J. N. Darby.
The position of man, and of the world, before God.
Rome was the centre of the universal empire of the world, the Gentile metropolis; and Paul had not been there; but God had made him apostle and teacher of the Gentiles; 2 Tim 1:11. In fulfilling his apostolic function, his heart was naturally drawn toward that seat of the empire and the Christians living there, or who flocked thither from all sides, to confirm them in the faith, and to establish the church forming in that important locality on the foundations of divine truth. This is what the epistle to the Romans presents us with. It is a summary of the great truths which form the groundwork of the gospel of Christ.
Let us consider a little the position of man, and of the world, before God. Christianity, it is evident, was not introduced at the beginning of the history of the human race. Already nearly 4,000 years had elapsed before the Son of God appeared among men. How many things had taken place under the eye of God during that long period!
Let us examine the grand traits of this history. God had created man innocent, and had placed him in a state of happiness in a terrestrial paradise. He, following the sad example of his wife who had listened to the seductive words of the tempter, disobeyed God, and lost at once his innocence and his happiness. He dares not to present himself before God. A bad conscience leads him to avoid His presence, even before the just judgment of God drives him from the garden, and from Himself, source alone of true happiness. Man, ungrateful, disobedient man, who had taken Satan for his friend and his counsellor, in preference to God, having believed him rather than God Himself, was the slave of Satan and his own will, was lost! Being driven from the garden was but a natural consequence of his fall. The way to the tree of life was closed to him. He stays in the world outside, the slave of sin and death.
But God, in driving man out from His presence, had not forgotten to be gracious; and, in pronouncing sentence on the serpent, He speaks of a Redeemer who should destroy the power of the enemy of man. It was pure grace; and testimony was given of it in the very title of the Deliverer, "the Seed of the woman," of her who by listening to Satan had plunged man into ruin; but before sending the Redeemer for the accomplishment of the work of redemption, man must be tried, and in every way, to see whether, such as he is, he could attain to the power of life eternal, or secure himself in a state of happiness. God knew well what he was. Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. But we are prone enough to entertain a good opinion of ourselves for it to be salutary for us to make trial of what we are, that the conscience, convinced of sin, may be willing to profit by pure grace and the goodness of God. So, during centuries, God left man without checks to the inclinations of his own heart. The Saviour had been announced, it is true, and a living testimony had been given on the part of God.
2 The names of Abel, Enoch, and Noah, shine in the pages of the holy scriptures, like lights in those remote ages. But the light itself shone in vain. Man corrupted himself more and more, so that after long patience God was led to wash corrupted humanity in the terrible scourge of the deluge. But He who is ever remembering His mercy in the midst of His judgments, pointed out a means of salvation to those who alone had listened to His word; and Noah, with his family, becomes the parent stock of a new world.
But the terrible lesson of a world destroyed was lost upon man. Chastisements do not change nature. We soon find that idolatry is introduced and propagated in all quarters of the world. That is to say, to avail ourselves of the words of the apostle Paul, "the heathen sacrificed to devils and not to God." God called Abraham in order to preserve in the midst of the world the knowledge of the true God, and that he might be the depositary of the promises of God, and that the promised seed should rise from his family. And Abraham, as well as Isaac and Jacob, his son and grandson, were strangers and pilgrims on the earth through faith. Of his posterity the Lord raised up an earthly people (called Israel, known generally, in the present day, under the name of Jews), that it might be a witness and preserver of the doctrine of the unity of the true God, against the errors of the heathen. In Abraham the call of grace from out of the world, and free salvation through faith, had been signally shown in the ways of God. Now, a striking testimony as to the deliverance by the blood of a victim, substituted for the sinner whose penalty it bore, was presented in a figure; and this thought, this answer to the needs of conscience harassed by the conviction of sin, was spread through all nations; disfigured, doubtless, by the gross and abominable ideas of idolaters, who falsified the character of God in worshipping demons; but, in its first principle, as in its origin, a divine provision for the necessity of the sinner before a just God. When God called Israel to Himself that they might be His people, He put ransom as the ground of their deliverance. The blood guarded them from the just judgment of God, and guarded them perfectly.
3 The people, come out of Egypt, are led through the desert to be tried, and at last are brought to Sinai. And now a principle quite new is presented to them. The covenant of the law is offered to the people; that is to say, the blessing and the enjoyment of promises under condition of obedience to the law of God. "If ye obey my voice," said Jehovah to the people; "thou shalt be a peculiar treasure unto me." "Do this, and thou shalt live." This then is the principle of the law of God, a principle perfectly just, like the law, which was the rule of conduct which God proposed, and which the Lord Jesus summed up in those holy words: "Thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself." It was a perfect and admirable rule of what man ought to be, and which would secure happiness to the creatures living according to its requirements. Jehovah therefore proclaimed the law, under the form of Ten Commandments, with His own mouth to the people, at Sinai. If they kept it, they should be blessed; if not, they would be condemned and cursed.
Now the law, as it ought, proposed to them a perfect obedience, even (what is in fact alone such) the perfect obedience of the heart. "Thou shalt not covet." It is evident that, if God was entering into relationship with man, He must look to the heart. "Thou shalt not covet." To act otherwise would be to justify the hypocrite. The law was thus given. It was a holy, just, and perfect law, which declared what man ought to be, in order to please God, and to have life eternal. If God was pure, holy, and just, man must be so to be happy. But mark here, if the law described what man ought to be, it did not at all declare what God was, except that He was just, and would punish the sinner. It is the gospel which shining, while it fully recognises this justice and the perfection of the law, reveals what God in grace is to him who transgresses it. We shall speak of it presently. Here let us follow our subject. The law, which required perfect righteousness and obedience in man, had been given - to whom? To man already a sinner? What can a perfect law do (and the law of God must be such) for a sinner? Condemn him in convincing him of his sin. Was it the law which was in fault? Quite the contrary: it was its holiness and righteousness which did thus. It was the necessary result of a perfect law given to a sinner. A rule gives neither life nor strength; it requires certain things, it gives nothing.
4 There is another result of the law. There is a will of his own in man. One knows it, one feels it, one sees it. The law forbids the gratification of our will. It is the expression of the will of God which we ought to obey. Our wills kick against the will of God. We always desire to do that which is forbidden. Forbid a child to look into a basket to see what is therein, and a longing will begin to stir at once in its heart. It would not have thought of it, had it not been told not to look inside the basket; but now it wishes to examine it. Sin finds an occasion in the law. The unbeliever will say, perhaps, "How unjust to give us a law which can only condemn us!" One might say so indeed, however useless it would be to contend against God, if it were true that God had given it in order that we might be saved through its means; but this is what He has not done. God gave the law that sin might be made manifest, and that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful - to show, not only that man had committed sins, but that his will was wicked and corrupt, and so audacious, that he would commit them in spite of God's prohibition; and so wicked, as a will, that a prohibition was only an occasion for this will to wish to leap clean over the barrier which might oppose itself to it. It is Christ who saves, not the law. Israel, to whom God committed the care of this law, had transgressed it in making a golden calf even before Moses had come down from the mount with the tables upon which God had engraved it. The patience of God, however, still showed itself in sending prophets to put Israel in remembrance of the requirements of the law, and of the goodness of God, proclaiming with increasing light the accomplishment of the promise of the Messiah. Israel despised their warnings and their testimony. At last John the Baptist, herald of the King of Israel, of the Christ of God, arrives; and soon after the Lord Himself appeared on the scene. "I have yet my Son, my only Son," said God, proclaiming Himself under the figure of a parable - "they will reverence my Son."
5 We all know what happened to the Man of sorrows. "Behold," said the husbandmen (to use still the words of the parable), "Behold the heir! come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." The Son of God appeared - they spat in His face, and crucified Him. Such is the history of the world: is man wicked or not? And consider what the Son of man was - it was no more the law; for, although the Son was born, in His grace, under the law, He was the manifestation of the love and of the goodness of God, even towards those who had transgressed it. He did them good - He did not impute their sins to them. It was God in the midst of men and their misery - God delivering them from it without imputing to them the sin that had brought them there. He required nothing, bore everything, and healed their sick. He gave to eat to those that were hungry; He raised their dead. It was power and divine love; but it was the light, it was God Himself; and whatever His goodness might be, man would not have Him.
The Jew alas! hated Him; the Gentile, despising Him, rid himself of Him, to avoid the tumult raised by the jealousy of the Jews: all, unknown to themselves, accomplished the will and the counsels of God. The crime, without parallel, which the sin of man committed, was the testimony and the accomplishment of the perfect love of God.
The victim of propitiation was sacrificed. The blood which redeemed, which accomplished our salvation, was spilt. Man had been left without law - corruption and violence had characterised the world. Man had been put under the law, with all the privileges of the presence of God in His temple, with the testimony of the prophets, the ordinances and the direct government of God; he had transgressed the law, despised the prophets, and forsaken God for idols of his own choice. The Son of God Himself, God manifested in the flesh, had appeared on the scene of misery which man had created for himself by his own sin, the testimony of the infinite goodness of God. The world knew Him not, the Jews would not have Him - they all united together in rising against the Lord and His Anointed. They spat in His face and crucified Him; they hated Him without a cause. Sad picture! We prefer our own way to everything. Thus man has been tested in every way - the tree was bad. Now comes the question. What will God be with regard to man, wicked man? A just Judge doubtless, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, to look at sin. Grace and love will He be before He begins with judgment.
