1. The Peace of God and the God of Peace (Philippians 4)
It is said that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace,” etc. (Gal. 5:22); and this comes out in Philippians in a way found in no other part of the Scriptures. God would have this fruit to abound amongst believers today. You cannot find it in the world. The world is made up of lust and pride, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and lust of the eyes, and the pride of life;” but in contrast to all that, we have love, joy, and peace in abundance, all as the outcome of the knowledge of the blessed God.
It is possible for believers to get into the condition mentioned in the Galatian epistle, that is, biting and devouring one another in ill-temper, the outcome of legality, instead of serving one another in liberty and love.
In this chapter we have God made known in a very blessed way. He is spoken of in the 9th verse as the “God of peace” in the 7th verse you have the “peace of God”—then again in the 19th verse we read of “God’s riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
It is a great thing for our hearts to be established in the knowledge of God Himself. Look it the living expression of that coming out in the Apostle here. He could speak of his Philippian brethren as “his dearly beloved and longed for” and then if you take this epistle as a whole it is full of joy from beginning to end.
Question. Should that be our normal state?
It is what should characterize us always, not at special times only. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say Rejoice” (v. 4).
He also speaks of these saints as his “crown.” He says a similar thing to the Thessalonians, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19-20).
The Apostle begins with joy in chapter 1. Look at the 4th verse—there is joy in prayer; 18th verse—rejoicing in the preaching of the glad tidings; 25th verse—“joy of faith”; 26th verse—“more abundant rejoicing.” The whole epistle rings with joy; and you will notice it is written to all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi.
“Love” is the first mentioned part of the “fruit of the Spirit” (notice it is fruit, not fruits. Gal. 5:22); “joy” is the second. The Apostle now goes on to the third part—“peace.” As we are established in the knowledge of God, we learn to be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let our requests be made known to God, and so we get His peace in the place of all our cares, which we leave with Him.
Question. Is this “peace of God” the same as “My peace I leave with you”?
That is another distinct thought “My peace” is the Lord’s own peace, which He had when He walked here according to the will of God, in the midst of trial and opposition. He had a peculiar peace of His own in the midst of it all which nothing could disturb. That peace the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples when He was leaving them in His place down here.
Question. I suppose this has nothing to do with salvation from the judgment that our sins deserved?
No, this is said to those who have had that question settled. In the 5th of Romans you get another aspect of peace spoken of, namely, “peace with God” as to the question of guilt. Here (in Philippians 4) it is God’s own peace in connection with circumstances. The question of sins is in view in the 5th of Romans: the question of circumstances is in view in the 4th of Philippians. As a poor sinner believing on God who delivered the Lord Jesus Christ for my offences, and raised Him again for my justification, I come into peace with God through faith, because of the work that was done outside of me altogether, and by Another. I had nothing whatever to do to obtain that peace with God. But in the 4th of Philippians, it depends greatly upon my attitude as a believer towards God if I am to be a possessor of His peace.
Not only are you to take everything to God in prayer, but before you leave your knees you are to thank God you have such an One as Himself to leave all with, and in the place of your cares is given to you His peace to keep your hearts and minds by Christ Jesus.
Question. Is not “garrison” a better word than “help”?
Yes. It is the word that is used for the guard or “the garrison.” There are two things that need to be garrisoned. Not the heart only, the seat of the affections; that does need to be kept, for out of the heart are the issues of life; but the mind also, and Satan is particularly bent on upsetting saints in their thoughts, in order to lead them astray with erroneous doctrines.
The “peace of God” is ours consequent on prayer and thanksgiving, but lower down in the chapter you get the company of the “God of peace,” and that depends upon practice—“Those things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, DO.” Put them into practice. Prayer, and the “peace of God;” Practice, and the “God of peace”.
Question. Does the apostle put himself here as an example to the saints?
Yes. Paul, as it were, said, “You have seen me practise certain things; you carry them out in the same way.” He said to Timothy. “Thou hast known my doctrine and manner of life.” He lived CHRIST, and thus showed to them the way Christians should live, so that they might have the company of the “God of peace,” which is a step beyond the “peace of God” keeping the heart and mind.
In the 8th verse the Apostle speaks of things that are true, noble, just, pure, amiable, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy; on these things they were to think. It is a great mistake to occupy one another with evil. God would have us “simple concerning that which is evil, and wise concerning that which is good.” The energies of the believer should be on this line. One of the final exhortations of the Holy Spirit to believers is, “Follow that which is good.” When Diotrephes was casting the best saints out of “the assembly,” then is it said, “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good” (John). If we were constantly thinking of all these blessed things that we see shining so perfectly in the Lord, evil would not get bold of our minds so easily, and we should have more power to deal with it when necessary according to God’s will.
But the power that is at our disposal depends upon our practice. As we practise these things that we learn and receive (heard and seen in Paul as be followed Christ), the God of peace will be with us. The saint of God thus walking through this world of sin and strife has the God of peace with him. Another once said, “For a Christian the secret of peace within and power without is to be always and only occupied with good.”
Question. Is it not important to notice, while insisting on practice as the condition for enjoying the company of the “God of peace,” that there is no question in this of a sinner getting forgiveness or salvation?
It is rather the working out of your own salvation. Those who do these things are already forgiven and justified; they have peace with God, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. One expects a certain sort of practice from the royal family, that one would not expect from a humbler family, because of the fact that they are the royal family by birth. So we are the children of God, and as being such there is a practice that is pleasing to God; and where this is the company of the God of peace is enjoyed.
A man might claim to be in the right ecclesiastical position, and be an utter stranger to the company of the God of peace. A mere ecclesiastic is usually a man of strife. If we have the right Person walking with us, we shall not get astray as to the right position, but we shall seek to “follow peace with all and holiness.”
The Apostle now speaks of the way that the saints had thought of his temporal need. We read in verse 10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me has flourished again: wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.” And he goes on to speak about the help these poor Philippians had given him right away down to verse 18. Then in the 19th verse he says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” The help which came from them had been quite a cheer to Paul. He is not writing this because he desired gifts, for he then had abundance, but it was a sweet savour to God, and so he speaks If we only grasped rightly our privileges in giving for the work of the Lord that which goes up as a sweet savour to God, how happily and freely we should do what we could, “God LOVES a cheerful giver.”
Let us notice that these Philippian saints were poor, though rich in faith; thus in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 the Apostle writes of them, “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia, how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” They joyfully gathered all that they could that they might help on the work liberally and worthily of God.
Question. Did not the Apostle refuse to take anything from the Corinthians for himself?
Yes, but he took for others.
Question. On what principle would you act today?
A Jew gave a tenth of all he had. The principle of the New Testament is different though not behind the Old. On the first day of the week “put by,” according as the Lord has prospered you (1 Cor. 16:2), and whether it be a penny, or a pound, or a thousand, it is a sweet savour to God when rightly given. With such sacrifices He is well pleased. There should be the deliberate “putting by” at home, as giving to God, and then it is ready for use when needed.
The great thing is to go on with God as He is made known to us. An experimental knowledge of God is a great matter and keeps us free from mere legality. Many have a knowledge of doctrine, a knowledge of “theology” and can give expositions of Scripture, but have no experimental knowledge of God at all. The true believer gives because he has learned through grace the giving of God.
Question. Paul speaks of learning to be content. Would you say that satisfaction and contentment are one and the same?
Satisfaction is beyond contentment. Contentment here has to do with present circumstances, but satisfaction is known in communion with God as to that which abides when temporal things are left behind for ever, “Godliness with contentment is great gain;” but believers can also say, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”—to be satisfied is to be more than a conqueror, and that is ours through the eternal Lover of our souls who died for us and rose again, and who shall Himself “see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.”
The Apostle says much about the way the saints had cared for him in his need—they had been cheerfully showing practical Christianity, the liberal outcome of hearts which knew and loved God. He says, as it were. You have met my need according to God, “my God” (he individualizes it) shall fully meet your need He says an 2 Corinthians 9:8, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work.” God is able to make plenty flow into your pockets, so that you may have all sufficiency in all things to help on His work. He does not say He will do it, to the Corinthians, but “He is able” to do it. The Apostle was seeking to turn their thoughts to God and the knowledge of Himself as to giving, so that they might get the good of God’s ability to send them abundance for His service. Notice, too, chapter 8:9, in same connection. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” What grace for such an One to so do! Look at chapter 9:15 “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” What grace to so give! He gave nothing short of the very best that heaven contained! He gave His Son!
