Sharon OPC, 2/16/14 AM
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
[See H. Hoeksema, Sermon #18, “Christ, the Demonstration of God’s Righteousness”]
In v. 22-23, Paul has just said, “There is no difference, 23 for all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
That’s the context of the verses we examine today. There’s no difference between Jews and Gentiles – there’s no difference between men of different stations in life – there’s no difference between those who receive God’s law through the manifestation of that law in the creation and those who receive it directly through the written Scriptures.
All have sinned. All miss the mark. So Paul says, “There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Now please understand: This doesn’t simply mean that they fall just a little short of reaching the glory of God. This doesn’t mean that they, in some small measure, attain to the glory of God, but still fall somewhat short. It’s not that all men miss the “bull’s eye” of the target, but that some men hit the inner rings and some hit the outer rings.
What it means is that the “bull’s eye” of the perfect glory of God is the only target men must aim for. Hitting this perfect, “bull’s eye” center is the only way to truly “hit the mark.” Paul’s point is that all men miss that mark. That
means that all men miss the target altogether, since none of them are “good
enough” to earn their way into heaven by their own works.
It doesn’t matter how close anyone comes to that target. Even if someone were to come as close as 1/100 of an inch to that target, they still missed, and that means they’re still doomed to eternal damnation because of their sin.
But the fact is, as Paul has just pointed out in the previous verses, no one even comes close to hitting that mark! All men are vile sinners, totally depraved and rotted corpses, by virtue or their own attempts at being righteous. All fall far short of the perfect glory of God. There’s absolutely no
difference among men in this respect. All their arrows entirely miss the
mark and fall to the depths of hell.
There’s only one way a man can be righteous enough to enter the Kingdom
of God, and that way is by God’s grace, through faith in the perfect
righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Now Paul goes on, in our text for today, to say that “25 God presented him [meaning Jesus Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”
God, in His grace and love to His elect people, “presented him,” presented Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, “as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”
Because we all missed the mark, God presented Christ to be sacrificed by
being put to death, in order to pay the penalty for sin that we all deserved.
Paul says, “He did this to demonstrate his justice.”
God presented His Son as a sacrifice in our place, in order that He might demonstrate His perfect justice.
You see, it wouldn’t have been just for God to forgive the sins of men and to declare men “just” in His sight, unless their sins had been fully dealt with first.
Would it be just for a judge today to declare a man, “not guilty,” if that man had stolen a million dollars and hadn’t paid it back?
Of course not! The only way for such a man to go from a “guilty” state to a “not guilty” state would be for someone else to pay that man’s penalty for him. God presented His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt we owed.
In so doing, God openly demonstrated that He is perfectly just and righteous when He “justifies” us wicked, ungodly sinners.
Paul explains it this way, “He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
Perhaps you’ve wondered, “How could God save Adam and give him eternal
life after he ate the forbidden fruit? For that matter, how could God save Moses, or David, or anyone who sinned in the OT? They were all guilty of sin. And the wages of sin is death – eternal death in Hell.”
God had said that Adam would “surely die” in the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was speaking about eternal,
spiritual death. And this death came upon all men who are descended from Adam. All of Adam’s seed are guilty sinners as well, because Adam was the “head” of the whole human race. When he sinned, we all sinned in him. We’re all born in sin. And to make matters worse, we all continue to sin ourselves as well, adding sin upon sin. So how could God be “just” if He declares any of these guilty sinners to be “not guilty? How could God be just if He were to grant eternal life to any sinner?”
The answer, says Paul, is that God presented Jesus Christ, “to demonstrate
Let’s look at the clear point of the text, “25 God presented him [Jesus Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He
did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
What’s the point that this text is making?
The point is not simply that Jesus is an atonement or a covering for our sins. That’s not the chief idea of the text. The idea of the text is expressed in that word, “demonstrate.” That’s what we must see as the emphasis in this text. And to make that point clear let’s ask a few questions.
In the first place, isn’t it possible for God to simply excuse the sinner and pardon him? Can’t God excuse the sinner in the same way, for example, that a governor or the President pardon a criminal today, even though he’s
But you say, “No, that’s impossible. God can’t simply excuse the sinner or
ignore his sin because God is holy and righteous. If God is to pardon sin, there has to be a basis upon which that pardon can rest. Otherwise it would be a complete injustice to pardon sin.”
