Pastors Ponderings

I loved hearing the truth of Romans 3:21-26:

The righteousness of God is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

I love hearing what Paul says in verse 22 righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. That’s who I am: I am righteous; I am justified; I am declared and made right in the sight of God. I got through most of Monday before I lost the revelation and end up back in the place of being a slave to sin! Back in the world of attitudes and judgements and falling out with people. By Monday night I was again asking the question, ‘oh Lord what do you think when you look at me?’ 

Thank God the message of Romans 3 is that justification is based on the faithfulness of Jesus and thank God justification is more than a one-off event.

Paul describes in more detail how Jesus death on the cross works for us. The key word is in verse 25, which NIV translated ‘sacrifice of atonement’.  Many think because in secular Greek it means ‘propitiation’ (an act in which the wrath of God is turned away) that’s how it should be translated. But the sacrifice of atonement can refer to the ‘mercy seat’, part of the altar worship in the Jewish Temple.  Paul being a Jew, I think it’s more likely he’s thinking about this meaning of Temple and how God removes the sins of the people. So I’m going to go with that perspective.[1]

The mercy seat is the gold lid on the Ark of the Covenant. It has an angel at each end with their wings spread over, above the mercy seat.  The mercy seat is the space where God would appear. Now no Jew believed that God fitted into that tiny space. It’s symbolism.  The mercy seat is the throne of grace; it’s the holy of holies; it is the place where God’s presence is with humanity; the place where God visits us and the place He speaks from. And on the Day of Atonement, every year at the temple, the blood of an animal was sprinkled on the mercy seat as a sign that God would remove the sins of his people.

And Paul uses this picture to explain what Jesus’ death has done for us. God took care of people’s sin, of your sin and mine, not with the blood of an animal but through the blood of Jesus. It is Jesus’ blood, publicly displayed on a cross for all to see, that has poured out on the mercy seat. And when God presences Himself with His people and talks to His people the first thing God sees is the blood of Jesus that cleanses you from all sin. God looks from the mercy seat, through the blood of Jesus before He sees you. In Jesus, God forgives our sins. In Jesus instead of the wrath of God being revealed from heaven against humanity (which is what Paul tells us in Romans 1 is God’s just answer to our wrong choices), the mercy and grace of God is given.  How did God answer me when I said, ‘oh Lord what do you think when you look at me?’  He said, ‘I see Jesus.’ For as Romans says God sets things right and He also makes it possible for us to live in His rightness.

[1] Moo, D. J. (1994). Romans. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1129). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.