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“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Romans 7:6

 

IN chapter seven of Romans Paul teaches the believer’s deliverance from the law, and the effect of the law experimentally upon the awakened child of God. The believer’s relationship to the law, and his lawful deliverance from it in Christ, is a subject which many fail to comprehend clearly and yet it is of such vital importance, being so central to the work of Christ in saving His people.

In order to be delivered from sin and its consequence – death – we must also be delivered from the “strength of sin” – which is the law (1 Corinthians 15:6). It is our deliverance from the law by the death of Christ which Paul, having begun to set before us in chapter 6 now expands upon in chapter 7. In Romans 6 Paul considers the believer’s death and resurrection with Christ, the consequence of which is that, having had his old man crucified with Christ and being risen with Christ the other side of death, he is no longer under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).

At the beginning of chapter 7 Paul develops this truth further through the use of an analogy with marriage. Having died to our old husband, the law, Paul shows that we are now married to another, even Jesus Christ, that we “should bring forth fruit unto God” Romans 7:4. He then demonstrates the inability of the law to bring forth any fruit other than that unto death in the believer, and the believer’s absolute need of deliverance from its rule and dominion. In so doing Paul magnifies the law as being good and just in itself, but shows that the fault lies not in the law but in the fallen flesh of mankind – in the sin that dwells within us. Hence the apostle presents the reason why we need to be delivered from the law – that whenever the flesh is placed under the rule of the law the result is simply that sin is “revived” (Romans 7:9) and the flesh brings forth “fruit unto death” (7:5). But praise God that Christ has delivered us from the law (7:6), that He has delivered us “from the body of this death” (7:24), and to what end? That we should “serve in newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter”, that we “should bring forth fruit unto God” – yes fruit! Fruit that lasts, fruit that is of the Spirit, fruit that is pleasing unto God, fruit that the law could never envision (Romans 6:21), but which the Gospel actually brings forth! (Romans 6:22)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11

Yes, Paul rejoiced in his deliverance from the law in Christ for by such a deliverance he came to know peace with God knowing that “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). He knew deliverance from the dominion of sin, being under grace, and became a recipient of that gift of God, eternal life, springing from that “fruit unto holiness” which God wrought by His Spirit. But can you rejoice in this? Has God delivered you from the dominion of sin and the strength of sin? Have you been brought to tread the pathway of Paul through chapter 7, discovering the depths of your own depravity in the flesh when the law of God was applied to your conscience, condemning your every attempt to keep it?

Have you been brought to cry out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death”?

If you have – and every true child of God will – then you’ll find the answer in one place, and one place only… in the death of Christ and His deliverance of His people from all that condemned them. Do you know that deliverance, or do you find yourself still striving to keep a law you can never keep? Still seeking approval before God by something you do?

Many never know this deliverance from legal bondage – and many a ‘teacher’ gladly keeps God’s people under what they call a ‘rule of life’ but which God calls “the ministration of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:9). Despite the clarity of God’s word in the seventh chapter of Romans confusion abounds amongst many professing Christians regarding their position with regard to the law. So in order to expound this subject more fully we shall deal with a number of the questions which commonly arise with regard to this.

Many modern, so-called ‘Reformed’, writers teach a lot about the law being the believer’s ‘rule of life’ and the emphasis of their teaching is very much on “doing”, on the practical duties of the believer’s walk – one example being the following, which paraphrases what some have to say about the subject.

“I’m going to discipline myself to godliness. I’m going to work at it. I’m going to engage in sustained daily effort in doing God’s will and obeying God’s requirements. I’m going to deny self and crucify self every day. I’m going to put to death the old life patterns of the old man. I’m going to say ‘no’ to self and say ‘yes’ to Christ every day. As I do these things I will be developing godly habits. I will not give up but I will persist in doing right. I will do what the Scriptures say regardless of how I feel. I will live a commandment-motivated life of holiness oriented towards godliness.”

The modern ‘Reformed’ position claims that salvation is all of grace (without works or law) but when it comes to ‘sanctification’ – by which they mean the believer’s walk – the tendency is to bring in the law (as with the above quote – which gives a good illustration of the thinking).

So let us consider some questions which I have been asked before regarding this…

1. Firstly, what is the actual place for the law as given in Exodus 20 for the true New Testament believer?

2. Secondly, in Ephesians 5 and 6 Paul exhorts believers to good Christian conduct. But in Ephesians 6:1-3 he says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Why does Paul make a direct appeal to the Law (Exodus 20:12) as he now writes in the New Testament times? What’s more, a number of these children could well be believers.

3. And thirdly, the works of the law are essentially “doing” things, and whilst it may be understood that these works are not meritorious as far as salvation is concerned, nevertheless allied to 2) above, when we come to the last part of nearly all of Paul’s epistles we find a whole catalogue of commandments (or precepts). If the believer is bound by these precepts, then is there not a sense in which his rule of conduct is the precept? If so, how does this differ to the law as a rule of life? A particular reference might be 1 Thessalonians 5: “Rejoice evermore, Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings” … and so on.

