But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. 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. (Rom. 3:21–26)
Why did Jesus come to dwell among us? You know he didn’t need to make the effort. He could have left us to our sin, and he would have been just to condemn us. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God our Creator. If he only came to teach us some moral truths, he didn’t need to go to the cross. The law had already revealed the character of God in all his awesome holiness, and righteousness, and goodness.
So why did he come? He came to fulfill the law by living in perfect obedience to his Father and complete love for everyone else he met. He came to walk in faith where Israel had failed. He came to teach us the meaning of his life—and his death. He was born to die so we who believe would live forever.
He was born to die so we who believe would live forever.
With the birth of Jesus on that holy night came the dawn of redeeming grace. Don’t skip over that word “redeeming.” What does it mean to be redeemed? It means we’ve been purchased for a price. We carried a debt to sin because we rebelled against God’s law. And Jesus set us free. He redeemed us. But how? In the only way he could, so that God could be just and the justifier at the same time. Jesus offered himself as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sin. He died the death we deserved so that God the just would be satisfied.
What’s left for us to do? To receive the greatest gift of all—justification. Jesus takes on our sin, and we get his righteousness. And how do we claim this gift? By faith. You won’t find a better deal. But it’s only available to the humble. To the desperate. To everyone who realizes they have no other options. This gift doesn’t belong to anyone who thinks they deserve it.
This gift doesn’t belong to anyone who thinks they deserve it.
The justified realize God would have been just to punish them. They know their best efforts to keep the law would have fallen far short. It’s as if the biggest Christmas gifts belonged to the children who knew they deserved coal in their stocking. Jesus is the anti-Santa. He knows we belong on the naughty list. And that’s why he came to save us. That’s why he set aside the glories of heaven for the womb of his mother Mary. He was born to die. Even better, after he was delivered up for our trespasses, he was raised to life for our justification (Rom. 4:25).
Make sure you claim that gift this Advent. Come in faith and leave justified.
How can God be both just and justifier at the same time? How does knowledge of your sin grow your grateful love to God?
Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
– Joseph Mohr (Tr. by John Freeman Young), “Silent Night”