Bible Conversations: Romans 3:21-4:25

Romans 3:21-4:25
Ed.-Last month we had arrived at this point:-That the mouth of every man was stopped, that every one was proved guilty before God, and all that now remained was for a righteous God to pronounce a just sentence on a world of sinners.
A. E. W.-Does not verse 21 commence as it were the second section of our book, and seem to revert to Chapter 1:17? It is wonderful to see the simple and yet powerful way in which God's righteousness is spoken of? It is well to see that it is God's righteousness; thus it is not by law; this would have been human righteousness, and the law is the rule of that, and was given to Jews only, but this is by faith of Jesus Christ.
Yod.-This establishes the fact that this justification is brought about exclusively by the expiatory work of Christ, and further that the door of grace is opened to the Gentile as much as to the Jew.
Ed.-Let us carefully observe that the first thing stated about the righteousness of God is that it is apart from law (Revised Version), thus excluding absolutely the idea that it can proceed from the law being kept (as is sometimes said) for us by Christ. If the righteousness of God were synonymous with Christ's legal righteousness, it could not possibly be said to be " apart from law?" The next thing to observe (as A E. W. has pointed out) is that it is God's, and not human, righteousness. Now again, if this had referred to Christ's legal righteousness, it was as man He wrought out this, not as God, and this righteousness (though Christ is truly God) would be human.
Before however we are told what the righteousness of God is, its extent is pointed out.
H. S.-We do not then get any sentence pronounced against sinners here?
Ed.-No. The fact of Christ's death, which is the true ground of God's righteousness, has changed all, and the terrible event, which seemed to have closed man's last avenue of escape, and to have filled up the cup of wrath, has been in God's wisdom the very gateway of boundless grace in righteousness, and has placed a cup of salvation in his hand.
A. E. W.-Is not the force of verse 22 that by no other means than by believing in Jesus is there any participation in the Divine righteousness, and also that it was universal in its aspect, but is only made good to such as do believe?
Nemie-.What is the special distinction between the words "unto all" and "upon all?" In the Revised Version, it is only " unto all. "
Ed.-Does it not point out the fact that although the offer is world-wide, it can only be received by faith?
Ed.-This is true as regards God's righteousness. There is a practical righteousness in Rom. 6 that is in me.
Yod.-This section takes up the question of sins, and shows how they are covered for those who believe. God's righteousness, typified by the law, and anticipated by the prophets, (Isa. 46:13;56. 1: Dan. 9:16. 24.) is established by the death of His Son on the cross. Are the Revisers correct in omitting " upon all" here? Does it involve a doctrinal principle?
Ed.-We cannot say whether the words should be omitted or not, but as it stands in the Revised Version no doctrinal principle is involved. If it had said it was "upon all" absolutely, then none could be lost. "But let us see what you mean by sins being covered. Let us examine by what wondrous means those very ones who came short of the glory of God in iii. 23 are enabled to "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" in verse 2.
A. E, W.-This expression seems to show that if we are not according to what God is, who is light, we cannot be with Him at all, but are outside His presence altogether.
E.-Why is it " Christ Jesus " in verse 24 instead of " Jesus Christ "?
Ed.-We cannot say, except that it is to point out that it is not merely through Jesus, but through Him not only in death, but resurrection. " Christ Jesus " is used only after the resurrection (about 50 times), never before.
Nemie.—Does propitiation mean the same as atonement? Is it a different word from that in 1 John 2:22And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) which is often rendered mercy seat? The latter clause seems to be a parallel passage to Acts 17:3030And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (Acts 17:30).
A. E. W.-I think the word " propitiation" in this verse has the meaning of mercy-seat.
Ed.-The word " ίλασμὀς " in 1 John 2:22And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2). comes from the same root as the word "ιλαστήριον" here, but this word actually occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in Heb. 9:22For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary. (Hebrews 9:2), where it is rendered " mercy seat."
The word atonement only occurs in Rom. 5:1111And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11) when it ought to be reconciliation, as the word καταλλαγη is everywhere else translated, Rom. 11:1515For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15); 2 Cor. 5:18,1918And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18‑19). The general scope of the word includes both expiation and propitiation before God (spoken of here), and substitution, the application of the work to the individual sinner. This we see from the Old Testament. Now the use of the same word ίλαστήριον for the cover of the ark in the Old Testament at once explains how (as God says) sins are covered. The ark was not merely a type of Christ, "the law hid within His heart," but in another aspect contained the proofs and memorial of three of Israel's most daring sins viz: the worship of the golden calf, the murmuring against the manna, and against Aaron. When covered by the mercy seat however, sprinkled with blood, God could say that He had not seen iniquity in Jacob, neither had He beheld perverseness in Israel, showing how completely that which was only a type of Christ's blood, covered Israel's iniquities from God's eyes.
A. E. W.—This verse shows us how God could pass over the sins of the Old Testament saints, for in their day God had not been glorified as to the question of sin as He now has been, because Christ had not yet come; in fact He was then before God as the One who should come in due time, and God could thus pass over the sins of the Old Testament saints, now it is no longer forbearance, because righteousness has been manifested in Christ, so that God is just in justifying all who believe.
