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Archive for the ‘Reconciliation’ Category

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” Romans 8:1.

 

So opens the eighth chapter of Romans – one of the most glorious and assuring passages of scripture for the believer. Here faith’s victory over all its foes is assured because of Him in whom God’s people dwell, He in whom they are “more than conquerors” – the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Notice that this deliverance from condemnation is to those who are in Christ Jesus – and none other. Having first shown in chapter three that those whom God saves are those who believe (see 3:22), Paul now begins to show just who believe – they are those who are in Christ – those who are called the sons of God.

 

But how is one in Christ? And when does that person come to faith in Christ? And how does faith conquer its enemies?

 

To answer such questions we must first recognise that the salvation of a sinner begins long before he looks to Christ by faith, long before he hears of God’s work in Christ in the Gospel, long before he is convicted of sin or brought to hear the alarm of God sounding in his heart warning him to flee the wrath to come. And it owes nothing to his decision to ‘accept Jesus’ or to make himself acceptable before God by something he does – for what can men who are “dead in trespasses and sins” do to make themselves acceptable to God? And what decision or act of the will can a corpse make to bring himself out of the grave? Absolutely none!

 

Then if a sinner be saved – and sinners are saved – it will begin not with their will, but with God’s, and not in their time, but in God’s. And God’s work of salvation in saving sinners begins long before they come to faith, long before they are even born, and long before even the Son of God came into the world to lay down His life for others.  

 

As we read through Romans it becomes clear that before a dead sinner is ever given faith to believe in Christ and to know Him as his Saviour, that there is a prior work of God which can be traced back to long before the word of the Gospel is made known unto a man, long before that man is born, long before the world was even created. Long before time even came into existence!

 

For that work begins in eternity when God purposed to save a people, and purposed to save them in His Son. That’s where salvation lies – in the eternal purpose of God, in the eternal covenant of God between Father and Son, by which God chose a people in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), a people whom He predestinated “unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6). It is this people whom Christ, in time, redeemed through His blood, to bring forgiveness of sins, to whom God then makes known “the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself”.

 

It is this eternal purpose, this divine election which Paul opens up in the ninth chapter of Romans. It is this which led to the work of Christ in laying down His life for the sheep (John 10:15) in order that their sin might be judged in righteousness that God might be “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”, as demonstrated in the earlier chapters of Romans. And it is this which leads to the experimental work of God in bringing a sinner to Christ by which they are convicted of sin, quickened unto life, converted, brought to repentance and finally lay hold upon Christ with God-given faith.

 

So we see an order here, in the work of God in saving sinners, beginning with God’s eternal decree, magnified in the work of God in offering up His Son as a substitutionary sacrifice for sinners, and culminating in the experimental work of God the Spirit in the lifetime of a believer as he is brought from darkness unto light, from death into everlasting life.

 

In Romans Paul presents these truths by somewhat reversing their order so as to trace the light, as it were, back to its source. Beginning with faith and faith’s object in the earlier chapters he traces back to faith’s origin – the divine election and decree of God in chapter 9. Having presented the objective work of God in the Gospel from chapters 3 to 5, Paul demonstrates the effects in chapters 6 to 8. Here, in the eighth chapter we see the effects of those essential elements of the work of God in all those ultimately brought to faith in Christ – conversion and repentance which spring forth from son-ship.

 

The entire context of Romans 8 is son-ship – of being in Christ, and born of God. All the assurance, all the comfort, all the blessings, all the victory, is assured to those, and only those, who are in Christ – the sons of God. Once again, as we see throughout Romans the contrast is set before us between those in Christ – both Jew and Gentile, made of twain into one new man (Ephesians 2:15) – and those outside, those of the Last Adam, and those of the first, those loved like Jacob, and those hated like Esau, those in the Spirit, and those in the flesh. Two Men, Two Seeds, Two Pathways…. One unto death… but one unto eternal life.

 

Yes… eternal life. Eternal life to all in Christ, all who are delivered from death by Him, all delivered from sin and the law, all delivered from all condemnation, all those upon whom God’s love is set, all those who are made “more the conquerors” in Him – and all who can never be separated from God’s love!

 

But what marks these out? What distinguishes them? Here in chapter 8 Pauls tells us that….

 

They have a new life

They have turned from darkness unto light

They have a new mind (having previously been given over to a reprobate mind – Romans 1:28)

 

And they walk by faith, in the Spirit, being heavenly minded.

 

Given these things it may be asked – from whence does it all spring? Answer – From heaven! By revelation! They all spring from the same source, and that source is the light of God… and that light is conveyed by the Gospel!

 

So let us briefly consider these things, these essential things, which take place in the salvation of every one of God’s people and by which they are marked out as God’s children.

 

 

Sons of God

 

Firstly, we will never come to see the truth of God’s work in saving sinners, we will never experience the consequence of Christ’s work upon the cross in dying for the ungodly, those without strength (Romans 5:6), until the Spirit of God quickens us unto life.

 

We must be born again.

 

It is this new birth and this new life in which Paul rejoices around the start of Romans 8 where he “thanks God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25) for delivering him from the body of death, from the corruption of indwelling sin in his flesh (7:18), from “the law of sin and death” (8:2), by the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”.

 

That was that in which Paul found deliverance – the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. God, having condemned Paul’s sin in the flesh of His own Son (8:3), Christ having died for sin, and having risen again from the grave with newness of life, Paul too rose again in Him, and, as a result, was born again of the Spirit, quickened unto eternal life, and given “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”. But until then, until the Spirit applied the effects of Christ’s work to Paul in his own experience, he was just as others – he was dead in sin.

 

By nature we are dead. Dead spiritually. Dead “in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Dead to all true awareness of God – of His existence, of His power, of His majesty, of His grace, of His love, of His long-suffering. We’re dead.

 

Fallen in Adam, shapen in iniquity, conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5), we have from the womb gone astray, speaking lies. We are, by nature, born blind to the truth. We don’t see it, we can’t hear it, we don’t understand it, we don’t love it and we won’t have it. We love sin, we love ourselves, we love this present evil age. To the things of God and the things of eternity we are entirely oblivious and wilfully unaware. We are dead.

 

But does religion make things better? Did Paul’s religion make him better? Had he not been brought up a Jew, a Pharisee, “of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5)? Was he not zealous, did he not know the scriptures, was he not careful to keep the letter of God’s law? Did this religion lead him into truth – did it lead him to God?

 

It did not! Though a Jew, though a Hebrew, though a Pharisee, though of the tribe of Benjamin, Paul, Saul as he was then, was utterly blind to the truth concerning Jesus Christ. All his learning in the scriptures, all his zeal in his religion, all his natural intellect and efforts, left him as blind as ever, as dead as ever. In his zeal he opposed the truth, he opposed God’s Son… In his zeal he persecuted the church…

 

That’s where religion in the letter, in the flesh, gets you. Nowhere. Full of knowledge, full of pride, full of zeal… but still full of death and corruption. Blind to the truth, deaf to the word of life, and dead in trespasses and sins. As Paul later wrote, “what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7).  For when God revealed the truth to Paul he was brought to write, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

 

Religion, or no religion, by nature we are dead. Completely dead. And can the dead hear? Can they see? Can they believe? Can they stand up and ‘follow Jesus’?

 

Not at all. Not unless, and not until, they should first rise from the dead. Not until they should be given life again. Not until there should be a resurrection of life from the dead. Not until God in His mercy, should quicken them unto eternal life by the mighty in-working power of His Holy Spirit, by whom He breathes into them heavenly life, eternal life, through the word of His power. Not until, by such a work, they be baptised with the Spirit of God, by which He makes His abode in man and comes to dwell in him, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you… And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:9,10). No, not until God quickens their “mortal bodies by his Spirit” (Romans 8:11). And no, not until that hour comes when “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” John 6:25. 

But should that hour come, should the Son of God be pleased to speak to us by His Spirit, through the Gospel, then we will be born again, and having life – Christ’s life in us – we will see and believe on the Son of God who saved us. For “he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” John 6:24.

