Let’s say that a man is worried about robberies in his neighborhood, so he sets up surveillance cameras. They are linked to three computers, making a recording of everything that takes place on his property. Through an ap on his phone, he can view his property in real time wherever he might be. And then the computer inside his house is making a permanent digital recording, which the man erases every Saturday night if there is nothing needed to be saved. But then as a back up, his work computer is making a second recording. One eventful night that property owner comes home and gets into a fight with his wife. He is a violent man and strikes her across the head with the closest thing handy, and she dies. As it happens he has a ready-made alibi because of something earlier that evening. So he goes to his home office and deletes the video on that computer. But he doesn’t realize that a neighbor heard yet another fight at the house and has called the police. They arrive just as he finishes with his computer and as he slips out the back door of his house, racing to his office. The police see body and the cameras all over the house, and because it is still running, they see that there aren’t any video recordings – they must have been recently deleted. And then the neighbor tells them that the man has often boasted of his back-up system at work. The police, knowing they have no time to spare, order an officer downtown to enter the man’s office and confiscate the other computer. And later they find video proof that the man murdered his wife.
Unfortunately, when the case comes before the judge, he is obligated, by law, to throw out the video evidence. The police should have gotten a search warrant before entering the man’s office, because that was not the crime scene. They knew they acted in haste, but they went ahead with it, thinking they would be able to find other evidence at the murder scene – but unfortunately they didn’t. The murderer goes free on a technicality of law, even though the whole world knows he is guilty.
Society is appalled at the seemingly constant string of stories like this. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of violent criminals still stalking prey because of things like this. And honest people are not only appalled, but concerned, and even worried. Is there no justice in this world?
Of course, one of the problems is the stupid complexity of our human laws. There should be something in place in the case of my fictitious story which would still make that video acceptable evidence. Just because someone is interrogated by police without a lawyer present or without reminding him of his rights, shouldn’t make his confession of the crime inadmissible in court. The problem is with the human law. But what if the law was holy, righteous and good? What if the law was perfect?
Romans 3:26 is one of the watershed verses of the scriptures. It posses a problem which is similar to, but a thousand times more difficult, than my illustration. The righteous God, has elected to save, forgive, free and declare righteous thousands of spiritual criminals. But if He chooses to overlook the law or those sinner’s crimes against that law, then He, the Righteous Judge, becomes unjust. You may thank that as God, Jehovah can do whatever He chooses to do, but that is not exactly true. There are many things that God cannot do, because He cannot contradict His own nature. For example He cannot lie, because He IS the truth. And He cannot die, because He IS life itself. And since the law is a revelation of the Divine Being, it is impossible for God to contravene that law. So He cannot save a single sinner – He cannot justify – declare us righteous – and still be honest. Unless – unless He does something spectacular and miraculous, which both meets the law and the need of the sinner while still maintaining His own holiness.
First, Jehovah addresses the problem of sin – and so must we.
There are sixteen chapters in the Book of Romans, and the first three are spent exposing sin. The conclusion of those chapters, and the conclusion of the subject as a whole is that we are all sinners. We have come short of the glory of God throughout our lives, and even in our births. Furthermore, the harder we try to lift ourselves up to the glory of God the farther we slip back from it. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” God is absolutely holy – perfectly righteous – and not one of His creatures can ever have a moment’s fellowship with Him unless they are perfectly righteous as well. Adam and Eve enjoyed the Lord in the few moments of their innocence. But now, “there is none righteous, no, not one.”
God revealed Himself to us, and exposed our human incompatability with God – through His law. Beginning with the fundamental “Ten Commandments” – the law has condemned all of us. And despite what foolish men might think, God’s law cannot be used to make unrighteous people holy. There is no natural human righteousness, and there is no way for humans to make themselves righteous. But that doesn’t undo the fact that God decreed from before the foundation of the earth to redeem a few wretched sinners.
