Forgiveness on a Righteous Foundation

Psalm 32:1‑2  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Psalm 32:1, 21<<A Psalm of David, Maschil.>> Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (Psalm 32:1‑2).
The simplest truths of the gospel become of growing value to our souls as we advance onward along the Christian pathway. Truths which are at first received authoritatively, on the evidence of Scripture, become commended to us by their own beauty. What we receive at first, as it were, by force of our own necessity, becomes in our progress that which manifests the glory of Christ. Then we are able in measure to contemplate it apart from selfishness, and to see it in the light in which God Himself sees it. I think I discern this feature in apostolic teachings; while they unfold mysteries, or develop practical truth, they also (designedly) connect all with the primary truths of the gospel, thus bringing them into constant prominence. And this marks the teaching of the Holy Ghost.
It is human to handle a particular truth as a subject, but the object of the Holy Ghost is to hold up prominently to view the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The soul becomes unsettled from its steadfastness, when the mind takes the lead in learning even the truth of God. The Spirit, who leads into all truth, connects everything in His teaching with those great primary truths, the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The mind may get hold of something new, and be interested in it, as if it were more wonderful than the truth already received. I do not wonder at the Apostle saying, "so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." In the gospel of the grace of God the Apostle saw a deep and most blessed truth. Later he says to Timothy, "Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand." It is an unhealthy symptom when the simple gospel is not relished. It shows that the mind is at work, rather than the conscience exercised before God, or the affections engaged with Christ.
There are indeed wonderful discoveries made to us in the Scriptures of the grace and purpose of God to the Church; yet when all the counsels of God are manifested, and glory enjoyed without hindrance, then the primary truths of the gospel will be seen in all their brilliance. All will center in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the object of adoration, admiration, and praise throughout eternity. It is with these thoughts I now turn to the great fundamental truth of the gospel—"righteousness without works"—a doctrine which has not only been controverted by Christians, and contemned by the wisdom of this world, but on which even many of the children of God have only become settled after much bitter experience of themselves.
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity." On this statement the Holy Ghost Himself, by the Apostle Paul, has thus commented: "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." "The blessedness"—we almost need to have this English word translated to us, so slow of heart are we to believe His goodness when God Himself proclaims it to us. Happiness, our being's end and aim, is proclaimed by this oracle; and yet men are deaf to it. "Blessed [happy] is he whose transgression is forgiven"! This is happiness—the alone happiness of which man as a sinner is capable—because nothing but this can bring a sinner to God, in whose presence there is fullness of joy.
There is indeed a happiness proclaimed in the first Psalm: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." But where is such a man to be found? This blessedness only attached to the Holy One of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the righteous One—a righteousness because He is what He is. But as for us, it is not anything that we can do which can make us happy, but that which God does for us. It is man's impossibility to make himself happy; it is God's possibility to make a sinner happy. And this oracle is the declaration of a sinner's happiness, by means of the work of God Himself.
It is very doubtful if the bare idea of forgiveness of transgression, apart from the solid groundwork on which it rests—the infinite atonement of Christ, "forgiveness in His name"—would ever satisfy the conscience. The groveling thought of escape is indeed the careless thought of the unbelieving mass, without one just thought either of the character of God or of the evil of sin. But if such a manner of forgiveness w e r e possible, it would leave the recipient of it in that state of uneasiness which a man feels who finds himself in the presence of one whom he had injured, yet who had forgiven him. He would be under the conscious sense of degradation.
Such a condition would be the very opposite of being "blessed." It is the mode of the forgiveness, bringing the person forgiven to stand at ease in the presence of God, who is declared to be just, while He is the justifier of him that believes in Jesus, which constitutes the blessedness.
The atonement of Christ is indeed the remedy, the only remedy, the divine remedy, for the forgiveness of transgression; but it is more—it is the great medium of the display of the moral glory of God. Angels "desire to look into" these things, and learn the glory of their God by means of His dealing with sinners. And it is a wondrous thought, that man's necessity as a sinner, and the manifestation of the divine glory, find their one and only meeting point in the cross of Christ. Yes, blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and so forgiven as that God is glorified. Oh, what riddance of anxiety to the soul, when its salvation is thus taken from off its own responsibility, and it is no longer the question, Shall I be saved? but, Shall God be glorified? Blessed peace indeed, surpassing all understanding, when God and the conscience are alike satisfied.
"Blessed is he... whose sin is covered." It is not the manner of the Holy Ghost to use redundant expressions. We often use many words where few would suffice. But "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." And man lives "by every word
that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD."
Contemplate these words: "Whose sin is covered." Who would not faint under the struggle, if it were not so? God Himself has covered sin up out of His own sight, and this is what we need. How man tries to veil his heart from his fellow man! Yet even human sagacity can often pierce through the hollow covering, and man himself is ill satisfied with it. Witness his round of religious duties to try to cover it, and his natural proneness to superstition. But it is the atonement of Christ which covers sin before God. It is God Himself who has set forth Christ as a propitiation through faith in His blood. Here, when we discover sin, we can yet meet God, not in anger, but in mercy; for the sin which we have discovered is covered up before Him.
"Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity." How needed is this clause for the peace of an awakened soul! There is the consciousness of iniquity; and the announcement is that, although the Lord knows iniquity to be there, He does not impute it. And wherefore? Surely, because "He hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." God has seen sin there, and He has judged it there. "The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." The cross of Christ is to us the marked expression of the love of God toward sinners. "God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
The cross, further, is the declaration to us of the righteousness of God. "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness."
Again, it shows the infinite hatefulness of sin in the judgment of God. The cup could not pass •away from Jesus. He bowed His head, and drank it. And God hid His face from Him, and made Him to know on the cross, in bitterest experience, what sin was-"God made Him to be sin for us."
The cross is both the way for God to come nigh to man as a sinner without destroying him by His presence—"And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself"—and also the way for man as a sinner to come near to God—"Ye who sometime were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."
All these several aspects of the cross, deeply important and interesting as they are, would fail of giving settled peace to the soul, if the truth of the actual substitution of Christ for the sinner were kept out of sight. "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Here we find solid ground on which to rest our souls. The wonder of the Holy One of God being made sin on the cross is far greater than the wonder that any measure of guilt should by it be "forgiven," yes, also "covered." But there is more than this.
The idea of simple pardon is at the best negative; blessed indeed, even in that view, that iniquity, although committed, is not imputed. Speaking humanly, we have the idea of a free pardon emanating from the grace of the sovereign; we have the idea also of an amnesty; but we cannot get the idea of justification. It is the idea which God alone can present, because He alone can justify the ungodly; and this is the new and blessed idea here presented. "David describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth 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 impute sin." Rom. 4:6-86Even 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 4:6‑8).