6 It is here that the epistle to the Romans begins its instruction, addressing the Gentiles on the one hand, and the Jews on the other. Let us sum up in a few words the thread of thoughts which the Holy Spirit presents us with in this important part of the word of God.
In chapter 1, after having announced Christ as the Son of David, heir of the promises made to Israel, and Son of God in power, addressing himself affectionately to the Christians at Rome, he proclaims at once the gospel as the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first; and also to the Gentile, because a righteousness of God is revealed therein. Man had none for God; God has one in His grace for man, sinful and wretched man.
Now, if God has revealed it as a righteousness which is His own, and which He has made available for man; if God, I say, has revealed it as a righteousness perfect and accomplished on His part, it is through faith that we must receive it. It is faith which receives a revelation; it is faith which lays hold of and trusts to an accomplished fact. The apostle Paul asserts that the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness. What was there else amongst the heathen? Against all ungodliness in men who held the truth in ungodliness. Had not such been the case with the Jews up to that day? And may we not add now, alas, with many of the most orthodox persons who call themselves Christians. The patience of God had lasted long, but He has fully revealed Himself in Christ, and every sin whatsoever, put into the light, is unbearable.
In the course of chapters 1 and 2, the apostle shows the horrible iniquity which characterised the state of the heathen, and the culpability of the Jews. Noah's family had known God; his descendants would not retain this knowledge. Proofs also of scripture, and of the power of the only true God, surrounded them everywhere! They were inexcusable. They had degraded the very idea of God. They were left to degrade themselves. Philosophers and moralists judged well of this state of things. Were they changed themselves? By no means. Could God accept of such things? Surely not. What of the Jews who boasted of the law, and wished to be the instructors of the ignorant? They transgressed the law of which they boasted, and the name of God was blasphemed among the heathen through their means.
7 It was not the outward appearance of man that was of any value in the eyes of God. He looks at the heart. Did the apostle deny then the privileges the Jews had above the heathen? By no means. But the possession of religious privileges renders those who do not profit thereby more guilty; so likewise the doctrine of Christ renders more culpable those who possess it, if they are not real and living Christians. Now the apostle shows to the Jews, by passages taken from their own scriptures, that they were condemned; so that, he says, every mouth is stopped, and the whole world stands guilty before God. By the works of the law shall no man be justified before God, for those who had the privilege of that law were so much the more guilty in that they had transgressed it. Who can stand before the law of God? Who can say, "I have not transgressed it!" How can one justify oneself by a law one has transgressed? By the law is the knowledge of sin. What is to be done? Hear what the apostle says: "But now the righteousness of God without the law is made manifest, being witnessed to by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe, for there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood."
It is the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, which is the only answer (which God Himself has furnished to us) to the demand of the justice which condemns the sinner. It is the righteousness of God by Jesus that makes righteous the man who has no righteousness to present to God, so that God is just in justifying him that has faith in Jesus. What grace! What a blessing for the poor sinner who has a heart broken enough and cleansed, sufficiently true for him to condemn himself! Boasting is excluded through faith in Jesus. We have now summed up the great principles of the first three chapters.
8 In chapter 4 the apostle, in reasoning with the Jew, presents to us other considerations in support of the divine thesis which he treats of. What shall we say of Abraham, the honoured and recognised chief of Israel, and the father of the faithful? He was justified by faith before the law was given, before even he himself was circumcised. But this is not all. On what did he himself rest? On the power of God who raises the dead. For there he was, as to the promise that was made to him; and this was imputed to him for righteousness. "If we believe in him who has raised Jesus from among the dead." That is to say, faith is in Him who, not only by the blood of the precious Saviour has satisfied the demands of the justice of God; but (when Jesus has borne in our place the punishment due to sin, has borne our sins in His own body on the tree, has been delivered for our offences and died for us) God, in His mighty power, raised Him, and has there done with our sins once for all, and has placed us (who believe in Jesus) in Him, in His presence, fully justified by means of what Jesus has done, since He has done it for those who believe. In believing, therefore, in this work of Jesus, we know that He has taken away our sins, and has placed us in the actual enjoyment of the favour and of the grace of God, before whom we find ourselves according to the efficacy of the work of Christ, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. This is what chapter 5 reveals to us. There also we find two principles of infinite importance.
The love of God does not find any motive in us, but in Himself, in His nature, all the while that it finds the occasion of displaying itself in our misery. The gospel is the glad tidings, that the love of God has made provision of a perfect righteousness in Christ Jesus for poor sinners who had none-a righteousness which we enjoy through faith in Jesus, so that all is a gift - all is gratuitous - to Jesus belongs all the glory-He alone is worthy. We are made partakers of it through grace. Perhaps a man would die for a good man. It was when we were yet without strength that Christ died for the ungodly. We may reckon on that love. If God has reconciled us by the death of Jesus when we were enemies, He will save us to the end through His life.
The second principle in this chapter is, that the question is not only concerning the law, we must go back as far as Adam, the head of the human race. All fell and were ruined in him, having superadded, at the same time, their own sins - "The law entered to make the offence abound." Sin was already known as a principle: the law in forbidding it, made of it an offence, a positive and formal transgression of every act which sin has produced in us. But God be blessed! Where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded. But as by the disobedience of one (that is to say, Adam) many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (we are made just through the obedience of Jesus) many shall be justified; so that as sin has reigned in death, grace has reigned through righteousness unto life eternal by Jesus Christ our Lord.
9 Now the unbeliever, man's wicked heart, may be ready to say here, "Ah! since it is through the obedience of One that we are constituted righteous from being unrighteous, which I am; and since where sin abounded grace has much more abounded, let us sin that grace may abound." Doubtless that is what the flesh likes. Here is the answer of the apostle. How are you made a partaker of this divine righteousness in Christ? It is because He has died to sin, that He has done with sin in His death (He, who always was without sin), and that He is risen; and that you have been baptised unto His death, in order that you might thus have part in His resurrection. Now if you are dead to sin by faith in Him (and that is what faith would say, that is the meaning of your baptism), how live in sin? You have no part in the death of Christ if you still live in the flesh. If you are made partaker of justification, it is in Christ, by the power of the life in which He is risen. To have part in Christ as being dead and risen, is not to live in sin, but quite the contrary. So that to enjoy this perfect justification in the soul implies necessarily the death to sin and the life of God in the soul, because we possess this justification in Him alone, who, for us, has died to sin once, and lives to God always. But what is to be done with the law? Here is the answer. We have shown that the true Christian is dead with Christ, being made a partaker with Him who died on the cross. Now, the law knows not how to accuse a dead man: so that instead of being condemned by the law as sinners, we live (as of a new life) unto God, in order to glorify Him by good fruits, which we bear by His grace, being already fully justified by the work of Christ Himself.
10 At the end of chapter 7, the apostle pictures the inward conflict which is found in a soul, which, being renewed, loves the righteousness of the law; and in its desire to fulfil it, makes experience of its own weakness and want of capacity, and which has not yet learned, notwithstanding its sincerity, to submit itself to the righteousness of God - a righteousness already accomplished through grace. The moment it submits and seeks (not to do something to make itself better, but) the Deliverer, it is made free. The soul is made free - fruit of grace - when, instead of looking to itself, it looks to Jesus and to His work. It will never be satisfied with itself if it is sincere, and if it recognises what it ought to be before God. But God Himself is satisfied with Jesus, and with the work He has done for that poor soul. He has been fully glorified as to His love, as to His righteousness, as to His majesty and His claims for the obedience of man, as to His truth, in every way. God has been glorified in the work of Christ on the cross, and the soul can trust itself to it fully before God. There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
Now if they are in Jesus Christ, what belongs to them? what characterises them? "NO CONDEMNATION." - Then they are made free from the law of sin and of death. Sin, as a principle of their nature, is no more a law to them. The conflict still continues; but sin is no more a law to us, because the power of the Spirit of life that is in Christ Jesus has made them free, which the law could not do because of the flesh. God has made for us, by the coming of Jesus, sacrifice for sin. He has condemned sin in the flesh. That is to say, the law could not get to the end in condemning this criminal, this rebel, who always justified himself in the flesh which nourished him, and which the law could not change. Now Christ, as sacrifice for sin, in delivering us from the imputation of sin, having taken it upon Himself, succeeded in condemning sin in our nature, while making us ourselves free from the condemnation.
Having life in Him, sin is no more really as it was before; the believer, born of God, and quickened by the Spirit of life, loves the things which are of the Spirit; as those who are of the flesh love and seek after the things which are of the flesh.
Now we thus make this solemn discovery, that the affection of the flesh (that is to say, our whole nature before we are renewed) was enmity against God, and thus it was impossible that we should please God. Now it is evident that a real change of heart is necessary when the question is about enmity against God. For what art thou that provest that we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit? It is not something of man, it is that the Spirit of God dwells in us. But if it be thus, the body is not the source and the motive power of our life. It is considered dead, for it produces nothing but sin. It is the Spirit who is life, for He produces righteousness. Now we have this precious confidence, that if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus dwells in us, this same power operates likewise in us, and God will raise up again our mortal bodies by His Spirit which dwells in us.
