Vindication of the Righteousness of God
Most sermons preached on the Cross focus on the substitutionary work of Christ; that is to say, He took our place and paid the price for our sin that we may be forgiven. However, there is another aspect of the Cross that is very important for our understanding of the finished work of the Cross in this great blood covenant. The centerpiece of this other aspect is found in Romans chapter three.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 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;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
The Law was given to condemn the world of sin (3:19). Under the Old Covenant, there was a system of animal sacrifices for the nation of Israel. The blood of innocent animals was used as a type of the blood of Jesus, until the perfect Lamb of God – Jesus – came. Hebrews 10:4 says that it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.
Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of animal sacrifice and placed it on the mercy seat covering the Ark of the Covenant. This was to provide atonement for sins of Israel for one year. However, the word atonement simply means “to cover.” Their sins were never removed, only covered or bypassed due to the forbearance of God.
Romans chapter 3, our text, speaks of the forbearance of God in relation to sins that are past. Verse 25 says, “To declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” The word for “remission” here in the Greek (paresis) simply means “passing over, neglecting, disregarding.” In other words, God neglected the sin of His people in that He did not judge their sin. He instead allowed for the blood of bulls and of goats, which could not take away sin, to atone for sin. It is worth mentioning that this is the only time that this Greek word (paresis) appears in the Bible. This usage is not to be confused with the word translated “remission” elsewhere in the New Testament (aphesis). The word aphesis means to “release from bondage” and is used 17 times in the New Testament, including Matthew 26:28 when Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for the remission (aphesis) of sins.”
- Romans 3:25, Remission (paresis) = passing over, neglecting, disregarding
- Matthew 26:28, Remission (aphesis) = release from bondage
For this reason, because God had passed over sin, God needed to “declare His righteousness” (v. 26). A holy and righteous Judge had allowed sin to go unpunished based on the promissory note of Christ’s work on the Cross – based on the blood that would be spilled.
The word forbearance in verse 25 is the Greek word anocha and means “self-restraint, tolerance.” God had tolerated the sins of His people, allowing for the animal sacrifices under the Mosaic Law to cover over the sins of Israel. In his preaching, the Apostle Paul actually said that during that time period that God had “winked at sin,” meaning He had excused it for the time-being (Acts 17:30). But now, in the fullness of times, God sent forth His Son to declare His righteousness.
God, the Righteous Judge, had allowed sin to “pile up,” if you will. But now through the offering of His Son, true justification was provided to all who believe in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. As verse 26 points out, this is the only way that God could be just (holy and righteous) AND the justifier of sinful men. It can only happen through the blood of Jesus. To be justified means to be rendered righteous in the eyes of God.
Oh what a price that was paid to secure our redemption and justification! Jesus, in His Own body, bore the wrath of God against sin – all sin, past, present and future – on the Cross. In Matthew 27, Jesus cried out on the Cross in this state of abandonment:
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
In order for Jesus to pay the full penalty for the sin of all mankind, the Father had to pour out His judgment on the Cross and forsake His only Son, who was in the bosom of the Father for al eternity past. Oh what love did Jesus display as He hung on that Cross in our place.
The price has been pain in full! The blood of Jesus has ransomed us from the prison house of sin! We don’t have to bear the judgment of God for our sin when we come to the Cross and place our faith in Jesus.
The righteousness and holiness of God had been vindicated on the Cross. We are now made to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus through the shedding of His blood.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.