Today's Scripture Reading: Romans 3:21-26
Receiving gifts at Christmas has its unexpected challenges. Often the gift is sincere in gesture, but mismatched in size, functionality or personal interest. Sometimes, it meets a want, but eventually becomes outdated as technology and interests change. Rarely though, a gift meets you right at your point of need.
In this passage, we see such a gift – the “righteousness of God manifested apart from the law” in the person of Jesus and his sacrificial death on the cross. This gift is universal in that it is for “all who believe” – not limited to those of Jewish heritage, but extended to all cultures and nations. It is timeless, in that it pays the penalty for “former sins” prior to the arrival of Christ, but also pays for those “at the present time”.
Most of all, this gift meets us at our greatest universal need – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (vs. 23). Our sin demands a payment and judgment. At the right time, Christ came to this earth, lived a perfect, righteous life, and was “put forward as a propitiation by his blood.” A propitiation is an offering of blood to turn away God's wrath. Jesus went to the cross and poured out his life to be our propitiation and redeem us from our fallen state.
Through this manifestation of “grace as a gift” (vs 24), we are justified – declared completely righteous in the righteousness of Christ. Through God's amazing wisdom and love, he reveals his role as “the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”.
This Advent season, let us celebrate the fact that this gift meets our deepest eternal need. For at the cross, the Judge carried the Judgment and the Giver became the Gift.