11 It is those that are led by the Spirit who are real children of God. And what a blessing! Children of God! This is no vain title. It is to enjoy the love of the Father - it is to be assured of His favour. It is to be accepted in the Beloved. It is to be able to trust ourselves (without the thought that He is imputing to us our sins from which Christ has washed us) to the goodness, to the fatherly affection, of God. The Holy Spirit dwells in the children. He can do so since they are washed in the blood of Christ, He gives them the full assurance that they are the children of God. This is then Christian life. Washed from our sins in the blood of Jesus, the Spirit that dwells in us leads us by spiritual affections, and at the same time gives us the perfect assurance that we are children of God.
Now see the beautiful reasoning of the Spirit of God. If I am a child, then am I an heir, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. What titles to the glory! Then the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Afterwards the creation itself, not only the soul, at the time of the glorification of the children, shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Grace delivers the soul from it now. Glory is about to deliver even creation itself. We have salvation. We are waiting for the redemption of the body. While waiting we have the earnest of the Spirit who dwells in us, and He groans in us according to God, and gives a voice to the actual sufferings of the creation, although often we ourselves know not what we should pray for - to help us in our infirmities. Now God who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit when He intercedes thus in us. Thus, in the real believer, who has submitted to the righteousness of God accomplished in Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells, as the spring of a faith holy and infinite, while giving me the consciousness of being a child of God and heir of the glory, and as Comforter amid the sufferings of the present time, urging the soul to seek relief in God, with groanings that cannot be uttered.
12 Now in all this, that happy soul is the object of the thoughts and of the counsels of God. It is not of our own will that this has happened; neither the Gentile nor the Jew sought Jesus according to the Spirit. It is of grace. It is the counsels of the God of love. He makes all things work together for good - for the very best - to those who love Him, whom He has called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son - what grace! - that He might be the firstborn amongst many brethren. Those whom He did predestinate, them He also called, and whom He called, them He also justified, and whom He justified, them He also glorified.
What precious links in God's ways to assure our blessing! So that as there is no condemnation for those that are in Jesus Christ, there is no separation from the love which has placed them there - never. Behold where grace, where the love of God, puts us. Through Him we are more than conquerors in all the difficulties and sufferings which happen to us on the road.
Here terminates the doctrine of the epistle properly so called. In the three chapters which follow, namely, chapters 9, 10, 11, the apostle answers an objection which an unbelieving Jew might very well make to trouble a sincere believer of his own nation. "If you say that there is no difference; that Jew and Gentile are equally sinners, and that we must, as being in the same abyss of condemnation, submit to God's righteousness; what do you do with the promise made to Israel? How reconcile the privileges of that people, as descendants of Abraham, with the complete levelling of everything, in order to make of all men, without distinction, a race of sinners in Adam?" In chapter 9 the apostle answers, "You cannot support your own thesis. If you trust to your descent from Abraham, without having respect to the sovereignty of God, you must admit Ishmael to the privileges of Israel; moreover you must admit the Edomites as the posterity of Esau.
13 "God has been sovereign to your profit, and it is well He is so. Now, He will exercise this sovereignty in favour of some poor Gentile sinners, in calling some to participate in the salvation by Christ. But if you will have righteousness, you have made the golden calf. God did spare you on the principle of His sovereignty - the passage is quoted from Exodus, and it is what God told Moses on the occasion of the idolatry of Israel at Sinai - 'I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion; and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.' Now, if He spared you on this principle, He will do likewise towards some poor Gentile sinners."
Afterwards, it is proved by the prophecies, how God had foretold that there would be only a little remnant that would be saved from among the Jews; that the nation would stumble upon the stumbling-stone, that is to say, upon Christ (He being the end of the law for righteousness to every believer), and that God had declared at the same time, that whosoever should call on the name of the Lord should be saved. Precious promise! Thereupon He shows that consequently the gospel was to be preached to all, that they might all call on the name of the Saviour. And he quotes the testimonies of the prophets against Israel as a proof of their rebellion against the gospel of Christ. In chapter 11 He asks, "Will the promises of God fail towards this people?" By no means.
1. "Already," says he, "there is a residue according to the election of grace."
2. God called the Gentiles to provoke the Jews unto a holy jealousy: therefore it was not to reject them.
3. In the latter days they will certainly be brought back to the enjoyment of their privileges according to the promises and the testimony of God. But that God had shut them up in unbelief, as were the Gentiles by nature, in order that it might be pure grace on His part towards all, whether Jew or Gentile.
In the chapters following the apostle rests on these principles (mercy in God) - exhortations to a walk that responded to this goodness, and that sought only His perfect will with the intelligence of a renewed mind. He exhorts them to moderation, to meekness, to use their spiritual gifts, whatever that might be, with diligence, confining themselves to what God had communicated to each of them, to the spirit of grace - of kindness towards the saints that were in want, to patience when they suffered wrong ("vengeance belongs to God"), to submission under the authorities as being ordained of God; in short, to imitate Christ in their walk, and not to seek to satisfy the flesh. He sums up his doctrine in chapter 15, and confirms it by quotations taken from the Old Testament, and sends affectionate salutations to the Christians whom he personally knew at Rome.
The following little work is composed of notes taken down from lectures, which had an entirely practical object. They have been corrected, as such notes generally need to be; but I have thought, as the aim was entirely practical, a short analysis of the structure of the epistle might help the reader in understanding it.
There are two great subjects in scripture, when the truth is fully brought out as in the New Testament: the responsibility of the first Adam and his children; and the purposes of God in the last Adam. The work of Christ accomplished in His infinite love meets both for those that believe. He has met their responsibility in dying for them, and bearing their sins; and, glorifying God in that death, laid the ground of the accomplishment of those purposes in their favour. Of this latter part, the epistle to Romans only just leads us to the edge in Romans 8, and the very last verses of the epistle. The epistle to the Ephesians unfolds it fully. Hence the epistle to the Romans considers men as walking in sins - the Ephesians as dead in them, and establishes the truth of a new creation, not the justifying of a sinner, though sealing that truth. Colossians is between both. This I cannot go farther into here. These truths are incidentally mentioned in other parts of the New Testament. But the structure of the epistle to the Romans is very important as to the truth it contains, and this I will now endeavour to point out.
The first 17 verses of Romans 1 are a kind of preface, in which, in the first instance, the person of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, is put forward as the primary subject of the gospel: seed of David according to the flesh, and so fulfilment of the promise, and proved Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, in which, while His life was according to that power, resurrection was the proof of it, so that power was witnessed as well as promise fulfilled, and that in the place of man's weakness and Satan's power, and even where man in life was tempted.
At the close of this passage he declares he was not ashamed of the gospel, for it was God's power to salvation to every one that believed, Jew first and then Greek. Because God's righteousness was revealed in it on the principle of faith, and so to faith wherever that faith was found. He was a willing debtor in grace to all, according to this gospel. He then shows why God's righteousness must be revealed, the only ground for man to stand on. Because the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness where the truth was held in unrighteousness; not governmental judgments, as in the Old Testament, in Israel, and even in the flood, but the necessary rejection and judgment of all sin by the very nature of God. He then proceeds to show the state of sinfulness which called for this wrath, and made this righteousness necessary.
16 All are under sin. This reaches from Romans 1:19 to Romans 3:20, when he returns to the righteousness of God again. Gentiles are proved guilty, chapter 1:19 to the end; moralists, chapter 2:1-16, where responsibility and the place of conscience are dealt with; the Jews, Romans 2:17 to 3:20 (in the last section, verses 1-20, admitting their claim of the law as theirs, and addressed to them, and showing what it said of them). Then, from verse 21, the righteousness of God is treated of, and declared in propitiation through Christ's blood for Old Testament past sins of believers, and present revelation of it, so that God was just, and justified believers. This only confirmed law in its requirements.
Romans 4. The resurrection of Christ is applied as the seal of this work, but it does not carry righteousness farther than forgiveness, and all applies to sins and offences - things done when each individual has his own place.
Romans 5:1-11 draws the blessed conclusion, peace, favour wherein we stand, and hope of the glory of God; then glorying in tribulations, God's love being known for the profit derived, and finally in God Himself, through Jesus, through whom we have received the reconciliation. Here first the Holy Ghost, as given to us, comes in.
From verse 12 of chapter 5, the apostle treats not of sins, where all must be individual, but of sin, and so heads all up in Adam and Christ, the disobedient man and the obedient man, and distinguishes the law as that which came in by the bye to make the offence abound; but what were really in question, were sin and grace - grace reigning through righteousness by the obedience of Christ. The question here is not of sins, but of sin; one man's disobedience. not each man's offences, though the obedient man had to meet these too. But if one man's obedience made us righteous, might we live on in sin? This leads to the truth that the profession of Christianity was the profession of having a part in death, hence not of living on. Christ died to sin once and lives to God; we are to reckon ourselves dead and alive to God in Him. Thus the old man is counted dead: how shall we live in it? This sets us free - free to live to God.