In answering these questions let’s make some brief comments to begin with… Yes, the teaching that ‘the law is the believer’s rule of life’ is predominant amongst those who call themselves ‘Reformed’. It is the ‘third use’ of the law, they say. However the Reformers themselves had differing understandings of the law, for example Luther’s teaching is quite different to Calvin’s on this (in many ways Luther being clearer on such matters than Calvin), so we have to ask what gives these modern men the right to take the title ‘Reformed’ to themselves? As a title it doesn’t even give a clear idea of their teaching as the Reformers had a wide range of different ideas about various things – so ‘which’ Reformer are they following? If their teaching be examined it is more akin to the Puritans than the Reformers, and even then only a certain section of the Puritans who were themselves diverse in their teaching.

Consider the paraphrase given above. Whilst some of the sentiments are in the right place it nevertheless should remind us of the self-confident promise of obedience which the children of Israel made in Exodus 24:3 “All the words which the LORD hath said will we do”. Well, how long did that promise last? Whilst Moses was still in the mount they rose up to play and fell into all manner of sin…

…and that’s the whole point of the law. It finds out man’s sin – it brings it to the surface. For “By the law is the knowledge of sin” Romans 3:20. Not the knowledge of righteousness, note, but the knowledge of sin. The law was given to show man his sin, to expose it, to bring him in guilty before God. And it didn’t take long with the children of Israel.

Frankly, would not any true child of God shudder to utter words such as “I will do what the Scriptures say… I will live a commandment-motivated life… I’m going to discipline myself to godliness” with such self confidence? Why? Because they know from bitter experience that they can’t last but one hour in such a pathway! As soon as they proudly say “All the words which the LORD hath said I will do” they fall into sin in an instant, and their very words condemn them. For sin isn’t just what is done outwardly, but it is all the inward thoughts, motives, desires and feelings which we can hide from others but which are painfully apparent to ourselves when God the Holy Spirit makes us aware of what is within, taking the veil away from our heart and eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). In our ignorance and the darkness and deadness of the flesh we might not have known these things, but a quickened child of God knows what proceeds from his heart and he finds the law to be a killing letter and nothing more. Oh, yes, it might prescribe conduct which is excellent, and for that he loves it, but he finds no ability in himself to keep it – as we see in Romans 7 – hence he cries out for One to deliver him from this body of sin and death… and in the Gospel he finds such a Deliverer!

But, as mentioned in the questions presented above, what might we make of the precepts and exhortations which are to be found in the New Testament…? Does their existence not argue for a continuation of the law in some fashion? The simple answer is No. Why not? Because the law is more than simply precepts. The fact that both law and gospel may have precepts does not mean that they are essentially similar, but in ‘different packaging’. They are, in fact, diametrically opposed both in nature and character. Their whole principles are totally diverse, so that Gospel precepts are on a completely different footing and basis to those found in the law.

The law is founded entirely upon the basis of works, with a motivation of self righteousness and fear of the law’s penalty, making demands of man regarding what he must do. Whereas the Gospel reveals God’s grace to man and is characterised by faith and love – which is the believer’s motivation towards obedience to Christ, as led by the Spirit, outworking that which God has wrought in the heart – because the Gospel declares what God has done and what God does – for, and in, His people.

The law says ‘do and live’. The Gospel says ‘live and do’. Man can’t do under the law, so he dies. But man is made alive by the Gospel so he ‘does’. The Gospel does not do away with all ‘doing’ but it makes men alive and gives them not only the ability to do but also the will (for it is God who worketh in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” Philippians 2:13), so that anything it exhorts, it also provides grace and ability to do, hence Christ’s yoke is no burden and His commandments are not grievous. It is by the Gospel, as delivered from the law, that fruit is brought “forth unto God” (Romans 7:4.)

But, these modern ‘Reformed’ scholars tell us, that that’s the whole point. Christ gives us life in the Gospel and then sends us back to Moses to ‘sanctify’ us, as we now have the ability to do what Moses commanded in the law. But in this they greatly err (What! Is Christ subservient to Moses?). Yes, they err, because the law is not simply a set of precepts, or exhortations, similar to those found in the New Testament epistles which we can now ‘set ourselves to doing’. The law is law! A law is a set of commandments with penalties attached on failure of doing. If you go back to the commandment “Thou shalt not covet”, then when you do covet, you will find yourself back under its penalty. “But”, some say, “its penalty has been met in Christ, so we are freed from its curse”. Yes, we are, but that is because we are also freed from its precept – we are “dead to the law”, “not under the law”, “delivered from the law”. As far as the law is concerned we are dead men, whom it can no longer penalise, but whom it can also no longer command.

