A Series of 4pp. Gospel Tracts by W.K. for distribution after preaching.
1 Justified by faith
2 Peace with God
3 This grace wherein we stand
4 Hope of the glory of God
5 We glory in tribulations also
6 The love of God
7 Christ died for the ungodly
8 God's own love
9 Justified by His blood
10 Reconciled to God
11 We shall be saved
12 We also joy in God
1. Justified by faith
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 134-135. Gospel No. 2:1.)
"How should a man be just with God?" Solemn question! to which man can give no satisfactory answer. If righteousness rule, love is annulled; if love govern, righteousness is swamped. Man can devise no way which does not sacrifice the one to the other. The anxious soul is thus left a prey to fear, apt to drown his doubts in religious efforts if not in the pleasures of sin for a season. Self is unjudged, and conscience unpurged; God unknown. Christ a mere make-weight or help and an impossible example. In such a state (and nothing is more common even in Christendom), the very gospel is turned into a law more galling than that of Moses; and some souls sink into indifference or despair, whilst others clothe themselves with the rags of their own righteousness, to find out too late that they are naked in God's sight.
Christ, Christ's redemption, alone meets the dilemma, alone puts in their true places God and man, guilt and judgment, peace and holiness. Without Him all for the sinner is a hopeless chaos of contradiction. By Christ's death, as God is glorified, so remission of sins is proclaimed to man: mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.
But man, hitherto living to himself and without God, even if an observer Of forms and duties, is summoned to believe the gospel, not merely that there is grace and truth in Christ, but to believe on Him and His work for his own soul before God. This necessarily involves repentance toward God, as indeed is often expressly insisted on (Matt. 21:32, Mark 1:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, 17:30, 20:21). The word of faith, which we preach, says the apostle, is "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10). His words in Rom. 4:23- 25 set the truth in the clearest light. "Now it was not written for his (Abraham's) sake that it was imputed to him, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus from the dead, Who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith," etc.
None need ask language more precise, none can desire more authoritative. It is scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16); and scripture is the word of God, whatever the human instrument, communicated by the Holy Spirit for permanent use, written not for their sakes only to whom it was originally given, but for us also. Being God's word, it binds the conscience of every man whom it reaches: his abuse of it, his refusal to heed it, will but aggravate his condemnation. Cavilling will not blot out his sins nor rescue him from the wrath to come. Faith is the reception of God's word, and now pre-eminently of His message to every man, the gospel of His grace. We are called to believe that God raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead — Jesus expressly declared to be given up for our offences and raised for our justification or justifying. The efficacious work was entirely on God's part. We had contributed alas! our trespasses: He gave up His Son Who suffered for them, Just for unjust, and raised Him from the dead, the sure proof that the sacrifice was wrought and accepted for those that believe. Do you ask further demonstration? Rom. 8:34 adds, "Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us." His resurrection and glory on high are the answer, not only to His person but to His work, glorifying God as to sin and suffering for our sins. God is righteous in thus raising and glorifying Him. But His righteousness avails much more, and Justifies him that believes in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
Here is the blessed ground of the gospel. Fallen and guilty, man has no righteousness for God (Rom. 1, 2). But God justifies freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Who bore the judgment of our sins on the cross, and now risen declares the believer free. Hence it is "by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe." It is open "to all," but for this very reason far worse off with God is he who rejects Christ and the gospel of God. He who believes on Him is justified, yea is made God's righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). He is justified by faith. There is no other way. It is not a process going on, but a fact accomplished and made known by that surest of testimonies-God's word. For He loves that we should know what Christ has done for us, and what He can afford to give in consequence. If we believe in Him, He would not have us doubtful, or burdened, but enjoying the inestimable favour of being justified in His sight. It is the fundamental blessing, anticipated in the Psalm (32), accomplished in Christ, and proclaimed in the gospel.
It is "upon all them that believe." The weak believer as well as the strong, may rest on the Saviour, Whom God set forth a propitiatory, or mercy seat, by faith in His blood. And why was the blood sprinkled seven times before it, if not to furnish the fullest confidence to every soul that believes? The veil is now rent; all is manifest, not only your sins in the light of the cross, but the blood upon the mercy seat, the witness of atonement for ever accepted. For God has before Him, not your sins, but the blood that cleanses from every sin.
More than that, it was to declare God's righteousness; and this doubly. It was first to vindicate in the pretermission or passing over of the foregone sins in the forbearance of God. How else could He have dealt as He did with such as Abel, Enoch, and Noah, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with crowds of others named and unnamed of old? But it is also to show His righteousness in the present time when He sends the glad tidings to all the world, to bear fruit and grow in all that bear and know the grace of God in truth. For it is no longer His ancient people under the law, but the gospel sent to all; no longer man's righteousness claimed, to convict of sin and powerlessness and ruin, but God's righteousness in Christ's death, that Himself might be just and justifier of him that has faith in Jesus.
Therefore, as the apostle triumphantly challenges in Rom. 8:33, "It is God that justifieth: who is he that condemneth?" Christ Jesus by His suffering work alone accounts for it. For our sins afforded righteous ground against us; but Christ bore them in His body on the tree, as His resurrection proves them to be altogether and righteously gone. It is God's righteousness, as the Epistle to the Romans lays down, not only to raise Him from the dead, but to justify all who believe in Him. His righteousness goes far beyond, even to heavenly glory for Christ and those that are His. But here the Holy Spirit urges the foundation alike for God and for the soul through faith. May it be your portion, dear reader, through sovereign grace!
2 Peace with God
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 151-152. Gospel No. 2:2.)
The sinner is at war with God Whose judgment he cannot but dread. He is guilty and knows it, but the effort for him to forget it always is vain, still more so to hide it from God. Even conscience recalls the sins long committed, just when the remembrance is most painful and overwhelming. Nor does the Holy Spirit fail to apply the word of God where there is an ear to hear, All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light. This aggravates the darkness, and makes evident the unbeliever's total unfitness for God's presence. For indeed His glory is the standard; and how far sinful man comes short!
But the Lord Jesus is a perfect Saviour, and the only one. And as He came from God, so is He gone to God. He came down in love; He is gone up in righteousness, and between the two He could and did say, "I if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me." John 12:32, For He made peace through the blood of His cross. Col. 1:20. For whom did He make peace, if not for those who deeply need it? And as God sent His Son for this end, His heart welcomes the troubled penitent that looks to Him for it. Yea, God anticipates poor doubting man, and sets him at ease by gracious tidings which He now sends everywhere, preaching peace by Jesus Christ.
Of old God told His ancient people, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth; there is none that, seeketh after God. They have all turned aside; they are together becomes unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is, under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are, in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." So the apostle quoted from Psalms 53 and others, and from Isa. 59. Is it not as true of you in Christendom? Are you not as bankrupt in righteousness, in spiritual intelligence, in any real care even about God? Nay, it is true of all that they have swerved, and together been unprofitable in His sight, and not even one practising good. Nor is there a member of man's body untainted by corruption or violence. What then but destruction and misery in such ways, and peace's way unknown? Ah! how true that no fear of God is before men's eyes.
