Subject: Jesus Christ: God’s Demonstration of His Rightful Mercy
Romans 3:25 “God set Christ forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness.”
Everyday, God is merciful and kind to you and me on both a corporate and individual basis. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points to His Father’s mercy and kindness toward even those who are evil and unthankful, when He commands all of us to act in love toward those who are our enemies and would hurt us if given the chance (Luke 6:34-36). In American vernacular, He’s saying “Do like I do”.
Most take His kindness and mercy for granted. Or we simply don’t believe it. “How is He kind or merciful to me? I depend only on me to get through every day. God hasn’t done me any favors.” Really? I was watching the weatherman a while ago on our local news station – he was saying how thankful we all are for the rain we needed. Thankful to whom? In Matthew 5:45, Jesus says the daily sunshine we all enjoy, and the rain that comes to us from on high, are gifts from a kind God, whether or not you love Him: “He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.”
Besides the daily demonstrations of His kindness, God teaches us in the Bible about His kind and merciful character. In our verse this week, Paul is teaching the young church in Rome that the ‘propitiatory’, which was the actual lid or mercy seat on the Old Testament Arc of the Covenant, is meant to point us to Jesus Christ. How does this work?
In Exodus 25, God says that it’s only when the blood of the sacrifices was poured on the lid of the ark that He could then personally meet with the Israelites. It’s the shed blood on the lid that satisfied God’s standard of justice, by the blood being their offering for their sins, so now He is ‘propitiated’, or ‘graciously disposed’, towards them. They could meet with a God who can be kind without compromising His holiness.
Romans 3:25 teaches that this blood offering on the lid of the ark is a picture of the one-time offering Jesus makes to God of His shed blood on the cross. By Christ’s achievement on the cross, God is forever ‘propitiated’. Paul is also teaching what real mercy looks like. In the Greek culture, that surrounded the early church in Rome, taught that their gods could only be “propitiated” if you earned their favor. Greek literature taught the natural attitude of their gods was not one of goodwill towards you. But the Bible teaches that propitiating or appeasing God is never based on anything you do to cause God to be kind or merciful to you.
The radical teaching in Romans 3:23-26 is that it is God Himself who is propitiated (“graciously disposed”) toward you and me, such that He can now personally meet with you and me, by providing for Himself the perfect sacrifice of Christ, who came to earth as that Old Testament lid or ‘mercy seat’, to shed His blood for you and me: “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His GRACE through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a PROPITIATION by His BLOOD, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the JUSTIFIER of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Here is the incredible, visible kindness and mercy of God. He has so personally dealt with our sin that He can show mercy to the sinner by removing their guilt and dismissing (passing over, or remission) their sins if we just trust in what He has done at the ‘mercy seat’ of the Ark. Jesus Christ shed His blood because you and I are the object of His mercy.