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“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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Abraham Believed God

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” Romans 4:3

 

HAVING presented the work of God in justifying sinners “freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”, Paul goes on at the close of chapter 3 to present three hypothetical questions which some may be inclined to ask in response to such doctrine and to such an emphasis upon faith in the work of God alone. With three brief, yet unequivocal, answers Paul affirms the truth of justification by faith in reply to such doubting opposition. 

     “Where is boasting then? It is excluded”

     “Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also”

     “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

     It is these three questions, and the answers to them, which Paul proceeds to open up, to expound more fully, throughout chapter 4. Using the life of Abraham as an example he illustrates the total contrast between justification sought by the works of the law, and the free grace of God by which God justifies undeserving sinners through faith. All grounds for boasting are set aside, the blessedness of sins forgiven and righteousness imputed are set before us, the scope and scale of God’s mercy to both Jews and Gentiles is demonstrated, and the law is shown to be established through the righteousness of faith given to all of the seed of promise, all those “of the faith of Abraham”.

 

Boasting excluded by the Law of Faith… (Romans 4:1-8)

Paul begins by asking, what did Abraham find? What was he taught? (4:1) What did God teach Abraham regarding salvation, regarding justification, that we also need to see before ever we’ll know the blessedness of sins forgiven?

     Abraham was taught “as pertaining to the flesh”, that his own works, his own efforts in religion could do nothing to save him – absolutely nothing. They were but ‘filthy rags’ before God, the very best of them being tainted by sin. Such works, such ‘good deeds’ might appear worthwhile and commendable to other men, they might give Abraham something in which to glory in before man, “but not before God” (Romans 4:2). Before God Abraham stood as with all men as a sinner, as ungodly. Yet to be justified before God demands righteousness, but in the flesh, by our own efforts, neither Abraham nor we can produce such perfection.

     Abraham discovered that he needed a righteousness provided for him and that justification must be through faith resting in that righteousness. Justification must be the work of God, it must be by grace – else we’d forever remain in our sins. And if of grace then all glory must be to God, and not to man. Then where is boasting? It is excluded.

     Notice in Romans 3:27 how Paul answers this question. Boasting is excluded by the law of faith. He refers here to the Gospel, and that faith which is at the heart of the Gospel, as a law, as a principle, in order to contrast it with the law of works. Paul does this to emphasise the contrast between faith and that which characterises the law – works. Hence the Gospel itself is referred to as a law, but a law characterised by faith. Here is a law fulfilled not by working, but through believing! This is a law which brings in righteousness, not by works, but by faith – the “righteousness of faith”.

     This righteousness is brought in by God to the account of His people. It is imputed to them. It is altogether outside of them and it owes nothing to their own merit or efforts. This righteousness was wrought by the faith of Christ and is received by the faith of the believer, as the gift of God. Hence all boasting is excluded – and with all the efforts and works of man set at nought – this is how God saved Abraham. Not by works, but by grace. Not through the law, but through faith. If Abraham was justified by works he would have had something to glory in, and salvation would be simply a reward for his works. He would have merited it, he would have earned it, and he would deserve it (4:4). But how could he when he was ungodly?

     No, what Abraham found, what Abraham came to believe was that salvation is, and must be, by grace alone, that whilst in his sins, that whilst being ungodly, God justified him, his iniquities were forgiven and his sins covered (4:7), his faith being counted for righteousness (4:5). Now of course, this does not mean that Abraham’s faith itself is righteousness, but that God counted it for righteousness, God imputed righteousness to Abraham, because of the righteousness of God in Christ which Abraham looked unto and rested in by faith, that righteousness which Christ brought in to the account of His people when He suffered and died in their place upon the tree, taking their sins as His own, suffering the outpouring of God’s wrath against them, taking away sin, and covering His people with His precious blood shed for them. This was how Abraham was justified and this was what his faith rested in.

     Having brought Abraham to such belief, having opened his eyes to the truth, to his own state before God and his need of having his sins forgiven, God then greatly blessed him. Abraham entered into that very same blessing of which David spoke and rejoiced in Psalm 32:

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit is no guile.”

     Oh the blessedness of sins forgiven! To be just before God – forgiven! To be counted righteous before a Holy God!

     Yet, this is the very blessing which both Abraham and David knew and believed.

     Do you know it? Has God shown you this blessing?


From those of that faith of our father Abraham… (4:9-12)

From 4:9 through to 4:12 Paul deals with the question of just whom does God justify? Does this blessing come upon the Jews only or the Gentiles also? Those who are circumcised or those in uncircumcision?

     The answer is emphatic. Not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also. Though this answer was perhaps astounding to the Jew – despite the testimony of the prophets to this blessing of the New Covenant (Hosea 2:23, Zechariah 10:9) – Paul goes on to prove this by showing that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, not when he was circumcised but before, whilst yet uncircumcised. Circumcision, seen by the Jews as representative of their law (though the law was delivered 430 years later), and of their special relationship as a nation with God,  was in fact given to Abraham as a “seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised”. Abraham was not justified by the works of the law, nor because of his natural birth, nor even by his obedience to the command of God regarding circumcision, but through faith in the work of God. It was God who justified him, through the death of His Son in Abraham’s place, a death which brought in that righteousness which God freely imputed to Abraham and to all his seed, who believe in the promise, and who are brought, like David, to know the blessedness of iniquities forgiven, or righteousness imputed.

     This seed, this people, are those of the faith of Abraham, both of Jews and Gentiles, he being the “father of many nations”, a countless multitude. A people with this in common: they are all found in Christ, that One true Seed of Abraham, the firstborn of many sons, the One who through His death brought in the inheritance of promise, the blessing of Abraham, to all those who believe, of both Jews and Gentiles. As we read in Galatians 3:11-18.

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but,

The man that doeth them shall live in them. 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.

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”

     What marks out such a people? They “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had yet being uncircumcised” Romans 4:12. They believe God, and it is counted unto them for righteousness (4:3).


Who establish the law by faith (4:13-25)

From verse 13 of chapter 4 Paul turns his attention to the third and final question raised at the end of chapter 3, “Do we then make void the law through faith?”

     Oh, how important this is to answer! Having already dealt with such a disbelieving question in the firmest manner with the reply “God forbid: yea, we establish the law” Paul now seeks to demonstrate from the example of the promise made to Abraham, and the faith of Abraham, that faith does indeed establish the law.