But why perish in your sins? Why persist .in guilty wretchedness, when God is calling to you, and calling you to Himself? The apostle in 2 Cor. 5 declares that God was in Christ reconciled, not worthy men, nor His ancient people but the "world" to Himself; nay, more, not reckoning unto them their trespasses. May you believe it! He represents himself and others labouring in the gospel as ambassadors on behalf of Christ. For the counsel of peace is between Them both, Who would win you from the enemy and sin and its judgment, that you might have peace with God. We beseech you, says he, Be reconciled to God. Him Who knew no sin, Christ, He made sin for us that we might become God's righteousness in Him. There is no barrier on God's part, and He declares that in the cross of Christ He has made, full provision for you, spite of all your evil. If you bow as a sinner and call on the name of the Lord, God assures you that Christ took your place in divine judgment of sin there to give you His place in righteousness and glory.
Thus the ground of peace, for the soul that is troubled before God, is Christ the propitiation for sins (1 John 2:2). Him therefore has God forth a propitiatory or mercy seat through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25). You might, as you are, justly dread His judgment seat. But divine grace has interposed, after the sins, and before the judgment. Oh, trifle with neither! Unbelief will not save but destroy you. Hear His word and believe Him now. "Behold now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6.) For all that believe Christ bore the sins in His own body on the tree; and you may draw near in faith to God's own presence, for the veil is rent, and the blood. is upon the mercy seat and before it. And why was the blood sprinkled seven times before it (Lev. 16), if not to give complete assurance to him that thus and now approaches God in the true sanctuary?
No wonder that you, believing God's testimony concerning His Son, are entitled to peace, to peace with Him now and evermore, Undoubtedly your sins were many and great, yourself unworthy and sinful. But the Son of Man, it is written, came to seek and save that which is lost. Salvation is therefore yours if on the warrant of God's word you believe on Him. It is all well if your soul has been deeply concerned as you weighed your evil life in God's sight. But no such exercises can ever give you peace; any more than the harrowing of a field can itself yield a harvest. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can avail for you. But if we believe God's estimate of His blood as in Rom. 3, Rom. 4 points us to His resurrection as God's proof of our justification. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Justification comes out of faith, not out of works of law. The soul is justified on that principle, and on none other. But having been thus justified, we know that the burden of guilt is rolled away by a divine work brought home to us, and "we have peace with God." It is through Christ alone meritoriously, but it cannot be ours save by faith. Believing, we have peace with God.
So Christ, with His death in view, left peace as His legacy to His own (John 14:27); and as He promised, so He performed (John 20:19, 21), on the resurrection day saying, "Peace be unto you." He repeated it, both for their own souls, and for His work as His envoys to others. Without peace resting on God's word we cannot enjoy our real relationship as children of God, nor can we draw near to worship the Father in spirit and truth; the conscience is unpurged, and the affections have no due exercise, To have peace with God is the normal privilege of a Christian.
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 46.)
Peace with God is a state of mind in the unclouded consciousness of what God is (but necessarily according to His nature) to us according to the value of Christ's work, and in Him.
There is another order of peace from the conformity itself to this nature — a subjective peace. "The mind of the Spirit is life and peace."
3 This grace wherein we stand
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 168-169. Gospel No. 2:3.)
Faith then receives God's testimony to Christ and His work. He Who believes on Him is justified. My sins are no obstacle. It was for sins and for sinners that Jesus died; and they are blotted out and forgiven to him that believes the gospel. At God's call doubt no longer, but believe His word. This is not only to turn to Him from self and sin and the creature in every form, but to honour God Whom You have slighted hitherto, believing His love and submitting to His righteousness. Not that faith is an object: Christ is what God presents to the needy and guilty soul, Confess Him as God reveals Him; neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no different name under heaven that is given among men whereby we must be saved. That divine Saviour cannot fail; and it is because you have utterly failed in yourself that you need Him, Him only, to save you. For as God the Father sent Him to be Saviour, so does the Holy Spirit bear witness to Him alone. Cast away every doubt and fear; only believe.
But justification, wondrous boon as it is for a sinner is far from all that God gives through our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle adds, "Through Whom also we have* access by faith into this grace wherein we stand." How many souls, after really believing on Him, take the ground of law in their newborn relationship with God! And what is the result? Dissatisfaction and uneasiness, doubt and fear not without torment. Self-judgment is thoroughly right; but in such a case it is apt to be as superficial as the faith, even supposing both to be of God's Spirit. Neither can be deep, unless the soul rest by faith on God's estimate of Christ's blood and of its own guilt and abject need: when one does, the conscience is purged, the heart confides in God, and self-judgment proceeds habitually and unreservedly as we walk in the light.
*We "have" peace is simply possessing as a present thing; we "have" access is the continuance of what is past, and so is "we stand."
Christ by His work entitles the believer to a constant approach and standing in the favour of God. This is part, and a most important part, of the salvation which the gospel proclaims. When justified, we are not placed, as the Jews were by their own choice (Ex. 19), under law; we have the well-known, near, and real access to God which is proper to the Christian (Eph. 2:18, Eph. 3:12). Before the redemption that is in Christ, it was not enjoyed, nor could it be given; and when Christ comes to reign over the earth, it will no longer be the portion of those here below. It is a privilege peculiar to the gospel of sovereign grace; and he who now believes since Pentecost has it and ought to enjoy it.
Only consider how immense the blessing is to him that believes, whatever the license that the hypocrite takes to his own destruction. It is not only that righteousness is reckoned to you, but that you have got and so possess as a settled thing access by faith into this favour in which we stand: not a blot left on you, not a cloud hanging or rising over you, but divine favour without stint, change, or end. Christ and Christ's accomplished work alone account for it; as thus only was it rendered possible to faith. For it is not simply the love of God. He loves the angels, He loves His creatures. The gospel is the glad tidings of His grace for all, not Israel merely, but all men indiscriminately, that appeared when Christ died, rose, and went to heaven; grace rising over sins, and where sin abounded, over-exceeding grace reigning through righteousness unto life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This grace of God in the Saviour, not law, is what meets us as our assured portion in our approach to God. Nor indeed can there be true approach to God on any other ground than one of perfect favour in Christ. Grace and truth came to pass through Jesus Christ. It was not so before; it is the fact now. The law was given through Moses: grace and truth came into being for man here below through Christ, the only-begotten Son, Who alone could make either good, Who made both good to God's glory. The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin. More than that, we are through Him made welcome to the presence of God, we have boldness. Weigh the word which the Holy Ghost gives (Heb. 10:19); weigh well the word, ye timid believers, for your souls' joy and blessing Weigh it solemnly, ye who believe in superstition and tradition and human reasoning, not in the gospel of the grace of God; weigh it and tremble for your dishonour of God's will, and of Christ's work, and of the Holy Spirit's witness.
For, if we believe in Christ, God's word tells us that we have boldness for the entrance into the Holies by the blood of Jesus, which fresh and living way He dedicated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. Without this it would indeed be madness and presumption. But now that He is come and has found everlasting redemption, the presumption is on their side who deny it against those who believe in Him; and, if believing in Him they deny it, what folly as well as presumption
Only God can tell us infallibly what He has done for us and given to us in His Son; and He it is Who tells us beyond a doubt that, as believers in Him we have obtained, and do possess, access into this grace wherein we stand. For it is not like the characteristic blessing of Israel contingent on the obedience of the law. The gospel is founded on redemption in Christ as the great fact beyond all others save His person Who achieved it. And justification is a fact attested by God's word and Spirit to him that believes; and so is the access we have into this favour wherein we stand. They rest on Christ and His redemption, and they are ours as believing in Him. Nor do they pass away, like Jewish privileges; they abide like Christ.
