Last post I mentioned that I would be posting thoughts on the book of Judges so that you could follow along with our Bible study groups. As we meet once a week and I write three to four blog posts a week there will be lots of posts where I do write about other things besides commentary on Judges. This is one of those posts.

10 “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one;

11 there is no one who understands; 
there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; 
there is no one who does good, not even one.

13 Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips.

14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 ruin and misery mark their ways,

17 and the way of peace they do not know.

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.’ ” Romans 3:10-18

Paul gives quite a bleak picture of the relationship between God and man in the above-mentioned verses. And if we are honest with ourselves it is a very accurate picture of how humanity stacks up against the holiness of God. In a nutshell Paul is reminding both Jews and Gentiles that they are all lost, rebellious, and thus in need of a savior.

Now in light of verses 10-18 let your mind percolate on the following verses.

21 “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—

26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26

Is this not absolutely amazing? We are riddled with sin from the top of our head to the tips of our toes. We are saddled with a sinful nature that tugs us into a world of sin with comparative ease. We have a disposition for sin, a love of sin, and demonic angels ever working to manipulate and tempt us to sin. Sin is what we are and who we are and until we realize this simple fact we will never appreciate the dynamics of what is being said in Romans 3:21-26.

You and I are lost in sin but God saves us anyway. For those of us who have a Christian background in ultra conservative churches this is truly good news. Paul makes it clear we are sinful, we cannot save ourselves, we cannot do enough to make God save us, but all the same we are saved. How is that possible? Grace.

The righteousness of God through Jesus is accredited to all of us who do what? According to verse 22 the answer is “believe” in the redemptive power and absolute love of Jesus. I’m presently reading a commentary on Romans by F.F. Bruce and I would like to share his thoughts on one word found in Romans 3:21-26 and that word is expiation. In the New International Version of the Bible that I am quoting from, this word expiation is translated in verse 25 as, “a sacrifice of atonement,” and that gives us a nice understanding of its root meaning, but there are deep undertones of meaning in the word we should explore.

The Greek word that we translate as expiation is hilasterion and has the meaning of agent of propitiation. Though in the accusative singular masculine, in verse 25 hilasterion in the neuter form has the meaning of “place of propitiation.” Don’t let the Greek bother you, what I am getting at is hilasterion in the Greek Old Testament is usually in the neuter form and has the meaning of “place or means of propitiation.”

Now here is the interesting thing about hilasterion as used in the Septuagint (Old Testament Greek Bible) is that the word is equivalent to the Hebrew word kapporet, which means “the place where sins are atoned for or blotted out”. Let that sink in for a moment before we move on. The most common usage for kapporet in the Old Testament Hebrew writings was that the word was used for “the mercy seat” which covered the ark in the holy of holies.

In Leviticus 17:11 we read, “The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.”

So what is Paul saying to us in verse 25?  Bruce comments, “The death of Christ, then, is the means by which God does away with the people’s sin—not symbolically, as in the ritual of Leviticus 16 in which the material mercy-seat figured, but really. And really in a twofold sense; the sin has been removed not only from the believer’s conscience, on which it lay as an intolerable burden, but also from the presence of God,” F.F. Bruce, Romans, TNTC, p. 111

Bruce goes on to point out that if it weren’t so awkward to appoint the word “mercy-seat” to the being of Jesus there would be a strong case for giving that absolute meaning to hilasterion in verse 25. Jesus literally is the person and means where our sins are blotted out.

Bruce quotes the New Testament scholar T.W. Manson (long deceased) regarding the use of hilasterion in verse 25. It is a fascinating insight into the theology of grace and God’s love. “The old hilasterion was concealed behind the curtain which separated the holy of holies from the outer sanctuary, and was seen by none but the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. But in Christ ‘the mercy-seat’ is no longer kept in sacred seclusion of the most holy place it is brought out into the midst of the rough and tumble of the world and set up before the eyes of the hostile, contemptuous, or indifferent crowds.” Manson, ‘Hilasterion” JTS 46 (1945), pp. 1-10 (p.1), Quoted Bruce, Romans p. 112

We can say that Jesus is our mercy-seat or our atoning sacrifice where our sins are blotted out in real time for all eternity, and it is through the shedding of His blood (Lev. 17) that this takes place. We receive this extraordinary precious gift by faith.

Jesus death does much more than give us hope, it gives us assurance that as our atoning sacrifice that we have mercy, forgiveness and acceptance. We are redeemed by the power of His grace, through the shedding of His blood that our sins are forgiven and forgotten right now and not some time in past history or in future judgment.

Weather we say Jesus is our mercy-seat, our expiation, our propitiation, or our atoning sacrifice they all mean the same. We are saved not of our selves, but by the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus who bore our sins to the cross and gives us mercy and assurance in their place.

Praise God!

* All’s quiet in the front…really? Just because it’s hardly reported in the news these days doesn’t mean it’s not happening anymore. Many people around the globe are STILL experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death. They need our support and continuous prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at  http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet but you have to search for it