25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
because in His forbearance [literally, holding back of God’s judgment]
The word “forbearance” means to hold back, delay. God did not execute justice in the past until Christ came. Atonement for sin was only provisional in the Old Testament; that system is no longer necessary in light of the effectiveness of Christ’s death. The Temple sacrifice was no longer necessary. God passed over sins in the Old Testament (atonement), but Jesus’ death was the ultimate and final answer to the sin of man. This does not mean that God disregarded sin but that He anticipated an ultimate answer to sin.
God’s “forbearance” is His longsuffering or delay in His wrath toward sinners. Because God did not finally deal with the sin issue in Old Testament sacrifices, that did not mean He would neglect ultimately dealing with sinners’ sin (by the death of Christ as the final sacrifice). God held His forbearance from the time of Adam.
God had passed over [unpunished] the sins that were previously committed,
Sins “previously committed” refers to sins committed prior to God’s provision of the cross to forgive sins. These are the sins committed under the Old Testament dispensation. God forbore the punishment of the sins before the death of Christ. Those who sacrificed for sin before Christ only received forgiveness provisionally or prospectively until Christ died. There was only a temporary suspension of God’s executing the penalty of sin. God could forbear sins because He anticipated the death of Christ. This is evidence of His grace. He passed over sins of the Old Testament temporality to be dealt with permanently by the death of Christ.
Ac 17:30-31, 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.
God bypassed dealing with sins in a permanent manner in Old Testament sacrifices because He would deal finally with the sin of man by the cross. God always operates inherently justly.
This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek word “passed over” is used. Thus, Paul carefully selected this Greek word to demonstrate the non-finality of the penalty of sin in the Old Testament. The sacrificial system in the Temple did not fully pay for sin—“the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin.”
There is a difference between a type and the antitype, between the foreshadowing of the death of Christ and the actuality of Christ’s death. The type points to the reality. This was true of the mercy seat. Blood shed on the mercy seat could not save, but only point to the One who would save. Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins is where God meets man to justify him.
God did not appear righteous in punishing man’s sin until Christ died on the cross.
God put off punishment of sin until He was satisfied with the suffering of Christ for our sin. God was righteous but He did not appear righteous until Christ paid for the sins of man.