Tonight, we're going to look back again at Romans chapter 3 and, if I may, I'm going to put on the robe of the teacher rather than the preacher tonight, and teach you, perhaps as if you were in a classroom on the doctrine of soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation. But if I were to entitle the text that we'll be looking at, I would entitle it "How Jesus Died for God."
We're all very much aware that Jesus died for men. Jesus died for sinners. Less aware, perhaps, that Jesus also died, in a very real sense, for God, for the sake of God. And that very profound, very far reaching truth we will understand before we're through, I trust, tonight.
We begin in verse 25 of Romans 3. And there we hear the apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus Christ, say: "Whom God hath set forth to be a satisfaction through faith in His blood, in order 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 who 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 apart from 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, who shall justify the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid, yea, we establish the law.”
Now, I know that in your listening to the reading of that passage, you found it difficult to follow Paul's argument, because as you read it superficially, it sounds a little disconnected. But, it is remarkably logical. It is a masterful statement of the supreme reason for the death of Jesus Christ, and it is wonderfully cohesive.
Now, we live in an utterly man-centered era. We live in a time when everything focuses on us. People live for self-fulfillment, self-gratification, self-pleasure, and really little else. People in our society are pretty much absorbed with their own feelings, their own emotions, their own possessions, their own successes and they seldom look outside "I”, the ego. And so, you could sum it up by saying our society suffers from a severe and fatal case of selfism, selfism. And the sad part of it is that it has found its way even into Christianity. And Christians, in large measure, and people who call themselves Christians, manifest a pervading selfism. For example, people are invited to come to Christ because He'll solve their problems. They come to Christ because He'll give them peace and joy and happiness and an answer and solution to their dilemmas. Come to Christ because He'll keep them out of hell. Come to Christ because He makes life worth living. And when you come to Christ, you find yourself preoccupied with your own personal satisfaction and you're instructed further that if you just be obedient, in your being obedient you'll be blessed. And if you go to church you'll get blessed. And if you learn certain spiritual truths you'll get blessed. And if you give you'll get blessed, so that the idea of self-fulfillment sort of runs rampant even through our perceptions of the Christian faith. And that's why recently we felt it was important to do a series on worshiping God because that seems to be such a missing element. We know little about glorifying God. We know little about worshiping God, and a lot about seeking satisfaction, even in a spiritual dimension.
Now, the Bible teaches us that contrary to this perspective is the perspective that in everything a man or a woman does, in everything that you do as a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, the single primary objective is the glory of God. Through the years this has been a major theme of my teaching and preaching because it is the major theme of the Scripture. Everything ultimately is for God's glory. That's why it tells us in Colossians that all things were made by Him and (What?) for Him. Everything is for God's glory. And we have somehow evaded in great measure in our society that very basic truth.
In Psalm 115 verse 1 we read, "Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth's sake." Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory. In a great measure that sums up the perspective of a believer in God: The glory belongs to Him.
Now, if God is God and if God alone is God and there is no other, then He has a right to be glorified as God. If He is the holy God, the creator of the universe, the only God, He has a right to our worship, He has a right to our adoration, He has a right to our giving Him, or ascribing to Him, the glory that is properly due His name. And so, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that since He is the only God that is exactly what we are required to do.
In Isaiah chapter 45, the prophet says: "I am the Lord and there is none else. There is no God beside Me. I girded thee though thou hast not known Me." In other words, even though you don't know who I am, I still am who I am, and I am the only God. In verse 21 of the same chapter, "Have not I the Lord," He says that is, spoken to you, taught you? “And there is no God else beside Me, a just God and a Savior. There is none beside Me. Look unto Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none else." And the point there is, “Look unto Me and be saved,” not because of your need but because of who I am. I am worthy of your worship. "I have sworn by Myself." In other words, if you are to swear by something, you swear by something greater than yourself. There's nothing greater than God so He swears by Himself. “The word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness and shall not return, that unto Me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear.” In other words, when we swear, we swear if at all by God who is greater. When God swears, or affirms His truth, He does not do it by a higher because there is no higher. And so, there's no other God but God. And if God is God, as He claims to be, then He is to be worshiped, He is to be glorified and we are not to seek what is belonging to God. We are not to seek for ourselves the glory, for ourselves the reward, but rather that God should be glorified. And that, of course, is summed up in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says: "Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." And it picks out eating and drinking because there's nothing as mundane as that. There's nothing as routine as that. There's nothing as daily as that. There's nothing seemingly as neutral, inconsequential in a spiritual dimension as that. And yet, when you get down to the mundane, menial, daily, inconsequential acts of life, they too are to be to the glory of God. So that God's people must, instead of being consumed with their own feelings and their own emotions and their own blessedness and their own spiritual bliss and their own rewards and so forth, they are to be lost, as it were, in the wonder of living to give God praise, glory and adoration.
