Romans 3.24-26



1.   Turn in your Bible to Romans chapter 3.  In just a moment we will stand to read a portion of Scripture that tells us why Jesus was so brutally crucified.

2.   My friends, today we consider a passage from God’s Word which is rightly considered to be the very central passage of Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians.  It is also a magnificent passage to show you what the Lord Jesus Christ provided for you with His doing and dying, the culmination of a task begun at the time of His birth.

3.   John Calvin, the great reformer, theologian, and founder of what has come down to us today to be the Reformed movement, declared about our text for today, “that there is not probably in the whole Bible a passage which sets forth more profoundly the righteousness of God in Christ.”[1]

4.   Frederic Louis Godet, the great European theologian, who was born in 1812, quotes a man named Vitringa, who commented about our text for today as being “the brief summary of divine wisdom.”[2]

5.   There are many other passages which explain certain aspects of the Biblical doctrine of salvation more fully and completely than do these verses which we will look at today.  But there are not, as best as I can discern, any comparable passages which summarize the whole of God’s truth about salvation as do the verses before us today.

6.   Leading up to today’s text, Paul has pointed out to the Romans that the righteousness of God which is by faith was predicted in the Old Testament.  That is, getting your sins forgiven through faith, and not religious good deeds, has always been God’s plan.  Leading up to today’s text, Paul has pointed out to the Romans that the righteousness of God which is by faith is needed by every sinner.  No one who is lost has any hope of getting his sins forgiven except by means of faith in Jesus Christ.

7.   In Romans 3.24-26, Paul tells us that the righteousness of God which is by faith has been provided.  Let us stand and read those three verses together.  Please read along silently in your Bible while I read aloud:

24     Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 

25     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;

26     To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”


8. Three important questions, and three important answers, before brother Isenberger comes again.


1A.   First, Question:  WHAT IS PROVIDED?  Answer:  JUSTIFICATION

“A forensic (legal) term related to the idea of acquittal, justification refers to the divine act whereby God makes humans, who are sinful and therefore worthy of condemnation, acceptable before a God who is holy and righteous.”[3]  To grossly oversimplify it, justification is what God does to get the sinner right with God.

Three of the features of justification can be seen here in verse 24:  “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

1B.    First, we see here the feature of obligation.

1C.   Please take note of the fact that those of you who are justified are justified by God “freely.”  See that word “freely?”

2C.   That same word is found in Ephesians 2.8, in another context, but is there translated “gift.”  “It is the gift of God,” referring in that verse to faith.

3C.   What is it, then, about this feature of obligation that needs to be pointed out?  That there is no obligation at all!  That God did not have to and does not have to justify anyone.  What He does He chooses to do, and what He does He does freely.

2B.    Second, we see here the feature of origin.

1C.   The verse continues, “Being justified freely by his grace.”  By whose grace?  The antecedent of the pronoun, the word previously used to which the word “his” refers, is found back in verse 23.  “God.”  This is God’s grace.

2C.   You are probably aware of the fact that “grace,” especially when the word is used in the New Testament in connection with salvation, refers to unmerited favor.  Well, this just reinforces the thrust of the previous phrase, “Being justified freely.”  That which is free is by grace, and that which is by grace is free.

3C.   This free justification, which God gives to those who do not deserve it, originates with God.  It was not your idea.  Nor was it mine.  God does not justify those who ask Him to, for then it would be the sinner’s idea.  But He does sometimes justify those who plead with Him, who, while they are pleading, know that He justifies freely, know that He has no obligation to save.

4C.   But since it is the result of “his grace,” we know that the origin of this thing called justification, this giving to sinful men the righteousness that is needed to know God, this acquitting of the guilty so they have the standing before God of innocence, is actually God, Himself.

3B.    Then, we see here the feature of opportunity.  What is the opportunity which allows this justification?

“. . . through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

1C.   This word “redemption” is a loaded word in the New Testament.  It refers to releasing or delivering someone or something as a result of paying a ransom.[4]  Indeed, the two Greek words that are combined to make this single word individually mean “from” and “ransom.”[5]

2C.   In Jesus Christ, then, sinners are delivered by the payment of a ransom price.  In Jesus Christ, sinners are set free by a ransom payment.  In Jesus Christ, I have been released.

3C.   And when you examine the context in which this whole matter of justification is set, it is obvious that Paul’s reference here is to being set free from sin.

4C.   What did God provide for you, Christian?  Without having to, quite freely as a result of His Own sovereign decision, God chose to bless an undeserving sinner and to give you the righteousness you need to know and to enjoy God. 

