Commentary Session 2 the Gift You Can't Give Yourself
In spite of our inclination toward sin, most people want to do good, be good citizens, and live in peace and
harmony with those around them. Unfortunately, many think that this is all that is needed to get them into heaven
when they die. And, there are those religions that promote just such doctrines as the way to salvation. When we
(human beings) keep whatever rules are set before us, we feel good about ourselves. It‘s too bad that this kind of
thinking will lead many to spend eternity in hell. Why, because none of us can keep a set of rules, much less God‘s
perfect law. Fortunately, God has provided a way for all human beings to gain a right relationship with Him—
through faith in Jesus Christ, Who met God‘s perfect standard for us. This lesson focuses on the fact that Jesus
offers us a gift that we cannot give ourselves; no matter how ―good‖ we may think we are.
The Point: Jesus offers you His gift of a relationship with God.
In spite of our bent toward sin, most people want to be good. The majority of religions promote this as the
way to salvation. When we keep whatever rules are set before us, we feel good about ourselves, but none of us can
perfectly keep a set of rules, much less God‘s perfect law. Fortunately, Christ met that standard for us.
Righteousness by Faith 3:21-31 Justified by Faith
The gravity of the situation is summarized in 3:23: ―All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
God thus has provided righteousness for unrighteous people through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The way of
forgiveness and freedom has been offered to all, Jews and Gentiles, through the sacrificial death of Christ.
Four words need special explanation. In verse 24, he said that all who believe ―are justified." Justified is a legal
term meaning to declare righteous. On the basis of what Christ has accomplished for sinners on the cross, God
now views those who believe in Christ from an eschatological perspective. That is, He sees them not as they are
but as they will be in Christ. He sees them as He sees Christ: perfect, holy, and without sin (compare 2 Cor. 5:21).
God‘s justification of those who believe is provided ―freely by his grace‖ (3:24). Grace points to God‘s free and
unmerited favor by which God has without charge to believers declared them to have a right standing in His sight.
God could declare persons righteous only by dealing with their sin. This He did in the ―redemption that came by
Jesus Christ‖ (3:24). The term redemption means a price was paid. The death of Christ on the cross was the
payment price for human sin that secured release from the bondage to sin, self, and Satan.
In verse 25, Paul stated that Christ Jesus was presented as ―a sacrifice of atonement‖ (sometimes translated
―propitiation‖ or ―expiation‖). Perhaps the idea of satisfaction best illuminates this Pauline concept for us. In Jesus
Christ His Son, God has graciously satisfied His own holy demands and directed against Himself His own
righteous wrath that the sinner deserves. By Christ‘s sacrifice God has satisfied, or propitiated, His own wrath.
As a result God is both ―just and the one who justifies‖ those who have faith in Jesus (3:26). Therefore, Jew and
Gentile alike stand justified not by their works but by their faith in the finished work of Christ (3:27-31).
The Setting: Paul began his discourse on the doctrine of salvation by showing that all people—Gentiles and Jews,
―good‖ people and ―bad‖ people—need salvation because no one lives up to God‘s standard of righteousness.
Beginning in Romans 3:21, he pointed us to the solution. God‘s standard of righteousness was met in Jesus Christ,
and when we place our faith in Christ, His righteousness is credited to us.
Romans 3:2. ― But now, apart from the law, God‘s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and
Key Word: Righteousness (v. 21)—This word refers to being right before God. People only become
righteous as God declares them so.
Paul completed his indictment of all people, Jew and Gentile, in verse 20 with the absolute declaration
that no one will be justified in God‘s sight by keeping the law. Paul‘s statement could not have been more
radical and foreign to those who considered themselves righteous because they were religious. If
righteousness could not come by keeping God‘s laws, how could it be obtained? Paul shocked his readers
with this declaration, then proceeded to provide the answer.
Paul first spoke of God‘s righteousness in 1:17. As we noted previously, righteousness is an attribute of
God. No one can be in a right relationship with Him without possessing His righteousness. Many religious
Jews and self-disciplined Gentiles believed they were righteous. Paul wanted his readers to know the
difference between man‘s righteousness and God‘s righteousness.
Man‘s righteousness is self-proclaimed and obtained through religious ritual and outward conformity to
law. In His public ministry, Jesus encountered many Pharisees, Sadducees, and experts in the law who
believed themselves righteous on the basis of keeping the law. Jesus declared them to be hypocrites and
compared them to ―whitewashed tombs‖ (Matt. 23:27) who appeared righteous on the outside but inside
were spiritually dead. In Philippians Paul referenced his own state of mind as an unsaved Pharisee. Before
trusting Christ, he believed himself blameless and possessing righteousness from the law (Phil. 3:6). As
Paul discovered after personal faith in Christ as Savior, man‘s righteousness is an illusion.
The true source of righteousness is God. God‘s righteousness originates with Him and cannot be
produced through human effort. Therefore, it is righteousness apart from the law. As Paul said in verse 20,
the law can never be a source of righteousness for people, because we are by nature and choice
lawbreakers. God knew our helpless position in regard to the law and revealed His righteousness through
His Son Jesus Christ, the ―Righteous One‖ (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14). Jesus did what no other human being
has done. He was born of a virgin and was not tainted by Adam‘s sinful nature. He lived a life of perfect
obedience to the Father. Jesus Christ is righteous and the source of God‘s righteousness for sinners.
Attested by the Law and the Prophets indicates the entire Old Testament pointed to the necessity of
obtaining righteousness by faith and never taught a righteousness through obedience to the law. Even
today, some are confused as to how people before the birth of Christ were saved. They wrongly assume
that Old Testament saints were saved by observing the law; however, before the time of Christ people
were saved by faith not works.
22 —that is, God‘s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no
distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
25 God presented Him as propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness,
because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.
26 God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous
and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.
Key Words: Justified (v. 24)—This forensic or legal term declares a person forgiven of all sins and
righteous before God on the basis of Jesus‘ work on the cross. Propitiation (v. 25)—The basic meaning of
the word is to appease anger. It refers to Jesus‘ satisfying of God‘s wrath against the sinner who has
personally trusted Jesus Christ for salvation.
God‘s righteousness does not come by observing the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is not a
work. The essence of faith is belief and trust. Faith is only as good as the thing or person it trusts. I may
have faith a bridge is secure, but if the bridge is defective, my faith will not save me from falling. If I put
my trust in someone to help me and that person fails, my faith is misplaced and ineffective. Our faith in
Jesus Christ saves because He is the Son of God. His death on the cross provided all that we need for
salvation. He will never fail to save anyone who trusts in Him. Faith in anyone or anything else for
salvation will disappoint, because God‘s righteousness only comes through faith in Jesus Christ (John
Salvation is for all who believe. There is no distinction between Jew or Gentile. All are by nature the
fallen, sinful descendants of Adam. Every person must come to God by way of the cross of Jesus Christ.
No one has an advantage before God, and none can boast since salvation is by God‘s grace through faith
in Jesus Christ.
Verse 23 has become one of the best known and most quoted verses in the Bible. Paul‘s summary of the
universal sinfulness of humanity has been used to lead countless people to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Only those who know their need of forgiveness can ask for salvation. Sin caused a loss of fellowship
between God and Adam in the garden of Eden. Adam‘s sinfulness resulted in spiritual separation or death.
Later in Romans, Paul would explain how Adam‘s sin resulted in spiritual death for all his descendants
(5:12-21; sometimes referred to as the doctrine of original sin). Here Paul simply stated the condition of
all humanity: we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The phrase not only points to individual
acts but a spiritual condition of lostness and separation from God. Falling short of God‘s glory refers to the
moral deficiency of people who fail to obey God and submit to His will. People have developed many
different cultures and customs in the history of the world, but we all share the common problem of sin.
Verse 24 employs some of the most important vocabulary in the Bible concerning salvation. Paul
declared no one will be justified by the law (3:20). The verb translated are justified is a forensic or legal
term. This is a declaration by a judge, in this case God, who pronounces sentence in a court of judgment.
No one can successfully obtain justification before God on the basis of their observance of the law.
Justification occurs only through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior at the moment we receive Him as
Savior. At that moment, we receive God‘s righteousness. We do not become righteous, but we are declared
righteous. The distinction is important. We are not the source of righteousness; we are the recipients of
righteousness. The righteousness we obtain is Christ‘s righteousness. We obtain Jesus‘ righteousness freely
by His grace. Salvation is a free gift! If we worked for it, it would be considered a wage, not a gift. Grace
refers to God‘s unmerited favor and emphasizes the absence of anything in us that would merit the gift of
salvation. People sometimes raise the issue of fairness regarding salvation, asking, ―Why aren‘t all people
saved?‖ or ―Why do some get to hear the gospel and others do not?‖ Such questions are misdirected. The
real question is ―Why does God save anyone?‖ The mystery is God‘s love and mercy that reaches down to
all, who are completely unworthy of salvation.
