KEY TEXT: Romans 3:20-25 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 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.
KEY THOT: If God continue to use the Law as a standard of divine judgment, no human can be justified. The simple reason is, by the standards of Law, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). In other words, there is no human who has not broken the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). So, if God does not use another standard to judge humans, no one will be saved and all will be damned. So God replaces works of the law with faith in His grace as the only way of salvation: "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." Justification by works of the Law is based on self-righteousness (which has failed for we all have sinned). The only alternative is the way of grace which is based on Christ's righteousness received as a gift by faith. This righteousness of Christ is based on faith in the fact that Christ has offered himself as "a propitiation (atonement) by his blood"--as a ransom payment to clear our sin-debts owed to God.
So, while the Law is good and holy, it cannot save us because we have sinned: instead of justifying us, the Law actually condemns us. So, God "put forward" a better plan: that we be justified not by the Law but by "his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (v.24). So, now salvation is possible as a free gift by exchanging our sins for Christ's righteousness through faith: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
And like all free gift it begins with faith: if I don't believe it's free, I won't take and so I don't receive God's salvation. Everything that needs to be done for our salvation is done by Christ at the Cross when He cried out: "It is finished!" (John 19:30). This free gift of salvation comes in a package of two blessings: forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:38).
The first half of salvation is the removal of our past sins: "This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins" (v.25). So, therefore if anyone is "in Christ", he or she has become a "new creation": "The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). The "old has passed away" -- that is, our former sins have been forgiven in Christ. But that's only half the salvation story: the other half is "the new has come". And how does the new come? It comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, we only have forgiveness of sins--the canceling of old debts. But with the coming of the Spirit comes the fullness of God's riches to transform us into Christ's image and glory. What a great news!
Let's not be content with sins wiped clean--let's take the faith step to download all the blessings of God that are ours in Christ Jesus: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3).
Abba-Father! What amazing grace! We don't deserve to be forgiven of our past sins--but we are! We don't deserve to be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly--but we are! Thank You Jesus. Amen.