May 9, 1976
Romans 3:24 26

If God justifies sinners, who can justify God? No judge who is committed to jus¬tice could declare guilty men
to be acquitted. Such a practice of justice would be a gross injustice. How then can God be just and justify
sinners? This is a most im¬portant question concerning this act of God in justifying sinners.
The answer is clear: the Cross of Jesus Christ justifies God. Because of the death of Jesus Christ, God can
be just while declaring righteous the guilty sinner. All of this gracious work of God for sinners is based upon
the work of Christ through His Cross. This is the truth set forth by Paul so carefully in our text.
This view of the work of Christ is questioned by many in our modern world. They are willing to accept the
death of Christ as a noble example of dedication to a cause. They will even use his death to challenge others
to such complete dedication of them¬selves to right, but they refuse to admit that there was anything more
involved in His death. Some will go on to speak of His death as the supreme tragedy of the ages, but they
draw back from seeing His death as the basis of God declaring guilty sinners to be righteous.
If you accept the view of human sin that is set forth in this letter, and if you accept the fact that our God is a
Holy Being, then you will begin to see the necessity of such a deed on the part of Christ. In fact, the only
basis of hope and assurance open to man is this truth that God did something significant about our sins in
the death of His Son. In presenting this truth, the Apostle employs three words that put before us the nature
of the death of Christ. When these three words are understood, then you know why His death is the basis of
God's justifying act.
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is Christ Jesus." "Redemption" is a key word in
any discussion of the death of Jesus Christ. The word was taken from the ancient slave market. To redeem
was to deliver by the payment of a price. In his presentation of human sinfulness, the Apostle has made clear
that man is the victim, the slave of sin. He is one actually under the constant authority of sin. Sin is the master
of man. Man is the obedient servant of sin. Involved in declaring this slave of sin to be righteous before God
is the deed of Jesus Christ upon the Cross on the behalf of man.
What did Jesus do on the Cross? Without ever understanding all that it involves, we must affirm that He paid
the price of redemption. His life was presented to pur¬chase spiritual freedom and standing for guilty sinners.
As His life was poured out in the death of the Cross, the redemption of your life was completed.
God provided us a beautiful illustration of the meaning of this word in the life of Hosea. The Old Testament
prophet had his heart broken by an unfaithful wife. She forsook his care and went to sell her love to anyone
who had the price. In the pro¬cess of pursuing a practice of prostitution, she finally became the bondslave of
another man. Then the word of the Lord came to Hosea, Gomer was to be sold at public auction in the city.
The word of the Lord was that he was to go love her according to the love of the Lord toward the children of
Israel. That was his only instruction from the Lord; just to love her like the Lord loved his wayward people
When Hosea went to the market place and saw his wayward wife standing there shamed and humiliated and
helpless, do you know what he did? Remember, God just told him to love her! Do you know what his love
prompted him to do? His report on what happened says, "so I bought her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver,
and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley. And I said unto her, thou shalt abide for me many
days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man; so will also be for thee." (Hosea
3:2 3) When he loved her like the Lord loved Israel, he redeemed her. This is what was happening when
Jesus Christ died upon the Cross. The sovereign God of the ages, the God of all love, was redeeming guilty
sinners. In the death of His Beloved, He was paying the price for their freedom from sin. So this death that
justifies God is a redemptive death. You must always see the event as the payment of a price by God in love
for you.
The long theological word causes many students of the New Testament to stumble. "Whom God hath set
forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." Exactly what do we mean when we refer to the death of
Christ as propitiatory? It is this
aspect of the death of Christ that frees God to graciously declare guilty sinners to be righteous. The word
itself means to pacify, to appease, to satisfy, to atone. The verse states clearly that God caused Jesus Christ
His Son to be set forth as the propitiation for us.
Behind this word is the nature of God and the situation of guilty sinners before God. God is holy and just. As
a holy God, He hates all sin. As a just God, He must judge all sin. His fundamental judgment upon sin is
eternal death. It is His just practice to render to each man according to his deeds. Since all men have been
found to be sinful and guilty before this Holy God, if God is to be just He has no choice but to condemn the
guilty. The demands of His justice against them will allow no other decision. This is the situation that is behind
this word. The only way man can be acquitted by God is for a way to be found by which His holy demands
against man can be satisfied. His wrath must be appeased some way or the guilty will be des¬troyed.
Attempts at propitiating God were common in the ancient world. If a man believed in a supreme God, he just
seemed to have an innate sense that this God was angry with him. In many different ways he would seek to
appease the wrath of the angry deity. He would offer sacrifices of many different types but he never had any
assurance of their effectiveness. The word of Paul is that once for all whatever demands God had against
guilty sinners has been satisfied. Whatever anger God had against man has been pacified. Atonement for
man's sin has been made.
Man's predicament as a sinner is a frightful one. He is guilty of high treason against the throne of God and is
helpless to do anything about it. In Jesus Christ God has accepted the responsibility of doing something
about your sin. Through the death of His Son upon the tree, all of the demands created by your high treason
against God have been forever satisfied. It is on the basis of this death that God can declare the guilty sinner
to be righteous. This is the reason He can still be just while justi¬fying the sinner. Even God cannot hold two
parties accountable for the same transgres¬sion. If Jesus has accepted the responsibility for our sin, then
God will be just in allowing us to go free and declaring us to be righteous. It is in this sense that the death of
Jesus Christ is propitiatory.
"Blood" is the third word that gives us insight into the nature of the death of Christ. The use of this word by
Paul is an obvious reference to the sacrificial character of His death. Some of the modern translations have
substituted the word "death" for the word "blood" whenever they have come to a passage like this. Just the
word death is not an adequate rendering of the word. Paul used the word "blood". However it would be a
mistake to materialize the word to the point that we think of simply blood. Paul uses the word to call attention
to the fact that the death of Jesus Christ was not just another death of a good man. It was not just the death
of a martyr. It was the death of a sacrifice. It was the death of an atoning sacrifice.
As you read the New Testament, it is clear that Jesus and His apostles understood His death as being the
fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system. The wooden Roman Cross was to them the altar of the
ages. Jesus Christ was the One sac¬rifice that God would accept for the sins of the world. All of the other
sacrifices had simply been signposts pointing to Him. He was the "Lamb of God bearing away the sins of the
world". It was necessary that there be the shedding of blood to atone for the sins of the world. Being who He
was, the shedding of His blood was adequate for the sins of the whole world.
On the basis of this sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as our substitutionary Lamb, God is just in justifying us, in
declaring us to be righteous. It is on the basis of this death that God is able to accept us in His presence and
bestow upon us His favor.

Do you see the folly of man trying to make himself righteous before God? What could man ever offer to God
to satisfy His Holy demands? What could man ever offer for his redemption? Do you have something you
believe will be accepted by God? Then this only reveals how shallow your understanding of your sin really is.
Friend, you are guilty before God and totally incapable of doing or presenting anything in your own behalf.
But the word of the Gospel is that you do not need to do anything or offer anything. God has already done all
that needs to be done. In love and grace He has presented the life of His Son in your behalf, therefore He
now offers to you freely the gift of divine righteousness. This gift is to be received by faith. Will you so receive
it just now?