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Doctrines That Determine Destiny

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 3:24–26

The work of Jesus Christ in justification, redemption, and propitiation gives us greater appreciation for the character of God. And the more we understand these truths, the more amazed we are that He grants us all these benefits through faith alone.


We are going to dig a little deeper today in our study of Romans and cover three great doctrinal truths given to us here in chapter 3. They are summed up in three key words.

The first word is justification. Paul writes in verse 24 that through Jesus Christ sinners are “justified by his grace as a gift.” Justification is God declaring the believer righteous on the basis of faith in His righteous Son, Jesus Christ. Justification is not something we do for God; it is something God declares about us. We have already talked about the fact that we are justified by faith alone.

Now we come to the second key word: redemption. Verse 24 tells us that justification is based upon the work of “redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The Greek word for “redemption” refers to the payment given to set a prisoner free. A redemption payment would also set a slave free. In Galatians 5:1, Paul writes, “Christ has set us free.” We are set free from the guilt of sin, from enslavement to sin, from eternal punishment for sin, and—I am looking forward to this—from the very presence of sin one day. Jesus paid the price for our redemption. He bought us out of the slave market of sin, so to speak. And now we belong to Him.

The third key word is propitiation. That is not a word we use very often. It’s even hard to pronounce, but it is an important doctrine to remember. Verse 25 says that God “put forward [Jesus Christ] as a propitiation by his blood.”

Propitiation means “satisfaction.” It refers to a sacrifice that satisfies God’s holy demand that sin be judged. This word propitiation appears again in 1 John 2:2, which tells us, “[Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

So, Jesus actually satisfied the justice of God. But the reason propitiation is nearly a forgotten doctrine today is because people do not think God is ever going to judge sinners one day.

People do not understand propitiation because they do not understand the need for it. And that is because they do not want anything to do with the Bible’s promise that it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Hebrews 10:27 warns us that God’s fiery judgment awaits the unbelieving world.

Hebrews 12:29 tells us that God is a “consuming fire.” People want to think of God as a cozy campfire or soft candlelight, not a consuming fire. The truth is, there is not any kind of fire extinguisher that can quench God’s fiery judgment. There is nothing any human can do to satisfy God’s holy justice and turn away His wrath.

But here’s where the doctrine of propitiation comes into play. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ satisfied—it propitiated—God the Father’s justice and wrath against sinful humanity.

Beloved, you will never have to face the wrath of God in fiery judgment if you place your faith in Jesus Christ. The wrath of God has already burned against Him, and it will never burn against those who have gone to Jesus for safety.

Now this raises a question that Paul is going to address here: How did Old Testament people, who lived before Jesus, find forgiveness from sin? Did God have a different plan of salvation for Old Testament believers, or did He just let them off the hook?

You might think they all found forgiveness through animal sacrifices. But Hebrews 10:4 tells us, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

It covered their sin, but it did not take it away. So, how could an Old Testament believer ever go to heaven? The answer is found here in Romans 3:25:

This [the cross of Christ] was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance [his patience] he had passed over former sins.

These “former sins” refer to sins that were committed prior to the cross of Christ. The Lord “passed over” them temporarily; that is, He withheld eternal judgment against sin for a certain period of time.

The answer goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. When they sinned, God could have condemned them to eternal punishment. Instead, He covered them with the skins of animals He had put to death. By this He displayed the principle of substitutionary atonement—a substitute for sinners. And that, of course, pointed all the way to the final Substitute who would shed His blood to pay for sin and take sin away permanently.

In the Old Testament, God incorporated this principle of atonement. Innocent animals were judged, so to speak, in the place of sinful humans. On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest sprinkled the blood of the innocent, sacrificial animal on the mercy seat, the lid of the of the ark of the covenant. God was temporarily satisfied for another year.

But beloved, the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was temporary. The Day of Atonement was only good for one year; it was a covering, not a permanent solution. Permanent forgiveness would be offered through Christ alone.

Think of it this way: Old Testament believers were saved on credit. They borrowed against the final payment for sin made by the Messiah. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the bill and also completed the sacrificial system of atonement.

  • So, Old Testament believers went to heaven by faith in the sacrifice Jesus was going to make.
  • Believers today go to heaven by faith in the sacrifice Jesus made some 2,000 years ago.

So do not miss this: God’s plan of salvation has never changed. It is always through faith in the sinless Substitute who died to pay for our sin.

Now does that mean Old Testament believers, way back then, actually knew that a real person—the Messiah—would die for the sins of mankind? Absolutely! Isaiah 53 is one of many Old Testament passages that prophesy this. Listen to some phrases from Isaiah’s prophecy:

  • He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
  • My servant [will] make many to be accounted righteous.
  • He shall bear their iniquities.
  • He poured out his soul to death.
  • The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

So Old Testament believers were saved by faith in the future death of their Messiah. New Testament believers are saved by faith in the past death of our Messiah. Everybody who goes to heaven gets there because of Jesus. There is not, and never has been and never will be, any other way to heaven but through Him.

Paul then goes on to say this about the cross of Christ:

It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he [God the Father] might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (verse 26)

God has been perfectly just—the penalty for sin had to be paid, and it was paid in full by Jesus. And because Jesus is God the Son, an infinite being, He was able to pay the infinite price for our sin.

That is amazing! God was able to be just and at the same time justify sinners like you and me—those who, as verse 26 says, have “faith in Jesus.”

Three key doctrines: justification, redemption, and propitiation. These three doctrines will determine your eternal destiny. Have you come to Christ by faith in Him alone? If you have, you are safe—saved—from the wrath of God forever.

Add a Comment


Connie Corbin says:
This was a great lesson! I have never heard such a clear explanation regarding the salvation for people from the Old Testament. It did raise a question in my mind. If I understand correctly... only the Jewish nation offered sacrifices. So that means that all of the other people would be destined for hell. I think I understand the teaching of election so I guess this would make sense. But in the New Testament salvation is offered to the Gentiles as well. So am I just confused in thinking that God created all of the other people in old testament times to persecute His people?

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