Salvation is a free gift, but it was purchased at an infinite price. The price was the redemption that is in
Christ Jesus. God could not simply forgive sin and pretend sin never occurred. His righteousness and
holiness would not allow such an unjust act. The basic meaning of redemption involves the payment of a
price to free someone or something. A beautiful picture of redemption is found in the Old Testament love
story of Boaz and Ruth. Boaz acted as a kinsman-redeemer and freed his deceased relative Mahlon from
the disgrace of childlessness (Ruth 4:1-12). God chose the vocabulary of redemption to describe His intent
to free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (Ex. 6:6). Paul used the imagery of redemption to describe how
Jesus freed sinners by paying the price for our salvation. The price of our sin could only be paid by the
substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The blood sacrifices of bulls and goats could not take
away sins (Heb. 10:4). All of the sacrifices under the Law of Moses were shadows of reality (v. 1) and
could only point to the singular sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus‘ blood paid our debt and freed us
from the condemnation we justly deserve. Now we are justified in God‘s sight and the barrier to
fellowship is removed. The redemption of sinners also implies ownership by God and the obligation of
those who are saved to obey God (1 Cor. 6:20).
Paul introduced another important term describing the benefit of Jesus‘ death on the cross—
propitiation. The Greek noun occurs only twice in the New Testament. The other occurrence is Hebrews
9:5 where it refers to the ―mercy seat‖ or lid of the ark of the covenant. The lid of the ark of the covenant
played a prominent role in Israel‘s worship. On the Day of Atonement, the blood of a goat was sprinkled
on and in front of the mercy seat to atone for the sins of Israel in the previous year (Lev. 16). The basic
meaning of the Greek root is to appease anger. Some theologians reject the idea of an angry God as
primitive and prefer to translate the word as expiation (covering over), referring to the removal of sin
through the death of Christ. Propitiation focuses on God as the offended party whose anger against sin is
appeased through Christ‘s sacrifice. While both are true, the translation and concept of appeasement seems
best here. The concept of a holy God who responds to sin with righteous anger is biblical. Paul previously
referenced God‘s wrath in relationship to sin (Rom. 1:18). He declared in 1:18–3:20 all people under the
wrath of God as a result of their universal sinfulness. We have no reason to reject the idea of Jesus‘ death
appeasing God‘s wrath against sin by providing a sufficient sacrifice and payment for sin through faith in
Jesus‘ death on the cross demonstrated God‘s righteousness. As noted previously, God could not simply
ignore or dismiss the consequences of sin. Dismissal of punishment for sin would be unjust. Before the
sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God demonstrated restraint and passed over the sins previously
committed. He did this knowing that at the appointed time He would send His Son to pay the penalty for
sin. When Jesus died on the cross, His sacrificial atonement made possible the forgiveness of sinners
without violating the righteousness of God. The benefits of Christ‘s death were applied to those who were
saved by faith before His coming.
God demonstrated His righteousness by sending His Son in order that He might declare righteous the
one who has faith in Jesus. Paul‘s explanation of God‘s provision for our sins reveals the most incredible
event in history. God loves us, but our sin barred fellowship with Him. His righteousness demanded
punishment for our sins and aroused His righteous anger. God could have unleashed that anger on all
sinners, and He would have been justified in doing so. However, God‘s love and mercy devised a
singularly successful alternative. He would send His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and take our
punishment. Jesus would take our punishment and give us His righteousness. Never has there been a more
unequal exchange—His righteousness for our sin. We could do nothing to earn such a benefit; therefore, it
must be a gift.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary,
by a law of faith. 28 For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
Paul turned his attention again to his fellow Jews who believed they had an advantage in salvation because
of their position and possession of the law (2:17-20,23). Asking and answering his own question, Paul
excluded them from boasting of their special relationship to God. He denied there was any kind of law or
principle that would result in salvation by works. Only through the law of faith could they experience
justification and salvation.
Later in Romans Paul would deal with critics who accused him of criticizing the law. Paul would make
clear that the law is spiritual (7:14) but he, and all people, are unspiritual in their natural state. We can‘t be
saved on the basis of works because we are lawbreakers. God‘s standard is not a judgment weighing good
deeds against bad deeds. The standard is perfection, and no one except Jesus Christ meets the standard of
moral perfection. Only by faith in Him can we be justified, by faith apart from the works of the law.
People today are sometimes confused and overwhelmed by the many religions and philosophies they
find in the cultures of the modern world. Some might wonder if there might be more than one way to be
saved. They might feel that it would be necessary to examine every other religious system before
answering that question. There is no need to make such a comprehensive study. All other religions hold a
common premise regarding salvation. They all teach the necessity of effort in order to achieve salvation.
The thought of effort in achieving salvation appeals to the lost. Anything worth obtaining must be
acquired by sacrifice and effort according to their reasoning. This stumbling block prevents many from
accepting the truth of Christianity (1 Cor. 1:23). Christianity teaches salvation is impossible through
human effort. Our salvation does not result from our efforts no matter how intense they might be. God‘s
righteousness is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ‘s death on the cross for our sins.
Only when we yield all hope of achieving salvation through our works and rely entirely upon the
righteousness of Jesus can we be saved.
A second danger in misunderstanding the doctrine of justification by faith is the belief that works
somehow complete our faith and are necessary to secure our salvation. The doctrine of eternal security
teaches that we are justified by faith in Christ alone and no action of the true believer can nullify that
salvation. If there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, there can be nothing we can do to lose our
salvation. Critics often accuse those who believe in eternal security as teaching a license to sin. The
opposite is true. Receiving a new nature and salvation in Jesus Christ always results in transformation and
a desire to obey God. For the first time, good works appear from a new nature empowered by the Holy
Spirit. Individuals who make a false profession of faith will return to a life of sin because they were never
changed. Christians will occasionally fail but they persevere and progress in a process called
sanctification. The important principle to remember is that if salvation is by grace through faith in Christ
alone, there can be no requirement of good works to complete salvation. Such a salvation would not be by
faith apart from works of the law.
As a pastor for more than 35 years, I have seen many grow up in churches who fail to understand
the radical nature of salvation by grace through faith alone. Like the religious individuals Paul
encountered, they grow up in a moral environment believing their salvation is secured through baptism,
church attendance, tithing, and good works. They fail to embrace the true essence of the gospel. Without
repentance, they will face a surprising and devastating judgment before God. Be sure today of your
relationship with God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Live It Out: We don‘t have to wallow in self-pity or run for cover from God‘s wrath. We can place our
faith in Jesus Christ. The future isn‘t bleak for those who trust in the work of Christ; it‘s bright! Be
encouraged and consider one of these steps to apply what God has shown you in this session:
You can be free. Jesus bailed you out of bondage when He died on the cross. He cancelled your sins once
and for all. If you have never trusted in Christ as your Savior and Lord, do so now, and begin to
experience a right relationship with God. See the article, ―Reunited,‖ on page 2.
You are secure. Since you did not work to gain your salvation, you will not have to work to keep it. Read
Romans 8:37-39. Put something old, broken, or outdated in a place where you will see it every day.
When you are tempted to doubt your security in Christ, let that old stuff remind you to leave the past
You are not a show-off. Paul‘s warning about boasting is a reminder to us all. Make a list today of some
of the successes of your life. At the bottom of the list write the text from John 15:4-5. Thank Jesus
each day that nothing of value comes apart from your relationship with Him.
Justified—Paul frequently identified ―salvation‖ as ―justification.‖ The Greek verb dikaioo in Romans
3:34 typically means to declare someone righteous. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old
Testament, either God or a human judge could justify someone. A judge would justify someone by
declaring him/her innocent. This legal image reflects a courtroom scene in which a guilty person is
declared innocent because of God‘s action in and through Jesus. In traditional terms, because of
Jesus‘ sinless death, God treats us ―just-as-if‖ we were innocent.
Justification: The word justified in verse 24 comes from dikaioo, which means ―to justify‖ or ―to declare
righteous,‖ ―to render right‖ or ―just.‖ A judicial term, the word can be used to speak of human
relationships where one person is affirmed or declared to be in a proper relationship with another. In
Scripture it is used to refer to a person‘s relationship to God, with the one doing the justifying being
God Himself. God acts judicially and powerfully to bring about change in the human condition,
which has breached its relationship with Him in this life and for eternity. God‘s act of justifying is an
act of His grace that becomes efficacious in a person‘s life by faith.
Propitiation—This word and the concept behind it, comes from the religious sacrificial system. The
Greek word used in verse 25 (hilasterion) is found one other time in the New Testament. In Hebrews 9:5,
where it is translated ―mercy seat.‖ However, none of the primary contemporary English translations
render the word ―mercy seat‖ in Romans 3:25. Even so, the question is whether Paul used the word in
Romans 3:25 to refer to an appeasing sacrifice that satisfied God‘s wrath; an atoning sacrifice that
removes sin, or, figuratively speaking, to Jesus as the mercy seat, the place where the blood of the
sacrificial lamb—which in this case was Jesus‘ own blood—was sprinkled and where mercy is found.
God satisfied His wrath and demand for righteousness by giving Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. In Him is
mercy found, sin forgiven, and reconciliation available.
REDEEM, REDEMPTION, REDEEMER: To pay the required price to secure the release of a
convicted criminal, the process therein involved, and the person making the payment. In early use the
idea and the words related to legal and commercial activities. They provided biblical writers with one
of the most basic and dynamic images for describing God‘s saving activity toward mankind.
