Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: This is one of the Bible’s greatest verses. It says much in few words. Verse 23 declared we are sinners; here we learn God found a way to help us. The remedy is threefold: justification, grace, redemption.
Romans 3:24a “Being justified. . . .”
Justification, a term taken from the legal world, means being declared righteous in the sight of God. It is a matter of imputation, reckoning. The sinner’s guilt is imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the sinner. Sin has four main effects on us:
1. Power, which is broken in regeneration. The believer should be under the dominion of no sin. There is power in all Christians to overcome any evil.
2. Uncleanness, which is constantly removed through sanctification. We ever seek cleansing and forgiveness.
3. Indwelling, which is removed in glorification. Sin is an ever-recurring problem until we enter Heaven.
4. Guilt, which is taken away in justification.
Our sin makes us guilty before God, deserving of condemnation, but Jesus has borne our punishment for us. Hence, through faith pardon is available.
Romans 3:24b “. . .freely by his grace. . . .”
Justification cannot be earned, only received. In this small phrase, “freely by his grace,” Paul twice emphasizes justification is a gift, without cost to the believer. None deserve it; none can earn it; God has to give it. The essence of this whole verse is to emphasize God has done something for us which we could never do for ourselves. Do not come seeking justification based on what little good we have done.
A beggar who comes asking for food while dressed in a tuxedo will get chased away as an imposter. The best clothing for a beggar is rags, and the best garment for us to approach Christ in is our sin.
We contribute nothing to our salvation except the sins which crucified Jesus. There is nothing more a man can contribute. We have already given all we can give. Now all we can do is receive.
Once a dying rich man thought he would purchase a place in Heaven by giving a portion of his wealth to the poor. A wise man standing nearby asked how much he intended to give. “$12,000,” was the reply. “That would not buy enough room for your foot to stand on in a place where the streets are made of gold.” Gold is not worth much in a city whose streets are paved with it. We insult God when we try to earn salvation. It is ludicrous to try purchasing the treasures of God with corruptible counterfeit coins. God will not let us buy Heaven with pennies. Men do not appreciate the true value of salvation when they are trying to earn it.
Salvation is free–a purchase price many people find hard to accept. Rowland Hill was once preaching at a fair near an auction block. He was speaking of free grace. Finally, he pointed toward the auctioneers and said, “They find a great difficulty to get you up to their price; my difficulty is to get you down to mine.” Friend, come on down to God’s price. Swallow your pride; renounce any claim to merit; receive God’s free gift.
Romans 3:24c “. . .through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Justification comes to us freely, but Christ paid dearly for it. Our salvation cost us nothing, but God plenty. The price was the precious blood of Jesus. It cost God the highest price ever paid for anything. “God had to bankrupt heaven to save a wretched sinner” (McBeth).
“Redemption” referred to a price paid to free a slave. It denoted emancipation based on a ransom. A price had to be paid to deliver us from bondage to sin. God did not provide salvation without payment. His eternal justice and righteousness required something be done about the damage and rebellion of sin. God is not trite. Justice required that the judge of all the earth had to do right.
In some way God had to manifest the ugliness of sin and the beauty of Himself. Hence, Jesus came to dwell among us. At Calvary was revealed man’s disgrace and God’s free grace.
Christ bought us in the slave market of sin by His own blood. He came here where we were, to the very slave market itself. “The Son of God came to give His life as a ransom for many” (MT 20:28). “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1P 1:8).
Jesus did not come into the world simply to announce the plan of salvation. Rather, He came to provide it. His coming and teaching could not save us. We had to be ransomed.
On the cross Jesus paid the redemption price in full for the whole human race. This is why justification is free with regard to the sinner, and yet at the same time perfectly consistent with the justice of God.
Jesus paid it all, all in one place, all at one time, all by Himself. Simon the Cyrenian might help bear the cross, but not the sin-debt. Two thieves might help share the shame, but not the sin-debt. Mary and John the Beloved might share the sorrow, but not the sin-debt.
The whole debt was placed on His shoulders. The weight of it all was so staggering that it almost caused Jesus to fall one time, in Gethsemene. The loneliness of it all was so oppressive that He cried, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken Me?” The indignity of it all was so great that God darkened the scene for three hours.
The punishment for sin was distilled into one cup. The taste was so bitter that Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from Me.” But His love was so great that He chose to bear the burden of our debt, and with both hands He took the cup of wrath and “with one tremendous drink of love, He drank damnation dry.” He drank it all, endured it all, suffered it all, until the price was fully paid. Then, and only then, did He cry, “It is finished.”
Now, not even God can forgive a man by simply uttering words of forgiveness. He has chained Himself to doing it only through the blood of Jesus. If we ever own a house in heaven, it will be built from the wood of the cross.
John Bunyan was born in England in 1628. Even as a lad, he was extremely wicked. It was said he had no peers in cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming God. He had nightmares about demons and wicked spirits. Scenes of Hell and the Judgment Day also appeared. His nights were frightful, yet he still would not turn from his beloved sins.
He finally drowned himself in pleasures, and the nightmares went away. At about age 20 he married. His wife’s father had been a righteous man up to his death. Bunyan inherited two books on religion from him. Bunyan read them and, to be socially acceptable, went to church occasionally. His sinful ways were not altered. One day, his pastor preached against the popular vices of the day and their fearful consequences.
That afternoon, while playing a game of cat, the Holy Spirit’s conviction awakened Bunyan’s conscience for the first time to the real nature of sin. The conviction came with such power that he suddenly stood still for a while before all the players, who continued to play around him.
After a few minutes of silent thought, he concluded he had gone too far in sin ever to find salvation. Hence, he decided to get whatever comfort he could out of sin while he lived.
His evil increased in intensity until he was rebuked by a very immoral and ungodly lady. Bunyan decided if he looked terribly wicked in the eyes of a prostitute, it was time to reform. He began to do better, but was still convinced there could be no hope for salvation. Months of agony followed. He tried to read the Bible, but nothing seemed to help. He was convinced he was a doomed man. For two years his thoughts were only an expectation of damnation. He felt his sin was worse than that of Judas Iscariot.
Finally, the despair became so great that his body began to tremble. For days he was in rigors under the sense of the dreadful judgment of God. The shaking was so intense he feared his breast bone would split apart.
Then one day the light of God broke through: “As I was walking up and down in the house, as a man in a most woeful state, that word of God took hold of my heart. Ye are “justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). But oh, what a turn it made upon me! Now was I as one awakened out of some troublesome sleep and dream, and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul, but behold my Son is by me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and will deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him” (Quoted by F. F. Bruce, from Grace Abounding).