Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, … to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)
Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die such a brutal death? He was humiliated, flogged, beaten, spit upon, mocked, and finally crucified upon a hill for the world to see. It was a painful and humiliating death. Why couldn’t He have died a quick and simple death? If it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses from sin, why not just a quick flick of the knife or something similar?
In the verses above, the bible tells us that God set forth Jesus as a propitiation to ‘demonstrate His righteousness.’
The word ‘propitiation’ means atoning sacrifice or covering sacrifice, that is, a sacrifice that covers or takes away sin, appeasing the offended party, resulting in stayed judgment.
To illustrate this, imagine that you became angry with me and hit me. And then imagine that I went called the law, to have you thrown in jail. But, before I made it to the phone, a friend of yours came and offered me money saying, “take this money instead of calling the law.” In this illustration, your friend made propitiation on your behalf. His offering appeased my anger and kept me from carrying out my intended judgment.
That’s what Jesus did when He died for us on the cross. He appeased God’s anger, keeping us from God’s judgment. Only, interestingly enough, it was God (the offended party) that sent Jesus. So it would be as if you hit God and then He sent Jesus to pay Himself, so that He could forgive you. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? If God, as the offended party, wanted to forgive you, why wouldn’t He just forgive you? Why does Jesus need to pay for your sins?
Well, these verses (Romans 3:24-26) explain why. Like we said earlier, Jesus was set forth to demonstrate (or declare) God’s righteousness in forgiving sin. That means this: it would not be right (just or fair) for God to forgive sins if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross.
You see, if any judge wanted to forgive a crime (sin), he would be presented with two dilemmas:
Number 1: He would need to make sure that he didn’t give the impression that breaking the law isn’t a big deal, and thereby cause more lawbreakers.
When crime (sin) is not punished, criminals become bold. When they see someone else get away with it, they decide that they can, too. Punishing crime is not just for the law-breaker, but also to send a message to all potential law-breakers (see Deut 17:13).
Number 2: He would have to make sure that the victims of the crime get the justice they deserve, otherwise the general public would lose faith in the judicial system, causing some to take the law into their own hands (vigilantism).
When someone commits a crime, the scales of justice are tipped. Only something of equal value can tip the scales back to the place where they are even. Every person alive has this sense of justice built into the inside of them. God put it there. When justice is not met, the people feel it. God has commanded that human government should be the entity that acts to balance these scales on earth (Exo 21:23-25, Rom 13:4), but He balances them in heaven (2 Th 1:6).
(It needs to be understood that we all reside in two judicial systems: an earthly and a heavenly. Both have their own law. Whichever you break you are accountable for. Sometimes the laws overlap. Murder, for example, is forbidden by all countries. It is also forbidden by God. When you commit murder, you sin against God and against whatever human government you dwell under. You must answer to both of them separately. Some crimes, however, may be against God but not the earthly government, or vice versa.* In each case, you must answer to the one you have violated. This is why it is possible for a criminal to be forgiven by God yet still have to go to jail or face the death penalty.)
The Judge of all the earth to must do right; the scales of justice must be balanced in heaven, just as they are sought to be balanced on earth.
God holds a unique position in the Universe. He the Creator, He is Judge, yet He is also a loving heavenly Father who has no desire to condemn anyone.
It’s as if a judge presided over his court, and when the criminal was brought in to trial it turned out to be one of his own sons! Imagine the inner conflict of this judge! Surely he doesn’t want to condemn his son to prison or to death. But at the same time, this criminal (whether his son or not) had committed a crime and must be punished accordingly. What is the judge to do?
What if this was a real scenario, and the judge actually forgave the son, and let him go free? What would be the reaction would be from the general public? Would it be favorable? Not at all! There would be outrage.
God presides over the eternal courts of justice. We, His creation, whom He loves, have committed crimes against Him, against creation, and against humanity (Read this blog for more on the extent of our crimes against God). How can He simply forgive us? Even if we are truly sorry, how can He pardon our crimes? If an earthly judge would be seen as corrupt and evil for forgiving his child, how much more shall the eternal God be evil for doing such a thing? God cannot simply forgive sinners. To do so would be evil.
That’s exactly what it says in our title verse. Notice that the verse says (in regards to forgiving sin) that God ‘demonstrate[d] His righteousness.‘ Why would He have to demonstrate His righteousness? Or we can say it another way: Why would God have to prove that what He was doing was right and not evil? It’s because of what we previously mentioned: a judge that forgives criminals is evil. BUT…. God has a way to do it and to do it righteously.
So here’s the question: How can God forgive sinners and still uphold justice?
The solution is in Jesus.
Jesus is God’s master plan to forgive sinners and uphold justice at the same time.
Remember that, Number 1, God must not give the impression that breaking the law isn’t a big deal. God does this through the Cross of Jesus. Jesus suffered a horrific and demonstrative death. It wasn’t just a quick flick of the knife or a quick noose from the tree, but a drawn-out, painful death. Forever the world can see the picture of God’s disgust and disapproval and judgment of sin by looking at His innocent Son hang bloodied on the Cross. No one can ever accuse God of being soft on sin; they only need to look at Jesus. Those that harbor thoughts of sin can look to this and see that it will be these horrors upon them for eternity if they do not repent.
And, Number 2, God must satisfy justice. God also does this with the Cross of Jesus. Christ’s death forever silences those that demand justice. Justice for every crime was served by Jesus’ horrific death. When someone cries, “Who will pay for this crime?!” God forever shouts back: “The fine has been paid a thousand times over.”
This is why Jesus had to die such a brutal death.
Of course, we know that Jesus sacrifice doesn’t apply to everyone. It is sufficient for everyone but only applies to those who enter covenant with God. God requires us to enter into a sacred agreement with Him. He requires that we forsake sin and put our faith in Jesus. If we meet these requirements, He will forgive our sins, transform our hearts, and grant us everlasting life. He will receive us into His house as a son or daughter!
Now that’s good news!!!!!
Don’t miss out on this tremendous offer. God graciously extends to us an olive branch. He has gone way beyond the call of duty to provide a way for us to be forgiven and to obtain eternal life. It has cost Him a great price — the life of His Son. Those that reject this offer not only abide in their past sins, they pile up on top the great insult of refusing God’s gift. Rejecting Jesus is not a life choice, it’s a crime against God and against humanity. He who disobeys the King does so against his own soul. Those that do can be assured that the full weight and fury of God’s wrath will come against them. Let it be known unto them that it is ‘a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’
God loves you. He really does. He doesn’t want you to perish. He wants to forgive you and receive you as His own. Reject your sin and receive His love today. You’ll never, ever regret it.
*God has commanded that we keep the laws of the land unless they contradict His laws. In those cases, we must ‘obey God rather than man.’
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