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In Romans 11:26, in concluding his consideration of just who the true Israel of God is – that people chosen by God from amongst both Jews and Gentiles, that people called out from every tribe and kindred, from the four corners of the earth, all who are brought to faith in Christ, the election of grace  (11:6) – Paul makes this glorious statement “And so all Israel shall be saved”. Yes all Israel shall be saved. All who God chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Shall all really be saved? Most assuredly, for “as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”

 

God’s people upon the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, are pictured vividly in Romans 11 by the illustration of the Olive Tree. This tree has both root and branches, some branches being broken off, and some grafted in, many of the Jews being broken off for their unbelief, and the believing Gentiles being grafted in. Yet the illustration extends further than that. All those who are but outwardly religious, perhaps born and raised a Jew or perhaps brought up a ‘Christian’, brought up to ‘attend church or chapel’ will, if they remain in unbelief be ultimately broken off from the tree – whilst those people who are brought to true faith in Christ and His Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile, whether brought up religious or not at all, are those branches whom the Lord grafts in.

 

But whether branches be broken off or grafted in what remains sure, what never changes, is the root of the tree itself – and that root is Christ. He gives the tree its life, He gives it strength, He sustains it. All the branches on the tree have no life but what they receive from the tree, the root, itself. For Christ is the “firstfruit” (Romans 11:16), He is the One who rose from the dead, the Deliverer in Sion whom having taken away His people’s sins conquered death and rose again in newness of everlasting life. The promises to Abraham concerning his Seed were all fulfilled in Christ for all His seed in Him – all those purchased by His blood at the cross, all that “election of grace”, all who by faith are united to Him as branches to His vine. The illustration of the Olive tree reminds us of that wonderful passage in chapter 15 of John’s Gospel in which Christ declares of Himself:

 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

 

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

 

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” John 15:1-9

 

What a tremendous picture is seen here of the fruitfulness of God’s people as united to Christ, the true vine, in whom they abide as those in whom His words abide, those in whose hearts Christ dwells by faith, those whom He calls His disciples. What union, what love is shown here, and what glory is rendered to the Father by the fruitfulness of that vine, the ekklesia of Christ. Yet, despite this, what a warning chapter 11 of Romans presents to us of the consequences of unbelief, of the dreadful end awaiting those whose profession is false, whose walk is but outward, whose association with the things of God is merely in the flesh, merely through natural inheritance, only in the letter and never in the Spirit. All of these, all who despite the profession of their lips, have hearts which are far from God, all in whom remains unbelief of the truth, of Christ in His Gospel, all of these, whatever they may appear before men, will be broken off – cut off, forever removed from the tree, cast into the fire and burned. What an end…. And what a warning.

 

Have you faith in Christ? Are you a branch on His vine? Is all well with your soul? Or is your profession but in word only? Have you received a love of the truth, of the truth of God’s Gospel as truly set forth in the scriptures? Do you rest in that salvation wrought by God for those whom He chose in Christ, His Israel? Is your salvation by the grace of God or by your own works, your own merit, your own worth? Has God grafted you into His olive tree or do you just put on a show, an appearance, of being a branch, yet ultimately to be broken off on that great day when God judges both the quick and the dead?

 

The answers to such questions are vital. Do we have faith or not? Do we abide in Christ, and His words in us, or not? Might we at the last be found amongst that company who will cry out “Lord, Lord”, only to receive that crushing response for all eternity: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”? (Matthew 7:21,23)

 

When Christ, the Son of God, came into this world, born a Jew, “made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3) He came to a people whose hearts had turned from God. An apostate nation. A people who drew near unto God with their lips when their hearts were far from Him. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” John 1:11.