     In verse 13 Paul affirms the truth of the Gospel by taking us right back to the first book of the Bible and reminds us of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 17, and that everlasting covenant of grace. There God promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, to establish a covenant with him and his seed, to be his God, and to give him the land wherein he was a stranger as an everlasting possession. It is this promise and its precursor in Genesis 15 which Abraham was given faith to believe in, faith which God counted unto “him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Was this in circumcision? No, in uncircumcision, for it wasn’t until after these promises were made that circumcision was instituted as a “seal of the righteousness of faith which he had yet being uncircumcised” Romans 4:11.

     Hence the promise was not “through the law”, circumcision, figurative of the law, yet having been instituted, “but through the righteousness of faith” (4:13). The promise, and the blessings of that promise, as fulfilled by Christ in the Gospel, as the Seed of Abraham, came not by works, but by faith, not by law but by grace. But what was that promise? On the face of things it would seem to refer to the inheritance of the land of Canaan in which Abraham was a stranger, and to that physical nation of Israel which sprang from Abraham’s loins. Yet all that was merely a figure, a shadow, of what the promise truly referred to. Physical Canaan never was, and never will be, the everlasting possession of Abraham or the Jews. But what it pictures, what it represents, will forever be the eternal inheritance of all those who are the true children of Abraham, the heirs of the promise. For what it represents is that eternal inheritance of the world to come of which Abraham and his seed would be heirs, not “through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (14:13), and not in time, but in eternity, in resurrection glory! A world in which all God’s people, purchased by the blood of His Son, risen again in newness of life in Him, raised incorruptible having put on incorruption in the resurrection to come, with glorious spiritual bodies, will ever live in righteousness in the new heavens and the new earth! (See 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). This is the inheritance spoken of here, this is what will be brought in when Christ returns for His people, and this is the promise made to Abraham of which he was heir. By works? No, by faith!

     For Abraham believed God, knowing that God would bring in this inheritance through death. In this Abraham was taught in the trial of being asked to offer up Isaac, the son whom God promised him. Abraham obeyed his Lord, believing not only that God was able to rise up Isaac from the dead, but knowing that this figure pointed to One who was to come, far down through the ages, who would be raised again from the dead in order to bring in the inheritance promised to His people. For an inheritance is always brought in by death, and it is by the death of the promised Seed that the promise of the world to come is brought in to all found in Him. This was what Abraham’s faith believed, and this faith is what God counted for righteousness. (See Hebrews 11:8-19)

     This is the promise made to Abraham, and if by faith, then not by law. But does that make the law void? God forbid – it establishes the law. Yea, it establishes the law by the death of Christ, who took upon Himself the full penalty and demands of the law against His people, suffering the wrath which they deserved, dying the death which they should die, being made a curse for them, to deliver them from the curse, from judgment, from captivity, from sin. By such a death Christ brought His people through the rivers of death into everlasting life the other side of death, from this side of Jordan into the promised land, from time into eternity, and from the bondage and rule of the law (as being the other side of death and out of its reach) into the life and liberty of the Gospel – from the reign of death into the reign of grace. This established the law, satisfying its every demand, fulfilling its every penalty, and bringing in everlasting righteousness for all the seed of promise – and nothing else does. And this is what faith lays hold upon – justification by the blood of Christ.

     Does faith make void the law? In verse 14 Paul turns the tables on his hypothetical questioner of chapter 3:31. Far from faith making the law void the very opposite is true. Whereas faith, and the righteousness brought in by faith, both fulfils and establishes the law (fulfilling every promise of which it pointed in type and figure, and establishing that righteousness which it demanded, to be imputed to all those who believe) those who would turn to the works of the law to establish their own righteousness do in fact make faith void and the promise of none effect! Far from bringing forth righteousness from those found under its rule the “law worketh wrath”, it condemns the sins of those under its rule and places them under a sentence of death. Far from being a ‘rule of life’ the law shows itself to be a “ministration of death”, and a “killing letter”. The law owes nothing to faith, it doesn’t demand it, nor depend upon it (Galatians 3:12). The law demands works from all those found under its rule, works which they have neither the means, nor the ability to render. Far from bringing in the promise, the truth is, as Galatians 2:21 tells us, that “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” – Indeed, “faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.”

     But Abraham was taught otherwise. He knew that the promise could only come by faith, only by the work of God on his behalf, only by grace. He knew that righteousness could not be attained to by his own strength, for he lacked any strength by nature, being dead in trespasses and sins. He knew that righteousness must be brought in by God, must be put to his account – imputed to him – while yet in his sins and that the inheritance could only come through the death of another. Twice over God taught Abraham the need for resurrection. Having promised Abraham and Sarah a child that child was only brought forth, at the command of God, when both Abraham and Sarah were both ‘dead’ naturally speaking, when Sarah was way past the age of child bearing (Romans 4:19). Yet, when at such an age, past all natural hope, when faith was tested to the limit, then, and only then, God rewarded the faith of Abraham, “who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18) and God gave him the child He had promised. Yet again, God taught Abraham about the inheritance to come in the resurrection, when he commanded him to offer up Isaac. And as we have seen Abraham believed God, being “fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was also able to perform” (4:21), counting him “able to raise [Isaac] up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Hebrews 11:19 A figure of what? Of the raising up from the dead of Jesus our Lord …

“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” Romans 4:25.

     This is what Abraham believed, which God counted unto him for righteousness, having brought in righteousness by the faith of Jesus Christ to be imputed to all who believe, that righteousness of faith which both established and fulfilled the law.

     And this is what every child of God, every child of Abraham rests in by faith: “For we do not make void the law through faith. God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

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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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In Romans 3:21 we read of the revelation or manifestation of the righteousness of God in the Gospel – the glorious ‘but now’ of Romans 3. This wonderful, foundational, truth of the Gospel through which the sinner is justified by having the very righteousness of God imputed to him as a result of the death of Christ on his behalf is expounded from Romans 3:21 to 26. In verse 22 we read of just how the righteousness of God is brought to light in the gospel.

 

 

 “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”

How was this righteousness manifested? How did God reveal His righteousness in the Gospel? He revealed it by the “faith of Jesus Christ”. It was the faith of Christ which brought the righteousness of God to light in the Gospel. A glorious truth – but one so often overlooked and neglected by many. This phrase “by faith of Jesus Christ” is very significant, and is one that we find repeated in several other passages of scripture in various forms. For example in Galatians 2:16, a passage which also refers to our justification through the work of God in Christ, we read the following:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

But what is the ‘faith of Jesus Christ’ and just how did that manifest the righteousness of God in the Gospel?

