On the Epistle to the Romans 5

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We are then justified by faith. With this the doctrine of Christ's work, in so far as it is a question of His blood and of the putting away of our sins through the shedding thereof, in a manner closes. The resurrection of Christ is the proof, that God has accepted this work as satisfaction for our sins, and assuredly for His own glory. What a blessed thought! The righteousness of God rests in the value of the work of Christ. This righteousness has been displayed therein by His having raised up His Son from among the dead, and justified us on account of Him; our sins are forgiven, we are washed clean in His blood. We have contributed nothing to our justification, and can contribute nothing; we are justified solely by the work of Christ. Our sins are the only part we have in the sufferings of Christ, by which we are cleansed before God. The value of this work has become our portion by faith, which, however, can add nothing to it. This work is our highest motive for serving Him and for praising Him unceasingly forever, but neither by it do we add aught to the work of Christ in the sight of God; it is complete, and not only that, but it is accepted and owned as fully sufficient before God. How blessed it is to know that all our sins are put away by God Himself; and this conformably to His own righteousness; inasmuch as He has raised Christ, on account of the work done by Him for us, an ever subsisting proof that God has accepted this work as fully satisfying His glory. This would be enough for our justification, but God has done yet more. He has raised Christ to His own right hand; there He sits now as Man at the right hand of God, until His enemies be made His footstool. " By one offering he has perfected forever " (as regards the conscience) " them that are sanctified." If they are not perfected by this offering, they never can be, nor can their sins ever be put away. For without shedding of blood is no remission, and Christ cannot shed His blood for us afresh; the work is done, or it can never be done at all.
The first part of chapter 5 (vers. 1-11) summarizes all the features of this infinite grace of God. Let us briefly consider the contents of these precious verses. The work is accomplished; faith knows that God has accepted it, because He has raised up Christ and seated Him at His right hand. Nothing remains between the man, born again and sanctified, and God, but the value of the work of Christ, and the acceptance of His Person. The blood of Christ is ever before the eye of God, and He Himself appears in the presence of God for us. This gives us, in the present, the most blessed privileges, as well as the hope of glory for the future which we shall enjoy with Him. We will not, however, go outside our chapter, but confine ourselves to the consideration of the perfection of the grace of God, so wondrously developed in it. We find here what God is for us, whilst our position before Him in Christ is only taken up later on.
The first eleven verses contain the development of grace and the ways of God in grace; they speak first of what grace gives, and then of the experiences of those that are the subjects of grace. Christ having been delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification, we are justified by faith; it is a complete justification; our sins are blotted out, our conscience is purged, and since the value of this work is immutable and forever before the eye of God, so our justification is valid forever. Consequently we are in possession of unalterable peace with God. No sins can be imputed to us, for they have been already borne, so that we can have no more conscience of sins. We are, it is true, conscious of the presence of sin in the flesh, but there can be no question of sins that Christ has already borne for us. We have indeed to humble ourselves, when anything occurs to remind us that we were guilty of the hateful fruits of sin, and have brought the load of them upon the beloved Savior; but in the presence of God, where Christ and His blood are forever present, we can never question whether all is forgiven. It is important that I should not confound the state of my soul with the value of a work accomplished outside me, with the accomplishment of which I had nothing to do, unless by my sins. But if my sins were laid there on Christ, they cannot any longer be before God. Christ has not got them on Him in heaven. If I come before God, I find there, on the one hand, because Christ is there, infinite, unchangeable love; and, on the other, nothing but perfect and divine righteousness in Him, also because He is there. Infinite love, perfect and divine righteousness, and unchangeable favor, have become the believer's portion in Christ before God.