Old Testament: Three Hebrew words express the legal and commercial use of the redemptive
concept. Padah was used only in relation to the redemption of persons or other living beings. For
example, if a person owned an ox which was known to be dangerous but did not keep the ox secured
and the ox gored the son or daughter of a neighbor, both the ox and the owner would be stoned
to death. If, however, the father of the slain person offered to accept an amount of money, the owner
could pay the redemption price and live (Ex. 21:29-30; compare v. 32). Numbers 18:15-17 shows
how religious practice adopted such language.
The Hebrew ga'al indicated a redemption price in family members involving the responsibility of a nextof-kin. See Kinsman. God called Jeremiah to demonstrate his confidence in God‘s promise by going
out from Jerusalem to his ancestral village, Anathoth, and acting as next-of-kin to redeem or ransom
the family land by paying the redemption price for it (Jer. 32:6-15). Such commercial practices easily
passed over into religious concepts. God would redeem Israel from her iniquities.
The third Hebrew word kipper or ―cover‖ came to extensive use in strictly religious concepts and
practices. It is the word from which ―Kippur‖ is derived in ―Yom Kippur,‖ Day of Atonement, or Day
of Covering, perhaps the most sacred of the holy days in Judaism. The verbal form in the Old
Testament is always used in a religious sense such as the covering of sin or the making of atonement
for sin. See Atonement. The noun form, however, is sometimes used in the secular sense of a bribe
(Amos 5:12) or ransom (Ex. 21:30). In Psalm 49:7-8 it is used in the sense of ransom in association
with padah (redeem). In modern Hebrew, kipper is the word used for what the Yiddish cal the
The doctrine of redemption in the Old Testament is not derived from abstract philosophical thought but
from Hebrew concrete thinking. Religious redemption language grows out of the custom of buying
back something which formerly belonged to the purchaser but for some reason had passed into
the ownership of another. The original owner could regain ownership by paying a redemption price
for it. In the Old Testament the terms and ideas are frequently used symbolically to emphasize
dramatically the redemptive or saving activity of God. The basic Old Testament reference is
the Exodus. At the sea God redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt (for example, Ex.
6:6; 15:13; Deut. 7:8; Ps. 77:15).
God similarly redeemed Israel from the Babylonian captivity by giving Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba to
King Cyrus (Isa. 43:3; compare 48:20; 51:11; 62:12). Job knew that he had a living Redeemer (Job
19:25). Psalmists prayed for redemption from distress (26:11; 49:15) and testified to God‘s redeeming
work (31:5; 71:23; 107:2). The Old Testament witness is that God is ―my strength and my redeemer‖
New Testament: The New Testament centers redemption in Jesus Christ. He purchased the church with
His own blood (Acts 20:28), gave His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51), as the
Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11) and demonstrated the greatest love by
laying down His life for His friends (John 15:13). The purpose of Jesus in the world was to make a
deliberate sacrifice of Himself for human sin. He did something sinful people could not do for
themselves. He brought hope to sinners, providing redemption from sin and fellowship with the
Eternal Father. As the Suffering Servant, His was a costly sacrifice, the shameful and agonizing death
of a Roman cross. New Testament redemption thus speaks of substitutionary sacrifice demonstrating
divine love and righteousness. It points to a new relationship to God, the dynamic of a new life, God‘s
leniency in the past, and the call for humility for the future.
In other ways and language the centrality of redemption through the death of Jesus Christ is expressed
throughout the New Testament from the Lamb of God who lifts up and carries away the sin of the
world (John 1:29) to the redeeming Lamb praised by a multitude because He was slain and by
His blood redeemed unto God‘s people of every kindred, tongue, and nation (Rev. 5:8-14).
BLOOD: Blood has great significance in the Bible. Its meanings involve profound aspects of human life
and God‘s desire to transform human existence. Blood is intimately associated with physical life.
Blood and ―life‖ or ―living being‖ are closely associated. The Hebrews of Old Testament times were
prohibited from eating blood. ―Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and
thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as
water‖ (Deut. 12:23-24). For agricultural people, this command stressed the value of life.
Though death was ever-present, life was sacred. Life was not to be regarded cheaply.
Even when the Old Testament speaks of animal sacrifice and atonement, the sacredness of life is
emphasized. ―For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make
atonement for your souls for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul‖ (Lev. 17:11).
Perhaps because an animal life was given up (and animals were a vital part of a person‘s property),
this action taken before God indicated how each person is estranged from God. In giving what was of
great value, the person offering the sacrifice showed that reconciliation with God involved life—the
basic element of human existence. How giving up an animal life brought about redemption and
reconciliation is not clear. What is clear is that atonement was costly. Only the New Testament could
show how costly it was.
Flesh and Blood: This phrase designates a human being. When Peter confessed that Jesus was
the Messiah, Jesus told Peter, ―Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is
in heaven‖ (Matt. 16:17). No human agent informed Peter; the Father Himself disclosed this truth.
When ―flesh and blood‖ is used of Jesus, it designates His whole person: ―He that eateth my flesh,
and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him‖ (John 6:56). The next verse shows that eating
―blood and flesh‖ is powerful metaphorical language for sharing in the life that Jesus bestows—―so
he that eateth me, even he shall live by me‖ (John 6:57).
When Paul used the phrase ―flesh and blood‖ in 1 Corinthians 15:50, he referred to sinful human
existence: ―flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.‖ The sinfulness of human beings
disqualifies them as inheritors of God‘s kingdom. In Galatians 1:16, Paul used ―flesh and blood‖ as a
synonym for human beings with whom he did not consult after his conversion. Paul said his gospel
came directly from God.
In Ephesians 6:12, Paul portrayed Christians in conflict—their wrestling is ―not against flesh and blood‖
but with higher, demonic powers, ―against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of
the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.‖ of course, Christians do meet
opposition to Christ and the gospel from other human beings, but behind all human opposition is a
demonic-Satanic opposition. Human beings choose to identify with moral evil.
We wrestle with the demonic leaders of moral revolt.
Finally, the phrase ―flesh and blood‖ sometimes designates human nature apart from moral evil. Jesus,
like other children of His people, was a partaker ―of flesh and blood‖ (Heb. 2:14). Because He did so,
He could die a unique, atoning death. He was fully human, yet more than human; He was both God
After the flood, God renewed the original command that Noah and his sons be fruitful and multiply (Gen.
9:1). They were not to eat the flesh with its life, that means the blood (Gen. 9:4). Then murder is
forbidden (Gen. 9:5, 6). The reason is explained thus: ―Whoso sheddeth man‘s blood, by man shall
his blood be shed; for in the image of God made the man.‖ (Gen. 9:6). Since a murderer destroys one
made in God‘s image, murder is an attack upon God.
In Deuteronomy 21:1-9, we read of an elaborate ceremony by elders concerning a person murdered in the
fields near their city. They were to pray for the Lord‘s forgiveness by atonement: ―Be merciful, O
Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people
of Israel‘s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them‖ (Deut. 21:8; see v. 9). The victim is assumed
to be innocent, and the community is held responsible. A person who killed another accidentally had
six cities to which he could flee and there establish his innocence (Josh. 20:1-9). He had to flee
because the avenger of blood (the nearest of kin to the person murdered) was obligated to kill the
individual who had murdered his relative (Num. 35).
Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees of His day who would kill some of the ―prophets, and wise
men, and scribes‖ sent by Jesus (Matt. 23:34). This generation would be held accountable not only for
their own sins but for ―all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel
unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar‖ (Matt.
23:35; compare 2 Chron. 24:20-21).
When Pilate saw that justice was being distorted at the trial of Jesus, he washed his hands symbolically
and declared his own innocence: ―I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it [i.e.,
that‘s your affair]‖ (Matt. 27:24). The people replied naively, ―His blood be on us, and on our
children‖ (Matt. 27:25).
Blood of sacrifices, blood of the covenant: The great historic event of the Old Testament was
the Exodus from Egypt. Central to that event was the offering of a lamb from the sheep or from the
goats (Ex. 12:5). The blood of that lamb was put on the top and the two sides of the door frame (Ex.
12:7, 22-23). When the angel passed through, destroying the firstborn in Egypt, he would pass by
the houses in Israel‘s part of Egypt that were marked in this fashion. In terms of its redemptive
effects, none of the daily sacrifices made throughout the Old Testament (see Leviticus) were as
dramatic as the Passover sacrifice.
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Almost as dramatic as the Passover was the ceremony at the dedication of the covenant treaty at Sinai
between Yahweh and His covenant people, the Israelites (Ex. 24:1-8). Moses took the blood of oxen
and placed it in two bowls. Half of it he dashed upon the altar and half he dashed upon the people
(Ex. 24:6-8). Moses declared ―Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD hath made
(literally, cut) with you concerning [or in agreement with] all these words.‖ The people solemnly
promised to act in agreement with this covenant (Ex. 24:3, 7).
When Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant after His last Passover with the disciples, He declared: ―This
is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins‖ (Matt. 26:28).
