But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3: 21 – 26An important word to notice is the word but. My best friend’s dad had this saying I’ve never forgotten, “Everything before but is trash.” He actually used stronger language, but you get the idea. What he meant was that all the things people say before they get to the word but don’t mean much, and everything that comes after the word but is what the person is really trying to say. He’s a wise man. Right in the middle of this clear message about human guilt, Scripture places one of the best words in the whole Bible – the word but. ‘We are all as guilty as sin, but . . .’ But what? It’s says that God has figured out a permanent solution “apart from the law” or “apart from rule-keeping.” Every one of us who has grown sick and tired of religious systems demanding that we get our act together before we can be loved or forgiven, can breathe a deep sigh of relief. God’s permanent solution is found in the phrase, “God presented Christ as an atoning sacrifice.”In this passage, ”atoning sacrifice” refers to an ancient religious ritual performed on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar year, the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement celebrated the reconciliation between God and guilty people so that they could walk in harmony once again. It was the only day of the year that the High Priest could stand in the presence of Yahweh-God’s radiant glory as a representative of the people to seek reconciliation for all the peoples sins from the previous year.In order to stand in God’s presence the high priest had to perform extensive ceremonial rituals. He first had to cleanse himself in the temple’s washbasin and clothe himself in a simple white linen garment. Then he would ceremonially transfer the people’s sins onto an unblemished bull calf by placing his hands on its head and confessing the known sins of the people. At the end of this confession, he would personally slaughter the bull. At that point the high priest prepared himself to enter the Holy of Holies by carrying a censer filled with live coals from the altar of incense, by carrying a bowl containing the blood of the bull, and by tying a rope around his ankle so that his corpse could be dragged out if he happened to die in the presence of God’s glory. Once he was fully prepared, he braced himself as he walked into the presence of a holy God fully aware of his own guilt.Upon arriving in the Holy of Holies the High Priest would let the smoke of the incense fill the room in order to mute God’s glory, and when he felt the smoke had filled enough of the room he would sprinkle the blood of the slain bull on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant called the “mercy seat” where God’s glory would appear. After sprinkling the blood of that bull calf on the mercy seat then, and only then, could the High Priest stand in God’s presence and confidently ask Him to wipe away the toxic mess of the people’s sin and grant complete forgiveness for all the sins of the people. Don’t miss the significance of this ritual. Only once a year could the High Priest (as a representative of the people), after performing numerous ceremonial rites, dare to stand in the presence of God to admit guilt and seek reconciliation. All the other sacrifices during the previous year could only achieve sin containment as God accepted their offerings and mercifully overlooked sin and guilt for a time. But on the Day of Atonement the people knew God wouldn’t merely contain sin but utterly wipe away their guilt from the previous year – He would now be completely satisfied about the issue of their sins, and He would give them a fresh start. The great question is what or who was this Old Testament “sacrifice of atonement” pointing to?Romans 3 tells us that Jesus is our sacrifice of atonement. God presented His own Son as our atoning sacrifice to satisfy what justice demanded and totally satisfy Himself concerning the issue of our guilt and sin. No longer is God merely providing religious rituals that make it possible for Him to merely overlook our sin for a time. Now our guilt has been completely settled before God through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. He has provided the once-and-for-all sacrifice that paves the way for us to stand in a permanent place of satisfaction before God! In other words we are guilty as sin, BUT God is now satisfied because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Let me know what you think about this truth? How does it change your perspective on God and on yourself?