Law is law – it stands as a whole. You can’t separate the penalty from the commandments. They are forever joined together. If we have been freed from the one then we must have also been freed from the other. Likewise if we put ourselves back under the one (the commandment) then we also put ourselves back under the other when we fail to keep the commandment, hence the curse is back upon us. When Galatians tells us that Christ has freed us from the curse of the law it does not mean that the curse has been ‘detached’ from the law – it means we are freed from the law entirely, both curse and commandment.

So, to return to our questions…

1. What place does the law as given in Exodus 20 have for the believer?

The law stands as that which once condemned the believer, from which he has been forever delivered. It gave him a knowledge of sin, whilst also demonstrating the holiness and goodness of God. It demonstrates to him the justice of God and points in measure to the Gospel and what Christ did in delivering him from the law’s penalty. But as to his actual relationship to the law now, the believer is dead to it. It has exacted its penalty upon him, in Christ, and with Christ he has died. The law has no more to say to a dead man (which the believer is in the sight of the law, though now risen and alive in Christ, the other side of death). It is neither his rule, nor his guide. It cannot be used as ‘guidance’ for it is still law – to take its commands, but ignore its penalty is to use it unlawfully, not knowing what one says or affirms, for the law is not made for a righteous man, which is what the believer is in Christ. See 1 Timothy 15-11. We simply can’t get past passages such as Galatians 2:19, 2 Corinthians 3, Romans 6:14, Romans 7:1-6 and so on, in relation to this. The common ‘Reformed’ arguments about these passages either referring only to justification (and not sanctification), or referring to the ‘judicial’ or ‘ceremonial’ parts of the law, and not the Ten Commandments, are, to be plain, just sheer sophistry. They don’t hold water. They make a mockery of these texts which are plain, simple English stating plain truth – we are dead to the law, that we might serve God (now, in our walk, in what many call our ‘sanctification’). We cannot serve God whilst still alive to the law, whatever the legalist might argue. The fact is that all who go to the law in their self-will break it continually, and they can only have any sense of having kept it if their eyes are blinded to their real state, and the totally depravity of their hearts. Hence they demean God’s holy law by bringing it down to their own meagre, sinful, fleshly level. Not only that but they treat it unlawfully by using it as ‘advice’, severing it from its curse, and dividing it into three by rejecting the ceremonial and judicial ‘parts’ and retaining what they call the ‘moral’ part – the Ten Commandments. This is not to use the law lawfully, but is to treat it with contempt, to be ‘anti-law’, or against the law, hence this is Antinomianism, properly so called.

However, the law is part of the overall teaching of scripture, and in the sense that all scripture is profitable to us in various ways it therefore still has its use. But scripture must be divided rightly, and not all scripture applies to all men at all times. Few ‘Reformed’ writers would claim that the dietary laws of the Old Testament apply to New Testament believers – they have no problem whatsoever in seeing that (yet the fact is that the Bible never divides the Ten Commandments from the rest of the law, including the ‘judicial’ and ‘ceremonial’ aspects – the whole stands as one – the Law of Moses – and we are either under all of it, or under none of it – indeed the Gentiles were never under the law in the sense that the Jew was, and yet were, and are still accountable to God as shown in Romans 2). These writers also clearly see that the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system has gone. Is all that teaching regarding those things in the Old Testament of no use to us now then? No, it is of much use as it sets forth the Gospel in type and figure. So, too, does Exodus 20, in that it shows forth God’s holiness and justice, it gives a knowledge of sin (most especially when applied by the Spirit as Paul found in Romans 7, when “the commandment came”), it shows what Christ delivered us from. But we, being delivered, are now no more under those Ten Commandments than we are under the dietary or judicial parts of the law. They have no power to condemn us. For “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.” Romans 8:33-34.

2. Why does Paul make a direct appeal to the Law in Ephesians 6?

Regarding our second question consider Ephesians 6. Yes, Paul refers here to Exodus 20:12, and in fact elsewhere in the New Testament a number of the other commandments are quoted. I think we can make some conclusions from this. First of all, we might ask that given that the New Testament does in fact quote most of the commandments why do most ‘Reformed’ writers have such a problem with those who might state that the Gospel, not the law, is the believer’s ‘rule of life’? Why do they not just agree with that statement, given that nine of the commandments can be found recorded in the New Testament also? Why not? Because deep down they have a legal spirit which gravitates towards law and not Gospel (and in addition they also cling to the Sabbath commandment which is not repeated as such in the New Testament). The fact is, we can only conclude, that they don’t really rejoice in the deliverance we have from the law, because the law has not really been applied to their conscience before being brought to Christ, hence they don’t know the liberty of the child of God in Christ. Those who know what it is to be slain by the law are glad to be freed from it.

