First Years of Christianity: No. 10

Romans 3:20
The Doctrines Taught—the Righteousness of God.
" God is love." But the question was, How could God deal with a creature like man, whose very nature was hatred and rebellion against the blessed God, who loved him even in his enmity? The law had been given to Israel for fifteen hundred years, God's righteous rule for man—a law which brought out man's rebellious nature, in open transgression. The rest of the world had been given up to their own will and lusts, they having given up God and His truth, as set forth in His eternal power and Godhead. (Rom. 1)
The Gentile world had sunk to the lowest degradation, worshipping demons, and being led by them into every form of gross wickedness. Yet " God is love." Israel, on the other hand, was no better. With every privilege, having the oracles of God, yet they did not keep the law; and, what was far worse, so blind were they that they were seeking to attain to righteousness by that very law which God had given to manifest man's sin in open transgression.
All this may be read as the distinct teaching of the Spirit of God in Romans and Galatians. Yet " God is love." However bad man may be, and he cannot be worse than he has proved himself to be in murdering the Son of God, yet " God is love." But then God is also a holy God; and "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom. 1:1818For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (Romans 1:18).)
You say, Is this a proved fact? Surely we need no greater proof than the word of God: Thus it is written. The wrath of God is a fact—wrath against sin. Let us look at one fact in proof of this—the penalty of breaking the first command to man: " For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," or " dying thou shalt die." At the moment you read this, there are not less than 3000 children of Adam within one hour of death. By sin came death, as it is written, " Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:1212Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12).) Yes; every day of this dying death—every twenty-four hours—near 100,000 of the family of that man by whom sin entered, pass away in death, and many in great agony. Have you ever read of an infidel who escaped the doom of sin? Now if such a visible stream, such a terrible river of death and anguish flows from sin. and all along its course such suffering, and pain and anguish of mind and body, poverty, sickness, guilt, and wickedness, flowing from sin, even in this world—what may you and I expect if God deals with us, in righteous wrath, through all the ages of eternity? Can we count the number of our sins? Ah, well might He say, who bore them in His body on the tree: " They are more than the hairs of my head."
And the doctrine in the first years of Christianity was this, that all were guilty, Jews and Gentiles—not a single exception. “There is none righteous, no, not one." Every mouth stopped; all the world guilty before God. (Rom. 3:9-209What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17And the way of peace have they not known: 18There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9‑20).) And still you say, " God is love." Yes, and God from all eternity, from before the foundation of the world, has chosen a people that shall be holy, and without blame before Him in love. Now tell me, reader, how do you expect to attain to that happiness? just tell me, how do you, a guilty sinner, hope to be able to stand before God, justified from all things, accounted righteous? Perhaps you say, " By attending a place of worship: there I am taught the law of God:
Indeed, it is hung up for my eyes to see it. There I am taught to keep that law. And I hope to so keep it, with the help of God, that I may at last attain to righteousness, so as to he able to enter heaven at last. Is not this the right way to heaven?" Millions expect the same as you do. It was this very way that led the Jews to reject the righteousness of God. Being ignorant of that they went about, just as now, to establish their own righteousness. See Rom. 9:3131But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (Romans 9:31) to x. 4. Ah, those verses are dead against the fashionable religion of the whole world.
But the doctrine of the first years of Christianity was the very opposite of all this. It was plainly this: " Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:2020Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20).) Have you not found it so? How old are you—forty? And if sincere you have been trying to keep the law over thirty years, are you fit for heaven? Are you righteous in His sight? Are you awake? Is your conscience awake, or hardened? Look back! Look at the present—this day! Remember, God tells you, if you break one commandment you are guilty of all. You have longed to be holy, pure, sinless; but sins, sins, sins.....
Have you ever been overwhelmed, not able to look up? But you say, " I am eighty years of age." Worse still, eighty years of sins instead of forty. Ah, they stare upon you now every day of your life. Not a single day have you loved God with your whole heart. And with eternity before you, and all your efforts miserable failures, is it not enough to make you gasp? The most righteous thing you and I can do is to judge ourselves guilty before God. On the ground of any righteousness of our own we are lost. Past, present, or future, we have no hope of attaining to righteousness by works of law. We are undone.
