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A man kneels before a woman, a little box in his hand. A secret is to be revealed. An announcement is to be made. Our God reveals to us, like a secret, that He loves us beyond measure. We treat it like a secret, but it never is. He loves His people so much that He is willing to send His only Son for them. In due course He would be revealed – the Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder if you ever doubt that God loves you? That you are loved beyond all measure? Is it time for that secret to be revealed to you?
I see, in our reading this morning in Romans chapter 3, ‘previously, presently and meanwhile.’
We read that God had passed over sins. I am praying that you will receive an assurance of the love of God that your sins are forgiven. The cross alone is where we receive that forgiveness. We need to understand a few things about how justice works. We need to be forgiven of our sins. It is God’s justice that must be satisfied. The payment is to be made to God. Christ gives us the sacrifice that satisfies the justice of God. He has never ignored sin. The opening chapters of this book proves that beyond measure. Our great concern this morning should not be how happy we can be, but the righteousness of God. It is supremely seen in the cross of Jesus.
How is it that sinners before Jesus Christ could be dealt with in any gracious way with God? “Justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Romans 3:24-25). You and I need to know that the God who has justified us, is just, that He is perfectly righteous – always has been and always will be.
Is the cross the only way that anyone can be right in God’s sight? Yes! So how did God deal with sin before the cross? What did believing people in the Old Testament have to look to? We can see the wondrous cross of Jesus today. They didn’t have that. They did have a system of sacrifices though. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter into a secret place – one person on behalf of others. They would represent those who believed in the Lord. It was concerned with making atonement between holy and unholy.
We need atonement. The High Priest enters into the Holy of Holies. He was appointed by God. There, he would take the blood of an animal, symbolically, so that humans would not be killed. The animal’s blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat. At that moment, sins were atoned, wiped away. We need our sins to be wiped away in God’s justice system.
This sacrificial system was to satisfy the consciences of the believers in Old Testament times. No animal is sufficient to pay the price of a human being. No animal could possibly match-up in God’s sight. The perfect human sacrifice offering still had to come. So, God, in the Old Testament, is seen as waiting, anticipating a better sacrifice. Therefore, He was satisfied to deal with sinners in the Old Testament times in grace and mercy. God knew a better sacrifice was coming, a human being who was perfect. I don’t know how much the Old Testament believers knew of this. It was still quite secretive to them. But God knew, and that’s what mattered. That’s all that matters to us today. God is just.
That was previously. Let’s come to ‘meanwhile.’ Now. God shows us His righteousness. We come to the present day. The cross is essential, and always has been essential, to deal sufficiently with our present-day problem, with our concern. What is the problem, our concern? We could say that the problem we have is that we are sinners. In one sense, that is the problem; we have broken God’s law. As soon as you were conceived you started to add to the record of wrongs, because you have not been righteous. We are all utterly and completely lost. We cannot cover over our sins ourselves. We can’t redefine what sin is.
Propitiation is about the appeasement and satisfaction of God and His righteousness. Our great problem is not only sin. The great issue in this letter is that God is rightly angry with our sin. Propitiation, as the means of atonement, is all about the removal of God’s wrath. God Himself provided for His wrath. He offered up His own beloved Son on the cross. He provided from within Himself. The cross, the sacrifice, covers our sins. God has done that which He was always willing to do. John 3:16.
God makes atonement for you and I. His justice is now satisfied. His wrath is utterly removed forever because of the cross of Jesus. It is a perfect sacrifice and complete. Why? Because it came from God. It wasn’t human intervention. We need to repent of our sins. We first and foremost need to bring them to the cross of propitiation. We need to focus on God, not our sins. When we come to the communion table don’t focus on sins but the cross of Jesus.
We know we are justified. Do you know you are saved by the love of God? Saved from the wrath of God? It is impossible not to be a sinner. Paul says throughout this letter, up to this point, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). You can’t ignore it. It is the glory of God we need to be concerned with. Are you saved? Do you have that assurance? Where do you receive that assurance? Look at Him. Place your faith afresh in Him. See the crucifixion of Jesus.
God the Father provided Him for you, a public demonstration of the love of God. The believers of olden time waited. The sacrifice was hidden away. We are about making public that which has been revealed to us. He was “put forward” (v25). It is a public presentation. Have you ever wondered why God chose the means of crucifixion to pay the blood price for our sins, why it didn’t take place in the Holy of Holies? Why, on a Roman cross, Christ dies, naked and utterly humiliated? Why was He placed so high? For all to see. He had nails through His hand and feet, with His feet just out of reach so no-one could touch or feel the victim.
God publicly displayed the crucified Son for all to see. It was a public declaration that your sins are atoned for. We can walk with Him in purpose and grace. God’s Son was crucified for you. It is a decisive demonstration. He did it! What was required, occurred. It was His initiative, so you can trust it. He decided the plan of salvation for you. He did it!