Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 10, 2017
Let us begin this morning with our December’s memory verse, Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Today, we are going to continue our study of the greatest paragraph in the Bible, Romans 3:21-26, and we are actually going to tag on verse 27-31 today. This will be the third and final week that we will unpack this glorious text.
The reason I have chosen to spend three weeks in this paragraph is because I want to anchor this church in the gospel. I want you to know it up and down, inside and out. I want you to be gospel saturated. I want you to overwhelmed by the immeasurable riches that are found in the good news of Jesus Christ.
And not only do I want you to know it, I want it to radically change how you live your life. I want the gospel to be so entrenched in your soul that it effects how you wake up, how you eat, how you dream, how you work, how you respond to difficulties, how you have relationships, how you spend you money, and how you work. I desire this Church to be gospel driven at its core, and before all that can happen, we must learn it.
Next week, Pastor Jeff will be preaching the Word of God and will pick up in Romans 4. So, this week, please be in prayer for him. Pray that he would immerse himself in God's Word and the Spirit would help him mine the treasures of God's Word. Pray also that God would protect him from Satan's attacks. The best way to make a wreck out of a church is to make a wreck out of the pastor. But He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
However, this morning, let us bring out attention to our text for today and stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
We have seen in the study of Romans 1-3 that all humanity is guilty under the Holy and Perfect law of God. As it says in verse 23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Everyone who has, or will exist, is a sinner. All of us have rejected God as our King and we have made ourselves kings of our own lives. We have pursued our own glory and we have kicked the glory of God to the curb.
Perhaps the best way to think about our sin is described in 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Humanity is by definition lawless, law breakers. And whose law have we broken? God’s. The Creator. The Sovereign Lord of the Universe. We have transgressed our Holy God's law.
God is Just
So the question is now what? What is God going to do about his creatures, whom he made in his image, who have overtly and repeatedly broken his perfect and Holy Law? There would seem to be, on its face, only two options: 1) Let it slide, or 2) Punish them. God could turn a blind eye, or come with his fury.
Today, we live in a world that embraces option #1. Many people desire a God who sits in heaven and looks down upon man and sees murder, gossip, sexual immorality, theft, greed, lying, and slander and just shrugs his shoulders as if he doesn’t care. This is the religion of people like Rob Bell, Universal Unitarians, and the average guy on the street. But the question is, is that really a good option?
I can tell you first hand that it is not. One of the biggest complaints that I hear as County Attorney is that too many people are not being punished to the level they believe they deserve. People want justice and justice in their mind is prison. Imagine being in a courtroom and watching as a sex offender is found guilty of assaulting numerous young girls and the judge looks at the offender and says, the evidence is overwhelming, the jury has convicted you, you have made a mess our of your life, your victim’s life, and society as a whole; however, your lawbreaking does not bother me, therefore, I will not punish you for your crimes.
Let me ask you a question. Would you view that judge as a good judge? No, you wouldn’t. Why? Because their role as judge is to uphold justice and punish lawbreakers. Justice would not be served if a convicted rapist went unpunished. The shrugging of an judges shoulders is not an option. People long for justice, as they should. Justice is a good thing. Justice is right.
Now, if we look at verse 25 this is exactly the topic that the apostle Paul is addressing as it relates to the sins of the people of the Old Testament. Verse 25 says, “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time.” What does Paul mean in verse 25 when he says, “this was to show God’s righteousness?” Is Paul talking about the righteousness of Christ? No, here is talking about the righteousness of God the Father's judicial responsibility. That God is displaying his duties as judge of lawbreakers.
God, throughout the Bible is referred to as a Judge. James 4:12 says, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.” Isaiah 33:22 states, “For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver.” Psalm 75:7, “but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.”
In fact, everything in life is moving to the moment that God judges all humanity. Revelation 20:11-12 which points us to a future event says, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Someday all of us will be in the Courtroom of God.
Is God the Creator? Yes. Is God our King? Yes. Is God our judge? Yes. And everyone is ultimately being lead before the bench of God.
But what kind of judge is our Lord? Obviously the answer must be that He is a good judge; that He is a righteous judge. Psalm 7:11 states, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” Psalm 50:6 says, “The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!”
