A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
Down through the ages of the Old Testament, God overlooked sin; He passed over it. God's character thus came under a cloud, and men were saying, "God doesn't care if men sin." In order therefore to show that He is righteous, He set forth the Cross of Christ, and there, in Christ, He punished every last sin that man has committed. God's righteousness in this way is cleared and vindicated.
That is the first reason for the Cross. It was a moral reason. God cannot forgive sin apart from the Cross. If Christ had not died on the Cross, the Old Testament saints would be compelled to come back from heaven. As someone has said, "Elijah and Moses were only there on credit." They could not have stayed there. God sets forth Christ as a propitiation to show that he is righteous. "To declare ... at this time His righteousness" (v. 26). It is important when He says it twice, "That He might be just."
There was another way that God could have been "just." He could have punished sin on the spot. When a man sinned, He could have destroyed Him. That would have proved that He was just. But think for a moment of the alternative. Not a soul in the world could have been saved that way. Never! But God did not show Himself to be righteous in that way. He wanted to do something else, namely, "That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Praise God for those two phrases. God could be just, holy, and righteous on His throne, punishing sin, upholding His law; and yet at the same time He can take a sinner like me, pronounce me righteous, and treat me like a righteous man! There is not a man in all the universe that can find fault with God for doing it. God, in Christ, came down and suffered for our sins, and He is righteous because of that. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10). Mercy has all that is coming to her, and the law has all that is coming to it.
Now he closes on this point by asking, "Where is boasting?" His answer requires three words: "It is excluded." In modern English: "It is shut out." There is no room for boasting when God faces man that way. No boaster will ever get into heaven.
Revelation 5:9-14 depicts a scene in heaven where praises are sung to the Lamb, and all say, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain," "for thou wast slain," and "hast made us ... kings and priests." In this statement, there is no boasting of personal attainments and character. The boasting of heaven is in the Lamb of God!
His second question: "Is He the God of the Jews only?" The answer is "no," but in this way he shows that this method of salvation is the only method that is in accordance with the universality of God. Paul said that God is God of all nations, therefore when He shuts man's mouth and says, "I will save any man by faith," that is the way it ought to be.
He asks in the thirty-first verse: "Do we then make void the law through faith?" Paul answers again: "God forbid!" We do not make it void but we "establish" the law. It is done by God in satisfying holy demands of the law in the infinite penalty inflicted on His Son, therefore making possible for any man, Jew or Gentile, to appropriate the benefits of the Cross by faith.
There is only one religion in all the world that can save men and still establish, exalt, and honor the law: Christianity. All other systems that are based on legality, on salvation by works, dishonor the law, because nobody ever kept it. The inevitable result is that they pull the law down a little bit so that man can win his salvation by keeping it. But God punished Christ, His Son, for our transgressions, and in so doing, He not only saves us, but at the same time He also establishes His throne in the heavens as a throne of justice and mercy.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 37 - "Salvation: the Old Testament Illustration of Justification")