And, I don't want to take the time tonight to develop all of these things, but as you study the Word of God, time after time after time throughout Scripture, you find people called to glorify God. It's sort of beautifully summed up in 1 Chronicles 16 where it just says over and over and over, "Give glory to God. Give glory to the Lord. Give glory to God. Give glory to the Lord." That's the matter of life for us. We are to live consumed — now listen to it, here it comes — with how God feels, not how we feel, with what honors God, not what makes us happy. You say, "Well, what about our happiness?" Don't worry about that. You seek first the kingdom and exaltation of God and all those things will be taken care of. You seek those things and you'll fail to glorify God and what you get’ll be a cheap substitute for the reality.
John Stott, writing in his book called Our Guilty Silence says the best example he knows of one who was consumed with the glory of God came in the biography of Henry Martyn, who was a senior of Cambridge University, a fellow of St. John's College; turned his back on a very elite kind of academic career and entered the ministry. Two years later, on July 16, 1805, he sailed for India with the statement, “Now let me burn out for God.” And as he watched the people in an abandoned Hindu temple prostrating themselves before their images, he wrote, quote, “This excited more horror in me than I can well express.” Later he moved from Calcutta to Shiraz and he busied himself with the translation of the New Testament into Persian. Many Muslim visitors came to see him and engage him in religious conversation. His customary serenity was only disturbed when anybody insulted his Lord. On one occasion, the sentiment was expressed that Prince Abbas Mirza had killed so many Christians that Christ from the fourth heaven had to come down and take old of Mohammed's skirt and entreat him to desist. To Henry Martyn, the very insult that Mohammed came down and told Jesus what to do was such a dramatic fantasy that he said, “I was cut to the soul at this blasphemy. I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified. It would be hell to me if He were to be always thus dishonored. If anyone pluck out your eyes, there is no saying why you feel pain,” he said. “It is feeling, and it is because I am one with Christ that I am thus dreadfully wounded.” End quote.
In other words, there was a man who could look at a pagan society and be terribly torn up because of what that society did to dishonor his God, thinking absolutely nothing of what hardship he was enduring within that society. That's the perspective. And that is a rebuke to our consumptive, selfish, indulgent, Christian society. The theme of the universe is that God should be glorified. David said in Psalm 16, "I have set the Lord always before me." In other words, his focus was always God. And the result: "Therefore my heart is glad."
Now, this attitude of spiritual selfism that pervades the church is the key reason, I believe, why people basically do not aggressively evangelize the lost. It is the key reason why we are not moving out into the world for the sake of Jesus Christ, because, we are for the most part, most concerned with our own comfort rather than the glory of God. We seek personal blessing, personal peace. We seek to be relieved from tensions and anxieties and problems. We spend hours wanting to be counseled and discipled and get over all of the anxieties. We really are, in so very many ways, consumed with our own comfort, even in a spiritual context. And I think that is an ultimately debilitating perspective. It prevents us from being confrontive with the gospel because we're afraid of what people might say and cause us discomfort. We're content to stay here rather than to go somewhere where God is calling us because we don't like the thought of changing our material circumstances. And rather than the glory of God being gained through our efforts to win souls, we are content with our own comfort.
