Forgiveness of Sins and Deliverance from Sin.
Romans 4, 5, 6.
God's salvation, and the full deliverance which it brings from all the power of Satan, which, being won by the death of Christ, should be the present enjoyed portion of every Christian, is only known to him who has accepted by faith two distinct statements of the word of God concerning it; namely, that as God's salvation surely deals with, and settles the question of my sins, so surely does it also deal with, and settle the question of, myself. "Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification," indicates the way of the settlement of the one (Rom. 4), that is, our sins; for the Holy Ghost now present (Acts 2) is now testifying to us (as He will testify to Israel, founded on the work of Christ, in the day of the new covenant), "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." But while this is true, it is His voice also saying we "are dead to sin," "buried with Him by baptism unto death" (Rom. 6) (and therefore are we exhorted to reckon ourselves to be "dead indeed unto sin"); these and similar passages give us the other part of this "great" salvation; i.e. the end too of ourselves in that death of Christ in God's sight. Both are to be accepted and enjoyed only by faith.
Let us remember that doubts and fears, and a joy often followed by darkness and despair, form no part of God's provision for the poor sinner who comes to Christ. Long enough indeed has he known these, and deeply enough has he proved them, in the long and weary years of unbelief that have passed. Yet in how many cases do we find, alas, that these things are perpetuated, even looked upon as right, and too often encouraged as a proof of humility in the children of God! Some sad misunderstanding of the word "salvation," then, must surely exist in our own day, to produce such fruits, and such Christians, and such teachers, as these. The fault is not in God, nor in the Word - this cannot be; it is alone in ourselves. We have to learn, and often through deep sorrow, what we refuse to accept from God by faith. The exercises of Romans 7 teach us this. The soul there is wholly occupied with self as alive.
When God is first dealing with the soul, I find the Holy Ghost brings home to it, through the conscience, the burden of its sins. The cry is wrung from it, as from the prodigal; "I have sinned." It was thus when Peter was preaching (Acts 2) to the multitude, and three thousand were pricked in their heart; and Peter's answering word is, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins." And so again in chapter 3, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." In the necessity for real heart work I agree with Bunyan that the soul must feel its burden, though I reject the necessity of passing long years in the Doubting Castle of Giant Despair, wherein he immures Christian for a time, even when far advanced on his journey. And what is it which introduces the soul into liberty as to its sins when feeling the weight of this burden? It is this statement, accepted by faith, that another, even Jesus Christ, has been "delivered for our offences;" One who has also been accepted of God, proved in that He is "raised again for our justification." Very well, then, says the apostle in his simple argument, if this cannot be denied, and it is all of God, we are justified. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Here then I pass at once into unclouded peace with God as to the whole question of my sins, and "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:1.)
But with how many souls is this blessed condition but transient as to their realization of it! How many we meet who look back to the time when they knew this peace, and passed for the first time into the blessed realization of it by faith! But since that time the brightness has become dim, and the clouds have returned again, for they have not gone on to accept with the same unhesitating, unqualified faith the statement of this sixth chapter; namely, that in the same work of Christ, wherein was obtained the forgiveness of my sins, I was "baptized unto His death." "Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death." The death and burial of me, the man, is as clearly taught, and as implicitly to be received as a matter of faith,* as that Christ was delivered for my sins.
*This is of the first importance; for until this truth is received by faith, it will never be known experimentally, and souls never enter upon the blessedness of deliverance until they have learnt for themselves what the flesh is, that they are helpless, and that deliverance is found outside of themselves in Christ, according to Romans 7. - [ED.]
Alas, that souls should stop short of this their full and blessed deliverance, a deliverance perfect because of God, and which He delights to give as the present and enjoyed portion of the believer in Christ! You find many who know and rejoice in the forgiveness of their sins, who do not, and will not, accept the truth that they are "dead" (Col. 3:3), for it is here the cross comes in, and it, alas! weighs too heavily upon them. The forgiveness of their sins they will have; that is all privilege, all blessing; but the rejection of themselves, this involves the giving up of everything that ministers to man on the earth, and they may live as very good Christians (as the world speaks) without going quite so far as this. And this word death is a solemn word to those who accept it. It is the end of the man who was living in his sins, the end of his affections, of his desires, of his present world-life, and of all his future worldly hopes. What is left for faith is the new man alone, the man "in Christ," a new creation, where "all things are of God." And what does not this involve, as to the way in which that man should henceforth live upon the earth, no longer to himself, but "unto Him who died for him and rose again "? And why is it refused, but because the occupation of the daily life of many will not bear such an examination, and they have no thought that Christianity contains such a self-ignoring standard as this? But is not this the Christianity of the Bible, the Christianity of these three chapters? And can you have the joy of it if you refuse it?
