On the Epistle to the Romans 8

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This deliverance stands in the closest connection with redemption, not so much with regard to forgiveness as with regard to our having died with Christ. We have already seen that there are two main points in redemption: namely, the forgiveness of sins, or justification, and deliverance: liberty before God, and liberty from the yoke of sin in the flesh. Now if we have died with Christ, we have died to sin, and are no longer in the flesh before God. Life in the flesh is no more our position, because Christ, after having died, has become our life. Sin in the flesh is judged, condemned-not forgiven- and that in the death of Christ on the cross. The power of the life of Christ is in me, is my life; yet not only that. Sin in the flesh, which was my torment, is already judged, but in another; so that there is for me no more condemnation on account of the flesh. Death has entered in where this condemnation, the judgment of the flesh, has been executed, and those who are in Christ Jesus have died with Him, so that there is no more condemnation for them. What has happened to Him has happened to us; He died to sin, and the condemnation is passed. This is our condition with respect to sin in the flesh. If the first part of the epistle has shown clearly how sins are taken away, we find here as clearly how sin in the flesh and condemnation are taken away; yea, for faith the flesh itself is done away with, since we are dead.
This condition is described in the first three verses of chapter 8. The Christian is in an entirely new position: he is in Christ. Not only has the grace of God been manifested in the sins of the old man being forgiven, but his position also is an entirely new one; we are redeemed. It does not say, " There is therefore now no condemnation for those whose sins are forgiven," but " to them which are in Christ Jesus." This position is the result of the work of Christ, of redemption. The Christian is delivered with Christ from his position in the flesh because he has died with Him, and has part in the life of the risen and glorified Christ. Thus he no longer stands before God as a child of Adam responsible in the flesh, but as one who has actually, by death, left this position, and who is alive in Christ. The flesh is considered as dead, as condemned, as no more to be seen, but as vanquished in the death of Christ. The Christian is alive in Christ; he is no longer in the flesh. (Compare Gal. 2:19, 2019For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19‑20).)
The expression, " The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," in the second verse of our chapter, may appear strange to many readers. It means, I believe, that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus operates constantly, unceasingly, according to one and the same principle, in order that, since the flesh has been condemned in another, it should be dead in the believer. Through the life of Christ and the Holy Spirit the believer is in Christ. How could there be any more condemnation there? God has already occupied Himself with sin in the flesh at the cross, and now, if one may say so, is done with it. The new life and the Holy Spirit give to the quickened believer his place in Christ; he is redeemed and alive before God in Christ. It is not a question here, as already said, of forgiveness of the sins of the old man, but of a new living position in Christ. This is what is presented in the first three verses of chapter 8.
After that, in chapter 7, the experience of the first position, as well as deliverance through redemption in Christ, and the continuance of the two natures as an actual fact, have been described, the first three verses of chapter 8 give us the new position in Christ in contrast with the position in the flesh, or in the first Adam. In the first verse, no condemnation; in the second, the power of life; in the third, the judgment of sin in the flesh in Christ on the cross. The second verse is characterized by life in Christ according to the power of the Holy Spirit, and that as a principle unceasingly in operation. The judgment of sin in the flesh in the sin-offering of Christ marks the third verse. Sin is, indeed, still there, and, if we are not faithful, if we do not practically bear about with us the dying of the Lord Jesus, it is active in us; we lose communion with God, and dishonor the Lord by our behavior, in not walking, according to the Spirit of life, worthy of the Lord. But we are no longer under the law of sin, but, having died with Christ, and become partakers of a new life in Him and of the Holy Spirit, we are delivered from this law. We are in a new position, in the second Adam before God, and our normal walk is according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. Thus the law of God and its requirements are fulfilled in us. The doctrine does not go beyond that, because it is a question of one who desired the law.
