Remember though that we can’t remove the stain of sin ourselves. We are as helpless as the white shirt with marinara sauce all over it. So how does this happen? It happens by faith in Jesus, and what he did nearly 2,000 years ago.
I love how the prophet Isaiah put it over 700 years before Jesus walked on earth. Isaiah prophesied about humanity’s sinfulness and God’s response through Jesus. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” (Isa 53.6, ESV). God made a path for us to walk, and not only did we stray off the path a bit, but we turned away from the path, doing our own thing. But what we see is that the LORD laid on Jesus the iniquity, a big word for sin, of all of us. In other words, God judged and punished Jesus, who had never done wrong, but was always in the right, rather than punishing us who receive him by faith.
What God did was transfer our sins over to Jesus, leaving us with a clean record. In other words, our record of unrighteousness (wrong-doing, wickedness) is expunged if we will put our faith into what Jesus has done. This is what we call being justified.
When we try and justify ourselves, we try to make excuses for the wrongs we’ve done. “It’s not my fault; If such and such hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been forced to do it.” “Don’t try and justify yourself.” When we try and justify ourselves, we try to make excuses, but we can’t justify ourselves. But when God justifies us, He doesn’t make excuses for us, but instead, he takes away the wrongs we’ve done and gives them over to Jesus. He removes the stain from us, so that when he makes his verdict of whether we are in the right or in the wrong, he will declare we are in the right! That is the righteousness that is apart from the law; that is a righteousness of faith.
“And are justified (declared in the right) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 3.24, ESV). The declaration of being in the right is a gift that doesn’t require anything on our part. We don’t have to do anything to get it. It’s a gift. It is a gift that is paid for, redeemed, by Jesus. But it is a costly gift. Jesus died to bring us that gift.
I remember watching the movie, Saving Private Ryan. It is a story of four brothers who join the American forces in World War II. Three are killed within days of each other, but Private Ryan is presumably alive, and there is a squad whose mission it is to bring him home safely. The captain, playing by Tom Hanks, is killed at the end, saving the life of Private Ryan. As he is dying, he whispered into Ryan’s ear, “Earn this.” The movie flashed back to the present day where Private Ryan is now an old man, standing at the grave of the captain, and he falls to one knee in tears, asking his wife if he’s been a good man.
There are two thoughts that come to mind in those scenes. One is that God never tells us to “earn this.” I want that to be made abundantly clear. We cannot earn a gift, otherwise it becomes a payment and not a gift. Paul wrote repeatedly that this is a gift not a payment, not a wage. But what we saw in that movie was Ryan’s understanding of the price for his life: the captain’s life so that he may live.
Jesus’ death brought us life. The Son of God, who lived forever in the right, dead so that we, who live in the wrong, could live in the right. The greatest gift that has ever been given, the life of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior, for us.
God, the one who will judge whether we are in the right or in the wrong, will judge with justice. He will give us exactly as we deserve: no more and no less. For those who trust that Jesus took our sin upon himself, and therefore are declared not guilty, will receive no punishment or judgment but rather eternal life. For those who believe, Jesus assuaged God’s anger. He satisfied God’s wrath. There is not an ounce of anger left in God towards those who put their trust in Jesus. It’s what we call propitiation, the satisfaction of God’s wrath. It is Jesus, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance, he had passed over former sins,” (Rom 3.25, ESV). Jesus died to assuage God’s anger for those who will put their faith in Him. Remember the term the righteousness of God from faith. Those who receive Jesus are revealed God’s righteousness. This power to forgive and declare righteous was and is powerful enough to reach back all the way to creation. For those who believed in God’s coming Messiah, they would be declared not guilty, having their sins removed. To we who believe in the Messiah who came, we too are declared not guilty, having our sins removed.
We were in mind, along with the people Paul was writing to when he wrote, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,” (Rom 3.26, ESV).
God always judges in the right. He is just. We often will hear of someone not facing charges for his or her crimes, for gets charged but is found not guilty, or is found guilty but the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Some drunk driver kills a family of four and has community service. There is something in us that says, that’s not just, that’s not right. We can never accuse God of doing something like that. God is always just, never giving out a punishment too harsh or not harsh enough. He is just in His judgments.
But He is also the justifier. He is the only one who can transfer our sins supernaturally away from us and onto Jesus. So He is just, and the One who declares us in the right. Since the penalty for sin is death, then Jesus had to die. It’s the only way for God to be just. He has to punish the sin that was done, and since the punishment is death, then the one who owns the sin (Jesus, because it was transferred to Him) must face the punishment, which He gladly volunteered to do.
This is what we mean when we say: Jesus died for our sins. There are two ways to being in the right with God: The first is by obeying 100% of God’s law, 100% of the time. That way is an impossibility. It is hypothetical, but impossible. Thus the only other way to be in the right with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. But the only reason that there is this way through Jesus, is because Jesus lived the righteousness of obedience. Had he not lived in 100% obedience of 100% of God’s law there would be no reason to put our faith in Him. Jesus lived the life of obedience to the law and died the death that we deserve. But there is more. This is after all, Resurrection Sunday. You see, there is no reason to place faith in a dead religious leader. Paul said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead we are to be the most pitied people on earth. But Jesus rose from the dead, and is deserving of our love, devotion, and full-faith.
At the beginning I asked you to suppose that there was a Creator, and that Creator made us with a purpose. That purpose is, at least in part, to be in the right with Him. He made laws to show us how to do that. But being that we cannot keep those laws, God also revealed His righteousness apart from the law. It is a righteousness that comes by way of faith in Jesus. He gave the most precious and costly gift to have ever been given. He did all the work. He paid the price in full. We simply must receive Jesus, putting our full faith and confidence in Him.
How awful it must be to the ears of God to hear people say that all ways are equal or that there are many ways, as if to thumb their noses at what Jesus did, as if it were no big deal. As if the price paid were not high enough. As if the precious blood of Jesus were nothing more than cheap wine to be poured down the drain. As if living a “pretty good life” amounts to receiving all the sins upon Himself and dying a death that we deserve.
In the Old Testament, the Jews would make sacrifices of bulls, goats, and lambs in hopes of assuaging God’s wrath for another year. But that lamb could transfer no righteousness to the one making the sacrifice. In the New Testament, Jesus is portrayed metaphorically speaking, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He takes our sin upon Himself, and in returns transfers His righteousness to us. “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Cor 5.21, ESV).
There is no other way to be right with God. As Peter once said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4.12, ESV).