But may not the believer become careless and sin grievously? Alas! it is too true; yet God does not change nor forsake His child (as other scriptures declare), but chastises him faithfully, and, if need be, even to the death of the body. See 1 Cor. 11, Heb. 12, etc., 1 John 5. Nevertheless, as these very scriptures show, He does not change from His grace even when He thus deals in His moral government. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous." The Christian's failure brings out the loss not of relationship but of his enjoyment of communion; and Christ's advocacy works to restore his soul by self-judgment before God. For as the Christian, once darkness but now light in the Lord, walks in the light as God is in the light, so he comes under the dealing of God as a Father judging day by day, that he may walk according to the light. But he received and has access to God. "He that followeth Me," says our Lord, "shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life."
4 Hope of the glory of God
Gospel Words. 2nd Series No. 4.
Here is another privilege of faith, to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. To the natural man this may seem beyond all measure. But God, Who has given His own Son, does not bless by halves. It could not be so, nor ought it to be; for Christ now is the title of him who believes. One's own name is merged in that of the Son of God. He is the first to own his sinfulness and his ruin without Christ; but now that he has received Christ, he has the title to become a child of God. He is justified by faith. He has access to God ever open; and he stands in His perpetual favour. And now he learns from God's word that, if he look onward into the everlasting future, he may and ought to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
This hope beyond all doubt is an immense thing to boast. But is it not a well-founded boast, if it rest upon Christ and Christ's work by faith? Nevertheless it is as simple as it is sure. It is no question of man's desert, but of Christ's; and Christ will not leave His own separate from Himself in heaven. He has already entered glory, and He will have those that are His own in the same glory as Himself. "The glory which Thou hast given me, I have given them" (John 17:22). Therefore it is that in Revelation 21:10-11, the holy Jerusalem, the symbol of the glorified church, is seen "having the glory of God" in the day that is coming.
But we are also called to rejoice in the assured hope of the glory of God even now. It is now that we want its power in our souls. It strengthens us against the false and vain hopes of the world. There are few greater snares than human honour and praise ; for they destroy faith. "How can ye believe," said our Lord, "who receive glory one of another, and seek not the glory which is from God alone?" John 5:44. So in John 12:42-43, we are told that, although from among the rulers many believed on Him, yet on account of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory of men rather than the glory of God.
When Adam was in Paradise, the glory of God was not set before him as a hope. He was placed in a garden of delights, where all was very good. He had a test of dependence and obedience. He was forbidden to eat of the tree of knowing good and evil, whilst free to eat of every other tree in the garden. Under this tenure he was to keep his first estate; but he fell, and all was changed. He became an outcast from Paradise, subject to death, and after death to judgment: as scripture elsewhere declares, both appointed to men, neither to man in original innocence. But even then grace interfered and held out another. man in prospect, the Second man — the last Adam. From that day all permanent blessing from God is by faith, the faith of Christ; and till He came, it was altogether in hope, nor could it be otherwise.
But now the Son of God is come and salvation is a fact; a reality to faith before the day of glory when it will be manifested to every eye. Hence it is written that all sinned, and do come short of the glory of God. Mankind are on a footing quite different from Adam. They are born in a state of sin, and they add their own sins. They are out of the first estate of man, being exiles from Paradise. The goodly garden is not their portion, and of the glory of God they come short. There was no abiding in pristine innocence: can men stand before the glory of God? This is the only alternative now: to be lost as men are in unbelief, living and dying in their sins; or, believing in Christ, to be saved and to exult in hope of the glory of God.
Only Christ, only the gospel of God, can save any by faith. Hence the believer is now called by glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3), by God's own glory and by virtue. It is the love of God in Christ which breaks down the proud heart ("by grace ye are saved"). But the glory of God in the future has the most powerful influence in the midst of present snares. Therefore has God revealed it as our hope through Christ and with Christ, to lift the soul above all existing attractions and depressions. He has called us by His own glory, and the virtue or moral courage that refuses the gratification of self, which is opposed to the will of God. We are therefore said to be sanctified unto the obedience of Jesus Christ no, less than to the sprinkling of His blood. 1 Peter 1:2.
How blessed then is the believer's portion! Though he had been in God's sight without righteousness of his own, positively unrighteous, he is now justified by faith. Such is the righteousness of God, Who gave His Son, and gave Him to die, that he might be not only forgiven but justified. He has therefore peace with God. He is humbled to the dust when he looks back on himself; but Christ is his peace; and it was made by the blood of His cross. Nor this only; he can approach God in perfect favour as his present standing, and he can boast in the hope of the glory of God for his unending future.
How strong the contrast with man as he is naturally, even if highly moral, benevolent, and religious after the flesh! For such men are either self-satisfied, because insensible to God as He is and to themselves as they are, easily compounding with Him for what they deem a little and inevitable sin; or they are in gloom and terror when they think of God as their Judge, and strive to earn mercy or a mitigated sentence by hard labour and penance beforehand. The true God is unknown, because the word of Christ is not believed, and the soul has never learnt from the Spirit's teaching His value for the sacrifice of Christ. So precious is it in His sight that it procures peace for all that is past, favour for the present, and a place in the glory of God for all that is to come.
5 We glory in tribulations also
Gospel Words. 2nd Series, No. 5.
No wonder that the apostle was not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes (Rom. 1:16). Justified by faith we have peace with God; we received and have access by faith into this grace wherein we were placed and stand; and we boast in hope of the glory of God. This expressly covers, with blessing unmistakably divine and wholly undeserved by us, the entire past, present, and future, for every believer.
Can the Spirit add more? This is just what the text before us does. God in Christ alone accounts for it all; and His love, through Him Who died and rose again, finds its joy in blessing us to His own glory. He delights in blessing man, and can afford to bless him righteously and according to all His heart through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
How are you treating such a God and such a Saviour? Does His goodness lead you to repentance? or according to your hardness and impenitent heart are you treasuring up to yourself wrath in a day of wrath and revelation of God's righteous judgment? After the sin of man, yea when it rose up to its climax against His Son sent and come in love, God has answered this crowning sin by His own grace, so far exceeding, that, instead of judging all the guilty world which crucified Jesus, He is reconciling every one that believes, howbeit hitherto His evident and proved enemy, by the death of His Son. And why not you? Is it a small thing in your eyes, that though He declares you "lost" in yourself, He is willing to save you by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8)? Oh! hear the word of reconciliation; for so He calls the gospel (in contrast with the law, however holy, just, and good in itself, which must condemn the ungodly). He has commanded His ambassadors for Christ even to beseech, Be reconciled to God. Man cannot himself become meet for His presence in light; but God made Christ Who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become God's righteousness. Neglect no more so great salvation. Beware in that case lest the worse befall you.
The Holy Spirit never uttered, never wrote, a word to sanction doubt, but to produce faith in God land His Christ. Let no one glory in men. For all things are yours (if you believe), whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's (1 Cor. 3:22-23).
It is therefore not only in His counsels going on to glory through redemption that He blesses and we boast, but in His ways through this wilderness world. Sometimes the believer is at his wit's end: difficulties so thicken. We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession with groanings unutterable; and He that searches the hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He intercedes for saints according to God. But we do know that, to those who love God, all things work together for good.
