Romans - The Gospel of God The Heart of the Gospel - Justification by Faith P3 Chap 3 vs 21-31
The Vindication of the Righteousness of God - vs 25-26 Christ, a Propitiation vs 25b-26 - What it Proves & The Elimination of Boasting through the Gospel - vs 27-31
Outline 1. The Righteousness of God in the Gospel vs 21-26 a. The Revelation of a Righteousness from God vs 21-24 1. Righteousness apart from Law v 21 2. Righteousness through Faith vs 22-23 3. Righteousness by Grace v 24 b. The Vindication of the Righteousness of God vs 25-26 1. Christ, a Propitiation v 25a – What it Means 2. Christ, a Propitiation vs 25b-26 – What it Proves 2. The Elimination of Boasting through the Gospel vs 27-31 a. The Principle of Faith vs 27-28 – Boasting Excluded b. The Commonality of Faith vs 29-30 – One God, Same Faith c. The Outcome of Faith v 31 – the Law Upheld
2. Christ, a Propitiation vs 25b-26 - What it Proves
Paul continues here in Romans: ‘to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’ – vs 25-26.
While I have separated v 25 to deal with the truth of propitiation, obviously it is a whole statement and tells us that Christ ‘set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith’ was first of all ‘to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…’ This statement is explained a number of different ways. The only other occurrence in the New Testament of the noun translated ‘forbearance’ is at Romans 2 v 4 while the noun translated ‘passed over’ only occurs here. One view, alluded to previously, is that the work of Christ demonstrates the righteousness of God in ‘passing over’ the sins of Old Testament believers the just punishment for which was not actually borne until the Cross and therefore their sins were not in fact put away, but only covered with the annual Day of Atonement a reminder of this reality. If this is so, while unquestionably the Cross of Christ is where sin has been ‘put away’ once for all – Hebrews 9 v 26, what is certain, as Paul explains in chapter 4, individual Old Testament believers were absolutely justified by faith before God just as we are otherwise Paul’s argument from Abraham’s faith and David’s description would be seriously flawed as would the whole premise of his epistle based upon the LORD’s word to Habakkuk – ‘the just shall live by faith’ – Romans 1 v 17. Therefore, allowing that the sins of Old Testament saints were technically only covered cannot mean that they were somehow less justified or only conditionally forgiven. We must not confuse the nation’s sacrificial system, its purpose, function and limitations with an individual believer’s standing with God by faith. As is emphasized by Paul, the central issue is faith. The justification of believers like Abraham was not on the basis of what they knew, but in whom they believed. It is what God knew that matters. We are privileged to live in the era of full revelation, they weren’t.
Perhaps this statement is best understood in its broadest sense. As chapter 2 v 4 indicates, God’s forbearance regarding past sins of the human race was not because of compromised justice, but because of gracious mercy. Certainly there were the times of righteous judgment and wrath meted out by Almighty God as in, for example, the flood and the cities of the plain, but it is true that over the centuries, and even in the two cases above, He righteously and patiently waited and gave men the opportunity of repentance rather than exercising swift judgment upon them. Nineveh is a particular example and much to Jonah’s displeasure, God’s dealings with that wicked city demonstrate He is ever merciful (Jonah 4:1-3).
The Cross is the climax of the ages and demonstrates for all to see why God is and ever has been merciful toward sinful man. Mr W. E. Vine writes:
The word paresis, “passing over,” is used here only in the New Testament. It signifies, not the remission of sins, but the withholding of punishment. It is somewhat distinct from aphesis, “remission.” Those who sinned in the period from the Fall to the Cross could receive mercy from God only prospectively, in view of the sacrifice of Christ. Through the Cross it is seen that God was righteous in His forbearance, but until the Cross this was not demonstrated (Collected Writings of W. E. Vine, Romans).
Also, as John Witmer says, ‘such forbearance was an evidence of His grace (cf. Acts 14:16; 17:30), not of His injustice’ (Bible Knowledge Commentary, Romans). The Psalmist wrote:
‘If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared’ – Psalm 130 vs 3-4. Further, says Paul, it is ‘to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’. Here is the assurance of the gospel. This is what it’s all about. God can righteously justify the one who puts their faith in Jesus. The expression, ‘His righteousness’, stated twice with regard to past forbearance and present justification point to God’s righteous dealings with mankind. We are thinking of His own righteous character and how He is just in what He does. He is righteous always and has demonstrated Himself to be so. As Abraham said to the LORD; “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”– Genesis 18 v 25. The result of this for us is that we our justified because our righteous God is the one justifying us! It is with joy we read at chapter 8 v 33 – ‘Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies’.
2. The Elimination of Boasting through the Gospel vs 27-31
Paul concludes this section with a series of questions:
‘Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law’ – vs 27-31.
He addresses three issues that arise out of what he has been writing, particularly in vs 21-26 regarding faith. First he deals with boasting excluded by faith, then how Jew and Gentile are justified by the same faith and finally how faith upholds the law.
a. The Principle of Faith vs 27-28 – Boasting Excluded There is no place whatever for boasting because ‘man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law’ – v 28. Boasting is excluded by the law or principle of faith as opposed to the law or principle of works for as Paul says of Abraham: ‘if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” – Romans 4 vs 2-3.
b. The Commonality of Faith vs 29-30 – One God, Same Faith
The Jew, though privileged, has no exclusive claim to God. The one God is the God for all people and He justifies all in the same way. The circumcision are justified out of faith apart from the works of the law and the Gentiles, who are ‘without law’ are also justified through faith. God has only one way of justifying. As Paul has just stated, ‘that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’ – v 26.
c. The Outcome of Faith v 31 – the Law Upheld
So what about the law of God? Is it nullified and of no relevance ‘through faith’? – v 31. Says Paul, ‘certainly not!’ or ‘may it never be!’ Faith in Christ does not nullify the law and its truth, it establishes it or confirms it. While the law served its purpose dispensationally leading to Christ (Rom 3:21; 10:4; Gal 3:24) the moral standard of God is unchanging, so the truth of His law absolutely stands and is upheld as it performs its work of exposing and convicting of sin (Rom 7:7). It shows sinners their need of Christ. It seems clear that when Paul speaks of the law in Romans it is for the most part God’s moral law that’s in view and anytime in the epistle he actually cites the law it is almost always from the Ten Commandments (Rom 2:21-24; 7:7; 13:8-10). Moreover, the law is upheld because its righteousness is now fulfilled through those who are justified by faith. Writes Paul in chapter 8 vs 3 & 4:
‘For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit’.