17 Romans 7 applies this to law, because law has power over a man only as long as he lives. We are dead to it by the body of Christ; and are married to another, Christ risen. The end of the chapter gives the salutary experience of the state of the renewed mind under the law, which leaves a man captive under the law of sin in his members. In Christ all is changed, the man is delivered, though the flesh, as such, would serve the law of sin; but (Romans 8) there is no condemnation in Christ, the power of life in Him has set us free, and sin in the flesh has been condemned when He died a sacrifice for sin. Then comes the Holy Ghost in us; first as the power of life and the new man, and deliverance into resurrection (v. 9-11), then His presence in us, a person dwelling in us. Being sons, He gives witness with our spirit that we are so, shows us the glory in hope, and helps us in our infirmities on the way, gives a voice in our hearts to the sorrows of a creation subject to vanity, of which we are a part as to our body.
From verse 28 we have the security and portion in every respect derived from God's being for us, from His own foreknowledge, to glory itself.
Romans 5:1-11 gives what God is for sinners in grace and its fruit; chapter 8, the state of the delivered soul before Him. What leads up to the former being our sins met in grace, in Christ's propitiation - to the latter, our sin from which we are delivered by our having died with Christ, and so being freed from it, and alive in Him. In the former case the sins are forgiven, in the latter the sin has been condemned, but in a sacrifice for sin, and we, having died with Christ, are delivered. This finishes the doctrine of the epistle - the way in which God in grace has met the sins, and the sinful nature of man, his whole condition in Adam, through Christ.
The place of Romans 9 to 11, as reconciling the obliteration of Jew and Gentile in Christ with the special promises to the Jews, is sufficiently indicated in the notes themselves. On the hortatory part which follows no notes were furnished me. I give here a general idea of the contents: the details must be learned from the chapters themselves.
18 It begins with the principle of all practice connected with the doctrine of the epistle, which supposes man a sinful creature, and dealt with in grace. The Ephesians takes higher ground, as the Christian is there simply a new creation, and so associated with God; and as dear children, God's own ways and dealings are the principle and pattern of the Christian's walk. His works are fore-ordained, as is his place. See Romans 4 and 5, where God, as love and light, gives the measure of our ways. In Romans we have sinful man dealt with in mercy, the death of the old man being alone the means of walking aright. In both Ephesians and Romans Christ is the pattern in absolute giving up of self. "I beseech you," says the apostle, "by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." The two hinges of all Christian service - the mercies of God, and our presenting ourselves, made free by grace, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. The unity of the body is then assumed, which is no part of the doctrine of the epistle; any more than our resurrection with Christ, which involves it; on this are grounded our duties within amongst the saints, and as such.
Romans 13 gives our duties to those around, with a double motive: love to the neighbour fulfils the law, and the night far spent, the day at hand, full deliverance drawing near. Then in chapter 14 is our relation to Christ, and consequently to all who belong to Him, that we should not put stumbling-blocks before the feet of those with whom we are alike subject and responsible to Him, and for whom He died. This part goes down to the end of verse 7 of chapter 15. Then he sums up what he had been teaching concerning Jew and Gentile, to whom reference had been made in what precedes concerning the weak in faith.
The whole closes with the statement of his thoughts and plans, and his salutations, which are more numerous than usual, as forming a link between him and the saints at Rome, whom he had never seen. The last verses of all are a statement of what the work was that was going on by his means according to eternal counsels, and now made known for the obedience of faith by prophetic scriptures.
19 Romans 1.
I take up this epistle to the Romans, not with intention of entering into every detail, but to trace the general idea of the purpose of the Spirit of God in it, and the course of the apostle's reasoning. We have before noticed the distinction between the epistles of Paul and those of John. The main subject of John's epistles being the character of the divine life which was with the Father, manifested in the Son, and communicated to us through the Spirit - so that the divine nature in us should be able to realise the affections of the child of God; of Paul's, the presenting of man to God. Thus the general scope of John's epistles is, first, the manifestation of the divine life; second, the communication of it; while Paul's epistles have another character altogether - insisting on justification, and revealing the counsels and ways of God, and the consequent relationship in which the redeemed are put before Him.
The great subject of the New Testament, besides the blessed person of the Lord and the revelation of God in Him, is the manifestation and communication of the divine life, the making us partakers of the divine nature, and the bringing man to God according to His righteousness and counsels in Christ. The child derives his life from his father, and there results not merely likeness of character but a peculiar relationship.
I would just advert here to the four truths prominent in the New Testament:
first, the manifestation and communication of life;
second, the accomplishment in Christ of all the promises given from Adam downwards, presented in Christ to the Jews, His people;
third, mercy to the Gentiles (as in Romans 15:8-9, Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles should glorify God for His mercy);
fourth, our place as sons, and the church as united to Christ, its Head.
The first is especially in John's epistles - the manifestation, then the communication, of the divine life.
The second and third are found in Romans, with the groundwork of our place as sons, and only a glance in the second part at the fourth, which is fully brought out in Ephesians. The character of this is only hinted at practically, not taught, in Romans.
The fourth point of truth, which is revealed in the epistle to the Ephesians, is distinct from the promises to the Jews and the mercy to the Gentiles, being a new thing, though connected with the latter. The seeing these distinctions greatly facilitates the understanding of the epistles, and clears up passages, otherwise obscure.
20 In Romans we have two great subjects brought out: the accomplishment of the promises made to the Jews; and mercy to the Gentiles; and, in so doing this, Paul lays the foundation of all relationship between God and man. The beginning of this first chapter is thus an introduction to all that is afterwards unfolded in the epistle. Remark here, that in the first presentation of the gospel, it is the person, not the work, of Christ which is found in grace, but important as to the claim of subjection to Him, Son of David and Son of God with power. Then, in verse 16, he is not ashamed of the gospel, because the righteousness of God is revealed in it. The epistle to the Romans has this large character naturally enough, as it consists well with the address to the great centre of the world's empire; for Paul was writing to the Romans, whom he had never seen, as the apostle of the Gentiles, and takes his stand on the high ground of being the one to whom God had committed His counsels. So Peter, in addressing the Jews already scattered in the world, presents resurrection as a living hope, and, speaking to them on this new principle of resurrection, says, "as strangers and pilgrims," etc., thus carrying on what was consequent upon it, in reference to those who are to participate in it.
In a great many of the various epistles we see the instructions and exhortations suited to the varied need of those addressed and called out by their state: as, in Corinthians, moral evil is treated of; in Colossians, warning against slipping away from the Head; in Galatians, falling from grace through the adoption of the law, is insisted on; in Thessalonians, the coming of the Lord and the errors into which trouble of mind had thrown them in this respect. But the epistle to the Romans, being addressed to the capital of the world and to those with whose circumstances the apostle was not familiar, takes the wide scope of man's responsibility, Jew and Gentile, and how grace has met it, and lays the sure foundation of the relationship of man to God.
There are two parts in the doctrinal teaching of this epistle. Up to the close of Romans 8 forms the first part; and Romans 9, 10, 11, form the second part; while the concluding chapters are occupied with precepts. In the first part you get Jews and Gentiles reduced to the common condition of sinners; but the Jew would object, and say, If this be so, that there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile, how then is God to make good His promises to the Jews? This difficulty is answered in chapters 9-11, the infallibility of the promises of God being shown in chapter 11. But the common ground, on which both Jews and Gentiles are set, is in perfect salvation in Christ Jesus, and remains in all its force. It is important to remark in this epistle the way in which Paul sets man aside as being proved a sinner, poor, vile, and lost, and that he does this to bring God in. It is not merely that he introduces man as a sinner, but man must be thoroughly put down, in order to bring in God Himself instead of man, that God may act toward man in His own way and according to His own character.
21 We see a striking example of the same way of exhibiting grace in Ephesians 2. After the Jews and Gentiles had been spoken of as alike children of wrath, all is passed over, and God is brought out in His own character as rich in mercy, showing what He has done, and what He is to such as they are. We can have no settled peace or rest of heart till we are on this ground; nor can we know God so as to trust Him, to rest in Him, and adore Him, till we prove Him thus. Then it is a settled question: our hope and trust are in God, as it is written, "who by him do believe in God." Therefore the apostle does not say we are justified before God, though it be true, but it is God who justifies, that the heart might be brought to rest in God Himself. Paul, though righteous as to legal righteousness, had gone to the extreme extent of what sin really is: it was not a mere looseness of expression when he called himself the chief of sinners, for Paul in heart was the wickedest man that ever trod the earth; not, of course, guilty of immorality (as he says of himself, as touching the righteousness which is of the law he was blameless) "After the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee"; but he was the ardent enemy of Christ, and it was when he reached to the highest point of his wickedness, "being exceedingly mad against them," that at that moment he was "separated unto the gospel of God." He knew what grace was.