Luke reads: ―This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you‖ (Luke
22:20). Testament means covenant here. Jesus, the God-man, gave up His life and experienced the
reality of death so that those who identify themselves with Jesus might experience His life and never
taste death as He did. He died as a sin-bearer that we might live for righteousness and become healed
(1 Pet. 2:24).
Blood of Christ—meaning and effects: The term ―blood of Christ‖ designates in the New Testament
the atoning death of Christ. Atonement refers to the basis and process by which estranged people
become at one with God (atonement = at-one-ment). When we identify with Jesus, we are no longer
at odds with God. The meaning of Christ‘s death is a great mystery. The New Testament seeks to
express this meaning in two ways: (1) in the language of sacrifice, and (2) in language pertaining to
the sphere of law. This sacrificial language and legal language provide helpful analogies. However,
the meaning of Christ‘s death is far more than an enlargement of animal sacrifices or a spiritualization
of legal transactions. Sometimes, both legal and sacrificial language are found together.
In the language of sacrifice we have ―expiation‖ (removal of sins, Romans 3:25); ―sprinkling of the blood
of Jesus‖ (1 Pet. 1:1-2); ―redeemed by precious blood as of a lamb without spot and without blemish‖
(1 Pet. 1:19); ―blood of His Son cleanses us from all sin‖ (1 John 1:7); ―blood that cleanses
the conscience‖ (Heb. 9:14); and ―blood of an eternal covenant‖ (Heb. 13:20). In legal language we
have ―justification‖ (Rom. 5:9); ―redemption‖ (Eph. 1:7); been redeemed to God by His blood (Rev.
5:9). Such metaphors show that only God could provide atonement; Jesus, the God-man was both
Priest and Offering, both Redeemer and the One intimately involved with the redeemed.
Blood is a symbol and indicator of apocalyptic judgment: In Acts 2:17-21, the apostle Peter
quotes Joel 2:28-32. Peter emphasized that the coming of the Spirit upon various groups was
accomplished in his day. The Spirit came upon Jew and Gentile (all flesh), sons and daughters,
younger men and older men, and upon men-servants and maid-servants. Peter urged his audience to
respond by calling upon the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21). Although Peter also quoted Joel 2:30-31
(Acts 2:19-20), he did not develop the apocalyptic theme of judgment when the age to come breaks
forth into this age. The text of Joel that Peter quoted in Acts speaks of ―wonders in heaven above,
and signs in the earth beneath—blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke‖ (Acts 2:19; compare Joel 2:30).
In the next verse (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20), the sun is pictured turning into darkness and the moon into
blood before the great day of the Lord comes.
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Here the term ―blood‖ describes the physical changes both in the heavens and upon earth. Even the
balance of nature will reflect God‘s hand of judgment as Christ takes up His reign. Nature off balance
reflects the disharmony between human beings and God. The bloody red color symbolizes this.
PASSOVER: The first of the three annual festivals was the Passover. It commemorated the final plague
on Egypt when the firstborn of the Egyptians died and the Israelites were spared because of the blood
smeared on their door posts (Ex. 12:11, 21, 27, 43, 48). Passover took place on the fourteenth day (at
evening) of the first month (Lev. 23:5). The animal (lamb or kid) to be slain was selected on the tenth
day of the month (Ex. 12:3) and slaughtered on the fourteenth day and then eaten (Deut. 16:7). None
of the animal was to be left over on the following morning (Ex. 34:25). The uncircumcised and the
hired servant were not permitted to eat the sacrifice (Ex. 12:45-49).
The Passover was also called the feast of unleavened bread (Ex. 23:15; Deut. 16:16) because only
unleavened bread was eaten during the seven days immediately following Passover (Ex. 12:15-20;
13:6-8; Deut. 16:3-8). Unleavened bread reflected the fact that the people had no time to put leaven in
their bread before their hasty departure from Egypt. It was also apparently connected to the barley
harvest (Lev. 23:4-14). Later references in the Bible to the observance of the Passover are found in
Joshua 5:10-12 (the plains of Jericho near Gilgal), 2 Chronicles 30:1, 3, 13, 15 (during the reign of
Hezekiah); and 2 Kings 23:21-23 (Josiah‘s unique Passover).
During New Testament times large crowds gathered in Jerusalem to observe this annual celebration. Jesus
was crucified during the Passover event. He and His disciples ate a Passover meal together on the eve
of His death. During this meal Jesus said, ―This is my body,‖ and ―this cup is the new testament in my
blood‖ (Luke 22:7, 19-20). The New Testament identifies Christ with the Passover sacrifice: ―For
even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us‖ (1 Cor. 5:7).
RIGHTEOUSNESS: The actions and positive results of a sound relationship within a local community or
between God and a person or His people. Translators have employed ―righteousness‖ in rendering
several biblical words into English: sedaqah, sedeq, in Hebrew; and dikaiosune and euthutes in Greek.
―Righteousness‖ in the original languages denotes far more than in English usage; indeed, biblical
righteousness is generally at odds with current English usage. We understand righteousness to mean
―uprightness‖ in the sense of ―adherence or conformity to an established norm.‖ In biblical usage
righteousness is rooted in covenants and relationships. For biblical authors, righteousness is the
fulfillment of the terms of a covenant between God and humanity or between humans in the full range
of human relationships.
Old Testament: The starting point is the Hebrew notion of God‘s ―righteousness.‖ The Hebrew mind did
not understand righteousness to be an attribute of the divine, that is a characteristic of God‘s nature.
Rather, God‘s righteousness is what God does in fulfillment of the terms of the covenant that God
established with the chosen people, Israel (2 Chron. 12:6; Ps. 7:9; Jer. 9:24; Dan. 9:14). God‘s
righteousness was not a metaphysical property but that dimension of the divine experienced by those
within the covenant community.
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Most especially, God‘s righteousness was understood in relation to the image of God as the Judge of created
order (Ps. 96:13). God‘s judgments are consistently redemptive in nature, God‘s judgments protected,
delivered, and restored Israel (Isa. 11:4-5). At times God‘s righteousness was experienced in God‘s
delivering Israel from enemies and oppressors (Ps. 71); at other times, in God‘s delivering Israel from
the nation‘s own sinfulness (Ps. 51:19). Such deliverance involved God‘s righteousness of wrath against
the persecutor and the wicked (Ps. 106). Salvation and condemnation exist together as the two sides of
God‘s righteousness; the leading side is always deliverance: God condemns only because He also saves
Righteousness is a religious concept applied to humans because Israel had entered into a covenant
relationship to God. Because God had chosen Israel, the nation had the covenant responsibility of
fulfilling the terms of the covenant. Precisely here, serious misunderstanding frequently flaws thought
about Israel‘s desire for righteousness. The Old Testament did not call on the people of Israel to attempt
to earn God‘s favor or to strive to merit God‘s graces (Ps. 18). Indeed, the Old Testament teaches that
God‘s gracious favor had been poured out on the nation in God‘s choosing of Abraham and his
descendants. God acted to establish the covenant and in so doing bestowed salvation on Israel (Ex. 19).
The law was given as an act of divine mercy to provide Israel with guidelines for keeping the nation‘s
own portion of the covenant (Lev. 16; Ps. 40). Rather than being a ladder that Israel climbed to get to
God, the law was understood to be a divine program for the maintenance of a healthy relationship
between Israel and God (Lev. 16). God expected Israel to keep the law not to earn merit but to maintain
the status God had already given the nation. As Israel kept the covenant law, the nation was righteous.
Thus human righteousness in relation to God was understood as faithful adherence to the law (Lev. 19).
Even so, God did not leave humans with the hopelessly impossible task of performing the law perfectly:
the law God gave contained provision for atonement through repentance and appropriate acts of
contrition (Lev. 19).
The concept of righteousness as faithful fulfillment of the provisions of a covenant was also meaningful in
strictly human terms. The person who met the demands of a variety of social relations was thought to be
righteous, to have done righteousness, though the requirements of righteousness varied with the
covenant/relational context. Some of the prominent areas were those of family (Gen. 38), friendship (1
Sam. 24), nation (Prov. 14:34), and even in relation to servants and certain foreigners (Job 31).
New Testament: Greek philosophy understood righteousness to be one of the cardinal virtues, but New
Testament authors show that they understood the word in terms of Old Testament thinking about
covenant relations. Human righteousness in the New Testament is absolute faith in and commitment to
God (Matt. 3:15; Rom. 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). The one who in faith gives oneself to the doing of God‘s will is
righteous, doing righteousness, and reckoned righteous by God (Jas. 2:23). The focus of faith in God is
the saving activity of God in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). The human-to-human dimension of
righteousness observed in the Old Testament is present in New Testament thought (Phil. 1:3-11), but it
seems less prominent, perhaps because of the importance of the New Testament concept of love.
At the heart of New Testament thinking about righteousness is the notion of God‘s righteousness (Matt.
