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3-25 Just--and the Justifier 2-27-05

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MBC – 2/27/2005 – Pastor Doug Thompson

“Just--and the Justifier”

Sub-title: “The Meaning of the Cross to God”

Sub-sub-title: “It’s Not Just About You”

Romans 3:25,26

Ø      ROM 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

Ø      ROM 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

Ø      ROM 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Ø      ROM 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Ø      ROM 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

Ø      ROM 3:26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

I want you to listen to what C. Spurgeon wrote about his struggle with sin before he became a Christian:

Ø      “When I was under the hand of the Holy Spirit, under conviction of sin, I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin, whatever it might be to other people, became to me an intolerable burden. It was not so much that I feared hell, but that I feared sin. I knew myself to be so horribly guilty that I remember feeling that if God did not punish me for sin He ought to do so. I felt that the Judge of all the earth ought to condemn such sin as mine. I sat on the judgment seat, and I condemned myself to perish; for I confessed that had I been God I could have done no other than send such a guilty creature as I was down to the lowest hell. All the while, I had upon my mind a deep concern for the honour of God's name, and the integrity of His moral government. I felt that it would not satisfy my conscience if I could be forgiven unjustly. The sin I had committed must be punished. But then there was the question how God could be just, and yet justify me who had been so guilty. I asked my heart: "How can He be just and yet the justifier?" I was worried and wearied with this question; neither could I see any answer to it. Certainly, I could never have invented an answer which would have satisfied my conscience.”

Spurgeon found the answer to his question in this passage: God is just in forgiving guilty sinners who trust in Him because their sins are fully punished in Jesus Christ as their Substitute. The cross vindicates the righteousness of God: He is a Just-Justifier.

Ø      But let me ask you: “How many people do you know—include yourself—who ever struggle with sin the way Spurgeon did?” You say, “This guy must have lived in a different time than we do.” He must have live on a different planet is more like it! 

People outside the church today have no concept of the glory of God, no concept of His Lordship, His majesty, and no concept that their sins are a crime against Him. But the truth is, many people inside churches today aren’t too much different. We are consumed with our own needs, our own feelings, our own possessions, our own fun. Give me an extra hour, and my first thought is hour can I spend it on me? Give me an extra dollar, and my first thought is how can I spend it on me?

We are concerned about sin only as it affects us. We don’t like what it does to our reputations, or our bodies. If we hate sin at all it’s only because we don’t like the nasty consequences. It makes us feel bad.

We give little thought—even as God’s blessed children—to the glory of our heavenly Father. Listen to this account of Henry Martyn:

Although a mathematics expert at Cambridge University, and then a Fellow of St. John’s College, he turned his back on an academic career and entered the ministry. On July 16th, 1805, he sailed for India. “Let me burn out for God,” he cried in Calcutta, as he lived in an abandoned Hindu temple. And as he watched the people prostrating themselves before their images, he wrote: “this excited more horror in me than I can well express.”

Later he moved to Shiraz, and busied himself with the translation of the New Testament into Persian. Many Muslim visitors came to see him and to engage him in religious conversation. His customary serenity was only disturbed when anyone insulted his Lord. On one occasion the sentiment was expressed that “Prince Abbas Mirza had killed so many Christians that Christ from the fourth heaven took hold of Muhammad’s skirt to entreat him to desist.” It was a dramatic fantasy. Here was Christ kneeling before Muhommad. How would Martyn react? “I was cut to the soul at this blasphemy.” Seeing his discomfort, his visitor asked what it was that was so offensive. Martyn replied: “I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me, if He were to be always thus dishonored. It is because I am one with Christ that I am thus dreadfully wounded.”

It almost killed Henry Martyn to see God dishonored. He was that concerned with the glory of God and how sin is an affront to that glory. Are you?

What does this have to do with the passage we are looking at this morning? This passage is about the glory of God in salvation. Jesus died to vindicate His Father and uphold His Name—that’s what vv.25,26 tell us. It shows us that the cross is first and foremost about Jesus dying for God, then it’s about Jesus dying for sinners.

Let me say it again: salvation is first and foremost a way of bringing God glory. Spurgeon saw this, Henry Martyn knew it. The fact that it saves men from hell and gives them eternal life, as marvelous as that is, is secondary to the glory of God. The greatest theme in the universe is the glory of God—that who He is would be put on display and made known to men and angels. The reason for creation itself was to display the glory of God. And the sole reason for God’s plan to allow man to fall that He might redeem him through the death of His Son—was that His glory might be displayed. In Eph.1 Paul tells us that the election of God’s people was—

Ø      EPH 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace,

Ø      EPH 1:12 . . . to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Ø      EPH 1:14 . . . with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

The glory of God is the reason He created you, and if you are a Christian, it’s why He saved you—that His glory might be put on display in you! And if your heart beats with His, then you long for His glory the way Henry Martyn did, and you have a craving to know what this passage means if it’s about His glory in the cross.