I will now rapidly go over, without entering into detail, what man is, and has shown himself to be. Though cast out of paradise, God had borne with man, but at first left him to himself, though not without a testimony; but the result of leaving man to himself was such corruption and violence, that he must be destroyed from off the face of the earth. God put a close to his abominations by a flood. The promise having been given as a witness that grace was the true source of blessing, the law followed, and it was broken. The prophets came next, and they were rejected, stoned, and slain. And last of all God sent His Son: Him the world killed. It was not merely that man had broken the law, and slain the prophets, but when the goodness of God came, they hated Him revealed in goodness. Well, Jesus prays for His murderers, pleading their ignorance, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; as in the case of one who owed ten thousand talents, and, forasmuch as he had nothing to pay, his lord forgave him the debt. (And this is what I take to be the meaning of the parable, though it has a general application.) So the Holy Ghost takes up again and carries on this very intercession of our Lord, when forgiveness of sins is preached by Peter at Jerusalem, saying, "And now brethren, I wot, that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers … repent ye therefore and be converted." And what was the result? Did they repent? No; not only had they killed the Prince of Life, but they now fill up the measure of their iniquity in stoning Stephen, thus rejecting the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the grace and goodness of God in the gospel of Christ glorified, as in His humiliation.
22 At this point it is that Saul of Tarsus comes out, and so mad against the followers of Christ that he was the very apostle of the enmity in the heart of man against the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the grace and goodness of God. But here God meets him in the way, and his mouth is closed as to goodness in man; for while all God's means were used to bring man's heart to return to Himself in blessing, Paul was found in the most active hostility to Him, being determined to put a stop to this testimony of grace and goodness if he could. Then the Lord appears to him in glory in connection with the church, owning all the saints as Himself, "Why persecutest thou me?" - "for he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." Thus Paul sets out as being the leader of the active energy of man in opposition to God, that he might be a perfect witness of the grace that overcame him, as he anew sets out on his way testifying that there is grace and forgiveness for one such as he. Everything that could have religiously sustained his heart was broken down when God met him by the way. Take conscience, for instance: outwardly he was blameless, yet thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. How terrible must it have been to Paul to find that his natural conscience, blameless as it was, had left him all wrong, as of no avail! We know that he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink, so terrible was the upsetting of his soul. Then take the law, his boast and glory as divinely given: it had been his ruin before God in self-righteous enmity to Christ. The religious teachers he had looked up to, the priests and Pharisees, and his own zeal, had only brought him into opposition and open rebellion against God. Everything in which his heart had trusted left him a mere sinner, naked in the presence of the glory of God, his enmity only the greater by that trust. Thus ended all means, leaving Paul a "child of wrath," as he says, "even as others."
23 Thereupon Paul starts, not from what he is, but from what God is; he starts as the Lord's servant: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" He starts as a called apostle, separated unto "the gospel of God." It is not merely the gospel of Christ, but the gospel of God. It is a wonderful expression, as the gospel of God is the activity of God's love going out into a world of men as hopeless and bad as Paul had been; it is now dealing with man, through Christ, on the ground of what God is. The gospel of God is God's own good news in giving His Son to carry this message of mercy and grace to lost man, made effectual in His work.
The Jews accused the Lord of breaking the sabbath, the sabbath being the sign of the covenant between God and His people, and to be kept the seventh day, a rest connected with the first creation. God's rest is at the end of labour. It was founded in Israel on the principle of the law. Man's labour in righteousness gave him rest at the end. But in fact, when divine truth came in, we find in John 5:17 there was no sabbath for Christ in this world. Sin had come in, and there is no rest for God where sin is: "My Father works hitherto, and I work." Thus He had come down where sin was, and He was working in the accomplishment of that grace, which gives a better rest to man. Paul comes in here as the servant, or slave, bound to the work: a bondman to Christ, separated unto the gospel of God; that was his business, and if he could further the gospel by making tents, of course he would continue to make them; but he was an apostle called to the gospel of God. And where God gives ministry, it is as the vessels of God's activity in grace, for the calling of sinners and the building up and edification of His saints.
24 It is very important to distinguish between teaching the church, and the testimony of grace to the world. The Old Testament is full of mercy; but even so there could yet be no proclamation of an accomplished work of redemption. But further, that is not the church (nor indeed is the church the doctrinal subject in this epistle). It was what He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures. The church was not the subject of promise, but the "gospel of God" was: from the beginning it had been said, the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. The Gentiles had not the promises, though there were special ones to the Jews. The promises of God were made to the second Adam, and not to the first; the promise in Genesis that the serpent's head should be bruised was made to the Seed of the woman, which Adam was not. So it is said: to Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed; and that Seed was Christ. The promises, then, were entirely connected with Christ, who is the Seed in whom all these promises centre. The person of Christ, as we see here, is the great subject of the gospel even before His work, though we could have no part with Him without His work. This is of all importance, as God is now claiming subjection to His Son. There is not an infidel or a rebel, however great, who shall not bow the knee to Jesus; if in grace, it is salvation: but, if the heart does not bow to the grace, the knee must bow under the judgment.
In verse 3, "concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh," the apostle is bringing out the double character of the Lord. In verse I we have the person of the Son as the subject of the gospel; then, secondly, as the seed of David according to the flesh, according to promise. Then Paul brings out definitely the character of the Son, "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Thus we have the Son of God with divine power, though clothed with humiliation. Then, again, we have the Son coming down in the midst of defilement with divine power, passing through it according to the Spirit of holiness. This was shown through all His life by absolute separation from all defilement. He passed through the whole scene of evil untouched and unsullied by sin, though in contact with it, touching those in it all around, yet separate Himself. He touches the leper, who saw His power, but was uncertain of His goodness: and was He defiled? No! but in touching it He chases away the uncleanness without becoming unclean Himself, and none but the Son of God could do this. But His was perfect grace coming down into the defilement, banishing and dispelling it, without receiving it Himself.
25 But, besides sin and defilement in us, the manifested power of Satan was this - that he had the power of death, and this Satan had on man by the judgment of God Himself; for God had said, "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." Thus man was under the power of him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and if the Son of God is to deliver man from under the power of Satan, He Himself must go down to his stronghold, this last citadel of Satan. He must Himself go down under the power of death, if He could not be holden of it, that He might "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage"; and He, the Son of God, feared it, as He piously should, as the judgment of God (Heb. 5); but He was heard in that He feared; He bore it as the judgment of God, but He broke all the bars by which Satan held us, and He has set us free. Satan committed himself entirely by putting his hand on the spotless person of the Prince of Life, who bore our sins; and in His rising from the dead, the sins, and Satan's power, were all gone before God and for faith.
The resurrection shows the divine power of the Son of God. When Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!" the Lord said, "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." That is, all Satan's power over the first man manifested in death shall not prevail against it: for that is the meaning of the gates of hell. Man had been tried by every means - without law, and he was lawless: by the law, but he only brought forth wild grapes: but all this depended on the responsibility of man, not on the power of God. Satan prevailed against man by his lusts, and led him on to the second death. But if it is the Son of the living God who has entered into the conflict, and founded the church on His work and victory, the gates of hell, the power of death, shall not prevail against it.
26 The Spirit of holiness always displayed in life is demonstrated by the resurrection from the dead, and here observe that it is "from amongst," or "from out of," the dead. The twelve believed, as did Martha, in the resurrection of the dead, as there will be a resurrection of all the dead, good and wicked; but they were questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean; Mark 9:10. It is the coming in of God's own living divine power, breaking through the bands of death, and taking up those that are God's from amongst the wicked dead. This resurrection, realised in the power of the Spirit, is our present standing, though we still wait for the redemption of the body. The very same power, we learn in Ephesians, which raised Christ from among the dead, has wrought in us - "quickened us together with Christ."
The Son of God goes down in grace for us to the very place in which we were by sin, and by His own divine power breaks the bands of death, and takes us up from under its power, and places us, according to the efficacy of His own work, in the presence of God. Thus, all that my sin could do has been met by divine power and put away, rendering void of power him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. How marvellous the grace! The consequence is not merely that there ought to be holiness in us, but that there must be holiness in nature, though vigilance be needed to maintain it in practice.
How did Christ rise out of the grave? By His own divine power, as by the glory of the Father, and in the power of the Spirit; and it is the same divine energy which is the spirit of holiness in walk, raising me from the dead now in spirit, that is, the power of the new life in me, and by reason of which even the resurrection of my body will take place. All that He has done is mine, but I enter into it by virtue of a life which is a holy one. It is not merely a duty to be holy, but there is holiness in us, because we are partakers of justification, of the whole efficacy of His work, by means of a life which is essentially holy, for it is Christ's.
This is the gospel of God, that He, in the activity of His own love, in the person of Christ, has come down here, and walked in holiness where sin was, and gone down under the power of death, though He could not be holden of it, that He might deliver us from the power of him who had the power of death. I am now raised spiritually and morally by the very same divine power that will raise up my body. "By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith," etc. All will be called to bow to the revelation of Christ, who was dead and is alive again for evermore.
27 "Called saints," or "saints called," v. 7. It is the same principle here as the apostle called. We are saints called, thus showing the grace of God, as it is not to us by birth or descent as the Jews, but it is all of grace. So Abraham was called, and chosen, and faithful. If we are called, it is not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of the will of God; and we are bound to give thanks, in that "God has saved us and called us with an holy calling." What a very different thing it is in our souls, for what a different thought we have of God when we believe the activity of God's love! It is not only that "God is love," but that God is active in His love.
