by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 6 July 12, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(140)Thesis:God's purpose in Christ was to "justify" those who believe in Christ.
Introduction:In our study last week we looked into the claim that God set Christ forth as the Mercy Seat. By Mercy Seat, we mean the Basis for the Exercise of Mercy.
The "problem", as Paul puts it, is that God can not be shown in history to deal "justly" with sins. No one has ever been shown to have been treated "justly". God is seen to always temper His response to man's sin so that man is never seen to get what he really deserves. The operative word here is "seen". Man cannot see beyond physical death, so he can never see what happens beyond a person's death. Man cannot see Hell.
Paul's argument in 3:25 was that God is "justly" free to be not only moderate in His response to man's sins, but He is free to not respond atall if He so chooses. This "freedom of God" is based upon the reality of Christ as the Mercy Seat. Because the issue of Justice is the issue of a full and exactly equivalent retaliation for sin, Christ has been presented as having subjected Himself to the full and exactly equivalent retaliation for all of mens sins for all of time. Thus, Paul argues, "Justice" has been absolutely satisfied. This means that it is not "injustice" for God to choose to either be moderate in His response to sin, or to do nothing at all.
This evening we are going to move a bit further into Paul's argument by looking into 3:26.
I. Our First Observation: Paul is Camping On God's "Purpose".
A. God's "purpose" in setting Christ forth was to answer His critics so that both of the errors of men could be corrected.
1. The first error was to think that God is unfair in giving grace to the Jews (the Gentile error) in light of the abject failure of the Jews under the Law. This error leads to rage.
2. The second error was to think that God's "justice" is such a minor thing that the blood of a pigeon could actually address it (the Jewish error). This error leads to arrogance.
3. In both errors there is a fundamental misunderstanding of both Justice and the Mercy Seat.
a. The Gentiles have no reason to rage because the Mercy Seat is open to all without distinction.
b. The Jews have no reason for pride because Justice was not met by their obedience in offering the sacrifices.
B. God's "answer" was the sacrifice of His Own Son for all.
II. Our Second Observation: Paul is Pressing the Issue Beyond God's "Forbearance".
A. In 3:25 the "problem" was that God did not respond sufficiently in "just" retaliation.
B. In 3:26 the "problem" is that God actually goes beyond retaliation altogether to "justification". In other words, not only does God not give man what he deserves, He actually gives him the opposite of what he deserves.
III. Our Third Observation: Paul is Dealing With a Bigger Issue Than "Justice" Alone.
A. Paul has already addressed "forbearance" (2:4) in the context of "repentance" in the light of a divine, post-judgment, scenario of Eternal Life in an Eternal Servant Kingdom.
B. Therefore, the "bigger issue" is the question of whether there even can be such a scenario.
1. The scenario involves two big ticket issues...
a. Eternal Life as a consequence of the true knowledge of God in every aspect of His Being (especially those aspects which are beyond Justice).
b. An Eternal Servant Kingdom made of "repentant ones" who once were totally self-centered in a personal-dominion-kingdom mindset (is it possible to actually have a servant kingdom made up of former tyrants?).
2. The scenario, consequently, involves the "smaller" issue of "Justice" as an aspect of the Eternal Life issue so that the Servant Kingdom can actually exist.
a. It is impossible to possess eternal life without a true knowledge of God.
b. It is difficult to experience eternal life when that knowledge is corrupted.
c. Not dealing with "Justice" in contrast to "Mercy" allows the knowledge to be corrupted into either rage or pride.
IV. Our Fourth Observation: Paul is Dealing With the Particulars of How the Bigger Issue Will Come to Pass.
A. "Justification" is Paul's answer to how a man might get into the post-judgment scenario.
B. "Faith" is Paul's answer to how the transformation from the "tyrant" mindset to the "servant" mindset is accomplished.
1. There is a fundamental, underlying assumption: that the proper "love" has been put into place.
a. One cannot use "faith" to pursue participation in the post-judgment scenario if one does not wish to be truly involved in that scenario.
b. One willnot use "faith" to prepare for participation in the post-judgment scenario if one does nothing to address the "tyranny" issue.
c. Love is God's fundamental challenge and provision, not faith.
2. There is a second assumption that piggy-backs on the first: that "faith" is the basic divider of men into two camps: those who will get past the judgment into the final scenario of Life and those who will not.
3. Then, finally, there is a third assumption in Paul's text: that "faith" in the divinely revealed "Mercy Seat" methodology for dealing with Justice is both legitimate and sufficient.
a. Vicarious atonement has its own set of "problems", the chiefest of which is the question: How can it be justice to visit wrath upon One for another?
b. But "faith" in the revelation of vicarious atonement as a divinely sanctioned method accepts the reality and waits for the solution to the "problems". At some point man must stop waiting for all of the problems to be answered before he gets into the process...i.e., he must "believe" that God has spoken truly if only partially and he must not allow rage or pride to block his path.