Hudson Taylor, who was in Brighton in England in June of 1865, became tremendously burdened for the land of China. And his biographer says that he found the self-satisfied, hymn-singing congregation intolerable. He looked around, to quote, "pew upon pew of prosperous bearded merchants, shopkeepers, visitors, demure wives in bonnets and crinolines, scrubbed children trained to hide their impatience. The atmosphere of smug piety sickened him. He seized his hat and left, unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge. ‘I wandered out on the sands alone in spiritual agony,’" he said. "And there on the beach I prayed for 24 willing, skillful laborers." And out of that prayer came the China Inland Mission. And today, believe it or not: Millions of Christians in mainland China, somewhere between 25 and 50 million in spite of the social revolution.
God used that man because he wasn't centered on himself. Now, with that just as an introductory background, to make you feel bad, I want to move to make you feel good. Of all the spiritual realities. Makes me feel bad, too, I confess. Of all the spiritual realities that are designed to glorify God, and there are myriad of them, I believe that the single greatest thing that glorifies God is salvation, every way you look at it. And salvation, believe me, is like a many faceted diamond. The Bible approaches it in myriad of ways and all of those ways glorify God. God speaks of Himself as a saving God. He gains glory in that He saves sinful men. Salvation is the first and foremost way of glorifying God. And how we miss its point when we make salvation only a way to make man better, rather than to glorify God. Salvation must glorify God. The fact that it does something for us is secondary.
Oh certainly the cross affects everything. The cross affected the angels. It didn't redeem them. The fallen angels have no redemption. The holy and elect angels need no redemption. But the plan of salvation demonstrated to the angels the wisdom of God, so it had a purpose toward them. And the saving act of Jesus Christ on the cross also affected Satan and the demons because on the cross Jesus delivered the crushing blow to the kingdom of darkness because it threw all its fury at Him and couldn't kill Him, and it was defeated. And even the devils will bow eternally in the lake of fire.
And, the cross of Jesus Christ had a dramatic effect on man as it provided redemption. But primarily, the cross was to glorify God. And in that sense, Jesus died for God's sake.
In Philippians chapter 2, I think this is stated as clearly as anyplace in the Bible. It begins in verse 5: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not something to hold onto to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant, was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
Now, when Jesus came into the world and became obedient unto death and died on the cross, He saved us, He redeemed us. "Wherefore God also highly exalted Him, gave Him a name above every name, that the name of Jesus every knee should bow, things in heaven, things in earth, things under the earth; and every tongue should confess Jesus Christ is Lord." In other words, everybody ought to be saved. Why? For their sake? No, what's the end of verse 11? "To the (What?) glory of God the Father." You see, salvation is primarily for the glory of God.
We saw this in Romans 1:5 where it says that “we received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith (That's another way to speak of salvation.) among all nations for His name.” For His name. Not for us but for Him. You see, salvation is first of all for God's glory. The reason you ought to be saved is not primarily so you'll know the love of God, not primarily so you'll know the blessing of God, not primarily so you'll be prevented from going to hell forever. The reason you should be saved is because God is worthy of your adoration. It's for His glory.
Now, for example, when you think about heaven, what do you think about? If you're like most Christians you think about, oh, I'm going to go to heaven and streets of gold, gates of pearl, one large pearl each gate. That's what it says. That's some oyster. Jewels everywhere, angels, sitting on a cloud playing a harp, no problems, no pain, no tears, no sorrow, no death, no dying, no disease, the river of life and the trees growing along, oh, it's going to be... And we think about heaven from our perspective. Now that isn't the way to think about heaven. You know what heaven is? Heaven is where you get to glorify God unhindered forever. That's what heaven is. And if you think heaven is where you go to get yours, you missed it. You missed it. David Brainerd said, "I do not go to heaven to be advanced." On his deathbed, he said to Jonathan Edwards, his biographer, "I go to heaven to give honor to God. It is no matter where I shall be stationed in heaven, whether I have a high or a low seat there, but to live and please and glorify God. My heaven is to please God and glorify Him and give all to Him and be wholly devoted to His glory forever." Brainerd knew, salvation was for God, not for him.
