25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
1901 ASV Translation:
25 whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God;
Textual Issues:There are no textual issues in Romans 3:25.
I. Jesus Christ Was Put Forth by God as "Mercy Seat".
A. The entire issue to this point is the answer to the question of how God can do anything other than visit wrath upon humanity.
1. Given the attitude and actions of every form of human beings, the wonder is that God has not demolished the human race in fiery wrath.
2. Instead, Paul is presenting an "alternative" method of attaining to righteousness in the eyes of God -- a method that is separate from "Law" and rooted in a "redemption price" paid by Jesus Christ.
3. This is fully contrary to what men might expect and certainly contrary to what they deserve.
B. The "redemption price" which Jesus Christ paid was His own life.
C. This price-payment means that Jesus Christ is the Foundation of Mercy -- i.e., the "Seat of Mercy".
1. Justice demands that justice be done. It is not negotiable.
2. God accepted the death of Jesus Christ as the satisfaction of Justice and its demand.
3. This opened the door to the possibility of "mercy" in the place of "wrath".
4. The exercise of "mercy" automatically signals a completely different result than "wrath".
D. Thus, God "set Jesus Christ forth" as "Mercy Seat" through the proclamation of His death for sins.
1. The translation "to be a propitiation" expresses the idea well, but it ignores the linkage to the Mercy Seat in the temple.
2. The issue of "Mercy Seat" is the place where the foundation for mercy is laid.
II. The "Mercy Seat" Does Not Mean Humanity Will Get Mercy Instead of Wrath.
A. The creation of a foundation for mercy does not automatically mean mercy will be given.
B. The creation of a foundation for mercy -- in the form it took (the death of the Son of God)-- obviously means that God greatly prefers mercy over wrath (no one pays a huge price for a small issue).
C. Paul says that the "Mercy Seat" is available "through the faith in His blood".
1. The same concept of "through" is found here as in 3:24 -- it inserts a "means" between the failure of man and the desire of God.
2. Those who "believe" in the effectiveness of the death of the Savior are granted mercy; those who "reject" that effectiveness are retained under wrath.
a. This "faith" issue takes the New Testament Gospel a step beyond Old Testament ritual of the Day of Atonement. In the Old Testament ritual, the High Priest took the blood of the sacrifice within the Holiest of All in order to sprinkle it upon the Mercy Seat so that Yahweh would treat the nation mercifully rather than justly. It did not matter, in the ritual, whether the individuals in the nation "believed" in the blood of the sacrifice, or not. But, once the "national" aspects of Yahweh's dealings were set aside in favor of the "personal" issues of individuals, it makes all the difference in the world whether one "believes" in the blood or not.
b. This distinction of personal faith is the dividing line between the "vessels of mercy" and the "vessels of wrath" -- there is no necessity for wrath now that the payment has been made and the foundations for mercy have been laid except for the issues of man's "attitude". Thus, if the "attitude" does not change, wrath remains.
1) It is impossible to speak of "faith" without assuming an "objective" that is sought after.
2) It is likewise fruitless to speak of an "objective" that is without value.
3) Thus, to claim to "believe" without "loving" the intended result of "belief" and without seeing the thing "believed" as an effective instrument of that result is to twist "faith" into something it is not.
a) This raises the question of the "intended result": what is the "objective" of "faith"? The bottom line is the restoration of harmony between God and His creatures. Without this being achieved, "faith" is vain.
b) Thus we may say that the man who does not value a restored relationship of harmony with God is not a "believer" no matter what his mouth says about the "effectiveness" of the death of Jesus Christ for sins.
c) This reality provides us with a foundation for understanding many of the biblical texts which warn those who "profess" to "believe" about the kinds of behavior which mock the profession of a "love for" harmony with God. God's lament in Isaiah regarding this people who "honor Me with their lips" while their "heart is far from Me" is a tacit acknowledgment that men are notorious for getting the "words" of "faith" right while completely missing the reality of how serious is the real-life "objective" of faith.
d) The problem with this entire issue is the fact that God never reveals the true status of a person's "faith" to others. It is impossible for men to discern whether the eruption of sin out of a person's body is being caused by the Law of Sin in direct opposition to the person's actual desire for harmony with God, or whether that desire simply does not really exist within the person. The closest men can get is to take the "sinner" through the processes of confrontation until it is clear that repentance is present or not. If it is clear that it is not, the person is to be treated "as" an unbeliever.
III. God's Setting Forth of Jesus Christ Was "Unto" a Manifestation of His Own Righteousness.
A. The righteousness of God was, in a sense, "compromised" in the estimation of men in that He did not deal "justly" with Israel most of the time. It looked, for all the world, like Israel could "get away with murder" just because of her "election by Yahweh" and the surrounding nations were definitely not "impressed" with His "justice" in permitting His people to be wicked without immediate judgment. They blasphemed Yahweh because of the Jews' behavior in concert with His apparent lack of "justice" in their case.
1. Our text says that many "sins" that had been committed prior to Calvary had been "dismissed" (in the sense that they were not handled by Justice with justice) and that had created a sense of injustice.
2. On that account, Jesus Christ is proclaimed as a legitimate foundation for the "dismissal of sins" because of mercy.
B. The blood of Jesus Christ was, therefore, a "setting straight of the record" that had been misunderstood by reason of God's demonstrated mercy to a people who had violated Justice.