How A Just God Justifies The Unjust

Romans 3:24-26….that He might be just and the justifier of those who believe.

Having shut our mouths and put us with our back to the wall as a guilty race, Paul finally introduces the gospel. And now, in these verses, we have something more of the glorious gospel— beautiful words, wonderful words! Justification! Redemption! Propitiation! Someone has called it the Acropolis of the Christian faith. It is a very jewel box of doctrinal terminology. Look at this text, term by term.

Being Justified

This term belongs in a court of law. It is a legal term, a declarative term. It means to pronounce righteous in terms of the law. It is the opposite of condemnation. It has nothing to do with the inner man but rather our relationship to the law, our legal standing. It is not something God does in us, but rather for us.

See Luke 7:29. They justified God. How could you make a just God just? You can’t. It means rather that they acknowledged and declared Him to be that. So, justification is God declaring the repentant, believing sinner to be OK in the eyes of the law. He justifies the ungodly (4:5).

The beauty of justification is that the highest judicial official in the universe is making the decision. In human courts, some judges’ rulings are overturned by a higher judge. But not here. There is no judge higher. God is a righteous judge and makes no mistakes. In human courts there are mistrials. Not here. This is more than mere pardon. The guilty are not only forgiven his wrong but is declared right in the eyes of the law.

As a Gift by His Grace

Not too many gifts are really truly free. Even a birthday gift has a cause. It is because it is my birthday. But this is a free, unmerited, unconditional, unasked-for gift. It is an award at the beginning of the race and thus quite unearned. It is a gift.

This is one great difference between Christianity and all other world religions. They are on the merit system, but Christianity is in the realm of gift and grace. In other religions, one must work up to heaven. Here, God comes down from heaven.

This is one reason why the Gospel is offensive to a proud man. It is humbling to be successful because of a gift, not having made it on our own.

Gifts are wonderful. I remember when my dad gave me a jackknife for my eighth birthday, a toboggan for Christmas, a toolbox, etc. But this infinitely excels them all—the gift of free, full, forgiveness forever. An inheritance called heaven! How would you feel if some prince came through prison and gave you, a condemned criminal awaiting execution, a pardon, even a title to live in his palace forever?

Why does God do this? He is gracious. Grace! A charming sound! You maybe know how you feel when you’re late renewing your driver’s license. “I’ll have to take the test.” But, lo, come to find out there is a grace period. Before God we have to take no test for heaven. How does God work this? It is…

Through the Redemption Which is in Christ Jesus

We leave the courtroom and go to the slave market to talk about redemption. It means to buy back by means of the payment of a ransom price. If the plane is hijacked, it can be redeemed by paying the ransom. If an Israelite fell into debt, unable to pay, enslaved, he could be redeemed. So we have broken God’s laws and are in the debtor’s prison. Jesus redeemed us by paying the ransom in his own blood (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6). He died…

As a Propitiation in His Blood

We leave now the slave market and go to the temple, into the Holy of Holies, and there we find the mercy seat, the propitiatory, where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled, propitiation was made and mercy secured.

It means to appease, to satisfy an offended party. If I hit a ball through my neighbor’s window, my apologies would not satisfy his anger. I must pay for the window. So what will remove God’s wrath? The wages of sin is death. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission. Either I must die in all aspects, especially hell, or find a substitute. Will rabbits, doves, lambs, rivers of oil or my own children substitute to propitiate God? Will they pay my infinite penalty for my crimes against an infinitely holy God? The only substitute is the one God himself provided—the Lamb of God, Jesus.

He shed his blood. He did not die of sickness, but his death was by the shedding of blood like the Old Testament sacrifices. The precious blood of Jesus, he was the one whom God…

Publicly Displayed

Like a merchant who sets out his wares for all to see, God set forth Jesus. His death did not occur in some far off Eskimo village, not in some obscure Hebrew dwelling, not behind the thick veil of the Holiest, but out in the open in Israel on the Mediterranean in the midst of the Greek culture and the Roman rule, the center of civilization and with the accompanying fanfare of a shaking earth, split rocks and a darkened sun. What was the purpose of his death? It was…

To Demonstrate God’s Righteousness

God had passed over sins for many centuries without fully judging it. God had even justified many—Abraham, Moses, David. How could that be right? Judicial iniquity is an abomination (1 Sam. 8:3; 1 Kings 21:13; Ps. 82:2; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23.) How can God justly justify the unjust? The justice of God was indeed satisfied by the substitutionary death of Christ. How can I know this blessing of justification? I am called to…

Have Faith in Jesus as a Sacrifice

Faith occurs repeatedly in this context. Faith—it is looking away from self unto Jesus, slain for sinners to secure our forgiveness by a substitutionary death and to secure our title to heaven by his righteous life.

To the orthodox Jew, the slain Lamb says, “quit expecting and believe on Jesus.” To the devout Muslim it says, “quit cutting yourself,” the atoning blood is shed. To the demonized animist it says, “there is peace through the blood of God’s lamb.” To the miserable Hindu it says, “get out of the holy river and be washed in the blood of the Lamb.” To the loyal Buddhist, it says, “get off your Noble Eightfold Path and get on the highway of holiness through the gate of imputed righteousness.” To the Roman Catholic it says, “forget your Masses, one sacrifice once for all time has satisfied.” To the lost churchgoer, it says, “renounce away your baptisms and confirmations and trust entirely in Jesus’ blood and

righteousness for your title to heaven.” To the unbelieving believer, it says, “forget your imperfections, the weakest saint shall win the day. You will never stand as a condemned criminal before an angry judge, but always, a beloved son before a loving heavenly Father.”

This chapter was taken from the book, “A Devotional Study of Romans” which can be downloaded for free here.

(1949 - 2012)
Bob Jennings began a pastoral ministry in Kirksville, Missouri in 1978 in the church that now meets at Lake Road Chapel. In 1983 he moved to Sedalia, Missouri to pastor a small flock which God had raised up in that city (now meeting at Highway M Chapel). Bob spoke at many conferences both in the United States and Eastern Europe. He also did evangelism outreach on various university campuses over the years. The Lord blessed Bob and his wife Terri with five children. Bob is respected as a godly man by all who knew him, perhaps most by his family. You can find encouragement from his many messages online, and also from his online journal which he kept during his days with cancer. Bob fell asleep in the Lord November of 2012.