But why does the New Testament repeat these commands in various places then (for example Romans 13:8-10)? Well, there is a difference between ‘right and wrong’ and law. The law as stated before is law – it has commandments with penalties attached, which cannot be divorced from it. However right and wrong exist apart from law, because ‘right’ concerns the very character of God with whom we have to do, who is just, holy and righteous. It is wrong to worship other gods, whether the law says it or not. Before the law was ever given at Sinai, it was still wrong to worship idols. Thus our deliverance from the law does not make us free to serve idols – no, it delivers us from a law which dictates one thing, but actually causes us to do the opposite. Our nature in the flesh, when commanded not to do something ends up doing the opposite, and the law then condemns us. That is the nature of the law and the effect it has upon our flesh, so we need to be delivered from it.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that it is still right to worship the one true God, and it is right, whilst in this world, for example, to honour our parents. (Nevertheless such a command, and in fact several of the ten commandments, tend to regard our conduct whilst in this world – whereas when we enter heaven they won’t have the same role, as there we won’t be given in marriage and we won’t have children, for example. So such commands are types and shadows in that they point us to what is spiritual, that we are God’s children, that we are Christ’s bride and so on). Hence Paul, in context, refers back to the commandments because what they say is still “holy”, “just” and “good” (Romans 7:12) and as believers we certainly don’t seek to break them. No, through the Gospel we actually fulfill them, because the Gospel gives us faith, which works by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law. It is in this context that Paul quotes most of the commandments in Romans 13 – not to enforce the commandments, or to put the believer back under them, but to illustrate that the love wrought by God through the Gospel actually fulfills the law.

Nevertheless, despite there being exhortations and precepts in the New Testament there is a world of difference between the exhortatory nature of the epistles, and the cold, commanding, nature of the law. So… to address our third question…

3. When we come to the last part of nearly all of Paul’s epistles we find a whole catalogue of commandments (or precepts). If the believer is bound by these precepts, then is there not a sense in which his rule of conduct is the precept? If so, how does this differ to the law as a rule of life?

In the epistles there are many exhortations and precepts. However there is a great difference between the nature of these -and the context in which they are given – and the law. Whereas the law uttered a commandment and exacted a penalty of death if broken, the gospel presents a message of life and then encourages and exhorts the believer with that life to walk in a way which is in accord with his natural desire and inclination in the new man. The new man of grace knows to do right, he loves to do right, he loves to follow the Lord and show love to the brethren. The exhortations in the epistles simply address this new man of grace and encourage him in such a pathway, and exhort to mortify the flesh, for the flesh always wars against the Spirit. As with Christ’s commandments -His yoke – such exhortations are not grievous, they are not a burden, but are gladly taken up by the child of God. As the Gospel is not ‘Antinomian’ (against the law), some of these exhortations will be in accord with that set forth in the law, and that love encouraged and exhorted in the Gospel will in fact fulfill the law, because as the faith of the believer is drawn out, that faith worketh by love (Galatians 5:6) and love fulfills the law (not by looking to the law, but by just living out that life of faith and love, doing what is natural to it, as exhorted in the epistles).

We must keep in mind the difference between the earthly man in the flesh, and the new, heavenly man of grace in the Spirit. As believers we were once entirely in the flesh, the offspring of Adam, dead in trespasses and sin, but now those of us who believe have been crucified with Christ, and have risen again from the dead, having a new life in Him, being His offspring, of the Last Adam, the Second Man – the heavenly man. The law respected earthly man in the flesh and his conduct in this world. The Gospel brings men into newness of life in Christ and it respects their heavenly nature in Him, their walk in the Spirit and their being led out of this world unto the new heaven and new earth. Hence the Gospel regards heavenly things, not earthly things (Colossians 3). Indeed we are spoken of as being seated in heavenly places now (Ephesians 2:6). Then what does a command not to covet our neighbour’s house or wife have to do with that? What does a command to keep the sabbath day holy have to do with a realm where we dwell in righteousness in an endless day, an eternal sabbath? How could such a command be broken in such a state and in such a realm? (In reality the command is broken spiritually now by ceasing to rest in Christ alone and returning to work at keeping the law…)

So, the Gospel, rightly seen, respects our new man of grace who is heavenly. It tells us to reckon ourselves dead to this world, to mortify the deeds of the flesh. We are to think of ourselves in Christ in heaven, as citizens of heaven (* see note), to have our gaze set there, not on earthly things. Whereas to use the law as a rule of life is to be taken up with earthly things. It is to be earthly minded – but Christ has brought us into newness of life, in His Gospel! Yes, the Gospel has exhortations, for we are still in this world, and we do still have the flesh. But the exhortations are always given in a context. What is that context? In the Doctrine of Christ – the Gospel. They follow on from the doctrinal parts of the epistles which set forth Christ and His work. Only after having set the believer’s gaze upon Christ do the apostles then exhort the new man of grace to follow Christ by walking in various ways. This is very different to the law, which has nothing to do with faith, for the “law is not of faith” and which simply says “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not”. The Gospel first declares Christ, conveys life, and then directs that life. For we walk not by sight (looking upon earthly things) but by faith (looking unto heavenly things).