And not only is it impossible for God to be just if He lets a guilty sinner get off Scott free, it’s also impossible for the guilty sinner to be made righteous that way. The sinner could never enjoy that pardon and have peace with it if it were an “unjust” pardon. The pardoned, but still guilty, criminal couldn’t be truly happy, because he’d still be carrying in his heart the testimony of a guilty conscience. He’d still know that he ought to be in prison. He’d still carry the testimony in his heart that the governor or President that unjustly pardoned him is unrighteous, since he violated true justice. And he’d still have to live with the testimony of those around him who knew that he ought to be in prison.
O.J. Simpson was found to be “not guilty” of murder by the court. Yet he still bears the reproach of those around him who believe that he committed a double murder and that he got off unjustly.
And so, even if God were to pardon a guilty sinner, the sinner still couldn’t be happy under those circumstances. Bluntly speaking, he’d have lost his
respect for God. In fact, he’d have lost his God entirely.
A sinner who was pardoned unjustly would still have the testimony of his own conscience that he ought to be punished. He’d still have the testimony in his
heart that God was unrighteous, because He wasn’t perfectly just. And he’d still bear the scorn of others around him who knew he ought to be punished.
No, excusing sin, or pardoning sin, in that sense, is utterly impossible on the part of a just and holy God. And such a pardon is an impossible way to happiness and peace on the part of the sinner. So it’s clear to all that a just God cannot simply excuse sin with no basis whatsoever for that pardon. A
man’s guilt can’t be taken away simply by sweeping it under the rug and
ignoring that it’s there.
But we can ask another question; and with that we come to the point in the text. “Would it be possible for God to establish a basis for the justification of His people?”
Suppose that God, for His own conscience, had provided a basis for justification in the very beginning of His creation. But suppose He hadn’t revealed it? Suppose He hadn’t explained this to anyone? Then sin would have been covered and the basis for righteousness would have been established. But mankind wouldn’t know anything about it. Would it have been possible for God so to provide a basis for declaring us righteousness and not say anything about it, so that we’d enter into glory as sort of a surprise, not knowing why? In other words, wouldn’t it have been possible for Christ to have been crucified in some far off, forgotten place of the world, while God said nothing about it? Is it possible that God could have established a basis of righteousness but not have made it known to anyone?
The text says that that also is impossible. The reason is that God must not only be righteous before His own conscience. But God must also be
righteous before the consciences of all rational creatures. God must demonstrate to all men that He’s righteous, so that, when He finally takes His people into glory, He can defend His righteousness before the whole world at that time. He can then show the whole world that He’s completely righteous when He takes His people into glory. And then the whole world will have to say that God is, indeed, righteous.
That’s why Christ is presented as a sacrifice in order to demonstrate God’s righteousness in pardoning guilty sinners.
Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross demonstrates to all men, publicly, that God is just and righteous in pardoning sinners. That’s why Christ wasn’t crucified in some forgotten part of the world. He was crucified in the center of the world. He was made a public spectacle for the whole world to see. And in the resurrection, God publicly demonstrated that Jesus Christ was the atonement and covering for our sins.
“25 God presented him [Jesus Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice.”
“He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
Christ’s “sacrifice of atonement” is the basis for God’s forgiving sinners. Someone had to take away the wrath of God. Someone had to appease the anger of God against our sins. Because Jesus Christ suffered the pain and agony that our sins deserved, in our place, He covered over our sins and appeased God’s wrath against us. Jesus’ sacrifice is the basis on which God could declare us “justified” and declare that our sins are “forgiven.”
We have to remember that God’s wrath is not some passing passion. God’s
wrath is the constant expression of His holy and righteous will with respect to
the sinner. And therefore God’s wrath can’t be appeased unless someone bears that wrath. God’s wrath against sin must be poured out. God cannot deny Himself. So His wrath must be poured out.
That’s why a sacrifice of atonement was necessary in order to appease God’s wrath completely.