Therefore we know that God as judge will not shrug his shoulder so sin. If God did not uphold the law that he gave, and then he would not be righteous, he would be an unrighteous Judge. If God turned a blind eye to our lawbreaking, He would be complicit in our sin. He would be a co-conspirator in our sins. And as it says in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” This means there is no darkness in God’s judicial attributes. God is a righteous judge and the sins of all people, including His people, Israel before the coming of Christ.
God is the Justifier
However, there is another side to this coin, and this is where we see the manifestation of a third option. Not only are we told that God is just, we are also told that he is the justifier. Look at verse 26, “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.” What does Paul mean when he says that God is the justifier?
The greek word for justifier is dikaioó (dik-ah-yo'-o), and we have already seen this word in Romans 3:24, when it said that we are “justified (dikaioó ) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
And if you recall, we said that dikaioó, according to Strong’s Concordance, means to “make righteous, defend the cause of, plead for the righteousness (innocence) of, acquit, justify.” And how did we say that we justified, or declared not guilty before God? It is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and this is the third option. Therefore our options 1) God ignores our sin, 2) God punishes our sins, 3) Christ.
I want you to notice that our text does not say that Jesus is the justifier. Our text says that it is through Christ we are justified, but in verse 26 it says that God the Father is the justifier. How is God the justifier, if Christ is the one who died? It is because God is the one who offers up his son. God is the one who ordained the collision of the law and His love with His Son upon the cross.
Do you recall the words of John the Baptist in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is the Lamb. Who is the provider of this Lamb? It is God the Father. God the Father is the one who offers His Son upon the mercy seat between the Seraphim.
We also see this in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Did Christ give his own life? Yes, but it was because the Father asked him and the Son always submits to the Father. Therefore ultimately is was God the Father who gave His Son. This was God's redemptive plan. Just as Abraham bound his one and only Son who he loved, Isaac, to offer him upon Mount Moraiah, God bound his one and only begotten Son and offered him upon Mount Calvary.
Isaiah 53:10, written 700 years before Christ was born says, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” God the Father desires to crush Christ on the cross. It was not a series of unfortunate events that lead to Christ's death; it was God's plan all along.
This was the eternal plan of God from the beginning, even before the fall. God in the garden of Eden was not reactionary to our sin, for God does not react, he ordains. And before the beginning he destined to justify His people through his Son in accordance to his eternal plan of redemption.
Here are two more sections of verses to hammer this home a little bit more. 1 Peter 1:18 says, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” Before Jesus was born, before Abraham existed, before Adam existed, before the foundation was laid, the ransom through the blood of Christ was foreknown. God always knew he would offer up His Son.
Ephesians 3:8-13, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Paul's mission was to bring this mystery, this eternal purpose of God to justify sinners through Christ to light.
Therefore we see that God has always had a plan, he has always had a purpose and it reveals itself in the giving of his Son. God requires a payment for sin, and God provides the payment in the providing of His son. That is God's eternal purpose to be just and the justifier.
So let us ask why? Why does God go to the trouble of creating a universe that requires him to play both sides of the fence, the just and the justifier? The answer is so that we can behold is glory. Look at verse 26 and the question that Paul poses, “Then what becomes of our boasting?”
God has orchestrated an existence that is built upon perfect law, with creatures who fall into sin, and are thereby incapable of upholding the law, so that he can send His Son to fulfill the law, so that at the end of the day, all we are left with is to stand in awe of the glory of God and trust in His ways. We play no part in our salvation. We are completely dependent upon Christ, the fulfillment of God's wondrous mystery and eternal mystery.
And this answers so many, if not all, of the questions that humanity has. For one, why does evil exist? This is why, so that God can display his glory by being just and the justifier. God desires to display his glory in his justice and holiness and his glory in his love and grace. If evil did not exist, we would not have the opportunity to know a just God or a gracious God.
The world that exists, with all of its brokenness, is the only possible way that we can know the one true God. If there was no evil, then there would be no need for Christ. And if there was no need for Christ than we would not see the exact imprint of God, the radiance of His glory.
And this is why at the end of Romans, chapter 11, after the Apostle Paul unpacks the gospel over and over and over again, from multiple angels, ends by breaking forth into praise, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”