Ed.-It has been beautifully said that all that the Old Testament saints received was " on credit." We must clearly see the contrast between their state and ours; thus Saints before Christ's death had their sins passed over, or pretermitted (not remitted), through God's forbearance, in view of a coming sacrifice which would declare His righteousness. Saints after Christ's death have their sins put away, because of Christ's finished work which has enabled God to do this in perfect righteousness. I think too we may notice the difference between God's personal righteous character, and the righteousness He imputes to us. We may contrast them thus.
God's personal righteousness: The righteousness of God is manifested (v. 21), and is declared by the propitiating work of Christ (25). That He might be just (v. 26).
Divine righteousness put upon us: The righteousness of God is upon all them that believe (v. 22.) He is the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
But we must not linger longer over these interesting verses or we shall never get to the fourth chapter at all.
C. F.-Referring to verse 27 we are also told in Eph. 2:99Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:9). that our salvation is " not of works, lest any man should boast."
C. H. P.-What is the difference between "by faith" and " through faith "?
Ed.-" By faith " refers to the Jews, and means not by law; " through faith " refers to the Gentile, and signifies by means of their actually believing, See 1:17.
A. E. W.-Righteousness is still the subject of Chapter 4, but it seems the further thought of resurrection is brought in. Abraham in verse 10 is shown to possess this righteousness (not according to the thought of the Jew as one who had been circumcised, but while uncircumcised) by faith, which faith as is shown in ver. 18-24 was in a God who could cause life to spring out of death.
Yod.-Paul now shows from both Abraham and David that his previous statement of a justification by faith without works is confirmed by them.
F.-And he thus proves by a testimony which no Jew could gainsay, that the principle of justification by faith on which he was now dwelling was not a new thing but as old at least as the days of the one whom they all regarded as their father.
C. H. P.-What is the meaning of verse 2, "But not before God"?
Ed.-Compared with his fellow men he would indeed be a marvel, but before God even such an one would be an unprofitable servant, for he would have done no more than it was his duty to do.
Yod.-In verse 4 the argument appears to be that a man receives his wages as being due to him, and not as a reward. If therefore salvation came by works, it would be no more a gift.
G. K. B.-Verse 9 is not justification by good works, but in spite of evil works. See Psa. 32 The blessedness spoken of in Psa. 1 is God's blessing on a perfect man, and there was but one, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no blessing for the sinner on these terms.
Yod.-In verse 9 Paul meets another Jewish objection by showing that justification could not be limited to the circumcised, for Abraham was circumcised as a seal of the faith which he had previously.
Ed.-Yes. Circumcision, however, after all, is but a maiming of the flesh; baptism is a burying of it out of sight altogether.
G. K.B.Verse 12 implies that there is a sense in which Abraham is a father to some in which he is not a father to others.
Ed.-Yes. He is the father of all who believe, but the father of circumcision (or separation to God) of those only who walk in the steps of that faith which he had.
C. H. P.-"Calleth those things which be not as though they were." Does this mean that God looks upon the future as though already accomplished, as in John 17:44I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (John 17:4), " I have finished the work," etc.?
Ed.-No doubt it does. The important point to notice is that it is in a God of resurrection that Abraham trusted.
G. K. B.—In ver. 20, on the human side all was hopeless, and on God's side there was His word alone. Was not the faith of all the Old Testament saints in promises merely, while we have the finished work of the Lord Jesus to rest on?
C. H. P.-We are twice told that Abraham believed that God was "able." " Able to perform what He had promised,' "able to raise Isaac from the dead," Heb. 11:1919Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Hebrews 11:19).
C. H. P.-How this chapter destroys all the foundation of popery! It seems especially to cut at the root of the doctrine of justification by works, while Hebrews shows how wrong sacrifices (such as the mass) now are, also priestly absolution.
Yod.—There has always been great confusion in my mind as to whether Christ's death or resurrection were atoning. Must the two go together as distinct parts of the one great work? or is the resurrection God's acceptance of the great sacrifice without which we should be yet in our sins? (1 Cor. 15:1717And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17).)
Ed.-The atoning work of Christ was completed when He cried " It is finished." Resurrection is the proof to us of God's acceptance of it. Hence our faith (ver. 24) is in the God who raised up Jesus, for if He raised Him up who bore all our sins, God can have nothing against us.
Let us especially note why resurrection is brought in here, (Chapter 4) and not even named in Chapter 3 There the apostle is laying the great foundation of our righteousness in the fact that God is propitiated, and His justice satisfied on the question of sin by the sacrifice or blood (iii. 25) of Christ. Here it is our side of the question, and the proof to us that God is satisfied, is the resurrection of Christ.
If we compare the 25th verse of each chapter we shall find in Chapter 2; it is a question of propitiation and a manifestation and vindication of God's righteousness, whereas in Chapter 4 it is a question of substitution. Christ was delivered for my offenses, and raised for my justification. These two points constitute atonement, but we get God's side presented first, and our side afterward, just as in Lev. 16 we get the blood carried into the holiest before the sins are borne away by the scapegoat forever. We too often forget the first, and insist exclusively on our side of the question, forgetting that, if no sinner had ever been saved, God would still have been glorified by the work of Christ. As our Conversation is already so long, we shall be obliged to leave Chapter 5 till next time.