Not only will He “supply” all your need, but it reads “fully supply”—not a bit of lack. And in accordance with “His riches in glory in Christ Jesus!” The call of the gospel is “according to” God’s purpose, so likewise we are “saved according to His purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9); and so here too the need of saints is met according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Question. I thought “the riches” were like the supplies in the storehouses of Egypt, and “by Christ Jesus” the channel of supply. Is it not so?
“By” is misleading. It is “in Christ Jesus.” When the whole of Egypt was lying in need during those seven years of famine, where had Pharaoh all his riches, his wealth, so that he might meet all that need consistently with his throne, his majesty, and glory? In Joseph—not in the storehouses of corn, but in Joseph with all his wisdom and his ability, in the Zaphnath-paaneah. All Pharaoh’s riches lay in the wisdom and wealth of administrative ability of that young man Joseph. Now, where are all God’s riches today? Not in Israel, not in the nations, not in the church, or in the gifts, but in Christ Jesus; and God acts accordingly in thus meeting our need—“according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Look at the administrative wisdom which obtains all in Egypt, both properties and persons, for Pharaoh whilst the need of the people is met fully. He gets their money. then when that is done, he gets their cattle, then their lands, and so on, until eventually he even gets themselves, so that all was Pharaoh’s from end to end of Egypt, save the priests’ lands.
God works on the same principle today after the counsel of His own will, and He will continue to work in the same blessed way for our good and His own glory until everything is brought into accordance with the perfect will and mind of God, to whom, as Paul adds, now joining the Philippians with him in verse 20, “be glory for ever to the ages of ages. Amen.”
How beautifully, in closing, the Apostle takes into his heart every saint in Christ Jesus in Philippi. He does not say, “Salute all the saints,” and in that way give a general salutation, but singles each one out “every saint” in that place had to be saluted with the letter he sent them. What a binding together this would effect!
To act in view of “all saints,” yea, in view of “every saint,” is a great thing. We cannot walk with every saint in his ways. That is another matter. But in prayer and love we are, as far as possible, practically to carry out the “taking in” of every saint in Christ Jesus.
Lastly Paul writes, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Nothing short of “all” is in the heart of a servant who is walking with God. A gift is given by the ascended Head in view of all, whether the “evangelist,” or the “pastor and teacher;” and if a servant of the Lord is labouring for a party, or sect, or school of opinion, he is not really walking with God. I do not say he is never used for blessing. It becomes us today to keep every saint before us in all we say and do, for God remembers each one.
2. Redemption (Romans 3:21-24)
In the first two chapters of Romans it is proved that all are under sin. Whether Jew or Gentile, taught or untaught. Scripture student or illiterate, there is no difference. Therefore if we are to be brought to God and blessed at all, redemption is necessary. When Israel was in Egypt, all were in cruel bondage under the power of Pharaoh, and it was necessary if they were to serve God that they should be redeemed out of Egypt and be brought to God.
We have all sinned and so needed God’s forgiveness. We must be forgiven before we can be right with God, but on account of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, God can now forgive and justify freely all those who believe on Jesus, and He can do it righteously. He is “just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus.” Neither law nor prophets could help us in this matter—they could not redeem us. The law only condemned us and showed where we were, for it says in the nineteenth verse, “Now we know that what things soever the law says, it says to them who are under the Law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” “By the deeds of the law there will no flesh be justified in His sight.”
Question. Was the law ever intended to justify men?
No. It could never do that. God had in view the showing up of the awful guilt of man, but the Israelites put themselves under the law, and therefore they got under the curse. We must not forget that the law is holy, just, and good, and will eventually be for the blessing of man, because in the coming age it will be written in their hearts and minds so that affectionately and intelligently all will know the Lord and serve Him. The law showed God’s standard, which man failed to come up to. Nevertheless God will fulfil the promise of blessing which He made over four hundred years before He gave the law. That promise was unconditionally made to Abraham.
Question. Of what use is the law now?
The law shows up the crookedness of man, that “sin might appear exceeding sinful.” It has often been illustrated by the plumb-line which is put against a crooked wall. It shows up its crookedness, but does not rectify it. So the law shows up the crookedness and sinfulness of man, but does not put right what is wrong. Those, however, who see their sinfulness and own it to God, seeking His mercy, are justified freely through the redemption which is in Christ; Jesus.
Question. Would you say that God demanded perfect righteousness and man could not supply it?
If God proved that the sample nation Israel was guilty and under judgment, then the whole world must be under judgment. If you pick out the best apple in a whole barrel, and prove it to be corrupt, then the whole barrel is corrupt. God took up Israel as a sample nation. He gave them the law, and it proved their corrupt condition; than the whole world is corrupt; for “there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “There is none righteous, no, not one” (v. 10).
Question. Why are the prophets mentioned as well as the law?
Because like the law they also pointed on to the righteousness of God. God tested man in every way for about four thousand years; He then sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He accomplished redemption at the cross, and now God can bless fully and freely through the redemption that is in Him. After our utter unrighteousness has been demonstrated, God’s righteousness is manifested “without law.” Man had no righteousness to fit him for God’s presence, and when that had been demonstrated fully God manifested a divine righteousness “towards all,” but the only people who get that divine righteousness are repentant sinners who come to Christ, for it is only “upon all those who believe.” The elder son never got the best robe. It was the poor sinner who had been away in the far country, and had repented and returned to the father, who got the best robe. So it is the one who comes as a poor sinful creature and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ whom God forgives once and for all. This never needs to be repeated; for the righteousness of God is now his, which is far better than any righteousness of his own, even if he had any. Would you not rather have the righteousness of God than any righteousness of man?
Question. Has the law no place with the Christian at all?
Well, he is not under it (see chap. 6:14-15) but we must not think that because we are “not under law,” and because we are justified freely and have the Holy Spirit, therefore we can ignore it as to our walk, for, if we walk “according to the Spirit,” Romans 8:4 tells us, we shall fulfil “the righteous requirement of the law.” Love is its fullness.
But we are reading Romans 3, and do not let us lose sight of the fact that God can bless fully and freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Notice verses 23 and 24. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely” (gratuitously, without a cause) “by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
It is said of the Lord, that they hated Him “without a cause.” God justifies the believer “without a cause.” What wonderful grace!
Question. Does it mean that when we could not work out our own righteousness Christ worked out a righteousness for us?
The Scripture nowhere says that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, but that He Himself is our righteousness. You have it in another place that Christ is made unto us “righteousness,” so out justification is not because of a righteousness that the Lord Jesus wrought in His life, which was entirely His own, but that He Himself is our righteousness. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes” (Rom. 10:4). You could not find a better righteousness. Better have Christ as your righteousness than ten thousand righteousnesses of your own.
Question. Does not the prophet say, “The Lord our righteousness,” “Jehovah Tsidkenu?”
Yes. Now let us note that redemption has the thought of releasing persons or property righteously by price or by power. If you take Israel in Egypt, they were redeemed in both ways, that is, by the blood of the lamb, also by the power of God (see Deut. 9:26-29). Then there is the question of the inheritance of which we read in Ephesians. The Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance.” We are told that the possession is acquired. Christ paid the price on the cross. We learn redemption in its parts, but its completeness is “in Christ Jesus,” that is Romans 3:34.
Question. Could the whole of His life put together redeem us?
No. His life could only condemn us. The more perfect that life shone out here, the greater the condemnation because of its contrast to every other man’s life. In no other way could redemption be secured for us than by the blood of the only One who was sinless and holy. He is now raised from the dead and in all the sunshine of the favour of God. We “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ.”
Look at creation. It speaks of God’s power and divinity. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. But when we come to redemption and view its glories, the soul becomes filled with praise and adoration. Mark—it is “in Christ Jesus.” The price is His precious blood. He took upon Himself that nature to which, in us, sin was attached, though not is Him. In Him was no sin. His blood was poured forth for our redemption. It says in another place, “The redemption of the soul is precious.”
Question. In what way are we redeemed by power?
