SETTING JESUS AS THE PROPITIATION COVER
Romans 3:25-26: "Whom God set forth as a propitiation place through faith in His blood, for the demonstrating of His righteousness, in that in His forbearance God passed over the sins that had previously occurred, with a view to the demonstrating of His righteousness in the present time, so that He might be righteous and the One who justifies him who is of the faith of Jesus." This portion of the Scripture is not easily understood. However, there are two points which we need to notice.
God set forth Christ as a propitiation place. In the original language the words "propitiation place" mean propitiation cover. In the Old Testament, the ark of the covenant was covered by a golden lid called the propitiation cover (translated by the King James Version as "mercy seat"). Man’s prayer passed through this cover to reach God, and God’s answer went through the same to meet man. That was a meeting place between God and man. Now Jesus has become this propitiation cover. He is the focal point of God and man. Both can now meet in Him on the basis of His blood. Jesus has died for us. He has shed His blood and forgiven our sins. Now He has become our propitiation cover.
Before Jesus died, "God passed over the sins that had previously occurred, with a view to the demonstrating of His righteousness in the present time." From Adam to Jesus, for more than four thousand years, countless sins were committed by man. Although God passed over them, He did not let them go by. This shows His righteousness in former times. In the present time, He has sent His Son. We are now justified in Him. In itself this very justification is a just act. This passage tells us the different ways that God handled these two things. First, He passed over the sins committed formerly, reckoning that Jesus would come; in this He proved Himself righteous. Second, He forgives all the sins committed now, basing this upon the judgment of Christ; in this He also declares Himself righteous. By the death of Jesus, God has both declared us sinless as well as Himself righteous.
HOW CAN GOD BE UNRIGHTEOUS?
Once I met a sister in the Lord. She said that she was an evil person and had committed many sins. She had indulged in all a woman could ever commit. Because of this, she thought that she could never be forgiven. I checked to see whether she believed that Jesus shed His blood for the sins of man, that is, for man’s redemption. She said that she knew all these doctrines, but having been a Christian for so many years, and committing the multitude of sins as she did, it was impossible to be forgiven anymore.
I was sitting in front of her. At that point I stood up and solemnly looked into her eyes, saying emphatically, "I do not care whether your sins are forgiven or not! But the way you talk implies that God has sinned. This I do care! On the one hand, you believe that you are in Christ. Yet, on the other hand, you do not believe that your sins can be forgiven. If God does not forgive you, does that mean that God is unrighteous? If He is unrighteous, then He sins. How can God ever sin? I do not care if you are condemned and are going to perish. But God loved you and sent His Son to pay all the debts of your sins. His Son’s death is now your death. All your sins are on His shoulder. If what you say is true, then God has indeed taken back His words. He is coming again to collect the debts of your sins! You are saying that God cannot forgive your sins and that He has become an unrighteous God! What kind of talk is this? For this I have to stand up! My God can never be unrighteous!"
On that day, tears streamed from her eyes. She exclaimed, "I am sinful, but God is righteous! He has to forgive me in Christ. Although my sins are numerous, thank Him; He is bound to forgive me! He would be unrighteous if He did not do so."
(The Normal Christian Faith, Chapter 9, by Watchman Nee)