Rom 3:21  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Rom 3:22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Rom 3:23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Rom 3:24  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Rom 3:25  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

Rom 3:26  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.


My understanding is that there is a legitimate distinction between the issue of the provision the Lord Jesus Christ made on the cross for the complete forgiveness of a person’s sins, and the actual response of God’s Justice to that person which results in His Justice completely forgiving him all of his sins past, present, and future. And this legitimate distinction is both resident in, and a legal component of, the three judicial terms used in “the gospel of Christ” to describe the legal relationship between the cross work of Christ and the Justice of God. And, of course, those three terms are “redemption,” “propitiation,” and “justification.” Moreover, of these three terms the first two pertain to the provision that Christ made for us to have complete forgiveness of sins, while the third term is the one that involves the actual possession of complete forgiveness. Briefly and simply put, (as well as generically speaking), “redemption” through a redeemer is the issue of a legally qualified substitute taking the place of another in some legal predicament in order to deliver him from the judicial consequences of the predicament that he is in. And this is accomplished by the substitute-redeemer himself paying whatever price is legally required and stipulated by Justice to be paid in order to provide for releasing the other from the predicament that he is in.


Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Rom 1:19  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Rom 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Rom 1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Rom 1:22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

Rom 1:23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Rom 1:24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

Rom 1:25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.


In connection with “redemption” through a redeemer, “propitiation” is the issue of the complete judicial satisfaction of all the legal claims and demands against the one needing redemption. It is the full satisfaction of Justice brought about by means of the redeemer fully accomplishing all things demanded by Justice in connection with the predicament of the one needing redemption. “Propitiation” is the legal term that more or less says that the redeemer has successfully done his job; Justice is completely satisfied by what the redeemer has accomplished; and in view of it Justice is now in the position of being able to dismiss the judicial consequences of the predicament against the one in the predicament, and instead can impute to him the judicial benefits purchased for him by his redeemer. Now in connection with “the gospel of Christ,” as Paul sets forth in the first two parts of the gospel (1:18–32 and then 2:1–3:20) all men are in a legal predicament with the Justice of God. They are ungodly sinners worthy of receiving God’s wrath for their ungodliness, unrighteousness, and sins; and they are helpless to do anything about it on their own, having no way on their own to propitiate God’s Justice and escape the judgment of God.


Rom 1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

Rom 1:27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Rom 1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Rom 1:29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

Rom 1:30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Rom 1:31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Rom 1:32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.


All men, therefore, are “guilty before God,” with the first two parts of the gospel stopping their mouths at every attempt they make to deny or refute the charges God brings against them; or at every attempt they make at defending themselves against them; or at every attempt they make to get their case thrown out of court; or at every attempt they make to propitiate God’s Justice on their own. The first two parts of “the gospel of Christ” conclude with nothing less than the absolutely horrible realization that all men are in the completely hopeless predicament of being “guilty before God” as ungodly sinners, who as such are fully and legally worthy of death and suffering the eternal consequences of paying the price for their own sins. With their mouths stopped before the bar of God’s Justice, their only hope is that the Judge of all the earth will say something to them in mercy and grace. In fact the truth of the matter is that men’s only hope is that a redeemer can be found. And in view of what Romans 1:18–3:20 has set forth, the redeemer must be able to propitiate God’s Justice in connection with men’s sin guiltiness, and in so doing provide for God’s Justice to be able to legally and freely forgive them their sins and replace their sin guiltiness with the imputation of God’s own perfect righteousness. Nothing less will do. And, of course, this means that God Himself must become man’s redeemer. And is just what the good news of the gospel in Romans 3:21–26 goes on to say God did.


Rom 2:1  Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Rom 2:2  But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

Rom 2:3  And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?


When the Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross of Calvary, He functioned as our substitute-Redeemer. In so doing He took upon Himself the judicial consequences of our sinful guiltiness, paying for us in our place the debt and penalty of our own sins in order to provide for delivering us from the predicament of being fully and legally worthy of paying for them ourselves. He “propitiated” God’s Justice in so doing, and God raised Him from the dead in view of the propitiation. And in view of the “redemption” and “propitiation,” God is able to be “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” The provision, therefore, for “justification” has been made through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. However the “justification” is not automatic. It is conditioned upon the ones needing redemption ‘believing in Jesus’; believing in their substitute-Redeemer. In full accordance with the doctrine of redemption as “witnessed by the law and the prophets,” sins will only be forgiven and God’s righteousness will only be imputed to those who respond properly to the work of the Redeemer.


Rom 5:1  Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Rom 5:2  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.


As “redemption” and “propitiation” are the terms that describe the provision being made for the forgiveness of sins and for the imputation of righteousness to be put in their place, “justification” is the term that describes the judicial response of God’s Justice to “him which believeth in Jesus,” which judicial response involves the actual complete forgiveness of sins and in their place the imputation of God’s righteousness. In order for the imputation of God’s righteousness to occur, the previously imputed sins that it will replace have to be completely forgiven by God’s Justice. Moreover once God justifies, sin is no longer imputable, so to speak. So again my understanding is that there is a legitimate distinction between the provision being made by Christ on the cross for the complete forgiveness of sins, and the actual possession of it. The “gospel of Christ” that we preach in this present dispensation of God’s grace declares that all men are ungodly sinners in God’s sight; are “under sin” and are guilty before God as such; and if they die as such they will begin to pay the price for their sins, and experience the debt and penalty for their sins. But no man has to pay the eternal debt and penalty of his own sins, because God in love, mercy, and grace has provided for him to have the complete forgiveness of his sins and to have the righteousness of God imputed unto him in his sins’ place, so justifying him in God’s sight and giving him “peace with God.”


Rom 5:8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 5:9  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Rom 5:10  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Rom 5:11  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.


This has all been provided for “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” And in view of this, when someone has “faith in his blood,” God’s Justice responds with the complete forgiveness of sins and the imputation of God’s righteousness, which is “justification.” So I am persuaded that when I ‘believed in Jesus’ as Romans 3:26 says, God completely forgave me my sins (past, present, and future), and in their place He has imputed His righteousness. He made me “the righteousness of God in him (Christ).” And this God has done because the provision for it was made by the Lord Jesus Christ for me when He died in my place as my substitute-Redeemer on the cross of Calvary. Redemption with its propitiation provided for it, and justification gave it to me when I ‘believed in Jesus.’ The problem I see some folks having when they talk about post-salvation sins needing forgiveness and the like, comes from failing to understand and appreciate the details of Romans 1–5, as well as misunderstanding passages and verses like Matthew 18:21–35 and I John 1:9.


Keith Blades

Enjoy The Bible Ministries

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