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6:33; Acts 17:31; Rom. 1:17; Eph. 4:24; Jas. 1:20). Interpreters debate whether the phrase
―righteousness of God‖ is a subjective genitive, meaning, ―God is righteous,‖ or an objective genitive,
meaning, ―God gives righteousness.‖
This grammatical distinction is more than a point about subtle linguistic nuance. In the New Testament,
especially in Paul‘s letters, ―the righteousness of God‖ is the key to understanding the salvation of
Interpreters who take ―the righteousness of God‖ to mean ―God gives righteousness‖ see salvation as a
God-created human possibility. Righteousness is that which God requires of humanity and which God
gives as a gift to the person of faith. In this line of thought, faith is the condition for the reception of the
gift of righteousness from God. God acts in Christ, and, in turn, humans react by having faith. Then
God gives them righteousness or reckons them, on the basis of their faith, as if they were righteous.
On the other hand, interpreters who understand ―the righteousness of God‖ to mean, ―God is righteous‖
contend that salvation is purely the work of God, God‘s saving activity in keeping the divine side of
the covenant of creation. God acts in Christ, and part of that action is the creation of faith on the part of
human beings who otherwise have no faith. Thus ―the righteousness of God‖ is the power of God at
work saving humanity (and the whole of creation), through the creation of faith in sinful persons.
The line between the camps of scholars holding these different interpretations of ―the righteousness of God‖
is sharply drawn, and the debate over the validity of these interpretive options continues with intensity.
EXPIATION, PROPITIATION (Ex pee ay' shuhn; Proh pih tee ay' shuhn): Terms used by Christian
theologians in attempts to define and explain the meaning of Christ‘s death on the cross as it relates to
God and to believers. Expiation emphasizes the removal of guilt through a payment of the penalty,
while propitiation emphasizes the appeasement or averting of God‘s wrath and justice. Both words are
related to reconciliation, since it is through Christ‘s death on the cross for our sins that we are
reconciled to a God of holy love (Rom. 5:9-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Col. 1:19-23).
Biblical Vocabulary: The point of difference in interpretation for theologians has centered on the Greek
word hilasmos in 1 John 2:2; 4:10. A look at various translations show the distinctions here:
―propitiation‖ (KJV, NASB); ―expiation‖ (RSV); ―atoning sacrifice for our sins‖ (NIV, NRSV, compare
REB); ―means by which our sins are forgiven‖ (TEV). Related Greek words occur in Matthew
16:22; Luke 18:13; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 8:12; 9:5. KJV uses various translations of these
words: ―be merciful,‖ ―make reconciliation,‖ ―to be a propitiation,‖ ―the mercy-seat,‖ ―be it far from
thee,‖ ―I will be merciful.‖
In Greek writings hilasmos refers to soothing the anger of the gods. In the Septuagint, the earliest Greek
translation of the Old Testament, hilasmos appears in Leviticus 25:9 in the expression, ―day of
atonement‖; in Psalm 130:4 to confess that there is ―forgiveness‖ with God; in Numbers 5:8 in the
expression the ―ram of the atonement‖; and in Ezekiel 44:27 as a ―sin-offering.‖ Daniel 9:9 uses the
plural form to speak of ―forgivenesses‖ which are a character trait of God.
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Some scholars interpret these Old Testament references to mean that God has acted as the subject to cover
and forgive sins. He has removed the uncleanness or defilement of sin. Other scholars see God as the
object receiving the offering for sin which then in some sense pacifies His anger and meets His holy
need for justice. In the New Testament setting, this would mean that on the cross Jesus either dealt with
the evil nature of human sin and covered it so that God forgives it, or it means that Jesus satisfied God‘s
holy anger and justice so that forgiven sinners could freely enter the presence of the holy God. Some
scholars would see both ideas present in the word hilasmos, so that God in grace initiated the sacrifice
of Jesus to provide covering and forgiveness for human sin but that He also received the sacrifice which
satisfied His anger and justice.
The background of the idea is the Old Testament sacrificial system. The whole system sought to procure
God‘s favor through obediently following ways He commanded. God promised to show His mercy after
His faithful people followed certain ritual requirements. These included the burnt offering (Lev. 1:3-17),
the peace offering (3:1-17), the sin offering (4:1-5:13), and the guilt offering (5:15-6:6). None of these
dealt with ―defiant sins‖ (Num. 15:20-31), only with ―sin through ignorance‖ (Lev. 4:2). The high point
of the sacrificial cult was the annual day of atonement when the sins of the people were laid on
a scapegoat by the high priest and the sin-laden animal was then driven into the wilderness to perish
(Lev. 16:1-34). Such a system could easily forget its basis in God‘s grace shown in the Exodus and in
His commands providing the system. Then sacrifice could quickly be viewed as a mechanical way
to forgiveness. When this happened, the prophets of the Old Testament frequently protested against the
externalism of the priestly cult of sacrifice, saying much more effect came through a humble heart, the
sacrifice of repentance (Ps. 51:17; Isa. 1:10-20; Jer. 6:20; Hos. 6:6; Joel 2:13; Mic. 6:6-8).
In the Old Testament, the note of grace is clearly present. God did not simply wait for His people to bring
before Him the appropriate sacrifices. He took the initiative in specifying which sacrifices would be
needed. When Abraham showed willingness to sacrifice Isaac, God Himself supplied the adequate
substitute offering (Gen. 22:1-19). The Old Testament repeats its promise that God remains gracious
even in our sinning, that He stands ready to forgive even before we are ready to repent (Pss. 78:2128; 89:28-34; Isa. 65:1-2; Jer. 31:1-3, 31-34; Hos. 6:1-2). God expects people both to repent of sin and
to commit themselves to obey His covenant.
The New Testament shows how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament system of sacrifices and thus replaced it
with His own work on the cross. The Old Testament system could not purify the consciences of those
who offered them (Heb. 8:7, 13; 10:1-4). In their stead, God provided a perfect Sacrifice, that of His
own Son. This sacrifice is eternal, not provisional; it is sufficient to cover or expiate all human sin, not
just specific sins (Heb. 7:26-28; 9:25-26). The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary restored the broken
relationship between God and His people and did not need to be repeated. He made reconciliation
available to all people in all times. Such reconciliation involves a change both in God‘s attitude toward
us and in our attitude toward God. The cross of Calvary was God‘s eternal plan to deal with human sin
so that John could describe Jesus as the ―Lamb slain from the foundation of the world‖ (Rev. 13:8). God
chose to forgive us before the sacrifice was enacted in history, but His forgiveness could not reach us
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until this sacrifice took place.
To understand the need for propitiation and for expiation, we have to remind ourselves that the God of the
Bible is both holy and loving. His holiness means that sin cannot be condoned. His love signifies that
the sinner can be accepted if the claims of divine holiness are recognized. The atoning sacrifice
of Christ both satisfies the demands of His holy law and demonstrates His boundless love, the love that
goes beyond the law. God was not waiting to be appeased (as in the pagan, Greek conception). Rather,
God condescended to meet us on our level to remedy the situation. He provided the sacrificial offering
that expiates human sin and makes reconciliation possible. Both Old and the New Testaments proclaim
that only God‘s grace opens the door to salvation. All ritual requirements for sacrifice in the Old
Testament are replaced by the sacrifice of the cross, which wipes away the record of our debts to God
(Col. 2:14; Heb. 10:14-18). The only sacrifices now required of the Christian are those of praise
and thanksgiving, which take the form of worship in spirit and in truth and the obedience of discipleship
(Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:5). God calls us to demonstrate our gratefulness for His selfsacrifice by leading lives of holiness, lives that give the world a sign and witness of God‘s great love for
us shown in Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, the doctrine of the atonement includes both the dimensions of propitiation—averting
the wrath of God—and expiation—taking away or covering over human guilt. By the expiration of
human guilt, the wrath of God is turned away, the holiness of God is satisfied. Yet it is God who in the
person of His Son performs the sacrifice of expiation. It is God who in the person of His Son swallows
up evil within Himself through vicarious identification with the sin of His people. A sacrifice was
necessary to satisfy the demands of His law, but God Himself provided the Sacrifice out of His
incomparable love. What human ritual offerings could not do, God has done once for all by giving up
His Son for the sins of the whole human race.
ATONEMENT (uh tohne' mehnt): Atonement, meaning reconciliation, was associated with
sacrificial offerings to remove the effects of sin and in the New Testament, refers specifically to the
reconciliation between God and humanity effected by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Old Testament: Primarily in the Old Testament, atonement refers to the process God established whereby
humans could make an offering to God to restore fellowship with God. Such offerings, including both
live and dead animals, incense, and money, were required to remove the bad effects of human sin.
The only fast day stipulated in the Mosaic law was the annual day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), observed on
the tenth day of Tishri (September-October) at the conclusion of ten days of penitence. The day of
Atonement was the only day of the year that the priest entered the holy of holies to make sin offerings
for himself, his family, and the ―assembly of Israel.‖ After making these offerings, the nation‘s sins
were symbolically laid on the scapegoat ―Azazel‖ that was released into the wilderness to die.
While atonement in the Old Testament most frequently refers to humans offering sacrifices to God for their
wrongdoing, several references are made to God making atonement. In Psalm 78:38, the Hebrew for
―atoned for‖ is used where the KJV translates ―forgave‖ as is also true in Deuteronomy 21:8. Because
God ―atones for‖ or ―covers‖ human sin, atonement is best understood as expiation, that is removing the
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barrier that sin creates rather than propitiation or appeasing an angry God, though both views of
atonement continue to be taught by Bible students.
