Romans 3:25 MEANING

Romans 3:25
(25, 26) The death of Christ had a twofold object or final cause:--(1) It was to be, like the sacrifices of the old covenant, an offering propitiatory to God, and actualised in the believer through faith. (2) It was to demonstrate the righteousness of God by showing that sin would entail punishment, though it might not be punished in the person of the sinner. The apparent absence of any adequate retribution for the sins of past ages made it necessary that by one conspicuous instance it should be shown that this was in no sense due to an ignoring of the true nature of sin. The retributive justice of God was all the time unimpaired. The death of Christ served for its vindication, at the same time that a way to escape from its consequences was opened out through the justification of the believer.

Precisely in what sense the punishment of our sins fell upon Christ, and in what sense the justice of God was vindicated by its so falling, is another point which we are not able to determine. Nothing, we may be sure, can be involved which is in ultimate conflict with morality. At the same time, we see that under the ordinary government of God, the innocent suffer for the guilty, and there may be some sort of transference of this analogy into the transcendental sphere. Both the natural and the supernatural government of God are schemes "imperfectly comprehended." In any case, Christ was innocent, and Christ suffered. On any theory there is a connection between His death and human sin. What connection, is a question to which, perhaps, only a partial answer can be given. Some weighty remarks on this subject will be found in Butler's Analogy of Religion, Part II., Romans 5 (latter part).

(25) Hath set forth.--Rather, set forth, publicly exhibited, in the single act of the death upon the cross.

A propitiation.--The Greek word properly means "that which renders propitious." Here, "that which renders God propitious." In some way, which is not explained at all in this passage, and imperfectly explained elsewhere, the death of Christ did act so as to render God "propitious" towards men. He became more ready to pardon as they became more anxious to be pardoned.

There is a remarkable use of the same Greek word in the LXX. version of the Old Testament to express the mercy-seat, i.e., the lid or covering of the ark which was sprinkled by the high priest with the blood of the victim on the Day of Atonement. Some have thought that there is a reference to this here. Christ is the mercy-seat of the New Covenant. It is upon Him, as it were, that the divine grace, drawn forth by His own atoning blood, resides. It would hardly be a conclusive objection to this view that, according to it, Christ would be represented as at once the victim whose blood is sprinkled and the covering of the ark on which it is sprinkled; for a similar double reference certainly occurs in Hebrews 9:11-12, where Christ is typified at one and the same time both by the victim whose blood is shed and by the high priest by whom it is offered. There seem to be, however, on the whole, reasons for supplying rather the idea of "sacrifice," which is more entirely in keeping with the context, and is especially supported by the two phrases, "whom God hath set forth (i.e., exhibited publicly, whereas the ark was confined to the secrecy of the Holy of Holies), and "in His blood." We should translate, therefore, a propitiatory or expiatory (sacrifice).

Through faith.--Faith is the causa apprehendens by which the proffered pardon takes effect upon the soul of the believer.

In his blood.--On the whole, it seems best not to join these words with "through faith," but to refer them to the main word of the sentence. "Whom God set forth by the shedding of His blood to be a propitiatory offering through faith." It was in the shedding of the blood that the essence of the atonement exhibited upon the cross consisted. No doubt other portions of the life of Christ led up to this one; but this was the culminating act in it, viewed as an atonement.