Ø      But I’ll be blunt: If you’re stuck in your self-centeredness, you couldn’t care less about God’s glory. What’s in that for you? You want something practical. You want some inspiration, like a spiritual “Red Bull” to give you a lift. You don’t care about theology proper—the doctrine of God--because you don’t see how that intersects with you and your life.

If you aren’t a Christian this morning--and don’t become one by the time we leave—it doesn’t intersect with your life, but I need to tell you that it will intersect with your life when it’s over and you stand before God. So please re-consider.

But if you are a Christian, you need to hear a sermon about God’s glory in salvation because the more you know about your heavenly Father the more deeply you will love Him. The more you know about your heavenly Father, the more intensely you will worship Him and long to proclaim His glory.

First we are going to see how the cross solved our problem, then we are going to see how the cross solved God’s problem. Then we are going to see why that is so important to you and I.

I. How the cross solved our problem.

Let’s review what we have seen so far: Mankind is in an impossible condition: We are all saturated with the guilt of our sins, we deserve God’s wrath, and we are unable and unwilling to do anything about it. We aren’t sick people who need a doctor, we are dead people who need a resurrection!

But in the Gospel, God comes to the rescue of sinners and provides a salvation that we could never earn or achieve on our own. He does it “apart from the law” i.e., It has nothing to do with you or I living up to any moral code. It’s all about what Jesus Christ has done for us—completely apart from us. The Cross involves a double imputation—something that belonged to us was put on Christ, and something that belonged to Christ was put on us:

Ø      1.) We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but God sent His Son to be the Substitute for all who believe, and take the punishment their sins deserved. “All we like sheep have gone astray each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him.”

Ø      2.) We all lacked rtnss. but for all who trust in Christ, God takes His Son’s perfect rtnss. and puts it on them. You see, even if you take our sins away, we aren’t fit for heaven: It’s like the parable of the wedding feast that Jesus told. To put it in Lake County language, us poor Middletonians have been invited to a fancy-pants wedding in the city. When we get there we find out that we can’t get through the door in our M-town duds, so the host goes to his closet and graciously provides us with the proper clothing to get in. So God puts our sins on Christ, and He puts His rtnss. on us!

And there is another word that Paul uses to describe how God rescued sinners—

Ø      ROM 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Ø      ROM 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.


Jesus’ death accomplished our redemption, and it was a propitiation. It means the removal of wrath. Sometimes you will hear it defined as satisfaction, because God’s wrath on sin has been satisfied. The fire of His anger has been quenched by Christ’s blood because justice was accomplished!

Ø      Honestly, you won’t hear this word used in many pulpits because people don’t like to think of God as an angry God who demands blood-justice for the sins of men. That doesn’t change the reality! God is a Person, with feelings, and His anger burns toward sin and sinners, whether we like it or not! Ps. 7:11 says that “God is angry with the wicked every day.” And if God’s anger is not averted from a person—in this life--it will never be averted in the next--

Ø      JOH 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

The thing to remember about propitiation is that it isn’t simply about making sin disappear or go away—it is about re-directing the punishment for sin to something or someone else—

Picture yourself bound, hands and feet, and tied to railroad tracks, and you can hear and see a huge, thundering train heading coming right towards you, getting larger and larger, ready to crush you. But right before it reaches you, it switches tracks. And tied to the other track is -- Jesus. For all those who believe, the Cross de-railed God’s wrath—--and sent the full force of that wrath onto His Son. That is propitiation.

And if you put your trust in this for your salvation, God is not angry with you any more! Look at the cross and know that Jesus took all of the anger that God had for you--onto Himself—He drank the very last drop of the cup of His wrath. Whatever your feelings may say, or the devil may put into your head, God is not harboring one bit of resentment or holding a grudge against you. You have been reconciled to Him, through the death of Christ. That means that He made you His friend—He did it! He took all the initiative.

But Paul takes us deeper into the meaning of the cross, into the inner meaning of the atonement. He tells us here was not just for our sakes, it was also for God’s sake.

II. How the cross solved God’s problem.

I want you to notice in v.25 what Paul says about this propitiation that Christ made on the cross for His people. It says that God displayed it publicly. It was a demonstration) of His rtnss. Then he repeats himself in v.26: “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness.”

What is he saying? God has something to prove on the cross. The cross is saying something about God. It’s displaying—it’s demonstrating something about His character for men and angels to see. What is it? His righteousness. The cross shouts out that God is righteous and just.

The implication is that God would have been unrighteous in pardoning guilty sinners if He hadn’t done this. He would have been an unjust-justifier. This is what Spurgeon struggled with. The righteousness of God was at stake, and the cross clears the name of God!

