Saturday, May 4, 2013

Romans 3 - Righteousness Offered Through Good News

LINK: Romans 3 (read 3:1-20 one day and 3:21-31 the next) 

Key memory verse: Romans 3:23

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. (New Living Translation, 3:23, 27)

The conclusion from Romans 1-3: everybody is under sin; Gentiles, Jews; the whole world. Nobody is righteous apart from God. Paul used many of the Old Testament passages we have already studied in the BBC to prove it too (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; Isaiah 59:7ff).

Good deeds fall short of God's righteous standard; and when we try, we become self-righteous. We can do nothing to get to His perfection, and it is arrogant to think we can. Not one single human being can meet up to God's righteousness and be accepted by Him on his own merit (3:23). We can only be saved because of God's gracious initiation with us.  It is all about Him and the demonstration of His righteousness, not ours. It takes the focus off of us and onto Him. Praise be to God for His gracious love and mercy.

And how did God initiate that gracious love and mercy to us? First, some definitions of three important words from Romans 3:

Redemption (3:24) - This word comes out of a word that means "to buy in the market." Slave markets were prolific in New Testament times. Christ purchased our freedom from slavery to sin (Galatians 3:13; 4:5). "Redemption takes a slave condemned to die from the slave pen, and sets him free as a son in the Father's house" (26 Great Words by C.I. Scofield, p. 1310). We have been declared righteous (see Justification below) through Christ becoming our redemption. His ransom paid released us from the guilt of sin.  This ransom was paid through His blood (see Propitiation below). A perfect Old Testament type (foreshadowing) of this is seen in the book of Exodus where redemption is 1) wholly of God (Pharaoh/Satan), 2) through a person (Moses/Jesus), and 3) by blood (Passover Lamb/Jesus).

We also see this all the way back to the garden where Adam and Eve's "self-righteous" solution was to cover their shame by fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), but God's initiation and mercy toward them was to cover their shame and clothe them in righteousness through animal skin garments where blood had to be shed (Genesis 3:21).  

Propitiation (3:25) - This is a technical term taken from the Old Testament. A propitiatory sacrifice was one that appeased the righteous wrath of God and happened at the mercy seat. Here is a Bible Book Club entry on this:
Mercy Seat (Atonement Cover) - This is the Hebrew word kapporeth. Can you see a familiar word in that Hebrew word? Yes, it is where the Jewish holiday gets the name Yom Kippur which means "day of atonement." The mercy seat (atonement cover) was the gold cover of the sacred chest in the inner "holy of holies" in the tabernacle. God promised to meet with men above it (Numbers 7:89). It was the "place of atonement" in that the blood was sprinkled there on the day of atonement and propitiation was made. A propitiary sacrifice was one that appeased the righteous wrath of God. 
Atonement is related to the Hebrew word koper which means "to atone by offering a substitute." This word illustrates the theology of reconciliation in the Old Testament. The life of the sacrificial animal (symbolized by its blood) was required in exchange for the life of the worshiper. It was a symbol of innocent life given for guilty life. By laying hands on the animal and confessing his sin, the worshiper identified himself with the animal as his substitute which was then killed and the blood was sprinkled on or in front of the mercy seat or sent out as a scapegoat. 
(Bible Book Club: Leviticus 16)
When God was propitiated by the blood sacrifice of Christ, His righteous (and just) wrath was averted.

Justification (3:24, 26, 28, 30; 4:25) - This is a courtroom term that means "to declare or pronounce righteous." It is a legal standing. The perfect, sinless, righteousness of Christ becomes the grounds for our justification. God would not declare a person righteous without dealing with our sin. Since the Law will never declare us righteous before God, only faith in Jesus Christ, who redeemed us by shedding His blood and paying the penalty for our sins, makes us righteous. This demonstrated His righteousness. "He is just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (3:26).

(Imputation is another key word, but I will leave that for Romans 4.)

Here is a diagram that illustrates the relationship between these three words: 

Diagram adapted from Romans, An Expositional Commentary: Volume 1 by James Montgomery Boice, p. 380-382.

The blood sacrifice of Jesus propitiates God by turning away the Father's righteous wrath toward the believer's sin. Jesus also redeems the believer by paying the price with His own blood for the believer's redemption from slavery to sin. God justifies the believer by declaring him or her righteous because of the death of Christ as payment for their sin and His perfect righteousness that covers us. This is a BIG DEAL!

Even though our works and good deeds do not save us, they are an evidence of our faith, but more on that later! I think that is enough for today. This is probably one of the most important chapters in the whole Bible. Meditate over it and rejoice in our great salvation!


Respond to God's gracious initiation to You through faith in Jesus Christ
If you have already done this, share it with others today! Also, memorize Romans 3:23. It is a key verse.


Heavenly Father, Your gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ reaches the depths of my heart and may it reach the depths of those who read it. It resonates there and causes me to erupt in praise and thanksgiving to You! Jesus, thank You for taking on the penalty and punishment for our sins. Help this to continue to resonate in us and may our gratitude overflow as we share with those around us the wonderful GOOD NEWS of salvation in You. Amen.
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