Exposition of Romans 3:25b-26, Some confuse God’s forbearance with tolerance

Suppose one child grows up in a home where mom and dad impose discipline consistently after bad behavior. Another child has parents who forbid certain behaviors but never punish violation of their standards. These two children will become adults with very different expectations about standards and consequences.

Is either set of parents like God?

(ESV) Romans 3:25b-26

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Perhaps the best answer to the question posed in the introduction to this lesson is yes and no. :-)

Throughout the Bible God condemns sin (1:18-3:20), but those declarations mean little unless God is willing to punish those who sin. If he is not willing to punish sin, then his promises of punishment would be false. Under those circumstances, who could trust his promises of blessing either?

The veracity of God’s statements, his faithfulness in doing what he says, his fairness in judging, and the consistency of his actions are all part of what we may consider to be his righteousness. Douglas Moo takes God’s righteousness “to designate what we might call an aspect of God’s character, whether this be his justice (. . .), his impartiality and fairness, or his acting in accordance with his own character.”[1] It is God’s own righteousness that is meant by the two instances of righteousness (Greek dikaiosune) in 3:25b-26.

When Paul says, “This was to show God’s righteousness” (3:25b), he looks back to God appointing Jesus as an atoning sacrifice to propitiate God’s justifiable wrath against human sin (3:25a). The execution of Jesus on the cross provided a public demonstration of how seriously God takes sin.

In saying he had “passed over former sins” (3:25b), the temporary delay in the demonstration of God’s righteousness was a matter of “his divine forbearance” (3:25b). C.E.B. Cranfield shows insight by saying, “God has in fact been able to hold his hand and pass over sins, without compromising his goodness and mercy, because his intention has all along been to deal with them once and for all, decisively and finally, through the cross.”[2]

What is meant by “former sins” (3:25b)? Moo says: “The sins committed beforehand will not, then, be sins committed before conversion, or baptism, but before the new age of salvation.”[3] That age began at the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, or perhaps as early as the incarnation.

(ESV) Romans 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Cranfield lights the path here: “Paul recognizes that what was at stake was not just God’s being seen to be righteous, but God’s being righteous.”[4] This is not a matter of mere appearances.

Thomas Schreiner joins Moo and Cranfield in saying that the idea of the final clause is that God is just even in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.[5] Only God could craft a salvation that imposes justice and offers mercy in the same act: the death of Jesus for our sins.

Like a compass needle which always seeks magnetic north, Paul always returns to faith in Jesus (3:26).

Is God just an old softy?

No! In an age that wants to focus on God’s mercy rather than his justice, we hear a lot about God’s love but little about his wrath. Yet anyone who minimizes the wrath of God against sin not only attacks the character of God but also demeans the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us on the cross.

1. Peter tells us that in the last days people will be saying Christ is not going to return, that there will be no reckoning for sin on a day of judgment (2 Pet. 3:2-4). But Peter says the delay is instead a matter of God being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9, NET). How does patience show God's mercy while repentance confirms God's intention to judge? Describe how Peter and Paul agree.

2. Why do people want to leave aside any discussion of God's wrath?

Take a moment to express your praise to the One who is just even as he justifies us because of our faith in Jesus. Of course, if you have never expressed such faith, your time within God’s forbearance is running out!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 237.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 212.

[3] Moo, Romans, 240.

[4] Cranfield, Romans, 213.

[5] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 198.

Exposition of Romans 3:23-25a, God freely gives what we need

Most of us have never been in a physical situation that was both dangerous and impossible to escape. One reason is that most people who got into such situations are no longer with us! Those who are with us were rescued.

Yet the Bible makes clear that all of humanity has been in a lethal spiritual situation that was impossible to escape. Only God could craft a way for us to get out, and forging that way took the death of Jesus. If you have the faith to use that way, you will live. If not, you will learn what wrath really means.