 

The very ones, the very people, who should have known Christ at His coming, the ones who should have been looking for the coming of Messiah, unto whom had been committed the oracles of God, the scriptures, the Levitical priesthood, the sacrifices, all the types and figures which pointed unto the Deliverer in Sion, failed to see Him at His coming. They failed to see Him for whom He was, for who He is. Their eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened. They followed after the law of righteousness, but never attained to it (Romans 9:31). Lacking faith they stumbled at that stumblingstone laid in Sion (9:33).  Despite all the prophecies of the scriptures, all the promises made to their fathers, all being fulfilled before their very eyes, they saw nothing but a man. Though the very Son of God stood before them, though the very Messiah, the Deliverer of Jacob, of whom the scriptures testified, walked amongst them, they saw Him not for whom He was, but merely as a man like themselves, and despite all their religion, all their intellect, all their outward zeal in the things of God, they rejected the very One sent of God as the Saviour, they cast Him out, despised Him, mocked Him, made false accusation against Him, ridiculed Him, hated Him, and, at the last, with wicked hands, crucified Him.

 

So God cut them off, breaking off their branches from the Olive tree and grafting in Gentile believers to whom He sent His Gospel, to whom He sent the word of life, to whom He revealed His Son as their Saviour.

But lest those Gentile believers, lest we, should boast in this, lest we should be found judging or despising the apostate Jews of old, as though we are any better than they, or judging those in the churches today who fall away or reject the truth, Paul reminds the Gentiles, he reminds us, that if grafted into the tree, if kept in the tree, it is only because of God’s mercy, of His grace. It is God who saves, God who shows grace, God who gives His children the gift of faith to lay hold of Christ. Salvation owes nothing to the works or the will of man. As it is written “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” Romans 11:6-7 

Yes, God’s people are saved by grace and kept by grace, and should they turn from this to their own works, should they turn from the truth of the Gospel to another, should they be found rejecting the Son of God as He truly is, then they too, Jew or Gentile, will be branches that are broken off. Profession of faith or not, churchgoer or not, outwardly religious or not, except God grants us true faith in the truth of Christ as revealed in His Gospel, we will not, we cannot remain in that tree, amongst that company who will inherit eternal life.

 

When Christ came to redeem His people the vast profession of religion amongst the Jews was found to be apostate. It was corrupt. It was rotten. It had an appearance of godliness but denied the power thereof. But for the ones and twos, the “remnant according to the election of grace”, the Simeons and Annas who looked for redemption in Israel, who looked by faith for the coming of Messiah, but for those few disciples whom God called to follow Christ from amongst His earthly people, but for these, the vast profession of Judaism, of the religion of the day, had departed from God. They had words, they had forms, they had outward appearances, but they had no faith in their hearts. They were apostate.

 

Has not the same thing come to pass amongst the Gentiles today? Look around. Take notice. Has not the vast profession of ‘Christendom’, the great majority of churches, be they Catholic or Protestant, Evangelical or Fundamental, Baptist or Methodist, Presbyterian or Congregational, Conservative or Charismatic, Arminian or Calvinist… whatever the form, whatever the profession, has not the great majority turned from the truth of the Gospel as set forth in the scriptures to another gospel? Have they not turned from the Christ as preached by the apostles, to another Jesus? Do the people not rejoice in their own strength, in their own will, in their own freedom to approach God on their own terms, to worship Him as they will?

 

Would not Christendom today, the great mass of religious profession, reject Christ if He came “unto his own” as Israel did before them? Would they not, indeed do they not, put Him, the true Christ, to death in their very thoughts and affections? In their rejection of the truth regarding Him, in their rejecting those sent by Christ to preach His Gospel? Do they not prefer their ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ who loves all, who died for all, and who helplessly stands by desiring the salvation of all, yet is impotent to actually save any? Do they not proclaim a gospel and a Jesus who changes with the times, who adapts to the fashions and trends of the day? Is their Jesus truly “the same yesterday, and to day, and forever”?

 

Is not the professing church of our day as apostate, nay, more apostate, than Israel was at the time of Christ’s coming?

Surely the words of Christ in Matthew 21:13 ring true about our own day and generation: It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”.

Face the question – is this not the case? Can we not see it all around us?

 

And, my reader, ask yourself this question: are you among that number? Are you a branch ready to be broken off, ready to be burned in the fire? Might you, like Esau, seek repentance but never find it?