This leads us a step farther in the consideration of the fruits of grace. Not only are our sins put away through grace, so that we have peace with God, but we can also enjoy the grace of God by which peace is made, grace which is now ever in the heart of God for us. Grace has not only set aside every obstacle through the work of Christ, but it remains unchangeably the same in the heart of God. His eye rests on us with the same love as on Christ. Through Christ we have peace, through Him also access by faith into the grace and favor in which we stand in Him before God. We enjoy this favor in the presence of God. Not only does the heavenly Judge justify us, but a heavenly Father receives us; the light of His gracious countenance, beaming with a Father's love, illumines and gladdens our souls, and comforts our hearts, so that with perfectly restful hearts we are in His presence and walk in His ways; we have the precious consciousness of standing in favor. As regards our sins, they are all put away; as regards our present condition before God, all is love and favor in the bright light of His countenance; as regards the future, glory awaits us; it is our portion, although we do not yet enjoy it. Peace, divine favor, the glory in expectation, such is the portion of the believer, the blessed fruit of God's love.
Here it might, then, be said, We have all, for past, present, and future. The apostle has still, however, something to add. The glory being still a thing of the future for us, we have yet a path to trace to reach it, and God does not forget us in the path also. Therefore the apostle says, " Not only so, but we glory in tribulations also." The wilderness is the place where the experiences of the redeemed are gone through with regard to their actual condition and the ways of God in government. Redemption is accomplished; we have been brought to God, as it is written: " I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." This is a fact, determined beforehand in the counsels of God, and now accomplished. The glory forms part of the counsels of God, and this also must have its fulfillment for those who are justified. The wilderness forms no part of these counsels, but it is the place where we learn His ways with us. Assuredly the thief on the cross went the same day to be with Christ in paradise, to dwell with Him there. His condition was fit for such a position. If on the part of man he has to suffer the consequences of his misdeeds, on the part of God Christ bore for him all that he was guilty of before God, and the justified sinner follows Him the same day into the mansions of bliss, but had not therefore to enter upon a long pathway of experiences. But in general, the believer has to tread his pilgrim way through a world where difficulties and temptations encounter and surround him on every hand. Christ has gone before us through this world, and we are called to walk in His footsteps; but our condition is thereby tested. Redemption does not here come in question, for it is just that which brought us into the wilderness. But we are responsible according to the calling and position in which redemption has placed us, to walk " worthy of God who has called us to his own kingdom and glory."
The soul is tested by afflictions as to how far self-will is active; they make manifest the working of sin in us, that we may be able to detect it. God searches us. By this means we learn on the one hand what we are, and on the other what God is for us in His faithfulness and daily care. We are weaned from the world, and our eyes become better able to discern and appreciate what is heavenly. Thus the hope that is already in the heart becomes more lively and clearer. It is in this light we can view all our afflictions, because we possess the key to everything-" The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." The providential care of God in this respect is wonderful. " He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous." He thinks of everything that concerns His children, their characters, their circumstances, their trials; He does all that is necessary to bring them to the blessed end of their pilgrimage. After forty years' wandering in the desert, the feet of the children of Israel did not swell, neither did their clothes wear out. He makes all things work together for good to them that love Him.
But we have yet to consider some other and very important points. We find the Holy Spirit mentioned here for the first time. The Holy Ghost shed abroad in the heart is quite another thing from the new birth. We must, of course, be born again to be able to receive the Holy Ghost, but the sinner needs something more than the new birth. In this passage the Holy Ghost is looked upon as the seal given to the believer of the value of the blood of Christ, and of the perfect purification in which he participates by the application of this blood. Washed from his sins, he becomes the habitation of the Holy Spirit. He is the unction, the believer's seal, and the earnest of glory. By Him we cry, " Abba, Father," Gal. 4:66And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6). By Him we know that we are in Christ, and Christ in us; John 14:16-2016And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:16‑20). And here, in this passage, we learn that by Him also the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The ordinance of God for the purification of the leper (Lev. 14) furnishes us with a striking type of what takes place now with the believer. The leper was first washed with water, then sprinkled with blood, and finally anointed with oil. So now, also, a man is first converted, then made a partaker of the perfect purification wrought by the blood of Christ, and finally he receives the seal of the Holy Ghost. It is by Him we have the full assurance of our participation in an accomplished redemption by virtue of our blessed relationship with God and with Christ, and He is the earnest of the future glory. But all is the result of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.