Jesus Christ, God’s Son, intentionally, from the principle of love, was presented to receive the full wrath of God. This sacrifice of atonement had to be made by One Who loved God, and Who loved God’s wrath and totally agreed with God as being just and holy to punish sin. It had to be made by One Who loved to have God pour out that wrath upon sin. And it had to be made by One Who was able to bear that wrath to the full. That is true atonement, true covering over of sin.
That’s something that no sinner could do for himself. It’s impossible for any sinner to atone for his own sin and to appease God’s wrath against his own sin. It’s impossible for any sinner to completely satisfy the wrath of God to
the end. There is no end to God’s wrath against a sinner, outside of Jesus Christ, because such a sinner can bring nothing pleasing to God as a sacrifice of love. The position of the sinner, outside of Jesus Christ, is such that he only increases his sins every day.
The text says that God presented Christ to be a sacrifice of atonement. That means, in the first place, that God appeases His own anger. We don’t. We don’t appease God’s anger in the least. We don’t change God’s sentiment with relation to us His people in the least. But God provided for Himself a sacrifice which was able to completely cover the sins of His people. Christ’s sacrifice for sin truly covered our sins. When Christ died for the sins of His people, it was as if He dug a deep pit, deeper than the deepest ocean trench, and He buried our sins forever.
This public “demonstration” of God also implies that this atonement, this covering of sin, didn’t have its origin in time. It didn’t have its beginning in the cross. The cross is the demonstration of that taking away the wrath of God. God’s love and forgiveness of His people is from all eternity. God’s
sentiment with relation to His people has never changed. God’s covenant love for us is eternal. That’s why we read, in Revelation 13:8, of “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”
So God always loved his chosen people, from all eternity, but in the cross, that sacrifice of atonement was a public demonstration to all men. God revealed to all men what it was that caused His wrath to be swallowed up and done away. God the Father sent His own Son down to earth, from out of His holy glory cloud in heaven. He sent Him to take upon Himself human flesh, and then He sent Him to the cross. And in that cross, God demonstrated to all men that His righteous wrath against sin had been fully satisfied for all eternity. God completed that public demonstration when He raised Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is proof that we have God’s declaration that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a complete appeasement of His wrath and a complete covering over of all our sin. Christ’s resurrection from the grave was proof that God’s wrath against all our sin had been fully poured out.
That demonstration reveals to all men the only way they can receive that
perfect righteousness necessary to have eternal life. That demonstration reveals to all men, “a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his
That’s the point of the text. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a covering over of our sins that comes to us, “through faith,” otherwise it doesn’t work. We
can’t know that God’s anger against us is satisfied except through faith. Faith is that adhesive power, that glue, if you will, that unites us to Jesus Christ so that we may know that God’s wrath is done away. So God presented Jesus Christ as a sacrifice of atonement for us, objectively, when He died on the cross.
And then God brought that covering of sin to our hearts and minds, subjectively, through giving us faith in Christ.
All of this is God’s doing. Nothing of it is man’s doing.
Why did God have to publicly demonstrate that His wrath had been
appeased? Because otherwise there’d be reason to accuse God of unrighteousness and injustice, says our text.
Suppose God had kept all of this to Himself? Then it would have seemed to everyone that God was not righteous.
Well, because the Bible is clear that God justifies the ungodly! He does that!
God justifies the ungodly!
But to justify the ungodly without bringing God’s wrath and just punishment on sin would be unrighteousness. And to justify the ungodly without a
public demonstration of atonement would make it seem like God is
unrighteous. So the reason for this public demonstration of the cross lies in the fact that it pleased God to love a people who were sinners. And loving them, it pleased God to bring them to glory in the highest sense. It pleased God to bring them into His holy, righteous house, and there to taste that God is good.
And, in order to lead them to that highest glory, it pleased God to lead them through the way of sin and grace. Historically, from our human perspective, those people come into the world as ungodly sinners, and then God justifies them. Paul emphasizes in the text that God did this, even in the Old
Testament. The text says, “He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”
The word, “forbearance,” means that God does not pour out His wrath now,
in this world, but waits until the final day. And the particular meaning here is that in the OT God passed by the sins of His elect people. No covering for His wrath was brought in the OT. The OT sacrifices of bulls and goats and lambs could never suffice to take away God’s wrath. Those were only “shadows,” pointing forward to the true Lamb of God Who would take away
the sins of the world. But Christ had not yet come in the OT. So the saints of the OT, even though they sinned, still went to heaven, some even publicly. And not only did they go to heaven, but God gave them the testimony that they were righteous. God “justified” them by giving them eternal life. He passed by their sins!