 

Or have you a better hope? Has God given you true faith, true repentance, as with Jacob? For both faith and repentance are the gifts of God – we can’t simply ‘work them up’. No! We’re dead by nature, dead in trespasses and sins. But I ask – are you by God’s great mercy, by free grace alone, found among that people, that remnant of grace, that poor contrite, lowly company, whose eyes have been opened to see their poverty before God, their pitiful state by nature as wilful sinners, as unbelieving creatures, as ungrateful servants who stand in need of mercy, of salvation. Has God opened your eyes to see Christ in the Gospel, to have the truth of God’s grace revealed to you? Has He lifted you up, as a beggar from off a dunghill and set your feet upon that sure foundation of everlasting salvation by the grace of God, through the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

For all the election of grace, all those chosen people of God, all His true Israel will be saved, despite their rebellion and unbelief by nature they will be brought to faith, they will be brought to hear the truth of the Gospel, they will be brought to hear the voice of the Son of God say unto them, as unto the dead, “Live!”

 

For, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25.

 

And all such branches, all God’s people saved by grace, will never, ever, be broken off from that True Vine, from Christ, their Saviour.  All these branches, Jews and Gentiles, will surely be brought to faith and find their rest in Christ by the sounding of His Gospel, and none other – “And so all Israel shall be saved”.

 

Amen.

 

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36

 

 

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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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“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.  

 

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Abraham Believed God

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

 

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

     “Where is boasting then? It is excluded”

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul introduces his letter to the Romans by stating his desire to preach the Gospel to them, “the gospel of God… concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”. He places his absolute confidence in it as being “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” on the grounds that “therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”, and then he commences in chapter 1 and verse 18 to open up and expound the truths of this very Gospel. 

 

But where does he start? Where would you start? Most churches today would start with the love of God or the kindness of God to humanity. Or perhaps by offering people something they are missing in their lives, something to help them feel fulfilled. Not so Paul. He doesn’t even mention the love of God until chapter 5, and that but in passing. So where does Paul start? …Where? At the beginning! 

 

But what is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Take a look at Mark 1:1-3 which tells us…. 

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  

 

The Gospel begins with a voice “crying in the wilderness”, preparing the way for Christ. That’s the beginning of the Gospel. But what does that voice cry? 

 

In Romans 1:18-20 the voice which prepares the way for Christ has the following declaration: 

“…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it into them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” 

One Beginning: The Wrath of God Revealed

 

Yes, that’s where the Gospel of God begins – with a declaration of the fact that God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It begins with a voice which prepares the way of the Lord by telling men what they are by nature – sinners – and that God’s wrath is revealed against that sin.

 

This is where the Gospel must begin. For the Gospel reveals Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners, it is the power of God unto salvation, and if so, the way to Christ must be prepared by seeking out sinners in need of salvation, by revealing to them their state before God and their need of the Saviour. For who needs salvation but those who are lost, those who are dead, those to whom God has sounded an alarm…. an alarm that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men?

 

Most of religion today is seeking to convince people to become Christians, to show them a ‘better way’. But those sent of God to preach the Gospel aren’t sent to ‘twist people’s arms’ or to educate them about religion through ‘courses’, but to seek out the lost, to preach a message of salvation to them, to find those who are desperate, hungry for the truth, those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin, of righteousness and of the judgment to come – those who know that death and eternity awaits them – those who need to hear of the Saviour and the Gospel of their salvation. Because until God shows us our need of salvation the message of a Saviour is meaningless. Sinners first need to hear that they are sinners!

 

For Jesus said “…I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matthew 15:24.

 

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” Mark 2:17.

Yes, the alarm needs to be sounded… and to this end, Paul, as it were, cries out in Romans from chapter 1:18 to chapter 3:20, and sounds forth an alarm, in order to prove all men to be under sin… and to warn of its eternal consequence (Romans 2:8-9).

 

Two Classes of Men

In these chapters Paul divides mankind into two classes of men, into which all men fall, either into the one class or into the other. They are either Jews or they are Gentiles. They are religious, or they are irreligious. They may be church-goers, or they may be party-goers. They may be devout, or an aimless lout. But whether they have the scriptures like the Jews of old and profess to follow God, or whether they be in the world, with no thought for God, living for themselves and for selfish gain or pleasure, Paul in this epistle shows that all are alike in this respect: all are dead in sin. Outside of Christ, whether religious or irreligious, Jew or Gentile, there is no difference – all have sinned, all are guilty before God, all stand condemned before Him, all have turned their backs on their Maker, all in their ungodliness and unrighteousness have rejected the revelation of truth regarding God, so all are without excuse.

