The Atonement: Getting a Grip on the Gospel of Grace – Part II

In Part I of this series we saw that Paul showed (in Romans 1-2) the deficiencies of paganism, morality and religion to grant a person righteousness before God and he concluded with this devastating indictment:

There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God . . . there is none who does good, there is not even one (Romans 3:10-12).

This would leave the reader of the book of Romans with this question: How can a person stand before God and claim to be righteous?

Paul’s answer to that question is that a person stands righteous before God by justification by grace through faith. He then gives three pictures/views to make sure we get the point. The first is the view from the courtroom which we considered in Part I. The issue here is justice–how can God provide righteousness to sinful people and still remain just? Paul’s answer is by substitution (see Part I for a discussion on this idea).

Today I want to consider the other two views that Paul presents in Romans 3: the view from the marketplace and the view from the temple.

The View from the Marketplace (vs. 23-24)

The issue here is deliverance—how can God free sinful people from the bondage of sin?

The answer to this question is redemption.

Paul describes redemption as a gift of grace. When he was writing he was thinking of redemption in his culture in which slaves were sold in the marketplace. Redemption meant buying a slave out of bondage. The bondage we are under is the bondage of sin, the curse of the law which condemns us.

By the death of Christ, you have been set free from the bondage of sin—the required price was paid by him and you were rescued from captivity. The result for you is that you are justified by the free grace of God because of the redemption that came through Jesus Christ. You make this redemption personal for you by faith.

Jesus paid the price to ransom/redeem his people. That price was the shedding of his blood.

The View from the Temple (vs. 25a)

The issue here is wrath—how can God’s wrath against sin be upheld if he saves people against whom that wrath would be unleashed? When Jesus went to the cross, he went in his priestly role as a voluntary sacrifice. It was not merely the heroic act of a loving man of conviction.  He was the sacrifice of atonement.

The picture here is of the Day of Atonement. Two goats would be presented. After the priest laid his hands on their heads transferring to them the sins of the people, one would be slaughtered and its blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat of the ark for the forgiveness of sin. The other, the scapegoat, was led into the wilderness to show that the sin of the people had been removed and God would remember it against them no more.

Sin is enmity against God: face-to-face hostility. At the cross, where the blood of the innocent one was shed, the wrath of God against sin was invoked and unleashed upon Jesus.

The answer to the question of God’s wrath is propitiation

The word propitiation means to appease—the satisfaction of the wrath of God against sin.  The sacrifice has been made so the believing sinner stands justified before God. Those who were formerly objects of wrath are now dealt with in love; the enmity is removed and the justified sinner is adopted into the family of God—the wrathful Lord becomes a loving Father.

Paul’s Three Views

View from the courtroom: the issue is justice, God’s solution is substitution

View from the marketplace: the issue is deliverance, God’s solution is redemption

View from the temple: the issue is wrath, God’s solution is propitiation

How amazing is the grace of God in our salvation!


About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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