5C.   And what enabled God to do that which He chose to do?  That which He uses as opportunity to rightly and properly forgive your sins and give righteousness to you is His Son, Jesus Christ’s, payment of your ransom price.

6C.   And just how did Jesus Christ pay this ransom price?  We see that more clearly in the next verse, verse 25.



This word “propitiation” is a tough word.  It is a tough word to pronounce and it is a tough word to understand, because our society is far removed from that which Paul took for granted with his readers.  Paul’s Jewish Christian readers in Rome would have recognized this word as the word that was used throughout the Greek version of the Old Testament to refer to the mercy seat.  It was a golden lid atop the Ark of the Covenant, in the holiest place of the Temple, upon which the high priest had sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the Jewish Day of Atonement each year.

But I do not think Paul has the mercy seat in mind here, for three reasons:  First, in the Greek Old Testament it is always referred to as “the” mercy seat, yet the definite article “the” was not written here by Paul.  I think he did that for a reason.  Second, Paul’s letter to the Romans does not assume any detailed knowledge of Jewish sacrifices by his readers, as does the book of Hebrews, which would be necessary if “the mercy seat” in the Jewish holy of holies was what was being referred to here.  And third, remember that by the time Paul wrote Romans a significant number of the Roman Christians were Gentile Christians, who would tend to take the Greek word for “propitiation” in its more general sense, not in the restricted Jewish sense of the golden lid with the figures of two angels on it that covered the Ark of the Covenant.

In the general sense, and in this verse, the word “propitiation” refers to “that which serves to render . . . favorable.”[6]  Something happened which caused God, Who is very unfavorably disposed toward sin, and Who is very angry with sinners, to become favorably disposed toward some sinners.  That something that happened is bound up in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  That is what Paul is referring to here.  Notice three things about “propitiation,” about that which renders God favorable toward you, Christian.

1B.    First, it was purposed by God.

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation.”

1C.   “Whom,” of course, refers to the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must always keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is at the center of everything that has to do with salvation.

2C.   “Set forth” translates a single Greek word that can either mean “to purpose” or “to show forth publicly.”[7]  I am of the opinion that the context is in favor of the former meaning, “to purpose.”

3C.   This means that God decided, and when He decided He purposed, that the way He would provide the ground for your justification, the way in which He would satisfy His Own righteous demands that the penalty for the sinner’s sins be paid for, would be a way of His choosing.

4C.  No one came to God one day and said, “Would it be okay if Jesus became the propitiation for mankind’s sins?”  No.  That was God’s idea.  It was purposed by God.  John 1.12-13:  “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  So, Jesus, God decided, was to be a propitiation.  Jesus would be the satisfaction, if you will.

2B.    Next, we see that the benefit of this propitiation is procured, is secured if you will, by faith.

“. . . to be a propitiation through faith.”

1C.   This, of course, is what we expect to see here.  Since we know that no flesh is justified by works of the flesh or deeds of the Law, faith must be the means of appropriation.  The way a sinner gets what God has to offer is, and always has been, faith.

2C.   And since the benefit of this propitiation is righteousness, and since righteousness which is by faith is what Paul is talking about in this portion of Romans, it only makes sense that this propitiation which Jesus provides be through faith, as well.  In other words, a sinner gets what satisfies God from God by faith.  And what satisfies God?  What propitiates God?  Jesus.

3C.   Folks, there is just no way that good works and righteous deeds has ever had, or will ever have, anything to do with securing a relationship with God.  It must be a faith proposition, because it is only by faith that you get that which satisfies God.

3B.    Next, we see that this propitiation, this which satisfies God, is purchased by blood.

   “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.”

1C.   What is suggested by the phrase “in his blood?”  Folks, only those of us who are 2000 years removed from first century Rome would have difficulty understanding that this is a reference to a violent and bloody death.

2C.   You see, sin has so muddled people’s thinking that folks these days have a problem understanding that God’s sentence for anyone who sins against Him is death, and that a sinner’s eternal separation from God in the lake of fire will be an eternity of violent punishment.

3C.   In turn, so that He might purchase for you God’s favor, so that He might propitiate God, Jesus Christ suffered a violent and bloody death.  Christian, He actually endured what you and I personally deserve.

4C.   By His shameful and horrible death He satisfied God’s righteous and holy demands that our crimes of sin be punished.  That is how our justification was provided for; by the shed blood of the crucified One.