The devil accused these believing saints because of this. All through the OT the devil appeared as the accuser of believers, claiming that they had no right to eternal glory. After all, the Bible is clear: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And “The wages of sin is death.”
And yet, in the OT, God passed by the sins of His people.
So here’s what Paul is making clear to us. On account of that passing by of the sins of His people in the OT, and on account of the general truth that God justifies the unjust, God demonstrated in the cross that He has a right – He has a basis – to justify these unjust sinners.
The text is rich in meaning. Just read it. “25 God presented him [Jesus Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He
did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and
the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
God publicly demonstrated that He is, indeed, righteous and just in His
judgment. Through the cross of Jesus Christ, He shut the mouth of the devil and of the world, and He proved, once and for all, that He is perfectly just in justifying ungodly sinners and declaring them righteous.
Now you should understand that the Arminians understand this text
differently from this.
The Arminians say that God could have righteously condemned all men, if He wanted to. But He didn’t want to. So He sent His Son to die on the cross to offer a way out to those who’d believe in Him. They say that Christ died for all men – everybody in the world alike. But they also say that not all men are saved. They say that only those who, by their own choice, choose to believe in Jesus Christ – only they are saved. So if you have faith, then God receives you in mercy and doesn’t condemn you.
But, you see, if it’s true that Christ died for everyone in the world, then Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t truly an atonement. It wasn’t truly a taking away of God’s wrath. You see if Christ truly died for all men, then all men would have had the wrath of God against them appeased. Then all men would have had their sins covered by Christ’s sacrifice, whether they believe or not!
But if God’s wrath wasn’t appeased by the death of Christ, as the Arminian believes, then God’s wrath against them hasn’t been appeased by Christ’s death either. For God to simply forgive without appeasing His wrath against sin is not a demonstration of righteousness. That’s a demonstration of unrighteousness!
But that’s not the meaning of the text. The meaning of the text is that Christ
is the atonement and covering for all the sins of all those for whom He died. His sacrifice is the covering over of God’s wrath towards all those and only those for whom He died. And because Christ’s sacrifice did, indeed, appease the full wrath of God for all His chosen people, the cross, therefore, is the demonstration of the righteousness of God and the cross explains why God can be just and yet justify sinners.
That’s the purpose of this grand demonstration. That God might be seen as righteous, and that this righteousness of God might be made clear to all. The cross demonstrates how God can be just and still justify sinners. The cross declares to the devil and to all men that God is perfectly righteous in justifying sinners for whom Christ died.
That means that the devil can no longer accuse you before the face of God
if you believe in Jesus Christ. God has publicly shown how He could be righteous in justifying the ungodly. God has publicly demonstrated before all the world that His wrath against believers has been appeased.
That is the Gospel which must be preached to all nations. This great truth must be brought to the hearts and minds of all His chosen people. It’s through the preaching of this Gospel that God gives faith to His people to believe in Jesus Christ as their only hope of righteousness.
Do you know that if you believe in Jesus, you don’t have to feel like a
criminal any more? You’ve been justified! You’ve been declared “not guilty” by God Himself! Your guilt hasn’t been overlooked. It hasn’t simply been swept under the rug and ignored. It’s been completely and fully dealt with.
It’s been completely swept away by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
That’s why, as believers, we can now look God in the face, thanks to His grace. When you believe in Jesus, you can now look God in the eye; and you can be assured that you’re a righteous heir, through Him that loved us unto death. That’s the blessedness of God’s people. On the cross, justice and
mercy met together and kissed. That’s the wonderful blessedness of being one of God’s people.
And when that final day comes when God judges those that believe in Jesus, He’ll pass this verdict upon them: “You are perfectly righteous.” At that time all shall declare that God is righteous when He judges all unbelievers and condemns them to Hell. But all shall also declare that God is righteous when He declares His people to be holy, sinless, and just, in Christ Jesus. And we shall see Him face to face!.