Adam writes in to ask, “Pastor John, recently at the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I heard you say on stage that Romans 3:25 is the most important verse in the Bible. Why is that?”
Well, I am glad he picked up on it, because I did say that. And actually, what I said was, “It might not be, but if somebody put a gun to my head and made me choose, this is the verse I would choose.” Let me read the verse first, because not everybody will know what it is. Romans 3:25 says, “[God put Christ] 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.”
Two Profound Problems, Two Perfect Solutions
I think that is the most important verse in the Bible. Now, what in the world? Why would I say that? Because it describes the two most amazing remedies for the two most horrific problems of mankind in the universe. If you do a survey and ask, “What is the biggest problem of mankind?” very few people would say, “The wrath of God.” But it is. The wrath of God is the greatest problem. And now, here in this verse, you have got piece upon piece upon piece piled up as God deals with this problem.
So you have God. You have Christ. You have “put forward” — that is the incarnation. You have “by blood” — that is the atonement. You have propitiation — that is the heart of what happens in the atonement as God’s wrath is removed and absorbed. You have “by faith,” which is the best news in all the world, because it is not works. You have got vindicating God’s righteousness, which means the just demand that he show wrath has been dealt with. And you have got “because . . . he had passed over former sins,” which means the final wonder is he doesn’t hold our sins against us. I mean, I don’t know any verse that packs as many glorious things into itself in dealing with the two worst problems.
Our Greatest Problems
Let me just underline this. Problem number one in the universe is that God’s wrath is on all human beings unto eternal damnation (see John 3:36). If we don’t believe in Jesus, we remain — that is forever — under the wrath of God. Or, consider Romans 3:5 where anger and fury are warranting God’s wrath: God is righteous to inflict wrath on us. So those are the two things: God’s wrath, and that his righteousness demands wrath. It is not just that God is angry. I mean, he could be some kind of flippant tyrant. That is not the case. He is absolutely just and righteous in the wrath that he has against us. So those are there in this verse behind the word propitiation.
1. Jesus Christ shed his blood to absorb God’s righteous wrath.
Now the first remedy is that Christ shed his blood, and by shedding his blood, he propitiates the wrath of God. You just need to ponder this: the trigger of the flame thrower of God’s omnipotent fury is about to be pulled, and as it is pulled, Christ steps between us and the flame thrower and he absorbs every bit of it on himself, and he dies because of it, and we don’t feel that heat at all. We are freed from it. So the greatest problem in the universe is solved in this verse and spoken in this verse.
2. God remains righteous by pouring out his righteous wrath on his Son.
The second remedy is that God is righteous to show wrath, so how can he not? And the answer is, He doesn’t sweep sin under the rug. He deals with it in his Son, and therefore, Jesus vindicates the righteousness of God. He doesn’t just remove the wrath of God — he vindicates the righteousness of God. I don’t know any verse in the Bible, besides this one, that says that so clearly. And those are the two massive obstacles that have to be dealt with.
And then, gloriously, it says, “To be received by faith.” So I don’t have to work for this. I don’t have to perform for this. I watch God perform salvation from God because he loves me, and I simply welcome it. I receive that. And that honors him as a covenant-keeping God.
So on and on we could go in this verse, but there is the essence of it. The two biggest problems in the universe are solved with the two biggest remedies. And then it is just handed to us freely by faith.