Thus we know God, we are made partakers of the divine nature, we have apprehension of our redemption and justification, and experience His faithfulness. He reveals Himself to our souls, and reveals to us also the glory which lies before us. We know that we are in Him, and that God dwells in us. Thus we glory, not only in what He has given us-not only in our salvation-but also in God Himself. A grateful child is not merely happy to have received much from his father, but his heart rejoices in having such a father as he has shown himself to be by his loving ways. He is happy because his father is all that his heart could desire; he rejoices in what he personally finds his father to be, and glories in him. What a privilege for us to be able to boast in God Himself! That enhances the joy, and the enjoyment of grace. The highest character of our eternal joy is thus already realized here below, and profound peace accompanies this joy. What God is in Himself is the infinite yet present object for a nature that is capable of enjoying Him, the Holy Ghost revealing Him to the soul.
With this ends the first part of the epistle, and the doctrine of the whole epistle. What follows is our standing in Christ, as well as the experiences which the soul goes through in entering upon this position. Then follow exhortations to those who are delivered. Our position is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, or in Christ. But to be truly delivered we must learn what the flesh is, and that by experience; then, and then only, do we pass from the legal condition of the soul into the spiritual in Christ, by virtue of the death and the life of Jesus Christ. But we shall return to this later on. We must first consider the position itself, or rather the two positions, and the doctrine relating thereto. It is of importance to remark here, that for deliverance it is a question of experience, by which alone it can be known. It is quite otherwise as to the forgiveness of sins. It is indeed true that God must teach us in all; but to believe that something is done, or has taken place, outside me, is entirely different from believing something about myself of which I do not find the practical realization in myself. The work of Christ on the cross, by which I obtain forgiveness and peace, in so far as it has to do with forgiveness, is a thing accomplished outside me, and I am called to believe that God has accepted it in satisfaction for my sins. It is indeed the work of God in my heart that I believe this, but the thing in itself is simple.
A child who has to be punished understands perfectly what is meant by receiving forgiveness. But if it be said, If you believe, you are dead to sin; I reply, and all the more that I am in earnest and sincere, That is not true, for I feel the activity of sin in my heart. The question, then, of our condition, is treated in the second part of the Epistle to the Romans. Are we in the flesh or in the Spirit? Are we in Christ, and Christ in us? Have we thus died to sin, or are we merely children of Adam, so that sin exercises its power in us even when we would not have it so?
The consideration of this question begins with chapters: 12. The apostle speaks no longer of what we have done, as in the first part of the epistle, but of what we are, and that in consequence of Adam's sin. By the disobedience of one, the many (that is, all who are by birth connected with him as their father) were made sinners. " 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 " (v. 12). The continuation of this statement is found in verse 18. Verses 13-17 form a parenthesis, the object of which is to show in what relation the law stands to this question, and to prove that man, without having received a law from God, is under the yoke of sin, and subject to judgment. Death is the proof that sin reigns over all men. Adam was under a law; he was forbidden to eat of a certain tree. The Jews, as we all know, were placed as a people under the law of Moses. Now, if Adam did not observe the original commandment, nor the Jews the law of God, they were definitely guilty in those points wherein they had disobeyed. They had done that which the law had forbidden.
Verse 14 refers to what is said of Israel in Hos. 6:77But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. (Hosea 6:7): " They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." Adam, like Israel, stood in relation with God by a positive law. With the heathen it was otherwise, they possessed no law. They had conscience, indeed, and obedience to God was obligatory, but one could not say that in this or that point they had transgressed a known commandment of God, because there was none. No law existed for them, so what they had done could not be reckoned to them as transgression. But sin was there; conscience took cognizance of everything that was done against its voice, and death reigned over them. The reign of death accordingly demonstrated the existence of sin, of which it was the consequence. Each one, even if not placed under law, had defiled his conscience, and death was the constant proof of the existence of sin. The Gentiles, who had no law, died just as much as the Jews.