But the law is not the measure of Christian walk; it only says that he who walks according to the Spirit fulfills it. When I was in the flesh I could not fulfill it, because the flesh is not subject to the law, nor can be, but only follows its own will. But the Spirit will assuredly not lead us into that which is contrary to the law of God. The law is practically fulfilled, while we are not under the law, but under the guidance of the Spirit. We are under the influence of the Spirit and it is not a question of a law outside us, but of a nature in us, which possesses an object suitable to it. They who live after the Spirit, according to the new man, desire the things of the Spirit; but they that are after the flesh set their minds on the objects of their fleshly lusts. We have not to do with an imposed law, but a new mind, the mind of a nature which is born of the Spirit, and which seeks what is spiritual; a holy liberty, in that the man, as having died with Christ, is delivered from the yoke of sin, possesses a holy nature born of God, has holy objects before him, and is the habitation of the Holy Spirit, who produces holy thoughts in the heart, and reveals the things that are above. The minding of the flesh is death to the soul; it bears no fruit, and separates the soul from God, now and for eternity. But the minding of the Spirit is life, a well in us which springs up into everlasting life, and fills the soul with peace. The mind of the flesh rebels against the authority of God. Inasmuch as it makes up the activity of the natural man, it has to do with the law, which is the expression of this authority of God over man, and the rule of his responsibility as a creature of God. But it is not subject to the law, neither indeed can be, because self-will will go its own way; besides it has no love whatever for what pleases God. Thus they that are in the flesh, who are found before God in the position of the first Adam, and walk according to the life of the first Adam, cannot please God.
In verse 9 we find a very important principle. When can one say, " I am not in the flesh "? The answer is: When the Holy Spirit dwells in him. A man may be converted, and yet be found in the condition described in chapter 7; as, for example, the prodigal son before he met his father. He was converted and in the right way, yet he desired only to become a hired servant of his father. But as soon as he had met his father we hear nothing more of that, but only of what his father was and what he did for him. Deliverance comes through the personal knowledge of what the Father is, known in Jesus Christ, through the knowledge of redemption. And this knowledge is only found in a soul in which the Holy Spirit dwells. A converted man, as such, is only in the Christian position when he has been anointed. When the prodigal son was on the way to his father's house, his conscience and heart were reached by grace and rightly directed; but he was not yet clad in the best robe, nor did he yet know the father's heart. He first entered upon the Christian position when he reached the father; and from that moment we hear no more of him, but only of the father. Before that, his condition was not fit for the house.
In verse 10 we see the other side of the Christian relationship. At the beginning of the chapter it says, " Which are in Christ Jesus "; and here, " If Christ be in you." Thus on the one hand the Christian is hi Christ; and on the other, Christ is in him. We are in Christ, according to His perfection before God; Christ in us is the ground and measure of our responsibility, but in which He is the source of our strength, and that according to what has been said in the beginning of the chapter. A Christian is a man who has not only been born again (which is absolutely necessary), but in whom also the Holy Spirit dwells. He directs the eye of the believer to the work of Christ, and teaches him to appreciate its worth. He it is who gives him the consciousness that he is in Christ, and Christ in him (John 14), and fills his heart with the hope of glory, with the certainty that he will be like Christ and with Christ forever and ever. When the converted man knows that his sins are forgiven; when he can cry, " Abba, Father "; when he has the knowledge that for him there is no more condemnation, he is delivered; he stands in liberty before God, and is freed from the law of sin and death. But he is a full Christian, " perfect," only when he understands by the Holy Spirit that he occupies the position of Christ, that God is his Father and God in the same manner as He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ-when he understands that he has passed out of the position of Adam into the position of Christ, that he has died with Christ, and thus that it is no more he who lives, but Christ in him; Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).
This liberty is presented and developed very clearly in the Epistle to the Romans, but only so far as that the believer is there looked at as having died with Christ, and possessing Christ as his life, whereby he has been delivered from the law of sin, as well as from the law of Moses, because this has dominion over a man so long as he lives, and cannot go further. The epistle, however, does not take up the counsels of God and the glory of our new position, though this doctrine is approached in chapter 8: 29, 30. But in general the epistle treats of man's responsibility, as well as of what God has done to cleanse and to justify us from our guilt, teaching us at the same time how we have been delivered from the law of sin and death by our death with Christ. The above-mentioned verses open out a somewhat more extended view; but the new position is not further developed. The epistle does not go beyond the truth that we have been quickened by Christ; it does not speak of our resurrection with Him. This, the starting-point of our new position, we must look for in the Epistle to the Colossians. That to the Ephesians develops this doctrine yet further, from another point of view, however. There we do not find that a child of Adam most die, and rise again, and that the believer has died, although he is represented as risen with Christ. The unconverted man in the Ephesians, is looked at rather as dead in sins, and all is a new creation. We find there all the counsels of God, both as to believers raised with Christ, as to Christ Himself, as to the children of God, and our union with Christ as His body.
