(Jesus) whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood. to be recieved by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. 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.
At first glance we see this text as praiseworthy; this is due to the fact that it speaks of God making a way for us to be justified. However, after looking deeper I noticed something. In verse 25 it states that the reason behind Christ’s death was “to show God’s righteousness”. Paul takes it further in verse 26 by saying God put Christ forward as a propitiation “so that he might be just”. Has there ever been a question as to wether God is righteous or just? What is this assumption based on, and why is it coming from Paul of all people? The answer in thankfully found here in the same text. In verse 25 Paul says God needed to show his righteousness “because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.” Let this sink in for a moment; the fact that God freely forgives, like in 2 Samuel 12:13 where Nathan says to David “God has put away your sins”, or in Psalm 103:10 “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities”, verses like this make God appear unjust, unrighteous if you will. After all the Bible says in Psalm 5:4-5 “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. You hate all evildoers.” We can not escape the fact that the scriptures are filled with truths about God’s nature requiring Him to punish sin, yet also about Him “passing over” the sins of people. In the words of John Piper, “This led to a crisis in heaven. The very righteousness of God has been challanged and the whole of creation is in peril.” How could this righteous, holy, perfect, sovereign God allow himself to be unjust or unrighteous? Furthermore, how could an all-knowing God “allow” Himself to get into a situation where he has to “show His righteousness” or to where He has to do something “ so that He would be just” ? The answer is found in the cross. The very foundation for the reasoning behind God’s putting Christ forward to be slaughtered on the cross is the righteousness of God; so that He may be both “just” and the “justifier“. This is what leads me to believe in the doctrine of limited atonement. We know that the death of Christ was foreordained by God (Acts 2:23), and that this was foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20) and that all of God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world as well (Hebrews 4:3), therfore we can conclude that our Sovereign God accepted the atonement of Christ as satisfactory and effective for those whom he chose to forgive on both sides of the cross. God is just because the sins that He forgives have been paid for on the cross of Christ, thus the cross was necessary to not only show God righteousness, but also to make Him righteous. The atonement is limited in that if the cross were effective in atoning for every sin, ever committed, by every human to breathe, then God would again be unjust in condemning a soul for sins already atoned for by Christ’s cross. The very fact that God punished sins on the cross, and still in just and righteous, in sending the lost to hell proclaims the truth behind the limited nature of the atonement. Something to ponder today, something to be thankful for everyday! To God be the glory!