 

Have you heard the word of the Son of God? Have you who were once in the grave, bound by sin, death and corruption, heard Christ’s voice in the Gospel (John 6:28), being “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever”? (1 Peter 1:23)

 

For unless you have heard, and until you are born again, you cannot “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

 

And for that reason, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

 

 

Converted

 

The immediate consequence of this new birth is conversion. Conversion means to be turned – turned from one way to another way, turned from walking one direction, to walking in another direction altogether.

 

That is the effect of the Gospel upon those whom God quickens unto life, those whose eyes are opened – “to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).

 

Those born of God, the sons of God, are turned from darkness unto the light. They are turned from that pathway they once walked in the flesh, to a new pathway in which they follow after the Son of God, as led by the Spirit (Romans 8:4). The change is dramatic – it is a 180-degree turn. Once they went this way…. But now they are led this way. Once they loved darkness, but now they love the light of truth. Once they hated God, but now they are brought to love Him whose love overwhelms them. Once they walked after every desire and every lust of their sinful flesh, but now they hate the deeds of the flesh and that corruption which lies therein, and they long for the things of God. Once they were oblivious to their inability in the flesh to keep the demands of God’s holy law, but now, the commandment having come by the application of the Spirit they find that it condemns them utterly, and they find themselves crying out for deliverance! (Romans 7:9-11, 24). And having cried out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” they find their answer in Christ and His Gospel, who has delivered them from the law of sin and death, causing them to “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).

 

And now… as led by the Spirit of God, as separated – sanctified – unto God, they “by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality” Romans 2:7.

 

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” Romans 8:14.

 

 

The granting of repentance

 

From verse 5 of Romans 8 through to verse 17 Paul deals with the realities of the new life which believers have in Christ as being born of God. Through the preaching of the Gospel, being born again by the Spirit of God through the truth, soundly converted, being turned from darkness unto light, God’s people are given an entirely new mentality. Once they were carnally minded, but now they are spiritually minded. Once they minded the things of the flesh which brought death, but now they mind the things of the Spirit which are “life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

 

Such a dramatic change, such a change of the mentality, of our whole way of thinking, is known as repentance, and without repentance, without such a change, we will never think rightly of God, and never know God as our Saviour. But just as surely as all who are born of God will be converted, so too they will be brought to repentance, turning from the things of the flesh to mind the things of the Spirit.

 

To this end Paul preached the Gospel – “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). And to this end, to grant such repentance, such a change in the understanding, Christ Himself opened up the scriptures to His disciples in Luke 24:44-48, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.”

 

Many think of repentance in terms of its effect upon the heart, in terms of that contrite spirit which is wrought within, the mourning over our sins and the turning away from them. But whilst all that might be an effect, the reality is that repentance is essentially to do with the mentality. The Greek is metanoia and its meaning regards the mind and a complete change of that mind and its thinking. Except our whole mentality be changed, our whole understanding and comprehension of the things of God, then we will remain opposed to the truth, “because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). Likewise, because fallen men and women “did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness…” (Romans 1:28-29).

 

But thank God that those whom he quickens unto life are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit (8:9), having a new mentality, having repented of their dead works before God and, reckoning their flesh to be dead, come to rest in the righteousness of God in Christ for justification, as indwelt by the Spirit of God who is “life because of righteousness” (8:10).

 

Oh what a transformation does such repentance bring! What a passing from death unto life, from darkness unto light, from the flesh to the Spirit – and to what end? That we might be called the “sons of God” who have “not received the spirit of bondage again to fear” but “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father”! Yes, whereby we cry “Abba, Father”! What communion, what nearness to God the Father the sons of God are brought into! How astounding this is, what a reconciliation there is here between those who were once so far apart, and yet are now brought to be so near.

 

And how shall we know that we are sons of the Father? By this means – “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).

 

 

The faith which conquers

 

The conclusion of Romans 8 from verse 18 through to verse 39 represents one of the most encouraging and glorious passages of scripture for the believer in Jesus Christ. Having set before us the work of God in Christ in saving His people, the consequences of that work in bringing that people to newness of life in Christ Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit, in turning them from darkness unto light, from walking after the flesh to being led by the Spirit, in granting to them repentance to bring them to a new way of thinking, being turned from the carnal mind to be spiritually minded, Paul now brings before our gaze the fruit of that work in the gift of saving faith by which all God’s people see and believe the Gospel, by which they are united to and trust in Jesus Christ their Saviour, and by which they walk in hope before God, as assured of victory over all their foes. It is faith and the certain hope which is presented to that faith which lies behind the rest of chapter 8.

 

This passage presents to us the assurance which faiths finds in the work of God for His people, not because of anything they do or can do, but entirely because of the work of God on their behalf. Here faith finds its comfort, finds its hope, and finds its victory, in the sure and certain work of God in the predestination, calling, justifying and glorifying (Romans 8:30) of all those whom God chose in Christ before the foundation of the world.

 

Here faith finds that whatever its tribulations may be in this earthly realm, whatever the “sufferings of this present time” (8:18) might entail, whatever the groaning and travailing in pain (8:22) as we wait for the “adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body”, nevertheless we are “saved by hope”, patiently waiting for that which we can’t now see with the natural eye (8:25) but which we look to by the eye of faith, yearning for the promise of the inheritance to come as we pray by the Spirit, who by Christ intercedes for us, the saints, “according to the will of God” (8:27).

 

It is by such faith that “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

 

And on what ground does that faith trust in such knowledge? On the ground that those “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

 

What a ground for hope to rest in! What a sure and certain salvation God has wrought for all His people. How sure the end is, given the beginning – “whom he did foreknow… them he also glorified”. Who did this? God did! It is all of God, from start to finish. Not one step depends on man, on his frail strength, his fickle will, nor his depraved desire, nor even his faith, for it is not faith which saves man, but the One in whom faith rests. All is of God, all is by grace, all is sure and certain, for when Christ cried out “It is finished!” it was finished! Everything necessary to justify His people was done. Salvation is of the Lord! And what a salvation!

 

But with what effect? What is the confident cry of faith in which it finds its hope?

 

What shall we say to these things?

 

“If God be for us, who can be against us?

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

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In chapter 15 of Romans Paul first concludes his thoughts from chapter 14 by encouraging the brethren to serve one another in love, to encourage one another, to edify one another. By pointing them to Christ and His example Paul encourages that unity of the brethren in their love for Christ and one another that they might “with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Notice here, how the Father is glorified. Contrary to how man generally views it, when the message of God’s salvation in the Gospel is seen from God’s perspective, it is evident that the Gospel is not so much about what is brought in for man, in terms of the salvation of God’s elect, but of what is brought in for God and to His glory, through the Son’s redemption of His Bride, the church, whom He brings to His Father to worship and glorify Him, as making known the wonders of His grace before all creation, both now and in eternity.

 

On this foundation the apostle goes on to remind the church at Rome of the great mercy of God in sending the Gospel to the Gentiles that those who had not known the truth before should see “and they that have not heard shall understand”. He affirms how God sent him forth as “the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” and again expresses his great desire to come unto Rome to preach the Gospel unto the saints there face to face, and to fellowship with the brethren there, being refreshed with them. Yet Paul must first visit the saints at Jerusalem (15:25) and in so doing he reminds his Gentile readers of their unity with both Jewish and Gentile believers and of the love the Gentiles in the church should show their Jewish brethren, for having received of the Jews’ “spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things”.

 

Above all, Paul’s great longing and desire in coming to the church at Rome is to preach the Gospel, to preach Christ, to bring the “fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29). Paul was sent with a message. He had a message to deliver, and that message, “the faith” was that which was “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Paul’s message, his gospel, didn’t vary. He preached the same message in Rome as he did in Jerusalem. The same gospel in Galatia as he did in Ephesus. The same message of the cross, of “Christ crucified” in Corinth as he declared at Thessalonica. He had one message, one gospel, one faith, which had been delivered once by God, through revelation, by His servants to the church. Having been taught that message – the faith – Paul was sent forth to preach it, and his great longing was that the saints at Rome might know it, not just in part, and not just in the head, but in all its fullness, in all its riches, in the inward man, both in heart and mind, that they might be established and built up in the truth, that the “blessing of the gospel of Christ” might be theirs, and that God might be glorified in them.