It is well to remark, that while the first three verses of chapter 8 give us the principles of deliverance, so the following eight verses describe the practical character and the result of deliverance. The Holy Spirit acts in the new life, instead of a law given outside it to which the flesh opposes an insuperable resistance. The Spirit furnishes the new life with heavenly objects, in which it finds its joy and sustenance. " The mind of the Spirit is life and peace." All this depends on the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. " If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." We have already said that the condition of such an one is similar to that of the prodigal son before he had found his father. If, on the other hand, the Spirit of Christ dwells in one who is converted, the body for him is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the body lives by virtue of its own life, it brings forth nothing but sin; the spiritual man, according to chapter 6, reckons it dead.
The Spirit is not to be separated from the new life. He is the source of the life, and characterizes it. Now if the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus dwells in us, He who raised up Christ from the dead will also quicken our mortal bodies on account of His Spirit which dwelleth in us. That is the blessed end of the life of the Spirit in Christ Jesus, or rather the beginning of it in its true perfection. The Spirit is God's Spirit. God has raised up Jesus as Man-Jesus is His personal name. But it was not for Himself that He lay in death; Christ is His name, as come for others. If, then, the Spirit of God dwells in us, He who raised up the First-Begotten, will raise up also the sheep He has redeemed.
Three characteristic names are here attributed to the Holy Spirit-the Spirit of God (ver. 9) in contrast with the flesh; the Spirit of Christ as the formative power of the new man; and the Spirit of Him who raised up Christ from among the dead, because He is in us the pledge of our resurrection.
The glorious end of delivering grace is reached; the circumstances by which we are surrounded remain indeed the same; and the following verses of the chapter give us our position before God in connection with these circumstances.
" Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh " (v. 12). That brought us into a bad condition and a bad position; nor are we any longer in the flesh, but are delivered from it through redemption; through the Redeemer's death we have been brought into a new position, of which we have also the consciousness by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The two lives, the two principles, are directly opposed to each other; and it is important to observe (what has already been set forth as a principle in chapter 2) that where these natures act, they bring forth their natural results. I can overcome the flesh by the Spirit; I have the right and the duty to reckon it dead. But if the flesh lives, it brings forth death; and if I live according to the flesh, death is my lot. The nature, and the working of this nature-its result-are ever the same. God can give me a new nature, and-His name be praised for it-He gives it to me in Christ; and that in such a way that I have part in redemption, and in the power of the Spirit can overcome the old nature, and walk according to the Spirit. But the nature of the flesh is not changed essentially, any more than its consequences. If I live after the flesh I must die. Grace redeems; gives me a new life in which I walk after the Spirit and reckon the flesh dead; and, finally, it gives me the glory. But this new life does not live after the flesh; nay, it cannot do so. If I live after the flesh, I die, alienated from God; for the fruit and wages of the life of the flesh is death. But if through the Spirit I mortify the deeds of the body, I live, and shall live forever with God from whom this life of my soul flows, and whose Spirit is its strength and guide.
This gives the apostle occasion to speak of the position of those led by the Spirit of God, and in the first place of their relationship to God. The Spirit that they have received is the Spirit of adoption; they possess Him because they are children. But extensive results in blessing flow from this relationship; if they are children, they are also heirs-heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Meanwhile the condition of the creation around us here below, and particularly that of our own bodies, is not yet restored. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, just as also the friendship of the world is enmity against Him. The principles of the flesh, as of the world, are opposed to us; both are subject to the bondage of corruption. Moreover the world through which we have to pass as pilgrims, being alienated from God, and under the dominion of Satan, furnishes us with innumerable sources of sorrow and pain. The Lord Jesus was in this world " a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." A world of sin in contrast with His holiness, a world of sorrow and suffering in contrast with His love, could not but be for His heart a source of sorrow and pain. He found Himself isolated and alone in such a world, and not even His disciples understood Him. Full of sympathy for all, He found sympathy nowhere for Himself. If such did once break through the darkness of man's heart, it was something so wonderful that the Lord says, " Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her," Mark 14:99Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. (Mark 14:9).