We first get hold of the fact that the price of redemption is paid once, and never to be repeated. Then we wait for God to redeem us by His power, as we have it in verse 23 of the eighth chapter, “awaiting the redemption of the body.” To illustrate: Here is a prisoner in a foreign country. How is that man to be released? The country to which he belongs must interfere on his behalf and a price is paid for his release, and in a few days he is seen walking about, a free man. He is redeemed by price. But then he is still in a foreign land. A few months after you find him at home in his own country. Now he is redeemed in a fuller sense, not only by price but by power—he has been brought by his government’s warship from the foreign country to his own. The blood of Christ has paid the price once and for all, and has liberated us, but the next thing we look for is to be redeemed by power when our Lord Jesus Christ comes “with a shout”—to bring us with Himself in all the glory of redemption, with and like Him for ever. Thus we wait for the second part of redemption. We have redemption by blood—that is past and settled. In Christ “we have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7). We are waiting, however, for this second part of redemption, which will presently change our bodies of humiliation and fashion them like His own body of glory (Phil. 3:21) according to the working of His power.
Some are getting astray today on the question of the body, and are trying to prove that our bodies are already redeemed, therefore they want us to go in for divine healing, and claim the powers now that belong to the age to come, whereas though we might have the healthiest body yet we are still subject to pain and sin is still within us. When, however, our bodies are redeemed,
“Our pain shall then be over,
We’ll sin and sigh no more.”
Praise be to God!
Question. What about the inheritance?
Turn to the first chapter of Ephesians again, verse 14, “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.”
This is the redemption of property. The property is already acquired. The Lord, in view of the treasure, bought the field, and what we are waiting for is the moment when the whole thing will be taken up by redemption power. We are a heavenly people, and we are to shine in heavenly glory, but through grace the world also belongs to the saints, though truly our blessings are heavenly and not earthly. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:21-22, “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; … the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.”
Nothing will separate you more from the world than the fact that all is yours as belonging to Christ, who is now rejected by men. You look for a heavenly country, rightly, but this little earth is part of the inheritance. God will presently take it up in redemption power. All things in the heavens and upon the earth are to be headed up in Christ, in whom we have obtained an inheritance.
All know the story of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth was a Moabitess who had no claim to the blessing, but she came with Naomi to the land of Judah. There was one person in that land in whom she might have hope. The mighty man of wealth—Boaz. All her hope was in Boaz, and he undertook to do a kinsman’s part. Remember redemption involves carrying things out judicially and according to certain rights. There was one before Boaz, but he refused to do a kinsman’s part so Boaz undertook to do it. Now for us there was none other than the true Boaz the Lord Jesus, come of the line of Boaz and Ruth according to the flesh. He undertook the whole question of redemption—price and power, persons and property. For Ruth, the result was, not only did Boaz become her redeemer, but he became her bridegroom, and the fields in which she gleaned became hers too. She got the inheritance. Our true Boaz, our Kinsman, Redeemer, and Bridegroom, will share with us His wide fields, His glorious inheritance. The saints are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”
3. Justification (Romans 4:3-5, 22-25; 5:1-2)
There are believers who will speak freely and happily about the Lord Jesus Christ, but who, through a faulty apprehension of the gospel, feel a measure of restraint and sometimes a little dread when they think of God. These verses which we have read together are given to remove all that sort of uneasiness and to bring peace to the soul, that we might rejoice, not only in God’s grace toward us, but also in God Himself—to make our boast in God (Rom. 5:11 N.Tr.).
He has graciously acted from His side to clear away everything that was between us, as sinners, and Himself. He justifies the one who believes, He reconciles him to Himself through our Lord Jesus Christ, and sets him before His face in all the richness of His own free favour. God Himself in His grace is brought clearly before us in these verses; in fact, God is the One we believe on here. He is the Object of our faith. Justification and peace result from believing on God Himself.
Question. Why is Abraham given as an illustration by the Apostle?
God made Abraham a promise, and be believed God. That is the first mention of believing in Scripture (Gen. 15). He believed God would perform that which He had promised, and his faith was counted to him for righteousness. Now today we are not asked to believe God’s promise simply, but on God Himself, who has performed a stupendous work for our justification—to believe on Him who delivered the Lord Jesus Christ “for our offences,” and raised Him again “for our justification.” The whole of the fourth chapter is given to explain that it is on the principle of faith that justification is received.
Question. What is it to be justified?
Is to be set in righteousness; and, in result, let me add, in life, before God, cleared from every charge which could be laid against us on account of our guilt. There is a remarkable link in Scripture between righteousness and life, as may be noted in such expressions as “if the law had given life, then righteousness should have been by the law,” and it is in this that the lines of teaching brought out by Paul and John coincide and overlap each other. In Paul’s writings what is judicial comes particularly to the front; whilst with John what is vital—LIFE is what is prominent. With John believing brings in eternal life, and as involving no judgment (John 5:24); with Paul it brings in justification, but that justification is in its full result justification of life.
Question. Is it referred to in the same connection in Acts 13:39?
Yes. All that believe are in Christ justified from all things from which they could not be justified in the law of Moses. There was no justification in the law, but only condemnation for sinners. Many of us used to fervently pray, “Incline our hearts to keep this law;” but God has said, “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20). On the other hand, in Christ all who believe are justified—cleared absolutely before God from all things that could possibly be brought against them.
Note that whilst righteousness is imputed to the person (chap. 4), it is not as something apart from himself, for his faith is reckoned to him for righteousness; and in chapter 5:19 he is, in result, “constituted righteous” (N.Tr.). We have to learn too, not only that we are justified, but that God is the Justifier; and so in chapter 8 the Apostle raises the challenge, “It is GOD that justifies. Who is he that condemns?”
Question. Have works anything to do with justification?
As evidence of our faith they have, as shown in the Epistle of James, which is perfect harmony with Romans which shows the faith already ours. Works, however, have no place in the justification of Romans. See verse 5 of chapter 4, “To him that works not, but believes on HIM,” etc.
The religions of the world move on the principle of works, but justification before God is not on the principle of works. This is the whole argument of this chapter, so at the beginning it says Abraham might have had something to boast of if he had been “justified on the principle of works” (v. 2), but he was “justified on the principle of faith,” and therefore all Abraham’s boast was in God and His abounding goodness
Question. How do we get this justification today?
By believing on God, who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The tidings come to us today that God gave up His Son to the sufferings and death of Calvary’s cross, to remove for ever all our offences from before His holy eye. That having been done perfectly, God raised Him from the dead for our justification. We believe on God who did all this, and our faith is accounted to us for righteousness; we stand clear of every charge, and therefore enter into peace towards God. Some are troubled about, as if we were told to believe in our faith. No, we believe ON GOD, who has wrought on our behalf, outside of ourselves altogether, through our Lord Jesus Christ. This gives peace.
Question. What is the meaning of the ninth verse of the fifth chapter?
That shows clearly the necessity of blood shed for our justification—the blood of One who was sinless, spotless, and holy. It is the means, the righteous basis upon which this justification is ours; it is because of the blood that God can be just and yet justify them that believe in Jesus. This is important, because many teachers are leaving out the blood. The ignorance and conceit of many of the up-to-date teachers is appalling. No wonder we read in 2 Timothy 4 of the time when religionists would “heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear;” it is striking that nearly all the epistles warn us as to these men.
Question. Explain the eleventh verse of the fifth chapter “And not only so but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
It is the blessed result of knowing that He has justified us, and reconciled us to Himself in His rich grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. All unrest is gone, and we now find our deepest joy in the very One against whom we offended so grievously.
We are brought into the presence of God in liberty, with His love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us. What infinite love! We cannot praise Him enough for it but we boast now in Himself who has reconciled us. To Him be all the glory! The blessing is ours!
Question. Some people talk of a reconciled God. Do you agree with that?
God never needed to be reconciled. It was we ourselves, in whom there was enmity, who needed to be reconciled. It is a solemn thing to say of the blessed God. His heart was ever towards us. The very God that we had sinned against took the initiative on His own side and put all our offences away, and He has now placed us before His face, justified and reconciled through our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Reconciler. We are the reconciled.
Question. Will the question of guilt ever be raised against believers?
Never! “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not at all reckon sin” (Rom. 4:8). If a believer does sin, he loses his communion and becomes very unhappy. He will be dealt with, as belonging to the Lord, according to that sin, but it is not reckoned against him in the eternal sense. If we do not judge ourselves, however, “we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:31-32).
Question. If a believer sins, that does not break the relationship which he has with God, does it?
