(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 11/25/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to Romans 3, and I'll be reading verses 20 through 26.
Romans 3: (20) Because by works of Law not one of all flesh will be justified before Him, for through Law [is] full knowledge of sin. (21) But now a righteousness of God has been revealed apart from Law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ toward all and upon all those believing; for there is no difference, (23) for all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, as a demonstration of His righteousness through the passing over of the sins that had taken place before, in the forbearance of God, (26) for a demonstration of His righteousness in the present time, for His being just and justifying the [one] that [is] of the faith of Jesus.
Two weeks ago and last week, we went over verses 22 and 23. We saw part of what is meant by the righteousness of God. This righteousness of God is revealed through the faith of Jesus Christ that is imputed to believers. Jesus Christ lived a perfectly faithful, righteous life, and this righteousness is GIVEN unto all those believing and RESTS upon all those believing. This is the only way that sinners can be declared righteous by God, because all by nature, both religious and irreligious, are void of the perfect righteousness that God requires. IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS is a vital gospel doctrine. Without the doctrine of imputed righteousness, there is no gospel. And since the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, then without the gospel, there is no salvation. We see the simple gospel logic here. Without A, there is no B, and without B, there is no C, so without A, there is no C. Put in the terms of what we're talking about, you get this: Without the doctrine of imputed righteousness, there is no gospel, and without the gospel, there is no salvation, so without the doctrine of imputed righteousness, there is no salvation. Everybody got that?
Now we come to more vital gospel doctrine. Again, without this doctrine, there is no salvation. Let's first look at verse 24:
Romans 3: (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
Let us look into four of the key words in this phrase: "justified," "freely," "grace," and "redemption."
Let's look first at "justified." To "justify" means "to render or declare or pronounce one to be just or innocent or righteous." In the passive voice, to be "justified" means to be "acquitted" or to be declared "not guilty." We have already seen this word several times in Romans, including in chapter 2 verse 13 and chapter 3 verse 20.
Romans 2: (13) For not the hearers of the Law are just with God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified.
Romans 3: (20) Because by works of Law not one of all flesh will be justified before Him, for through Law [is] full knowledge of sin.
Romans 2:13 shows us that only the perfect keepers of God's holy Law will be declared righteous, and Romans 3:20 shows us that no one perfectly keeps God's law, and thus no one will be declared righteous based on his keeping of God's Law. And now, in verse 24 of chapter 3, we see the positive side of justification. We see that there ARE people who do not perfectly keep God's Law who are declared righteous, not guilty. Last week and the week before, we saw one part of the reason that God can declare someone righteous, and that is by the righteousness of Christ imputed to all believers. But there is another essential imputation that must have occurred. Imputed righteousness is only part of the equation. There is still the problem of the sin of the elect. Imputed righteousness fulfills the demand of perfect conformity to God's Law, but God's holy wrath toward the sin of the elect must ALSO be shown. God cannot declare righteous without also punishing sin. This is where redemption and propitiation come in, which I'll talk about shortly, the Lord willing.
But first, I want to go into the words "freely" and "grace." The Greek word for "freely" means "gratuitously" or "undeservedly," "regardless of merit." When God justifies sinners, He does so COMPLETELY WITHOUT REGARD to their merit or deservedness. And this follows from what we've already seen, doesn't it? If God would do something with REGARD to a person's deservedness, what would He do? He would justly DAMN that person for not perfectly keeping His Law. So in order for God to justify anyone, He must do it apart from the person's efforts to keep the Law. As we saw in verses 21 and 22, the righteousness of God is revealed APART from Law, since by works of Law, NO ONE will be justified before God.