Certainly the Gospel precepts respect our conduct and could therefore be described as a rule of conduct – in fact the Gospel as a whole will govern our conduct. We could even say that the whole word of God is a rule of conduct (because ultimately Christ is our ‘rule of life’, as set forth in the Gospel, and as set forth in all the scriptures, for He is our life [see also Galatians 6:13-16 for mention of ‘this rule’]). But to say that the law, in particular, is our rule of life is to go to that very part of the word of God which would condemn us – how foolish! (2 Corinthians 3). But, yes, the Gospel precepts do direct us, because the Spirit does not work in a vacuum. Galatians 5 tells us that if we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law. But the Spirit does not direct us apart from the word of God – He uses that word and applies it to us on a daily basis. Rather than having us mechanically going to a fixed set of rules (such as the ten commandments) seeking to obey them by our own will-power, the believer is directed by the Spirit in a living way and given grace to walk in that way. The believer submissively follows the Spirit’s leading, and each day the Spirit leads him in the scriptures, applying one passage one day, another passage another day and directing his pathway in a living way, appropriate for the time and circumstance he finds himself in.

Ultimately this is a pathway of faith – Faith which works by love. This is the nature of the Gospel and the pathway in which the believer walks. It is very different to a pathway of works, or of a legalistic mind.

However, it is not good enough to simply say “the gospel is my rule of life, not the law”, because many bring a legal spirit into the gospel. They simply turn Gospel precepts into legal commands, strive to perform them in their own strength (and hence ignore the leadings of the Spirit and ultimately grieve Him), and effectively condemn others if they don’t walk as the Gospel directs. But we are not to use the Gospel in such a judgmental fashion, nor are we to set to follow its precepts in our own strength. We must never lose sight of the fact that the Gospel is on an entirely different principle to the law – it is about faith! And this faith is not of ourselves “it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). For “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Neither must we lose sight of the central truth of the Gospel to which such God-given faith is directed – “Christ and Him crucified”. Only when the eye of faith is continually set upon Christ, does a sheep then follow its Shepherd. And when exhorted to look to Him alone, the exhortations to mortify the deeds of the flesh, or control the tongue, or flee fornication, or rejoice evermore, are gladly received and performed.

We made mention of 1 Thessalonians 5: “rejoice evermore”, “pray without ceasing”, “in every thing give thanks”. Well, such exhortations demonstrate what we have just been considering. The believer, whose eye is set upon Christ, will gladly “rejoice evermore” for he sees Christ, his reason for rejoicing, he will gladly “pray without ceasing” for he is looking to Christ from whence his help comes, he will happily “give thanks”, for he sees the One to whom he is thankful, he will “despise not prophesyings” for he loves to hear of Christ, and he will “grieve not the Spirit” for the Spirit leads him to Christ whom he loves and to whom he gladly goes.

So, in summary: the law is about works and respects this world. But the Gospel is about faith, concerning Christ, and respects the world to come. The just shall live by faith, and the precepts of the Gospel are not grievous to faith, because faith works by love, and as James rightly tells us (James 1:17), faith without works is dead, being in reality a mere profession of faith, but true, living faith always produces fruit, it always produces the works of faith, as led by the Spirit. For “If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18.

(* Someone had the following to say on this subject which is worth repeating here: “I remember reading of a believer being accused of depreciating the law because he maintained that he was not under it. His reply was that the law of, say Australia, was a good law, and just, but he was not under it because he was a citizen of England. Likewise he acknowledged that the Siniatic law was a good law, and just, but he was not under it as he was a citizen of Zion.”)

 

–ooOOoo–

 

But let us consider some further questions which may arise on this matter.

What, for example, does Paul mean when he says in Romans 7:22 “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man” and also in Romans 7:25 “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin”?

Why did he say that with his mind he served the law of God? If the law has nothing to do with the believer, then why did Paul “delight in the law of God after the inward man”?

Well, firstly it must be noted that these verses come at the end of Romans 7 and they must be read in the context of the whole chapter. The context, as we’ve seen, being that Paul is demonstrating that we are “dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4) that we should be married to another – even to Christ – that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Clearly we could not bring forth fruit unto God until we died to our old ‘husband’, the law.

In expounding that truth Paul seeks to show just why we needed to be delivered from the law. He goes on throughout the chapter to show the effects that the law had upon his flesh. He demonstrates that the “motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death”. Thus, whilst the law demanded that which was good, nevertheless, because of our sinful flesh it actually caused us to sin and bring forth fruit unto death.

But does that mean that the law is bad? That it is flawed, or sinful? No! As we noted, Paul goes on to show that the fault lies not with the law itself but with our sinful flesh. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid.”….”Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good”. No, the law itself is good. The fault lies with sin in our flesh… “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 7:13). Hence the need is not for the law itself to be abrogated, for the law itself is good, but for us to be delivered from the law, because the fault lies in us, in our sinful flesh – therefore we need to have died to the law.