No, nothing can break that, and nothing can touch this justification, which is once and for ever. The Holy Spirit gives us the foundation of our vital relationship with God through John, and the forensic through Paul, as here in Romans 4 and “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. It never needs to be repeated, it is a settled question.
Question. What is the peace mentioned in that verse?
It is “peace with God” about the question of our sins, our guilt. If the truth we have had before us is received in faith, it could not be otherwise than that we should have peace with God, and find freedom of access into His boundless grace.
If God has come out in such free favour toward us, the soul asks, “What do I understand about all this grace in which He has placed me?” “We have access by faith into this grace wherein stand.” We are set in grace, in the changeless, everlasting favour of God. It is God who has justified us. It is God we have peace with. It is the grace of God in which we stand, and in that position we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We have all this from the gracious hand of GOD HIMSELF, and He has made known His great love towards us in the way He has done it.
Question. It covers the past, present, and future, does it not?
Yes, we have peace as to the past, access into grace for the present, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God for the future. It is all condensed in the first two verses of Romans 5. What concentrated wealth! Think and pray over it again and again. The hope is a sure and certain hope, because the One who took up our case is already in the glory. Politicians have boasted about the wonderful things that they are going to do for Great Britain, and the empire glory they are going to bring in, but we boast in what will be brought about without a shadow of doubt—“the glory of God”. The whole earth will be filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea. That glory will come in, in all its magnificence. The Lord Jesus Christ, our precious Saviour, God’s Son, will be the Centre and Sustainer of it all.
Question. Did Abraham look for it?
Yes, he exulted, as he looked on to that day. Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he received the promise that he should be the heir of the world. “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13). He also looked for the heavenly city, which, as is now made known, will come having “THE GLORY OF GOD.” It is a great mistake to divorce in our thoughts the heavens and the earth. God always connects the two. The prophets constantly sought to wake up the people to recognize Jehovah as the “Maker of heaven and earth;” and so, when we come to Ephesians and Colossians, we find Christ is looked upon as the great Head and Centre of all things in heaven and earth, when
“He’ll bid the whole creation smile,
And hush its groan.”
We rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and the more we take in, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, the wide extent of that glory, the brighter and the fuller our hope will be.
4. Deliverance From Sin (Romans 6)
At the outset of our consideration of this subject let us notice carefully how believers stand in relation to grace. We are living in the day of grace, when the gospel of God’s grace is being preached by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and accordingly, in chapter 5:20, We read, “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” In the first two and a half chapters of the epistle the aboundings of sin are shown, and how all are proved to be under it, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” whilst from the latter part of the third chapter the Spirit unfolds how, though there are these aboundings of sin in the world, God has come in and over-abounded with His rich and free grace. This He has done righteously because of “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (chap. 3:24). Grace justifies the believing sinner freely, and not only clears him from all condemnation, but also reconciles him to God through the death of His Son (chap. 5:10); so that now his chief joy is in God Himself, whose grace and love are known to him through our Lord Jesus Christ (chap. 5:11). At the opening of the fifth chapter the believer is seen to stand in grace and to have free access into the changeless favour of God, and what lies just ahead of him is the glory of God—we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (chap. 5:2-3). At the close of chapter 5 we have mention of the reign of grace (v. 21).
“Grace is a mine of wealth laid open to the poor;
Grace is the sov’reign spring of health, ’tis life for evermore.”
Question. But is it not important to see that grace reigns through righteousness?
Yes; but it is a great thing first of all to take hold of the fact that it is grace that is now on the throne. Grace is reigning through righteousness truly. All must be in perfect righteousness necessarily where God (who is righteous) is concerned. There was the reign of sin (chap. 5:21), sin had reigned unto death, but now the grace of God has, so to speak, ascended the throne on the believer’s behalf, and on account of the work at the cross, where the question of sin was settled, grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life; so that grace not only meets us in our need, and sets us in present favour, but secures for us the glory by and by, when the saints will be glorified with Christ. Then it will be the display of grace—“The riches of His grace.”
When the great fact is grasped that GRACE is reigning, we can rightly approach the sixth chapter, where we are seen as “not under law, but under grace” (v. 14). This must be borne in mind all through.
Question. Chapter 6 begins with the question, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Is this question one that would occur to the renewed mind, do you think?
Well, the Apostle raises the question in order to answer the natural reasoning of men, that to believe in grace so free would lead to licence. Nay, he adds, “Far be the thought.” The question is raised so that we might have it settled intelligently.
Grace took us up at the start—grace is going to glorify us at the end; but we are not yet glorified. What are we going to do in between, since we are the recipients of such grace? Continue in sin? “Far be the thought.”
The truth is very plain—the believer has died to sin. That is a settled thing; then how shall he live in sin? The believer is not told to die to sin. We sometimes hear the remark, “You must die to sin,” but Scripture is very careful to say that the believer has died to sin (v. 2). Baptism “unto Christ Jesus” sets forth that the one so baptized is done with sin, because in being baptized to Him be is baptized unto His death. Christ has died to sin, and in baptism the believer has been buried with Him. We are not to be ignorant as to this matter. It is “with Christ” we have died. The scene of death was at the cross; not within the believer, but “with Christ.” We are dead with Him and buried with Him.
Question. Is that the meaning of verse 3, “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into [or, unto] Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are [or, have been] buried with Him by baptism into death.”
Yes, and we must keep clear that it is not Christ’s death for our sins in Romans 6. That is looked at from chapter 4 as a settled question—He “was delivered for our offences” (chap. 4:25). Here it is His death to sin, and our death with Him. In the early part of chapter 5, we are told what we have through our Lord Jesus Christ but in this chapter it is what we have with and in Him. We are completely identified with Him in death and in life.
Question. In Colossians 2:20 we are stated to have died with Christ from the elements of the world. Is that similar?
So far as the expression “dead with Christ” is concerned, it is exactly similar. Baptism is burial out of sight altogether, and expresses the fact that in the death of Christ we were cut off from the lawless world; but now, as Christ has been raised again, leaving sin and death behind, even so we should walk in “newness of life,” having left sin behind.
The question has often been asked, “Who was the first visitor to the tomb?” The Father was. The Father’s glory, all that He is, operated there giving Him a glorious triumph over death, “Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father.” God forsook Him when He was made sin on the cross; but the Father’s glory raised Him FROM AMONG the dead. God’s infinite satisfaction and delight are found in that One who went into death for God’s glory. We have become identified with Him in the likeness of His death and we shall be also of His resurrection.
Question. Does faith look back and say, “We have died with Christ”?
Yes; baptism is the acknowledgment of it. Many people are baptized, but do not understand this. It is a mere form with them, but the truth that baptism teaches is far more important than the form: and the truth it teaches is here. The truth of deliverance from sin, the only way by which believers can get freedom from sin is brought out at this point. Those who are of real use in this world, in the service of the Lord, have accepted this road. God has only this one road to freedom, and it is through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, “He that is dead is free from sin” (v. 7). We are to know the truth, which makes free. I saw a printed letter some time ago from a preacher, saying how much he wished he had known the truth of this chapter at the start of his work.
The practical walk here is in “newness of life,” and not in the old life of disobedience which is called sin. There are two questions in this chapter which should be noticed, for, generally, the second is confused with the first. The first question is in the first verse—“Shall we continue in sin?” the second is in the fifteenth verse “Shall we sin?” The first is a question of, so to speak, the sphere of life morally, and so in the chapter “in sin” is contrasted with “in Christ Jesus.” The second is a question of acts or practice, and so yielding oneself to serve sin is contrasted with becoming servants to God. There are these two deeply important lines of thought, the first developed in verses 1-14 and the last in verses 15-23. Both are raised in reference to the wonderful grace which God has shown us—favour through Christ for those who merited the very opposite!
Question. The first is not a question of sin in us is it? but of continuing in sin on the one hand, or of walking in newness of life on the other.
That is so, and the future is looked on to in the fifth verse, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” For, as surely as Christ Himself is raised, we shall be actually raised and fully delivered then even as to our bodies.
We ought to be marked by triumph in going through this world, having fullness of joy, not like the joy of the world, but true joy in the Lord. “Delight thyself in the Lord!” There is none like Him!
