A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
Salvation: The Divine Method of Justification
How does God do this? "Freely!" The Greek word is "dorean". A whole sermon is contained in that word. When the Lord Jesus Christ said, "They hated me without a cause," that Greek word was used in the text. "They hated me dorean." Let us read this text that way: "Being justified without a cause." There is no cause in the sinner that God should justify him; the cause is all in Christ. The same word is used by Paul in saying, "Neither did we eat any man's bread for "nought" (2 Thess. 3:8), that is, "for nothing." Paul is saying, "We did not eat any man's bread for nothing." Insert these two words into the text: "Being justified for nothing." How much does it cost to be justified? Not a thing! "Being justified with a cause; being justified for nothing." You did not pay a cent for it. But that doesn't mean that it was cheap.
By His Grace
Now the next phrase. How was it done? "By his grace!" He first of all says that we had nothing to do with it, then he turns around and shows God did it. It was the unmerited, undeserved favor of God!
He did it through something, namely, "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." "Redemption" mean to set free, to liberate by the paying of a price. That is what God did in Christ. He set you free from your sins because He paid the price. They say, "Salvation is free," and so it is. Salvation does not cost you a thing, but salvation cost God the sacrifice of His only Son.
Verse 24 is part of the flow of thought from verse 22. "They that believe are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is n Christ Jesus." Remember, verse 23 is a parenthesis.
We have here in these two verses (25-26) some things that ought to make men tremble as they behold the majesty of that God who sits in the heavens and establishes His justice through the Cross of Christ. Cowper, the poet, was a lost man. He began to realize that he was a sinner and came to the point where he was almost ready to take his life. He was in despair because he knew he had no righteousness of his own. He said, "One day when I was walking the floor, I decided to pick up the Bible and see if there was anything to help me. My eye fell on Romans 3:25. I saw the light in that verse and it saved me!"
First of all, Paul says that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation." A "propitiation" is a reason for not executing punishment which is deserved. The Greek word is the same word that is applied to the mercy seat in the Old Testament, where the blood was sprinkled. The only reason that God set aside judgment was that a broken law was covered by the blood on the mercy seat. The mercy seat was the only thing that saved them. "God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation."
But there are two other things there: "Through faith" and "in His blood." There ought to be commas after "propitiation" and after "faith," because His propitiation is in His blood and not through faith in His blood. Propitiation cannot be had without blood, yet propitiation is not operative without faith. Propitiation may be made, but it avails me nothing until I believe, and so the two elements must be present to have propitiation and to have it operative. First, the propitiation, Jesus Christ; He must be slain, His blood shed. Then there must be faith in Him.
Why did God make Christ a propitiation? Why was it necessary for there to be the Cross? Why did Christ die on the Cross? A quick answer might be that He died to show God's love. Thank God, He did die to show God's love, but that is not the primary purpose. "To declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (v. 25). To declare His righteousness, not His love. But why did God's righteousness need to be declared? Doesn't everybody know that God is righteous? "For the remission of sin that are past." That is a poor translation for the Greek word rendered "remission." The sins of the Old Testament were never taken away until the Cross of Christ. This word "remission" means that His judgment was suspended. God "winked" at sin, as the word is translated in Acts 17:30. In the Old Testament, God's character was under a shadow. Psalm 50:16-23 explains the situation: "These things hast thou done," and God says, "I kept silence." God did not do anything bout it. Then what happened? "Thou thoughtest that I [God] was altogether such an one as thyself!" Man went on and sinned, and because God did not do anything, man said, in his estimate of God, "God is just like I am. He does not punish sin; He is indifference." And God says, "I will reprove thee and set them in order before thine eyes."
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 36)