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©John Yerkes

Chapter 3:23-31 (ESV)

Posted on December 16, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 3:23-31 (ESV) - For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Question to consider: What does Paul mean that God “passed over” former sins?

When it comes to our fallen state before God, Paul has been telling the church at Rome that there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile. It is the human condition that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God so the only way we can be justified (considered righteous by God) is by the grace given to us by Christ as a gift. The reason we can be redeemed in Christ is because God accepted the bloody sacrifice of Christ’s flesh as payment for our sins. This was proven by Christ's resurrection from the dead.

Up until that payment, God “passed over” former sins through the blood of animals, but Paul described God’s reaction to this Passover as divine forbearance— meaning that God endured or suffered through the people’s sin until it could be fully reconciled through Christ. The animal sacrifices couldn’t fully atone for the sins of humans simply because they weren’t human. It was like putting a clean bandage over a seeping wound. It may have covered over the wound temporarily, but the bandage was a temporary solution until a permanent one could be applied to close up and heal the wound. The sacrifice of Christ, the death of an unblemished man, could be the only atonement for the sin of mankind.

Because our justification before God was provided by the righteousness of another, Paul wrote that we have no room to boast. Up until that point, the only thing that separated the Jews from the Gentiles was the Law, and there was no room for boasting in the Law because even though they received it, they didn’t keep it. Thus, whether one was Jew or Gentile, justification before God was given through faith in the One who upheld the Law.

This faith didn’t negate the Law or overthrow the Law but maintained a high view of it. Saying that someone was justified by works under the Law even though they didn’t fully keep it would diminish the integrity of the Law. Thus Paul argued that Christ’s perfect work in keeping the Law preserved the integrity of the Law while still offering a way for us to be justified before God because of Him. 

When people present the idea that all religions can justify us before God, they are suggesting that our own work in trying to follow the dictates of the various religions is what matters, and as long as someone gives it their best effort, God rewards them with eternal life. However, if this were the case, it would diminish the integrity of the Law and the perfect righteousness of God. Christ fulfilling the Law and crediting us with His righteousness by faith is the only thing that preserves God’s holiness while reconciling us to Him. 

The only way another religion could accomplish this would be for some other person to have done the same. Was Mohammad or Buddha or Joseph Smith without sin? Has anyone else besides Christ offered himself up as a propitiation of our sin? Of course not, and thus they are of no value in reconciling us to God.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for accepting the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf and preserving Your holy name. We look forward to the day when we can live with You and worship You without the stain of sin, and that the darkness of this world will be a thing of the past. Amen.