the law, they must condemn him. Let that serve as a faint
illustration. God’s law had been violated again and again; and yet in
this present dispensation he was justifying sinners; and he had
passed over the sins done aforetime – that is, sins committed under
the former dispensation. How could he show that he was just in so
doing? To ignore since, or to treat them with indifference, would
wreck his moral government. He must be just and the majesty of
his law upheld. Justice demands that the guilty be punished, and
the majesty of the law requires that the penalties of the law be
inflicted on the guilty. How, then, could God be just in passing over
the sins of the former dispensation and in justifying sinners in the
present time? Only because Jesus died for us. He suffered the
penalties of the violated law. Even though he paid the penalty for
our redemption from sin and death, he forces no one to accept the
freedom he purchased. The plan arranges only that those who now
believe in Jesus may be justified. The death of Christ made it
possible for God to be righteous in passing over the sins committed
before the coming of Christ, for the sacrifices they offered pointed

to Christ; the death of Christ made it possible also for God to be
just while justifying sinners now, who believe in Christ.
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of
works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (v. 27). If a man were to live a
perfect life, he would have grounds for boasting that he had always
done the right thing, that no taint of sin ever soiled his spotless life,
and that he stood justified on his own record. But none so lived, for
all have sinned. And recognizing oneself as a condemned sinner,
there is a cause for humility, but no grounds for boasting. And the
greatest ground for humility is the knowledge that an innocent
person died to save me from my own folly. Instead of being the
proud possessor of a spotless character, I have to rely on another
to cleanse me from my own defilement. And this depending on the
innocent to justify the guilty is what Paul calls “the law of faith”. This
law of faith is the plan.

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