V21-24. After the somber description of man living for himself, like you and I once did, the light breaks through in these verses. In this portion God tells what He has done to change man, fallen in sin, into someone who can be with Him without fear. Man turned out to be completely hopeless and useless for God. God looked for His own solution to this problem and He found it. In His solution He can declare a sinner justified [declared righteous] if that sinner believes in Jesus Christ. This is true for everyone without discrimination. Isn’t it true that “all have sinned”? Therefore all have fallen “short of the glory of God”, but God has this strong desire to have people with Him in His glory. What everybody needs then is the remission [release, forgiveness] of their sins, the evil deeds they have committed. God cannot permit any sin in His presence.
V25-26. Christ Jesus brought about and accomplished this redemption and made it available for everyone: “Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation” (or “mercy-seat”). A seat or throne reminds us of governmental authority and judgment. Justice is administered from a throne. God had to judge our sins, but the wonderful thing is that He judged our sins in His Son when He was hanging on the cross. Now the judgment-seat has become a mercy-seat to everyone who in faith accepts this salvation from God’s hands. The blood of Christ is the only way for God to forgive sins.
Hebrews 9 reads: “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:2222And according to the Law, [one may] almost [say], all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.). God does not accept the sinner by overlooking his sins. It is only because His holy and righteous demands were satisfied that He was able to justify you. This gives you the assurance of the remission of your sins. It is not what you think of it, but it is how God sees it.
God could pass over the sins of the Old Testament saints (who had believed God) because He foresaw the work of Christ. He did not overlook their sins, but He acted righteously when He forgave them because He knew Christ would shed His blood for them. Today, the same principle holds. To us who live after the death of Christ, the work of Christ is behind us. God cannot help but justify everyone who believes because He Himself is righteous. Hasn’t the blood of Christ been shed? God knows its value and that it blots out sin.
So, God will no longer see sin within someone who has confessed that Christ shed his blood for his sins. His sins no longer exist. They are gone forever. To God, a believer is no longer a sinner, but someone who belongs to Him and with whom He desires to have a relationship. God has made you righteous. A righteous person is someone who is seen by God no longer in his former life of sin, but completely apart from his sinful life and who looks like Himself. What a change this is!
V27-28. All of our boasting is excluded; this should be clear now. Everything came from God and was brought about by Him. The only thing for you to do was to believe. It is by faith and not works that you now have redemption, the forgiveness of sins and justification.
V29-31. God is not the God of the Jews only, but He is also the God of the nations. God sees all unsaved people as sinners because everyone has sinned. It is then true that everyone can only be justified by faith. But what about the law? Is the law completely useless now? No, the law is still present and in its full power.
If we look at the law, it becomes clear we are sinners because we cannot keep the law. The law made it clear that we were sinners and powerless to redeem ourselves from the curse of the law. When we recognize this, we confirm the authority of the law. This means we were under the curse of the law, but Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by bearing the curse on the cross (Gal 3:1313Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—). In this way He has fully confirmed the authority of the law.
Now read Romans 3:21-31 again.
Reflection: What does ‘the glory of God’ mean to you?