(ESV) Romans 3:23-25a

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Romans 3:23 is familiar to many evangelical Christians as a frequent reference to the universal sinfulness of humanity, and that evaluation also covered all Christians prior to their believing in Jesus Christ (3:22). However, the clarity of the front half of the verse runs headlong into the obscurity of the second half. Thomas Schreiner says concerning the second half, “The phrase . . . (doxa tou theou, the glory of God) is ambiguous.”[1]

Though he prefers a different idea, C.E.B. Cranfield reluctantly admits, “Taken by itself, [the Greek phrase] he doxa tou theou could, of course, mean the approbation [approval] of God, as it does in John 12:43 (cf. John 5:44), and it is so understood here by some.”[2] I join John Calvin, the Protestant reformer, who said, “The glory of God I take to mean the approbation of God, as in John 12:43, where it is said, that they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God.”[3] Before we may share God’s glory, we must receive his approval, and Paul will shortly explain that must come through faith in Jesus Christ. The translation “approval of God” also works in Romans 5:2 as recognized by the standard Greek lexicon.[4]

In a way, humanity’s lack of approval by God is the mirror image of the lack of approval of God by men cited by Paul in Romans 1:21. Paul has already explained that the consequence of that rejection was that God gave them over to a mind incapable of making sound choices (1:28).

Most commentators advance a different idea about 3:23b. Douglas Moo expresses the general view taken by most: “Paul, then, is indicating that all people fail to exhibit that being-like-God for which they were created.”[5] According to this idea, Adam shared in divine glory before the fall (Genesis 3), although Genesis says nothing explicit about that.

(ESV) Rom. 2:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

The second thing that is true of all (3:23) who put their faith in Jesus Christ (3:22b) is that they are justified (3:24), meaning declared righteous. That concept is qualified in two ways: (1) this justification occurs by his grace as a gift (3:24), and (2) this justification occurs through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (3:24). We will deal with these qualifications one at a time.

In the phrase “by his grace as a gift” (3:24), the italicized portion means that we received this freely. When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles, he told them, “Freely you received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8, NET). Paul has already said we all lacked God’s approval prior to trusting Christ, but God freely gave us a gift. Why? He did so by his grace, which is a favorable disposition toward us that results in an act of divine kindness. In fact, kindness is often a good synonym for grace. Moo says: “Grace is one of Paul’s most significant theological terms. He uses it typically not to describe a quality of God but the way in which God has acted in Christ.”[6]

Next we will consider the phrase through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (3:24), which is another qualification on the action of justification. The word translated “redemption” (Greek apolutrosis) means here, “release from a captive condition, release, redemption, deliverance.”[7] Schreiner tells us, “Secular Greek literature leaves no doubt that a price was involved for redemption.”[8] Since it is Christ who died for the sins of the world, it is clear why this deliverance is found in Christ Jesus (3:24) and nowhere else!

(ESV) Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Romans 3:25 presents further information about Christ Jesus (3:24) by means of a relative clause introduced by whom. This clause says two things about Jesus: (1) God put him forward as a propitiation by his blood (3:25), and (2) this benefit from Christ’s blood sacrifice is received by faith (3:25).

The English word propitiation is not often heard these days outside of theological settings. The notes for the Holman Christian Standard Bible say: “The word propitiation has to do with the removal of divine wrath.” Jesus’ death is the means that turns God’s wrath from the sinner; see 2 Cor. 5:21. As we saw in Romans 1, some wrongly object to the idea of God’s wrath.

After saying that propitiation cannot be separated from divine wrath, Schreiner explains: “Romans 13 confirms this conclusion, for human sin provokes the revelation of God’s wrath (1:18), and the righteous judgment of God involves his wrath (2:5; 3:5-6). . . . God himself took the initiative to appease his own wrath.”[9] To appease God’s wrath, Jesus had to shed his blood in death for our sins (3:25).

As he does throughout Romans, Paul stresses our response to what God has done by saying it is to be received by faith (3:25).

The cost of grace

Those innocuous words “by his blood” (3:25) spell out the price of our deliverance: the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. Probably you have heard the old saying that salvation is free because Jesus already paid for it.

1. What do you think about the idea that God provided the means to resolve his own legitimate wrath against your sins?

2. How do you feel about having been redeemed from a spiritual trap you could never have escaped on your own?

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ by grace you are saved!” (Eph. 2:4-5, NET).

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 187.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 204.

[3] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Trans. R. Mackenzie (Edinburgh, publisher unknown, 1961) 74.

[4] BDAG-3, doxa, honor (meaning 3), q.v.

[5] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 226.