 

As one sent by God to preach His Gospel, as “a servant of Jesus Christ” Paul not only had a message to deliver to the saints at Rome, but he wrote unto them and would come unto them as one who lived that message, as one who walked in the Truth, as one who served both His Lord and Master, and His brethren, for Christ’s sake. Paul was a servant, a slave, of Jesus Christ, “separated unto the gospel of God” whose life was devoted to the service of others, to “ministering the gospel of God”. Paul led by example. He ministered to others. His exhortations to the brethren to serve one another were borne out by his own life and conduct as he served them. He exhorted them to follow Christ as he followed Christ.

 

Now, let us consider the lesson set before us here. In at least three places in his epistles the Apostle Paul exhorts those to whom he is writing to follow him (1 Corinthians 4:16 , 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17 ). Paul’s exhortation is not without ground or authority. He is not encouraging others to blindly follow him as a man, or follow his teaching simply because ‘he say’s so’. No, Paul’s exhortation carries weight because of the One that he himself follows, the One who sent Paul to preach the Gospel: even the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Have you ever heard people say “don’t follow a man”? It is a criticism that can often be raised when the ministry of a particular man is commended. The inference is that we should rather follow Christ, than follow men. There is of course truth in this (though the criticism presents a false dichotomy), in that man should never be exalted above his measure, that Christ is pre-eminent in all things, and that ultimately we should be followers of Him who is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Him who gave His life for the sheep that they might have everlasting life in Him, the forgiveness of sins, and peace and reconciliation with the Father. Scripture rightly warns us in one place to “cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils”. Men, being sinners by nature, may often lead us astray. We must be very wise about whom we follow. Many foolish people have been led to destruction by deceivers, by those who promise much and give little, by those who can ‘sound right’ but ultimately speak of themselves, not of God. Except for the grace of God all men are fallen and at enmity with their Maker. Yet, nevertheless Paul exhorts his hearers to be “followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

It is in that final part of Paul’s sentence that we may find the answer to whether or not we should follow men, and, if at all, which men. Paul was a follower of Christ! His exhortation was not simply to follow him, but to follow him as he followed Christ. Paul led his followers to Christ, and that is why they should follow him. By following Paul they followed Christ. It is Christ who appeared to Paul (when he was named Saul) on the Damascus road, revealing Himself to him from heaven above, and sending him forth to preach the Gospel (See Acts 26). Paul was sent by Christ Himself to open the eyes of sinners, “to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me [Christ]” Acts 26:18. It is this sending forth by Christ to preach the Gospel which gives Paul’s exhortation to “be ye followers of me” such weight. Christ sent Him to His people to lead them unto Christ. Then should they not follow such a one unto Him who died to save them?

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul makes a similar exhortation and adds a further reason why he should be followed. “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have yet not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-17.

The believers at the church at Corinth to whom Paul was writing had been born again by God the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel through Paul’s lips. Hence Paul called them his “beloved sons” and writes that “in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel”. So close was Paul’s relationship to these believers, so involved was he in leading them to Christ, so instrumental was he in their conversion that he declares himself to be their father, and they his sons. Whilst it is true that their birth was by the Holy Ghost from above, whilst it is true that only God is their true Father, nevertheless it is God’s means to use the preaching of the Gospel, by the lips of those men He sends forth with it, to bring dead sinners to life. Paul was sent with that Gospel to Corinth , men and women were saved under the preaching of that Gospel and Paul rightly declares that “in Christ Jesus” he had “begotten [them] through the gospel”. Then should they not follow him who faithfully led them to Christ, who faithfully declared Christ to them in the Gospel, by whose words they were born again from above? Though they might have had ten thousand instructors in Christ, was not Paul their ‘father’ by whose preaching they were saved? By Christ, yes, by the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, yes, by believing the Gospel with God-given faith, yes, but nevertheless by believing that Gospel as delivered unto them by the man whom God sent forth, that Gospel which they heard from Paul’s lips. God begat them through Paul’s preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Then surely they should follow such a man, sent from above to bring them to the One who sent him? “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”

As if these were not good enough reasons – that Paul followed Christ, and that his preaching of Christ’s Gospel had caused his hearers to be born again – Paul sent unto the Corinthians his beloved son Timothy, one faithful in the Lord, to bring them “into remembrance of [his] ways which be in Christ, as [he taught] every where in every church.” Paul’s teaching and conduct confirmed that he was a follower of Christ, one whom God’s children should gladly follow. So Paul sent Timothy to the people to testify of Paul’s character, of his “ways which be in Christ” and of his teaching which he taught “every where in every church” lest Paul’s absence should have caused the Corinthians to become forgetful of his true character in Christ.

Yes, Paul taught others to follow him. But not without cause! He gave here three reasons which should dispel all opposition, which should silence every contrary tongue, which should answer every objection regarding the following of men. Firstly he followed Christ, and hence by following Paul others would be led to Christ. Secondly Christ sent him to preach His Gospel and by the preaching of that Gospel God, through Paul, had brought many to life in Christ Jesus. And thirdly, Paul’s conduct, his “ways which be in Christ” and his teaching in all the churches bore witness to the work of God in him and by him. It proved with what authority he said these things. It demonstrated the fruit by which Paul’s followers might know that He was sent of Christ to lead them to Christ (Matthew 7:15-20). Then how could they not follow him?

Paul’s hearers were right to follow him. In doing so they were not following a man, but following Christ by receiving him whom Christ had sent to them, by believing the word preached by Christ through that man, and by owning the evident work of God seen in Paul, whom they had as an example of one who lived and breathed to serve His Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Philippians 3:17 (See also 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 and Hebrews 13:7).

What was true of Paul is true for all those whom God sends to His church to preach the Gospel. Whilst Paul was indeed an apostle, and was unique in that respect, nevertheless those who have followed him are still called from above, still sent by Christ from above, to preach the same Gospel as Paul did. They still come with the authority of the One who sends them, they still declare the same Gospel by which men and women have their eyes opened, are turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. It is by the preaching of the same Gospel that God the Holy Spirit quickens dead sinners unto everlasting life in Christ Jesus. It is by the preaching of the Gospel that Christ brings a people, His Bride, unto His Father to glorify Him. And it is the same wonderful work of grace in the lives and characters of those whom God sends forth with His word that makes them examples for others to follow, as they follow Christ. Paul rightly exhorted others to follow him, and in such an exhortation God rightly exhorts us to follow those men whom He sends unto His church as gifts for its edification, as they too follow Christ.

You see, the question is not so much about whether or not we should follow men (for Paul’s exhortations make it clear that we should), but about which men we should follow. So, which men should we follow? Those who follow Christ! For when God purposes to save a people He always sends a man with His Gospel to lead that people unto Christ (Romans 10:14). Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” We should follow those who, like Paul, are sent by Christ to preach His Gospel, those who proclaim the same apostolic doctrine: Those who declare the same truths regarding the person and work of the eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who declare His divinity, His humanity, His incarnation, His baptism, His visitation, His death, resurrection and ascension, His present ministry from the glory. Those who declare the fall of man and his total depravity in sin by nature. Those who declare the finished work of Christ upon the cross, a free justification of fallen sinners by the blood of Christ, the imputation of the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ unto all who believe on His Name, the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father for all that election of grace chosen of God in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Those who declare that salvation is of the Lord, entirely of the Lord, entirely by grace from start to finish. Those who declare the threefold work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in salvation. Those who declare the Gospel of Christ, just as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be – just as Paul preached it as the Spirit of God gave him utterance, and as the Spirit continues to do so down through the ages through all those whom He sends in Christ’s Name. These are the men who we should follow, those who follow Christ.

…Whereas others should certainly be avoided. We should test what all men say in the Name of Christ by the scriptures, and if found wanting we should turn from them. We should turn from such who would bring another gospel, and another Jesus, with another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4). We should turn from such who deny the person of Christ or that He has truly come in the flesh. From such who deny One God in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. From such who question and deny the inspiration and authority of God’s word recorded in all the scriptures and its continual testimony to the person and work of Christ. From such who proclaim salvation by the works or by the will of man. From such who deny the free and sovereign grace of God in salvation. From such who deny God’s eternal purposes and decrees in Christ, in electing a people for whom Christ should die, to bring them to everlasting life in Him. From such who deny the true regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in quickening dead sinners unto life. From such who preach a mixed gospel, a mixture of works and faith, of law and grace, of Sinai and Zion . From such who preach so much of man and so little of Christ that their followers can only be led away from Christ and never led to Him. Such men should be avoided. But, despite these, there are those who do follow Christ, those whom Christ has sent with His Gospel: and those men we should follow. For those men seek for man to be abased and Christ to be exalted, they labour that they should fade from view, that their followers should see “no man save Jesus only”.

