Monday, July 31, 2006

God Forgives Sinners Through Christ (Romans № 7)

In our last entry we began to get into the heart of the Apostle Paul's gospel. We have seen already that both Gentile (Rom 1.18-32; 2.12-16) and Jew (Rom 2.1-29) are all sinners--the Gentiles have violated their consciences and the Jews have violated Torah. Both groups are thoroughly ruined and damned by sin (Rom 3.9-20).

It's been bleak! However, the great news is that rebellious sinners can be reconciled to God. This is accomplished through the gospel of Jesus--his sinless life, his death and his resurrection.

Today let's look at some great terms from Rom 3.21-26:

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Rom 3.21-22a ESV)

1. The Righteousness of God (δικαιοσυνη θεου)

We're not 100% sure how to translate this wonderful phrase. It can mean:

A. "the righteousness of God", i.e.

"That is, the manner of becoming righteous which God hath appointed" [Wesley, Explanatory Notes]
"God's method of saving sinners" [Clarke, Commentary]

B. "a righteousness of God", i.e.

Subjective genitive, "a God kind of righteousness," [Robertson, Word Pictures (Rom 1.17)]

In any case, it is apparent that salvation from sin is apart from our own effort; we cannot earn our way to heaven by racking up celestial brownie points. Our faith must be in Christ, not ourselves.

"For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Rom 3.22b-24 ESV)

2. Justified (δικαιουμενοι)

"Being justified (dikaioumenoi). Present passive participle of dikaioo, to set right, repeated action in each case, each being set right." [Robertson]

How can a person be "[p]ardoned and accepted" [Wesley]? Wesley elaborates in his Sermons, # 20, "The Lord Our Righteousness":

"But do not you believe inherent righteousness? Yes, in its proper place; not as the ground of our acceptance with God, but as the fruit of it; not in the place of imputed righteousness, but as consequent upon it. That is, I believe God implants righteousness in every one to whom he has imputed it. I believe 'Jesus Christ is made of God unto us sanctification,' as well as 'righteousness;' or, that God sanctifies, as well as justifies, all them that believe in him. They to whom the righteousness of Christ is imputed, are made righteous by the spirit of Christ, are renewed in the image of God, 'after the likeness wherein they were created, in righteousness and true holiness.'"

3. Redemption (απολυτρωσεως)

This is "a releasing effected by payment of ransom" [Thayer, Greek Definitions]

We were imprisoned by sin but God "sprung" us out of jail! We were purchased by a priceless thing, the death of Jesus.

"whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." (Rom 3.25 ESV)

4. Propitiation (ιλαστηριον)

This atoning sacrifice upon the cross was to satisfy divine justice against sin. The death of Christ was "[t]o appease an offended God. But if, as some teach, God never was offended, there was no need of this propitiation." [Wesley]

In short, God is satisfied with his Son's death at Calvary; we know this because he raised Christ from the dead. Let us rejoice with the author of Hebrews:

"For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, 'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'' When he said above, 'You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings' (these are offered according to the law), then he added, 'Behold, I have come to do your will.' He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Heb 10:4-10 ESV)

I hope you can look past the Greek lesson and feast on the meat of God's Word. We find forgiveness through faith in Christ.

Christianity is as broad as the cross, but it is also as narrow, too. God will accept anyone who comes to him through his Son's atoning sacrifice--but it must be through Jesus only (John 14.6).