Mistranslations considered

Well, before answering that question, sadly we need to take some time to brush aside the obscuring of this glorious truth in many modern translations of the Bible. Not all translations have rendered the phrase with the same accuracy as the Authorised Version of the Bible, and for this reason quite a degree of confusion has been caused regarding the truths brought out in these passages. Indeed rather than revealing the righteousness of God in the Gospel through the faith of Jesus Christ, these mistranslations of the Bible have all but hidden it!

 

Most modern ‘translations’ of the Bible, including the NIV and the NKJV, have altered this vital phrase to read ‘faith in Jesus Christ’ which gives a very different meaning to the verses. But why have the translators chosen to alter the passages in this way?

 

Well it is difficult from merely examining the Greek grammar or syntax alone, when the phrases are taken in isolation, to be entirely sure of the translation and this has perhaps led to some of the differences in translation. However when the context of the passages is considered it is quite clear that the Authorised Version of the Bible and its predecessors such as The Great Bible, or Tyndale’s Bible have rendered the passage correctly. The Holy Spirit in these verses is speaking of the faith of Christ, not of our faith in Him.

 

But it isn’t so much differences regarding the contextual meaning of the phrases in the Greek which have led to the modern mistranslations, but theological interpretation. This, more than anything else, has affected how these verses have been translated in most modern Bible ‘versions’. This, despite the overwhelming weight of evidence from the Greek resting entirely on the side of translating the phrase as ‘faith of Christ’. In the original Greek wording, for example, it may be contended that there is a certain ambiguity about the words which might lend themselves to be understood in more than one way. But such an understanding is only retained if the passage is translated using ‘of’. The English phrase “faith of Jesus Christ” could be understood more than one way, for example as Christ’s personal faith or faithfulness, or that faith we have which comes from Jesus Christ. However if translated “faith in Jesus Christ” only one understanding is allowed for – our faith in Jesus Christ. Hence those who have translated the passage in this way have forced upon it their own interpretational decision of what the phrase means which effectively rules out the reading of the passage as meaning the personal faith (or faithfulness) of Christ. In such an instance interpretation has come before the translation of the text, rather than interpreting the meaning of the text after translation.

 

This sets a dangerous translational precedent which is destructive to the truth which the Holy Spirit sets forth in these, the most doctrinal of passages. Few passages of scripture call for more careful, faithful, discerning and Spirit led wisdom in translation than Romans 3:22 or Galatians 2:16. Do these modern translations which have altered the rendering of these passages, casting doubt upon their meaning, demonstrate such wisdom on the part of their translators? It would appear not.

 

The accurate and faithful translation of these passages is certainly to render them as the ‘faith of’ Christ, as it was always translated in the various English versions of the Bible up to the 19th century, including the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, Tyndale’s Bible, and the Authorised Version (KJV). It is the modern versions, influenced by erroneous theological thought (which places justification as conditional upon our faith, rather than being surely accomplished by God in Christ for all His people), which have switched to rendering ‘of’ as ‘in’. But a translation should translate what the original says! Interpretation of the result should then follow, as guided by the Holy Spirit. But Bible translations should be just that – translations of the words in the original language which the Holy Spirit wrote.

 

The original Greek from which the English is translated is the phrase ‘Pistis Christou’, which is a genitive, and in the context, a subjective genitive, meaning that the faith spoken of is that belonging to the subject, even Jesus Christ. It is His faith which is in view here. The evidence for the wording being a subjective genitive, referring to faith belonging to, and personal to, Jesus Christ, is backed up by similar grammar used elsewhere in the New Testament. There are many other verses referring to things which are personal to Christ or to God (eg. The ‘hand of God’, the ‘face of Jesus Christ’, etc.) which are worded in identical grammar in the Greek as with ‘Pistis Christou’ (the Greek construction used in Romans 3:22 and Galatians 2:16, meaning “faith of Christ”). Few would question those translations but when it comes to “faith of Jesus Christ” doubt is cast upon it. Why? Because the theological leanings of a number of modern ‘scholars’ prevent them from comprehending just why these verses refer to Christ’s personal faith. They think the writer must mean our faith in Christ. But in this they have stumbled, and rather than translating the text they have interpreted it, and obfuscated the truth from the readers of their mistranslations, and in so doing have shifted the focus away from that objective truth in the Gospel to that which is subjective in relation to it. But the text should be translated “faith of Jesus Christ”, for it is by the faith of Christ that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel.

 

Faith or faithfulness

So, having considered the correct translation of the passages themselves, let us begin to consider the meaning of the phrase itself. What is to be understood by the phrase in these two verses? Does “faith of Jesus Christ” refer to faith which comes from Christ, or to Christ’s personal faith, or even to His faithfulness?

 

Firstly, Romans 3:22 is not referring to faith which comes from Christ, or that we have in relation to Him. Whenever the Apostle Paul wanted to refer to our faith or our believing he was very specific in the Greek he used. He knew perfectly well how to speak of our believing, or our faith in Christ, in contrast to the faith of Christ Himself. Compare in the AV/KJV verses such as Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 1:15, Colossians 1:4, or even the phrase “we have believed in Jesus Christ” in Galatians 2:16 in contrast to “the faith of Jesus Christ” in the very same verse. The underlying Greek differs, and it differs for a reason. When Paul writes “faith of Jesus Christ” he is not referring to our faith in Him, whether that faith originates from God, from Christ, or not. He is referring to Christ’s own faith in God.

 

What about the translation of the Greek word ‘pistis’? Does this refer to Christ’s faith or His faithfulness? The same Greek word can be translated into English with either meaning but whilst theological bias again leads some, who might concede that the AV has translated the passage correctly, to speak of Christ’s faithfulness in regard to Romans 3:22, the fact remains that virtually all English translations render the word as faith, just as they do when speaking of a believer’s faith. Not only this, but given that faithfulness has to do with obedience, with works, whereas faith has to do with belief, trust and submission, the contrast demonstrated in Galatians 2:16 between the works of the law and the faith of Jesus Christ points to the fact that it is not faithfulness but faith which is in view, which is being contrasted with works. The AV/KJV has translated the phrases correctly. Romans 3:22 refers to the “faith of Jesus Christ” – ‘pistis’ usually being translated as faith elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

The righteousness of God revealed

So if the correct translation of Romans 3:22 is  “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”, what does this phrase actually mean? Does it really mean that the righteousness of God is manifested by the faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22)? That we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)?