To turn our backs on those whom God sends forth with His Gospel; to shy from following them in a pious fear of being found to follow men, is, if those men truly follow Christ, to turn our backs on Christ Himself. To not receive those whom Christ sends to us, is to not receive Christ Himself. To treat with caution and reserve those preachers of the Gospel whom Christ has sent, is to treat with caution and reserve Christ Himself. To turn from all men and to trust only our own interpretation of the scriptures, is, ultimately, to follow ourselves and our own understanding. We are right to be wary of man, and the teaching of men, we are absolutely right to weigh up every word spoken by man by that which we find in the scriptures, but we would be wrong to be so wary that we turn away from the teaching of Christ Himself, by the Spirit, in power, through those men whom He has sent forth to preach His everlasting gospel of salvation, those who minister the Gospel of God.

May we be given grace and discernment from God to know and recognise those whom He sends as gifts to His church, and to follow them as they follow Christ! For to truly follow Christ is to receive those whom He sends with His word, those gifts given to His church for its edification, for the building up of the church, for Christ’s glory!

And may we be found to be true followers of Christ as we follow those who follow Him, that Christ might be glorified in His body on earth, and the Father by Him, for “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing”. Revelation 5:12.

Amen. 

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we should henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:37-40

 

 

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“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans 3:21-22

 

The man who has heard the sound of God’s alarm in the Gospel against his sin, who has been awakened to his lost condition, having striven to come to God in his own strength, yet found it useless, finding the law of God to be beyond his keeping – only condemning even his righteousnesses as filthy rags before God – is, through this, by the work of the Holy Spirit, brought to know the conviction of his sin before God.

 

In such a state, feeling the wrath of God to be revealed against all his unrighteousness and ungodliness, knowing himself to be guilty before God, having been given a knowledge of his own sin by God’s holy law as impressed upon him inwardly by the Holy Ghost, such a wretched, convicted sinner may well be brought to cry out in desperation with Job of old… “How shall man be just with God?” Job 9:2

 

Well… how shall man be just with God?

 

How, when our sins condemn us? How, when the wrath of God is revealed against our sins?

How, when our every attempt to keep God’s law ends in utter failure?

How, when even our best deeds, our righteousnesses, are as filthy rags? (Isaiah 64:6)

 

How? How shall man be just with God? … when God requires perfect righteousness? When our sins can only separate us from a holy God?

 

How?

 

This is the very question which Paul begins to answer with the glorious ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21. That wonderful turning point in the revelation of the Gospel in which Paul proceeds from Romans 3:21 through to chapter 5 to set forth the good news of the Gospel and the answer to man’s greatest need – to be made just before God!

 

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans 3:21-22

 

Paul opens the epistle to the Romans by first introducing to us the glorious Person of Christ in Romans 1:1-4. Then, having painted, as it were, on a canvas the bad news of man’s condition before God from chapter 1:18 to chapter 3:20 Paul begins in Romans 3:21 to set against this backdrop the good news of the work of Christ in the Gospel. Having shown what man has done in his rebellion against God… what you have done… what I have done… Paul now proceeds to show what God has done in Christ to save His people from their sins.

 

Here we see that work by which God justifies His people, how He redeems them, ransoms them. Here is that work of faith which brings in the righteousness of God, which quenches the wrath of God against the sins of His people. That work which propitiates, silences, puts out, that wrath … completely!

 

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:6-8.

“…If we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead: Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” Romans 4:24-25

Yes, man stands guilty before God, yes, the law condemns him, yes, the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness, yes, man lacks the strength, the will, the desire to turn to God…. yes…. But now!!

 

But now…. Though all men have sinned in Adam, though all have fallen short of the glory of God, though all have gone astray, though all lack understanding, though none seeks after God, nevertheless now, but now, we see Another Man, the Second Man, the Last Adam, One who never sinned, One who lived in perfect righteousness, One who was just, One who walked by faith. One who being both God and man could reach from heaven to earth, from time to eternity, from God to man, from the heights of Glory to the depths of despair, from Light unapproachable to the darkest corners of the earth – to the lowest, to the meanest, to the weakest and the most vile, yea, to the chief of sinners, to reconcile such poor, lost, wretched creatures unto their God and Father, not just for a moment but for everlasting, not just for time but for eternity! Here we see Jesus Christ – the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners… Yes, that was then. But now….

 

But now… we see the righteousness of God manifested. The very righteousness of God in Himself. Not simply the righteousness that God demanded of man in order to continue his mortal existence in this world, that righteousness of the law, as commanded of Israel and delivered by Moses – that was righteousness under the law. But now, we see another righteousness altogether manifested – the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel. That righteousness, and that revelation, by which the Gospel becomes the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17). For without righteousness no man can be just before God, no man can approach unto God, but here, here in the Gospel, God brings in a righteousness acceptable not only to the demands of the law, as given by Moses, but acceptable to God Himself in His very Being, as One who dwells in light unapproachable. But now, the righteousness of God, without the law, is manifested, “being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ”. This righteousness was witnessed by the law and the prophets – they pointed to it, foretold of it, foreshadowed it – but not until the coming of Christ in the Gospel, not until God revealed this righteousness in judgment at the cross to be imputed to all who believe on the Son, not until the ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21 did it finally come to light, was it finally revealed, finally manifested in fulfilment of all that had been promised. But now, by the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God, Divine righteousness, without the law, is manifested!

 

What is this righteousness? What is the “righteousness of God”? Well, firstly, it is “without the law” or “apart from the law”. Romans 3:21 makes that clear. That is not to say that it is against the law, or contrary to the law, but that it is brought in on another footing, another basis, another principle altogether. This isn’t the righteousness of the law, nor even the righteousness of Christ by the law, but it is the righteousness of God without the law. It is not merely righteousness demanded of men, but Divine Righteousness given to men! (Hence scripture always uses the term ‘the righteousness of God’ in order to emphasise its divinity, the ‘righteousness of Christ’ being a phrase never actually found in Holy Writ). This righteousness was brought in not by the works of the law, but by “the faith of Jesus Christ” (3:21). This is not “the righteousness of Christ with the law…. Even the righteousness of Christ by the works of Jesus Christ”, but “the righteousness of God without the law… even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ”. It is by faith, not by works, being referred to in Romans 10 as “the righteousness of faith” as contrasted with “the righteousness of the law”. Nor does this refer simply to how this righteousness is received by the faith of the believer, but it refers to how it is established or brought in to the account of the believer in the Gospel – “by faith of Jesus Christ”, “for therein” (in the Gospel) “is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”. 

 

But if this righteousness of God, manifested in the Gospel, is described as “without the law” does that mean that it is contrary to the law? Not at all, for it was “witnessed by the law”,
that law having been given to man by God, having set forth God’s holiness, justice and goodness.
Both the law and the gospel have come from the same God, they both reveal His holy character and justice. It is simply that the righteousness of God as revealed by the faith of Jesus Christ in the Gospel is so much greater, so much more glorious, so much more wide-reaching, than anything revealed by the law of Moses could ever describe or set forth. This righteousness of God, as revealed by the faith of Christ, as exemplified by Christ Himself, is the full revelation of God’s righteousness as He is in Himself. It is that righteousness which we need in order to be just with God, in order to stand before Him in perfection, at peace, at one with God the Father. This is a righteousness which not only fulfils the law in every aspect but which completely transcends it, soaring up from man to the very character of God in His infinite Divinity….  Think of the light of the sun: the law, as summarised by the Ten Commandments, was like having that light shining through the lattice of the window, through ten panes of glass, as it were. The light emanates from the sun but is obscured by the lattice, and the darkness of the walls around obscure the full light that shines through the lattice of the window. But stand outside, stand under the midday sun and what a contrast there is! How much brighter, how much more dazzling, how much more glorious is the light!