Could we, if we have the Spirit of Christ, go through such a world without feeling its condition? Should not our hearts be sad when at every step we see the dominion of sin, and have daily before our eyes the sorrows of sinful man, when we see that all is subject to the bondage of corruption? The time will come when we shall behold the universal blessing of the world, and when we shall rejoice with God Himself in it. But now, as those that are renewed in heart, and delivered, we can but suffer in the midst of an undelivered creation.
Let us remark, however, that this is suffering with Christ, not for Him. To suffer for Christ is a privilege, a special gift of God; Phil. 1:2929For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; (Philippians 1:29). One cannot be a Christian without suffering with Christ; for how could the Spirit of Christ produce in us a different mind from that which was in Christ as He passed through this poor world? The glory of the children of God is a subject of hope; now the sufferings of Christ in weakness are reproduced in a heart in which Christ dwells. We suffer here, where Christ suffered, as joint-heirs of the kingdom of love, where all will be joy and gladness. Although we are already, as a present thing, children, or rather sons, and therefore heirs also, we do not yet possess the inheritance; indeed, we cannot yet possess it, for it is still corrupt, defiled, and in this condition would not be suitable for us. Christ is seated at the right hand of God until His enemies be made His footstool. Then shall we reign with Him and be like Him.
Therefore the apostle, who knew well what suffering was, could say, " I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." We possess the relationship of sons, and have besides the consciousness of it, and therefore no longer fear. Where there is fear, the heart has not the knowledge of this position. The Spirit in us cries, " Abba, Father! " and it cannot be otherwise, for He only came after all was accomplished which has placed us in this relationship. Christ has given us His own position before God. After accomplishing all that was requisite, as well for the glory of God as for our redemption, and, indeed, where it was necessary for both-namely, in the place of sin-" made sin," as Man He has gone up into heaven. In Him a Man has entered into the glory of God, beyond sin, death, the power of Satan, the judgment of God against sin, so that He could send the message by Mary Magdalene-" Say to my brethren, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Thereupon He sent down the Holy Spirit as the blessed result of His ascension as Man into heaven, after having accomplished all for our redemption. This Spirit dwells in believers who rest in the value of His blood, so that their body is a temple of the Holy Ghost; 1 Cor. 6. They are sealed by the Spirit and have the earnest of the inheritance, the consciousness that they are the children of God. He makes present to us Christ who is in heaven, and causes us to enjoy unseen things. It would therefore be impossible that He should be a Spirit of fear or of bondage.
But the operation of the Spirit in us is two-fold. He leads us to appreciate the glory that lies before us, and gives us the sense that the sufferings into which we are brought in endeavoring to reach this glory, and in faithfulness to Christ, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, so that we can pursue the path of God with fresh courage and endurance. He helps our weakness likewise, that we may take part, according to God, in these sufferings; and that, by the Spirit, our hearts may be vessels of sympathy answering to the heart of Christ, while by our groans we give expression before God to the groans of a suffering creation. What a precious position, to be able thus to realize His glory and love, who came down into the midst of a suffering creation, so that, while by our bodies having part in a fallen creation, our hearts by the Spirit can be the mouth-piece of the whole creation, and can express according to God its groans before Him. Into this feeling the heart of Christ entered to the full, in perfect love and perfection. Inasmuch as He, though truly Man, was in Himself absolutely free from sin, which had brought this suffering upon the creature, His sympathy with the consequences of sin for us was all the more perfect. " He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows," Matt. 8:1717That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. (Matthew 8:17). At the grave of Lazarus, seeing Mary and all the Jews weeping, He groaned in His spirit, and was troubled. To us also, though as fallen creatures, weak and imperfect, is given by the indwelling Spirit to take part in the sufferings of creation, and that not with selfish impatience, because we suffer ourselves, but according to God. The way the apostle presents the condition of creation around us will make this experience clearer; although we have already considered some points of it, we can nevertheless begin afresh at verse 19.
It has been already observed that we, have to suffer in the world because it is all lying in sin and disorder, while we have been brought back to God; and further, that we have also to suffer in heart, because we dwell in the midst of an undelivered creation. But the eye of faith is directed to the glory which lies before us, and this joyful prospect, together with the fellowship which we enjoy with God, already down here, makes us realize that all around us is unreconciled.
