16 Verses…Romans 3:21-26…Justification

16 Verses

The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses

Romans 3:21-26…Justification

Last week…Cross and Resurrection. Jesus died, and Jesus rose. So, what? What did Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplish?

That’s the question we answer today with Romans 3:21-26.

Our passage today is the most concentrated exposition of the work of the cross in the whole bible. Luther thought it the centerpiece of the whole of Scripture.

“Dr. Leon Morris suggests may be ‘possibly the most important single paragraph ever written’”.[1]

What do we see? What does it mean?

God’s Righteousness is Displayed in the Cross and Resurrection. Romans 3:21(1:17)

“According to 3:21 a righteousness from God has been ‘manifested’, a perfect tense which must refer to the historical death of Christ and its abiding consequences, whereas in 1:17 a righteousness from God is being revealed (a present tense) in the gospel, which presumably means whenever it is preached.”[2]

  • Righteousness of God manifested (perfect tense) – doing what God requires…what is right…the state of being right as God is right.
  • At the fall, the curse broke everything and it is no longer right or righteous.
  • What did God require? What is right? That God’s name and reputation be restored by breaking the curse and proving he is righteous and that image bearers be restored from the curse in which they are no longer right and therefore under the sentence of death to a right standing with God as sons and daughters.

God’s Righteousness is Available for All Who Believe Through Faith in Jesus. Romans 3:22

  • God’s righteousness is available to all who believe in Jesus.
  • There is no universalism here.

God’s Righteousness is Available for All Who Believe Because All Have Sinned and Fallen Short of God’s Glory. Romans 3:23

  • All have sinned – the cumulative past of all people.
  • All fall short of God’s glory – present tense…all continually come up short of glory.

God’s doxa (‘glory’)…probably refers to his image or glory in which all were made5 but which all fail to live up to. Of course, there are degrees of sinning, and therefore differences, yet nobody even approaches God’s standard. Bishop Handley Moule put it dramatically: ‘The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of it [sc. God’s glory]; but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine, and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they.’[3]

Sinners are Justified by God’s Free Grace. Romans 3:24a

  • So, how does God make image bearers right? He justifies them.
  • Justification – to pardon from the negative balance of sin and then to credit with the full righteousness of Jesus. Not just forgiveness, but the actually crediting of Christ’s rightness. To be declared just. Not yet made actually just…that is the work of sanctification which comes on progressively.
  • The source of our justification is God and his free grace. (freely given on God’s part to be received without cost on the recipient’s part)
  • “Fundamental to the gospel of salvation is the truth that the saving initiative from beginning to end belongs to God the Father. No formulation of the gospel is biblical which removes the initiative from God and attributes it either to us or even to Christ. It is certain that we did not take the initiative, for we were sinful, guilty and condemned, helpless and hopeless. Nor was the initiative taken by Jesus Christ in the sense that he did something which the Father was reluctant or unwilling to do. To be sure, Christ came voluntarily and gave himself freely. Yet he did it in submissive response to the Father’s initiative. So the first move was God the Father’s, and our justification is freely by his grace, his absolutely free and utterly undeserved favour. Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.”[4]

Sinners are Justified Through Jesus’ Redemption. Romans 3:24b

  • Justified through Jesus redemptive work on the cross.
  • Redemption is a “marketplace” term. It was used of purchasing slaves in order to set them free. Jesus purchased sinners in order to free them from sin and sin’s wiles. Thus Paul will argue in chapter 6 that we are now dead to sin because Jesus set us free from it.

Justification and Redemption are Made Possible by Propitiation and Received by Faith. Romans 3:25a

  • Propitiation – the satisfaction of God’s wrath.
  • “According to the Christian revelation, God’s own great love propitiated his own holy wrath through the gift of his own dear Son, who took our place, bore our sin and died our death. Thus God himself gave himself to save us from himself.”[5]

Propitiation Shows God is Righteous. Romans 3:25b

  • Propitiation is necessary to pay for passed-over sins in salvation history. This maintains salvation by faith alone while executing right judgment on the sins of those who believed.
  • 2 Chronicles 30:17-22ff

Propitiation Shows God is Just and Justifier of the One Who Trusts in Jesus. Romans 3:26

  • In other words, all of salvation is bound up in God, and we are recipients who can never boast of effort to gain salvation nor boast of our deserving salvation.

How do we obey?

If the message has awakened the need for salvation, then repent and believe. The bible calls this faith.

Work out your salvation… (Follow the Spirit in becoming as God counts us…justified. That’s what the bible calls sanctification.)

Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Being justified is never an excuse for being content in our sin.


2 Chronicles 30:23-27


[1]  John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 109.


[2] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 109.


[3] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 109.