The question is: “Why did the name of God need to be vindicated?” Look again at the middle of v.25:

Ø      This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

God must punish sin, but He had only passed over sins in the past. Here’s the problem that needed solving: God told Adam in the Garden, “In the day that you eat of this fruit, you will surely die.” Adam ate. Did he die--in that day? No, not physically anyway. God’s people continued to sin, and God continued to let it slide--

Ø      PSA 103:10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

Ø      But Heb.9:22 says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness—where is the shedding of blood?

For centuries, God had seemingly not given His people what their sins deserved.

David’s an example. In 2 Sam.12, he is confronted by he prophet Nathan for committing adultery and murder. Nathan says, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord?” David had done just what Adam did, and what you and I do whenever we sin—he rejected God and His Word. But David was caught, and he confessed:

Ø      2SA 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”

Just like that, adultery, murder—passed over! Something inside says, “That’s not right! That’s not justice! Someone needs to pay!” And that’s true. Scott Peterson committed adultery and murder, and a jury decided he should pay with his life. And they were right! God has put inside of us this sense of justice and retribution. People who don’t have it are morally sick.

But if we have it, how much more it must be true of God Himself. Remember God is the One who said “wages of sin is death.”

Ø      PSA 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;

God wouldn’t be God if He didn’t punish sin, with death, as He Himself decreed!

So this is the problem that Paul is getting at here: Up to the cross, for centuries, God had been graciously forgiving those who trusted in Him. He passed over the sins of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Rahab. But He did so without exacting the penalty of death that He had established. What about God’s integrity? What about His name and His glory? Was it no big deal to despise God’s Word and His glory? Was sin against God a light thing? You might get that idea. You might think God was soft on sin.

Now if you know your OT, you might be thinking: “What about the sacrificial system? Didn’t the death of all of those animals take care of sin?”

Ø      HEB 10:1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.

Ø      HEB 10:2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? [If the sacrifices really took away sins, why wasn’t once enough?]

Ø      HEB 10:3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.

Ø      HEB 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

So for all of the centuries leading up to the cross, God had forgiven His people—but their sins weren’t really removed. Animal blood can’t take away human sin. If someone murdered your child, you wouldn’t say, “I’ll accept a lamb in its place.” That wouldn’t do. And it didn’t do for God either, but in His goodness and grace, God accepted animals as temporary substitutes until the sin problem could be solved permanently.

And that’s what happened at the cross. Finally, God executed the penalty of death for sin on the only One who could ever be a Substitute for God’s people, the Lord Jesus Christ. His wrath was finally propitiated. And look at what that did for the OT saints:

Ø      HEB 9:15 And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. [Christ’s death finally removed the sins of all believers under the old covenant.]

That’s exactly what Paul is talking about in Rom.3:25,26: The Cross shouts out that God was just in forgiving His people in the OT because He did so on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. Do you understand what this is saying? Every believer from the Garden of Eden until Christ returns is saved through the blood of Christ. The OT saints looked forward to it, we look back to it. But God never winked at sin. He never just let it go. Think about what this means to you: Even the tiniest sin that you might commit in a day: being rude, an unloving thought—the kind of thing you can’t even remember at the end of a day—even that sin screams out to God for blood, and God exacted that punishment in His Son on the Cross. 

Now let this sink in: The Cross proves that God is Just and Righteous. Yes, He hates sin, He punishes sin. He is able to forgive sinners without shaking the basis of His throne because He did punish sin. So the same Cross shouts out that God is merciful, gracious, and loving beyond our imagination; but He is also infinitely just. He keeps His Word, He didn’t go soft on sin. He punishes sin and He pardons sinners. He is Just and the Justifier of the one who believes.

But I want you to see that in what God did for the sake of His own name and glory brings us rock-solid security and joy--

III. What it means to you and I.

A. Because God is a Just-Justifier, your salvation is secure.

Ø      When John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, read this passage he said that it was as though God was speaking personally to his own soul saying, “Sinner, do you think that because of your sins and the sickness of your soul, I cannot save you? But behold, My Son is by Me, and upon Him I look, and not upon you, and I will deal with you according as I am pleased with Him!”

Ø      ROM 8:33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;

Ø      ROM 8:34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

1.) v.33: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”

Paul moves us into a courtroom. God is for us, He has proven it by giving up His Son for us. Does the prosecution have any charges now against the defendant? Oh yeah! Plenty! There are plenty of people who would bring charges against us! And Rev.12:10 says that the devil himself literally does accuse the brethren before God, day and night!