So in our text the apostle, after saying that "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God," adds "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also," and explains clearly how it is: "Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that was given to us." It is the path of trial into which we are ushered when we are no longer slaves in Egypt, God's judgment being staid by the blood of the Lamb.
Are we then to murmur because, while Christ is on high, we see not yet all things subjected to Him? He is crowned with glory; but Satan is still the god and prince of the world, and hence the enmity to all who have faith, and the greater in proportion to their fidelity.
In Rom. 5:3-5 the true way of God is briefly traced in the discipline of the soul, full of profit for all exercised thereby. It all supposes and follows our justification by faith. There maybe, as there was of old, a shirking of God's will; but He knows how to deal with His children when refractory; and as of old, so now He chastens whom He loves, and scourges every son whom He receives. Nor is discipline the only end of God. He tries us, as He did Abraham ; and blessed is the man that endures temptation, for after being proved he shall receive the crown of life which He promised to those that love Him.
So the apostle Peter says, that ye greatly rejoice in the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, though now for a little while, if need be, put to grief by various temptations, that the trying of your faith, more precious than gold that perisheth, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. But in our text the apostle dwells on the present fruit for the soul. "We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience" (or endurance) etc. This is hindered if we question our justification and so our peace be unsettled. But starting on our pilgrim journey with assurance of faith, we interpret the tribulations by the light of redemption, and confide in Him Who justifies the ungodly man (Rom. 4:5), having raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, Who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification. Our acceptance of tribulation at His hand works out endurance or patience on our part.
Again, "patience [works out] experience." It is not yet the experience of what is within, which is formally and fully discussed in a later part of this Epistle from Rom. 5:12 to Rom. 8 inclusively. Here endurance works out what God is along the road; which is missed just so far as we allow impatience. And this "experience" works out "hope." In quietness of spirit and the proof of what God is towards us, let the world and present trials oppose as they may, we learn to have our, eyes habitually above. Hence it is that the hope of the glory of God which was accepted as a truth becomes more influential, consolatory, and cheering practically. Nor does it whatever its heavenly brightness, put us to shame, for the blessed reason, that the love of God has been and is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.
No greater power of enjoying Himself than this, we may boldly say, could our gracious God give to the believer. Our blessed Lord, in the days of His. flesh, had the Spirit given Him, and so without blood. The Holy One of God, He needed no, sacrifice as He had no sin. The Spirit of God descending and abiding on Him was the sign and witness of His personal perfectness as He walked here below. Him, the Son of man, God the Father sealed. We receive the Holy Spirit because in Christ we have redemption; as, in the type of the O.T., the oil followed the blood on the sons of Aaron, already washed in the water, the high priest alone being anointed without blood (Lev. 8:12); afterward, he and they together (ver. 23, 24, 30). This was a beautiful shadow, though of course not the very image. Christ is the truth. If the love of God, spite of our imperfect condition, has been thus shed abroad in our hearts in virtue of redemption, what surprise can there be that, when risen or changed it the coming of Christ, we should share with Him God's eternal glory? Even this hope does not make us ashamed because of His love pervading the heart.
6 The love of God
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 215-216. Gospel No. 2-6.)
"The love of God"; wondrous truth! When one knows in any true measure what He is, and what we are, how much more wonderful! Here it assuredly means not our love to Him, but His to us. Had He not justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus? Was it not by faith, apart from works of law, and so open to Gentile no less than Jew?
It is noticeable that here first in this Epistle is there mention of God's love, and of the Spirit given to the, believer, the power of enjoying that love. Assuredly this is not the manner of man, yet just as it should be. In the early chapters the apostle urges man's guilt and ruin because of his manifest evil. It is no longer a question; scripture has decided it. Every Jew was ready to admit that the condition of the Gentiles, philosophers like the rest, was desperate; but rejoins the apostle, what about your own state? If thou art named a Jew and restest on law and makest thy boast in God, and yet in fact dost transgress in this or that sort of ways, God's name is blasphemed on this very account among the heathen. Hence, as the law condemned, so the psalms and the prophets openly testify against Israel. For when the law says that there is not even one righteous, it speaks to those under the law; it is definitely and expressly therefore to the Jew; that every mouth may be stopped and all the world be under judgment to God.
But the cross of Christ, the full and flagrant proof of the world's inexcusable wickedness in unbelief, of the Jew yet more guilty than the Gentile, laid the basis by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God for a new kind of righteousness. This is God's righteousness, in contrast with man's which the law demanded but never could get from the fallen. Christ came, Jesus Christ the Righteous. "When ye have lifted up the Son of man," said Himself to the Jews, "then ye shall know that I am He, and do nothing of Myself, but as the Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He that sent Me is with Me; He hath not left Me alone, for I do always the things that are pleasing to Him … Which of you convicteth Me of sin?" But would He be made sin for us? Would God make Him, Who knew no sin, responsible for sin, to bear its consequences as truly as if He were guilty? This is what was done, not on man's part but on God's for man, in giving His Son to die as propitiation for our sins. And this is love, not that we loved Him, which we ought to have done but did not, but that He loved us, and proved it in the death of His Son, the sacrifice for sinners, a, sacrifice open to all, available for any, efficacious once and evermore for those that believe. God is just in justifying him that has faith in Jesus.
No doubt God is love, as He is light; and this appears throughout His dealings with man originally and when fallen, as well as in His ways with the chosen people, though they were under His moral government Who could by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation. Still was He a God full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. Nor had He left Himself without witness before the heathen in that He did good, and gave from heaven rains and fruitful. seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness; neither is He served by men's hands, as though He needed anything, as the apostle preached to the Athenians, seeing He Himself giveth to all life and breath and all things; or, as our Lord taught, maketh His sun to rise on evil and good, and sendeth rain on just and unjust.
But how immeasurably more is God known in His Son! There and then only did He reveal Himself as He is, far beyond His governmental dealings with a fleshly people controlled by His law, which, avowedly, made nothing perfect. Yet His full revelation in Christ brought out the utter evil of man, beyond doubt save to the blind; and the very rejection of Christ, which closed the proper probation of man by the proof of his inexcusable guilt (John 15:22-25), in the, cross became under God the ground and display of sovereign grace, which saves the most rebellious, the darkest, and the vilest through faith in His Son. Truly it is God's righteousness, not man's; for it only came forth in all its fulness when favoured man was indisputably the enemy of God, not merely failing in his duty altogether and in every way, but hating Him when He was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Alas! to proud self-sufficient man grace is more repulsive than law, because it makes nothing of his own righteousness (yea, denies it), everything of God's; and Christ is all, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Thereby should no flesh glory in His presence; but he that glorieth, as it is written, let him glory in the Lord. Was it not a great love wherewith God loved?
Here it is God's love not merely demonstrated to sinners as such, in the gift and death of Christ, but enjoyed and meant to be enjoyed to the full by the believer. Hence it is given as the reason which explains in general why we glory in tribulations, and in particular why hope even of God's glory does not put us to shame meanwhile. Assuredly it would if we measured its brightness with any degree of our love as we journey on. But God's love! All, this wholly differs. It is as perfect and unvarying as unmerited on our part, being simply and solely according to His complacency in Christ our Lord. Hence it is said to have been, and is, abidingly shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. If the gift was a transient and complete act, the result is permanent. The Holy Spirit, the divine witness of Christ and of His redemption, the power of enjoying God's love, was (as our Lord assured the disciples) to be in them and abide with them for ever.
