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Romans 3:24-25

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 3:24
  • Romans 3:25

We are justified by faith in Christ as a free gift and we receive that gift of grace by faith.

How do we become “right?” How do we get straightened out, where sin no longer twists us in a way that we are unable to be who we were made to be, and live in a harmonious and constructive manner? The starting place is to be “justified” through the redemption that comes from Christ Jesus. This comes only one way: to believe in Jesus. Through faith in Jesus comes redemption, redemption from the penalty of sin.

The word translated “justified” here is the Greek word dikaioō. Dikaioo is the verb form of dikaiosune, a noun, translated “righteousness.” To get to a state of being righteous before God (noun) we must first be justified (verb) which requires action. Being justified cannot be accomplished by any human, including the Apostle Paul, as he made very clear in Romans 3:9. That action can only be accomplished by Jesus Christ, who then gives to us that accomplishment (which He accomplished) as a free gift, because He wants to (grace). The gift is completely free. 

The language Paul uses here is adamant that this gift is freely given, with nothing expected in return. Jesus Christ redeems us from slavery to sin and all the negative consequences associated with sin just because he wants to (grace), without any demands for reciprocity. Jesus demands nothing in return for the favor, the free gift.

This is the primary part of Paul’s message, his “good news” or “gospel” that the competing Jewish “authorities” are slandering (verse 8). They hate the idea that any person can be justified before God without having to “do” something, such as obey the law). But Paul makes it clear that no one is capable of obeying the law, so God had to do something “apart from the law” (verse 21). All we have to do to possess this gift is to receive it by faith.

As we will see, although there is nothing required in return for being justified by faith, the choices we make still have immense consequences. Jesus does justify us by grace through faith, but He does not suspend the laws of cause and effect for our actions.

In verse 25, we see the word “propitiation,” one that we don’t use much, if any, in English. The Greek word it translates only appears twice in the New Testament – the other time it is translated “mercy seat.” The mercy seat was the place on the ark of the covenant where the Priest sprinkled blood as a symbol that God had forgiven the sins of the people of Israel for that year. God “passed over” the sins of that year in anticipation of the annual mercy seat sprinkling, just as God “passed over” all the sins committed prior to Jesus’ perfect atonement for the sins of the world.

So the picture here is of Jesus as the mercy seat. The blood of Jesus was shed on our behalf, to cover the sins of all humanity; not just annually, but once for all. God offers this to us as a free gift, and there is only one way to receive that gift: by faith. Just as the sprinkling of the mercy seat was to pay for the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:14-16), the shed blood of Jesus pays the penalty for our sins when we receive the gift of God’s forgiveness.

Biblical Text

24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 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.