 

Yes. That is precisely the meaning of the passages. It is the faith of Jesus Christ which brought to light the righteousness of God, by which we are justified. The righteousness of God was manifested, revealed, brought to light, by the faith of Jesus Christ.

 

But one may answer that we are justified by the blood of Christ, by His death on the cross. And that is quite true – we are. But Christ’s death on the cross, His blood-shedding was a work of faith, an act of faith. It was the “obedience of faith”. Not obedience to the law, but the obedience of faith. The law didn’t demand that one lay down his life for another – but Christ’s faith revealed such love for His people, that while they were yet sinners He laid down His life for them. It is this which we see in the Gospel. It was by faith that He lived (“The just shall live by faith” Romans 1:17) and by faith that He died (Hebrews 12:2). Hence we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ. By that substitutionary death which He died as an act of faith on behalf of those people whom He loved and gave Himself for (Galatians 2:20).

 

Likewise the righteousness of God is manifested by the faith of Jesus Christ, because it is through the manifestation of this righteousness that we are justified, made righteous, before God. Christ lived a perfect and sinless life. His life which He lived from conception and birth unto death was characterised by faith. He lived a life in constant communion with the Father, doing the will of the Father, not His, in perfect and willing submission. He completely submitted to the Father, trusted in Him for all things, looked to Him in all things, and walked before Him with His eyes fixed upon God. Christ was the “Just One” and “the just shall live by faith”. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), yet Jesus pleased his Father in all things that He did (“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”). Romans 14 tells us that “what is not of faith is sin”. Clearly then, Christ, the sinless one, lived by faith, for He never once sinned. It is by faith that He pleased God, by faith that He lived, and by faith that He died.

When He died, Christ’s faith looked to God to lay upon Him the sins of all His people, to make Him to be sin for them, and to judge those sins according to the righteousness of God in order to blot out all the sins, and all the sin, of His people, that they might become the righteousness of God in Christ. In so doing the righteousness of God was manifested and God the Father rewarded the faith of His Son by justifying His people, purifying them as His Bride, a Bride without blemish, fit for a King.

 

The righteousness of faith

Romans 10 contrasts two types of righteousness: the righteousness of the law (Romans 10:5), which is about ‘doing’ (“Do this and live”), and the righteousness of faith, which springs from believing (“…If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” Romans 10:9). It is this ‘righteousness of faith’ which is revealed in the Gospel – the “righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ”. This righteousness springs from faith. Through it is the fulfilment of all the law’s demands but it is characterised not by legal obedience but by the obedience of faith. Faith characterises it. And Christ revealed it in the Gospel through His faith. For we are justified not “by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). Hence in Paul’s statement about the Gospel of Christ in Romans 1:16-17 he says:-

 

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

What a summary of the Gospel! It is the power of God unto salvation. Why? Because therein, in the Gospel, is the righteousness of God revealed. How is it revealed? From faith to faith. But what does that mean? Well, once the fact of Christ’s own faith be recognised, this phrase ‘from faith to faith’ which has puzzled many a commentator (*) becomes much plainer to understand. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith – but whose faith? It is revealed to faith – but what faith is this?

 

The meaning of Romans 1:17 is this. It means that the righteousness of God was revealed from, or out of, Christ’s faith, unto our faith. Christ manifested the righteousness of God by His faith (Romans 3:22), and we come to see and believe in that righteousness (and that one great act of righteousness which Christ did in laying down His life on the cross to justify many by His blood) through faith. God gives us faith to see the righteousness of God revealed by Christ’s faith, within the Gospel.

 

It is this revelation, this manifestation of the righteousness of God which is described in Romans 3:21-22. For the righteousness of God is not simply revealed by the Gospel to our faith subjectively, but it is actually revealed in the Gospel objectively. It is that revelation, objectively in the Gospel, by the faith of Christ, out of which the righteousness of God is revealed to our faith subjectively: “from faith to faith”. Hence we can see the importance of the correct translation of these passages in the scriptures and how the mistranslations of modern versions undermine the truth here, because they seek to take that revelation of the righteousness of God which is objective in the Gospel, and make it merely subjective to the faith of the believer. Yet the scriptures plainly state that the “Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation” because therein, in the Gospel objectively, “is the righteousness of God revealed”. Yes, this revelation is in the Gospel. How? Firstly by Christ’s life. His very life exhibited the righteousness of God. But secondly, in His death when He brought that righteousness to light in judgment against the sins of His people as He looked to His Father by faith whilst suffering upon the tree. This is what revealed the righteousness of God – The faith of Jesus Christ – And it is this revelation of righteousness in the Gospel which God’s people are brought by faith to believe in. Hence Paul writes that the righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”.

 

This phrase “The just shall live by faith” is absolutely central to the Gospel. It characterises it. It is at the heart of it. The just shall live by faith. Christ lived by faith. He justified us by His death, by His faith. His death was an act of His faith. And by it He justified His people, hence they too live by faith. By Christ’s glorious act of faith at the cross dead sinners are brought to life. That justifying work later to be brought home to these people in their experience, by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who gives them faith to believe it. Their lives then follow, as it were in the footsteps of Christ, as those who live by faith. The ‘just ones’, who like the ‘Just One’ before them, live by faith.

 

Who can question that Christ’s life was lived by faith? Or that He died as an act of faith? Psalm 22 describes His sufferings and the whole language of that psalm is of faith, of trust in God. Likewise from Hebrews 10:38 through to Hebrews 12:2 we read an exposition of the same phrase taken from Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by his faith”. Hebrews 10:38 quotes that and the next chapter goes on to define faith, to show that “without faith it is impossible to please God”, and to enumerate many wonderful instances of lives lived by faith. What made the deeds of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab and others pleasing to God, was that they sprang from faith. By faith!

 

Christ, our forerunner

That chapter brings us to Hebrews 12:2, where it reaches its focal point, its summit: Christ. Here the attention is centred on that great forerunner of faith, Jesus. It is not simply that He is the object, or end, of man’s faith, but He is the “Just One” who ran before us, living by faith. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith”. ‘Our’ here has been inserted by the translators. Also ‘author’ and ‘finisher’ are merely two words used to translate Greek words which have much fuller meanings. A better, more descriptive, translation might be “Looking unto Jesus the chief [or captain] and end [or object] of faith”. We look to Jesus who is the ‘end’ or object of [our] faith, but He is also the chief of faith, the captain or forerunner of faith. He is the One who went before us, who lived by faith, whom we follow.