So, having demonstrated in verses 4-6 that we have died to the law, that we might be married to Christ to bring forth fruit, Paul then shows that this was necessary, not because the law itself was a bad thing, but because the effect it had upon our flesh was to bring forth sin unto death. Paul shows the law itself to be good. But from v14-21 Paul shows the effect that the law has upon him as a believer. Whilst he has a new man of grace which wishes to serve God, nevertheless he still has the flesh which sins, so he finds that though he wishes to do good, the effect of the commandment when it comes to him is to cause him to sin (v19). Verses 22 and 25 simply reinforce the contrast between the desire of Paul in the new man of grace (to serve God and walk righteously) and the outworking of sin in his flesh under the commandments of the law. Paul delights in the law of God after the inward man (of course he does – the law is good, in that what it commands is good, and the inward man loves what is good), but there is another law in his members, in his flesh, which causes him to sin (v23). Verse 25 shows that his mind would serve the law of God, it would do what it demands because the law is ‘holy’, ‘just’ and ‘good’, but the flesh serves the law of sin.

We see the contrast here between what is served. The one is the law of sin, the other is the law of God. What Paul is showing is that his mind does not serve sin. It serves God. In that the law of God teaches against sin his mind as a believer must agree with the law of God. But this is not because he is under the law, serving it as his rule of life, but because he is under grace, with the Gospel as his rule of life. Gospel, or evangelical, righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the law (Matthew 5:19) and hence the law is fulfilled by one who walks in the Gospel, by grace (Romans 8:4).

So does the statement in Romans 7:25 that Paul with the mind serves the law of God mean that the law is his rule of life? No, it cannot, because Paul has clearly shown in 7:4-6 that he has been delivered from the law, and that he has a new ‘husband’. Then why does he state in verse 25 that his mind serves it? Simply to show that the law itself (in terms of what it commands) is not the problem, but his flesh is. Whilst in the flesh (which we still have until we enter heaven’s glory) the law will always have the same effect on it, so that whilst our believing mind might say that the law is good and we would wish to walk accordingly, our flesh rebels and causes us to fall into sin and under the law’s condemnation. Our only hope is to be delivered from this body of death and to be delivered from the law. And that is just what Christ in the Gospel does – He delivers us, from sin, from death and from the law.

In Romans chapter 7 Paul is showing that we are dead to the law, we are delivered from it, but not because the law itself is bad, but because the flesh is sinful. Thus he shows that the law is good, just and holy, and that he delights in the law of God after the inward man. But such delighting in the truth of it, in the righteousness of it, does not in any way alter the fact that Paul needed to be delivered from its bondage – he needed to be married to another, even to Christ, he needed to be delivered from the rule of the law and brought into union with Christ, and under His rule, whom he now serves, not in the letter (as under the law), but in the Spirit (as in the Gospel). “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. Romans 8:3-4. It is our being delivered from the law by having died to it in Christ that causes us to fulfill the law. We walk in a way which brings forth righteous conduct which fulfills what the law requires, but not by the law, by being under its rule, but by the Spirit, by being under Christ’s yoke in the Gospel, by walking by faith – for faith works by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law.

(And whilst Paul may indeed have delighted in the law of God after the inward man, he certainly delighted much more in the Gospel as is abundantly evident elsewhere – for example, Romans 1:16-17, 8:12-18, 8:38-39, 12:33 etc – for the Gospel concerns heavenly things, not earthly; the glory in the Gospel far exceeds the glory seen in the law as Paul clearly demonstrates in 2 Corinthians 3, and the Gospel actually fulfilled all that which the law could only demand, and far, far, more than that!)

But, it may be asked, does not the Christ Himself uphold the law? For example in Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus states “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Hear Christ says that “whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Do and teach what? Does not the whole context contrast “the prophets”, i.e the law as given by Moses?

Here we have a passage commonly used by those who would put the believer back under the law. So let us consider this question. Does Christ uphold the law? Certainly Christ upholds the law! He was made under it, He magnified it and made it honourable. And so would we – the fact that we are delivered from the law by death does not in any way alter the law, abrogate the law, or take away from it. The law continues to stand in all its glory, rectitude, immutability and justice. All that it commands is unalterable. But, praise God, all that it commands has been answered and fulfilled in the death of Christ for us, who believe on Him. It is our having died in Christ to the law that delivers us from its rule. Christ never destroyed the law nor altered the law, but that does not mean that the believer remains under it. No, Christ fulfilled the law, He answered its every charge against us, and legally delivered us from it. In the Gospel all has been fulfilled. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” Romans 10:4.