New Testament: The New Testament rarely uses a word for atonement. The basic Greek word
is katallasso, usually translated ―to reconcile,‖ and the corresponding noun, katallage, meaning
―reconciliation.‖ The basic meaning is to establish friendship. This is used in human relationships in 1
Corinthians 7:11, referring to the restoration of relationship between an estranged husband and
wife. Paul used the term in reference to Christ‘s work of salvation in Romans 5:10-11; 11:15; 2
Corinthians 5:18-20. The Greek term hilaskomai, ―to forgive‖ or ―show mercy‖ along with the
nouns hilasmos, ―means of forgiveness,‖ and hilasterion, ―means or place of forgiveness‖ are the
important words in the discussion of expiation and propitiation. They occur in Luke 18:13; Romans
3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 9:5; 1 John 2:2; 4:10.
Atonement and the Cross: The focal point of God‘s atoning work is Christ‘s death on the cross. Paul wrote
that ―when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son‖ (Rom. 5:10). These
words not only define the meaning of atonement, they reveal the heart of the gospel as well.
The primacy of the cross is emphasized throughout the New Testament. At the beginning of His
ministry, Jesus was identified as ―the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world‖ (John 1:29).
The purpose of His coming was ―to give his life a ransom for many‖ (Mark 10:45). He explained
His death in terms of the ―blood of the new testament, which is shed for many‖ (Mark 14:24).
The relation of the cross to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Christian preaching (Acts
2:21; 3:6, 19; 4:13; 5:31; 8:35; 10:43). Paul proclaimed that ―Christ died for our sins‖(1 Cor. 15:3), that
He was a ―propitiation‖ (Rom. 3:25 KJV; ―sacrifice of atonement,‖ NRSV, NIV; ―expiation,‖ RSV),
that He became ―a curse for us‖ (Gal. 3:13), and that those ―who sometimes were far off are made nigh
by the blood of Christ‖ (Eph. 2:13). Furthermore, ―Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many‖
(Heb. 9:28) and has become ―a new and living way‖ (Heb. 10:20) into God‘s presence. He is the one
who ―bare our sins in his own body on the tree‖ (1 Pet. 2:24).
Though atonement is focused in the cross, the New Testament makes clear that Christ‘s death is the climax
of His perfect obedience. He ―became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross‖ (Phil. 2:8).
―Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which He suffered‖ (Heb. 5:8). Romans
5:12-19 contrasts Christ‘s obedience with Adam‘s disobedience. His sinless obedience qualified Him to
be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (Heb. 6:8-10).
Furthermore, the New Testament interprets the cross in light of the resurrection. ―At-one-ment‖ is the
achievement of Christ crucified and risen. So important is this emphasis that Paul affirms, ―and if Christ
be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins‖ (1 Cor. 15:17).
The Necessity of Atonement: The necessity for Christ‘s atoning work is occasioned by the breach in the
relationship between the Creator and the creature. This breach is the result of humanity‘s sinful
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rebellion. ―But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have
hid his face from you, that he will not hear‖ (Isa. 59:2). Thus, in their unreconciled state people are
God‘s ―enemies‖ (Rom. 5:10), have ―enmity against God‖ (Rom. 8:7), and have ―no hope‖ (Eph. 2:12).
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile in this respect, ―for all have sinned and come short of
the glory of God‖ (Rom. 3:23).
The Origin of Atonement: The atonement for sin provided by Christ‘s death had its origin in divine love.
No other reason can explain why ―God reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ‖ (2 Cor. 5:18). The
anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that ―God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son‖ (John 3:16; see 1 John 4:9-10). This does not mean that God loves us because Christ died
for us. Rather, Christ died for us because God loves us. Thus, ―God commendeth his love toward us, in
that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us‖ (Rom. 5:8). Because atonement issues from love, it
is always seen as a divine gift, never as human achievement.
Yet, divine love is not sentimental or merely emotional. It is a righteous love which blazes out against all
that opposes God‘s will. The New Testament affirms that ―God is love‖ (1 John 4:8); it also affirms that
―our God is a consuming fire‖ (Heb. 12:29). Thus, the cross is simultaneously a manifestation of God‘s
will to save and of His wrath against sin.
Atonement: Representation and Substitution: In His atoning work Christ is both representative and
substitute. As representative, Christ acted on behalf of His race. An example of representation is Paul‘s
contrast between Adam and Christ (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:45-49). Adam and Christ represent two
heads of two races of people. Adam is the head of the race of fallen persons. Sin and death came into
the world through him. Because of our fallenness, all people belong to Adam‘s race, the old humanity.
Christ, the last Adam, represents a new race of people. These are the people who have been saved from sin.
Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Those who belong to Christ through faith belong to the
new humanity He created (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:14-22).
As substitute, Christ acted in our place. Whereas representation emphasizes Christ‘s relation to the race,
substitution stresses His relation to the individual. He experienced as substitute the suffering and death
each person deserved. Substitution is implied in such references as 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1
In thinking of Christ as substitute, however, His oneness with the Father must be emphasized. Christ is not a
third party who comes between God and humanity to absorb all the punishment God can inflict.
Substitution means that in Christ, God Himself bears the consequences of human sin. God reconciles
people at great cost to Himself, not at cost to a third party.
Images of Atonement: To describe the meaning of atonement New Testament writers used images drawn
from different areas of experience. Each image says something important about the cross. No one
image, however, is adequate by itself. Each image needs the others to produce the whole picture.
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1. Atonement and ransom. Ransom is an image drawn from ancient economic life. The picture is a
slave market or prison. People are in bondage and cannot free themselves. Someone comes and pays the
price (provides the ransom) to redeem those in captivity.
The New Testament emphasizes both the fact of deliverance and the ransom price. Jesus said that He came
―to give his life a ransom for many‖ (Mark 10:45). Paul wrote, ―ye are not your own; For ye are bought
with a price‖ (1 Cor. 6:19-20; compare 7:23). Peter declared that ―ye were not redeemed with
corruptible things, as silver and gold,... But with the precious blood of Christ‖ (1 Peter 1:18-19a). The
main idea in this imagery is rescue from bondage through the costly self-giving of Jesus.
2. Atonement and victory. In this imagery, Satan, the head of evil forces and archenemy of God,
has humanity in his power. Christ is the Warrior of God who enters the battle, defeats the devil, and
This conflict motif pervades the gospels (Matt. 4:1-11; 12:28; Mark 3:27; John 12:31). The warfare
between Jesus and Satan was real. Yet, divine victory was so certain that Jesus could say in anticipation,
―I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven‖ (Luke 10:18).
Victory imagery is also prominent in the epistles. ―For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he
might destroy the works of the devil‖ (1 John 3:8). Christ came so ―that through death he might destroy
him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all
their lifetime subject to bondage‖ (Heb. 2:14-15). That Christ triumphed is clear: ―and having
spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it‖ (Col.
3. Atonement and sacrifice. Not surprisingly, the atoning power of Christ‘s death is often expressed in terms
drawn from Old Testament sacrificial practices. Thus, Christ‘s death is called a ―sacrifice for sins‖
(Heb. 10:12) and a ―sacrifice to God‖ (Eph. 5:2). Christ is variously identified with the Passover lamb
(1 Cor. 5:7), the sacrifice which initiates the new covenant (Luke 22:20), and the sin offering (Heb.
Sacrificial imagery is another way of expressing the costliness of Christ‘s atoning work. It is a continual
reminder that divine love has assumed the shape of the cross (Gal. 2:20). Furthermore, sacrifice
witnesses to the effectiveness of Christ‘s death. Through it, sin is forgiven (Eph. 1:7), and
the conscience is cleansed (Heb. 9:14).
4. Atonement and glory. In much of the New Testament the glorification of Jesus is associated with
His resurrection and ascension. John‘s Gospel shifts perspective. The whole life and work of Jesus is a
revelation of divine glory. This glorification climaxes in Jesus‘ death on the cross (John 12:2324; 13:31-32).
Consistent with this theme is the emphasis on the cross as ―lifting up.‖ This verb has the double meaning of
―to lift up on a cross‖ and ―to exalt.‖ The meanings are combined in John‘s Gospel. ― ‗and I, if I be
lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.‘ This he said, signifying what death he should die.‖
(John 12:32-33; compare 3:14; 8:28). The meaning is not that Jesus was glorified as a reward for His
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death. Rather it means that divine glory was revealed in the death He died for sins.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:
The Law And The Prophets
By Steve W. Lemke, provost and professor of philosophy and ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological
Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana, and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and
editor of The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.
―THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS‖ is a phrase used in the New Testament to describe most of the Old
Testament.1 The phrase ―the law and the prophets‖ or near equivalent phrases occur four times in
Matthew; five times in Luke; once in John; three times in Acts; and in Paul‘s writings only once, in
First-century Judaism divided the Old Testament into the three sections Jesus mentioned in Luke 24:44; the
law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms. The law consisted of the first five books of the Old
Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch. The prophets included both the ―former prophets‖; the
historical books Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; and the ―latter prophets,‖ which we know as the
major and minor prophets. The third division, called the ―writings,‖ consisted of the books of poetry,
Psalms, Chronicles, and Hebrew literature.