[6] Moo, Romans, 228.

[7] BDAG-3, apolutrosis, deliverance, q.v.

[8] Schreiner, Romans, 189.

[9] Schreiner, Romans, 191.

Exposition of Romans 3:13-19, Plan on lacking words before God

Going to court is no fun. If you are the defendant, it is scary indeed. If you have no defense, the feeling defies description.

If God is your judge, luck plays no role and error is not possible. What will you say before God?

(ESV) Romans 3:13-19

Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.

The venom of asps is under their lips.

14 Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 in their paths are ruin and misery,

17 and the way of peace they have not known.

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Douglas Moo tells us about the structure of the series of OT texts for today’s lesson: “The next four lines (verses 13-14) describe sins of speech, each line referring to a different organ of speech [throat, tongue, lips, mouth]. Verses 15-17, on the other hand, focus on sins of violence.”[1]

C.E.B. Cranfield notes that the amount of space devoted to sins related to speech is striking.[2] Paul is telling us that if you want to know about the human heart, just open your ears! If you watch much news, it may not be long before you hear yourself wishing someones death or severe punishment. After hearing your own words, imagine what a casual discussion is like in a terrorist cell!

For thoughtful people, the prevalence of lies and the venomous nature of certain lips (3:13) is well known. We take it in stride and become blind to its frequency. For example, think about advertising; it is often the business of telling people that they need something which they do not need. Consider how children defend their conduct to parents and what adults tell one another during the dance of dating. We are awash in lies!

While all major translations agree on the translation “bitterness” in 3:14, the noun may also mean “animosity, anger, [and] harshness.”[3] That means that some people who would think themselves exempt because they are not bitter would indeed be condemned as either angry or harsh.

NLT at times uses a bit of poetic license, but they probably get it right in 3:15 by saying, “They rush to commit murder.” Shall we talk about drive-by shootings, gang initiations, honor killings, abused children and all the rest?

Actually, the verse just discussed (3:15) should be taken together with 3:16-17, because they all come from Isa. 59:7-8a. Think of terrorism and the description of 3:15-17 falls right into place.

Thomas Schreiner offers keen insight on 3:18 by saying:

The ferocity and brutality of human sin as described in verses 13-17 might cause one to understand it primarily in sociological terms. Thus Paul reminds the reader [in 3:18] that the root and basis of all sin is the failure to fear and reverence God. Sin is fundamentally theological in nature, but it has terrible sociological consequences.[4]

Our challenge in 3:19 is to define terms and use the contextual clues to our advantage. Note that the word law (Greek nomos) occurs twice. In the first case, the law likely refers to the entire OT because Paul has just quoted from both the Prophets (including Isaiah) and the Writings (including Psalms). The second mention of “law” probably refers to the five books of Moses because of the phrase under the law.

When we get to “so that every mouth may be stopped” (3:19), we are talking about the Jews because their conduct under the law makes them accountable to God. Moo explains the metaphor by saying: “The terminology of this clause reflects the imagery of the courtroom. Shutting the mouth connotes the situation of the defendant who has no more to say in response to the charges brought against him or her.”[5]

The Gentiles are no better off. Schreiner puts the matter well: “How could the whole world be liable to God’s judgment because of a law given to the Jews? The answer is not that difficult. If the Jews, who had the privilege of being God’s covenantal and elect people, could not keep the law, then it follows that no one, including the Gentiles, can.”[6] Oh my!

So, both Jew and Gentile stand before God guilty of sin, without excuse, and lacking a single effective word in defense of their actions. Many will be profoundly shocked to be standing there!

The longest day

How many times have you seen news about those who feel bitter because justice cannot be done in a certain situation? But wait! Everyone will stand before God and give an account of their actions, so how can anyone escape justice? They cannot. No one gets away with it!

1. Since all of us are accountable to God for our actions, how could or should that fact change your general behavior?

2. If you have trusted Jesus Christ, you will have something to say when we all stand before God. Express it in your own words.

“And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before Gods throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.” (Rev. 20:11-12, NLT)

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 202.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 194.

[3] BDAG-3, pikria, bitterness, anger, harshness, q.v.

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 167.

[5] Moo, Romans, 205.

[6] Schreiner, Romans, 168.