 

Well, the Gospel, and the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel, is like the shining of the midday sun! With the law taken out of sight the full glory of God’s righteousness is seen in Christ in the Gospel. The same God is behind both the law and the Gospel, it is the same Sun from whom the light shines (for God does not change)…. But now, what was shrouded under the law, what was concealed, what was behind the veil, what was seen in types and shadows is now fully manifested, now made fully known in Christ… But now… the righteousness of God without the law is manifested… even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” John 1:17-18.

“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” 1 John 2:8

 

Romans 1:18 declares the revelation of the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. From 1:18 to 3:20 Paul proves all men, both Jews and Gentiles to be under sin, he brings them in guilty before God. He shows that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified” in God’s sight, because “there is none righteous, no, not one”.

 

None righteous, no not one. Not you, not I, no one. There is none righteous. Not in Adam, no. But thank God for the ‘But now’ of 3:21! For God has brought in righteousness for His people, by Another Man! “Even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ”.

 

And to what end? To deliver from unrighteousness! To deliver from the wrath to come! To justify the ungodly, not by ignoring their sins, but by righteously judging them in Another. “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

 

Yes, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…

 

But now… God has revealed His righteousness, by the faith of Jesus Christ, to propitiate His wrath against the sins of His people. To quench it, to answer it, to pacify it. God’s justice rightly burns against all the sins of mankind, all its rebellion, all its hatred, all its enmity, and justice must be satisfied, it must be answered, wrath must be poured out, justice must be exacted upon every transgression, every breach of God’s law, every deviation from God’s righteousness. Having opened the door to the full fury of God’s wrath against his own sin, mankind stands helpless under the revelation of the wrath of God, awaiting the coming of the Last Day and the meting out of judgment against every sin and every sinner who remains in unbelief. That Day fast approaches with relentless pace, and mankind in blind stupidity, sheer foolishness, shuts both its eyes and its ears to the dreadful truth of the Judgment to come.

 

Yet, those whom God has taught, those whom God has awakened, those whom God has convicted, those who sense the fury of God wrath’s against their sin, cry out in desperation: “How shall man be just with God?”… Yes, they cry out… for mercy!

 

…Have you? Have you really? 

For here, in the Gospel, is God’s answer for such heart-broken, such contrite, sinners – “I have found a ransom”, “A price has been paid”! By whom? Another Man. Here we hear of One who has stepped into the breach. Of one “who was delivered for our offences” (Romans 4:25), who, “while we were yet sinners”, died for us who believe. For when they were yet enemies, God reconciled His people to Himself “by the death of His Son” Romans 5:10.

God’s wrath raged against the sins of His people. But now the righteousness of God is manifested, Christ has been set forth as “a propitiation through faith in his blood” (3:25), by which God’s wrath is quenched, propitiated, by having been poured out, in its entirety, against every sin, every transgression, of every one of His people, upon the One who suffered and died in their stead, the One who redeemed them by His own blood, the One who justified them, the One who ransomed them, the One who owned their offences as His own, the One who took away their sins, blotting them out, having them judged according to the very righteousness of God in His own body, that righteousness which He brought in through judgment to their account, as He looked by faith to His Father, whilst yet stricken, forsaken, and cast out as the Substitute of sinners, accursed on their behalf, nailed to a cross and lifted up above the earth to suffer unimaginable torment and anguish on behalf of those whom He loved. This is how God’s wrath was propitiated, this is how His righteousness was brought in for all who believe, and this is how God justified His people “freely by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”!

Yes this is how God manifested His righteousness, how He justified His people – through the death of Christ. All is at the cross, all is in Christ’s death. United to Christ all God’s people died with Him, their sins became His, and God judged every one in the Saviour according to His own  righteousness, His own perfection – and those sins, and that sin, all being entirely blotted out and taken out of the way, the wrath of God from heaven having being silenced for ever against them, nothing remained, nothing was left to be seen, but the righteousness of God in Christ which all His people became in Him –  as justified before God: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” 2 Corinthians 5:21. From that very point that righteousness is “unto all” that believe (Romans 3:22), and “upon all”, when, by the work of the Spirit, they are born again from on high, quickened from death to life, translated from darkness to light, and granted faith to trust in the One who washed them from their sins and made them the righteousness of God in Him. For all for whom Christ died will be brought to faith, the righteousness of God being both unto all and upon all them that believe – “for there is no difference”. A people who were once unrighteous, deceived, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners.

 

“And such were some of you”… But now…ye are washed… ye are sanctified… ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” 1 Corinthians 6:11.

Oh, praise God for this ‘But now’, by which righteousness is brought in for those who were unrighteous, by which sinners are justified, sins are remitted, wrath is propitiated, forgiveness is made known, the dead are brought to life, and God and men are reconciled…. And all through the glorious work of Christ, who by faith saved those who are brought to  faith in Him alone for salvation, the Saviour who by grace sought and saved those who sought Him not…

 

For,  HE’S done it all!!

 

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of ourselves: it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8

 

Yes, praise God for the ‘But now’ of Romans 3:21 in the Gospel of God!

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…..

But now…..

 

(Read this in Portuguese)

 

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“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

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From Romans chapter 9 through to 11 the apostle Paul considers that people whom God has chosen to save. This is a people chosen not according to their birth in the flesh, but chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, who in time are born again of the Holy Spirit. They are a spiritual people, the children of promise, pictured by Israel of old, but nevertheless, not that fleshly nation, but a people chosen amongst both Jews and Gentiles. As Romans 9:6-8 tells us “…For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

 

Having pointed out in Romans 2:28-29 that the true Jew is not one who is outwardly a Jew, one born physically a Jew, but one who is inwardly a Jew, one whose heart is circumcised, being born of God by His Spirit, Paul returns to this truth in chapter 9 where he illustrates that God has elected to save a people from both Jews and Gentiles, who collectively are the spiritual Israel of God: “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pas, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” Romans 9:24-26

 

It is this people, chosen out of both Jews and Gentiles, to whom the promises of God apply, those promises made of old to Abraham and His Seed, the promises of salvation and of an inheritance in the world to come. It is these who are the true Jews, God’s people, those who are brought to saving faith in Christ. For it is by grace, through faith, that this people are saved, not by works, and in setting forth the truth of that people whom God saves, Paul contrasts in chapters 9 and 10 the righteousness which is of the law, which Israel of old sought after, with that righteousness of faith, by which all God’s people are saved: “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosover believeth on him shall not be ashamed” Romans 9:30-33.

 

No, salvation is not by the works of the law, nor by virtue of our fleshly birth, but through faith in Christ, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”.

 

But those people, both Jews and Gentiles, who are shown their sin, shown their utter inability to save themselves, to attain unto righteousness, or to keep the law of God, are taught their need of mercy. It is those whom God brings to call upon His Name for salvation, and everyone so brought, who so calls upon Him shall surely be heard: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:12-13.

 

Yes, those whom God saves, His people, the true Israel of God, are a people of faith, a people elected unto salvation, born again of God by His Spirit and given faith to call upon His Name for salvation, believing on Christ and His work in dying to save sinners.

 

But what is it to call upon the name of the Lord? Why does Paul stress the name of the Lord here?

 

Well, we read of the name of the Lord in other passages of scriptures, for example in Philippians 2:9-11.

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Here we read of that coming day when every knee – every man’s, every woman’s, every child’s – will bow to the Lord Jesus Christ. A day when every tongue will confess: “That Jesus Christ is Lord”. What a day that will be! What a tremendous confession, what glorious praise to God the Father and to Him whom He hath highly exalted, even Jesus Christ His Son!

But notice again how this passage is worded. It says “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”

Why does scripture state it in this way? Why, like Romans 10:13, stress the name of Jesus, that name “which is above every name”? Why? Firstly, because of how exalted both the Person and His name are – how glorious they are. But also because of what the name of Jesus signifies: the truth of it. The truth conveyed by the very name itself. It is not only the Lord to whom we must call for salvation, but we must call upon the name of the Lord as believing the truth regarding Him. It is not only to Jesus that every knee shall bow, but to the truth He represents. For Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus is The Truth and His name declares truth.