Question. What about the sixth verse? “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
It is a matter of knowledge: knowing that a certain thing took place for a certain reason. “Our old man” is not exactly the “evil nature within” though. It includes it, nor is it precisely the “first man,” which is contrasted with the “Second Man;” but in the language of Scripture it is the old which was crucified at the cross. It is elsewhere contrasted with the “new” man, which is now created in Christ It is that in which we had part as belonging to the race of Adam—fallen, sinful, and lawless. But thanks be unto God we now clearly know our old man has been crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be annulled. The whole organism broken up, in its totality, and rendered powerless, so that we should not serve it henceforth. All the saints are now formed into one “new man” in Christ. The new man is entirely according to God, and is created in truth and righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). How different is the old man which corrupts itself (Eph. 4:22). God made “the first man” (mentioned only in 1 Corinthians 15). He could not be said to have made “the old man,” for he is utterly corrupt; and this fact may serve to emphasize a necessary distinction of great importance.
Question. Is “justified” a better word than “freed” in the seventh verse? “For he that is dead is freed from sin.”
Yes, but the meaning is very similar. We are cleared from the old thing, in which we once were, by death. The world is going on in sin still, whether it is the religious world, or the irreligious world, or whatever form the world takes now—it is lawless. It is not “the earth” here. We have to do our duties, our business, etc., and to fill our part in our natural relationships, but all that relates to “the earth.” Continuing “in sin” is what marks “the world.” It is what we have in 1 John 2, in another aspect—“All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” “The world” is not of the Father, but “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” If we do not distinguish we shall become legal and unhappy. Happiness (in the sense of grace) and holiness go. together. Sin gets a point of attack if we become legal. We are under grace now, not under law.
Question. What is the first thing on our side? Is it to believe what God has done in raising up Christ from the dead?
The first thing is KNOWLEDGE. Firstly, “knowing that our old man has been crucified with Christ” (v. 6); secondly, “knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over Him” (v. 9). The first is not a matter of our frames or feelings, or it would lead to self-occupation. It is objective knowledge (γινώσκοντες), clear to the ken of faith. The second, however, which is a matter concerning the blessed Lord Jesus, we have the inward conscious knowledge of; so the Holy Spirit uses quite a different word (ε?δ?τες = conscious knowledge). This is very striking, and helps greatly when understood; for herein lies the great basic truth of deliverance from sin. Our old man is crucified with Christ, but Christ is raised from among the dead. Our old man is not raised, thank God, but Christ is, and we are alive in Him.
He has died to sin; He has left the whole thing behind Him by dying to it. Will He ever die to sin again? No! Christ will never have to say in that way to sin again. “For in that He died, He died unto sin ONCE; but in that He lives, He lives unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but ALIVE unto God, in Christ Jesus” (N.Tr.). We have the settled KNOWLEDGE that Christ died unto sin, and has thus done with it once and for ever, and He now lives to God. We also reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God in Him. An earnest believer once said to me after a meeting, “I see it now! I am to reckon sin dead to me!” I replied, “It is just the other way about: you are to reckon yourself dead to it!”
We are dead to sin and alive to God in chapter 6, and dead to the law to be to Christ in chapter 7.
Question. Is it not important to keep the positive side—“Alive to God”—before us?
It is indeed, for it is only as being “ALIVE TO GOD in Christ Jesus” that we can reckon ourselves dead to sin. Verse 12 shows that sin is not eradicated, but it is not to be allowed sway. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” We read “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” As delivered from sin, we are to definitely yield ourselves to God.
Verse 14 is absolute—“Sin shall not have dominion over you,” Why? Because we “are not under the law, but UNDER GRACE.” Sin wants the sway: it dominates the world; but the wages of sin is death. Our “members” are spoken of here, showing that it is the body, “Yield … your members … unto God.” it is very practical. All our members are to be yielded to this new and happy service in the energy of the life of Christ raised from among the dead. This life is ours, and we can take account of ourselves as alive from among the dead (v. 13), though we still await the actual resurrection.
Question. What about the other question, “Shall we sin?”
This second question divides the chapter, and to answer its inquiry the Holy Spirit uses the illustration of two masters. All are serving either one or the other. No man can serve two masters. Notice carefully how the Spirit leads up to this; God has taken us out of the old circle in which we once were and now He has put us before Himself in Christ, so that henceforth we reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin, but alive unto God “in Christ Jesus” (as verse 11 rightly reads). “In sin” (that in which we once lived and moved) is put in contrast with “in Christ;” and in chapter 8 we shall find “in the Spirit” put in contrast with being “in the flesh.” No saint is “in sin” (though sin is still in us); all are in Christ, though the truth must be practically recognized. These who are in Christ are in Him for ever; it cannot be altered; and just because we are in Christ, and not in sin, we have a new master to serve. In the new service which is to righteousness there is present blessing fruitfulness to sanctification, increase in the knowledge of God, and the end everlasting life.
Verse 16 says, that “to whom we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are to whom we obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness,” But having obeyed from the heart the precious truth, the form of doctrine into which we were instructed (v. 17, N.Tr.) and having got our freedom from the old master, “sin,” we are ashamed of the things which we once did in its service, and in which there was no fruit, in the new service we have fruit unto holiness.
Question. There is no legal effort in this new service, is there?
No, for we are “under grace.” All true service flows from that God in grace has justified us, and freed us from sin’s slavery; and now in liberty we become servants to the blessed Gad. Take an illustration: I remember a young typist whose last master was harsh and used bad language. She was very miserable. A new place was offered to her by a Christian. She left her old master, and gladly embraced her freedom from him to serve the new master, with whom she has prospered ever since. It is thus with the believer spiritually, but we must avoid legality, and yet be yielded wholly to God, in the sense of His grace, to pursue that which is pleasing in His sight. Fruit unto holiness is the result.
In the service of sin men contrariwise sink deeper and deeper into uncleanliness and lawlessness.
Question. There are two classes here, are there not?
There are those who are given up to evil: sin is their master. There are also the children of God who are servants of righteousness. They have got freedom from sin. The old master has no claim upon them now. The death of Christ has come in between them and sin. They are now free in the life of Christ raised from the dead to serve the new Master. Those who serve the old master receive his WAGES, “for the wages of sin is death” (v. 33). But thanks be unto God “the GIFT” is ours, NOT THE WAGES OF SIN. The “gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Blessed be God for His over-abounding grace. May it be ours to “serve the Lord with gladness,” and not with sadness.
“May grace, free grace, inspire
Our souls with strength divine;
May every thought to God aspire,
And grace in service shine.”
5. Christian Liberty (Romans 7:1-8:15)
Liberty! Liberty! For this the new life in the believer cries out. The whole creation groans and longs for liberty; but the desire in the inward man of the believer is stronger than all. He desires liberty from all that hinders and holds him in bondage, that he may be free to do that which is pleasing to God. The fallen man wants freedom to please himself, to do his own will; the believer, to do God’s will. Now God who has called us by the gospel has called us to liberty. He has no pleasure in seeing any of His children entangled in a yoke of bondage, for we can only glorify Him, and serve in love, as we are in the enjoyment of the holy liberty of grace. The Galatians we exhorted to “stand fast … in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). In Romans 8:15 we read; “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption. Whereby we cry. Abba, Father.” These scriptures show that God’s thought for us is just that which the undelivered believer desires, but does not yet know the full blessedness of true liberty.
Question. Does the truth brought before us in the Scriptures read show us how the believer is delivered so as to be free and happy before God?
Yes. The Apostle begins (chap. 7:1) by telling us that he is speaking especially to those that knew law, primarily the Jew, though the majority of the Christian profession have put themselves under law also, and he afterwards describes the state of one struggling for freedom, who had not yet come to the happy day when he could say. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:2).
Question. Was it the Apostle Paul himself who passed through this experience?
No doubt it was. He speaks of “I” and “me”; but he had come through it, and knew deliverance, of course, when he wrote these things down. He looks back upon and describes the experience he once had. Some think this should be a lifelong experience with a believer.
The fact is, it is not proper Christian experience at all, but it is the experience of one who is on the way to true Christian experience. Paul shows it was a past experience, for he says “when we were in the flesh” (v.5); but in chapter 8:9 he says we are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.”
Question. Why is the illustration of the woman and her husband used in verses 2 and 3?
To show that the legal bond could only be broken by death. The woman could not be married to another till death gave her freedom from the law of the husband. She might desire to be free, but death alone could truly give her freedom.