Further, that love is said to be shed abroad, or poured out, in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. Our affections are pervaded by His love, which is secured in power by the presence of His Spirit in us. And He is thus shown to be given to those who rest by faith on the Lord Jesus, the remission of their sins. being by His blood. But the great unfolding of His action on individuals is only added in Rom. 8, after the experience of indwelling sin and of law, as well as our place in Christ, have been distinctly set out.
Now have you, dear reader, the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you receive God's testimony to His Son? Christ declares that he that does has eternal life (John 5); as the apostle preached that every believer is justified from all things (Acts 13). You are called on to believe this too, for your own soul. When you bow in simple faith, God's love fills your heart, not before nor otherwise. The love of Him Who gave. His only-begotten Son, no less than of Him Who gave Himself for us, causes us to overflow within; and no wonder, for it is by the Holy Spirit given to us, alike springing up into everlasting life in worship, and streaming forth in witness to parched and perishing souls by the way.
Till one thus rests on Him Who for us died and rose, and on God's love Who sent Him, there may be spiritual desires, there may be an awakened conscience and piety Godward, there maybe earnestness about man, blind and lost in his sins. But the gospel is God's answer in Christ to these desires of pious anxiety; it gives purification to the conscience, satisfaction to the heart, with rest in the glory of God as the assured prospect; so that we may boldly say grace, God Himself, could vouchsafe no more. His love accordingly is shed abroad in our hearts; and this could only be through the Holy Spirit given to us; not through new birth simply, but also the gift of the Spirit, when and because we are children of God. For the Spirit thus given is the seal of redemption, the power of liberty, the witness of sonship, and the earnest of the inheritance; and He never was thus given to believers till the atoning work was done. Compare 2 Cor. 3:17, Gal. 4:6, Eph. 1:13-14.
7 Christ died for the ungodly
Gospel Words. 2nd Series, No. 7.
When the love of God shed abroad in the heart is a question, men habitually look into themselves for an answer. But they can find no satisfaction from within; and it is well that they do not, for the Holy Spirit will never help a soul to find rest in himself or his affections. There is no real rest for conscience or for heart in one's own internal state. Call it trusting to the Spirit of God, it will not deceive Him or even an upright soul. For to stand good against every strain and challenge, rest must be on the ground of perfection; and the only work that perfects the sinner in God's sight is the sacrifice of Christ. The Holy Spirit accordingly bears witness to Christ and His work on the cross (Heb. 10), as the only satisfactory answer to the sense of need He awakens in the soul, whatever the testimony He may afterwards bear with our spirits as believers (Rom. 8:16).
Therefore it is that the apostle immediately turns in our verse to the proof of God's love on our behalf, entirely outside ourselves, in the death of Christ. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Here indeed is a righteous resting-place for one ever so guilty, burdened, and exercised before God. His love provided it. The sinner contributed nothing to it save his sins. Divine goodness rose above all human evil, and all Satan's malice. One, and but One, was capable of the infinite enterprise; One Who from the beginning, when there was no creature, was with God, and was God; One Who in due time came from God, and was sent in His love as a propitiation for our sins. Love in the Father, love in the Son, — divine love — undertook a work beyond all thought of man or angel till God revealed it And Christ was just the One to give it effect to the glory of God the Father (without which nothing had been right), to the efficacious justifying of the most defiled who bows to God and believes on Jesus.
For He was God's only-begotten Son that is in the bosom of the Father, His delight evermore, expressly so when He deigned to become man on earth, for the accomplishment of that most worthy and gracious purpose, and for the glories which should follow His sufferings. For as He could meet the Father on co-equal ground, so He had come down to man in the deepest reality, Son of man as the first Adam was not: born of woman, born under law, made sin on the cross, that the vindication of God might be as absolute as the righteousness of God which justifies the believer and flows out to meet every sinner.
Such is the Saviour God has sent; such is the standing proof of His love when the soul is sorely tried, and needs a clear, sure, and irrefragable object. It is not a promise, but an accomplished fact, and a fact of immeasurable and unending value, with which nothing can compare in time past or future, on earth or in heaven.
And it was "in due time." God had tried man innocent; and a brief space sufficed — man fell. God bore with man an outcast, left to himself though not without a blessed and blessing revelation ; and man became so corrupt and violent that He sent a deluge to take all away, save a few in the ark who began the world as it is. And then He gave promises to Abraham, and to his seed ; after that, His law to Israel, who forsook Him for false gods "till there was no remedy." "He had yet one (as the parable says), a beloved son; he sent him last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son." Him they crucified and slew. It is the measure of the world's sin: not transgression only, or idolatry, but the ignominious rejection of God's Son.
Yet that worst sin of man met the love of God which rose above all his enmity, making Christ on the cross a propitiation for sins; as He sent the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel, the glad tidings of His grace, to the whole creation. Is not this love worthy of God and of His Son? Is not this the love which alone can, alone ought to, reassure your troubled spirit? Was it not exactly in due time that Christ died for ungodly persons? If you know that you are so, make this your plea — that Christ died for ungodly ones. Be assured that God, Who honours His word above all His name, will accept it and you in the name of Jesus.
Do you plead your powerlessness? God has anticipated this also in His grace, as you may see for yourself in this very verse. "When we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly." Were you making efforts first to reform yourself and to please Him, the Holy Spirit would in no way help, save to convince you of utter weakness and sinfulness. In such a condition He treats such efforts as self-righteous and Satan's substitute for genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To Him only look as you are, and because you are both weak and ungodly: He can and will save every one that calls on His name.
It is a denial of grace and truth to allege that you are not trusting to yourself but to the Holy Spirit working in you what is good and acceptable to God. Till you have given up yourself as both ungodly and without strength, till you give up unwittingly seeking to establish your own righteousness and are subject to the righteousness of God, the real work of the Holy Spirit is to overwhelm you with such a sense of your sins as compels you to look only to Christ and His redemption. Without knowing it, you are striving to be a saint in order to win, not to say deserve, the remission of sins; and the blood of Jesus would come in, thus as the reward and crown of your efforts. But the Holy Spirit never lends Himself to such a disguise of your true condition; He lays bare to your own soul that you are powerless and ungodly, but also that Christ died for such. This alone maintains God's grace and man's sinfulness. For souls in your condition He is a witness to Christ's blood-shedding; by which received in faith there is remission, without which there is none. Practical holiness follows, and does not precede, faith in the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. When you rest on Christ and His death, the Holy Spirit works as a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind; yea, He joins His help to our weakness, but in no way till we abandon self, and we rest, where God rests for us, in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
8 God's own love
Gospel Words. 2nd Series, No. 8.
Yes, it is not more wondrous than true that, while we were yet without strength, Christ died for ungodly persons. Such are fallen men. Jew or Gentile made no difference as to man's nature. The law gave no power; religious form is not godliness. And because man is what he became through sin, in due time Christ died for us, powerless and ungodly persons. This was beyond all creature love.
Man needs a motive to draw out his love to its object. He sees grounds, perhaps mistaken, for his affection; otherwise he does not love. And so the apostle writes, "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die." Possibly the one known as the generous benefactor might embolden a man drawn by it, even to die on his behalf. For goodness is rare and moves the heart mightily.
