Every wrong doing must be punished. This is a universal truth. Some cultures differ on what evil might be, but every culture sees fit to enact justice upon law breakers and evil doers. This truth is necessary for a civil society to operate.
Just imagine if our court systems constantly pardoned guilty people without making them sufficiently pay for their crimes. We would eventually nose-dive into lawlessness and our society would crumble.
Guilty people must pay for their crimes.
This truth exists in every culture because it emanates from God. God is eternally just. This means that it is His nature to punish wrong doing, and He cannot tolerate sin at all. It is incompatible with Him. And then comes the bad news for us:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Romans 3 is clear that no one does good. Everyone is an evil doer. This means that a purely righteous and holy God must punish us for our rebellion no matter how much He loves us.
So, how is it that those who trust in Christ are saved? What happened on the cross that made it possible for God to pardon us without making us “do time” for our sins?
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 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. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Do you see it?
We are made right before God by faith in Christ, because even though we have all sinned, Jesus became our propitiation, our wrath-absorbing sacrifice. Jesus did not just “die for our sins” in some mysterious way, He became the One who was punished for all our evil ways. He bore the wrath of God on the cross. The wrath that He bore was meant for us, but He paid it all.
And because He paid it all, God, who is still fully righteous, because our sins were sufficiently paid for, can justify us without compromising His perfect justice. This that last verse means. God is just AND He is the justier of every sinner who puts their hope in Christ.
We are the recipients of this great gift. God justifies us so that we can experience the eternal joy of a life lived in and for God forever.