In the New Testament, the Hebrew word torah was translated by the Greek word nomos. Nomos often
refers to the entire Old Testament. For instance, in John 10:34 and 15:25 Jesus referred to predictions in
the ―law,‖ although they were found in Psalms 82:6 and 35:19. Paul referred to ―the law‖ in 1
Corinthians 14:21 while quoting from Isaiah 28:11-12. Since nomos also could refer specifically to the
law of Moses or even more narrowly to the Ten Commandments, the phrase ―the law and the prophets‖
helped clarify that one was referring to the Old Testament works which had been accepted as Scripture.
Jesus often summarized the Old Testament Scriptures with the phrase ―the law and the prophets.‖ He taught
in the Sermon on the Mount that He had not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill
them (Matt. 5:17). Jesus summarized the law and the prophets with the Golden Rule (7:12) and with
the commandment to love both God and neighbors (22:36-40).
First-century Judaism was divided over the question of whether the three major divisions of the Old
Testament were inspired equally. The Pharisees believed in the divine inspiration of all three divisions
of the Old Testament, as well as the oral tradition of the rabbis (Mishnah) based on these Scriptures.
The Sadducees emphasized the divine inspiration of the Torah alone. They held that the authority of the
other two divisions and the rabbinical tradition was derived directly from the law.
The Hebrew word for law, torah, originally referred to any instruction from God. After the reception of the
law of Moses, torah came to refer most specifically to the Ten Commandments, but also to the
Pentateuch in general, and even at times to the whole Old Testament. The later Jewish writers Philo (ca.
20 BC—AD 50) and Josephus (AD 37—ca. 100) used torah as a generic term to describe the complete
Old Testament Scriptures.
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The Jews took the law much more seriously than the Greek world. Unlike Egyptian wisdom and Greek
philosophy, the Mosaic law was seen as being derived directly from God. Mosaic law had a force and
authority that was absent from the law in the Hellenistic world.
During and after the Babylonian exile, the law became the focal point of the Jewish faith. Before the exile,
the law had been seen as the requirement for continued fellowship with God. After the exile, the law
came to be regarded as the requirement to establish a relationship with God. God‘s covenant initiative
was downplayed; human initiative was underscored.
As respect for the law increased, respect for the prophets and poetic writings proportionately decreased.
The other Old Testament writings were viewed as extensions of the Torah. The Torah became
normative for the prophets and the writings of poetry. The Jews believed that nothing in these other
divisions truly was unique; everything in them was present at least germinally in the Torah. Many of
the rabbis thought that all prophecy ended with Malachi.
Jesus shared the respect that first-century Judaism had for the Torah. Jesus was reared according to the law
(Luke 2:21-30,39,41). He emphasized the importance of the law in His teaching and thought of
Himself as fulfilling its true meaning rather than challenging its authority (Matt. 5:17-20).
Unlike many of the rabbis of His day, however, Jesus did not ascribe more authority to the Old Testament
law than to the prophets and Psalms (Luke 24:44). He rejected the authority of the rabbinical tradition
which went far beyond the law (Mark 7:1-9). The scribes often criticized Jesus for disregarding the
teachings of tradition concerning such issues as ceremonial cleansing (vv. 1-5), fellowship with sinners
(2:15-17), fasting (vv. 18-22), and observing the Sabbath (vv. 23:28).
Jesus demonstrated in His teaching that His appreciation of the law was more profound even than that of the
rabbis of his day. Jesus upheld the law as an unconditional standard (Matt. 5:17-20), while the rabbis
used their oral tradition to find loopholes and put limitations of the law (Mark 7:9-13). Jesus obeyed
not just the letter of the law, as did the scribes and Pharisees, but also its spirit (Matt. 5:21-48). Jesus
was concerned with keeping the law not only with the legalistic detail of the Pharisees, but also with the
attitude of the heart (Mark 7:14-23).
In the Jerusalem Council (Act 15:1-20), the early church sought to apply to life what Jesus had taught about
the law. Many converted Jews continued to keep the law, but for a different reason—not to earn God‘s
favor but to maintain a witness to their fellow Jews. The Jerusalem Council agreed to fellowship with
Gentile Christians who did not keep the law, but they asked the Gentile Christians to avoid several
matters that would blatantly offend the law-honoring Jews.
The apostle Paul, the great theologian of the New Testament church, was taught strict adherence to the
Torah in his Jewish upbringing (Acts 22:1-4; Gal. 1:13-14; Phil. 3:4-6). When he encountered the risen
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Christ, however, he came to see the law in a new way. While Paul affirmed the verdict of the law, he
found the law to be ineffective in overcoming sin. The law could condemn, but could not save (Rom.
3:20-23). The law kills, but the Spirit brings new life (Rom. 7:9; 8:1-4; 2 Cor. 3:6).
Paul realized that trying to achieve perfection through the law was doomed to frustration and failure. Since
salvation never would come through one‘s righteousness, it must come only through the righteousness
on Christ (Rom. 3:21-22). Christ was thus the end of the law (10:4). For Paul ―it is only the man who
is ‗in Christ‘ who can keep the law, not with any thought of works-righteousness, but rather out of
gratitude and in the liberty of one set free to love and obey.‖2 Only the righteousness of Christ can truly
fulfill ―the law and the prophets‖ (3:21)!
Righteousness In Pauline Thought
By Joe Beckler, church planter and resort minister in Durango, Colorado.
that honored the complete story of Scripture, reaching all the way back to the roots of Judaism.
ENVISION WRITING A LETTER to people you have never met. That was the apostle Paul‘s challenge
when writing to believers in Rome. He was writing an audience he knew only through others‘ words.
Certainly, he wondered what he should write to this gathering of believers in ancient Rome.
Paul, in this epistle to the Roman church, offered a brilliant explanation of the Christian faith. In a world of
varying religious viewpoints, Paul wrote the Book of Romans with a clear mandate to clarify exactly
what happened in the historical life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Roots in Judaism
Paul‘s words in Romans show a journey of understanding. As a devoted Jew of the highest degree, Paul
had to reconcile what happened in his life before and after he met Jesus. As a Pharisee, his spiritual
journey was most certainly connected to a vibrant religious heritage. Because of Jesus, Paul‘s theology,
including his understanding of ―righteousness,‖ had changed.
In the Book of Romans, ―righteous‖ is a prevailing theme. Paul offered an explanation of righteousness that
honored the complete story of Scripture, reaching all the way back to the roots of Judaism. He wanted
followers of Jesus to understand how righteousness, as related to the work of Jesus, completed the
story. Jesus‘ work was not an awkward interruption. Rather, it was an act of fulfillment. The Roman
church, Paul‘s target audience for this epistle, was likely a mix of Jews and Gentiles.1
To Jewish recipients of this letter, Paul wanted to show how the righteousness that Jesus graced upon
believers was not in contradiction to the story of God‘s work with Israel. At the same time, as an
apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was writing to show how Jesus brought Jews and Gentiles together through
one gospel message.
Righteousness is a word with many meanings. ―You are so self-righteous!‖ for example, suggests piety and
that someone thinks he/she is morally or spiritually better than others. Sometimes the term separates
people into categories of ―good‖ and ―bad.‖ Paul‘s use of ―righteousness,‖ on the other hand, was far
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from any self-generated sense of piety. Instead, he understood the word in terms of his Hebrew heritage
in the midst of the Greco-Roman world. In Paul‘s day, people held competing understandings of what
righteousness meant. The same is true today. Through the centuries, Christian theologians have had a
long-continued debate over the theological understanding of righteousness.2
In the New Testament dikaiosune is the Greek word meaning righteousness. Generally, dikaiosune means:
God‘s requirements, that which is considered right, uprightness, righteousness, justice, making
something right, putting something or someone in right relationship, religious duties, as well as
Dikaiosune has its root in the word dike, which refers to justice and punishment. For the Greeks, Dike was
the name of the goddess of justice. The New Testament writers used the term four times, generally
referring to punishment and justice (Acts 25:15; 28:4; 2 Thess. 1:9; Jude 1:7).4
Paul‘s understanding of righteousness would have been filtered through his Jewish lineage heritage, an
understanding that went back to the patriarchs. In Genesis 15:6, God credited Abram with
righteousness (Hebrew, tsedaqah). Righteousness in the Hebrew understanding carried parallel
meaning to that of the Greek, focusing on ―what is right, just, normal.‖5
The Greeks viewed righteousness in a Platonic ideal sense. It was the standard against which a person
measured himself. In a sense, righteousness referred to the perfect model of what was right, fair, and
virtuous. In contrast, the Hebrew understanding of righteousness was relational. Righteousness came
as a result of meeting obligations in a relationship.6 God was in relationship with the people of Israel.
