“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, 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. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:22b-26
This week, as I’m beginning to serve a new congregation, and as I prepare for Holy Week, I’ve been thinking about the sufferings of Christ. And, as I’ve done so, the above passage came to mind. It clearly presents what God has done for us in Jesus.
We’re, first of all, reminded of why Jesus came. He came into this world because we’re a sinful people. He came to redeem us from sin and death by his sacrifice on the cross. And, because of his sacrifice, we are justified through faith in Jesus.
His death, then, accomplished two things. We see at the end of this passage that he is both just as well as the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
In sending Jesus to give his life for us, God demonstrates his justice. We find in Scripture that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This tells us that, because of our sin, we deserve to die. By our sin, we have earned the consequence of death. And, because of God’s just nature, that consequence must be satisfied.
By sending Jesus to give his life on our behalf, his justice and righteous nature are satisfied. As we read in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Without Jesus’ death, without the shedding of blood, we could not be forgiven.
The death of Jesus satisfied God’s just nature for the sins of not only a select few, but all mankind. It satisfied the just nature of God for even those who’ve gone before us. As we read in 1 John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
However, in addition to this, he’s also the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. So, yes, by Jesus’ death God’s justice is satisfied. But, in this way, we’re also justified by him as a free gift. It’s he who sent Jesus into the world for this very purpose. It’s Jesus who gave his life on the cross. So, even though we are undeserving of this blessing, God has mercifully provided it for us. Knowing this, I pray that your Holy Week, and especially your Easter celebration, will be rich and meaningful.