29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - 26 He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
It’s been said many times before that the day we remember this morning – that day on a hill called Calvary two thousand years ago – is the single most crucial day in all of human history. The Cross of Jesus Christ and what it means to us who believe, and to those who choose not to believe cannot be ignored.
History is full of important dates, but this day is the most important.
There are two symbols that are usually associated with Easter: The Cross and The Empty Tomb.
On Sunday our focus shifts to the victory and the promise of the empty tomb, but today we look at the cross.
For most of us it is a story we know very well, but instead of looking at the story of the crucifixion in the Gospels, this morning we’re going to look at the reason for the cross.
We’re all familiar with the historical events of Holy Week. Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
We know that on the Thursday evening Jesus shared the Passover meal, which is often called the Last Supper with the disciples.
Afterwards He went to the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed, was betrayed and arrested.
We know He was put through the sham of a trial with trumped up charges, declared guilty, then beaten and led up to Golgotha, where He was nailed to the cross.
And there He hung for about six hours until He died.
Ask any Sunday School child why Jesus went through all of this, and why He died, and the answer is usually, “He died to take away our sins.”
But what exactly does that mean?
Why did Jesus have to die to take away our sins?
What was the purpose of it all, and what exactly, did Jesus accomplish on the cross?
Let’s start with our standing before God. If we were to stand before a perfect, Holy God, what would He see?
Romans 3:23 has the answer. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This statement from Scripture applies to every single human being who ever has, ever is and ever will live, including each one of us here today.
Nobody is exempt from this truth. God’s holiness and glory is the standard, and every human being, without exception, has failed to live up to that standard.
There are two important parts to this verse.
Firstly, “all have sinned.” The word sin here means quite literally to miss the mark. It’s an archer’s term. It simply means shooting arrow at a target and missing what you were aiming at.
And that is essentially what sin is. God has set the standards for our lives. He has told us the things we are supposed to do, and the things we are not supposed to do. That’s the target, and when we don’t obey, we miss the target God has set for our lives. In other words we sin.
The second important aspect of Romans 3:23 is "fall short of the glory of God."
God intends for us to be His glory. In other words, He created us for His glory, and He created us to live lives which reflect His glory.
Do you want to know what God expects of you? The answer is perfection. “Be holy, because I am holy.”
And that presents you with a problem!
When we miss the mark, when we sin, we don’t bring glory to God, and we fall short of being who God created us to be.
When we sin God receives no glory. There’s another verse in Romans which is closely linked to this principle, which clearly spells out the consequences of falling short of God’s glory: “The wages of sin is death.”
When we miss the mark and fall short of God’s standard, we pay the price, and that price is death - not just physical death, but eternal death and separation from God. I’ve said this before: we tend to be rather flippant about our sin and we easily ignore the enormity of its consequences, but the truth is that sin has a huge price tag.
It means to be forever and ever separated from the One who created us.
That is where we are when we stand before a Holy God.
We’ve missed God’s standard for our lives. We are sinners, we’ve consistently failed to bring God glory with our lives, and as a result we’ve earned the wages our sin brings - eternal death.
So what does this mean for us? Where do we go from here?
We’re guilty. We’ve sinned, we’ve failed to bring God glory, and so we’re under a death sentence.
How do we fix this? How can we make things right? We can't.
There is nothing which we can do to fix this awful, eternal mess we have put ourselves into.
No matter what we do, we are failures.
And that is why the day we remember today is the most important day in history, simply because of the Cross on which Jesus died.
If we were to end the story at Romans 3:23 there would be no hope, and nothing for us to put our faith in. But we have the next two verses which speak of our hope: “We are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.”
There are four key words in verse 24.
This word means to be declared right. It’s a legal word which basically means someone who is guilty, is now declared innocent. Not guilty.
We know what this word means. There is no price, and it is given to us as a gift.
Grace means unmerited or unconditional favour. To receive something by God’s grace means that we have received something without earning it. His gift is based solely on who He is, and not who we are or what we do.
To redeem something is to buy it back. It involves paying a price to get something back. There is a cost for your salvation, but the good news is that you don’t have to pay it. Jesus did.
Now let’s go back to where we started from. We’ve sinned, we’ve fallen short of God’s glory, and consequently we’re under a death sentence.
And there is nothing we can do, because we have failed to live up to the high standard of perfect holiness which God created us for and expects us to live up to.
But, and this is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – God can still declare us not guilty. He gives us the free opportunity, because of His grace, His unmerited favour, to come back to Him.
In other words, we’re hopeless sinners but God has made a way for us to be made right and forgiven. And how is this possible?
It’s really quite simple.
“God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
It’s all about Jesus. He has removed the righteous and deserved wrath of God by His atoning death.
Our sin, our falling short of God’s glory, puts us under a death sentence. That means we will feel the eternal consequences of the wrath of God, but Jesus gives us a way out through the Cross.
It’s important to point out that God hasn’t removed the wrath – He didn’t just make it disappear, because Jesus experienced the wrath for Himself at Calvary. There was a price to pay for our salvation, but He paid it. He has removed the wrath from me and from you.
That’s what we mean when we talk about the free gift of salvation. By offering Himself as a gift, Jesus offered Himself to satisfy the price of your sin.
That’s why this day is so crucial. That’s the significance of the cross. This is what we mean when we talk about the significance of the blood of Jesus that poured out of His body while He was nailed to that cross.
He offered His life, His blood, as a gift to the Father in order to remove our guilt as sinners. God will not simply ignore your sin and say that it doesn’t matter. Your sin does matter. It mattered enough for Jesus to give Himself as an atoning sacrifice to save you from eternal damnation.
We looked at this principle a few weeks ago. Contrary to popular belief, God will not spare you from eternal damnation because He loves you.
He will spare you from eternal damnation if you put your faith in the power of the blood of Jesus.
Before you came to Christ, you were on a one-way trip to hell.
If you have yet to come to Christ, you are still on a one-way trip to hell.
But this is what Jesus has to say about that: “Over my dead body.”
We can be justified freely because of the grace of God offered through the Cross. What this means is that I am no longer guilty. Yes, I am a sinner, and I can assure you that I have and I continue to fall short of the glory of God – every single day.
That once placed me under an eternal death sentence, but no more.
Because I have been justified by Jesus on the Cross. I have been declared not guilty. Even though I did all these things which do not bring glory to God, and I continue to do things which do not glorify Him, my guilt has been removed. That’s what justification is all about.
If you are a Christian, then you need to be reminded of this truth: If you have put your faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus, then you have experienced and received the free grace of God. You are not guilty.
If you are not a Christian – if you have yet to put your faith in Christ, it is not too late. Faith means to put your trust in and to have confidence in the promises of God. By putting your faith in the redeeming power of the blood of Christ, you will have nothing to fear when you stand before God one day.
That day is coming, but just how well or how badly that day will go for you is entirely up to you.
Good Friday is a day of such turmoil and mixed emotions in the Christian Church. We know the end of the story, and we know that Sunday is coming. On Sunday we will celebrate life, and for this reason we are able to look beyond the awful shadow of the Cross.
But, and we should never forget this, we are the reason for the Cross, and that is what makes it such a dreadful event in history.
However, in the words of 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
Two thousand years ago on a hill called Calvary, God’s perfect wrath, fury and anger met His perfect love, grace and mercy.
It all came together in a cataclysmic event that echoes throughout human history.
And now the choice is yours. Do you believe it, or not?