But God is sovereign in His love to guilty man. Far from aught congenial, there is every thing in him suited to repel God. Fallen man is corrupt or violent, proud or vain, self-seeking or independent, the sad contrast of Him Who is not more light than love. Yet "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Such love is peculiar to Him. He loves from His own nature with no motive in the object. He loves notwithstanding the utmost unworthiness. He loves where no goodness is, nor yet rectitude, where men are sinners and nothing else, where there is only misery and guilt; yea, He commends His own love to such as were still far from Him and opposed to Him, giving the highest and most solid proof of it, in that Christ died for us who were in that evil case.
Thus God and man now stand face to face as they really are. The time of probation is over: man after full trial is lost. It is not merely that in every way and degree he has proved disobedient to God. Last of all he rejected and crucified the Lord of glory. In the person of the Son he cast God out of the world — God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The proof of it is the death of Christ at man's hand.
But the love of God was signally shown in sending Christ, not as Judge but as Reconciler; so it is, still more deeply and conspicuously, in making His death a sacrifice to blot out the sinner's guilt. "Christ died for us." None but God was capable of such love. Only He could rise perfectly above all the evil of the world. All this was ever before Him. Throughout all His dealings with man, with Israel in particular though never exclusively, God had intimated His mercy, and faith always received it. This gave meaning to pledges and offerings from the first. This was associated even with His acts in judging the world by a deluge or in destroying the firstborn of Egypt; there was divine love in exempting Noah's family in the one case, Israel's sons in the other. In the Levitical economy, whatever the judgment under which transgressors fell, nothing was clearer than the bright shadows of atonement in a variety of form, which found no answer worthy of God, no cleansing of the conscience from sins or dead works, till "Christ died for us." God is glorified thereby in any case; if we believe not, He abideth faithful. He cannot deny Himself.
The gospel makes all now as clear as even God can, consistently with His love and glory, till the judgment. Then it will be proved that not lack of light from God was at fault, but man's will who loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds were evil. But now before the judgment, God commends His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It is Christ's death which efficaciously and for ever atones for guilt. It. is by Christ's death that enemies are reconciled to God. All is yours if you believe on Him; all is lost if you turn from Him.
How could it be otherwise if Jesus be the Word made flesh, the Son Whom God sent in His love, Whom Jews and Gentiles slew (proving what they were), Whom (thus slain God in yet fuller love made a sacrifice for sin? It is righteous with God to justify you as a believer in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Surely it is not unjust to judge you for all your sins, if you aggravate. them all by spurning the Saviour God has given in His infinite love.
I implore you, my reader, if you have never thus submitted to the righteousness of God in saving you, to search honestly what hinders you. It is certainly not on God's part; for the apostle declares that God is as it were beseeching you in the Sent One. Will you slight His call longer? How blessed, in life or death, to have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ! Vain for us to think of making it. He made it through the blood of His cross: so says the scripture. What a proof of God's love no less than Christ's! If you refuse to accept it, who is to blame but yourself? It is the preference of sin and Satan to God and His Son. It is contempt of Christ's sufferings and blood, as it is unbelief of God's word and His own love.
Undoubtedly God looks for a holy walk in His children, He looks for the fruit of light in all goodness and righteousness and truth. But He looks for nothing of the kind till you are justified by faith: to ask such fruit from you in your unbelief would deny Himself, His truth, and His grace. Man deceives by vain words, if he says that one who believes but walks wickedly "hath inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ." Such faith can save none. It is beneath that of the demons, who at least tremble (James 2). But the faith which comes to God through Christ as a guilty sinner, and yet rests on His work for the purification of sins through Christ's death, is of His Spirit, and works by love and receives its end, soul-salvation (1 Peter 1). It is by faith in Christ Jesus that all or any are God's sons (Gal. 3). Now we must be. in the relationship of sons before we can really walk as such. Till we are God's sons, we simply deceive ourselves by pretending to a walk which pertains only to faith. The relationship is of grace on His part, and so to us of faith, not for man's desert, but in spite of all demerit. Our duties, as His sons, begin when we are sons and know it: otherwise they are hindered through questions and fears. His own love in Christ answers every question and casts out fear.
9 Justified by His blood
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 265-266. Gospel No. 2:9.)
That there is none just, no not one, the apostle had proved from the Psalms (Rom. 3:20). Those under law are, no less than those without law, all under sin. There is no difference in this: all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Such is the condition of mankind, and authoritatively so declared. As being then guilty, of themselves none can enter heaven, none escape hell.
Therefore did God, after revealing at the beginning the coming destroyer of the enemy, at length send His Son, Who so glorified Him in obedience unto death for sin, that God can righteously send the good news of remission of sins, and life in His name, to every soul that bows in faith. Thus does He justify freely or gratuitously as far as man is concerned, by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
The grace of God is the motive or proximate cause for justifying the unjust; and this is what is meant in such scriptures as speak of justifying any by the grace of God (Rom. 3:24, Titus 3:7). In His pure, spontaneous, unmerited favour it originated. We ware not only not just but ungodly, even if moral or religious after a fashion "we were yet sinners." But God
commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There only was the efficacious sacrifice for the defiled; there the ransom most precious to
God. This lays the ground for a new kind of righteousness — for God's righteousness in justifying him who, having no righteousness for God, believes in Jesus at the call of God. It was righteous in God to raise from the dead Jesus Whom unrighteous man crucified; it was righteous to set Him at His own right hand in heaven (John 16:10). But, further, it is His righteousness to justify the ungodly one, not in working for it, but in believing on Him as the God of grace in Christ (Rom. 4). For to him that works for it the reward is not reckoned for righteousness. For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; and this, not more that the glory may be to God, than that the blessing may be sure to the soul that believes. For, as the Lord Himself taught us in the parables, it is the joy of God to save the lost (Luke 15). By His grace the believer is justified.
Hence we are also said to be justified by (or out of) faith (Rom. 5:1). The Jew, and indeed the natural man, is apt to think that justification must be out of works. But clearly if a soul could be justified by works, Christ died in vain; and the grace of God would be made void. Hence the gospel is preached to us expressly as lost and powerless; and Jesus our Lord was delivered up for our trespasses and was raised again for our justification. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God." There is no other principle or way for a sinner; and sinners we have all been, enemies in mind by wicked works, utterly unfit for the presence of God. Therefore did Christ suffer for sins, Just for unjust, that He might bring us to God; Who can meet us, as we are, on the ground of that atoning death, and justify us by the faith of Jesus. By Him, as the apostle at Antioch of Pisidia, preached to souls who had never heard such good news before — by Him "every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39).
But there is a further connection in our text. We are said to be "justified by His blood." Here it is the apostle's design to express the power or virtue of that which has justified the believer; and he declares it unequivocally to be the blood of Christ. There is no room for mistake. Where the apostle speaks of the efficacious basis for that immense change of relationship, which is called "justification," he says it, is by or in His blood, Thus only does God account the believer righteous. "The blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from all sin." So it was, not with blood of goats and calves, He entered once for all into the sanctuary, having obtained eternal redemption. It is a work done and accepted by God, outside the believer, yet for him and in full view of his sins, which Jesus bore in His own body on the tree, — bore away unto a land not inhabited, never more to be. The believer once purged has no more conscience of sins. When awakened by the quickening voice of Christ in the word, his sins lay overwhelmingly on his conscience, and he judged himself in repentance before God. But now by faith he rests on the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; he rests on God's estimate of that blood as proclaimed in the gospel; he believes that God has found. a ransom; and he himself has, what Scripture calls, no more conscience of sins.
