Romans 3:21-26 (NKJV) 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
As we study grace we find that grace does not make sin “OK.” Rather, grace gives us the ability to overcome sin. Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 15: 34 (NKJV) 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
Paul says if we will “wake up” to the fact of righteousness in Christ we will be able to stop sinning. He did not say that once we awake to righteousness we do not have to be concerned about sin. The wages of sin is death. That does not mean we will die when we commit a sin. If that were true, there would be no Christians left alive. It means that we open the door to the power of spiritual death. This enables the devil to gain access to our lives and bad things happen.
What Paul is telling us is that if we would come to an understanding of the right standing with God bought for us in the sacrifice of Jesus, we would have the power to stop sin as a factor in our lives. That does not mean we would never sin. We are still human. However, the more we understand the righteousness of God, the less hold sin, and the flesh, will have over our lives.
What is it that made us right with God. It was not our works. It was not our religious fervor. It was not confessing all our pre-salvation sins. None of those things can make us right with God. Today’s scripture uses an interesting word. It is the Word “propitiation.” This is not a word we use every day. It is one of those bible words that we may have a vague idea of its meaning, but we do not really know what it means.
By the context, we know that it has something to do with our sins, but what exactly may be unclear. Propitiation means a sacrifice made to appease an angry God. We have all seen movies or read books where the uncivilized culture needed to sacrifice a virgin to the volcano god, so he would not destroy their land. The volcano was erupting because the gods were angry, and they demanded a sacrifice. The word in Romans does not mean that exactly.
Our God was not angry. Our God is just. We have looked in depth at the need and nature of the payment for the sin that separated man from God in the Garden of Eden. God was not angry at man, but the sin committed by man changed his nature. The absolute nature of God’s justice could not simply overlook it.
The payment was the life of man. Nothing else would satisfy justice. Here is where the idea of propitiation comes in. The propitiation is whatever the god requires in order to satisfy him and quell his anger. Our need was not that God’s anger would be appeased it was that God’s justice would be met. The propitiation was what God required to meet justice. Man did not have the price. God’s solution was that Jesus came as the propitiation. His sacrifice was all God required.
What is that called. It is called grace! We do not deserve it but Jesus came as the propitiation or full payment for the sin of all mankind. He perfectly met the requirement of justice so that could never meet. All we need to be made right with God is to accept God’s propitiatory sacrifice.
There is no other way we can be made right with God. We cannot do enough good works or penance to make ourselves right with God. We cannot offer any other sacrifice because none would be the “propitiation” required. No matter how much we work in the Kingdom of God, read the bible or pray it will never be enough. The only way to be made right with God is to believe in and receive for ourselves the propitiation that God provided.
The old hymn is still true. “Just as I am without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me.” There is no case I could make that will prove my righteousness. I was by nature sin. I could not work hard enough to overcome that curse. The only vehicle for me to be made right with God is the shed blood of Jesus. Nothing else will do.
Grace is what sent Jesus. Grace is what caused him to shed his blood. Grace is what made him a propitiation for my sin. It is hard for us to believe because we are so geared to paying our own way, but we cannot earn salvation. It can only come by God’s undeserved favor, grace.
If I wake up to the fact that I am made right with God by what Jesus paid, the result is that I can overcome sin. There is no where in the bible that says I am now free to sin because Jesus paid for all sin. Behavior is irrelevant to our becoming right with God. We are dead in Christ, therefore what we did before cannot be applied to us once we are new creatures in Christ.
I believe behavior cannot cause God’s grace to fail. After salvation sin does not make us no longer children of God. We have been born again. We are his children. My kids did things that were wrong growing up but that did not mean they were not my children. Depending on the sin it did do a number of things.
It strained our relationship. I always loved them, but sin put something between us. I believe that affects the child far more than the parent. Their sin made them vulnerable to dangers I knew about and they did not Sometimes they got away with no consequence but if they continued in that path the consequences would catch up with them.
Thankfully my children never experienced this, but their sin could have cause them to die. This has happened many times in the lives of other families. Traffic accidents caused by speed or driving impaired, drug overdoses and many other acts of rebellion against parents have taken the lives of multitudes of young people. In most cases, if they had listened to their parents they and those around them would not have died.
God sets standards for the behavior of his children. They are set forth in the Ten Commandments and throughout the bible including the New Testament. Jesus set standards. Paul set standards. All the New Testament writers set standards. They are not laws. They are the requirements of relationship. They are the words of an all knowing and loving Father who knows what is best for us.
What happens if I fail to walk according to these standards. I am not cast off. I am still God’s child. I am still in his kingdom. There are some scriptures that indicate we could lose our salvation, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about the everyday believer who fails. Jesus paid for that failure as well. He gives us a way to stop most of the consequences for our sin.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Jesus paid for our sin. When we confess what we have done wrong we take and that releases the power of grace to forgive our sin and cleanse the unrighteousness that it brings to us.