This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
(Romans 3:25b – ESV)
(Romans 3:25b – ESV)
With the text of Romans 3:25-26, when we start with a man centered, “what’s it mean to us” then we cannot appreciate the “what this means about God” aspect. God put Jesus on the cross to demonstrate His own righteousness, which is what the text declares as primary.
In this passage Paul’s emphasis is not so much on the righteousness that God has provided in Christ as the righteousness that God has demonstrated through Christ. This distinction may seem subtle, but it is one of great significance. Our minds like to avoid this truth, and we much rather focus on what He has done "for" us. It is too easy to fall into the trap of sentimental thinking about the Gospel, and we need to be reminded that the love of God makes absolutely no sense apart from the wrath of God. Take away the latter, and all you have is the image of a kindly old man who wouldn't hurt a fly, much less punish sinners, and then we start thinking that maybe our own sins really aren't that bad. We cheapen His love by downplaying His wrath.
When we choose to look at salvation from a merely human perspective, we see salvation from the standpoint of what it does for us. God becomes the One who “meets our needs.” While salvation does do something for us, and God does meet our needs, the focus is wrong. Paul portrays this passage from the divine point of view, fixing our attention on God’s purpose for saving men: the demonstration of His righteousness. If you can see this, you will see the value of a God entranced worldview, not one where we say it but we actually have it, and we can see with God’s eyes, and we will begin to learn the value of God, not simply as someone who gives us the treasure of forgiveness, but as the very treasure itself.
The death of Christ proved God’s righteousness. Hebrews 9:15,26 – in His forbearance He passed over the former sins, made during and before the old covenant, knowing justice would be served by a new covenant. People just want God to pardon but that doesn’t demonstrate His righteousness. That would be saying that sins are really no big deal to God, and it would also mean that offending God and despising Him isn’t all that important. The sins are real and they must be paid for, and yet God seemingly overlooked them before. The problem in God's passing over sin (which the natural mind does not grasp) is that God's worth and glory and righteousness have been despised, and passing over it makes him look cheap. God would be unrighteous if He passed over sins as though the value of His glory were nothing.
God’s worth and His name are dishonored by our sins, but He vindicated His glory by slaying His Son. That is how valuable His glory is and how awful sin really is and what it requires. It is not that we were worth it, that we were worth saving, but that God’s glory was worth vindicating, and that Christ was the only payment that could satisfy the justice of God for us offending and despising His glory. That is what sin is, falling short of and devaluing God’s glory. We have done violence to the throne of God. That is why hell must last forever because you can never pay it back, your worth is nothing compared to His, no amount of penance can offset the terrible injustice you have done against the infinite worth of God.
This is all about the value of God not the value of man, how much He is worth not how much we are worth. Now we square this with John 3:16 by saying that His love for us is so great that He paid the only way it could be done. God, out of His love and justice, renders Himself favorable to us by His own action. He suffers the ultimate offense and yet He takes on the punishment for that Himself. He passed over sins before Christ because He knew the plan, it was the plan all along, and that is why He could wait until it was the right time (Galatians 4:4).
Did Jesus really have to die to pay for our sins? We say, “Certainly we’ve done bad things, but what we’ve done isn’t so bad that a merciful God can’t overlook our failings.” We are wrong on two counts. First, what we have done IS so bad, that we cannot even begin to fathom how horrible it is. Second, God cannot overlook, He cannot wave His hand and let bygones be bygones. He may freely forgive us, but He Himself must bear the cost.
The wrath of God had to be satisfied. God could not simply overlook sin; it had to be judged. And so God provided men with salvation in such a way that He demonstrated His righteousness and satisfied His wrath, all at the same time. God’s forgiveness costs something, He freely forgives but it cost Him something. It is the heart of the good news...a bloody yet beautiful thing that proves God's worth, not ours...