Were the operations of grace to be limited, then, to the narrow circle of Judaism, because the Jews alone possessed the promises and all the privileges of a revelation, specially the word of God? On the contrary. Christianity was the revelation of God Himself, not merely of the will of God with regard to man; therefore this revelation necessarily reached far beyond the limits of Judaism. In Christianity there is no nation singled out with a law given to them. To Israel a law was given which taught what man ought to be, but it did not reveal God. It was accompanied, it is true, by promises, but promises which were not yet fulfilled; and at the same time it precluded man from approach to God. But Christianity brought in a revelation of God in love in the Person of His Son; it announced an accomplished redemption through His death, a perfect, present, justification by faith, in virtue of His death. It testified that the veil which precluded access to God was rent, so that access became perfectly free, and the believer can draw near with boldness by this new and living way. Thus eternal blessing is not in the first and sinful man, nor yet through the law. For this, as applied to him, could not do otherwise than condemn him, because it formed the perfect, divine, rule of conduct for man; and since man is a sinner, it puts all under the curse who were placed under the law. The blessing of God is in the last Adam, the second Man and that as glorified, after having been previously made sin for us- in Him who met the power of Satan and subjected Himself to death, although He could not be holden of it; who underwent in His soul the curse and the forsaking of God, and whom God, having been perfectly glorified by His work, raised from the dead and seated as Man at His own right hand. A God who has revealed Himself in such a way could not be God of the Jews only.
In verses 15-17 the apostle shows that grace far surpasses sin. If (ver. 15) the consequences of Adam's sin did not remain limited to him, but extended also to his descendants, how much more the consequences of the work of Christ extend to those who are His! According to verse 16, by Adam's sin all his descendants are lost; but grace, the free gift, is not merely efficacious for the lost condition, but also for many offenses. The super abounding of grace comes out in special relief in verse 17, where it says, " For if by one man's offense death reigned by one "-one would expect the corresponding thought to be " much more life will reign "; but no, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
The parenthesis closes with verse 17, and the apostle resumes in verse 18 the train of thought interrupted at verse 12. The consequences of Adam's fall concern all; in the same way the free gift through the work of Christ concerns all. The gospel can thus be applied to all; it addresses the whole world, all sinners. In verse 19 we have the actual application. By the disobedience of one man, the many connected with him, that is to say all men are found in the condition of this one, which is a sinful condition. By the obedience of one man, all who are connected with him, that is, all Christians, are found in the position of this One, namely, in a position of righteousness before God. Adam was the figure of the Man that was to come. In the one we were lost, in the other all those who are connected with Him are saved, righteous before God. The guilt of a man depends upon what he has done; his actual condition, on the contrary, on what Adam has done. Adam and Christ are the heads of two races; the one of a sinful, and the other of a race righteous before God, and here life and standing are inseparable. The law came in by the way between the first and second Adam. The root of the fallen human race was Adam, the first man. The Head and the root of life of the blessed and saved race is Christ.
But " the law came in by the way," as the measure of what fallen humanity should have been, but never actually was. The law was never the means of life or of salvation, but the rule of what man ought to have been down here, connected with a promise of life: " the man that doeth them shall live in them " (Gal. 3:1212And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. (Galatians 3:12)); but it commanded sinful man not to sin. Its object was, as the apostle here says, to make the offense abound, not sin, for God can do nothing to augment sin; but when sin was already there, He could give a rule to bring the fruits of it to light. Thus, although the law formed the perfect rule of conduct for a child of Adam, yet as a matter of fact it was always something by the way. Man was already a lost sinner, and the law brought out the fruit of the rotten and corrupt tree. We shall see, further on, that it did more than this. In this passage we are only told that it made the offense to abound.