You see, basically, you were made to glorify God. That's your purpose. Salvation and all of its attendant blessings right on into heaven weren't for you; they were for Him. But if you glorify Him, there will be bliss beyond description in return. So that the point of salvation is for God's glory. Now, I'm belaboring this because I think it's so utterly essential to understand this passage. The chief purpose, then, in Christ's death — hang on to this one — was to glorify God. That's the chief purpose in His death. He even said, "Father," John 17, "I have glorified Thee on earth." And when He went to the cross, He was glorifying God. Now that's what Paul wants us to understand here, that salvation glorifies God.
You say, "I don't even see that in the passage." I know. I told you at the beginning when I read it you wouldn't see it. But you will in a minute, or in a few weeks, I'm not sure which.
Look back at verse 25. Paul, in Romans, has already declared the sinfulness of man, chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 3 verse 20. He laid out the sinfulness of man. And the picture was dark. Beginning in chapter 3 verse 21, he speaks of the salvation of God, how that God redeems sinful man. And then in the beginning of verse 25, he kind of sums up what he said in verses 21 to 24 about salvation. He talks about Christ Jesus, "Whom God has set forth to be a satisfaction through faith in His blood." You can stop there.
That's a marvelous statement. That sort of sums up what he said in 21 to 24. God, it says in verse 25, "Whom God hath set forth." That means the source of salvation is God. Obviously sinful man can't generate his own salvation, right? So God is the source. And it says God hath set forth whom? Well, the antecedent's in verse 24: Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the one who saves. He is the agent of salvation. And then it says, "God hath set Him forth," and that is revelation. In other words, God sent Christ into the world. He revealed Him in the incarnation. He is the one who is the Savior. And notice it says He sent Him to earth, put Him on display to be a propitiation, hilastrion. Basically it means a satisfaction. And you really ought to note that word. Jesus was a satisfaction. Who did He satisfy? He satisfied God.
There are some songs in the Christian hymn book that talk about Jesus satisfying us, but that isn't what Romans 3 is saying. He satisfied God. You see, God had to be satisfied and Jesus met God's requirement when He died and God was satisfied. That's what that means. It's through His blood, it says, that is a sacrificial, substitutionary death and it is appropriated through faith. In that half verse, you could go on forever. You've got God, the source of salvation; Christ, the agent of salvation; the incarnation and revelation in the terms set forth; you've got Christ becoming the satisfaction of God's law and God's requirement. Because He died a sacrificial substitutionary death and God required blood, didn't He? And then you have appropriation of the work of Jesus Christ, and through faith. Tremendous statement.
Through the death of Jesus Christ, then, on the cross, God is satisfied. And if you believe in Him, your sins are forgiven.
Now, He is a satisfaction different than the Old Testament ones. In fact, do you know something? In all the millions of animals that were slain in the Old Testament, God was never satisfied. Never. Never. He was only satisfied ultimately with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. All the rest of those sacrifices did not satisfy God. You say, "What did they do?" They symbolized, they pictured the one sacrifice that would satisfy God. They are very little different, very little different than the communion service. Are you saved because you drink the cup and eat the bread? Does that satisfy God's requirement? Hardly, they are symbols of what did satisfy. And what did satisfy? The body and blood of Jesus Christ.
So, on this side of the cross we have our symbols. They don't satisfy God, Christ's sacrifice did. On that side, they had their symbols, they didn't satisfy God either, Christ did. So, Christ primarily died not to satisfy men but to satisfy God. Now you're beginning to feel a little better what this is teaching. It's profound and we haven't even started. Faith appropriates to the individual what satisfied God. Tremendous, tremendous truth.
Now, the death of Christ then was primarily for God's sake, primarily to glorify God. How does it do that? Let me give you four ways. Four ways the death of Christ glorifies God, and I confess they're not mine, they're Paul's. And they're not Paul's either, they're the Holy Spirit's.
How does the death of Christ glorify God? How does the death of Christ bring glory to God? Here they come. Number one, you have an outline there probably. If you got one when you came in, you can follow it. Number one, by declaring God's righteousness. Number two, by exalting God's grace. Number three, by revealing God's consistency. And number four, by confirming God's Word. Now God is really on display, isn't He? His righteousness, His grace, His consistency,and His Word.