At the beginning of this seventh chapter of Romans we have the two husbands; at the end of the sixth chapter the two masters. There is no difference in the principle by which we are delivered from the old husband or the old master. The way of deliverance from the law is the same as the way of deliverance from sin. The fact is, we all have to come to this, that the only door for deliverance is through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the only way in which we can be maintained in holiness, fruitfulness, and happiness when delivered is by living to God as belonging to the One who has come out of death, raised from among the dead. We must, nevertheless, be careful not to fall into the snare of those who look for a perfection here which only belongs to heaven. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
This chapter begins by saying that as long as a man lives law rules over him, therefore if the law rules over a man as long as he lives, it is clear that the only door out of it must be by death. The law says, “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10), and he that offends “in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Every one, therefore, is under the curse who is in an unconverted and unregenerate condition, the law rules over him. God, however, has provided a way of deliverance—Christ has borne the curse of the law, and believers have become free from the law by the body of Christ, and have liberty to take up that position before God, for they belong to Christ who now lives to God, having been raised from among the dead after having become, in His wonderful grace, a curse for them on the cross. We do well to ponder thankfully the wonderful words of verse 4. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
We look back at His death, and we see the tie is broken. Truly the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives; but by Christ’s death we have become dead to the law. Many remember with deep thanksgiving, the time when they saw this truth of being “free from the law,” for the first time, after, with the mass of Christendom, having wrongly put themselves under it.
Question. But verse 6 reads “that being dead!” Does it not mean the law was ended at the cross?
No, the marginal reading is more correct—“being dead to that.” The law is right and of God, and therefore did not need to be ended. We, however, have became dead to it, and thus freed from its righteous condemnation by the death of Christ. When we were in the flesh, as we see in verse 5, our passions which were by the law wrought in us; but now (v. 6) we can “serve in newness of spirit.” In chapter 6:4 it is “walk in newness of life.” Also in chapter 6 it is freedom by death from the dominion of sin; in the seventh chapter it is also freedom by death, but from the dominion of the law.
The law demanded love from man, but man failed utterly to answer to the demand, therefore the law cursed man. Christ came in and took our place that He might redeem us from the curse of the law; now we belong to Him in liberty and life, for He has come out from under the curse of the law. Having completely met its demands, He has been raised from the dead, and we are now His in the most intimate way. God would have us to understand this, so that in freedom we may delight in the Lord.
“No curse of law, in Him is sovereign grace,
And now what glory in His unveiled face.”
When Moses inaugurated the law—“the ministration of death”—he had to put a veil over his face. The Israelites could not look at him because of the glory that shone there. It is contrariwise with us, for we have liberty and ability, by the Spirit, to behold the surpassing glory of a greater than Moses, and there is no veil on the face of Christ. We are now connected with that which excels in glory. The Lord Jesus has become our new Object, and as this is so we become more like Him every day. We are not to be thinking—How are we getting on? We are to be learning how precious and glorious Christ is, and in that way we become changed without being self-occupied—“changed … from glory to glory”—and there is fruit to God consequently.
Question. What you were saying as to the law being right is proved in the seventh verse, is it not?
Clearly, and in the verses following too. The first question asked in the seventh chapter is, “What shalt we say then? Is the law sin?” The answer is, “God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
The Jews evidently blamed Paul for setting aside the law, but he was not doing that. Instead of there being anything wrong with the law, it was the very thing that gave him to know the wrong in himself—his sinfulness. When the commandment was brought home to him he discovered the wrong desires within him. When the Word comes to the soul in this way, in spiritual power, it manifests the evil within. There is no true progress till we find out experimentally how really bad we are. The sixth chapter is practical, this is experimental. Coveting is an inward thing, and the word “Thou shalt not covet” exposed its presence. In the sixth chapter the question is raised as to being “in sin;” in the seventh as to “sin in me.” The believer is “in Christ,” not “in sin,” but sin is still in him.
The law gives a conscience as to sin within us, but it cannot deliver. The Apostle shows, on the other hand, In verses 8-11, that sin gets a point of attack by the law and throws the soul into all sorts of trouble and distress which it never knew before. Sin is entirely to blame not the law of God, for it is holy, and “the commandment holy, and just, and good” (v. 12). Paul is careful to emphasize that.
Notice the second question in the chapter, in the thirteenth verse, “Was then that which is good made death unto me?” Now mark the reply. “God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” The soul now says, as it were, “The law is all right but I am all wrong.” It is a healthful and necessary lesson to learn.
What a mercy it is that God knew all about us before He took us up! At the cross we see God’s hatred of sin—every true believer learns that. But here all is experimental, and we learn best in the presence of God. Instead of this discovery discouraging the believer, it drives him more to God about that which he hates as God also does. To learn the exceeding sinfulness of sin is very profitable.
Question. If a soul has learned to hate sin, is it not a proof that there is a work of God in him?
It is on account of a work of God in the soul that hatred of sin according to God is produced, though much inward conflict is known at the same time, as we read in verses 15-17, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would that do I not; but what I hate, that I do. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.”
Another has pointed out that here he is like a man struggling to get out of a morass, but as he lifts one leg the other sinks deeper in. We must, however carefully notice how in the midst of all this the soul learns; if he hates the thing which he does, then he concludes it is not himself at all. He can now distinguish himself from sin. He says, rightly, “It is no more I …but sin that dwells in me.” Some people are afraid of this chapter because they think it leads to licence. That could never be. We seek to shun sin when there is a work of God in us. It causes all our anguish and distress. God brings the believer to a holy hatred of sin. It is a spiritual work. The unregenerate man knows nothing about this, and where there is mere profession the important conclusions of this chapter are passed over or evaded. The upright soul faces it all. One reason why this chapter is so often returned to is because its conclusions are not thoroughly reached by many.
Look now at the eighteenth verse. Here a further lesson is learned, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
Some say, “There is much that is bad in me,” but we must come to this, “There is NO GOOD in me,” that is, in the flesh. We never enjoy real deliverance until we learn that. Our full joy is to be in the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, but that could not be as long as we expect to find good in the flesh. When we have experienced that in the flesh good does not dwell we are than to be done with it
Question. Does it mean that as a Christian there is no good in me whatever?
No, that would be a serious mistake to make. This is what the undelivered soul learns experimentally—there is no good in the flesh. We are, however, “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,” as we read in chapter 8. Christ is in the believer and the Holy Spirit dwells in him; again, “he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.” The flesh, however, remains unaltered—good does not dwell there. New desires after what is of God are found in the soul in the seventh of Romans, but he finds he is powerless to carry out what he would. He falls into what he would not and notice again he concludes, “It is NO LONGER I, but sin that dwells in me.” He would do good, but evil is present with him (vv. 19-21). He HATES SIN, he has NEW DESIRES, he has found there is NO GOOD in the flesh, and that he has NO POWER to practise the good he would. And mark what he next recognizes—he has NEW DELIGHTS, and AN INWARD MAN.
“I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” Amidst all this struggling an inward delight is discovered in what is of God. The only person that has got this “inward man” is the believer, and he accordingly delights in the wonderful law of God. Another once said, “O how I love Thy law.” Men often talk of feeding the inner man when they really mean the outer man which perishes.
Question. What are the two laws spoken of in verse 23?
One is the law or principle which delights in that which is of God, the other is the principle of sin within, which causes all the trouble, and makes the soul cry out for deliverance when it has learned it cannot deliver itself. “O wretched man that I am! WHO shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is often a great relief to those passing through this experience to find in the Bible another describing how he passed through the same thing.
He has reached here a step beyond “no good in me,” also beyond “no power in me”—he is utterly wretched! He had got where we all must come to—to see that there is no help in self at all. But one little word is enough—“WHO?” He has had enough of “I,” “I,” “I,” and “Me,” “Me,” “Me”, He is done with self, and he cries “WHO?”
He looks away from himself and his inward struggles altogether, to seek deliverance outside of himself. The answer is immediately found. God’s way is always “through Jesus Christ our Lord”—deliverance is there. Like a man struggling in the water to save himself, and who is the more blinded to what is about him by the very earnestness of his efforts, but finding at last that he is powerless to save himself, he gives up the struggle, and looking up for deliverance he finds a lifebuoy close at hand. So here when self-efforts are given up and the question is asked, “WHO shall deliver?” God’s way is seen, and the soul says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is important to see that if deliverance could be reached by our own efforts our last estate would be worse than the first, for we should be self-satisfied; but having learned our utter good-for-nothingness, how precious the Lord Jesus becomes to our hearts, for there is nothing but good in Him. God’s way of deliverance is through Him, and He becomes the blessed Object of our hearts and minds now instead of self, and we serve in newness of spirit.