3:21-26 Must guilty man remain under wrath? Is the wound for ever incurable? No; blessed be God, there is another way laid open for us. This is the righteousness of God; righteousness of his ordaining, and providing, and accepting. It is by that faith which has Jesus Christ for its object; an anointed Saviour, so Jesus Christ signifies. Justifying faith respects Christ as a Saviour, in all his three anointed offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King; trusting in him, accepting him, and cleaving to him: in all these, Jews and Gentiles are alike welcome to God through Christ. There is no difference, his righteousness is upon all that believe; not only offered to them, but put upon them as a crown, as a robe. It is free grace, mere mercy; there is nothing in us to deserve such favours. It comes freely unto us, but Christ bought it, and paid the price. And faith has special regard to the blood of Christ, as that which made the atonement. God, in all this, declares his righteousness. It is plain that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. And it would not agree with his justice to demand the debt, when the Surety has paid it, and he has accepted that payment in full satisfaction.Whom God had set forth to be a propitiation,.... Redemption by Christ is here further explained, by his being "a propitiation": which word may design either Christ the propitiator, the author of peace and reconciliation; or the propitiatory sacrifice, by which he is so; and both in allusion to the mercy seat, which was a type of him as such. The apostle here uses the same word, which the Septuagint often render "the mercy seat", by; and Philo the Jew calls it by the same name, and says it was a symbol, "of the propitious power of God" (b). Christ is the propitiation to God for sin; which must be understood of his making satisfaction to divine justice, for the sins of his people; these were imputed to him, and being found on him, the law and justice of God made demands on him for them; which he answered to satisfaction, by his obedience and sacrifice; and which, as it could not be done by any other, nor in any other way, is expressed by "reconciliation", and "atonement": whence God may be said to be pacified, or made propitious; not but that he always loved his people, and never hated them; nor is there, nor can there be any change in God, from hatred to love, any more than from love to hatred: Christ has not, by his sacrifice and death, procured the love and favour of God, but has removed the obstructions which lay in the way of love's appearing and breaking forth; there was, a law broken, and justice provoked, which were to be attended to, and Christ by his sacrifice has satisfied both; so that neither the wrath of God, nor any of the effects of it, can fall upon the persons Christ is the propitiation for, even according to justice itself; so that it is not love, but justice that is made propitious: for this is all owing to the grace and goodness of God, who "hath set him forth", for this intent, in his eternal purposes and decrees; in the promises of the Old Testament, in the types, shadows, and sacrifices of the old law; by the exhibition of him in our nature, and in the ministration of the Gospel; and this is said to be

through faith in his blood. The "blood" of Christ is that, by which Christ is the propitiation; for without the shedding of that blood, there is no redemption, no peace, no reconciliation, or remission of sin; and "faith" in his blood is the means by which persons become partakers of the benefits of his propitiation; such as peace, pardon, atonement, justification, and adoption: and the end of Christ's being set forth as a propitiation, on the part of God's people, is,

for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: by "sins that are past", are meant, not sins before baptism, nor the sins of a man's life only, but the sins of Old Testament saints, who lived before the incarnation of Christ, and the oblation of his sacrifice; and though this is not to be restrained to them only, for Christ's blood was shed for the remission of all his people's sins, past, present, and to come; yet the sins of the saints before the coming of Christ, seem to be particularly designed; which shows the insufficiency of legal sacrifices, sets forth the efficacy of Christ's blood and sacrifice, demonstrates him to be a perfect Saviour, and gives us reason under the present dispensation to hope for pardon, since reconciliation is completely made: "remission" of sin does not design that weakness which sin has brought upon, and left in human nature, whereby it is so enfeebled, that it cannot help itself, and therefore Christ was set forth, and sent forth, to be a propitiation; but rather God's passing by, or overlooking sin, and not punishing for it, under the former dispensation; or else the forgiveness of it now, and redemption from it by the blood of Christ, "through the forbearance of God"; in deferring the execution of justice, till he sent his Son, and in expecting satisfaction of his Son; which shows the grace and goodness of God to his people, and the trust and confidence he put in his Son: the other end on the part of God, in setting forth Christ to be a propitiation, was

to declare his righteousness Psalm 22:31; meaning either the righteousness of Christ, which was before hid, but now manifested; or rather the righteousness of God the Father, his faithfulness in his promises relating to Christ, his grace and goodness in the mission of his Son, the holiness and purity of his nature, and his vindictive justice, in avenging sin in his own Son, as the surety of his people: the execution of this was threatened from the beginning; the types and sacrifices of the old law prefigured it; the prophecies of the Old Testament express it; and the sufferings and death of Christ openly declare it, since God spared not his own Son, but sheathed the sword of justice in him.

(b) Philo de Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 668.

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