We get a glimpse, indeed, of the ways of God in the first, as in the second Adam. Man was a sinner, a lost sinner; Christ, a Savior. The law was of use as a proof of what man was, because it required righteousness from man, according to the measure of his responsibility. The object of the law in the government of God was to manifest man's self-will in disobedience and transgressions, for without law there is no transgression. Now that supposes sin, as may be seen in the law itself. The judgment of God is exercised according to man's responsibility according to what he has done, whether without law or under law. His lost condition is another thing. He was lost in Adam; the world furnishes a proof of it in a terrible way, and our own hearts even more if indeed we know them. The disobedience of the one has alone brought in the condition. This condition is not a future judgment, but a present fact; we are constituted sinners. The whole family is, through its father, in the same condition with himself; separated from God, yea, driven out in enmity against Him, shut out from His presence, and without even a desire to enter into it. Man prefers pleasure, money, vanity, worldly power, fine apparel, in short, everything, to God, even when he professes to be one who believes that the Son of God has died for him in love. There is but one subject which in the world is intolerable; namely, Christ, and the revelation of God in Him, although it be a revelation of love. By the disobedience of one the many have been brought into the position of sinners.
Thus the important truth here set before us is not the guilt brought about by wicked works, and the grace by which it has been put away, but the condition of the fallen children of Adam, as a general principle. (This is why the law is set aside as a secondary thing, although it was valid for the conscience of the Jew, and remains always a perfect rule of human righteousness, and also represented that rule wherever, supported by the authority of God, it was applied.) In connection with this there is the introduction of a new or second root of saved men, and this in the risen One, just as Adam is the root of fallen man. Adam did not become the head of a race till he became sinful, and Christ was not in fact the head of a new creation (although God from the beginning had wrought by His Spirit) until divine righteousness had been manifested in His being glorified. Now when the righteousness of God had been revealed, and indeed become applicable to us, in that Christ was glorified after He had borne our sins, and perfectly glorified God when He had been made sin-not till then did Christ become the life-giving Head of the new race, accepted of God; and all, from first to last, is the fruit of the unfathomable, infinite, and unutterable grace of God. Grace reigns, but being founded on the work of Christ, reigns through righteousness. The end is eternal life, and that in its full and true character, according to the counsels of God, in the glory where Christ, according to this righteousness, has already entered as Man. Righteousness does not yet reign; it will reign in the day of judgment. But then human righteousness, namely, that which was due from man, will form the measure of judgment; man will then be judged according to the duties towards God and towards his neighbor, which were imposed upon him by the righteous claims of God. But the original source of salvation for man is grace, because God is love and we are sinners; for grace is the exercise of love towards those who have no desert, no merit. And love has therein been manifested, so that the angels learn to know it by God's ways towards us. But God is also righteous, and must maintain righteousness, and His holiness cannot forever tolerate sin in His presence. He has proved that all men lie under sin and are guilty, and then He has acted in His infinite love, not merely in forgiving sins (of which we have already spoken), but in providing an entirely new position according to His eternal counsels, and for His eternal glory, according to what He is in His own nature. The carrying out of this counsel, and that too in virtue of the work of Christ according to His perfect righteousness, is the expression and the manifestation of His infinite love. Love is therein manifested, in that He sent His Son and gave Him up for us to death and the curse. Righteousness is manifested therein, in that He has set Christ, who had glorified Him perfectly, at His right hand in divine glory-in that glory which as Son of God He had already with the Father before the world was, but to which He had won His title as Son of man, so that divine righteousness must of necessity give Him this place. And we have part in this glory of God, because the work by which God has been perfectly glorified was at the same time accomplished for us. We form part of the glory of Christ for eternity. He would not see of the fruit of the travail of His soul, if He had not His redeemed people with Him in glory.