Now for our question: with the wrath of God against sin before us, as we have seen, in Adam's transgression, and our own sins—with the al> solute certainty that sin must be punished, as that stream of agony and death even in this world fully proves—how is God to be righteous in taking such ungodly sinners as we are, and declaring us justified from all things? How is His eternal love and infinite abhorrence of sin to be revealed, in perfect, consistent harmony?
What is the righteousness of God, as revealed in the first years of Christianity? Oh the importance of having again the gospel as then preached: " For therein is the righteousness of God revealed." (Rom. 1:1717For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17) and context.)
This is fully explained in Rom. 3:21-2621But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:21‑26): " But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 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 hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Mark, this is God's righteousness, apart from law, though surely witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God, by faith of Jesus Christ. We thus look by faith away from ourselves, and law, and everything else, to Jesus Christ. And what we find there, is unto all and upon all them that believe. Let us fully own that all have sinned, you, I—all, and come short of the glory of God. God points us then to Jesus Christ, as the revelation of His own righteousness, and to the work of propitiation which He has wrought. God declares His righteousness, both for the remission of the sins of Old Testament believers, and also His, God's righteousness in justifying now of him which believeth in Jesus." This is a vital question for us. And mark it well, this is entirely of God: " Being justified freely by his grace." This is the free favor of God. By what means is God righteous in doing this, accounting the believer righteous before Him freely I The answer is very simple: " Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
But you say, 'sin must be punished/ We have seen this verified, as to God's government in this world, by the black river of death, and in the judgment that is to follow; but how has God dealt with all believers' sins and iniquities? If they must be punished according to all that God is, has that been done? This is exactly how God has both commended His love to us, and revealed His inflexible righteousness. Yes, God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son for this very purpose. And we believe God, " that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses." Oh, behold, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, once delivered for our offenses. Ah, He only knew what it was to be delivered to bear that wrath of God due to sin, as God sees it; to endure the punishment according to God's holiness, and abhorrence of sin. Such was God's love to us, that it pleased Him to bruise His Son in our stead. Yes, He who said, " Lo, I come to do thy will," sank beneath the dark billows of the wrath of God. Such was the price of our eternal redemption. And did God in righteousness accept the ransom price? This is the very thing we believe, that God raised Him from the dead u for our justification/' in view of our justification, for that very purpose. So that God is our righteous justifier. Who shall condemn?
Oh, reader, reject this redemption, and you must suffer in your own person the just wrath of God against your sins, throughout an unending eternity. But now, thus believing God, we are accounted righteous before Him, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. " Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," &c. Thus God has acted in perfect consistency with Himself and toward all created beings. The sins of the believer have been borne, and sin judged on the infinite Person of the Son of God, according to the eternal purpose of God—according to all that God is in His holiness, majesty, and love.
It was this great truth, the righteousness of God revealed—displayed by the atoning death of the Son of God, proved by His resurrection and ascension to heaven, borne witness to by the descent of the Holy Ghost—that gave absolute peace with God, in the first years of Christianity. And, however men and demons have sought to deface it, yet it remains the same—the only safe foundation for the sinner's soul to rest upon. There is no other foundation on which my soul can rest. God has settled every question for me in absolute righteousness, so that now we can say with certainty, " We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
God is thus revealed to us. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." There is nothing on our part but sins—no work of our own in this matter, all is free grace. u Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God reckoneth righteousness without works. Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin." (Rom. 4:4-84Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:4‑8).)
Do you know God thus as your Justifier? Are you this blessed man? Not of or by any works of your own; but freely by His free favor, through the redemption you have in Christ Jesus. Now if we see the kindness of God in making all this so plain to us, and His own righteousness in justifying us, all fear and doubt will be gone, and we shall do as they did in the first years of Christianity, as Paul says, " We also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation." May it be so with the reader.