I. God’s Forgiveness of Sin Through Christ
A. The Universality of Sin (v. 23)
1. Paul’s idea about sin is made quite plain in this verse: all have sinned.
2. It is the human tendency not only to excuse our sin but also to compare and classify it.
3. We are quite content to place the blame on someone or something for our sin. We have invented or rather displayed many defense mechanisms to excuse our behavior.
4. In our mind, murder is a greater sin than hatred and adultery is much worse than gossip.
5. Admittedly, the temporal consequences of some sins are greater than others, but God does not measure sin in degrees but rather in what it is-a transgression against his holy nature, an offense and a missing of his mark.
6. The consequences of David’s sin with Bathsheba ran deeper than Abraham’s when he lied about his wife being his sister. Nevertheless, apart from God’s forgiveness, either sin-even the sin of gossip, would be all it took to consign them both to hell.
7. Additionally, breaking one of God’s laws makes us guilty of breaking them all. (James 2:10)
8. The fact that we sin-whether we label it “little” or “big” makes us a sinner.
9. Committing only “little” sins does not make us worthy of eternal life at the expense of someone who is a dastardly sinner.
10. All sin separates us from God and must be forgiven to avoid its ultimate consequences-eternal separation from him.
B. What is the origination of our sin?
1. If we are all sinners, it behooves us to investigate why and how?
2. Consider the following statements: “I am a sinner because I sin,” or “I sin because I am a sinner.”
3. The first leaves open the possibility a person could live without sinning. If this is so, it is possible not to need the sacrifice of Christ.
4. The second statement proposes the reality that all will sin and have no choice in the matter (but at the same time are not robots). No one will ever enter heaven on their own merit. Our nature is infected.
5. We are not born good and then corrupted by our environment. If this was so, it would again leave open the possibility of one somehow living a life free of sin-even though those who propose this scenario would readily admit it would never happen.
6. It is hard for us to look at a newborn baby or consider a small child and think they have a sinful nature, yet they do, and time will bear this out.
7. We are born “bad” and our propensity toward sin will become evident as we move toward that age when we can make choices between right and wrong.
8. Theories concerning how the sin nature is transferred will be reserved for our discussion in chapter five when Paul deals with the sin of Adam being transferred to his descendants.
9. Suffice it to say at this point that the Bible is clear all are sinners and as such are responsible to God and dependant on him to rectify our horrible condition.
C. Our Sin Causes Us To Miss God’s Glorious Standard
1. The “glory of God” is mentioned many times in God’s Word, but it may be somewhat slippery to define.
2. To bring glory to God is to make sure the spotlight is put on him through our actions, words and attitudes. We might compare it to a spotlight being shown on a singer or actor.
3. His glorious standard is his moral standard for us, which is perfection. Sin leads to missing God’s best for us.
4. Sin keeps us from reaching the existence God designed for us.
5. Sin will always take us away from God and should be considered serious for the believer. Jesus tells us to hunger and thirst for righteousness not sin. (Matthew 5:6)
6. The tense is present in the Greek and infers all people are continuing to fall short of God’s standard. We are not evolving in our behavior, getting closer to what God requires, but rather are continuing in the pattern that has been ours from the beginning.
D. The Work of Christ Enables Us to Reach God’s Standard (v. 24)
1. This verse and the next (v. 25) are vital in understanding what happened on the cross and what happens when the work there is applied to our life.
2. Paul says God in his kindness declares us not guilty.
3. The question arises as to how God can declare a guilty sinner not guilty without violating his holy nature?
4. Paul does not leave us in doubt but tells us in the remainder of the verse-through Christ who took our sins.
5. We might imagine a courtroom scene wherein a person is on trial for a particular crime. The prosecuting attorney presents evidence, and the jury listens. When all evidence is presented and closing arguments are made, the jury retires to consider a verdict. If the judge or jury finds the person not guilty, they are declared such and released. They are no longer considered criminals for they have been declared innocent of all charges.
6. Should the person be found guilty, but it was possible for someone else to pay their fine or spend time in prison for them, that person would still go free and not have to live life as a criminal. Someone would be taking their place.