This creation awaits its redemption; but it cannot be delivered and restored until the children of God, in the glory of the kingdom, are ready to take possession of it as joint-heirs with Christ. Christ sits at the right hand of God until these joint-heirs are gathered. It is a blessed thought, that as we have brought the earthly creation under the bondage of corruption, so now it must wait for our being glorified, to be restored and delivered from this bondage (v. 19). It is not the will of the creature that subjected it to this bondage; we have done it- but in hope; for this condition will not continue always: the creation will be restored. God, however, in the counsels of His grace, begins with the guilty, with those who are most alienated, with those in whom He will, in the ages to come, show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; Eph. 2:77That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7); compare Col. 1:20, 2120And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled (Colossians 1:20‑21).
Creation, inasmuch as it is only physical, could not enter into the liberty of grace; it must await the liberty of the glory of the children of God. When they are delivered, and their bodies which belong to this creation are changed and glorified, and when Satan is bound, then the creature also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption in which it lies enthralled. For we know, we that are instructed in Christian doctrine-that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. We know it yet more because we have the firstfruits of the Spirit; and " we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Thus we wait to possess that which is saved in hope; not only to possess eternal life as life-that we have already- but to be glorified, by our bodies, which belong to this creation, being changed, and we made like unto Christ the Lord, according to the power whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself (Phil. 3:2121Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21)).
Thus peace is made; our sins are put away, we have a new life, possess the earnest of the Spirit, the glory lies before us in hope, and we shall be like the Lord. But as long as we have not reached the glory, we groan with the creation. For while realizing our glorious hope, we feel the sad condition of the whole creation being connected with it as fallen, by our bodies. Free before God, free from the law of sin and death, filled with the hope of glory, we are led, through the knowledge of this glory, and of the full deliverance of the creature, to groan, which is the expression of its groan to God. But our groaning is not a complaint, the fruit of discontent, but the operation of the Holy Spirit in the heart. The Spirit directs our eye to the glory, where we shall have no more occasion to groan; and leads us to feel according 'to the love of God, the suffering of a creation under bondage; we at the same time feel it, because by our bodies we still belong to it. The Spirit of God which dwells in us forms these feelings according to God. God searches the human heart, and He finds this operation of the Spirit in the heart of the delivered Christian. The Spirit Himself is there, the source of divine sympathy with a groaning creation (v. 27). The eye of the Christian will be, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, directed above, to the glory and the rest of God, where all is blessing. With joy he realizes what is before him. But, as he is still in the body, he feels so much the more the condition of a fallen creation, shares its groans, and thereby becomes the voice of a creation groaning before God. But his groaning is in the spirit of love, according to God, because in his relationship with God he is perfectly free. With regard to his condition, he is saved in hope; but before God his heart is free in the consciousness of His love. He can rejoice in hope-the hope of glory; his conscience is perfect; the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost. And thus according to this love he can sympathize with the universal misery around him. He knows not, it is true, what remedy he ought to look for in his prayers; perhaps there is none. But love can express the needs, and does it according to the operation of the Spirit; and although the Christian does not know what he should ask for, He who searches the hearts finds the mind of the Spirit in his groans; for it is the Spirit that in the depths of the heart gives expression to the feelings of need. Being ourselves still in the body, and as to our own condition forming part of the groaning creation and awaiting the redemption of our bodies, our sympathy is the more heartfelt.
But although we know not what we ought to pray for, yet there is what we know with perfect certainty, namely, that God makes all things work together for good to them that love Him, whom He has called according to His purpose.
What privilege is ours through grace-privilege that we enjoy by the Holy Ghost! We are children of God, we know our relationship with God, and can realize it by the Holy Ghost; we cry, " Abba, Father! " are children, therefore heirs-heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The Spirit reveals to us our inheritance, and gives us to understand what it is. We shall be like Christ in the rest of God, and in His own rest-perfectly to the glory of Christ, and shall reign with Him over all things. As men upon earth we lift our eyes to the glory of God which is our hope, and which we shall share with Christ, there where all is pure conformably to the purity of God. Looking at this poor world, our hearts are filled with the love of God, in which we share the sufferings of an undelivered creation, and that according to God; so that He who searches the hearts finds therein the mind of the Spirit, who produces in us this sympathy with the sufferings of the fallen creation in order that we in our groans may become the mouthpiece of the creation before God. And as from our lack of intelligence we do not always know what we should pray for, the word of God comforts us with the assurance that God, according to His own will and love, makes all things work together for our good.