My reader, turn not away, because you think such news too good to be true. Too good to come from man, undoubtedly; but what can be too good for the God Who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son? — gave Him, that whosoever believeth should not perish but have eternal life. God feels, speaks, acts, worthily of Himself in justifying the ungodly. His grace prompted the wondrous work on behalf of sinners; faith is the empty hand, which receives the boon; and the blood of Jesus is the mighty sacrifice, by which you have your sins blotted out and yourself brought nigh to the living God as your Father. Forget not that despisers shall perish.
10 Reconciled to God
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 283-284. Gospel No. 2:10.)
Reconciliation with God is a rich result of the gospel. It is equally simple and sure. In the nature of things God alone can be the unerring judge of it. He accordingly bears witness to it as a spiritual fact due to the death of Christ, and true of every believer. The guilt and the enmity were entirely in us, as we were naturally. In His love God intervened on our behalf when we lay in our sins, evil, helpless, hopeless. He intervened in His Son Who died for us that we might be justified in virtue of His blood; for He sent Him as propitiation for our sins. No other way could glorify Him or justify us. Here only is love conciliated with justice; but it is God's love and God's righteousness, for in us, ungodly and sinners, was neither. Therefore it is for His glory, and according to His grace, and hence not of works but of faith, that no flesh should glory, but "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." So speak both O. and N. Testaments.
What can be plainer than the testimony of scripture? "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by (or, through) the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). The Holy Spirit presents the efficacy of Christ's death unambiguously, that the believer may give to the winds his fears and treat his doubts as of the enemy. God's love is the source of the blessedness; Christ's death guarantees it as not only of grace but righteous. Only so is God just and justifying him that has faith in Jesus. Thus is the alienation met holily. Divine love laid the sins on the head of the sole adequate Victim; on Him, not on the sinner, was our evil judged unsparingly by God; and the glad tidings of that mighty work He sent far and wide, that through Christ's name everyone that believeth on Him should receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43).
Only with remission there is far more. As we read here, the believer is "reconciled to GOD." Not that God was alienated; for He so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son. But He abhorred, and cannot but judge, sin. Therefore must the Son of man be lifted up. "Christ died for us," that we, not our sins, might be spared; that our sins, not ourselves, might be put away from before God; that we might be reconciled to God, and expiation be made for our sins. Christ has effected both for every believer; yea, He has wrought a work of such God-glorifying and infinite value, that God can righteously send a message of reconciliation into all the world and to all the creation. And on what a wondrous basis! Him Who knew no sin Be made sin for us, that we might become God's righteousness in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
Undoubtedly, when a soul repents and believes the gospel, there is a marked moral change. Faith knows God and Him Whom He sent as never before, and by the Holy Spirit cries, Abba Father; while repentance means a real self-judgment in the sight of God. But reconciliation goes farther, and is the establishing of a new, near, and known relationship of favour with God according to the purposes of His grace and through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Now that Christ is come and the will of God done, all that raised a barrier and provoked flesh is gone by our death with Christ; and we are His Who is risen, that we may bear fruit unto God, and serve in newness of spirit, not in oldness of letter.
When Christ appears and the revelation of the sons of God takes place, the creation (which, as the apostle tells us, is now groaning together and travailing in pain together) shall be delivered. It is now in the bondage of corruption as it shared the consequences of Adam's fall, its head. But the Second man. as He now delivers those who believe in Him, will by-and-by deliver creation also into the liberty of the glory we shall then have. Before He comes in power and glory, it is ours, to enjoy already, as creation cannot, the liberty of grace. In that day God will reconcile to Himself through Christ all things (having made peace by the blood of His cross), whether the things on earth or the things in the heavens. But it is all-important to know that, whatever we may once have been in the sad and wicked past, God has now reconciled us in the body of Christ's flesh through death (Col. 1:21-22). Impossible to do more for our souls now than He has already. done in Christ, always supposing that we believe in Him and continue in the faith grounded and settled.
Do you believe now, dear reader? Is it your peaceful, settled, assurance from day to day, that you are thus "reconciled to God"? It could be the portion of none without the perfect and accepted work of Christ; whereby, as Heb. 10:10 tells us, we have been sanctified once for all. Nay more, by that one offering He has perfected for ever (i.e. without a break) the sanctified (ver. 14). It is God Who reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18). It is therefore as complete as is due to His person and His work. Believing that God is thus good to you now in His Son has a powerful effect on the inner man, its affections and its mind, as well as the outer ways and words, the whole life. But reconciliation is God's work in setting us who believe in our right relationship to Him, sins forgiven, ourselves justified and standing in His favour as His beloved children. Without Christ's death for us it was impossible for sinful man to be thus blessed. But if by grace I believe on Him, all is mine, as God's word declares. If then your soul rests on Him, on God's testimony to Him and His work, be assured that you are reconciled to God. What God reveals, we receive without doubt in Christ's name.
11 We shall be saved
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 297-298. Gospel No. 2:11.)
Salvation is a great word and a great thing, especially in its force as interpreted by Christ. Israel often knew deliverances of divine mercy, saviours not a few; but they were national, for time and this world. Even then faith looked for things better and more enduring through the Messiah that was coming. So much the more were souls astonished that, when He came, He did not restore the kingdom to Israel nor destroy their enemies; for He was Himself rejected by men, in particular by the Jews, far more than His herald John the Baptist had been.
But thus was God's counsel accomplished, His love displayed, and His word magnified; thus was man and Israel proved to be altogether guilty and lost; but no less was room left for sovereign grace, and divine righteousness, and everlasting salvation. All met in the cross of Christ, where the worst evil of the creature rose up against the perfect goodness of God, Who laid the burden of sin on His Son, the suffering Son of man, a sacrifice for sins, a propitiatory through faith in His blood for showing forth God's righteousness. And now, Christ being raised for the believer's justification, he is assured of salvation,
If sins set to any man's account by God must ensure judgment, never did one stand forth as a sufferer to the utmost like the Saviour. He was man, born of woman, as truly as any, not so the first Adam who was created, not born. He, the Son, was God as truly as the Father, or the Holy Spirit. He was the Holy One of God; which Adam was not, even untainted and fresh from God's hand, innocent and upright, but never said to be holy, though he had no sin then in his nature when tempted. Christ was in all things tempted like as we are, sin excepted. Such was the One, God and man, the absolutely obedient One, Who undertook to suffer and die, Just for unjust: the only, the adequate, the perfect sufferer for sins, that He might bring those who believe to God (1 Peter 3). But God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God. What could be a grander demonstration of the sacrifice accepted, of sirs effaced?
Yet you are not justified by His blood, unless you believe the testimony God brings in the gospel; nay, you are worse than heathen; you add to all your other sins contempt of God's grace, and of Christ's atoning death, and of the Holy Spirit, the present and divine though unseen Witness. If the word of the law spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received just retribution, how shall those escape who either reject so great salvation when presented, or neglect it by a heartless profession of the Lord's name?
