Just and the Justifier—Romans 3:26
"...He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus"(Romans 3:26)
A good friend of mine was in a jury for an armed robbery case. He sat for three days listening to the prosecution prove its case. In the end, there was no question about the defendant’s guilt, however, what plagued my friend was knowing that this man was facing 25 years in prison and so voting him guilty would have condemned this man to this fate.
To be just, God cannot overlook sin. He cannot merely forgive sin because He pities the sinner
After the final summations had been given, the judge instructed the jury that their only responsibility was to render a decision based on whether or not the prosecution proved this man was guilty. He went on to say that the sentence was outlined in the law and weighed completely on him as the judge.
This freed up my friend to fulfil his duty as juror. His only job was to be just and render his decision based on the evidence. If it had been up to him, I’m sure he would have been merciful, but in reality justice and mercy are at odds.
The same is true with God. Without Jesus, God cannot be both just and merciful—take a minute to let that sink in.
To be just, God cannot overlook sin. He cannot merely forgive sin because He pities the sinner. His holiness requires that sin is judged and the sinner condemned (Ex. 34:7). To do otherwise would be against His nature and void any claims of holiness or righteousness.
The Bible tells us that God is also merciful, and Paul’s explanation adds a crucial element to understanding why and how God can be both.
“God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Rom. 3:25). Then Paul went on to say, “… He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Through Jesus, God was able to completely judge and condemn sin. He could settle the debts it caused, remove it from the sinners, and give them positive righteousness in its place
In this, we see God is both judging sin and being merciful to those guilty of sin. How can this happen? God’s solution was to use Jesus as our propitiation. This is a big word that refers to Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross. By his self-sacrifice, Jesus appeased God’s wrath against sin and atoned for the sinners by paying their debts and then removing their sins and obliterating them.
Expanding on our example of the courtroom, God’s mercy would be as if the judge had passed the full sentence on a man who was guilty of armed robbery (which is just) and then came down off the bench to stand in the man’s place and accept this sentence for him (which is mercy).
This is what Jesus did for us.
Paul explains that He took it a step further by justifying us in the process. He credited us as if we’d never sinned and as if we’ve always obeyed. When Jesus justifies us, He gives us His perfect record and His righteousness.
This is so brilliant, as through Jesus, God was able to completely judge and condemn sin. He could settle the debts it caused, remove it from the sinners, and give them positive righteousness in its place. God truly demonstrated both His justice and mercy in this incredible act of grace.
Today, take a moment to thank God for Jesus. If you’ve never trusted in Him, perhaps now is your time. He offers this righteousness freely to everyone who puts their trust in Him.
For more on the gospel and what Jesus offers, please visit jcblog.net/gospel.
Previous: Romans 3:25 Next: Romans 3:27
Original article published June 24, 2009.