“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ” Gal 1:3 (KJV)
In the first two postings in this series we looked at the logical relationship between grace and peace, and how that grace is always necessarily the antecedent to peace in the Scriptures. We also learned what grace is – grace is the undeserved mercy and favor of God. From the Bible, we saw that grace is opposed to works (merit) and that it is the very means of our salvation. As such, I presented scriptures that present the grace of God as the cause of both our justification and regeneration.
One of the clearest Scripture passages that outlines how that the grace of God alone is the sole cause of our justification can be found in Romans 3:19-26. We’ll complete our look at grace with the scripture and commentary below.
All Men Are Guilty
Rom 3:19-20: Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
By law here, the Apostle Paul does not refer exclusively to the Law of Moses under the Old Covenant given upon Mt. Sinai, which was for the Jews only, typified those things that would be revealed under the New Covenant, and was fulfilled with and done away by the perfect obedience and death of Jesus Christ under that law – thus fulfilling it and bringing it to conclusion. Rather, Paul is referring to a universal moral law in which the universe was created. This universal moral law of obedience is the very image of Holy God stamped upon mankind in his original creation. This is the moral obligation of every man and it is by a failure to obey, or rather a rebellion against this universal moral law, that “all the world may become guilty before God.” Therefore, as someone who has broken the law and is now subject to its just penalty, there is nothing left in this moral law that can make one perfect. The law has done its work by revealing a “knowledge of sin” in us and condemning us by it.
Righteousness of God
Rom 3:21-23: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Now that men have broken their obligation to their creator, is there no hope? The Scriptures (law and prophets) bear witness to another Covenant (“A mutual agreement of two or more persons or parties”, Webster, 1913), or arrangement, between God and man. This arrangement is not a covenant that places a moral obligation upon man – he has already failed that and forfeited all inherent righteousness. No, it is not a arrangement of moral perfection by virtue of good works or deeds, but rather one of pure unmerited grace. The very Creator of the universe would enter into His creation as a surety for His own people, to act as a vicarious agent to secure the salvation which was forfeited by sin and rebellion. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, contracted with all those that would believe in him as a representative who would live out the perfectly obedient life, demanded by the law, on behalf of his people AND that he would bear the just sentence of condemnation demanded by the law in place of those that have offended.
Thus, even though one is an offender, he may receive the very righteousness of God, by taking hold of this gift of grace by faith. The gift is for “all them that believe”, not any particular nation or ethnicity. All men have fallen into sin and all may receive forgiveness of sin by taking hold, by faith, of the substitution made by Christ Jesus.
Surety: “One who is bound with and for another who is primarily liable, and who is called the principal; one who engages to answer for another’s appearance in court, or for his payment of a debt, or for performance of some act; a bondsman; a bail.” Webster’s 1913 Revised Unabridged Dictionary.
Justification By Grace
Romans 3:24-26: Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 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.
Those who receive this justification (being declared “not guilty” in the high court of God’s justice – in spite of having offended) do so “by” the grace of God alone and “through” the redemption of Christ Jesus alone! This means that grace is the cause of our salvation – “justified freely by his grace”. In other words, the reason God justifies sinners is due to His own free unmerited mercy and grace only. The legal grounds upon which he carries out this grace in the justification of sinners is “through” the redemption of Christ Jesus. In other words, God is not offering a free pardon on the grounds of grace alone, otherwise He would be unjust. Rather, on the basis of grace, He substitutes the righteous life and sacrificial death of His Son to make restitution for our sins and to merit eternal life on our behalf. Grace then is the “reason” God saves sinners and the atonement made by Christ is the “grounds” on which He does it.
Redeem: “To ransom, liberate, or rescue from captivity or bondage, or from any obligation or liability to suffer or to be forfeited, by paying a price or ransom; to ransom; to rescue; to recover; as, to redeem a captive, a pledge, and the like.”, Webster’s 1913 Revised Unabridged Dictionary.
This sacrifice of Jesus Christ, turns away the just anger of God, the Righteous Judge, toward our sin and reconciles Him to us. This is called Propitiation (“The act of appeasing the wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person”, Webster 1913).
I will say more concerning the reconciliation of God and man in the next post. For now, it is enough to understand that it is by God’s grace ALONE aside from the merit of man that salvation has come to men in the form of a substitute. Anyone attached to Christ by faith, therefore, has full “remission of sins”. In this way, God is both Just and Holy and yet merciful. He punishes sins and yet is merciful and forgiving to those who sin.
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Rom 3:26, KJV
We can join in the Julia H. Johnston in praising the glorious grace of Almighty God as we reflect on this hymn:
Grace Greater Than All Our Sin
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.