Romans 3:26 is amazing. It explains why God set forth Jesus as a propitiation (a wrath-satisfying substitute for sin). The Father 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.”
It is important to God that He proves His righteous character before sinners who may accuse Him of passing over sin due to apathy or dispassion. In the cross, God says, “I do care about sin. Behold my Son who bears my wrath for the sin of the world.” In the cross, God says, “See my justice. See my righteous Name upheld.” In the cross, God says, “Look at the agony, look at the pain, look at the blood. This death is the price for redemption from sin.”
At the death of Jesus, God showed himself as “just” and “the one who justifies.” What does this mean? First, God is always in the right. He shows His “righteous character” by pouring His wrath on His Son who bore the world’s sin. Second, God shows grace to sinners by declaring “righteous” those “who have faith in Jesus.” Marvel at this truth: because of the death of His Son, God can show mercy while never compromising His righteousness; God can justify sinners while never compromising His justice.
One other comment about “the most important paragraph in the Bible.” God “justifies those who have faith in Jesus,” because faith is the requirement for justification. God declares sinners righteous when they humbly trust the Father’s saving, sufficient, substitutionary work in the death of His Son.
After studying Romans 3:21-26, I understand why Martin Luther called this the most important paragraph in the Bible. Is there another passage of only six verses where so many deep and powerful doctrines and truths are held together in such close proximity? What a precious passage. What a precious truth: Our saving God is both righteous and full of mercy.