 

And what did Christ do by faith? We read in chapter 11 of what Noah did by faith, of what Abraham and others did ‘by faith’, but what main thing did Christ do ‘by faith’? We read “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 

That is what Christ did by faith – He endured the cross, despising the shame. Why? “For the joy that was set before him”. What joy? To justify all those whom the Father had given unto Him from before the foundation of the world. To be united in resurrection life with His bride, the church. To live for ever in eternal bliss with all those justified by His blood. That was His joy, His satisfaction. “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:11.

 

In laying down His life for sinners Christ trusted His Father with complete trust, complete knowledge (“by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many”), complete faith, counting Him faithful who had promised. He believed that God would lay all the sins of His chosen people upon His Son and that in Christ’s bearing them and taking their just punishment that those people would be really, truly, justified through His death. Christ had perfect faith in His Father and in that covenant they made before the foundation of the world. When in Gethsemane the Son of God was faced with the cup which He would soon drink, though such an awful prospect awaited Him, His faith did not shrink from it, but He willingly submitted to the Father’s will. And when, on the cross, He drank of that very cup, bore the sins of His people, and was beaten and bruised by the outpouring of God’s wrath against them, forsaken of Him in whose bosom He had dwelt, did Christ’s faith fail Him? No, He endured to the bitter end. He had perfect faith, perfect trust, that on the third day God would raise Him from the dead, and on the third day, rise from the dead He did in triumphant victory having justified His people for ever! Yes, Christ’s death was the most wonderful work of faith there has ever been. Perfect faith, from the perfect man, the Last Adam!

 

Justified by the faith of Christ

Finally, take another look at Galatians 2:16:-

 

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

How is a man justified? By the works of the law? No. By the faith of Jesus Christ. Not by faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith doesn’t justify us, it is Christ’s death by which we are justified. Then ‘by the faith of Jesus Christ’. Why? Because His death was an act of that faith.

 

And what is a result of being justified by Christ’s death, by His faith? The result is that “we have believed in Jesus Christ”. Our belief doesn’t justify us, it is a result of our justification, inwrought by the Spirit. Our belief brings us to an experimental knowledge of our justification before God subjectively in which God declares a sentence of justification in our hearts, but it is God that justified us objectively in the Person of His Son, who shed His blood for His people. And when Christ shed His blood for that people the righteousness of God was unto all of them from that very moment, to be applied by the Spirit upon all of them when they believe, “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”. For we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ

 

“…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 Oh, may God give us grace to both see the glory of His work in Christ, that work of faith by which He justified His people for ever, and believing, to walk by faith, looking unto Jesus, “the author and finisher of faith”. 

Amen.

 

…….

 

(* One common interpretation of the phrase ‘from faith to faith’ in Romans 1:17 is that it refers to the believer’s faith which, it is said, goes from one measure of faith to another, greater, measure. The problem with such an interpretation, however, is that the subject of Romans 1:17 is not the believer or his faith, but the righteousness of God, and how that is revealed in the Gospel. It is the revelation of the righteousness of God which is ‘from faith to faith’, and, as is shown in this article, this righteousness is revealed from (by, or out of)  the faith of Jesus Christ unto the faith of the believer.)

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“THAT GRACE MIGHT REIGN THROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS” Romans 5:21

That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:21

Grace Reigns…

This verse sets before us, in stark contrast, two reigns – two rules, two dominions, two powers – and the effects of their reign: the one unto death and the other unto eternal life.

The contrast could not be more vivid. The consequences could not be more opposed. Their importance cannot be overstated.

Yes, one reign is unto death, but the other is unto life – eternal life.

The first is the reign of sin. What a reign this has over men, and how devastating the consequence – death! How far reaching are the effects of sin, how vast is the kingdom over which sin has reigned, how many are its citizens! As we read in Romans 5:12:

“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”

Yes, all have sinned. There is not one of us who has escaped the reign and the dominion of sin. It entered the world by one man, Adam, when he turned from God his Maker in disobedience and rebellion, and has been passed down to all his posterity ever since. We are all born with the same sinful, rebellious, selfish, wilful and disobedient nature into which Adam fell and by which the dreadful consequence of sin entered the world – death: “and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. We can no more escape the consequence of sin – death – than we can escape or ignore the cause – our sin – and its permeating effects upon all we do and say.

Sin reigns, and mankind finds himself captive to this reign. Not only do we find ourselves captive to a decaying and death-filled world, not only do we see the effects of death in our bodies as we age, and suffer illness, weariness, pain, tiredness, sorrow and misery as the days of our lives pass by towards their inevitable conclusion, but we also find ourselves captive to a spiritual death. We find ourselves unable and unwilling to approach God. We have no desire for Him. Sin leads us in another direction. The true communion which man, in Adam, had with his Maker was shattered when he turned his back upon God. The LORD God once walked with Adam in the garden, but when sin entered the world God cast Adam out from His presence and a great gulf was fixed between man and God. That gulf was caused by sin and by its result – death.

When Adam chose to turn his back upon the Tree of Life which was in the midst of the garden and eat instead from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – by the eating of which he desired to become as a god (Genesis 3:5) – he chose a terrible pathway unto death. By choosing to put himself under another reign from God’s, by choosing to place himself under another dominion mankind became a captive to it. Man in his lust for power desired to reign himself, but in his folly, his own sin took reign over him and he fell captive to it. Sin’s lusts, desires, motives, intentions and resolves all drive man in a certain direction – away from God; away from the only One in whom is life; away from Jesus Christ, who to know is life eternal; away from God and into death, for “sin hath reigned unto death”.

What a reign sin has over us. How captive we are under it. But how captivated we are by it! Not only has sin reigned over us but we have lovingly embraced its reign! Not only are we unable to turn from sin to God, but we are also unwilling. We choose to go this way. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Romans 3:10-11. Not one of us can claim innocence for like our father Adam we have willingly embraced the fall, we have said of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “We will not have this man to reign over us”, and in our pride and lust for power we have sought to place ourselves upon the throne. We will reign, won’t we? Don’t our natural hearts speak that way? But in such foolish desire our sin takes hold of us and keeps us captive. Sin reigns… unto death.

But praise God that Romans 5:21 doesn’t end with just this one reign! Praise God that there is another reign whose power is so much greater and whose results are so gloriously different! Praise God that this verse has an “even so” in the middle!

“…even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:21

Even so. Even so despite the reign of sin. Despite its power and its awful consequences. Even so, though mankind has willingly embraced sin. Even so, though mankind willingly sinned and brought death upon himself. Even so, though mankind has chosen this reign of sin and deserves nothing better.