Let's look at the first one. The cross, first of all, reveals God's righteousness, verse 25. Now listen, here it comes and you'll see it, "Whom God," that is Christ Jesus, "Whom God hath set forth," put on public display, "to be the satisfaction by His substitutionary, sacrificial death, appropriated through faith," for what reason? "In order to declare His (What?) righteousness." Why did God set forth Christ? Why was there an incarnation? Why did God send His Son into the world to humble Himself and die on the cross? For you? Secondarily. First for Him, to declare His righteousness. That's the key. And that is the element of the cross that is missing in so many people's thinking.
Now, what does this mean to declare His righteousness? Another word for righteous is what? Just, and it is used in the next verse. Really a synonym, just means "doing that which is right." And God wanted to show the world that He did what was right. Now you say, "Well, were they questioning that?" Sure. Sure. "Why?" Let me tell you why. All the pagan people have always had their deities and they did in the time of Paul and the time of our Lord and ancient times. They had their deities. And the thing you learn about pagan deities is very simple. Pagan deities are always bad and good. If you study ethnology or the history of religion, the study of religion, you’d find out that the gods of the heathen are both bad and good. They're inconsistent. Sometimes they're heroes and sometimes they're awful. If you read, for example, about the Greek gods, or the Roman gods, you find them at one point in time acting in a benevolent manner and another point in time acting in a devastating destructive manner. You find them, on the one hand, doing what is good and on the other hand, in all kinds of immoral affairs with other gods. They are capricious, they are whimsical, they are inconsistent. On the one hand they demand righteous, good behavior out of their subjects, and on the other hand they deny that in their own existence.
You see, whenever men invent gods, the gods they invent always turn out to be like them. Men don't invent perfect gods. It's intimidating enough with the gods they've got without inventing perfect ones. So, men always come up with gods like they are and so it was very typical that the pagans would accuse their own gods of whimsically being rather capricious and inconsistent, on the one hand expecting good and on the other hand doing evil.
You say, "Would they accuse Jehovah God of that?" Sure. Sure. God could be accused of that. And you know what they would accuse Him of? You say your God is so righteous, you say your God is so just, you say your God is so holy, you say your God can't look on sin, you say your God can't tolerate evil, you say your God won't give in to disobedience, then how come all these people got away with sin? Right? That's what they're going to ask. If your God is so just and so right and so righteous and so holy, how can He overlook all of this? I mean, you people sin and you don't die. And then you tell us He forgives your sin, that when you believe in Him, He forgives your sin. Well, how can He be a just and holy God? I mean, if a criminal comes into a court and a judge sits up there and the criminal says "I am guilty, I did it all," and the judge says, "Well, I don't know, I'm just...I'm attracted to you, what can I say? Go free." Would we say that's a just judge? Would we say that judge did right? Would we say that judge upheld the law? No, we'd say the judge is worse than the criminal. He has no different sense of justice and injustice than the criminal does. And he wouldn't be a judge anymore.
And they're saying the same thing. You say your God is holy, righteous, just and good, well, how can He be all the time forgiving you people and saying, I'm just attracted to you so, become My children and I'll just forget your sin. You say, "Well, where did they get the idea of this?" Well, look at the rest of the verse. God needed to declare His righteousness because of, the Authorized says, "The remission of sins that are past through His forbearance." Now, the word "forbearance" means "patient tolerance." And okay, it's used in chapter 2 verse 4 where it talks about the patience of God, the forbearance of God. And what it's saying is that in the past, now listen to this, prior to Christ, God was patient, wasn't He? Tolerant. The phrase, "sins that are past," has to do with that which was before Christ. And throughout all that era of history, God was patient. And notice the word "remission." It's unfortunate that they use that word because it basically does not mean forgiveness. It basically means He passed over. It's different than the word forgiveness. He didn't forgive them. He just passed over them. He just sort of closed His eyes to them. He didn't really forgive them. And so here you have this tremendous piece of history in which God, just by patient tolerance, passes over the sins that are committed and just overlooks them and says I'm not going to hold you responsible for those. And so, the natural response is that somebody's going to say, "Well, don't come off telling me You're a just and holy and righteous God. You're just like everybody else's god. You're just as capricious and just as inconsistent."