Deliverance is maintained thus; but if we get down we never need to ask again, “WHO shall deliver?” for we already know. Justification is once and for ever. Deliverance is to be maintained, though there is a time when the soul enters upon it. Full deliverance will be when the Lord comes. We shall then be taken right out of this sinful world.
Question. You said that the flesh remains unchanged. Is that what is meant at the close of verse 25?
That shows I may have learned God’s way of deliverance, and with the mind “I myself” serve God’s law, yet the flesh when allowed to act will do nothing but serve sin’s law. That is an abiding principle. In the early verses of chapter 8 it is shown clearly that believers are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The mind of the flesh is death; on the other hand, the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. What a contrast!
The Holy Spirit is here, and that means life, joy, and peace for us. When Christ comes again He will quicken our mortal bodies (raising the dead and changing the living), and meanwhile as we walk after the Spirit, who keeps Christ before us, we fulfil the requirement of the law without being under the law; whereas those who are under it are under its condemnation. The believer is redeemed from that once and for all. The law cannot condemn him, as we have seen.
Question. Is that the “no condemnation” of verse 1?
Well, there it is no condemnation whatever. It includes what you refer to, but the truth is that the Lord Jesus Christ, who bore all our condemnation on the cross, is raised again from the dead, and no condemnation of any sort can now apply to Him. How could there? Then there can be none for those who are in Him. “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus.” The rest of the verse is in its right place at the end of verse 4. It is clearly out of place in verse 1. No qualifying clause is needed.
We have seen that the law, though good in itse1f could not produce good in man who is bad in himself. It was “weak through the flesh” (chap. 8:3). God then sent His Son as a sacrifice for sin, and sin In the flesh met its full condemnation when He who knew no sin was made sin for us. It has been completely condemned at the cross. Believers are now to walk alter the Spirit, not after the flesh. Freedom is theirs so to do, and they are in the Spirit, not in the flesh.
There is a new principle of life in Christ Jesus which has given us freedom from the old principle of sin and death which once held us fast. Each believer individually speaks for himself, as in verse 2. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made ME FREE from the law of sin and death.” The truth of “In Christ” is of great importance. Salvation is in Him, also redemption and eternal life. We are to take account of ourselves as alive to God in Christ Jesus. The love of God is in Him, and we are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus There is not only no condemnation there, but also a new creation. We should know one another in Him, and not in sects or parties. Our ways should be in Him. Paul said of his bonds even that they were “in Christ.” Our blessings are in Him, our present acceptance also. We are enriched in Himself, in whom we have obtained an inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the earnest.
Question. Have all Christians received the spirit of adoption spoken of in verse 15?
The proof that it is so is heard in the way they address God. The youngest babe in His family knows the Father and cries, “ABBA, FATHER.” You would not have heard Abraham thus address God, nor Moses either; he knew Him as “Jehovah;” but He is known to us now as “FATHER,” and we so address Him. Bondage is gone. The Spirit which is ours is not a spirit of bondage again for fear. Adoption is ours, with all the wonderful family rights, dignities, and privileges—yea, the very “spirit of adoption” too. What blessed liberty is thus ours In the presence of OUR GOD AND FATHER! All fear gone! There is no more condemnation! Perfect love has cast out all fear! We are His children! We now address God Himself as FATHER. What a blessed and marvellous exchange from the miserable self-occupation and wretched bondage of which we have spoken! How can we praise Him enough who has brought it to pass through our Lord Jesus Christ by His precious truth in the power of the Holy Spirit?
6. The Hope (Romans 8:15-30)
God’s children are passing through this world of sin and suffering, sorrow and death, to His home in glory. They are unknown by the world around, as we read in 1 John 3:1-2, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God therefore the world knows US NOT, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the children of God.” As such they are unknown, though they are known well enough in other respects, and should be such in conduct as to be esteemed by those that are without, but the secret of their family relationship is not known to the world. They are like a royal family hastening through a hostile country where those who meet them know not their origin. Thus the family of God are passing through this world. All around them are the children of the devil and the children of the flesh; and if it were not for the providential ordering of God they would soon be got rid of; but in this very world they have also the present consciousness of the Father’s love and the blessed hope of soon seeing and being like the Saviour for ever. ALL believers are the children of God, and heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. There is but ONE FAMILY, though many believers do not understand this great fact, and so are not governed by it.
Whilst pressing forward to the glory of God, we have not a spirit of bondage, for the Spirit that is given to us of God is a spirit of adoption. Under law there was bondage, but we have received a spirit of adoption, so that in liberty and love we address God as Father. The spirit of bondage which characterizes some today is not of God. Holy reverence is another matter, and will not be lacking where God is truly known.
Nobody under law called God “Father.” The most pious in Israel would not have thought of looking up to God and calling Him “Father,” as we do today. But now God has wrought in such wise to bring us into His presence in perfect liberty, in the relationship of children, His perfect love having cast out all fear.
Question. Is there a definite moment when a person becomes a child of God?
Yes. When one, hearing the gospel, believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as his own personal Saviour, he then becomes one of the family of God.
Question. We are also spoken of as sons of God. How do we become sons, and is there any difference in the expressions?
Galatians 3:26 tells us—“by faith in Christ Jesus.” Children are viewed in connection with love and birth. John always speaks of “children.” Sonship is connected with glory and dignity and position. Paul speaks more of that. “Children” are “begotten” in John; “sons” are by “adoption” in Paul. Doubtless sons are children, and children are sons; but we must learn the meaning of these different expressions in Scripture if we are to walk intelligently and acceptably before God our Father.
Question. Can we break that relationship into which we have been put?
Never—because we are begotten of God. You cannot alter your birth, even if you would. The believer has had two births, a natural one and a spiritual one. He was born after the flesh first, and then be was born after the Spirit. The Spirit that is given him is a spirit of adoption. You remember Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses—an Israelite adopted into the royal family of Egypt! She could not, however, put into Moses a spirit of adoption, therefore when he became a man he broke it all off. Now, God not only adopted us in His rich grace as His sons, with all the rights, dignity, and glory connected therewith, as the royal family of heaven, but He gave us the very “spirit of adoption,” so that we are vitally (not only positionally) linked up with His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Spirit of God’s Son is sent forth into our hearts, whereby we cry “Abba. Father” (Gal. 4:6). What grace! What love!
Question. In what position does an unconverted man stand before God?
He stands before God as a guilty sinner. They that are in the flesh cannot please God. Until they have come to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as their own personal Saviour, they are exposed to the judgment of God, for all have sinned and come short of His glory.
Question. Why are believers called “heirs” here?
Because we have not yet entered upon the inheritance. We are living in this world as heirs of God and Christ’s joint heirs, and we are going on to possess with Him the inheritance which is His by right, and ours with Him according to the eternal purpose and grace of God. The knowledge of this will greatly affect our walk and ways. These are the “things to come” that the Holy Spirit brings before us. Is the hope of sharing the glory with Christ burning bright within our hearts? Faith is the substantiating of things hoped for. It fills the heart with great joy to think that for the everlasting pleasure of our blessed God we are going to be with and like the One who bled and died for us on Calvary’s cross.
Scripture points on constantly and consistently to that time, and hope has a wonderful effect in moving and purifying us. We need to see to it that we be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.
The children of God suffer with Christ now in that we are still waiting for the inheritance, as it says in the seventeenth verse, “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”
But while we suffer with Him, we may be filled with all joy and peace in believing, while we abound in through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Question. Why are the creatures mentioned in this connection?
They likewise long for the time when they shall be set free from the bondage of corruption and share the coming glorious liberty. They anxiously look on for the revelation of the sons of God. The creatures will not exactly share the glory, but the “liberty of the glory of the children of God.” Instinctively they long for that time. Believers are to look on to it intelligently, a communion with God, understanding what He is doing. The Old Testament greatly helps us as to the earthly side of the glory, and also as figurative of the heavenly.
Turn to Isaiah 11:6-9, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain for THE EARTH SHALL BE FULL OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD, AS THE WATERS COVER THE SEA.”