Ø      Let that sink in: The devil is a real spiritual being who has an incredible intelligence network through his demons. The devil knows your sins like no one else. What you might hide from your husband or wife or parents, or best friend--the devil knows--and he rushes right into the throne room of God to accuse you! That would be an absolutely terrifying thought except that, he can’t make one charge stick. Why?

Because God Himself, the Judge of the Supreme Court of the universe, has justified you! The One who wrote the laws that you have broken, is the One who has cleared you from all sin.

So no one can make a charge stick. It doesn't matter who accuses you or what their case is, if God has justified you, "there is therefore now no condemnation." You will not be judged.

2.) v.34: “Who is the one who condemns?”

Silence. No one can condemn a child of God. Why? Because “Christ Jesus is He who died!” Yes, you are a sinner, yes, your sins deserve to be punished—and yes, they were punished on the cross—Christ has died!

            Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

            In my place condemned he stood,

            Sealed my pardon with his blood:

            Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Who can condemn you when Christ has already taken your condemnation? “Christ has died.” End of argument.

Ø      Let’s say you meet up with some of your old BC friends, and when they hear that you are a Christian, they say, “What a hoot, you?--A holy roller? Give me a break, once a party animal, always a party animal--and you were the wildest! You haven’t changed. We’ll meet you in hell, we’ll party then!”

You just say, “Christ has died.”

Ø      Or worse, you meet up with some Christian legalists who want to take a magnifying glass to your life, and they begin to pick and point at every little thing that doesn’t fall into line with their legalism.

You just say, “Christ has died.” “Christ has died.”

You say that to the devil, and he runs the other way. He’s whipped.

Beloved, that’s enough! You don’t need to add to or qualify it or defend it. Yes, what they are accusing you of might very well be true! You did it! Guilty! But “Christ has died!” You hold this up like a shield, and no accuser can stand against it. Jesus took your condemnation. His death satisfied God, so all accusations bounce off. They fall to the ground. Christ has died, God has justified His elect. There is therefore now no condemnation. You will not be judged.

Ø      I remember several years ago when I had just begun pastoring in S. Cal., and a certain man became very angry at me. I had made a mistake, and I apologized for it, I asked his forgiveness, but that wasn’t enough. He wouldn’t let it rest, he wanted to humiliate me. I told him again, “I’m sorry. I’m a sinner, and that’s why I need a Savior!” And I’ll never forget his response, he said, “You’re just hiding behind the cross!” And I said, “That’s exactly what I’m doing!”

And that’s my only hope! And beloved, it’s your only hope! When we hide behind the cross, because we are trusting in the death of Christ, we can know that God is for us, regardless of who is against us!

But Paul piles on three more reasons in v.34 that no one could possibly make a charge against us stick:

1.) Jesus died for your sins, but more than that, God raised Him from the dead, which means that God accepted His death as the receipt of His final payment for sin.

Ø      Anyone who would bring a charge against you is challenging the resurrection of Christ.

2.) More than that, God seated Him at His right hand. The King’s right hand was the place of exaltation and honor, and the seat of judgment. “When he had purged our stains He took His seat above.”

Ø      Anyone who brings a charge against you is challenging the Judge of the universe, and His pardon.

3.) More than that, Christ is interceding for you, right now. What does this mean? It means that Jesus is our High Priest in heaven, and He continually pleads His own blood on our behalf against any accusations that could be raised.

Ø      I picture Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, standing like a rock, with His arms folded, “clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair are white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes are like a flame of fire.” (Rev.1:13,14) And if any man or angel dare approach God the Father with a charge against one of His elect, there stands the Son of God and He says, “Don’t even think about it!”

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose Name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

B. Because God is a Just-Justifier, He delights to save you!

God's word to you today is that He has a conscience too. And he has devised a way of forgiving sinners that satisfies his own conscience. God’s perfect plan for saving sinners satisfies His love and His justice so He's not reluctant. He's not hesitant. What He said to His disciples, He would say to you and I: “Your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom!”

If God is satisfied, then you and I can be satisfied. You can feel good about being justified freely by his grace, because God feels good about your being justified freely by his grace. Because God is a Just-Justifier, it is RIGHT for God to love you in your sins, and it is RIGHT for you to lay hold of it with confidence. He isn’t doing this begrudgingly—it is a delight to Him, and you are a delight to Him.

So believe this. Accept it. Lay hold of it. Savor it. Enjoy it. Don't carry the weight of cancelled sin one moment longer.

* * * *

The cross shouts out that God is furious against sin. If you are a Christian, it also shouts out that your sins have been punished fully and completely in Christ.

But if you are not a Christian, it shouts out that your sins are yet to be punished fully and completely, but you will be the one to face God’s wrath, naked and alone—if you continue to reject God’s solution.   

When I survey the wondrous cross,

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.



[1]MacArthur, J. 1996, c1991, c1994. Romans. Moody Press: Chicago

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