Glad Tidings of God: No. 5

Romans 3:21-26
Righteousness of God.
The word of God pronounces man a sinner, and declares that between Jew and Gentile "there is no difference." "There is none righteous, no, not one," is a sweeping statement: it makes no exception. I have sinned, you have sinned, " All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
The word of God also declares that " the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Put these two solemn truths together, and what do you see? All guilty, all condemned, all under God's wrath, and every mouth closed.
Does the unsaved reader bow to these truths? Do they put you in your true place before God as a child of Adam? Then you know, that as a child of Adam, you are lost! You are utterly undone! But, blessed be God, though man's resources fail, His never fail. God's resources are inexhaustible. Hear Him tell out His own blessed resources for the poor lost sinner who is utterly destitute of righteousness: ': But now the righteousness of God, without the law, is manifested, being witnessed 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 hath set forth 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 at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (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).)
Here we have the announcement of divine righteousness, righteousness of God manifested as His blessed answer to the precious blood shedding of His own spotless Lamb. The Lamb was the provision of His love and sovereign grace, " For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." Through the sacrifice of this Lamb, God was perfectly glorified. His majesty and glory vindicated, and the manifestation of His righteousness is the blessed answer to the delight He has found in that sacrifice.
"What then is this righteousness? What is its basis? What is its scope? To whom, and on what principle is it applied? Let us examine God's word as to these questions.
(1.) What is this righteousness? The word of God clearly shows that it is a different order of righteousness from that which is by law-keeping. If it were righteousness of law it would be man's righteousness, for the law is the measure of human righteousness. But man has utterly failed as to righteousness, and hence something else was needed; and that is what we have here—God's righteousness. It is another order of righteousness, and contrasted with man's, as Paul says: " Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." (Phil, iii 9.) Here the contrast is plain. It is not accomplished by law-fulfilling at all. It is not on that principle. It is not a Superior coming and saying, I must have so and so, and the demand met. It is not something wrought out for God because clue to Him. This is what would have been by law, but in this, man failed. What then is it? It is Gods consistency with His own nature and character in His dealings with others; first, with His own Son; second, with those who believe in Him. It is what God has done for man, not what man has done for God. It is God's righteousness man-ward, not man's righteousness God-ward. If man had been righteous toward God, it would have been only what was due to God. But God's righteousness toward a poor sinner who believes in Jesus is something entirely unmerited. It is not earned or deserved. Instead of righteousness, wrath was deserved. Wrath was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Man was ungodly and unrighteous, and so God's wrath was upon him. But now, through grace, " righteousness of God " takes the place of " wrath of God " in the case of all who believe in Jesus. How, then, is this? It is by grace. " Being justified freely by his grace." In God's wondrous grace, the wrath which overhung the guilty sinner is replaced by righteousness in the case of every one who believes the gospel, and this is not the sinner's righteousness, but God's. We shall see, by-and-by, the basis on which this takes place; but it is important to see just now that it is not human, but divine righteousness, which has its source and character in God, not man; and if it is God's, surely it must be perfect, making the sinner on whom it rests an object in which God Himself delights. God cannot reject or deny it, for it is His own, perfect, divine, according to His own nature. God is just, and the Justifier, justifying consistently with His own character.
(2.) What is the basis of this righteousness? We answer, The precious sacrifice of Christ. " Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth 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 at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
God acted in forbearance toward the Old Testament saints, passing over their sins. His righteousness in doing so was not then manifested. It is manifest now through the cross. The blood of Christ declares it. God has set forth Christ as a propitiatory or mercy seat, presenting His blood as an object for faith, for this very purpose. God's righteousness in passing over the sins of saints before the cross is no longer a dark question. The blood of Christ declares it.
But this is not all. God is—not now passing over sins, but—justifying sinners who believe the gospel. How is He righteous in doing so? Through the blood of Christ. Through the blood of His own spotless Lamb, He is just in justifying him who believes. His righteousness in justifying is thus declared. The blood of Christ is the basis of all God's dealings in grace with sinners; and through that blood, His dealings in grace are declared righteous. God has found an adequate motive in the blood of Christ for showing grace to sinners, and justifying those who believe; and He is righteous in doing this, in virtue of the blood. The display of His righteousness in justification is His blessed answer to the blood shedding of Christ. How is this?
Let me ask the reader's earnest attention to this question. Mark this: God is justifying sinners, not righteous people. And if God is justifying sinners, it cannot be on the ground of their works. Their works have only been sin, and for this very reason they need justification. God's motive in doing so, then, must be found in something altogether outside of the sinner. It is found in Christ and His blood. Again I ask, How is this? It is because Christ has perfectly glorified God as to the very thing by which the sinner dishonored Him, and on account of which he needed justification. This He has done through the shedding of His blood on the cross. God had been dishonored by sin. His law has been broken, His justice despised, His majesty and glory set at naught, His love and His grace trampled under foot. Yes, reader, this is the part, and the only part, you and I have had in bringing about the stupendous work of redemption. Our wretched guilt only created the need for it. Blessed be God, this need has been met by Another. The Lord Jesus Christ has glorified God in every way in the very scene where He has been dishonored. He gave Himself an offering for sin, gave Himself freely, and drank the cup of judgment to the dregs, leaving not one drop for us to drink. He went down into a fathomless abyss of suffering. Waves from beneath, and waves from above rolled in upon His holy soul; and out of the depths He cried—depths of darkness and sorrow and anguish unutterable—depths which He alone could fathom—out of the depths He cried, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Of sorrow's cup He had drunk before, He was the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; but what is this cry we hear from this unsounded abyss of suffering? His path down here was indeed a path of sorrow, and lay through a scene where His God was dishonored, and where man was suffering from his own sin, and yet hating and despising the One who came to give relief. Such was His path, a sorrowful path indeed, and the sorrow deepening at every step, as the hatred increased, and the snares set in His path multiplied. There was nothing around Him, nothing in all this sin-stricken, sorrowful scene, to comfort His weary, suffering heart. But He could always look up, and always find comfort there. The beams of a loving Father's face, and the radiancy of heavenly glory always shone upon Him; and thus He trod His sorrowful path, for while all was dark below, all was light above.
To be continued