To keep the law meant they remained righteous (or in right standing) with respect to their relationship
Judaism honored the law. To keep the law was to fulfill one‘s obligation, resulting in a state of
righteousness before God. The dilemma, as Paul explained, was that the law could never be maintained
(Rom. 3:21-26). All fell short of God‘s ideal. Thus, Paul was not simply concerned with his readers
maintaining a proper understanding of Judaism and righteousness. He wanted to show how the
expectations had changed through Jesus, who had brought about a revolutionary fulfillment in
understanding righteousness. As Paul wrote, ―Apart from the law, God‘s righteousness has been
revealed‖ (v. 21, HCSB).
Paul, combating those who wanted to morph Jesus‘ way back into the folds of Judaism, knew he needed to
show the uniqueness of Jesus in relationship to righteousness. To do this, Paul reached lack into the
origins of his Jewish story, referring to Abram, as mentioned above.7 Being Israel‘s patriarch, Abram
was alive before God gave Moses the law. As Paul pointed out, God credited Abram as righteous (or in
right standing) as a result of simply believing. Abram‘s faith in God was enough. God bestowed
righteousness (tsedaqah). Abram did not earn this. It was a gift.
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Revealed in Jesus
Paul wanted his audience to understand that God‘s righteous standards had not changed. However, human
ability to merit this ―right standing‖ was impossible. The human sin condition merited death (6:23).
Something had to be done. A gift of righteousness, bestowed by God onto people, was essential. Jesus
was the gift of righteousness. Anyone trusting Jesus, God credited as righteous!
The beauty of Paul‘s description of righteousness is that it clarifies who can truly make someone righteous
(dikaios). It is exclusively an act of God. Being made righteous is God‘s work in a person‘s life. This
righteousness dominates the life of a Jesus follower, because God‘s righteousness is not under human
control. Bestowed by God, righteousness is worked out in the life of a believer who submits himself or
herself to Jesus.8 Paul used the metaphor of slavery to emphasize the work of God‘s righteousness in a
believer (6:18). He explained that a follower of Jesus is ―enslaved to righteousness.‖ Using the image
of slavery, Paul creatively introduced the reality of Christian freedom. The believer, when enslaved to
God, is purchased for freedom!9 As a slave to righteousness, Paul explained God emancipates the
believer. The Lord redeems the believer, resulting in eternal life.10
If you meditate on Paul‘s life, you see a man radically transformed because of a personal encounter with
Jesus. Paul, who once struggled to achieve righteousness according to the law, wrote that such merit
was rubbish compared to knowing Jesus (Phil. 3:2-9). Writing to believers in Rome, Paul wanted
Christians to know that the righteousness he embraced was God‘s gift. He was a slave, enslaved to
God‘s work of righteousness within his own life. The same is true for us. Both Abram and Paul were
credited with righteousness, because of faith. Likewise, Jesus invites us to trust in Him in the same way
and be make righteous by God‘s power alone!
“REDEMPTION” A Word Study
By Paul N. Jackson, Associate professor of Christian Studies, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee.
THIS YEAR OUR NATION celebrates its 229th year of independence – freedom from the shackles of
servitude and bondage to England. This celebration of liberation causes me to think of the day I
received Christ and was delivered from the crushing sentence of sin. I was a 12-year-oldboy at the
Venetian Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia in 1968. Also as I wrote this article, I was preparing a
message about the most dramatic biblical example of liberation – the one Saul of Tarsus experienced on
the Damascus road. That day Jesus unexpectedly intercepted the murderous fanatic and transformed
him into a unwavering herald of the gospel he once tried to destroy. America‘s independence in 1776,
my conversion at age 12, and Paul‘s Damascus road encounter are examples of redemption experiences.
Paul‘s conversion event gripped him so deeply that some 20 years later to the church at Rome he devoted an
entire letter to explain God‘s redemptive work.1 In this letter we find the word under consideration for
this article – ―redemption.‖ What was the origin of the word?
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Redemption in the Old Testament
The theological idea of redemption – of an entity being redeemed – has a rich heritage. Old Testament
writers described property, animals, persons, and the nation that were all redeemed (or ―bought back‖)
by the payment of a price. The concept of a no-cost redemption would have been completely alien to
the people of Israel. Boaz and Jeremiah, for example, played the role of ―kinsman redeemer‖ involving
the ―buying back‖ of property (Lev. 25:25-28; Ruth 3 – 4; Jer. 32:6-8). Even though all the first-born
males of all livestock belonged to God, the Old Testament made provisions for buying back donkeys
and unclean animals (ex. 13:13; Num. 18:14-17).
This privilege of redemption extended also to individual Israelites. Each Israelite had to pay a ransom for
his life at the time of the national census. Firstborn sons had to be redeemed because they belonged to
god since the first Passover when the death angel ―passed over‖ the homes where the lamb‘s blood was
sprinkled on the doorposts (Num. 3:40-51). As another example of redemption, a man would be put to
death for his out-of-control bull goring a neighbor to death, unless an acceptable fine was paid to the
dead man‘s family to redeem the owner‘s life (Ex. 6:6; Isa. 43:1-4). The exodus event established an
important theological foundation for believers‘ later understanding of Jesus‘ ministry, death, and
Redemption in the New Testament
In the New Testament the idea of ―redemption‖ moves from the material to the spiritual realm. Luke linked
two ―redeeming‖ events – the Old Testament exodus story that described Moses delivering the Israelites
from physical bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt and the New Testament exodus story of Jesus delivering
humanity from spiritual bondage to sin and Satan through His death on the cross. Luke 9:28-36 records
that Jesus had a conversation on the mount of transfiguration with Moses and Elijah concerning His
death. The Greek word underlying and referring to Jesus‘ coming death translated as ―departure‖ in
verse 31 (NIV) is exodus. In this sense, Jesus functioned as a ―second Moses‖ who redeemed from
death to life those who believed in Him. Later Luke recorded Jesus‘ promise of believers‘ redemption
―drawing near‖ (21:28, NIV).
Basically, the word ―redemption‖ in Romans 3:24 is a term that emerged from the slave world and meant
―liberation through payment of a price.‖2 In the second and first centuries B.C., ―redemption‖ often
referred to the ―ransoming‖ of prisoners of war, slaves, and condemned criminals. Paul thus presented
―Christ‘s death as a ‗ransom,‘ a ‗payment‘ that takes the place of the penalty for sins ‗owed‘ to God by
all people of God.‖3 Jesus said, ―for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to
give his life as a ransom for many‖ (Mark 10:45, NIV, italics mine).
Jesus‘ death is foundational for all redemption talk in the New Testament. Humans are in spiritual captivity,
and the only way we can be freed or redeemed is if a price is paid for us. This redemption required
nothing less that the death of the Messiah.
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Romans 3:19-26 is embedded in a section of Paul‘s letter in which the apostle unpacked the characteristics
of the gospel of God‘s grace. Some Christians consider the Romans 3 text the most important passage
the apostle worte.4 After Paul in verse 23 proclaimed the whole world, whether Jew or Gentile, guilty
before God because of sin, he used a legal term ―justified‖ (v. 24) to paint a picture of a courtroom in
which God, the judge, pronounces the guilty sinner innocent. How can this be? Why do the guilty go
free? Paul indicated the mode of being made right with God as ―freely by his grace,‖ and then followed
that with the phrase ―through the redemption.‖ These phrases help explain the costly means by which
this acquitting verdict is made possible.
While the Old Testament described people redeemed from serious social situations such as debt, captivity,
slavery, exile, and potential death sentences, Jesus redeemed us from the greatest threat of all – sin and
spiritual death. Not only did He deliver us from our sins and the curse of the law, but He also rescued
us from all the ill effects of the fall. In addition, an already/not yet aspect applies to redemption. All of
God‘s people are waiting for the ―day of redemption‖ when we will be made perfect. This includes our
bodies and the whole groaning creation (Rom. 8:18-23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30). While we are in these
temporal, eroding bodies, the Holy Spirit within us is the seal, guarantee, and firstfruits of our final
We have been redeemed from sin and its lethal effects. The cost was Christ‘s blood (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The
writer of Hebrews echoed the same idea in saying that Jesus ―entered the Most Holy Place once for all .
. . by his own blood, Having obtained eternal redemption‖ (Heb. 9:12, NIV). In Romans 3:24-25, Paul
directly connected this redemption to the blood of Christ.
Christ‘s redemption carries a final yet huge practical implication for believers. Christ has undeniable rights
over His purchase. We belong to Him. Jesus has absolute lordship over the church and each Christian.
Paul reminded the elders in Ephesus that their pastoral care of the church would be carried out with the
utmost seriousness because Jesus purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
Because of the huge price Christ paid to buy us back through His death on the cross, we must exercise
discipline and self-control by not becoming slaves to anything or anybody on this earth, Paul
emphasized that fact to the Corinthian Christians by offering a twofold reason why they should not
engage in sexual immorality: 1) ―Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is
in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own‖: 2) ―You were bought at a price. Therefore
honor God with your body‖ (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The reality of our costly redemption prohibits this type
of immoral behavior.
Fireworks can mark the celebration of our country‘s political freedom. But the fireworks fade as the
celebration passes. The cross, however, remains as the enduring symbol of spiritual freedom, where
Christ paid our penalty and we were redeemed by His all-sufficient sacrifice.
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