7. In this matter of our sin and its consequences, God is the judge who let his Son pay our penalty and take our place so we could go free.
8. This process is known as justification and what Christ did is referred to as the atonement.
E. Understanding Justification
1. It has been simply defined as “just as if I never sinned,” but the meaning is much deeper.
2. In the act of justification, God declares those who are guilty not guilty.
3. He pronounces our holiness and our success in living up to the requirements of the Law.
4. Interestingly, no believer would suggest they never sin or that they perfectly obey God’s law.
5. Rather, God takes the righteousness of Christ and his perfect obedience to God’s moral law and applies it to us. Therefore, a holy God can accept us based on what Christ has done.
6. God adopts us into his family (John 1:12) and makes us his children. No longer are we alienated.
7. Once again, however, we must understand that the justification process does not take place because of anything we have achieved or done. It is simply by the grace of God.
F. Understanding Atonement
1. Some have defined the word by its parts-“at one ment (with).”
2. The atonement is what Christ did on the cross, and our acceptance of that changes our status with God.
3. What he did brings us to God and can because he paid the debt that kept us from God.
4. Through the atonement, a subjective act is applied objectively.
5. Paul mentions that Jesus took the punishment for our sins and satisfied God’s anger against us.
G. Theories of the Atonement
1. Socinian or Example.
a. This was developed by Laelius Socinus and Faustus. It is best represented today by Unitarians who reject vicarious satisfaction (that is someone was offered in place of another).
b. It basically teaches Jesus’ death was a perfect example of the type of dedication we should have, but it actually accomplished nothing in dealing with our sin.
c. Jesus’ death gives an example and inspires us.
2. The Moral Influence Theory-the Cross as a demonstration of God’s love.
a. This view was first developed by Peter Abelard and sees the cross as a demonstration of God’s love.
b. Paul states Jesus’ death satisfied God’s anger, but this view would radically conflict with that statement.
c. Paul maintains Jesus’ death had some bearing on God when this view says the direction of the results flowed toward man.
3. The Governmental Theory-the cross demonstrated divine justice.
a. This view emphasizes the seriousness of sin which certainly seems to agree with the Bible’s assessment of it.
b. It contains both subjective and objective elements.
c. What Christ did satisfied the demands of God’s justice, but it also impressed the sinner regarding the seriousness of sin.
d. Some have referred to this theory as the “penal substitution” theory.
4. The Ransom Theory-victory over sin and evil
a. This theory has been called the classic view and has the greatest claim to having been the standard view of the early church.
b. It relies heavily on Jesus’ statement that he came to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
c. Rather than God being paid in the sacrifice of Christ, it was Satan who determined the price (since humanity belonged to him), was paid and who accepted the payment.
d. This view, however, has God deceiving Satan since the cross was the way God designed before the foundation of the world.
5. The Satisfaction Theory-payment made to God. (also known as the “penal-substitution theory”)
a. According to this view, the result of the atonement was not primarily directed to humans nor was payment made to Satan.
b. It was directed to God the Father, which is what Paul seems to propose in this verse.
c. God either has to punish those who offend his nature or accept a payment in their behalf that satisfies his justice.
H. Conclusions concerning the atonement.
1. Taking into consideration what is taught throughout the Bible, it appears that the penal substitution theory best fits Scripture.
2. Since all Old Testament blood sacrifices pointed toward Christ and taught a substitute was needed, Jesus’ death can be considered a sacrifice.
3. It was also a substitute as were all Old Testament sacrifices made for sin.
4. His death also involves the idea of propitiation or appeasement. The sacrifices appeased God’s wrath against sin, and so did Jesus’.
5. Jesus’ death also reconciles people to God when they accept what he did on Calvary.
A. No one likes bad news, but if there is good news that follows which counteracts the bad news, we can deal with it.
B. Our deadly fall into sin-with all its consequences, is counteracted by the sacrifice of Christ which brought forgiveness.
C. All God requires is our acceptance of his Son’s work.