“Even so”. Even so, might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yes, though God would be just to leave man to himself; though God could justly destroy His creation and the rebellious creatures who turned against Him, nevertheless, even so, God has chosen to be gracious. He is a God who delights in showing mercy. A God who is longsuffering. A God who is love. A God who saves. A God who graciously sent His Son to save His people from their sins.

For there is a reign greater than that of sin: the reign of grace. What a contrast we see in Romans 5:21. Sin reigned unto death, but grace reigns unto eternal life.

The reign of sin was a reign of man’s rebellion and disobedience towards his God, which brought in death. But the reign of grace is that of God showing His unmerited favour towards man, in spite of his rebellion, in order to freely give him eternal life in Jesus Christ. The one is of man and the other is of God. The one brings death but the other brings life. The former was earned, merited by man’s actions, but the latter is unearned, unmerited, it is a free gift from God to man for no other reason than God’s mercy and loving-kindness to those whom He chose to have mercy upon. The one is chosen by man through his free will but the other is granted freely by God through His Sovereignty. The one abounds under the law which demands of man and condemns his offences, but the other abounds much more being freely given to repentant sinners and forgiving their offences. Oh, what a contrast we see in these two reigns!

We see here that however great the reign of sin might be, the reign of grace is greater! However powerful a force sin might be, it is nothing compared to grace. However strong a grip sin might have upon man, it can not stand before the invincible power of God’s grace in saving sinners. For we read that “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20) and that although through the offence of one (Adam) many are dead, “much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many”(Romans 5:15) and “…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 5:17.

The reign, the power, of sin, however great is nothing compared to the power of God’s grace. When God sets his grace upon a sinner nothing stands in its way. When grace reigns all other dominion is cast aside. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14.

In fact the only way that man can be delivered from the reign of sin over him is by God’s grace. There is no other way. Sin is within man, it rules him, it motivates him, it reigns over him. Only by an act of God’s grace in delivering man from his sin, in taking that sin away, in blotting it out so that sin is no more, can man be free of its dominion.

No reformation of character or manners can achieve such a deliverance. No works or effort that man can make to live more uprightly can deliver him from the absolute tyranny of sin under which he finds himself. The very best deeds of mankind, the most noble exploits, the most charitable actions he can bring himself to do are still tainted by that sin which he finds within himself. He is ruled by it. “For even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”. That’s right, even our righteousnesses. Our best deeds are marred by sin.

Some would turn to the law of God in an attempt to subdue sin and live a life pleasing to God. They think that if they can attain to its requirements they will find favour with God. But they couldn’t be more wrong because when sinful man puts himself under that law, far from subduing sin the law inflames it! Far from it leading man to life it simply shows man the vileness of his own heart, it stirs up sin within and so it condemns him. As we read “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.” Romans 5:20. Not subdue, notice, but abound. That is why God gave the law, to show man his sin. That the offence might abound, that man might be condemned and that he might be led to flee unto that one Deliverer from sin and death, even Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. The law might set forth a standard of righteousness which God expects of man and demands of man, but experimentally when man puts himself under that law, the knowledge he acquires, in experience, is not one of righteousness but of sin. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. This experience of sin actually abounding under the law is what Paul knew and wrote about in Romans 7: “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”  

There is nothing wrong with God’s law. The problem lies with the sin within us and the effect of that law upon sin. The law “is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Romans 7:12-13. Yes, as Romans 5:20 shows, when the law entered the offence abounded. The law provided no deliverance from sin – it made it worse, in order to show us our sin.

“…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” Romans 5:20

But praise God that there is a deliverance from sin. There is another reign, a greater reign: the reign of grace! And how wonderful that where sin abounds – in those shown their sinfulness by God through the application of His law demonstrating to them their sin and inability to deliver themselves from it and its reign – that grace much more abounds! There is no sin too great, no sinner too sinful, for grace to overcome – for where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!

Yes, grace reigns – and what a reign! What a power grace is. How great is its kingdom, even the kingdom of heaven. How many are its citizens! But grace and its reign can no more be considered apart from the One who grants them any more than sin and its reign can be considered apart from the one by whom they entered the world. Sin entered by one man – Adam, but the grace of God comes by one Man – even Jesus Christ the Lord. It is this fact that makes grace so glorious and its reign so triumphant. The first man is earthy and brought in sin and death, but the Second Man, the Last Adam, is heavenly – a quickening spirit – and He brought in righteousness and everlasting life. Christ, the Son of God, is both man and God, both human and divine. As God He is sovereign over all, He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. Hence His grace reigns for it is the grace of a King, the grace of a sovereign. It is Sovereign Grace and as a King Christ gives it to whom He will. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Romans 9:15. Oh! To be a recipient of such grace. Oh! To be under its reign!

Yes, grace reigns, but it does so…

…Through Righteousness

Grace reigns through righteousness. Grace does not reign in isolation. God’s mercy towards man is not at the expense of His justice. No, grace reigns through righteousness and God’s grace is seen in His righteousness, in His justice. Without righteousness, without justice, there could be no reign of grace for the reign of sin must be overcome. Sin must be dealt with in order for God to be just and the justifier of the ungodly. Grace reigns, yes, but it reigns through righteousness.

Righteousness and the revelation of God’s righteousness are at the very heart of the Gospel. They are what give the Gospel its power. Hence Paul writes “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation…” Romans 1:16. Why? “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith Yes, it is the revelation of God’s righteousness in the Gospel which gives it its power. Righteousness is that through which God judges the sin of His people in Christ their Saviour and delivers them from its reign and its power. It is through righteousness, by the revelation of God’s justice (righteousness) in Christ’s redemption that God justifies His people freely by grace.

Being justified freely by his 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.” Romans 3:24-26

In the Gospel God has revealed His righteousness by judging and destroying sin and its reign over God’s people in their Substitute, Jesus Christ, as He suffered and died in their place in order to deliver them from sin, death and condemnation and make them righteous before God in Him. Hence, God justified His people ”freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.