The name ‘Jesus’ is the Greek form of the Hebrew ‘Joshua’, or ‘Jeho-shua’, which has its roots in ‘Jah-shua’ meaning ‘God Saves’. Not only does this name declare Christ’s deity but it declares Him to be the God who saves! Now, this is a truth to which every knee shall bow – that God Saves! That through Jesus alone God saves sinners; that salvation is entirely of Him – from start to finish. Man simply has no part to play in it – the work is all of God – for God Saves.

Oh! how man by nature, in the fallen depravity of his sinful heart, rails against such a truth! How he hates it! How his innermost spirit detests such a truth that asserts dogmatically the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. How man must have some part to play in saving himself. How his pride rises up against, how it fights against, the plain and simple truth that salvation owes nothing to himself, but all to God and His grace. Man by nature simply must have some part to play, he must have something which he can do, something which he can contribute – however small it may be. Whether it be his good works, his prayers, his attendance to religious ritual or worship, his decision to follow God, his simple ‘acceptance’ of ‘Jesus’, his willingness to believe; something, something, he does must play a part in his salvation. However much he may confess his need of Christ to save him, ultimately there is a part of his own, whether it be fifty percent or one percent, upon which he trusts. Man’s sinful nature, his pride, his arrogance, will not confess that he is absolutely worthless, utterly lost, totally blind to the truth, dead in trespasses and sins. He can go so far, but not that far. He’ll bow the knee to the idea of a saviour who saves those who allow Him to, those who ‘accept’ Him, but he’ll not bow the knee to the truth of The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the truth of His Name: Jesus, ‘God Saves’. For God does save and He saves those whom He wills absolutely, entirely, without the work of man (James 1:18).

No, man by nature will never bow the knee to such a truth, he’ll never accept that ‘God saves’; that salvation is entirely of the Lord, entirely of His choice, entirely at His discretion (Romans 9:15); that God will either do everything to save a sinner, or he’ll do nothing at all, and if not, God will leave the proud, stubborn, rebellious, self-righteous, religious hypocrite to discover at the day of judgment that the filthy rags of his own righteousness could never wash away his sins – to discover that salvation has to be entirely upon a different footing from his own works, that he needs the blood of the Saviour to wash away his sins and make him clean before a Holy and Almighty God; such a one will be brought to see, when it is too late for him, that it is indeed the truth that ‘God Saves’ and God alone – then, on that day, his knee will bow to such a truth, even as the Lord God of Heaven and Earth delivers His eternal sentence of wrath upon him.

How merciful then to be delivered from such wilful delusion! What grace is shown by Almighty God when He arrests a sinner in his rebellious way and opens his eyes to the Gospel and the truth of the Name which is above every name. How wonderful to be brought to an end of ourselves and our own striving to save ourselves, and to be brought to see that “salvation is of the Lord”; how good to be brought to our knees to confess to God that we are nothing, that except He shows us mercy we will be lost; to cry out to Him “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”! (Luke 18:13) For it is those who are brought to call upon the name of the Lord in this way who shall be saved (Romans 10:13), for ‘God Saves’!

What a salvation God has wrought for sinners through His precious Son the Lord Jesus Christ! How God is glorified by it! This salvation was purposed by God the Father from all eternity when He chose a people in Christ whom He would redeem, called the “election of grace”; this salvation was effected by God the Son “who made himself of no reputation…and being found in fashion as a man… humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, when He laid down His life in the place of His people, bearing their sins in His own body on the tree, suffering the wrath of God against sin, that He might deliver them from sin and condemnation and grant them eternal life in Him; and this salvation wrought by the Son is applied by the Holy Spirit to these people when He quickens them from death to life and grants them faith to look to the Saviour who suffered and bled in their stead, to rest in Him and the righteousness of God in Him which is put to their account. This threefold work of Father, Son and Holy Ghost sets forth the glorious truth that ‘God Saves’, by grace alone, and it is this truth to which God’s people will be brought, by the Spirit, to bow the knee: to confess at the name of Jesus that ‘God Saves’, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. For God “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”.

Yes, the work of salvation is entirely God’s work, from start to finish; all its handiwork, all its weaving, all its craftsmanship is of Him. All those who come to know such a salvation, all those who are quickened from death unto life by the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit, all those turned from darkness to light, from enmity to peace with God, from the dark paths of sin to the blessed way of righteousness, from misery unto joy, from a life lived for self unto a life lived for the Lord Jesus Christ and for His glory, all those chosen of God from amongst both Jews and Gentiles; all those will gladly, freely, willingly, lovingly, bow the knee to the Saviour, to Him who is Truth, and to this truth: that God Saves. And none who do will be passed by “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:12-13.

And whether man confesses this truth in his lifetime and bows the knee freely, or whether he comes to see it at the day of judgment, nevertheless, there comes a day when every man, every woman, every child, all, shall bow the knee to the truth that God Saves, for “Salvation is of the Lord”… “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”.

“…and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

 

Amen.    

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“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [substitution]” Romans 5:10-11

 

 

PEACE with God. Peace. This is the wonderful place into which is brought every fallen, ungodly sinner, who is justified by Christ. Having set before us God’s justification of sinners in the previous two chapters, Paul opens chapter 5 by declaring some of the tremendous fruits of that justification. Peace with God, access by faith, the hope of glory: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”, Romans 5:1-2.

     Through such a work of God for, and in, them God’s people are enabled to glory in tribulations, which produce patience, and which in turn produces experience and hope, “and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”. Here for the first time in Romans we read of that love, that priceless love, that precious, eternal, overwhelming, love of God, by which He is pleased to save sinners. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, Romans 5:6-8.

     Yes, that’s when Christ died for His people. When they were yet sinners, without strength, ungodly. When they were enemies of God, at enmity with God, gone out of the way, with mouths full of cursing and bitterness, feet swift to shed blood, with destruction and misery in their ways, having no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18). That’s when – when they were sinners.

     “And the way of peace have they not known…” Romans 3:17

     But Christ died for them. God justified them. And being justified they now, by faith, have peace with God. And, “much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [substitution]”, Romans 5:9-11.

     When God justified His people by the blood of Christ He brought them to peace with Him. The wrath of God against their sin being quenched, justice was satisfied, the enmity was taken out of the way, and peace reigned. Christ, the great High Priest of God’s people, offered up His own body as a sacrifice for sin, and having died, He rose again, ascended into glory, and entered into the holy place, sprinkling His own blood upon the mercy seat – the propitiatory – by which all was answered, all the wrath of God against His people’s sins was quenched, all was at peace, eternal redemption was obtained – and all in Christ were reconciled to God (Leviticus 16:15, Hebrews 4:14, 6:20, 7:27, 9:12, 9:24, 10:12). Here in chapter 5 of Romans Paul opens up the very ground of this reconciliation: the atonement – or substitution.


The great exchange

Here is one of the greatest truths at the heart of the gospel – substitution. Here is that subtitutionary work of Jesus Christ, in which He stood in the place of His people and suffered under the judgment of God against their sin, in order that they would become the righteousness of God in Him. This substitutionary work is what Paul is considering in Romans 5 verses 10-21, the truth of which is summarised succinctly elsewhere in 2 Corinthians 5:21 with these words:

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

     This is a truly glorious truth – that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the perfect, impeccable, spotless Lamb of God, the One who knew no sin, went willingly to the cross where God the Father laid upon the Sin-bearer the sins of all His people, and made Him to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. How? By His suffering under the outpouring of God’s wrath against that sin, until all that sin was completely blotted out and taken out of the way – leaving nothing but the righteousness of God in Christ, which His people are made to be in Him.

     This substitutionary work is what Martin Luther described as the ‘Great Exchange’, in which Christ took the place of sinners, that they might take His, and be reconciled to God. In fact the word translated as reconciled in Romans 5:10, or as atonement in 5:11 has as its root the Greek word katallage which essentially means a thorough exchange, or substitution. Reconciliation is the effect of such an exchange but the main emphasis of the word katallage in the Greek is upon the cause which produces that effect. Sinners are reconciled to God by the thorough exchange of Christ with them in which He was made to be sin, that they should become the righteousness of God in Him.