 

Three Revelations of Light

Why are all without excuse? Because all have had truth regarding God revealed to them in one way or another – whether they comprehend it or not. From Romans 1:20 to Romans 3:9 God the Holy Spirit points us to three clear revelations of light regarding the truth which God has made to man, to which mankind is accountable. Light which leaves men without excuse.

 

There is light in the Creation, light in the Conscience and light in the Scriptures.

 

Firstly, there is light in Creation. We read “… that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” Romans 1:19-20.

 

Secondly, there is light in the Conscience. Romans 2:14-15 tells us “…when the Gentiles, which hath not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”.

 

Both these revelations of light regarding God are made to all men, whether Jew or Gentile, religious or irreligious. All men have the witness of the creation, of the world around them, to the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator. And all men by nature have a conscience which bears witness to the truth, by which they have some understanding of right and wrong. Yet all men, by nature, look not upon these things. They ignore the light outside them, and they ignore the light within them, being blinded to both by the depths of their sin and depravity. This depravity is vividly described in the rest of chapter 1 which makes for sober reading regarding the state of man in sin – the state of you and me. Yet how contemporary is the picture painted therein.

 

But there is a third revelation of light which Paul points to and this is that found in the Scriptures. Romans 3:1-2 tells us “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” So the Jews had this advantage over the Gentiles of possessing the scriptures, yet they too were under sin. Indeed because of this advantage they, like many who are religious today, so easily fell into the trap of thinking themselves better than others, of having more light, and judging others, yet in reality when that light remained outward, and never truly penetrated their hearts, they remained just as blind and just as sinful (See Romans 2:17-29). “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly…. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” And the law which God gave the Jews made them no better – no, it made things worse, simply condemning them, just as it does us, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” Romans 3:19.

 

So God has revealed light about Himself in the Heavens, in the Heart and in the Holy Bible. Yet who sees it? Who comprehends it? “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

 

No wonder then that all men are without excuse before God. No wonder then that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who resist (hold) the truth in unrighteousness. Why? Because despite three revelations of light to mankind regarding the truth, man still turns away from the truth, from the light and from God.

 

Yes, despite these three revelations of light and despite the fact that today we have the benefit of the full written revelation of the Gospel in the scriptures, nevertheless man’s heart is so sinful, so darkened by nature, so hard that none of this light penetrates. It just washes over us! We may look, we may listen, we may read, yet all the while we see and hear nothing. Man by nature cannot, and he will not hearken. Mankind is without understanding and by nature no man seeks after God. There is no neutral response to God – we have all gone out of the way. As Romans 3:9-12 tells us:

 

“… for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one.”

An Inward Revelation

No, man in the depth of his sin simply cannot and will not come unto God. Not unless, and not until, God the Spirit opens the heart and shines the light in! Not until God reveals the truth to us, not only outwardly, but inwardly. Until then we remain in darkness. You may hear the words of a preacher, or read the words on a page, but have you heard the voice of the Spirit of God sounding an alarm in your heart? Has He spoken to you inwardly? Have these things been revealed to you?

 

For when God, through the preaching of His Gospel, opens the ears to hear and opens the eyes to see, when God the Spirit gives us light to see things as they really are, then we come to see just what we are before God by nature – just how bad we are! How vile we are, how unrighteous we are – and how “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”. And then, and not until then, we will look for, and cry out for, mercy.

 

But what an answer God has for needy sinners in the Gospel! When shown our sin, when shown our state, when the alarm has been sounded and the way prepared, then we are brought to hear of the Saviour of sinners, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and just what He did upon the cross to save sinners. Then we are brought to the “But now” of Romans 3:21 and to the glorious revelation in the Gospel of the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ.

 

But have you been brought there? Have you indeed heard the beginning of the Gospel? Is this where the gospel you heard began? Have you heard that voice which prepares the way of the Lord?

 

Have you been shown that you’re a sinner in need of salvation… or in your wisdom have you become a fool (Romans 1:22)…? 

(Read this in Portuguese)

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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.)

(Read this in Portuguese)

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