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Alas! we pass over these gracious words very lightly. The apostle felt what he said in the power of the Spirit; favour and peace from the Father and the Son. Mercy is only added when the epistles are addressed to individual saints, but when the saints are looked at as a whole, they are seen as the fruit of mercy shown; being seen by the eye of God as under the influence and energy of the love and grace that had saved them: but as individual saints they need mercy every moment. The apostle looked at them as under the eye of a Saviour God, and he wished them to have the full manifestation of what was in the God that had saved them. All the effect of there being no cloud between them and God.
God is never called the God of joy, though He gives joy; but constantly the God of peace, and the apostle desires their peace from God should be undisturbed - having perfect peace in Him in the midst of this whirlwind of passion; he desired for them all the effect of the consciousness of their position, all the affections suited to this relationship. If a child feels towards his father as towards a master, he does not know his position; if we have not unlimited confidence, we have not found our place. The saints in filial love will address God as their Father. In the government of the church it is the Lord Jesus we shall address; this distinction should always be marked. In all our petitions, failures, confessions, and need, we go as individuals to God as our Father; but in everything relating to church conduct, we go to Him who is the Head of the church. If we have not the unlimited confidence in God to go to Him with our very follies even, we do not know Him as "the Father."
28 If Christ said, "It is my meat to do the will of him that sent me," Paul could say, through grace, "whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son." It is not service at all, if it be merely outward; unless we can say, "Of thine own we have given thee." All true service must flow from communion with the source of service; it is no service if we are not drinking in Christ, and conscious that we are doing His will; if I should take up any service, without being confident that God would have me do it, there would be no power in it Service then, if real, must flow from direct communion with God. We may go on in a course of action as a consequence of communion for a good while. Thus, for instance, we may compare the state of the Thessalonians with that of the church of Ephesus in Revelation. To the Thessalonians it is said by Paul, that he knows their work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope: here we see the three cardinal points - faith, hope, and charity, as springs of work, labour, and patience; but not so in the address of the Lord to Ephesus - it was work, labour, and patience; but there was not the present spiritual power, which comes from God direct, therefore the candlestick was threatened to be removed. How often do our attempts at service flow more from thought of something we may have to do, than from direct communion with God! It then becomes, or is in danger of soon becoming, the mere activity of the flesh, and at any rate is the drudgery of duty without power, instead of serving with the spirit; what a comfort that all my life through I may be serving the Lord with my spirit!
This world is a wilderness, a labyrinth, but God is guiding us through it. When Israel were in the wilderness, was there any path for them? None! "They wandered in the wilderness where there was no way." We read that Moses said to Jethro, "he might be to them instead of eyes." No, says God, I will be as eyes to you; for as Israel departed from the mount a three days' journey, the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, to search out a resting-place for them, not merely to bring them at last into the land. Now, the place of the ark was in the midst of the camp, and they were to keep the charge of the Lord; but when Israel journeyed from Sinai, it went before them. Again, God says of Israel, "Though I have scattered them amongst the countries, yet will I be to them a little sanctuary in the countries; Ezek. 11:16. Is God less than this to us? No; He is leading us through this world's labyrinth, where there is no path, no way but Jesus; for He is our only track in this wilderness of sin and sorrow; but what an unspeakable comfort to have such an One! Yet we need perfect dependence that we may discern the perfect path that has in it the track of the Lord's own footsteps: to this end, flesh must be mortified, and the will subdued.
29 "Without ceasing I make mention of you in my prayers." See the apostle's wonderful energy with God, and this is one mark of spiritual power, the capacity of keeping up our interest in all saints everywhere, in our soul, in intercession for all saints in every place; and this leaves us in entire dependence on the will of God, for no real spiritual power ever takes us out of the place of waiting on God: so with Eliezer, he says, "Lord, let the damsel to whom I say, Let down thy pitcher," etc., "be the same thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac"; and when the woman had given him drink and his camels also, he does not yet say, Oh, here is the answer to my prayer, but he is still waiting on God, and, wondering at her, held his peace, to wit, whether the Lord had made his journey to prosper or not; and when the camels had done drinking, he said, "Whose daughter art thou?" and when he found she answered the description of that which to him was divine direction, as the word is to us, he bowed his head and worshipped the Lord. Success often takes us out of the place of communion, because it is our success when we do not acknowledge God in it. The faith which waits on God turns to God when the blessing comes, and the joy is much greater.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation." God coming in, in power - this is the gospel character, it is complete, and it is of God; no mixture. The "wrath of God, moreover, is revealed from heaven"; not merely governmental wrath here on the earth, as bringing Nineveh against Israel, or carrying Judah to Babylon, but wrath from heaven. It is not yet manifested, though it was seen to a certain extent in the deluge; faith sees it in the cross.
30 Now, it is the nature and character of God that is brought out to meet what man is. God now looks upon what man is, in the presence of what He is, in respect to the very perfectness of His nature, and the activity of grace that has brought out what man is. This can only show man utterly a sinner. Is it claiming righteousness? No; for now man's righteousness is entirely set aside, as the ground of his standing before God. But we have God's righteousness made known, meeting the necessity which the proof of man's utter sinfulness brings before us, not something to grow up to righteousness, but perfect now. It is revealed from faith to faith, it is said, that is, faith is the principle on which it is revealed. God's righteousness, being a perfect and an existing thing, complete in itself, is revealed, and that not on the principle of man's working, but of faith, and so to faith; so that the man, be he who he may, that has faith, gets it. If it were given on the principle of human righteousness, the righteous man would have it, and the law be the rule; if on the principle of benevolence, the poor man would have it; but it is neither. It is on the principle of faith.
I would desire that our hearts might rest on this wonderful truth, the activity of God's love coming down into a world ruined by sin, and under wrath. God Himself is the rest, as He is the guide all the way; His divine favour and unchanging love and goodness accompanying and abiding with us all the journey through. There is no rest but in His own way. The more pains God has taken to set man right, have only proved the more that the tree is bad; the more you dig around a bad tree, the more bad fruit it will produce. It is all God's working and God's righteousness, not of man's working nor man's righteousness, though that working of God will alone produce fruits of righteousness in man.
Romans 2 - 4.
I take the close of chapter 3 as being the summing up, and application of the apostle's argument, drawn from the sin of the Jews and Gentiles; then in chapter 4 he passes on to another principle, as brought out in the testimony of Abraham and David. But in this first part of the epistle the apostle opens out man's need, and the way in which it had been met by redemption, as that on which alone the soul could rest. Having in chapter 1, from verse 18, gone through the horrible evil of the Gentiles and man generally throughout the world, and showing that without any subsequent revelation, through the knowledge of God possessed by Noah, and God's dealings with men through the creation, God being to be understood by the things that are made in His eternal power and Godhead, they were left (chap. 1) without excuse, conscience itself telling them what was right and wrong, and that hence, as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, He gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts; for if a man is left alone of God, he always turns to the lust of his own heart. Thus God in judgment brought upon them, that as they had not discerned what became God, they should not be able to discern what became man.
31 It is God's way, when the light He gives is rejected, to give men up to blindness, and this giving up by God is an act of judgment on God's part; as these Gentiles, not liking to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind. It was so with the Jews; rejecting the testimony God had given them, God says by the mouth of the prophets "make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy," etc.; of the Gentiles it is said, "who changed the truth of God into a lie"; so of the professing church, fallen from the light, God says, "I will send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." Thus we see, whether Jews, or Gentiles, or nominal Christians, the effect of man being given up of God - what man is when left to himself, and the judgment of God in his neglect or abuse of light. Natural light was given in the beginning in the testimony of creation, and man began with the knowledge of God as thus dealing with him; but men did not like to retain God in their knowledge. There is the pleading, too, of conscience, for every man has a conscience, distinct from grace. But conscience cannot bring us to God. Conscience is the sense of responsibility, united to the knowledge of good and evil, and this last part acquired in the fall. But we must remember, if the conscience becomes awakened, it is not life and peace, and therefore only drives us away from God, like Adam in the garden hiding himself from God.
As the Gentiles did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind. So the Jews, having been disobedient to God's testimony, sentence is passed upon them by Isaiah seven hundred years before it was accomplished: "Make the heart of this people fat," etc., for such is the patience of God; as Stephen also says, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did [in the past dispensation], so do ye [in this dispensation]." Both guilty of the same sin, and according to Peter's testimony of the witness given to Jesus, those very things by which Christ was testified to have come from God, will be the very thing that will lead the Jews to receive the false Christ in the latter day. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know," Acts 2:22. Compare this with 2 Thessalonians 2:8, "Then shall that wicked one be revealed … with all power [miracles], and signs, and lying wonders." Thus as the Jews rejected what God did in their midst by Jesus of Nazareth; so they will receive what Satan will do by that wicked one; and all this, as the apostle goes on to say, because they received not the love of the truth.