God did this in His Son, Christ Jesus. Only one Man could die in the place of fallen sinners to redeem them from the reign of sin, and that man was Jesus Christ. Only He could deliver His people from sin because only He was without sin. Christ was perfect, righteous and holy. As God who took upon Himself human nature in perfect union with His divine person, as One who was made in all points like unto us, yet without sin, as the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice acceptable unto God in the place of sinners. God declared His righteousness by judging sin in His own Son upon the cross, in the One who was “made to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Christ knew no sin. For more than thirty years He lived and walked in this world as a man born under the law and He lived in perfection. He never sinned, He never disobeyed God the Father, He never disbelieved the Father, He never ceased to trust the Father, He never ceased to worship God with all His heart, mind and soul, He never sinned – He knew no sin. Christ was made under the law in order to redeem those who were under the law. The law tested Him in all points, the full rigour of God’s law and justice tested Him to the limit and found nothing in Him to condemn. He was perfect. Having magnified that law and made it honourable Christ then willingly submitted Himself to death upon the cross in the place of His people. Though perfect, though innocent, though without a single fault or cause of condemnation, Christ submitted Himself to the will of His Father and gave Himself up to be taken by the hands of wicked men and nailed to a cross to suffer and die in the place of transgressors.

But what happened when Jesus Christ was nailed to that cross and lifted up to die, what happened when the light of the sun was darkened at the ninth hour was a mystery which was hid from the natural eye. What happened during those hours of darkness as Christ suffered in the place of His people was a tremendous transaction between God the Father and His Son which no natural man could comprehend. This was no ordinary death. No ordinary suffering. When Christ suffered upon the tree it wasn’t the natural pain and suffering which slew Him, but the supernatural outpouring of the wrath of God upon Him and what He had become vicariously in the place of His people. At the cross Christ and His people were united together in death. As Eve was taken out of Adam’s side while he slept, so in Christ’s death, His bride – His Church – were united to Him and brought forth from His side washed in the precious blood of Christ which justified them and cleansed them from their sins.

At the cross Christ became one with His bride, united to her, being made what she was – sin. Her sin became His. Her transgressions became His as He bore them in His own body on the tree. And in response the wrath of God the Father poured down from the vaults of heaven upon Christ the sacrifice to judge sin in Him, to consume it, to destroy it, to blot it out. As Christ endured the cross, for the joy that was set before Him – as He looked by faith to His Father in hope of the glorious resurrection in righteousness with His people – He endured the full penalty of God’s righteousness, God’s unflinching justice, against all the sin and transgressions of His people. He endured it. He endured the hours of torment, the hours of unspeakable suffering. Why? “For the joy that was set before Him” Hebrews 12:2. At the last, Christ would see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Isaiah 53:11.

Through death Christ justified His people, freely by grace. For grace is not cheap. It comes at a price. Grace reigns, God justifies His people freely to them  by grace, but it comes at a cost to Him. It comes through righteousness. Christ gave His life for His own. That was the cost. But why did He do this? Because He loved them. As we read:-

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Romans 5:8-9

Yes, Christ “loved the church, and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25. When Christ died for those He loves He placed Himself under the full justice of God. In so doing the righteousness of God was revealed in the Gospel and God judged the sin of His people according to His own righteousness. Not just according to the righteousness of the law, but according to the very righteousness of God Himself, to justify to life not just for this world, but for the next, for all eternity; to reconcile a people to God, to bring them unto Himself. “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. It was this way, and this way only that God could justify His people in blotting out their sins and delivering them from the reign of sin. It was this way that the reign of sin was conquered and the reign of grace could triumph. Grace reigns, yes. But it is through righteousness.

At the cross God justified His people, freely by grace. His love was set upon a people who didn’t deserve it, a rebellious people, sold under sin, a people under the reign of sin and death. Yet at the cross God manifested His righteousness through the faith of Jesus Christ in order to destroy sin and its reign and deliver that people. God showed grace to a people who sought Him not, and that grace came at such a price – it cost the Saviour. He gave Himself for His own (Galatians 2:20). Grace is God’s free gift to His people, but it came at a great price to Him. It came through righteousness exacted upon the Saviour as He stood in the place of His people, united to them in order to bring them through judgement unto everlasting life, carried through by His faith in the Father’s promise . At the cross God’s mercy and truth met together. At the cross righteousness and peace kissed each other. What a meeting place! What a transaction. What a reconciliation between God and man was made when Christ laid down His life that His people might live, when Christ was made sin that His people might be made the righteousness of God in Him, that they might have peace with God!

“Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:10.

Through the obedience of Christ, the obedience of faith, in giving Himself for His people, they are justified in Him, delivered from all condemnation, washed from every sin by Christ’s blood, justified freely by His grace. God in righteousness judged the sins of all His people in the Saviour, blotting them out through the shed blood, and, not only that, but He judged sin itself, that sinful nature His people inherited from Adam, by destroying it in Christ’s body on the tree, totally consuming it under His fiery wrath and indignation and taking it out of sight, so making that people perfect in Christ. In this way God could be just and the justifier of all those who believe in Jesus. In this way He could show His people mercy and grant forgiveness. In this way He could save His people from their sins by His grace. In this way He could deliver them from sin itself, Romans 6:6. In this way grace reigns – through righteousness. It is a victorious reign, a triumphant reign, a reign which overcomes all others, even that of sin and death which Christ conquered through His death as he took sin away and, having done so, rose again on the third day with everlasting life, victorious over all His foes. Nothing, not even death, could stand in the way of grace and its reign by Jesus Christ

Yes, grace reigns, and it reigns through righteousness…

…unto Eternal Life by Jesus Christ our Lord

Grace has an end in view, a triumphant end – even eternal life. Whilst sin brought in misery and death, grace brings eternal life in Jesus Christ. What a glorious thing this is, what a hope is set before the believer, what an end is in view – eternal life. Everlasting life. Life without end. Life free from death, free from misery, free from sorrow, free from suffering, and free from the reign of sin. Yes, eternal life.

And how is this life brought in? By Jesus Christ our Lord. Grace reigns unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, because He is eternal life! As John testifies of Christ, the Word of God, the Word of life in 1 John 1:2: “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us”. To know Christ, is to know life, to have Christ is to have life, for Christ is eternal life. This is what grace brings – everlasting life in Christ Jesus.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:12-13.

To have eternal life is to have Christ. To have Christ is to be in Christ. If we are in Christ we are made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) for we are justified by grace in Him, and if justified then justified unto life (Romans 5:18). And if all this be true of us then we are under a new reign, the reign of grace, having been delivered from the reign of sin and death. Oh what a deliverance! What amazing grace that brings it. But at what a price! Grace reigns through righteousness. To save His people Christ died in their place, He endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2). Why?  “For the joy set before him”. What joy is this? To be glorified in the salvation of sinners. To be one with His people, His bride, united together in righteousness, in everlasting life, in eternal life around the throne of God. What joy! For grace reigns “through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord”!