[4]  John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 111–112.


[5] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 115.


Some Parenting Funny from Gaffigan

Jennifer and I are on the backside of raising 3 boys. Crazy. Parenting is kind of getting easier because we NOW know what we needed to know 16 years ago. Insane how that works. Truthfully, there is plenty out there on parenting as a follower of Jesus, but little on the execution of parenting within the context of the fellowship of the local church. Maybe it’s been written and I don’t know about it. I’d be glad for someone to share. So, over the next little bit, other than Sunday sermon notes, I’ll be sharing a little insight on doing fellowship inside the church with children. We’ve had some bumps along the way, and the reality is most bumps happen because of how some parents manage their kids or fail to manage their kids.

So, let’s kick if off with a little funny.

Enter Jim Gaffigan.

16 Verses…John 19:30…It is Finished

16 Verses

The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses

John 19:30; Romans 1:3-4…The Cross and Resurrection…It is Finished and Jesus is declared to be the Song of God in Power

Jesus’ cross is not an archaeological item to be discovered and used as a relic.

Jesus’ resurrection is not a mythical story to conjure up a little more human effort to overcome our hardships.

Jesus’ cross and resurrection is the climactic event that the story of the gospel has so long anticipated.

Jesus has come, died and rose, and therefore kicked the curse of sin and death in the mouth, stomped a galactic sized mud hole in its backside and walked it dry. He is victorious!

The cross and resurrection both are as central to living the Christian life as it is to entering it.

Because the gospels all finish up with the resurrection, the subsequent writings of the apostles speak of the cross in terms of the totality of Jesus’ work on the cross and his rising. The cross without the resurrection is incomplete. So, we are combining them today and not treating them separately (not by any means comprehensive).

So, everything we observe today is the result of the cross and the resurrection.

What do we see?

It is finished: The promised one has come (the one not like the Levite of Judges 19-21; the one like David, only better), received the blow to the heal and dealt the crushing blow to the Serpent’s head, and he rose from the dead as the first to rise victorious over the curse, and therefore defeating sin and death.

John 19:28-30; Romans 1:1-4

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power (the resurrection is the exclamation point on the work of salvation) according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,…”

What does it mean? (going to look at multiple passages from the NT that deal with the cross and its implications)

The cross is a simple and powerful message. 1 Corinthians 1:17-23

“Of course the background of the passage is the contrast of Greek wisdom, which looked only for eloquence and style, not substance, and a power that was emotional, and for the moment, not lasting.”[1]

The cross causes us to be controlled by Jesus’ love. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21…5:11-13 as context

Seeking to persuade others.

Not commending ourselves but Jesus.

Not boasting in outward appearances.

Being ok with being slandered in falsehood.

Not seeking the approval of people.

Telling of Jesus’ love through our common ministry of reconciling all things back to God.

The cross kills hostility between peoples and creates the “One New Man”. Ephesians 2:11-16

The cross makes peace so that we can have a ministry of reconciliation Colossians. 1:20

The cross killed the hostility of the curse making peace possible. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

The cross pays our debt thereby disarming the spiritual powers that had power over us. Colossians 2:14

The cross unites us to Jesus thereby fulfilling the law’s demands and giving us Jesus’ life. Galatians 2:20

Paul’s critics have charged that Justification by faith alone allows for liberty to sin and there be no consequences. It weakens a person’s sense of moral and ethical responsibility. This doctrine may encourage people to actually break the law, his critics would say.

Paul’s response is verse 19-20

“This amazing change, which comes over somebody who is justified in Christ, Paul now unfolds. He describes it in terms of a death and a resurrection. Twice in verses 19 and 20 he speaks of this dying and this rising to life again. Both take place through union with Christ. It is Christ’s death and resurrection in which we share. Verse 19: For I through the law died to the law (the law’s demand of death was satisfied in the death of Christ), that I might live to God. Verse 20: I have been crucified with Christ (that is, being united to Christ in His sin-bearing death, my sinful past has been blotted out); it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”[2]

The cross removes the curse of the fall from us, ensures the blessing of faith goes to the nations and we get the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:13 (Deuteronomy 21:23)

The cross offends the deadly self-righteousness of works based salvation Galatians. 5:11

Paul’s critics have argued that one must be circumcised in addition to faith in Jesus to be saved.

Jesus plus anything ruins everything.

This does not mean that works play no part. In fact, James will affirm that works are the outworking of faith. But that’s not what Paul’s opponents were teaching. They were teaching that works along with faith is what saved.

The cross makes our uniting with Christ a reality and works itself out in moral and ethical holiness as sin and its desires are continually being crucified daily. Galatians 5:24

The cross is the ground for any bragging of any value. Galatians 6:14

All bragging apart from bragging in the cross will not be worth bragging about with the passing of time.