That's really what is behind this. Through all of man's sinful history, since the Fall, God has sort of overlooked things, not in every single case but in many cases. And where people believed on Him, He actually did overlook their sin, didn't He? And even went so far, in a way, as to actually forgive it.
Look at Acts for a moment, chapter 17 verse 30. And here is Paul on Mars Hill talking about history, God's part in history. And it says in verse 30, (Paul's described the past of man's paganism.) and he says, "The times of this ignorance, God (What? overlooked." He did overlook. He passed by. "But now He commands all men everywhere to repent because He's appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man (That's Christ) whom He ordained concerning which He's given assurance unto all men that He raised Him from the dead."
At the cross, God says all must repent now, but in the past He overlooked these things. And not only among His own people, but He even overlooked some of the things, according to the fourteenth chapter of Acts, that were going on in the nations around Him. Now the question's this: How can God be just and overlook evil? How can He be righteous and pass by sin?
Do you remember what it said in Habakkuk chapter 1 when Habakkuk said to God, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity and canst not look upon evil”? God, You're too holy to let sin go, You're too holy to let iniquity go. And yet You have thousands of years of God passing over this. The Jews of Malachi's day accused God, just as Romans 3 indicates God would be accused. You want to hear what they said? "Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord and He delights in them. Where is the God of justice?" That was exactly this accusation. Where is the God of justice? He must delight in evil. Every one that does evil is so prosperous.
There's another text that helps us understand this in the seventy-eighth Psalm. I'll just read you verse 38. It says of God, "But He being full of compassion forgave their iniquity and destroyed them not." Listen to this, "Yes, many a time turned He His anger away and did not stir up all His wrath." And so, you have a right to ask the question, my friend: How can God be holy and pass by sin? Now, somebody's going to rush in and say, "Oh, but God is loving, also." You're right. "And God is loving and merciful and gracious and He wants to forgive and He wants to make people right and He wants to invite them to Himself." Yes, that's wonderful, we believe that, but how in the world does He do that to the overruling of His justice? So that the question is summed up in verse 26: How can God be just on the one hand and on the other hand be the justifier of those who believe in Jesus?
In other words, how can He be gracious, merciful and forgive and still maintain His holy justice? So a look at the Old Testament makes God seem like a God whose love is way over-balanced. He loves so much that He just throws His justice aside. God is a God of love, but He had to forfeit His justice. If that's true then forgiveness is a moral evil because God violated His holy nature, right? If God had to overrule His justice to forgive people, then God did evil because He violated the virtue of justice. So over the Old Testament was a thick veil covering the justice of God. And when Micah talks about who is a pardoning God like Thee, who passes by sin, is he impugning the justice of God? For four thousand years there's a scandal in the universe, as God seems to be unrighteous.
Then comes the death of Christ. And what does the death of Christ say? If it says anything in the universe, it says God is (What?) righteous. What do you mean by that? I mean, sin had to have a punishment, right? So you see it is at the cross where God's justice and God's mercy have kissed each other, at the cross. Why? Because the penalty was paid but we were spared from the paying by the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, so that God's mercy can be extended to us with no loss of His justice. That's why I say primarily, the death of Jesus Christ is for the sake of God, to preserve God from accusation that He is unjust, because the glory of God is the reason for everything. Let me tell you, folks, you've just plumbed the depths of the meaning of Calvary's cross. God was satisfied.
You know why God was satisfied? Because God wants to be worshiped. God wants to be glorified and He has a right to that and He gets very jealous if anybody gets in the way. But after all, He's God. And when God was being impugned and people had a reason to say, "You're not a righteous God because you passed by sin," God did not take kindly to that and so God had Christ die first and foremost that the world might see that His holiness and His righteousness and His justice was never set aside, even if it meant that He had to get in a human body and come down and pay the penalty Himself. He could not pass by His justice. And so He is just and at the same time He is the justifier of those that believe in Jesus.
Now, that's just a profound, profound thought. Listen to this. Maybe this can help you. It helped me as I thought of it this way. The real issue in the gospel — and I don't know that I've ever heard anyone say this — the real issue in the gospel is not how to get sinful men to holy God. It is how to get holy God to sinful men without violating His justice. That's the issue. That's the issue. God is the problem, not us. We don't have any virtue to hang onto. He does. How can an infinitely, absolutely holy God get to sinful men without violating something of His holy perfection? And for a great emphasis, the truth is repeated in verse 26.