This leads the apostle to say a few words as to the counsels of God, although this is not the subject of the epistle. He does so only to show the foundation of all blessing. Otherwise the epistle treats, as already remarked, of man's responsibility, as well as of the grace and the work of God to deliver us from the consequences of this responsibility.
God acts constantly in behalf of those who are called, for they are foreknown; and whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. Moreover, " Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." All is grace, and therefore all is secure. Thus also God does not terminate the course of the manifestations of His grace until the object is attained; the activity of God's grace does not cease until they that are called are glorified. The whole teaching of the gospel leads us back to God and to His thoughts, which cannot fail, and cannot be hindered. And there we find, His name be praised for it, that God is for us. The apostle develops this doctrine in verses 31-39. We see the proof of God's being for us, first, in what He gives, then in His justifying us, and, finally, in that nothing can separate us from His love. Such is the blessed consequence of the whole teaching of the Epistle, " God is for us "; that is the source of blessing; that is the conclusion the heart draws from all that is here revealed of Him. Not only has the righteousness of God been glorified and satisfied in the work of Christ, but we see also that the love of God is the source of all; and that changes all our thoughts as to God. It was just on this point that the doctrine of the reformers of the sixteenth century was defective. Far be it from me to depreciate the value of these men. No one could be more thankful for the deliverance from superstition which we gained by the Reformation; no one can more highly appreciate than I do the faith of those who even sacrificed their lives for the truth. It would be impossible for me now quietly to write of what was wanting in their doctrine, if they had not joyfully given up their lives for the maintenance of the truth. Nevertheless, the truth remains ever the same in the word of God. The reformers taught, it is true, that Christ had done all that was requisite to satisfy the righteousness of God, but not that it was the love of God that gave the Lamb, His own Son, to accomplish the work. According to them, God was ever the Judge, reconciled indeed to us through the work of Christ, but not known as the One who loved us when we were yet sinners. In John 3:1414And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (John 3:14) the Lord says, " The Son of man must be lifted up," for God is a holy and righteous God. Then in verse 16 follows the motive of all: " For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son." The practical consequence of the teaching of the reformers was-not that they thought of or perhaps desired it-that the love is in Christ, and that God sits on the judgment-seat as a cold Judge. But "grace reigns through righteousness," Rom. 5:2121That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21). In the day of judgment righteousness will reign. Love has established the righteousness of God in our favor in Christ. Righteousness was needed; love has provided it.
Thus we know that God is for us according to His infinite love, and according to His eternal and immutable righteousness. The first proof of it is that He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us; " how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? " Yes, we can count on Him to give us every good thing; but how can He, the Holy One, be for us in view of our sins? It is just in that, that we have seen how fully He is for us, for He has given His Son even for our sins. " Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? " God Himself justifies us, who shall condemn us? Let us observe that all is here attributed to God. It does not say, we are justified before God, but " It is God that justifieth "; so that the apostle may well exclaim, " Who is he that condemneth," whoever he may be?
Then he changes somewhat the form of the sentence. He must think of Christ, and then through Him he sees also all the difficulties of the way disappear. Not as though they did not exist; they are there; but they disappear because Christ Himself has passed through every difficulty. Become man, in His love, He has experienced all the trials of the way, all human sorrow, all that in which the enemy has sought to oppose the faithful servant of God in the path of holiness, even unto death. Accordingly, not only do we overcome, by His assured power, but we make experience of His love in a special manner. The sufferings are the pledge of a better glory; and while as Man He has passed through everything, as God He has thereby proved His infinite love, and we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
In every respect God is for us. Precious truth! He has given His own Son, He will give us all things. He Himself justifies us, who shall condemn us? And nothing can separate us from the love that has been thus proved. All that is against us on the way to glory cannot, as the creature, be greater than He who is above all. God is for us in Christ, in Him who overcame all. Not only is the path which He trod-as Man so as to suffer, and as God to manifest all love in the sufferings- the proof of His love, but, following Him in this path, we also experience His love. Nothing can separate us from this love.