     United with His people in death, all the changes were in the Saviour: He took on His people’s state, that they might be made into His state – righteousness. He who knew no sin, was made to be sin. God judged that sin in His own Son by the outpouring of His wrath, that His people should be “saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9). Having “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3), sin was no more to be seen, and death could not hold the Saviour, who rose again from the grave in perfect righteousness, and His people in Him. He was the One who suffered, He was the One who died, yet, as a result, His people are delivered from darkness into light, from death into life, from the bondage of sin, into the liberty of eternal life and everlasting righteousness in Christ. Yes, He died, that they should live. What a deliverance!

     The life brought in as a result of Christ’s death is seen in the latter part of verse 10, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.Having been reconciled to God by the death of his Son, being justified by his blood, God’s people are raised again from the dead in resurrection life in Christ, death having no more hold over them, their sins having been blotted out. Their being “saved by his life” – as seen in verse 10 – amplifies the truth of Romans 5:9 which declares that being “justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him”, for having taken sin away and having conquered death, Christ, now being risen from the dead, “ever liveth to make intercession” for His people (Hebrews 7:25). He points to His own blood by which He justified them – the very blood He sprinkled upon the mercy seat of God to propitiate God’s wrath against their sins. Oh, what an Advocate they have in the presence of God the Father (1 John 2:1) – what a Saviour, in whom is eternal life!

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23


Sin and sins

But notice for a moment the twofold work of Christ in substitution. Not only did He bear the sins of His people (1 Peter 2:24), those sinful deeds which they have done, which spring forth from the fallen nature of their sinful hearts, but He was also made to be sin itself. This is not what they have done, but what they are, for they were crucified in Him (Galatians 2:20), and what they are by nature is sin. Sin is that which entered into man when Adam fell in the garden, by which death entered the world as a result (Romans 5:12). It is that pollution, which since the fall of Adam has corrupted man’s very nature, that spirit of wanton abandonment and total lawlessness1, that depravity to which man is in bondage. It is this which Christ took away in His substitutionary work as set forth in Romans 5 where Christ’s obedience, in dying in the place of His people that they might be made righteous, is contrasted with Adam’s disobedience, in which sin entered the world and many were made sinners (Romans 5:12,19). Yes, not only did Christ suffer for the sins of His people but He was also made to be sin, that God in judgment might destroy the very cause of those sins, sin itself, in His people’s Substitute upon the tree. Hence we see, in Christ’s body broken, the condemnation of sin upon the cross, and in His blood shed the washing away of those sins which came forth from that sin which dwells in the depravity of man’s fallen heart (Mark 7:21,22). But thank God that He judged not only the effects, the sins, but the cause – sin itself.

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…” Romans 8:3

     Oh! What depths, what lengths to which the Saviour went to save His people from their sins and deliver them from the bondage of sin itself. What He suffered for those so undeserving, that they might know so great a salvation!

     Yet, despite the tremendous glory in this truth, despite the fact that the preaching of this message, the preaching of the cross, is the power of God to them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:18), it is nevertheless to them that perish, “foolishness”. To many it is a stumbling block, and an offence. But that which is offensive to the natural man, is the power of God to those who believe.

     Whilst Christ suffered under the judgment of God as He bore His people’s sins in His own body on the tree, as He was made to be sin, it must be stressed that He never once sinned Himself, He never once thought an evil thought, He never once did anything for which He would Himself have to pay the price. All was done in the place of His people as their Substitute, all the sins He bore were their sins, yet whilst bearing those sins, whilst being made sin, He nevertheless never sinned Himself, as it is written “He did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22). Yet, despite this, the scriptures are also plain to state that Christ was nevertheless “made [to be] sin”. Not that He sinned, notice, but that He was made sin. It is a question of what was done to Christ, not by Him. God made Him to be sin, yet Christ never sinned.

     Some theologians have sought to explain this mystery, that Christ, who knew no sin, could be made sin, and yet never Himself sin, by stating that the sins of God’s people could only have been imputed to Christ. That they were only reckoned to Him, legally put to His account and laid to His charge. But the scriptures never once use the word imputation with regard to this matter. They are very clear – Christ bore the sins of His people in “His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), and in their place, in a thorough exchange, He was “made … to be sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The scriptures are presented to us, not to be explained away logically, with the natural intellect, but to be believed spiritually, with God-given faith, as bowing to the revelation of God in the scriptures.

     No, the scriptures never use the term imputation with regard to Christ’s sin-bearing. He bore sins and He was made sin. How then did He commit no sin? Well, though a mystery that we may never fully comprehend, we can nevertheless state that though Christ was very man by nature, He was also very God, both in nature and in personality, and as God, as a Divine Person, He could not sin. A mystery to the natural mind, perhaps, but true nonetheless. Offensive to carnal wisdom, perhaps, but a matter for rejoicing to those whom Christ has delivered from sin, those who are brought by God to submit to the revelation of His gospel in the scriptures.

     Christ never once sinned – that could not be. Yet, though that must be stressed, at the same time we must not take away from the magnitude of what Christ really suffered for His people at the cross in order to save them. Whilst it may be true that the sins of God’s people were imputed to Christ, in that they were laid to His charge as a consequence of His bearing them, nevertheless imputation is not taught in the scriptures as the means by which He bore sins or was made sin. Sins were imputed to Christ simply because He really bore them in His own body on the tree and because He really was ‘made sin’. Just as Christ really died upon the cross, despite being the eternal God in whom is eternal life (1 John 1:2), likewise He was also really made to be sin in His manhood, as the very cause for which He died, whilst at the same time remaining to be the God who “is light, in whom is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). For in order that His people should truly become what Christ is, by means of His substitution, He had to truly become what they are, by a thorough exchange, in order to truly condemn their sin in His flesh, that they might be made “the righteousness of God in Him”.

     This is a glorious, a deep, an unfathomable truth, but one to which we can only bow in awe and wonder that Christ, the Saviour of sinners, should willingly stoop to such suffering, to such a death, out of love for His own. Yet despite the length and depth to which He went to save His people, in taking their sins as His own, and suffering as a man in the place of men, as the just for the unjust, under the outpouring of God’s wrath against them, nevertheless the glorious Saviour never once sinned Himself, never once ceased to love His Father, never once ceased to trust Him, and never once turned from the task for which He came – to save His people from their sins! Indeed it is from the depths of His sufferings that we see Christ’s faith in God the Father so wonderfully expressed in the precious words He uttered at the cross. As Luke 23:46 testifies, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost”.

The two Adams

Romans 5 sets forth this substitutionary work in which Christ, the Last Adam, took the place of His people who sprang from the first Adam, by contrasting the two Adams and their work. By one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin. But the Last Adam, by the righteous act of laying down His life in the place of His people (the ‘one righteousness’ of Romans 5:18) saved them from wrath, justified them by His blood (5:9), and delivered them from death unto life (5:18) – making those who were sinners righteous (5:19), that they should be reconciled to God by Christ’s death (5:10). Oh how the love of God is seen in such a glorious work! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

     Throughout this passage it is important to see how Paul contrasts the two Adams and their posterity in them. He speaks of Adam and of Christ as the heads of two groups of people. What is true of all those men who are in the first Adam, is contrasted with what is true of all those men who are in the last Adam. All in Adam are contrasted with all in Christ (“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”, 1 Corinthians 15:22). Yet whilst all mankind is the posterity of the first Adam, not all mankind is the posterity of Christ, as made clear in many passages of scripture (for example Romans 9:6-13). This is important to notice, and explains why Paul refers to many being made righteous in verse 19 – for not all are made righteous, though all in Christ, all His posterity, are.