32 As in Romans 1:18-32; and Romans 2:1-16, all the Gentiles are brought in guilty, so, in spite of real privileges, the Jew: from chapter 2:17, and then from Romans 3:9-18, we find all are under sin - the Jew under law, as well as the Gentile without law. Both are alike equally guilty; for if the Gentiles be given over to a reprobate mind, the Jew is proved by his own scriptures, which he boasted belonged to him only, to be just as bad. Thus, there is none righteous, no, not one; there is no understanding; none that seeks God, the will being gone wrong; blind in mind, and perverse in will, and guilty before God; not only as to the nature being sinful, but as slighting the testimony, rejecting the light which God had from time to time revealed to them. But the God of judgment was there, and now it is proved that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be saved, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Thus we see how those under the law are brought under condemnation, as well as the heathen they despised; it is useless for a Jew to attempt to get in by his own condition, for the law he boasted in condemns him. If it applied to him, it condemned him it applied to. The Gentiles have no right to put themselves under the law; but we all do so somehow or other; and as a process it may turn to good in the conviction of sin; but as a position, and if we stay in it, see where it brings us! "The Lord looked down upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek after God." No; they have all gone out of the way; and the Jew learnt by the law which he claimed, and with reason, to belong to him only, that on his own ground he was utterly guilty, though the apostle does not here bring against them their hardness of heart in rejecting Christ; and thus both Jew and Gentile are alike thoroughly guilty, and every mouth stopped. Such is the end of man's righteousness.
33 But now by grace all is changed. The righteousness of God without law is revealed, and the apostle then develops this truth very fully, as far as its principles go. In point of fact, this joins on to chapter 1:17, the intermediate verses giving the proof of what made God's righteousness necessary. He states the nature of this righteousness in a direct and absolute manner, and in contrast with man's. It is altogether on a different principle; it is righteousness, not even mercy, though the fruit of grace, but it is a righteousness without law at all; it is God's righteousness, and who can give law to Him? Had it been man's righteousness, law would have been the measure and principle of it; but being God's righteousness, it is altogether on a different principle from law, As man stood in sin, God's law only condemned him, and it cannot give life. Put a man under righteous obligation, and it is all over with him, because man is a sinner. Man has a will (I speak practically, not metaphysically), and law brings it out; and man's will never submits, for it would cease to be a will if it did; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. God never meant righteousness to be by the law; it would have been cruelly mocking man, who is a sinner, to have proposed it to him. The law was given, that the offence might abound - not that sin might abound, for sin was there before the law was given; but it is not offence, or transgression, until there is a law; and thus it is that the law works wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression.
It is not said there is no sin; but where there is nothing to transgress, there can be no transgression. Thus every mouth is stopped, and all the world becomes guilty before God. And now the righteousness without the law is manifested, not merely it exists, but it is manifested; it existed long before in the counsels of God, none being ever justified otherwise, but it was not manifested till the gospel was brought out and preached; therefore the apostle says, "to declare at this time his righteousness." No sinner ever stood, or ever could stand, in God's presence, from Adam downwards, save in God's righteousness; but it had not been manifested until now. "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets." Thus the law and the prophets only showed what God was going to bring in, but did it not in themselves; but the gospel of God on the contrary is founded on God's righteousness, and therefore it is manifested at this time, but witnessed by the law and the prophets; it was witnessed to, before it was manifested.
34 In Romans 3 we get all brought in guilty, and then it shows how we are to get into the presence of God. Can man that is a sinner approach God? No; nor can he make out a righteousness by law, by which he could; but then God's righteousness appears in its stead. Christ has been made a sacrifice for us, He has answered for all we have done in the old man, and as man now He is in the presence of God for us, and we are there in Him, in all the favour and acceptance in which Christ Himself is - always there as He is. This is how man gets the righteousness of God; but in chapter 3 only the former part is distinctly stated. The claims of God against the old man have all been met in Christ Jesus, and we are made the righteousness of God in Him. God's righteousness, though in fact including all, is yet more particularly viewed here as meeting the guilt of the old man. In the end of the chapter we have the answer to God's perfect demands. The sin, whether of Jew or Gentile, is put away by the blood-shedding of Jesus, and God's righteousness manifested in forgiving. This righteousness is now the starting-point of faith: we have met God here. But this showed the righteousness of God in His patience with, and forgiveness of, the sins of Old Testament believers. The patience had been shown of old. The work of Christ showed the righteous ground of this patience. We, or they, are all fully justified by Christ's blood.
In Romans 4 we have another thing, resurrection in principle. Abraham believed God. This is faith in its groundwork. God is believed. Next, in its object, not only did he believe in the resurrection, but in the God that raised. So with us; we do not merely believe in Jesus, who rose from the dead, but in the God who raised Him: the power that came in to give Christ, as man, a place before God, which was the plain witness to the value of His work, in putting away our sins.
35 In referring to Abraham, who had nothing to do with law, we find the double character of faith, its nature, and its particular object in the Christian; in the second character of justification, he says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." It is not here said that he believed in God, but he believed God. Such is faith in its subjective elementary character; we set to our seal that God is true; and that is how Abraham got his righteousness. It was not man's working, but one that worked not. But the word of God reveals God Himself, and God in grace; hence, though there may be much struggling first, when we simply believe God, we believe in Him that justifies the ungodly, and of such David describes the blessedness.
But the character of our faith is carried farther here; the object is God who raised the dead. Our confidence is a righteous one: we believe on One who raised up Him who had been delivered for our offences - raised for our justification. But there is this difference between Abraham's faith and ours. He believed in God's power to fulfil His word. We believe that God has raised up Jesus after He had stood in our place 'as sinners. We have thus the resurrection of Christ applied to our justification. Yet in all this part of the epistle justification does not go beyond forgiveness, as chapter 4 plainly shows. Righteousness goes farther, but not what we have here. Here we have the active clearing away of all the guilt that attached to the deeds of the old man. This completes the work of grace for us, as responsible beings. The effect is, we have peace, stand in divine favour, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; we glory in tribulation by the way, for it is for our good, and we have the key to all in the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us. Besides, we joy in God Himself, thus revealed in the perfectness of His grace towards us when we were sinners.
Having shown thus the result of grace, in the beginning of Romans 5, in the way in which God justified each individual sinner, passing by sins, the apostle turns to the headship of the two Adams, and shows where the law came in. Our place is not in the first, not under the law, but in the second, according to the efficacy of the work He had wrought. What went before applied to our sins. Now he speaks of our nature and place.
36 I will summarily review his reasonings founded on this, before entering into detail. The disobedience of one made the many sinners - the obedience of One constitutes the many connected with Him righteous, and thus we are righteous by the work of another. In chapter 6 he goes on to notice that some will say, "Oh, if Christ has done all, it is no matter what I do: if it is righteousness without works, then we may walk as we like." The answer is, not "That ought not to be," but "That cannot be," for we speak of death - I have part in righteousness by death. If the thing be real, I cannot live in what I am dead to, and that makes this become impossible; if I live, being thus dead, it is by being alive to God, in Jesus Christ our Lord. A new and holy life (for it is Christ in the power of resurrection) brings with it, not only hatred of sin, but deliverance; the same principle is applied to law in Romans 7. If I am dead to the law by the body of Christ, I am delivered from that which had power over me while I was alive, that I may walk in newness of life.
We have the application of Christ's death and resurrection to man, for his justification before God, in the beginning of Romans 5; as dead to sin and consequently leading a holy life, in Romans 6; as dead to the law in Romans 7. The law, as Galatians also teaches us, has killed you, therefore it can do no more; its greatest work was, so to speak, to kill Christ, as in grace taking its curse; but He rose again, and we are in Him beyond the law - in Him who had borne its curse. Thereupon Romans 8 brings out the Christian in perfect liberty, in the last Adam of chapter 5 in virtue of His being risen. There is no condemnation for him who is in Christ. The Christian is necessarily viewed in Christ in chapter 8, but resurrection with Christ is not developed in Romans as a doctrine. The power of a new life in the Spirit is stated in verse 2; the condemnation of flesh on the cross, so as to put an end to that for faith and before God; our affections consequently showing our life in Him. Being thus fully and freely justified and accepted in Christ, we are only waiting for the redemption of our bodies.
It is now not man's righteousness; if it were, it must be by the law and for those who have it. It is God's righteousness for all, and is upon all who believe, and no man can come in any other way; if it is God's righteousness, He cannot accept a Jew in preference to a Gentile, and as it is His "to all," it is as free for sinners of the Gentiles as the Jews. As regards the standing and peace of the soul, it is deeply important to see that while what we are ever struggling for is to get something in which we can come before God, it is God who comes before us in the gospel with His, as our only righteousness; it is unto all, but upon those who believe. Mark here another thing that is connected with peace of soul: some may say, "I do not deny His divine righteousness, I believe it; but how am I to know that I have a share in it? Is it applied to me? I want it applied to my soul." Well, God has applied it to you, if you believe, if, in the consciousness of your sinfulness, you have believed the record that God has given of His Son, then you have had it applied to your soul, for it is upon all them that believe; you are righteous. If you go on tampering with sin, or the world, God must work this out of you, that is true; and the same is the case, if there be much of the pride of self-righteousness. But the thing that is believed is what His Son is, and has done; if there is tampering with sin or the world in our souls, it prevents our laying hold of the truth; nor even if we have found divine righteousness, can we have the joy of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, for God must be real to us. But what we have to rest on is Christ's dying for our sins, and the acceptableness of Christ's person.
