'But now', Paul says. He's changing tack. The bad news is already explained and now he's getting to the good bit! Jesus! He explains that God's righteousness (how good God is) has been revealed to humans not only through the Old Testament law that people were trying (and failing) to keep but also now through Jesus and he says the law was pointing to Jesus all along.
If people want to have the righteousness of God and be good enough for God, trying to keep God's commands should only go to show that we can't have it that way. Paul says the only way people can be good enough for God and have this righteousness is by receiving it as a gift by having faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus means a lot of things that Paul will explain in this letter but for now he simply says it's about believing Jesus.
Paul reminds us that we're all in the same boat when it comes to being good enough for God. We're not! No matter how far we fall short, the point is we all fall short of God's goodness because we have all deliberately made selfish choices in our thoughts, words and actions. But the good news here is that it's people like this that Jesus wants to freely and graciously forgive and rescue and give his righteousness to so they're good enough for him. People like us! Not self-righteousness that relies on our work but gift-righteousness that relies on Jesus' work.
'Redemption' is a powerful word that means 'buying back' and that's what Jesus was doing on the cross. Paul says Jesus was a 'sacrifice of atonement' and this means Jesus was our substitute, dying in our place for our sin. He was taking the punishment for the sin of the world on himself. I always think of Jim Carrey in The Mask where he swallows the bomb that's about to kill the girl and it goes off inside him but he just takes it and burps fire afterwards! Of course, what Jesus did is a million times more profound than that but I like the image! Jesus takes it for us because he can and because he loves us and wants to rescue us!
The 'shedding of blood' is a big deal too. Paul says this is part of it. Hebrews 9:22 says 'In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.' The Jews and anyone who knew the Old Testament law would have known that God says sin is serious and requires death as a penalty. This is what the blood is about. It's a sign of death for sin. Paul says Jesus' blood is a sign for us that he died for us and faith in Jesus means trusting that his death paid the price for our sin so we could have forgiveness from God.
Paul says Jesus' death also shows God's justice because if sin is serious and deserves death as a penalty then God had been gracious for ages! Loads of people over the years had been allowed to live selfishly and not suffer justice immediately. God had been graciously delaying punishment so that he could show people himself and his plan to forgive them and make them right again. Paul is saying that when Jesus died, he really was dying for the unpunished sin of everyone that had lived so far and also for everyone who would live afterwards. He took all of it so that anyone who puts their faith in Jesus (by believing him and trusting in his death) could have forgiveness and be made good enough for God by the righteousness of Jesus. God is absolutely just and his justice fell on Jesus so that we might be justified (made right) with him by faith in Jesus. This was God's plan all along!
Paul then mentions the law again because he knows his Jewish readers care about it and might think he's rubbishing it by saying Jesus can make us right with God and the law can't. He's not saying the law's rubbish. He's saying it's important because its purpose was to highlight people's sin and failure and to point them to Jesus who would die for sin. He also explains that God loves everyone, not just the Jews. Only the Jews got the law and it was a partial picture of God's bigger plan but Jesus died for everyone so that people from all nations and cultural backgrounds could bring their sin to Jesus to be forgiven and be made right with God. This is what the law (and everything in the Old Testament) was pointing to. It's all about Jesus.
Some HUGE ideas in this passage but maybe some of these simple questions will help us think about what our response ought to be...
- What do you think about Jesus? What is your opinion based on?
- Have you put your faith in Jesus (believing him and trusting in his death for you)? If not, what do you need to find out about Jesus so you can be sure about him?
- Are you already sure about Jesus and trusting and following him? If so, do something today to celebrate God's grace and forgiveness and do something to help someone who doesn't know it yet!