“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.” (Romans 3:21-24, NIV)
Red light cameras are becoming more and more popular here in the Orlando area. The other day, I was sitting at a red light in the right lane when an emergency vehicle pulled up behind me with its lights flashing. Although my intention was to go straight (once the light changed to green), I decided to get out of the way and make a right turn – while the light was still red. I thought I did the right thing. A couple of days later, I received a letter in the mail with a ticket for $268.00 for turning right on red when there was clearly a sign that indicated “NO TURN ON RED”. What was missing in the photograph? Right! THE EMERGENCY VEHICLE. I called the number on the ticket and was told that I could either pay the fine or take it to court. Either way, I lose. I’m frustrated because a penalty will have to be paid even though my infraction was unintentional and truly non-existent.
For the ancient Jews, a violation of God’s laws committed even in ignorance was taken very seriously. The Old Testament recognized and provided for unintentional sins through appropriate sacrifices: “If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments . . . let him offer to the Lord . . . a young bull without blemish as a sin offering” (Leviticus 4:2-3, NIV).
Old Testament sacrifices were more than a reminder that accidental wrongs have consequences. They were given in anticipation that God, in His grace, would provide atonement even for wrongs we didn’t realize we were doing.
Then came Jesus. His life, and ultimate death, meant that we no longer had to bring sacrifices to the altar. Christ sacrificed Himself for us! God’s grace is far greater than we could ever imagine! Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Because Jesus bore our sins on the cross, He has made us righteous in God’s eyes. This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus; it is given to us by God’s grace; and, best of all, it is free to all who believe.