37 Many a Christian would be glad to rest, and, as they think, to rest there. But in the last thought they deceive themselves; they look for something better in themselves than they found; but that is not submitting to God's righteousness, not resting in what Christ is. They have not learnt the value of the cross, nor its meaning. If they had learnt its value, they would not be trembling for fear; for how could they be trembling if they knew that their sins are put away? How could they be looking for good in themselves, if they knew that the cross was the final condemnation of all flesh in itself? You say you have no other confidence than the cross; that may be as to your conviction of the truth, and you may feel your need of it in a certain sense, so as to know you cannot do without it. I suppose you do, or you would not look to it; but you have not yet learned the value of the cross, which purges the conscience by the absolute putting away of sin. And the secret of it is, that you still look for something besides sin in yourself; that is, there is still the looking for, still some hankering after, your own goodness lurking within; you do not think yourself as thoroughly bad as the cross proves you to be, for you are what needed it, you are sin in your nature as in your acts. God has condemned sin in the flesh, as needing that abhorrence on His part, and that is all you are in yourself, Rom. 8:3. You have yet to learn that it is the ungodly whom God justifies; you will have more than that, but you must come to that first. It is "being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"; it is not mere justification from sins, but actual deliverance - entire redemption. Thus, in the figure of Israel, it was a question between God and Pharaoh: "Let my people go." It is real positive redemption, not merely a forgiveness, but Christ has brought us out free from all the title Satan can have against us, or power he can have over us, according to the righteousness of God, and for Him. If I buy a slave, he is mine, and no one can have any right over him, and that is true with regard even to our poor bodies - they are to be free from Satan's power: God will have us entirely for Himself, by the work of Christ, and that according to His own holy nature and life, and His divine righteousness in judgment. Not even the smallest particle of our dust shall remain in Satan's kingdom, and this is why redemption is mentioned last in Corinthians 1:30: as it is brought out, too, in the similitude, as to this, of Israel in Egypt. It was one thing for them to be screened from the destroying angel by the blood on the door-posts in Egypt, and another and very different thing for them to be brought clean out of Egypt by the passage of the Red Sea; thus being entirely delivered from the power of Pharaoh. And more than this: Christ has broken and destroyed all the power of death by which Satan held us, and taken him captive whose captives we were, and made us, who were Satan's captives, the vessels of God's power and testimony against Satan.
38 "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness." Here we have the connection of the blood of Christ with God's righteousness. It has been declared. It rested only in promise until Christ came in the flesh; it was not manifested till then; so that like Adam, Abel, or Job, they rested on the promises of righteousness, because the blood was yet to be shed. But now it is declared in having been fulfilled, in that Christ sits at the right hand of God, or rather, to confine myself to this epistle, that He is risen. And there is an amazing difference between resting on the promise (though this is most blessed) and on a fulfilment. A man in prison with a promise that his debt shall be paid is no doubt happy; but it is not the same thing as walking at liberty with the knowledge that it has been paid.
39 It is not forbearance now, but accomplished salvation, God's own righteousness declared. Can He forbear with that? The time of forbearance was in the time of the Old Testament saints; then God was forbearing, because of what He was going to do, and has proved His righteousness in doing it by the death of Christ. But that is not our condition. We have God's righteousness at this time, this present time. He is not speaking here of what is past before Christ's death, but of the fact of righteousness, and our present state of conscience, of the better thing God has provided for us, as regards our standing before Him. For if I sin, I do not want a prophet to come and tell me my sin is just put away, I can say I know the blood has been shed; therefore I know as a present thing that every sin is put away. It is a settled question. We can add much more even; because, though the fact is assumed of our being in Christ, and His resurrection mentioned in chapter 8, the subject of this epistle is Christ's death and resurrection, as justifying and delivering us, we can speak of being with Him. The Ephesians looks at us as dead in sin, and quickened with Him, and sitting in heavenly places in Him. Colossians takes up both, only it does not go on to our sitting in heavenly places in Him; but sets us as risen and looking up to heaven where He is. It is such a righteousness, that He, who accomplished that through which it was to be revealed and made good, has, in virtue of what He has done, sat down at the right hand of God; and our life is in Him there. Abraham could not say, "I am one with a man at God's right hand," for Christ was not there as man then. But the believer in Christ can say so; for as surely as the first Adam was turned out of paradise, so surely has the last Adam entered heaven, and that as man, in the glory He had with the Father before the world was; and I am as sure of my place in Christ, as of my place in Adam.
40 Well, then, it is such a work as God recognised in righteousness, and such an one as has fully satisfied God - nay, more, has glorified Him, as indeed it must have done, to satisfy Him in divine righteousness. Still, we can say it has glorified Him. See John 13:31-32; and 17:4-5. As regards the blood, He is just to forgive. It is His own righteousness which is upon the believer, and He must own it; and here too is the resting-place of faith. This is justice; but the opening of my heart is under the sunshine of grace at the outflowing of love. To see ourselves perfectly cleansed makes us hate sin, as a man who is thoroughly clean will not like to get a spot on his garment; while one who is already defiled will not care about getting a little more so. When the blood was put upon the lintels of the door-posts, it was to keep the judgment out, and God passed over; for had He come in, He must have judged them as they deserved, for they deserved judgment as much as the Egyptians, nay, more, for they knew better. Therefore it was grace keeping God out as a righteous judge, and according to His righteousness; but at the Red Sea they were to stand still, and see the salvation of God. It was God overriding every barrier, coming in and taking them completely out of the place of judgment and bondage, and bringing them to Himself. While the one was keeping God out, the other was bringing God in, or rather bringing them to God.
As an ungodly man I am justified by the blood; but as a Christian I am accepted in Him. But many, many Christians keep outside; looking at the cross only as an object of hope, they have not entered into God's presence by it. Has the cross then left me outside? No; it has saved me from judgment, and I have entered into God's presence by it, and therefore value it. How many do we see as sinners trembling at the foot of the cross, feeling their need of it, but getting no farther!
We are not under law as innocent beings, for man is a sinner, and the law cannot allow of even a lust; then where is the use of giving the law to man that is a sinner? What is the use of my giving a righteous measure to a man who is unrighteous? What the use of my giving a true measure to one who uses fraud in selling his goods, but to teach him where he is wrong? So God never gave the law to man to make him righteous, but to convict him and show him where his sin is. Man may abuse the grace, to continue in sin; but that does not alter the nature of God's righteousness. If a law is given to man already a sinner, it can only be to make him know himself a sinner.
41 "Is he the God of the Jews only?" He will justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith; that is, the Jews who sought righteousness, obtained it only on the principle of faith; and the Gentiles, inasmuch as it was on that principle, possessed it through the faith that they had. Do we then make void the law, or more properly, law? No; we establish law, not Moses' law, but the principle of law. If a thief is hanging on a tree, is that making void the law? No; so far from making it void, hanging establishes it. But if after the punishment he rose, the law would have inflicted its penalty, and he would be beyond its reach. So then Christ died, and He established the law, and faith comes in and says, So far from making void the law, when Christ died for my sins, He established the law. But that does not put me under it: if under it I am lost, not merely as a sinner, but by the law itself. Nothing establishes the law like the death of Christ.
The Gentiles having been proved lawless, Romans 3, gives the Jew under law, condemned out of the law. Christ was under the law; He kept it, and died under its curse. And is He under it now? No; He is dead to the law, and risen from the dead. I am the sinner He died for; He has borne the curse, and it is all gone, and it has lost all power to touch me, for I am one with Christ, I stand in Him, in the presence and favour of God, as dead and risen again in Christ. He gave all His sanction to the law - suffered it, if you will.
In Romans 4, in referring to Abraham and David as believing God, he then goes on to show the ground on which Abraham gets the promises. The blessing belongs to me in uncircumcision, as righteousness was reckoned to him in uncircumcision, and that on the principle of faith, thus stopping the Jew's mouth, and hence to the Gentiles. Then in David we have the same thing, "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin." The law on the contrary works wrath. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of the faithful, before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickens the dead. The difference between us and Abraham is this: He believed God was able to perform; we believe He has raised up Christ from the dead. The deliverance has been effected, the power shown, as well as our sins been put away. He was delivered for our offences. Was it effectual? He is raised again for our justification. All is complete and accepted, and Christ as man has left the dead - is out of and past all the consequences of sin; for judgment itself He has borne for us.
42 Beloved, in a day like this, what a thought it is for us that we are set in God's righteousness before Him! His righteousness has set aside all man's reasonings, as the rising sun not only dispels the darkness, but causes even the stars to vanish because of its brightness. When Christ is first revealed to the soul it is always humbling, because it displays what it really is before God, and brings the conscience into play, while the heart mourns its having despised and rejected such an One. I do not say that the affections may not be found towards Christ without this; but there must be sooner or later such a revelation of what Christ is, as to show us what we are; and it is that which breaks down what is inside, foolish and vain desires, self-will, sinful thoughts and feelings, and everything that is the opposite of Christ, thus showing us not only that we have committed sins, but that we are sin. Then He reveals to us the unclouded favour of God into which we are brought, according to the love which sought us, and gave His Son for us, and brought us there in righteousness.