Passing Over Former Sins
What is the meaning of the phrase, "God passed over former sins"? What value did this act of God give to the work of salvation by Christ?
"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." Romans 3:24-25 (ESV)
God's plan, the death of His Son Jesus Christ, was to show the righteousness of God. God's righteousness had been in a sense "tarnished", or hidden, by withholding punishment for "former sins".
What were the "former sins"?
As Creator, God has every right to immediately punish evildoers for sin. He demonstrated His justice in casting Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and in the world-wide flood that destroyed nearly all life, and the sudden, complete destruction of Sodom and Gommorah. Yet hundreds of generations of human civilizations, just as wicked, have lived without such punishment for sin. God has, in a sense, overlooked many sins:
"God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, in past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways." Acts 14:15-16 (ESV)
Not only has God mercifully withheld punishment for sin, He has given universal grace to a sinful world:
"Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." Acts 14:17 (ESV)
"He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." Acts 17:25 (ESV)
Looking at God's mercy over the ages, before Christ was crucified, the world could have charged God with a lack of justice: Since God did not punish any and all wickedness, He must be an unfair or wicked Judge.
God's successful plan to have Christ take upon himself the guilt for the world's sin, and to have Christ die a sacrificial death on our behalf, demonstrates the irrefutable justice of a righteousness of God.
Salvation in Christ is neither cheap nor easy. It cost the death of the Only Perfect Human on our behalf.
To Jesus we owe everything!
Study question provided by Who We Really Are, LifeWay Small Groups, Serendipity House.