In Christ the believer is delivered from the law, from its curse, and from its commandment and is brought into the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2) which made him free from the law of sin and death. The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, by which the believer walks in the Gospel (which is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus), causes him to fulfill the righteousness of the law (Romans 8:4) and hence he does not seek to break the commandments, but does them and indeed he teaches them. But the fact that he does and teaches them does not mean that he does what the commandments of the law demand by the law, nor does it mean that he teaches the law to be the believer’s rule of life. No, it means that he does what the law demands, only by walking in the Gospel and Gospel righteousness – by the Spirit – for the Gospel brings in an everlasting righteousness of a character and nature far exceeding anything that the law ever demanded or required. Gospel, or evangelical, righteousness is not ‘less than’ nor contrary to the law, but it exceeds what the law demands, hence any under the Gospel as their ‘rule of life’ will do what the law demands, not by the law, but by the Spirit through the Gospel. Believers love the law of God for they see the holiness, justice and goodness of God in it, and they see the perfect fulfillment of it in Christ. They “delight in the law of God after the inward man” for they know it is good, but they rejoice much more that Christ has delivered them “from this body of death” (Romans 7:24) to walk no more after the flesh, as under the law, but after the Spirit, as under the Gospel – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Believers don’t cease to do what the law commands, for the Gospel causes them to walk in a way which fulfills the law, and neither do they cease to teach the law but they do teach the right use of the law. They teach that “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20) and that by “the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified” in God’s sight. They teach that the commandment of the law is right, that the “law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good” (Romans 7:12), but they also teach that sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceives us and slays us (Romans 7:11), and that in order to keep the commandments, to fulfill the law, we must be delivered from it (Romans 7:6) and delivered from this body of death (7:24), that we must become dead to the law that we might bring forth fruit unto God (7:4). Believers know, from bitter experience, like Paul in Romans 7, that whilst under the law, whilst bound by it, whilst alive to it in any way, shape, or form, their flesh will simply bring forth sin, their members will bring forth fruit unto death (7:5). But they see in the Gospel a deliverance from sin, from the flesh, from the law and its rule and condemnation – they see a deliverance in Christ, who died for them, and in whom they died, and in whom they rise again having the Spirit of life in Him. This brings forth fruit unto God, this fulfills the righteousness of the law (Romans 8:4), and nothing else can.

The believer is dead to the law that he might live unto God (Galatians 2:19). He walks under a new rule, the rule of a new creation in Christ, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This causes him to walk in Evangelical righteousness which far exceeds that demanded by the law. It is this righteousness which Christ expounds in Matthew 5-7 where He continually contrasts what the law says (not what the scribes said about the law, notice, but what the law actually says) with what He says in the Gospel – “But I say unto you…” Yes, the Gospel brings in a righteousness which not only fulfills the law’s demands, but far exceeds it, hence Christ can say in Matthew 5:20 “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kindom of heaven.” Under the Gospel Christ’s sheep have such a righteousness – Gospel righteousness, evangelical righteousness, the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, which soars above anything the law ever demanded (* see note below). But also, unlike the law, this isn’t a righteousness demanded of men which they cannot perform, but a righteousness wrought by God – the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ – and given to men by God, by His grace! It is this righteousness which God both imputes to His people and brings forth in them by His Spirit as they walk by faith looking unto Jesus their Saviour. It is called the “righteousness of faith”, not the righteousness of the law (Romans 10:5-6) and such righteousness is seen by confession of the Lord Jesus and belief in the heart that God raised Him from the dead. Such faith is a believing unto righteousness and a confessing unto salvation (10:10). “For the just shall live by faith” – dead to the law, but alive unto God and married to Christ, “even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” And it is this very righteousness of God which is revealed in the Gospel and which gives the Gospel its power to save…

… “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.” Romans 1:16-17

Amen.

(* It is a failure to recognise the distinction between the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel and the righteousness of the law, which characterises the thinking of many who fail to see the truth of the believer’s deliverance from the law. Some theologians speak of the Ten Commandments as being a ‘transcript of the Divine nature’. Some even go as far as to describe it as ‘the express image of God’s person’. Yet scripture never refers to the law in this way – in fact it is Christ who is referred to as the express image of God’s person in Hebrews 1:3. However to those who consider that the Mosaic law is a transcript of the Divine nature they can not envision deliverance from the law because they have essentially made the law itself synonymous with God Himself – which scripture never does [yes, the law reveals God’s holiness and justice, but the full revelation of God’s righteousness and His character is found in Christ in the Gospel]. But the law to these people is everywhere, it is inescapable. Hence even the other side of death, in heavenly glory they can only see the believer as still bound by the law, for he is still under God’s authority. Yet scripture actually teaches a distinction between the righteousness of the law, which was given for earthly man whilst in this world, and the righteousness of God as revealed by the faith of Christ in the Gospel, which concerns the new man of grace in Christ – a heavenly righteousness for a heavenly kingdom. The believer is delivered from the law but has the righteousness of God in Christ. He is under the law of faith, the law of Christ, the law of liberty and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. What laws are these? They are those laws which in the New Covenant God puts in the mind of His people and writes upon their hearts (Hebrews 8:10). They are, indeed, the Gospel, which gives faith, love, liberty and everlasting life in Christ Jesus to all those chosen in Him unto salvation.)