God set forth Jesus on the cross to be a satisfaction. Not satisfaction for men, but satisfaction for God. And he repeats it: "To declare, I say.” To publicly declare, I say, at this time, here and now in history and on into the future, that “He is just and He is the justifier of them that believe in Jesus.” Isn't that profound? From now on it's clear. The cross, then, for first purposes frees God from any thought of injustice.
There's a corollary to that, something I've taught you in the past. This is supported by the thought of why you should confess your sin. The reason you confess your sin... Most people think you confess your sin in order to get blessed. That's secondary. The reason you confess your sin is so that when you get chastened for your sin, God is not thought of as an evil Father. Now you might walk into my house sometime and you might see me spanking my child. And I might be laying it on him, and you might conclude, "Boy, what kind of a father is he? Boy, he was really hitting that poor little kid." But if that child came up to you and said, "Oh, I deserved that, I was getting exactly what I deserved, I confessed to the evil that I had done and I was worthy of what I got and my father was enacting loving judgment," then you would get the picture of what God is looking for in your confession of sin. The reason He wants you primarily to confess your sin is not so you can get blessed but so that He can get glory if He chooses to chasten you and not be thought of being an evil Father. That's why in Joshua 7:19 it says: "Confess your sin and give glory to God." Why? Because, you see, Achan, who had done all those terrible things, was about to get stoned to death with his entire family, and before they were stoned to death, God wanted to be sure that everybody knew that he was getting what he (What?)deserved. And it came out of his own lips.
You see, no matter how you look at it, in terms of salvation, God wants glory. He is the justifier. He is the justifier. What does that mean? He makes men right with Him. He makes people right. He makes sinful people right with Him. But He's also the just and somebody had to die and Jesus did it. Now do you see the meaning of the death of Jesus? It satisfied God, freed God to forgive the one who believes in Jesus. And so, mercy and truth kissed each other.
Elizabeth Clephane wrote:
And though the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find my sheep.
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
None of us will ever know what it was: The intricate miracle of miracles that holy God Himself should become the very sacrifice to His own justice. And the only right response to what God did is at the end of verse 26: To believe that man can be right with God and know God's love and grace and mercy and God can still be the just and holy God that He is.
And that is what made the song writer write this:
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so (What?) amazing, so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all."
God did it for Himself. But here comes the climax. He had to first satisfy Himself before He could be free to satisfy all the needs of your heart. He stood in the way of His own saving work and had to be satisfied. And He loved us so much that He went to that length to satisfy His own nature to be free to satisfy forever His redeemed people. Let's bow in prayer.
Blessed Father, we feel like we've been standing on the edge of an infinite sea, trying to grapple with truth that is so far beyond our minds. We have such limitation. But we do understand what Paul said. We do get a glimpse of the meaning of the cross, that You saved man, first of all, for Your own glory. And if we were saved for You to be glorified then that's what we ought to live for. And so, whatever we do, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we desire to do it all to Your glory. We are to bow the knee and confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. We are the church, called together and redeemed to be to the praise of His glory, that glory should be His in the church. We have no reason than that to live.
Father, thank You, for showing us through this profound text the meaning of the cross. And we would pray right now for those in our congregation who have found no meaning in the cross at all, for whom all of that effort is useless because they do not believe in Jesus. They do not believe from the depths of their heart that He came and died for them, to satisfy the justice and the love of God. Father, may they believe this night. May the Spirit of God bring them to saving faith. May they not have rest or peace. May they know no moments of comfort. May they be hounded, as it were, by the hound of heaven until they have put their faith in Jesus, the incarnate Son who paid the supreme price demanded by a just God and who is, at the same time, the loving incarnation of that same God. We pray, Lord, that this might be a night when souls turn to Christ. Father, do Your work in the hearts of those that are here who need Christ. Make us ever and always committed to the glory of God. We pray in the name of Christ. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.
This sermon series includes the following messages:
Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.Publisher Information