Romans 3:21-26 (English Standard Version)
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it –
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 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.
26 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.
In today’s world of corrupt judges, courts motivated by political necessity, and courts that try to create laws as well as enforce them, it may seem hard for us to imagine a judge who is entirely impartial and righteous. When one generation undoes the laws of the previous generation through legal precedent, it’s hard to conceive of a court where the laws never change. And yet that is exactly who God is, the impartial and absolute and righteous Judge whose laws never change. That which was considered righteous a thousand years ago is still righteous today, and, despite what some “reinterpreters” of the Bible might say, that which was an abomination to the Lord God in the time of Moses is still an abomination today.
Romans 2:6-11 (ESV)
6 He will render to each one according to his works:
7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
11 For God shows no partiality.
But God’s unchangeable righteousness is not the only unique thing about our Judge. The Almighty God is also compassionate and merciful.
Psalms 103:8-10 (NIV)
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
In Christ Jesus we have the embodiment of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He who is the Righteous Judge – the One who by rights could condemn all mankind to eternal darkness – this same Lord God sent His only Son into the world to redeem us from our sins, to receive the punishment for our crimes. For you see, the sentence still must be carried out, the punishment for our sins must still be given. But He who sentences, He who is just and righteous and unchanging, is also He who gave us a Savior to receive our sentence.
Could you imagine in any way a court wherein you would be forgiven for ANY crime you committed? Not just forgiven for a misdemeanor like an angry slap or swiping a candy bar, but forgiven for grand theft or for murder? Can you imagine that? More importantly, can you imagine a court wherein your defender steps forward and accepts your sentence for himself? I dare say you have NEVER heard of a lawyer willing to take the rap for his or her defendant! Furthermore, it is inconceivable that a judge would allow that defender to take our punishment if the defender was his own son. But that is exactly what our Just and Compassionate God and Judge has done!
The catch is, of course, that we must accept His Son as our mediator. We must have such faith in Christ as our Savior that it transforms our lives from sinful to just, that we become like Jesus, that we truly live from the inside out as sons and daughters of God Most High. Having heard the gospel message of reconciliation with God, we are to repent and believe that Christ Jesus has not only paid the price for our sins but also He has brought us an eternal reward. Having been washed as white as snow, we now have been given eternal life through our faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One, the very Lamb of God.
In His mercy, God has not overturned His own laws, His own righteousness. He has, in fact, demonstrated His holiness, His mercy and compassion, and of course, His love. He who is our Creator and Judge is now also our Father and our Savior. He who is wholly just has enabled us to be just also.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and yet it is that glory that we are given through His Son. Not one of us is righteous in the eyes of God UNLESS we approach the throne of grace with Christ at our side. The righteousness of God is demonstrated not only through His adherence to His law and His holiness, but also through His compassion upon those who have faith in Jesus, His only Son.
We sing about “amazing grace” but do we truly understand how amazing it is? Do we truly understand how it is that the gospel can teach us both to fear God and yet also have peace with Him? Do we ourselves teach others about the compassionate Judge who is the Father of our beloved Savior? Do we live such good lives among the unbelievers that we glorify the righteous God who has forgiven all our unrighteous sins?
This can be a new day for each of us, a new day of accepting the mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This can be a new day of living as if we are just, as if we are holy, as if we are anointed like our Messiah. Today is the day when we can live as if we truly are chosen by God and set apart for His purposes. Let us look to God the Father, the Righteous Judge, and remember the sacrifice He made to bring us His righteousness, the price His Son paid to justify us in the eyes of Him who alone is just and good. Let us be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and truly find the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Almighty God, Righteous Judge, Father and Lord, we thank You for Your merciful grace. You alone are so holy and righteous, and You alone are so compassionate and loving. Teach me to live my life transformed by Your grace. Having been justified by Your Son, let me live justly, to do good, seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, and plead for the widow. Help me to put away evil from before my eyes and to seek only Your goodness. Amen.