The word "grace" fits right in with the word "freely." The Greek word for "grace" means "undeserved or unmerited favor or blessing." Justification comes from the GRACE of God through the WORK of Christ. This justification is a gift, a favor, a blessing, that is TOTALLY unmerited. It is TOTALLY UNCONDITIONAL. It is TOTALLY apart from the work of the sinner. God does not respond to a sinner's works by justifying that person. God does not respond to a sinner's faith by justifying that person. There is NOTHING in the sinner, whether produced by himself or produced by the Holy Spirit, that merits justification. It is a TOTALLY UNDESERVED GIFT. If you think about it, the phrase "free grace" is redundant. It would mean "unmerited favor regardless of merit." ALL TRUE GRACE is FREE. If it is not FREE, it is not GRACE. If salvation is conditioned in any way to any degree on what the sinner does or is enabled to do, then there is ABSOLUTELY NO GRACE in that salvation. The Arminians talk about grace all the time, but they are taking this precious word and draining it of all its meaning. Their concept of grace is that Jesus Christ died for everyone and God offers the gift of salvation to everyone, yet not everyone will be saved. So their so-called "grace" is a conditional gift that is not bestowed until someone does something to make God give him the gift. Romans 4:4 says, "Now to one working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt." Romans 11:6 says, "But if by grace, no longer is it of works; else grace no longer becomes grace. But if of works, it is no longer grace; else work is no longer work." So those who believe in salvation conditioned on the sinner hold to the damnable heresy that God is a DEBTOR to the sinner and OWES the sinner salvation when that sinner does something. Their reward is not a free gift from God; it is something that they merited, something that God OWED them. And God says that if it is of works, then it is no longer grace. Salvation by grace and salvation by works are NOT two forms of Christianity - the former is Christianity, and the latter is of the devil. Christians and Arminians are of two distinct, non-overlappable religions. They are polar opposites. They cannot be reconciled. Arminianism is not just an unbalanced form of Christianity - it is a religion of those who hate God, hate Christ, and hate true grace. TRUE grace is unmerited and unconditional and gives NO WEIGHT to the efforts of the sinner.
Let's now turn to redemption. This free justification by grace is through the REDEMPTION in Christ Jesus. To "redeem" means to pay the price for a possession so as to rescue or deliver that possession. It means to pay a ransom price in full in order to free a person from captivity or slavery. Let me give you an example. Back in the old days, if someone could not pay his debts, he was sent to debtor's prison. If someone came along and paid what this prisoner owed - paid his entire debt in full - then that former debtor would be allowed to go free. That money that was paid is called a RANSOM, and that prisoner was REDEEMED.
So how is it that Christ is said to REDEEM or to be a REDEEMER? Well, God's elect, before they were saved, were under the captivity of sin. They owed a debt to God's law and justice that they could not pay. What is the debt they owed? Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. They deserved everlasting punishment in hell. So how did Jesus Christ REDEEM His people? He PAID what they OWED. What was the price that Jesus paid? Jesus paid the ultimate price - an equivalent of everlasting torment in hell, as God the Father turned away from Him and poured out His wrath on His own perfect Son. But how could this be possible? Isn't it the sinners who need to be punished for their own sin? And if Christ was perfectly righteous, how was God just to punish someone who was without sin? Here again we come to IMPUTATION. Why are God's people not punished for their own sin? Because their sin was CHARGED TO THE ACCOUNT OF Jesus Christ. Why was Jesus punished? Because the sins of His people were CHARGED TO HIM. When Jesus Christ was tortured and nailed to that cross, He was not paying for His own sins, because He remained sinless. Instead, the sins of His people were legally charged to Him, and He suffered, bled, and died in order to pay the sin-debt that His people owed. And, praise God, He paid it in full. The debt was TOTALLY CLEARED for all for whom Christ died. As Jesus hung on the cross, He said, "It is finished." There was nothing left to pay. All for whom Christ died had their debt TOTALLY ERASED for ALL TIME, which means that they would NOT have to pay the penalty of eternal damnation for their sins. Praise God!
Let's turn to some verses on the imputation of our sin to Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 53: (4) Surely He has borne our sicknesses, and He carried our pain; yet we esteemed Him plagued, smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions; [He] [was] bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His wounds we ourselves are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have each one turned to his own way; and Jehovah made meet in Him the iniquity of all of us.
2 Corinthians 5:21:
2 Corinthians 5: (21) For He made the [One] who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become [the] righteousness of God in Him.
1 Peter 2:24:
1 Peter 2: (24) who "Himself carried up in His body our sins" onto the tree; that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness, of whom " [by] His wound you were healed."
Now let's turn to some verses on Christ's redeeming work.
Matthew 20: (28) Even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Acts 20: (28) Then take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit placed you as overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God which He purchased through [His] own blood.
1 Corinthians 6:20:
1 Corinthians 6: (20) You were bought with a price; then glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are of God.
1 Corinthians 7:23:
1 Corinthians 7: (23) You were redeemed with a price; do not become slaves of men.
Galatians 4: (4) But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, having come into being out of a woman, having come under Law, (5) that He might redeem the ones under Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Ephesians 1: (7) in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of deviations, according to the riches of His grace
Colossians 1: (12) for us to be to [the] praise of His glory, the ones who had previously trusted in Christ; (13) in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also believing you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, (14) who is an earnest of our inheritance, to [the] redemption of the purchased possession, to [the] praise of His glory.
1 Timothy 2:5:
1 Timothy 2: (5) For God [is] one, also [there is] one Mediator of God and of men, [the] Man Christ Jesus,
Titus 2: (14) who gave Himself on our behalf, "that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify a special people for Himself," zealous of good works.