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“Why…?” Colossians 2:20

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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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What shall we say then? – Romans 6:1

Paul, having set forth the doctrine of Christ in the Gospel from chapters 1 to 5 in Romans, then begins to show its consequences in the next three chapters. He commences by asking a question: What shall we say then? … In the light of all that has been written, given what has just been declared, what is the consequence? What shall we say then?

 

 

One towering consequence of the work of God in Christ as set forth in the preceding chapters is the gift of faith. What God purposed, and the Son performed, the Spirit must apply, and He applies it to all those whom God justified in Christ at the cross, by bringing them under the sound of the Gospel, by bringing them to hear the message, the word of their salvation, by which they are convicted of sin, quickened unto life by the Spirit of God, converted, brought to repentance, and granted faith both to believe and to rest in Christ alone for salvation. For all whom the Father chose, and the Son redeemed, will be surely born again by the Spirit, having hope in God alone, which hope finds its assurance in faith.

 

 

But faith will be tried, faith will be tested, and it is the battles which faith must fight, and in which faith is victorious, which concerns Paul from chapter 6 to chapter 8. Here we see how sin is overcome by righteousness, how death is swallowed up by life, how the law is fulfilled by grace, and how the Spirit mortifies the deeds of the flesh. Here are presented great foes, great mountains to be climbed, great armies to defeat, yet faith overcomes all, faith defeats all, for Christ’s victory ensures faith’s victory. It is because of the triumphant work of God in Christ upon the cross, that the fight of faith will be victorious, and it is this which gives the believer such hope.

 

 

This is emphasised repeatedly throughout these three chapters. Paul presents us with each enemy, each foe, each opponent, which must be overcome for the believer to know salvation, and in each case he shows us in the work of Christ how all the opposition has been answered. Here is faith’s triumph, faith’s hope, for “It is God that justifieth”, so “Who is he that condemneth?” Yes, God’s people in Christ are shown to be “more than conquerors” because of the One whose faith brought in the victory, and from whose love they shall never, ever,  be separated!

 

 

In chapter 6 Paul’s attention is centred upon that great enemy sin, and its inevitable consequence death. Here he shows how faith reckons the believer to be dead to sin, but alive unto God (Romans 6:11) because of the death of Christ for him, the believer having died with Christ and risen with Him (as pictured by baptism), his old man being crucified that sin might be destroyed and that he might be freed from its dominion, no longer being under law, but under grace (6:14), walking in “newness of life” (6:4), being made a servant of righteousness, having “fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life”.

 

 

 

In chapter 7 the believer’s deliverance from the law and its condemnation is set before us, as illustrated by the example of marriage, believers having died to their old husband, the law, by the body of Christ, that they should be married to another, “even to him that is raised from the dead”. As a result of being delivered from sin, death and the strength of sin (the law), Paul proceeds in chapter 8 to show how the child of God is delivered from all condemnation, being freed from the law of sin and death by the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”. It is this life in the Spirit, this new birth from on high, which is made sure to all God’s seed through the sovereign work of God the Spirit in quickening them unto eternal life in Christ Jesus, by which their eyes are opened to see spiritual things, their ears now hear the voice of the Son of God, their understanding is enlightened, they are delivered from darkness into light, from death into life, from sin into righteousness and from time into eternity. Without such a work man remains in darkness, dead to spiritual things, fallen in sin, condemned under the law, captive under sin’s power, having a mind which is “enmity against God” (8:7).

 

 

Jesus tells us in John’s gospel that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), and how true that is. No matter how much one may study, no matter how much of the scriptures may be read, no matter how much doctrine may be imbibed in the letter, except God quickens us unto eternal life by His Spirit, we remain natural, carnal, darkened by sin, blinded to the truth. How vital then is the new birth. How vital is faith. It cannot be emphasised enough: “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

Have you been? Has God given you faith to overcome every enemy of your soul in Christ, or have those enemies overcome you in the deadness of your unbelief?

 

 

But what hope there is in this new birth – what victory faith brings! For all whom God justified in Christ are surely born again by His Spirit, are surely brought to faith, having the Spirit of God dwelling in them, the Spirit of Christ – “Christ in you” (Romans 8:10) – by whom they mortify the deeds of the flesh, and are led by the Spirit of God, as being the “sons of God” (8:14). It is this spirit of sonship which Paul considers in the rest of the chapter, its communion with God the Father, its comfort and assurance in the work of God, its victory in Christ, and its absolute and eternally inseparable union with the love of God in Christ Jesus. Oh what a salvation! What a hope!

 

 

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.

In conclusion, having dealt with the victory of sin by righteousness, of death by life, of law by grace, and of the flesh by the Spirit, Paul returns to his opening question from chapter 6:1 by repeating in chapter 8:31 “What shall we say then to these things?”

 

 

Well, what shall we say then to these things? What shall faith 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

 

 

Amen.  

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Why…?” Colossians 2:20

 

“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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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.”

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


The great exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sin and sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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.

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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

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

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“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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