     But what is true of all mankind, without exception, is that all are in Adam, all have sinned and, as a result, death has passed upon all men (Romans 5:12). Having presented this stark and solemn fact, Paul then passes on to a parenthesis from verse 13 to 17, the purpose of which is to illustrate how both Adam and Christ stood as representatives of their people, their posterity. Whilst not all have done what Adam did, in the same manner, nevertheless as their representative his act of disobedience affected them all. Likewise, whilst Christ’s posterity have not done what He did, as their representative His act of obedience in laying down His life for the sheep, affected them all. Paul shows in verses 13 and 14 that it is not the presence of the law which determines whether one sins, for even when there was no law (from Adam to Moses) death still reigned, and it reigned because sin was still in mankind and governed his actions. Unlike Adam, who disobeyed a command given to him by God, and unlike those under the law who transgressed against its commands, those from Adam to Moses sinned not against an outward command (and hence not “after the similitude of Adam’s transgression”), nevertheless they still sinned. Sin was still in them, death still reigned over them, they sought not God, they turned from Him and lived according to their own fallen lusts and pleasures, denying that revelation of God’s truth which God has declared in the creation and in their own conscience  (Romans 1:19-22, 2:10-16, 3:9-18). So whether under law, or not under law, sin still reigned, and death by sin. The law did nothing to prevent it. Indeed when the law was given, it is said to have “entered, that the offence might abound”, Romans 5:20.

     Yet Adam was but a figure of Christ, of “him that was to come” (Romans 5:14). What is portrayed by Adam’s disobedience and the consequences for all his posterity, is a figure, a picture, of what would be brought in by Christ’s obedience for all His posterity. “For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ”, Romans 5:15-17.

     Oh! What a tremendous contrast between the work of Adam and the work of Christ. By one act of disobedience Adam plunged himself and all his posterity into condemnation, into death and destruction. But through the gift of grace, by Jesus Christ, all His posterity, though they have committed many offences, are nevertheless justified, receiving an abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, and reign in life in Jesus Christ!

     Having closed the parenthesis Paul shows the contrast between Adam and Christ in verses 18 and 19 by setting before us the one offence of Adam by which he disobeyed – he refused to hearken to – God’s command in the garden and plunged himself and his offspring into condemnation, and the one act of righteousness by which Christ hearkened submissively in the obedience of faith to the will of His Father, by laying down his life for His own that they should know “justification of life” (Romans 5:18) by the shedding of His blood (5:9). Hence “by one man’s disobedience” (in the garden) “many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one” (upon the cross, 5:10) “shall many be made righteous”, for the fruit of the tree of Adam’s disobedience, of which he ate, brought in death, but the fruit of the tree of Christ’s obedience, when He drank the cup of God’s wrath to conquer death, was everlasting life.

     This is how God justified the ungodly, and this is the whole context of chapter 5 – the death of Christ. Christ’s offspring are “justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9). He justified them by His obedience “unto death” (Philippians 2:8), in laying down His life as a substitute in their place, suffering the death they deserved, that they might be made “the righteousness of God in Him”. And where did the law come in? Was righteousness wrought by the law? No, for “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21). No, Christ’s death justified His people, through the sacrifice of their substitute in their place, through this obedience2. For:

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13-14

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture have concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Galatians 3:19-22

     Hence we see that righteousness came not by the law, but by the death of Christ, that obedience by which He delivered His people from the law and its condemnation, for the law was added, it “entered, that the offence might abound”… “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

     Praise God for that substitute of sinners, for that offering for sin, that ransom for many, for the One who paid the redemption price, even our Lord Jesus Christ. And praise God that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!

     But, my reader, what do you know about this grace? Has the Spirit of God made its abounding known to you in your heart? Are you in Christ, or in Adam? Are you justified or condemned? Is Christ your substitute, have you been reconciled unto God by the death of His Son?

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

…Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: … Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:6-12, 18-19

 

 

 

 

 

[1 1 John 3:4, “Sin is the transgression of the law” is oft-quoted as a definition of sin. However this passage is not well translated in the King James Version of the Bible, and as it stands gives too limited a scope to what sin really is. The passage, literally translated from the Greek, would better read, “sin is lawlessness”. Whilst this may appear similar at first, it is in fact much more wide-ranging. Sin, taken to its full meaning, is complete lawlessness. Not just a transgression of the law given at Sinai, but wilful disregard of any and every law or commandment, an entire unwillingness to be bound by any rule or any authority. Sin, in essence, is simply sheer rebellion against one’s Maker – enmity towards God and His sovereign rule over us.

2 There is a commonly-held understanding, popularised by certain of the Puritans, particularly John Owen, that the righteousness by which a sinner is justified before God – that righteousness which is imputed to him – was wrought by Christ’s obedience to the law throughout His life upon the earth, in addition to His death. This is referred to as His ‘active obedience’ whilst His death upon the cross is termed His ‘passive obedience’. Such a scheme however, is both erroneous and without scriptural support, and whilst it is recognised that many good men, both past and present, have been persuaded of this view, nevertheless popularity cannot be the test of orthodoxy – we must weigh everything in the light of God’s word. The truth is, the scriptures always place justifying righteousness as being wrought out upon the cross, not by the works of the law. The justification of sinners is plainly taught in Romans 3. If the concept of justification by vicarious law-keeping were taught in any passage of scripture, it is this passage, above all, where one would expect to find it. Yet there is not a word of it in the chapter. On the contrary, we are told that the “righteousness of God without the law is manifested” and that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified”.

      Unable to find support in Romans chapter 3 the proponents of this scheme turn to chapter 5. The “obedience” of Romans 5:19 is often cited in support of this teaching, with the claim that this refers to Christ’s obedience to the precepts of the law. But this is to wrest the verse out of its context. The context of Romans 5 is the death of Christ (see Romans 5:8), and the obedience referred to is the obedience of faith. In fact the Greek (hupakoe) translated as obedience here has the root meaning of hearing aright, of hearkening submissively. Faith hears, faith believes and faith acts in submission to the will of God – and the obedience of faith referred to in Romans 5:19 is that one act of righteousness (or one accomplished righteousness, dikaiomatos, Romans 5:18) by which Christ justified His people through laying down His life for them. Hence they are said to be “justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9), and are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).

      Neither can the phrase “we shall be saved by his life” found in the latter part of Romans 5:10 be used in support of vicarious law-keeping, as this refers not to Christ’s deeds as a man under the law, but to His resurrection life, following His death, by which His people are raised from the dead, and in which He, as their great High Priest and Advocate, intercedes on their behalf before God the Father, they being “justified by his blood” and thence “saved from wrath through him”, Romans 5:9.

      Righteousness was not wrought by Christ’s obedience to the law. Rather, His obedience showed forth that He was righteous. Out of His righteousness sprang forth obedience. The law measured Him and found no fault in Him. Jeremiah 33:16 tells us that the LORD is our righteousness. Hence righteousness should not be thought of as what Christ has done, but what He is as God. We are made to be the righteousness of God in Him. For if the LORD – Jehovah – is our righteousness then this righteousness is divine, and hence not the righteousness of Christ under the law as a man, but the righteousness of God in Christ (see, for example, 2 Peter 1:1). However this righteousness, as imputed to the believer, is not abstract, it is not God’s attribute or quality of righteousness considered in isolation, as it is in God Himself, but it is as it is personally made to be ours in Christ – we being in Christ, having our sins judged according to that righteousness, that perfection, in Him. Justifying righteousness is personal. We are made to be it in Christ. It is as personally ours as Christ is ours. Simply put, justifying righteousness is the righteousness of God made to be ours personally, by imputation, through the death of Christ by whom our sins are remitted. For as Calvin taught, justification is the remission of sins.

      So righteousness was not wrought by Christ’s obedience to the law, for He was already righteous, but the righteousness of God was made to be His people’s through Christ’s obedience to God in giving His life for them – for when Christ laid down His life vicariously for His people, bearing their sins and being made sin for them, righteousness was wrought, in the sense that those who were not righteous were made to be righteous, for their sin being judged, the righteousness of God in Christ was then put to their account. Christ suffered for that people who had their sins blotted out in Him, sins which were judged by the very righteousness of God, and being judged according to that righteousness, God was just to declare that people not guilty, to declare them as righteous, justified, in Christ. Hence the righteousness of God was manifested by the death of Christ for His people, through which, being united to Christ, they are made to be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

      This must be so, for if justifying righteousness were wrought by the works of the law then Romans 3:20 & 3:28, and Galatians 2:16 & 3:21-22, would all be overturned, which declare plainly that no flesh shall be justified by the deeds of the law. Likewise if Christ kept the law vicariously for His people through His lifetime (if that were even legally possible, which it is not) then there would be no need of His death, they already being accounted as righteous in Him by this scheme before He died. “For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21.]

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

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