Hebrews 9: (12) nor through the blood of goats and of calves, but through [His] own blood, [He] entered once for all into the [Holy of] Holies, having procured everlasting redemption. (13) For if the blood of bulls and goats, and ashes of a heifer sprinkling those having been defiled, sanctifies to the purity of the flesh, (14) by how much more the blood of Christ (who through [the] eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God), will purify your conscience from dead works, to serve [the] living God! (15) And because of this He is Mediator of a new covenant, so that, death having occurred for redemption of transgressions under the first covenant, those being called might receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance.
Now let's think of true redemption in light of the heresy of universal redemption. Universal redemption is the view that Jesus Christ's blood paid the sin debt for everyone without exception. The first question to ask is this: Did Jesus pay the price in full, or did He just pay part of the price and leave it up to the sinner to pay the other part? You know what - almost everyone who claims that Jesus died for everyone without exception would tell you that they believe that Jesus paid the price in full. Now the lost Calvinists would stop there and say, "See? He said that Jesus paid the price in full. He's a brother in Christ." But think about it. Paying the price in full means that there is no more debt to pay. Those for whom Christ paid the price will NOT be required to pay for their sins in hell. Do these people believe that Jesus paid the price in full for those who are in hell? If they say they do, then why are those who are in hell suffering for sins that Jesus Christ had already paid for in full? If Christ paid the debt and released them from prison, why did they remain prisoners? The truth is that these God-hating blasphemers put no real value on the redeeming blood of Christ. They believe that the price that Christ paid on the cross did not in and of itself secure the salvation of anyone. They believe that some of those for whom Christ paid the price will still have to pay the price in hell. They tell their lost audiences, "Come to Christ! Jesus has paid the price for you!" and yet they also say that this ransom can be made of no effect. Their christ is a liar. Their god is the devil. They are as far away from Christ as the atheists and perverts. The TRUE Christ paid the ransom price in FULL, meaning that the debt has been TOTALLY PAID, and all for whom Christ died will NEVER perish in hell for their sins.
Let's now look at the first part of verse 25: "whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood." We have just seen redemption; we will now see propitiation. Some synonyms for propitiation are expiation, satisfaction, reconciliation, pacification, atonement, or appeasement. In order to understand propitiation, we need to go back to the basics of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. God is so holy that there is no fellowship with God when there is sin. God is totally, perfectly righteous and pure. There is not even a hint of taint in Him. And because He is totally, perfectly righteous and pure, He is totally and perfectly just. This means that God must punish all sin in proportion to His holiness. And when I say ALL SIN, I mean ALL SIN WITHOUT EXCEPTION. The sin of the elect is no less deserving of wrath than the sin of the reprobate. Both the sin of the elect AND the sin of the reprobate MUST be punished in proportion to God's holiness. In the case of the reprobate, their sins are punished in their own persons in everlasting torment in hell. But what about the case of the elect? How can God remain holy and just and NOT send the elect to hell? The elect are all sinners, aren't they? All sinners deserve everlasting punishment in hell, don't they? How could God have fellowship with certain sinners and bring them to glory? This is where propitiation comes in. By nature, before conversion, the elect are children of wrath, just like everyone else, according to Ephesians 2:3. They are enemies of God. They are at war with God. There is no peace between them and God. And there is no way for sinful humans to achieve peace with God by their own efforts. How then was this peace accomplished? Was it just that God declared that He was at peace with certain sinners and let their sins go unpunished? If that were the case, then God would not be holy and just. In order for there to be peace with God, the sins of the elect must be punished, and God must be satisfied with that punishment in order to be pacified. Jesus Christ appeased or pacified God's wrath when the sins of the elect were imputed to Jesus Christ, when Jesus Christ became sin for His people, and Jesus Christ incurred the judgment for that sin. Jesus Christ, when He suffered, bled, and died, suffered the full wrath of God against the sins of the elect and restored friendship between God and the elect. Instead of war, there is peace. Instead of enmity and hostility and wrath, there is friendship and fellowship.
Let's turn to some verses on Christ's propitiatory work.
Romans 5: (10) For if [while] being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life; (11) and not only [so], but also glorying in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received the reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19:
2 Corinthians 5: (18) And all things [are] from God, the [One] having reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and having given to us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) as, that God was in Christ reconciling [the] world to Himself, not charging their deviations to them, and having put the Word of reconciliation in us.
