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

 

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

 

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

 

Well… how shall man be just with God?

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

How?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

…Have you? Have you really? 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

For,  HE’S done it all!!

 

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

 

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

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

But now…..

 

(Read this in Portuguese)

 

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

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

 

 

 “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference”

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

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

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

Mistranslations considered

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Faith or faithfulness

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

 

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

 

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

 

The righteousness of God revealed

So if the correct translation of Romans 3:22 is  “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference”, what does this phrase actually mean? Does it really mean that the righteousness of God is manifested by the faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22)? That we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)?

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

The righteousness of faith

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Christ, our forerunner

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Justified by the faith of Christ

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

 

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

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

 

And what is a result of being justified by Christ’s death, by His faith? The result is that “we have believed in Jesus Christ”. Our belief doesn’t justify us, it is a result of our justification, inwrought by the Spirit. Our belief brings us to an experimental knowledge of our justification before God subjectively in which God declares a sentence of justification in our hearts, but it is God that justified us objectively in the Person of His Son, who shed His blood for His people. And when Christ shed His blood for that people the righteousness of God was unto all of them from that very moment, to be applied by the Spirit upon all of them when they believe, “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference”. For we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ

 

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

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

Amen.

 

…….

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


The great exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sin and sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

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

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

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