Do you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead? Then fear not to rest on the inspired assurance; "thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:9). He that spared not but gave up His own Son for us all, when we were ungodly and enemies, is worthy of all trust, as His word is of all acceptation. To rest on it is "obedience of faith," the root of all the practical obedience that follows. The soul that receives His testimony sets to his seal that God is true. Why should you fear that He' in Whom you believe for the remission of your sins will abandon you afterwards? No doubt, you are weak; but what is Christ? Is He a little Saviour? is He not our great God and Saviour (Titus 2:13)?
Listen to the apostle authorised of God to reason with you. "Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life" (vers. 9, 10). Such is the salvation here guaranteed by God. No doubt it is for believers only, but it is for every believer, and not one should doubt it. If you at His Word cast your soul on Christ and His work, God declares the blessing is yours all through. Doubts of Christ and of His salvation come not from God's Spirit, but from the enemy who hates you and Christ yet more. The express aim of the passage is to strengthen your confidence and chase fear away. The love of God in Christ has already met your need when desperate. That love which sought you when an enemy and made you a friend, yea God's child, by faith in Christ Jesus, is still real and active on your behalf. Distrust not His love, nor His word.
It is quite right for the believer to exercise himself, to have a conscience in every thing void of offence toward God and men. Nor can anything happen to him sadder than sin, far more serious in a believer than in another man. Assuredly it calls for self-judgment and humiliation before God in proportion to the offence and the offender. But God provides for the failures and the trials of the way by Christ's advocacy and priesthood, as also in the action of His Spirit and word. Impossible that grace, unless abused, should clash with the righteous government of God, for the Father judges according to the work of each (John 15, 1 Peter 1:17). Indeed this constant vigilance takes effect on His children, because they know themselves redeemed with Christ's precious blood as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. It is their new responsibility (for as men, on their old responsibility, they were lost) to walk as children of obedience, not fashioning themselves according to the former lusts in their ignorance; but, as He that called them is holy, they too should be holy in all manner of conduct.
In our scripture, however, the apostle would establish souls in the saying grace of God before dealing with the walk; and therefore he instructs those who believe to rest assured from their justification that they shall he saved. That unbelievers should make a principle of doubting is but natural. It is deplorable that any believer should be so dull and negligent of the word before us, if there were no other, or as if all others were not consistent. Of all men, the Christian should be wholly subject to God's word. And here we have a two-fold witness, either of them divinely strong, both conclusive, that believers shall be saved. It would be strange indeed, if after we were justified by Christ's blood, we should not be saved from that wrath which is to fall on all impiety and unrighteousness of men holding the truth in unrighteousness. Not so: the apostle affirms that much more we shall be saved through Christ; and he adds that, if when enemies we were reconciled to God through His Son's death, much more being reconciled shall we be saved by His life. He was crucified of weakness; He lives of God's power. Each is to God's glory, each fraught with blessing. If that depth be so efficacious, what security in this height? Even as Himself said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." The believer is called to walk accordingly. His standing is wholly because of what grace has wrought in Christ, and given him freely and fully and abidingly, He is responsible to walk by faith as thus blessed of God, coming under discipline if he fail, but cheered from the start with God's assurance of salvation according to the virtue of Christ's death and in the power of His life.
12 We also joy in God
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 312-313. Gospel No. 2:12.)
The grace of God here shines at its brightest, as far as this Epistle goes; and we who believe are meant to enjoy all to the full. Never is this possible, never understood, till we are convinced by divine teaching that all our blessing is in Christ and His redemption. Justified by faith of Him and His work, we have peace with God. This strengthens us to judge ourselves and abhor our sins far more deeply than when, first convinced of our guilt, we cried to God and cast our souls on the sacrifice of Christ. Solid peace with God no soul has till he believes on Him that raised up from the dead Jesus our Lord, Who was delivered for our offences and was raised up for our justification.
Faith is reckoned to the believer now for righteousness, not only as to Abraham of old but more blessedly still. For, as the apostle shows, he believed in hope of what God would do; the Christian believes what God has done for him in Christ. Abraham confided in promise; we under the gospel have accomplishment. The work of God's grace for the remission of our sins and purging our consciences is once and for ever done. It cannot be annulled nor can it be added to. There are resources of grace to meet other wants; but, receiving Him who died for us and rose again, we received the reconciliation.* We know that the love of God was toward us, when we were yet sinners. Then it was that Christ died for us, not when we had a little strength and became godly. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for ungodly persons.
* This is the true force of what the A. V. here calls "the atonement," which is the right word, not "reconciliation," in Heb. 2:17.
Such is the unerring word of God: what glad tidings for men! How wicked to despise His message! How blessed to believe! For sin wronged His love and His truth; and Christ vindicated both, while He suffered once for sins that He might bring us to God; and faith receives the boon on God's word to the salvation of the soul. He who so began carries on accordingly. By Christ also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God, instead of being alarmed and shrinking back to perdition.
Nor is this all. We rejoice or boast in tribulations also. This is the promise to the Christian, instead of the earthly prosperity pledged to the Jew if faithful. But grace turns tribulations to the Christian's present good, by breaking his will, and teaching him what the God is that has found him and that he has found. For tribulation works out patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope ; and hope does not make ashamed; because the love of God is then better known, being abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that is given to us. His love thus spent on us at all cost to Christ and to Himself, when we were unloveable to any but God, certainly cannot be less when we have repentance toward Him and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. His love- is the assurance to our faith, that, being now justified by Christ's blood, we shall be saved from wrath through the Saviour. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved in virtue of His life.
There is even more than this most comforting assurance as to the future. "And not only so, but we also joy (or boast, the same word as in vers. 2 and 3) in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement" (or rather "reconciliation," referring to ver. 10). It is not now the love of God, but the God of love; and He is our boast, in no way our dread as once. We can glory in Himself, not merely in what He has given us in Christ or will give us in the day when all will be according to His power and goodness. For as we have now received the reconciliation, His perfect love casts out fear, and we know what He is to us in Christ; yea, the very sorrows of the way lead us to know His love better, as well as His word which is thus verified to us not only in our Saviour but in every day's experience. For the Holy Spirit does not fail here below while Christ is on high.
Indeed, this is life eternal, that the Christian should know the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent. And he knows Him to be love as well as light, Christ's Father and our Father, Christ's God and our God. Receiving Christ, we have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully. From such crooked ways there was no real deliverance apart from Christ; but now that the Son of God has come, the Deliverer from the coming wrath, He has also given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true; and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. We love, because He first loved us; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. And it was manifested toward us in this, that God sent His only-begotten Son that we might live through Him, yea more, that He might die for us, a propitiation for our sins.
But it is impossible so to know God and His love without boasting in Him. The heart is cleared of its idols; the living and true God is served. But there is much more than this. For the heart is led up, by the truth of Christ and the love of God displayed toward us in His work, from the blessing to the Blesser, Who sets us in perfect and unchanging favour. His very chastening thenceforth is the effect and proof of His love to His children, as we read in Heb. 12. Hence do we boast in God, even now in this world, as the fruit of "the reconciliation." So in order to it our Lord taught us in the parable that the father deemed it well to make merry and rejoice because the lost prodigal was found; not the sinner only to be saved, but the God Who saved him. Can we but glory in Himself then? We are thereby made true worshippers and worship Him in spirit and truth. Thus do we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ by whom we now received the reconciliation.