Summary: Three Events that Changed Everything: God’s Righteousness Displayed in the Cross
Three Events that Changed Everything:
God’s Righteousness Displayed in the Cross
We are in the middle of a three week series, “Three Events in the Life of Jesus that Changed Everything.” Last week we looked at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane; this week we will look at Jesus and the cross from Romans 3:21-26. It has been called the central point of the book of Romans and the most important paragraph in the bible. This passage is dense, has lots of theological words that can make you dizzy but if we can understand Paul’s thought process we will be spiritually enriched and encouraged. As I read, I want you to see the key phrase, the righteousness of God. It is used four times, the verb form of righteousness is used twice, and the adjective once. The point of the passage is how a sinful person, who stands condemned and guilty, can be considered just before a holy God. The answer is the righteousness of God.
1. God’s Righteousness in the Cross Fulfills Old Testament (21)
Just prior to this section Paul quoted several Old Testament passages that describes our bondage to sin. Outside of Christ, sin is a fatal disease and so contaminates us that any attempt to obey God or any other good deed, is inherently corrupted.
Under the Old Covenant, God revealed himself through the Mosaic Law but now God has revealed himself in the cross of Christ apart from the law (see Jer 31:31-34). The Old Testament pointed to and was fulfilled in Christ and the New Covenant. For instance, in the Exodus story God warned Pharaoh that every firstborn in Egypt would die because he refused to free Israel from slavery. But God told every household in Israel to kill an unblemished male lamb and to smear its blood over their doors so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ them when he came and killed all the firstborn in Egypt. The fruit of their trusting God was freedom from bondage to Egypt. As they celebrated the Passover each year to remember the Exodus, God’s intent was to show them that in the same way they needed God to deliver them from bondage to sin by the blood of a perfect sacrifice, the coming Messiah.
2. God’s Righteousness in the Cross is Available to all People (22-23)
God’s righteousness is available to all who believe, who will trust his provision through the cross. It is available to all because all need it, Jew and Gentile alike. In the same way that all have sinned, all need God’s righteousness. The cross is not just for us, it is for all so we appeal to others to put their faith in Christ.
3. Gods Righteousness is Found in Provision of Christ for our Sin (24-25a)
Paul then goes on to say that we are justified before God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus and the source of Gods righteousness is found in the gracious provision of Christ Jesus put forth as a propitiation for sin. Let’s look at three terms – justify, redemption, and propitiation.
To be justified before God means that we are declared righteous by God based upon Christ’s sinless life and death on the cross. God no longer views us as guilty, condemned, and under his wrath; we stand approved and receive the gift of God’s righteousness. “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:16).” “That being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Tit 3:7).” So when God says we are justified by faith alone we are declared righteous before him.
When I was a kid we collected S & H green stamps. We would take them to the S & H store and redeem our books of stamps for merchandise. The term was very common in the ANE. For example, people could be redeemed from slavery. Say you could not repay a loan or you lost your business so you would sell yourself and maybe your whole family into slavery but you had a wealthy cousin who lived in another city and found out about your plight. So he comes to your city to make a deal with the slave owner to redeem you, to purchase your freedom back. Paul picks up on this concept and says that Christ followers have been redeemed from slavery to sin. In the same way we are slaves or captives, in bondage to our sin and guilt and unable to liberate ourselves. But Christ redeems us, bought us out of slavery, shedding his blood as the ransom price. The result of this ransom and redemption is that we belong to him. How does this work? In what sense are we redeemed? The answer is that God presented Christ as a propitiation.