Sunday, August 28, 2011

Salvation is of the Lord, Part 3 of 9

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,” Romans 3:25-27.

God the Father set forth His Son to be our propitiation. John emphasizes this fact again in his epistle by informing us that Christ was the propitiation for the whole world, 1st John 2:2. The Greek word means “satisfactory payment.” That is why Jesus cried out on the cross “It is finished,” John 19:30. That too is a Greek term for buying and selling that means “Paid in full.” We are told that Christ becomes an effectual propitiation (satisfactory payment to God) “through faith in His blood.” In other words, we must place our faith in the historical fact that when Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross for our sins, our sins indeed died with Him and we were purchased by God. Reconciliation comes only through the blood of Christ. The Old Testament foreshadowed this by perpetual animal sacrifices, which could never take away sins, Hebrews 10:4. It was a picture of things to come. If we wanted to be reconciled to God the very real issue of our moral sin and guilt had to be dealt with. In the Old Testament the Jew was made right with God when he sacrificed an animal and shed its blood on his own behalf. This demonstrated that death was the penalty for sin; sin was rebellion against their true King, Yahweh. But God made provision then by permitting the worshiper to sacrifice an animal on his own behalf, and God accepted that sacrifice in anticipation of the Coming One who would take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, John 1:36; Hebrews 10:10.

We learn that God’s forbearance overlooked or “winked at” mankind’s sins prior to the cross, Acts 17:30. Believers and saints in the Old Testament were saved in faith, waiting for the time when God would finally deal with sin, Hebrews 11:13. Unbelievers in the Old Testament times were not universally saved, as some might suggest. The approach to Yahweh in the time prior to the cross was by adoption into the tribes of Israel, Exodus 12:48-49. Those who did not avail themselves of the moral law in their hearts and the witness of nature to compel them to seek after God perished. Hebrews 9:26 declares that a man dies once and then comes to judgment; not a second chance.

We read that the Jews, who have the law, shall be judged by it; while the Gentiles, who are without law will likewise perish without it, Romans 2:12. The Jews can be likened in Jesus’ discourse as the ones who knew their master’s will, but did not prepare for it. They had the law, prophets, and promises, Romans 9:4. They had greater knowledge, greater light to walk by and therefore were more accountable; such shall be beaten with many stripes. The Gentiles, who did not have the light of revelation regarding the Old Testament but knew only the law of their conscience and the witness of nature may have done more heinous deeds, but will be judged less severely since they did not know their master’s will. They shall receive few stripes, Luke 12:47-48. The Gentiles of the Old Testament era had the opportunity to draw near to Yahweh through Israel, yet they refused. God proclaims but one approach to Him that is satisfactory, and this approach must be made while a man lives; death removes any hope of further repentance. “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing,” Matthew 5:25-26.

Christ’s sacrifice also demonstrates “at this time”, or this present time after the cross, God’s ability to pardon sinners on a just basis. God does not partner with men to do this; He does not ask for help, or haggle on payment options for our eternal welfare. We are called on to cease our efforts so God might implement His, Psalm 49:7-9. How is God both “just” and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus? God is just in the sense that He personally removed the penalty and payment for sin at the cross so that when someone comes to Christ in faith He may justify them on a basis that not only reveals God’s mercy, but also satisfies His justice. Justice and mercy met at the cross.

I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven,” Psalm 85:8-11.

“All ground is level at the foot of the cross,” a pastor once told his congregation. The singular criterion of faith removes the ball from our court. Boasting has been excluded. If works participated at all in one’s salvation to any capacity there would be room for boasting in Heaven; what Jesus mostly did we helped with. He did perhaps 95%, 98%, even 99.9%, but there was that small quota of an infinite penalty left for me to satisfy. Paul says otherwise. The law of faith, by which one is saved, removes boasting. A believer is merely to glory in the Lord, Jeremiah 9:23-24.

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,” Romans 3:28-31.

This first verse comes dangerously close to what works proponents declare to be a falsity: that nowhere in the Bible does it proclaim that one is saved by “faith only.” What do you think Paul is truly getting at? Do you think the divine inspiration that moved him to speak merely meant the conventions of the Mosaic Law? Or was it the works of the universal law in the heart of man that God rejected? The context of chapter three determines the meaning of the verse, which unequivocally states that Gentiles (who were not under Moses’ Law, Romans 2:14) and Jews are charged with their inability to satisfy God by their works. Apparently Paul is attempting to clarify that man is not legally absolved or justified before God by any effort we put forth. The argument in favor of this notion goes on.

Paul asserts that God is also God of the Gentiles. The Jews will be saved or justified (the legal term for being saved) by faith rather than obedience to the law, while the Gentiles will be saved through faith rather than deeds. We know that most of the Ten Commandments found their way from the Old Testament into the New; yet the dimension of their keeping radically altered, and this is what Paul was getting at with this statement. The paradigm shift occurred with the cross; the Old Testament law was external and told man what he ought to do in obedience to God’s law. The New Testament law is internalized and appeals to believers to walk in the Spirit as a visible demonstration to men of their filial love toward their Savior; not some contrived effort to earn or pay for something God promises to freely give us. The law is certainly not made void or useless; it is fulfilled in those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ and walk according to the Spirit, Romans 8:4; 10:4. How can this be? Jesus lived a sinless life; He did what no one else could: He perfectly obeyed God, even unto death. The glory of Christ the man who fulfilled the law is imparted to those who are His by faith, John 17:22. Because of this believers are dead to sin and are not under the law, to fulfill it; because Jesus our Lord already did this, Romans 6:14.

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” Romans 5:18-19.


  1. When a highly anticipated movie is announced some people stand in line to buy advance tickets when they become available. others purchase advance tickets through special outlets of websites. Others wait to get the regular tickets at the door. Their admission to the show in each case depends on them purchasing a ticket, even though they may have purchased it at a different time or place, and at different prices. In a similar manner, the old Testament saints are saved in the same way, even though the circumstances of receiving it were slightly different.

    Great Post.

  2. Hi Ian, Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), and because He does not change, salvation has always been through faith. In the Old Testament, righteousness was through faith demonstrated by obedience, e.g. Abram leaving all his wealth, family and power behind to follow God to an unknown destination by an unknown route. In the days of John the Baptist, Jesus' earthly ministry, and that of the apostles before Paul, salvation was by faith in the Gospel of the Kingdom, i.e. repentance, baptism, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. From Paul onward, salvation has been through faith in the Gospel of grace, i.e. that Jesus Christ, Son of God, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day so that all who trust Him will have eternal life ( Ian, your posts and doctrinal statement are a blessing! I have joined as a follower of your blog and invite you to do the same with my blog, Saved by Grace ( Love in Christ, Laurie

  3. dfish-
    I like the illustration; it serves to make the point I was trying to convey: there is only one way in.

    Thank you for following, and for the encouraging commentary. Rest assured I will visit your site very soon!


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