How do we obey? What is a cross-centric life?

  1. It’s a “John the Baptist” kind of life. John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”


Jesus exalting

Jesus obeying

  1. It’s a simple yet profound life informed by a simple yet profound message.

The message of the cross is the center, power and informant of all things for us.

The cross brings about my death to sin, my resurrection to new life and my pursuit of Jesus rule over me in all things.

The gospel is not the problem. The problem is us who refuse to apply it.

  1. We can and should make effort to cross cultures with the good news.
  2. We all have a God given ministry to execute under the authority of Jesus’ church…a ministry of reconciliation.
  3. We have been united with Christ, therefore, our lives are to look increasingly like Jesus and increasingly committed to his kingdom.
  4. We worship Jesus.

[1] Andrew H. Trotter Jr., “Cross, Crucifixion,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 137.


[2] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians: Only One Way, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 65.

Hugh Freeze, Jesus, Sex and Righteousness

I love sports and follow sports more than I likely should. Twitter, sports talk radio, etc. Constantly. Yesterday news came out that Hugh Freeze resigned as the head football coach at Ole Miss because of dialing up an escort service. Now, he says it was a miss dial. Other news says that he met and confessed much “indiscretion”, and subsequently resigned. Now, here is the rub, Anthony Bradley, who I really like tweeted the sentiment that I was feeling…”…wasn’t he one of those Jesus talking kind of coaches?” Bradley is a follower of Jesus, professor at King’s College and super outspoken. If AB is expressing that sentiment, how might others think?

AB is right. Freeze was outspoken about his faith, and I’m sure now people will be talk about his faith and his failing. Two emotions struck me as a follower of Jesus, pastor and sports fanatic. First, the emotion was of anger that Jesus’ reputation would take a hit because of the folly of Freeze. The other emotion was of pity that the sexual nature of his sin would be the highlight by some while ignoring their more serious infractions.

Not all sin is the same. I know it’s popular to say that “sin is sin…its all the same to God.” Thats just not true. Jesus said that blasphemy of the Spirit was unforgivable thus designating it as greater than adultery. Not all sin is the same. Period. But people are going to make a big deal out of the sexual nature of his sin. Here’s my point. Sexual sin is not good. Its bad. But it gets much less play in Scripture than this:

Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

Don’t misunderstand, sexual sin is still sin, but here’s the deal, sex has been so elevated to idolatrous status that it’s thought to be the pinnacle of human existence. Sex is a multi-billion dollar industry in porn and slavery. Sex seems to be the chief pursuit of most. No thought is given to the fact that life is as rewarding and full without sex as with it (that whole gift of singleness). So, Christians will talk about Freeze’s sexual sin but likely ignore their haughty eyes which which they look down on those who make less money than they do, or don’t live in their swanky neighborhood, of course in the most Christian way. They’ll berate Freeze’s dialing up an escort service, but ignore that their feet are quick to run to their accepted brand of evil…their socially accepted brand of evil. They’ll be shocked at Freeze’s behavior, yet lies by the fact that they spend most of their resources on more and better and drop God a $20 bill in the box and think they’ve done God a favor. God requires a minimum of 10%, so to drop God less than when it’s clear one miss handles the rest is lying. Period. But, old Hugh Freeze is a bad man, right?

I’d say most of us should likely focus on righteousness as God defines it and be gracious to Hugh Freeze. His sin just got uncovered. Mine and yours will likely stay under cover for a while.

So, while we talk about sex, porn and adultery…all things that are sin and will kill…lets not ignore the things God says he hates that we may be guilty of.

Be righteous, Mitchell Jolly, and be gracious and helpful to others.

Just my 2 cents.

Why I’m Thankful for John Piper

I’m like most people my age who are theologically conservative and great commission minded…I know who John Piper is.

I’m a hillbilly/redneck type from Silver Creek, GA. I barely made it out of high school. I had a learning disability that I didn’t discover until I tried to get into our local community college. There I learned how to overcome that challenge, and I made fantastic grades and received an AS in Business. I also became a Christian. My brand of the faith was not intellectual, but my faith in Jesus was real (how I got saved is a story of supernatural intrigue that became the foundation of why reformed theology just simply fit what I had experienced).

After becoming a Christian and completing my AS in Business, I transferred to a private college, and made the decision at that point to pursue “ministry” rather than become an owner/operator for Chick-fil-A. Bad financial move, I know.

Now, I thought at this college that I was going to be exposed to greater learning that valued the bible without error in all things, Jesus as the divine God/Man, Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone…Boy was I wrong. I began to be tossed around by a theology of an unreliable biblical text, a Jesus who was nothing much more than a scandal and a faith that was tottering on the brink of failing. Had I believed the wrong things?