Who are those who have eternal life? John tells us: ”He that hath the Son hath life”. And who has the Son? Those “that believe on the name of the Son of God1 John 5:13.  Such are those who are “justified freely by his grace” Romans 3:24, those which “believeth in Jesus” Romans 3:26.

And just who are those who believe in Jesus? All those whom God chose in Christ before the foundation of the world to be saved by Him (Ephesians 1:3-12). All those upon whom God set His electing love, all the “election of grace” Romans 11:5.

Adam through his disobedience brought sin, death and condemnation to all his posterity, but Christ, the Last Adam, through His obedience brought righteousness and justification of life to all His posterity, the election of grace, Romans 5:18! For 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.” Romans 5:21

Now, let us ask ourselves the question: which reign are we under? The reign of sin, or the reign of grace? Which do we love – sin or grace? What motivates us? What rules our life? What governs our thoughts and actions? Where are we heading?

Do we know grace and its reign over us? Has it been bestowed upon us? Are we recipients of it? Not claimants of mercy but recipients? Have we cried out to God for mercy, for grace, having been shown by God the Holy Spirit our desperate need of it, being full of sin and death, being held captive by nature under another reign? Do we know the reign of grace in our hearts? Does it reign over all our life, from start to finish? Do we know the SOVEREIGN KING who grants it? Are we citizens of His kingdom? Do we know Jesus Christ as Lord?

Can we say from our hearts with Paul “even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord”…?

Oh, to be able to join with Paul in saying“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20.

May God bless His word to His glory,

Amen.

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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ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL?

In the epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul declares boldly that:- “…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” Romans 1:16-17.

Most professing Christians would also claim, with Paul, not to be ashamed of the gospel. However in this day and age of great confusion the question we must ask ourselves is, Do we really know what the gospel is? Well Paul certainly did, and knowing the power of it he was bold and unashamed in its proclamation. I’ve heard one preacher break down Romans 1:16 into five helpful headings. Let’s consider the verse under these headings to draw out five clear aspects of the gospel which the Holy Spirit reveals which are essential to its character and important for us to see.

Firstly, the gospel is DEFINITIVE

It is the “gospel of Christ”. The gospel is not something abstract, something vague, something to be guessed at. It isn’t a collection of testimonies or subjective experiences. It is defined. It is the gospel, the good news of Christ. As Romans 1:1-3 states “the gospel of God… concerning his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord”. The gospel is God’s message concerning the Person and the Work of His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. It declares Him, it sets Him forth. And any message, any ‘gospel’ which fails to set forth Christ, in all His fullness, is no gospel, and has no power to save.

Secondly, the gospel is OBJECTIVE

Paul states “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”. The Gospel is an objective message, not subjective. IT is the power of God unto salvation. What is? The Gospel is. For the Gospel, in and of itself, when proclaimed by God the Holy Spirit through those whom He sends to preach it, is the power of God unto salvation.

Paul here does not say that the Spirit is the power of God unto salvation, but that the Gospel is. It is of course true that except the Spirit apply the word inwardly to the hearts of His hearers, they will remain dead in trespasses and sins, yet nevertheless the Spirit does not work in isolation. The Gospel is the power of the Spirit, His sword, which He uses to save sinners, to quicken them unto life in Christ. The Gospel itself, as an objective message, is the power of God unto salvation, and it is by the preaching of this objective message that God is pleased to save sinners: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23-25

Thirdly, the gospel is EFFECTIVE

Yes, the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation”. The power of God. It is effective, it saves. There is no other power like it, and yet to the world, to them that perish, to the wise in their own understanding it is ‘foolishness’. As 1 Corinthians 1:18 states “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” and yet “unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

What makes the gospel so effective, so powerful? Romans 1:17 tells us: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith”. That makes it powerful. For here is a message that declares that though all men are sinners, though all fell in their father Adam into sin, death and ruin, though all sin daily being at enmity to God, though man stands in his fallen nature guilty before God, deserving of eternal wrath and damnation, nevertheless God, in His great love, sent His Son to take His people’s sins away through His own death, to deliver them from judgment and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and everlasting life, which He freely gives them by grace (2 Corinthians 5:21). And this justifying righteousness is what is revealed in the gospel, hence its power to save.

Fourthly, the gospel is ELECTIVE

The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation”. Not of man. The gospel is God’s – it is His message concerning His work in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died to “save His people from their sins” Matthew 1:21. This gospel was God’s to purpose, God’s to perform, is God’s to proclaim, and is God’s to apply. Consistently, and repeatedly, throughout its message the gospel clearly sets forth the salvation of that people of God, chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) who have been “predestinated … unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”. This people, described in the scriptures as God’s “sheep” (John 10:15) are those for whom Christ died, and none else, and are those who are saved, not according to their will but God’s (John 1:13, John 15:16). Yes, the gospel, the power of God unto salvation, being God’s to apply to whom He wills, is by definition, elective (See Romans 9).

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9

And fifthly, the gospel is REDEMPTIVE

Finally Romans 1:16 declares the effect of the gospel – the redemption of God’s people. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”. The Gospel saves, and it does so, because Christ laid down His life for His own in order to redeem them from their sins. His own blood was the redemption price He paid to deliver them from death and secure their freedom. He died in their place, bearing their sins “in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), suffering under the outpouring of God’s wrath against sin, that through His death, by the shedding of His blood, they would be delivered from death, from sin, and from condemnation and have everlasting life in Him (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:12).

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” 1 Peter 1:18-19

No wonder then that Paul was not ashamed of this gospel! For he knew its power, he knew what it was to be redeemed, to have his sins forgiven, he knew that it was God who saved him, by His will, not Paul’s (see Acts 9), he knew the glorious revelation of the righteousness of God in the gospel, put to his account, he knew what it was to be born again by the mighty operation of the Holy Spirit, and most of all he knew the Saviour who loved him, and gave himself for him, the Lord Jesus Christ….

But do you? Do you know this gospel? Has it been revealed to you? Do you believe it? Is this the gospel of which, like Paul, you can say that you are not ashamed?

Have a listen to God’s message of salvation in the gospel on the Video Page of Grace and Truth Online.

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:6-7

http://www.graceandtruthonline.com

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RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Unashamed of The Gospel of Christ” Romans 1:16

“Grounded and Settled” Colossians 1:23

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

 

“Perfect In Christ Jesus” Colossians 1:28

 

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

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

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