1B.    This was all done to declare God’s righteousness formerly.

Verse 25 concludes:  “. . . to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”

1C.   In Old Testament times God did not immediately deal with men’s sins and hold people accountable.  Why else would Jeremiah ask, “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?”[8]

2C.   The margin of your Bible may say that God “passed over” sins.  Not that God ever overlooked men’s sins in the past, but that He chose not to deal with them at that time.

3C.   Why did God not jump in and judge men’s sins immediately?  He was demonstrating “forbearance,” knowing that in due time Jesus Christ would satisfy His righteous demands by suffering and bleeding and dying on Calvary’s cross.  So, He waited.

4C.   This sacrifice of Jesus Christ, making justification possible for sinners who have faith in Christ, and providing for God the appropriate basis for forgiving sin, showed that God was not being unrighteous by “overlooking” sins in the past.  He was going to deal with sins; but not yet.

2B.    This was also done to declare God’s righteousness presently.

“To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness”

3B.    And finally, to declare God’s righteousness conclusively.

“. . . that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

1C.   God is just.  There is nothing in His character or in His nature that would allow, much less suggest, that God could ever be unjust, or do anything unjust.

2C.   Notice that the Just One is the justifier.  God is being entirely consistent with His just nature by justifying sinners.  There is nothing unjust in giving righteousness to you who place your faith in Jesus Christ.

3C.   Notice, also, that God does not give away righteousness and pretend that sins were never committed.  That would be unjust.  That God could never do.  Crime has been committed.  And “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”[9]

4C.   Therefore, justice demands that payment be made for sinning against the Holy One.  So, how can the Holy One be the One Who forgives and the One Who justifies and still be just?  When sin is punished.  When satisfaction has been made through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.



1.   Justification is needed.  Justification is how sinners acquire the righteousness which is required to be reconciled to God, and it is how sinners acquire the righteousness needed to have a relationship with God.

2.   But what makes justification possible?  Not what.  Who?  God.  It was His design.  It was His Son’s sacrifice which paid the price to set captive sinners free from sin and deliver them from God’s wrath.  And He did it in such a way as to proclaim that God is righteous.

3.   The only way God can ever or will ever allow anyone into heaven is by faith in Jesus Christ.  This is because Jesus was the One Who satisfied Him.  Nothing else and no one else has ever satisfied God’s demands that sinners be punished for their sin.  Only Jesus.

4.   So, those who go to Hell without Christ will spend all eternity being punished in an attempt to satisfy God for the crimes they have committed against Him.  But they will continually fail to satisfy God’s demands, meaning they will be in Hellfire for ever.

5.   But since you have fled to Jesus Christ, Christian, since you have come to Him by faith, the satisfaction which Jesus Christ has already made on the cross of Calvary is yours.

6.   And the question posed some 3,500 years ago by a man named Job, when he asked, “How should a man be just with God?” has been answered.[10]

7.   Some final comments after brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song.



1.   “How should a man be just with God?”  For thousands of years God held back His righteous and just retaliation against the sins that were committed against Him, forbearing to pour out His wrath on those who were justified by faith.

2.   But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son.  There, on Calvary’s cross, God unleashed all His pent up rage and righteous indignation against the sins committed against Him by His Own.

3.   In doing so, He demonstrated at that time that He is righteous, and that He is the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

4.   That being the case for those then and those now who believe in Jesus, what can you expect to happen to you, who do not believe in Jesus?  If the cross shows what God would do to His Own Son to demonstrate His righteousness, what will He do to you who reject His Son to demonstrate His righteousness?

5.   With the fury and wrath that has been pent up against you, He will suddenly and violently punish you, as He punished His Son.  “He that spared not his own Son.”[11]  But whereas the outpouring of wrath upon His Son was for a few hours, the outpouring of His wrath upon you will be for all eternity.

6.   Why must this be so?  Because God is just and He must demonstrate His justice, either by justifying that one who believes in Jesus, or by the endless punishment of what one who does not.

7.   Because of what is in store for you if you do not, I urge you to come to Jesus.  For this reason He was so brutally crucified.

[1] Quoted in Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary On Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications), page 150.

[2] Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary On Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications), page 150.

[3] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 69.

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 356.

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 105ff and 606.

[6] Godet, page 151.

[7] C. E. B. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: Commentary on Romans, (  :  , ), page 208.

[8] Jeremiah 12.1

[9] Ezekiel 18.4

[10] Job 9.2

[11] Romans 8.32

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