So the Lord has taken it upon Himself to provide a solution.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” There are multitudes of religious, but ignorant people, who believe that the Old Testament and the New Testament are at odds with each other. They think that the Old Testament is all about a Law which condemns us, but the New Testament provides some sort of solution. They have the idea that one testament is black and the other is bright white, not realizing that there is as much condemnation of sin in the New Testament as in the Old. And in the Old Testament there are plenty of statements about God’s righteous, saving grace.
Isaiah is called “the Evangelical Prophet,” because so much of his book sounds New Testament-like. Paul quotes from Isaiah 45 in another place and another context, but listen to what God said through the prophet in regards to our subject – “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”
Isaiah testified that it is in the Lord that sinners like us can have righteousness. In the Lord ONLY can anyone be justified. We are made righteous by the grace of God. The Old Testament doesn’t say that by the deeds of the law sinners can be justified. It says that ONLY in the Lord there is righteousness and justification.
Isaiah 54 – “This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”
Isaiah 61:10 – “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”
Even dark and dismal Jeremiah says the same thing – “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Genesis 15:6 clearly says that Abraham “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
There IS a way to make the square peg of our human unrighteousness, fit into the perfectly round hole of the Lord’s righteous law. The ragged margins of our wicked lives are made to align with the Law by the Lord’s marvelous grace. Verse 24 – “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” God, the Father, has set forth the Lord Jesus to satisfy the penalty of the law against us – “to declare his righteousness for the remission” of our sins. And in declaring Jesus’ righteousness, God is able to be both just and, at the same time, the justifier of them which trust Jesus Christ – verse 26.
The preceding verse says that God “set forth” Jesus to be the propitiation we need. That means Christ satisfied – He met the conditions needed to deliver the condemned. The Greek word “set forth” is used only three times in the Bible, and it is translated in two different ways. Romans 1:13 – “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I PURPOSED to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” Ephesians 1:9 – “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath PURPOSED in himself.” This verse says that God deliberately purposed that Christ be the satisfaction for specific sinners. He was foreordained, decreed, and eventually delivered to save a few million fallen children of Adam. There IS justification with God; we can be made to line up against the perfect circle God’s demands. But it has nothing to do with our lives or natures – we are dead in sin.
There is a fantastic word in verse 24 which is often misapplied. “Being justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” Notice that this is talking about freedom which God has – not our freedom – the sinner has no freedom. It says that God has freely chosen to redeem a few a few of by His grace. That word “freely” is translated “without cause” in John 15:25 and there we see more of its meaning. Paul says,“God, without any input from the sinner, out of His own free will chose to save a few of us.”
You and I can’t obediently keep the law of God and expect God to notice and to save us. And yet, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.“
What a glorious message.
And what is required of us in order to enjoy this miracle of grace?
We are told simply to believe that God has done it on our behalf. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” Please understand that it’s not the faith which Christ Jesus has in the promise of God, which saves us. It is our faith in Jesus Christ – specifically faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.”
This is not some new plan of salvation found only in the New Testament. It is the only way that God has ever saved sinners. Abraham, for example, believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. Romans 5:1 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Philippians 3:4-9 – “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Let’s finish reading the rest of chapter 3 beginning with verse 23 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
We are the murderer with whom I started this message. We have been caught red-handed – there is blood all over them. The law says that as sinners we must die. But the gracious God has determined to spare this specific sinner, glorify me and take me to be with Himself for all eternity. But still that law says that I must die.
How can the holy God contradict His own law – that reflection of His perfect righteousness? The solution is in the death of His own beloved Son, who substituted Himself for each and everyone of the people whom the Lord determined to save. The only thing left in order for those elect souls to enjoy that salvation is to believe what God has done for them. Assuming they understand that the law has condemned them…. And assuming they are fully broken and repentant for their sinful condition … All that God requires of them is to trust what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished. As far as the sinner is concerned, salvation is a relatively simple thing – repent and trust Christ. However, from the perspective of God, salvation has been a very difficult thing. In order for the Lord to be both just and the justifier of those believing sinners, He had to sacrifice His only beloved Son.
Sinner, fall on your face in repentance and faith. Believer, fall once again on your face – in adoration and worship. Look at what a great thing the Lord hath wrought.