Ephesians 2: (14) For He is our peace, He making us both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, (15) in His flesh causing to cease the enmity, the Law of the commandments in decrees, that He might in Himself create the two into one new man, making peace, (16) and might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, slaying the enmity in Himself.
Colossians 1: (21) And you then being alienated and hostile in [your] mind by evil works, but now He reconciled (22) in the body of His flesh, through death, to present you holy and without blemish and irreproachable before Him,
Hebrews 2: (17) For this reason He ought by all means to become like [His] brothers, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the things respecting God, in order to make propitiation for the sins of [His] people.
1 John 4:10:
1 John 4: (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son [to be] a propitiation relating to our sins.
Now let's think of true propitiation in light of the heresy of universal propitiation. Universal propitiation is the view that Christ's sacrifice satisfied the demands of God's justice for everyone without exception. Those who believe this lie believe that God's wrath was poured out on Jesus Christ for the sins of everyone without exception. The first question to ask is this: Did the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ really make peace between God and everyone for whom Christ died? Was God the Father really totally satisfied and pacified by the atoning work of Jesus Christ? You know what - almost everyone who claims that Jesus died for everyone without exception would tell you that they believe that Jesus Christ made satisfaction between God and every sinner without exception. Again the lost Calvinists would stop there and call these blasphemers their brothers in Christ. But think about it. A propitiation is a FULL and COMPLETE SATISFACTION, APPEASEMENT, RECONCILIATION. When Jesus Christ bore the full force of God's wrath and was punished in the place of sinners, God was SATISFIED with His Son's punishment. Jesus Christ FULLY SATISFIED the demand for eternal punishment for the sins of everyone for whom He died. And when there is FULL and COMPLETE SATISFACTION, this means that there is no more punishment for those for whom Christ died. To say that Christ's blood atoned for or propitiated for the sins of everyone without exception and at the same time say that some for whom Christ died will go to hell makes God an unjust liar. They do not believe that Christ's atoning blood is not enough to make peace between God and men; instead, they believe that the sinner has to do his part in making peace, even though God desires that everyone make peace with him. These God-hating blasphemers put no real value on the atoning blood of Christ. They tell their lost audiences, "Come to Christ! Jesus has satisfied God's wrath for you!" and yet they also say that this satisfaction can be made of no effect. They turn to 1 John 2:2 and say that the "world" means everyone without exception, twisting the Scripture to their own destruction. If Christ were the propitiation for everyone without exception, then everyone without exception would go to heaven, because their sins would have been totally punished in Christ and God would have been totally satisfied and appeased. Of course, the word "world" in this passage means what it means in several other passages, which is the world of Jews and Gentiles, not just Jews.
The TRUE Christ made FULL SATISFACTION and TOTALLY APPEASED God's wrath against EVERYONE for whom Christ died, and all for whom Christ died will NEVER perish in hell for their sins, because their sins have been fully, completely punished at the cross, and God is fully, completely appeased and satisfied with what His Son did. The god of the universal atonement heretics was not totally satisfied with what his son did. The christ of the universal atonement heretics couldn't meet up to God's requirement of perfect satisfaction to God's just wrath. In their gospel, there always remains the work of the sinner as what makes the difference between salvation and damnation. These people are as unregenerate as the sodomites and child-molesters, as are those who speak peace to them.
I think I'll stop here. We'll go into the rest of the verse next week, the Lord willing. What we really need to get out of this passage is that the redemptive, propitiatory work of Christ is at the very heart of the gospel. Jesus Christ paid the price in full for all whom He represented, and He totally satisfied God's demand for punishment of the sins of all whom He represented. This means that all for whom Christ died will be saved and will go to heaven. If anyone believes that some for whom Christ died will go to hell, that person does NOT believe the true gospel and is thus NOT a regenerate person. Christ's work is not an optional doctrine or a doctrine over which true Christians can disagree. The gospel speaks clearly of the efficacious work of Christ on the cross, and any work that is not fully effectual without the efforts of the sinner is a damnable slap in the face of Christ, a trampling underfoot of His blood. Do you believe the gospel, or do you believe that Christ died for everyone without exception? You can't believe both, you know. It's either one or the other. If you believe that Christ died for everyone without exception, you believe that salvation is conditioned on yourself, no matter what you say. You believe that it is the work of the sinner that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. You are commanded to repent of believing this and to believe in the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone.
Let us who have been redeemed give all praise and thanks to God through Christ for what He has done for us. We know that the work of Christ alone is what makes the difference between salvation and damnation. We boast in nothing except in the cross of Christ, which secures the salvation of all whom He represented. Let us bow down and worship before the Sovereign Redeemer, the Savior of our souls. Amen.