My brethren, have you accepted it as God's truth that you are "dead"? Are you following no longer that course of things which once controlled and attracted you when you were alive in the world? "Having food and raiment" here, are you therewith "content"? and still content when you have not these, if it be His blessed will to deprive you of them? Like the apostle Paul, who could say, "I know how to abound, and I know how to suffer loss, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" - "in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness." A fool indeed was the world's estimation of such a man; but is there not in him a picture of the Christianity of the Bible before you? And do we not covet to be such men? dead surely, and useless, if "society" and man's day be the subject; but we live in a new life - waiting for the dawning of a new day, the day of Christ, a "morning without clouds." Do not misunderstand my meaning; a Christian may, and ought to, minister to man in his misery and in his sins; for out of his belly should flow "rivers of living water" (John 7:38); but as to what he can minister to me, what would he add to a dead man? or what can he add to an "heir of God, a joint-heir with Christ"? For as to the world, I am dead - "whereby (the cross of Christ) the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." (Gal. 6:14; 4:12.)
Now God in this epistle presents to us the forgiveness of sins, and also the death of the sinner in the person of the One who satisfies God as to the question of his sins. This is Paul's gospel (chapter 1), wherein, he says, the "righteousness of God" is revealed on the principle of faith. God's righteousness "upon all who believe" (chapter 3) when we had none to offer Him (see chapter 3), and Christ now before God instead of myself, in whom I am, according to Romans 8:1. This is how the power and grace of God have triumphed. "It" (the gospel) "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." And this word salvation, thus brought out in the first chapter, is no mean measure; it is what God's heart desires to be proclaimed to every poor sinner "for the obedience of faith." As it was in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4) so it is now, "deliverance to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." To accept it is to be "free indeed," no longer a servant, but a son; "and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." (Gal. 4) How appropriate the exhortation of the apostle to these law-keeping Galatians: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Yet though we are not Jews, and so not under the law of Moses, how often we make laws for ourselves, not reckoning ourselves dead, not accepting the truth, and thus are landed again under a yoke of bondage, in which case the true Christian liberty is not known. How common is the thought, in respect of worldliness for example, (though the principle applies to other things), "I ought not to be so worldly, nor to do what the world does." This is admitted; but it is the old man you are addressing as if alive; you have allowed yourself to "be" what is inconsistent with a dead man. Had you met the enemy at the outposts with the truth, "I am dead," because you have accepted it by faith, you had not been betrayed into a path and conduct you now sorrow over, a path of servitude, and not of liberty, in which you find yourselves in Rom. 7, and do not know the truth of Romans 8 as your abiding portion and joy.
We have been looking then at the two parts of this "great" salvation, deliverance from sins and deliverance from self, both of which are contained in it, and to be received by faith. There is one verse in connection with faith in this epistle, and faith both as to my sins and as to myself, which I cannot but bring before you, as bearing on this subject: "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23.) If there is faith, it will manifest itself by works. If a soul knows that it has forgiveness of sins, and knows also as to the old man, that he was crucified, dead and buried "with Him," will it not manifest these truths in its life on earth? Let it be, then, in this connection (as it surely is) God's solemn word to us, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" - sin from the bondage of which Christ died to deliver us; for "he that is dead is freed from sin."
Let us remember, then, what Paul's gospel contained; let us remember too the blessed deliverance it brings to all who accept it. Have you faith in God about your sins? and also about yourself? A soul is not established who has not bowed in faith to both these truths which we have had before us. But the apostle prayed for these Romans that they might be thus established, and his concluding words sound to us today as fresh as when he uttered them first: "Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel." They come home to us; for we see all around that souls are not established according to this blessed gospel. Its deliverance is not accepted and acted on, and so its joy cannot be known. May we listen then to his words afresh, and may they be fulfilled in us all: "Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith; to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen." H, C. Anstey.