The scholars we were reading had PhD’s and we were just undergrads trying to make sense of what we read in the Scripture and what these well-educated people were saying.  There were folks in our classes who either walked away from the faith or adopted such a skewed view of Jesus that it affects them to this day. I began to think that being well educated in the faith meant denying the faith.

One day, when emotionally on the brink of walking away, I threw my NIV bible against a dorm room wall in anger. I was angry that somehow I had been deceived, and now I was questioning out loud how God could do something so deceptive to me and others. I walked over to pick up the bible I had thrown, and my eye was magically drawn…and I really mean magically drawn in a strange tunnel vision kind of way to Psalm 119:116. I still have it memorized in NIV…”Sustain me according to your promise and I will live. Do not let my hopes be dashed.” I’ll never forget that moment. My faith soared. I lost all doubt. The Spirit was sustaining my belief in Jesus supernaturally. And I’ll be dadgum if a buddy from down the way didn’t pop in and tell me he had some stuff for me. He had a tape…yes a cassette tape of John Piper (don’t remember the sermon exactly) and a book by Piper called “The Justification of God”. So, I sat down and popped that tape in and began reading. I don’t remember attending many classes the rest of that week. I was glued to this book and listening to this man preach like I’d never heard before. He was intelligent, well-educated, believed the bible, could prove with solid evidence its validity and contents and loved the global work of the gospel. That was 1995-96.

Fast forward…Not too many years later, my wife and I along with a bunch of college students, would attend Shelby Farms in Tennessee for the very first “One Day”. There was the old dude (only in his 50’s then) brought out to preach and it was John Piper. Of course, I knew who he was because I’d been reading him since that faith saving day in the dorms at my private school. That day Piper became Christian subculture’s rock star in spite of not being a rock star. That “sea shell” story, by God’s grace, set many a life on a different path to giving their lives for the sake of gospel among the nations. I’ve loved John Piper since that day in 1995-96. I’m eternally grateful. I’ve been near him, even spoken to him in person, but I have never wanted to take his time to relate this story. I’m weird about stuff like that. I know people do that stuff all the time, and I don’t want to be “that guy”. So, I’ve politely shaken his hand and said “thank you”, and moved on. It’s fitting for me to write this today.

What do I love about John Piper?

  1. He’s not focused on temporal strategies, he’s focused on the unchanging God of all creation. Strategies come and go, but God is the one unchanging being in the universe. Piper is enamored with God, and I want to be like that too. I don’t want to spend my life chasing fleeting strategies that work for a few years. I want the God who made that bible land open to a passage that he used to save my life. I want the God who sent James down the hall with some cassette tapes and a book just after that event. Piper focuses on that God. I want to be like that.
  2. He’s smart and his smarts don’t impede his faith. Piper lives the fact that faith and intellect are not at odds.
  3. He listens well, and responds in grace. He’s not perfect, but his dignified listening to others and thoughtful responses make me want to be like that.
  4. He’s not a pompous and sharp-tongued jerk. There are some in the Christian world I am part of who are not nice, seem to rejoice in other’s failures and just plain mean. That’s not John Piper. There is a joyful sobriety about him that leads to a gracious yet fiery exulting of truth. I like that. He writes and says hard things, but he does so with grace. I want to get better at that.
  5. He’s getting older, and he’s still going hard after the kingdom of God. There is no retiring in John Piper. I love that.
  6. He’s getting better at what he does every year. Don’t go read “The Justification of God” unless you have a stomach for academic work. It’s a long exegesis work of Romans 9:1-23. Lots of footnotes. Big words. That book was not so much written for pop Christian culture as for the academic community. But Piper has evolved in writing and speaking so that everyone can read and understand the glorious things he’s been created to be an instrument of. I want to continually get better like that.
  7. He’s honest about who he is and what he struggles with. I want to be like that.
  8. He’s aware of when God’s moving him to a new phase of work, and he obeys. I’m sure there are always challenges within and without. But I like how he just does not try to keep a job forever. He’s willing to hear the Lord and obey the call.
  9. He reminds me that fruit from our work can be had many miles away without ever having contact with the person who benefits from our work. John Piper does not know me from a hill of beans. But he was instrumental in rescuing me from bad theology and walking away from the faith. I have great hope that my work can serve others like that too. Because its God who we both serve together for the same ends.

I was reading this article by Piper today John Piper and was reminded of this story, and thought I’d share it and link you to the article. Maybe it’ll be for someone what Jame’s tape and book was for me. Just go read it. I’ll let its title surprise you.

I’m thankful for John Piper, and I hope you are encouraged by how God worked through Piper to rescue this ol boy right here.