How many times have you said something like this, “I am justified (in/of having done something) because…” Or, maybe you have been quick to quote verse 23, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” in response to someone while leaving out the most important verse 24. As is often the case, quoting the Bible is a tricky thing you know. There is nothing wrong with memorizing Bible verses but it is important to understand context.
The key to today’s passage is not primarily about sin or the law but, as is often the case with the Bible, today’s passage is about God. God’s action. God as the Justifier. In seminary we read a few sermons by the 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards. One, in particular, is on Romans 3:19 and titled, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners”. Now there’s a title sure to get some attention. Edwards preaches the contrast of our sin against the holiness of God and, in short, to sin against God is a terrible crime deserving infinite punishment. Infinite as in eternal.
Edwards’ sermon concludes with the following thoughts: “I will finish what I have to say to natural men in the application of this doctrine, with a caution not to improve the doctrine to discouragement. For though it would be righteous in God for ever to cast you off, and destroy you, yet it would also be just in God to save you, in and through Christ, who has made complete satisfaction for all sin. Romans 3:25, 26. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Yea, God may, through this Mediator, not only justly, but honourably, show you mercy. The blood of Christ is so precious, that it is fully sufficient to pay the debt you have contracted, and perfectly to vindicate the Divine Majesty from all the dishonour cast upon it, by these many great sins of yours that have been mentioned. It was as great, and indeed a much greater thing, for Christ to die, than it would have been for you and all mankind to have burnt in hell to all eternity. Of such dignity and excellency is Christ in the eyes of God, that, seeing he has suffered so much for poor sinners, God is willing to be at peace with them, however vile and unworthy they have been, and on how many accounts soever the punishment would be just. So that you need not be at all discouraged from seeking mercy, for there is enough in Christ.” (Source: http://www.jonathan-edwards.org/Justice.html)
Devotional Thought: The question Paul is trying to answer is this, “How can a holy God be just if he pardons guilty sinners?” The answer is simple yet ultimately troublesome for us humans who want to be in control – we celebrated the answer just a week ago…Jesus’ sacrificial death is what satisfied God’s wrath showing God’s justice in justifying sinners who have faith in Jesus. Justification by grace through faith in Jesus!