The Lord will take the dominion (Ps. 8) as well as the kingdom. The earth will then be filled with joy, peace, and righteousness, and the knowledge and glory of the Lord shall flow over the earth, and He shall reign supreme, KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. Instead of the present groaning, the world will then be vocal with the praises of the blessed Lord. What a glorious display it will be of the triumph of good over evil in the very place where He suffered and was crucified! He will then bring in publicly the “powers of the world to come,” which He used when here in humiliation in a limited way. They will obtain generally then. It is sad to see earnest Christians, every now and then, turned aside from growing in the knowledge of God to try to obtain these “powers of the coming age” now. They were seen when the Lord and the apostles were here, but they belong properly to the age to come. Satan urges professing Christians on to imitate them in so called faith-healing” and “tongues.” It should be remembered that these “powers” witnessed to the presence and power of the Messiah, but He has been rejected, and meanwhile, until He returns in power and glory, the church, His body and bride, is being formed by the Holy Spirit. When these “powers” are public we shall be in heavenly glory with Christ, over the earth, not on it, and all the blessing for the earth will flow from Christ Jesus. “Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”
Question. We are told that in that day everything will be put under man instead of angels. How does it come about?
Jacob saw a ladder set up on earth reaching to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending upon. it. The Lord Jesus came into the world of the seed of Abraham and of the seed of David. He should have been received by His people, but He was rejected by Israel. He then took the place of the Son of Man. He suffered and died, and set up the ladder on earth through His wonderful work on the cross which reached to heaven. The Lord as Son of Man takes the place of Jacob’s ladder, and hereafter it shall be seen as He said “The angels of God ascending and descending [not descending and ascending] on the Son of Man.” God will have earth and heaven in beautiful and blessed communion, but this will be by the Son of Man, not exactly Son of David. Son of Man is His wider title, it takes in the vast universal dominion, when His name shall be excellent in all the earth (Ps. 8). The administration will then be directly under man, not angels.
Question. Do not believers groan also as they await that day, not only the creature?
Yes; read verses 22 and 23. “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but we ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit.”
There is the groaning of the whole creation, and we who by the Spirit are linked with the new creation groan also, as still having a link with the old creation by our bodies. But we groan in communion with God as we look around today and see and feel the ruin that has come in through sin.
But even now we are SAVED in hope (rightly translated it is not “by” hope, but in hope), and that hope is given to cheer the hearts of those who know that heaven is their everlasting home. The hope is called the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which enters into that within the veil, where the Lord Jesus has entered in before us. There is no doubt as to it. He is there, and all is therefore secure. It is a “sure and certain hope.”
In 1 Timothy 1:1 we read of “Christ Jesus our hope” (N.Tr.). We need to watch. Many are giving up the hope. Christ Jesus is our hope. There is a great deal connected with that, but we really have no hope apart from Himself. HE HIMSELF IS OUR HOPE.
“O bright and blessed hope, when shall it be
That we His face long loved revealed shall see,
O when without a cloud His features trace,
Whose faithful love so long we’ve known in grace.”
Patience and prayer also characterize the children of God as they go on to the full result in glory of God’s purpose, when we shall see Him as the Firstborn among the many brethren (vv. 25-28). We hope and expect in patience We pray; but often “we do not know what to pray for as we ought.” But the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. He joins His help to our weaknesses and intercedes for us according to God. Mark the cheering and beautiful contrast the Spirit here gives us, “We do not know what to pray for as we ought … BUT we do know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”
We are called according to His purpose, which will soon be fulfilled, and even now everything in the world today is working together for the good of those who have been called by the gospel. God has a definite purpose before Him, and He is working all things in accordance with that purpose, and nothing in the universe can hinder Him from carrying it out to its glorious completion. He works all things according to the counsel of His own will, that we should be to the praise of His glory.
Question. Are “purpose” and “predestination” the same?
No. “Predestination” is according to “purpose,” but it is a distinct thing. “Foreknowledge” also is distinct.
“Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
We were called according to purpose, and as foreknown of God. He has predestinated us to be like His Son, but mark, it is that HE might be pre-eminent—the Firstborn in that happy circle in heavenly glory—“FIRSTBORN AMONG MANY BRETHREN.”
The purpose of God centres in His beloved Son.
Then is added, “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called [that is the effectual call of God in the gospel]. And whom He called, them He also justified, and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” It is to be noticed it does not say “sanctified,” for the glory is looked on to here in this section of Scripture as still future.
Question. It has been said that we are already glorified. Is there any ground for saying that?
No. It seems that some must have extreme and dangerous things to keep them going, or they get down and dull. The sober truth is not enough for them We are certainly not actually glorified yet: we are in bodies of humiliation.
In the mind of God everything is seen in its blessed completeness, according to His wonderful purpose of love, as here stated in verse 30, and we shall know it soon in its perfectness actually in the glory with His beloved Son. It is ours to realize by faith as we hasten on to the day of its full and final display. It is a golden chain designed in grace, beauty, and perfection, embracing the past, present, and future! Every link is formed by divine love!
It is one chain, and, thank God, not one precious link can be broken, for each and all alike are of Himself entirely, formed for our blessing and for His own good pleasure. To Him be the praise and glory, now and throughout the coming ages. Amen.
7. God For Us (Romans 8:31-39)
It is important to let the fact that God is for us get firmly hold of us. He is for the believer in every way, never against him. The love of God for us is brought out most strikingly in these wonderful words: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” How can we then question as believers God’s love for us? Has He not fully proved His love by giving the very best that love could give to make us His own for ever? What good thing will He withhold from us now?
Notice carefully the two words “with Him” in the verse quoted. Some seem as if they would like to have the “all things” without Him, but God gives His saints all things freely “with” His Son. God has shown the great love He has for us, now at the present time, by what He did in the past, when He gave His own Son for us.
Question. But does not the question, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” refer to His calling, justifying, and glorifying us?
It does, and also to His predestination mentioned in earlier verses, but His love was before and behind and in it all, and the section ends by saying that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. We are the children of God, a heavenly family, travelling through the world to the glory where Christ is, and everything that is for our benefit by the way God will grant us “WITH HIM.” God is for us! He never fails His own GOD IS LOVE.
Question. The effect of recognizing that would be that we should walk with God, would it not?
It would. Abraham was not only the object of God’s constant care, but he walked with God. God truly looked after Enoch, but Enoch walked with God. God looked after Lot, and saw that he was not destroyed in the fiery judgment of the wicked, but Lot did not walk with God. Caleb and Joshua knew that God was for them, and so walked with Him in this thought for all Israel.
There is a great deal involved in walking with God today. He is working for the glory of His Son. The blessed God loves His Son. “The Father’s full delight is centred in the Son,” and that is where He would have our hearts to find their only centre. Questions are often raised as to whom the Lord is with. He never forsakes one of His own! The great question is—Who is walking with Him? God did not leave Jacob, but Abraham walked with God!
Question. Are there not several important questions raised in these verses and answered in a way to show how entirely God is for the believer?
Yes, look at verse 33, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” It might be said that we are like those who were with David during his time of suffering in the cave of Adullam; they were a distressed and troubled lot, but David virtually said, “They belong to me.” We belong to the Son of God, and here God says, as it were, “Now you belong to Me, who is going to lay anything to your charge?” God Himself raises this question, and then goes on immediately to say, “It is God that justifies.” He has cleared us from every charge that could be brought against us on account of our guilt, and He has done it righteously and in such wise as to set us in His presence perfectly clear of all charge, just as though we had never sinned at all. No accusation can be brought against us. God has justified us. Election is with God, that is His side. Our side is that we came to Him in our need as poor sinners and obtained salvation. Then, belonging to the assembly of God, which is taken up according to God’s eternal purpose, we are in the circle of God’s election. We can only learn these things inside by the Holy Spirit.
Question. What is meant by making our election sure?
That is a very important exhortation in 2 Peter 1:10. Whilst it shows that we are elect, yet it lays upon us the responsibility to be diligent as regards the knowledge of the Saviour—to have virtue in our faith, and knowledge in our virtue, etc. We must not rest satisfied simply with being justified and saved, but pursue that which is pleasing to God, since we are HIS by His own calling and election. Thus it is made sure to ourselves consciously.
Some are often perplexed and troubled as to whether they are of the elect even after they have received the gospel which says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” God’s salvation is according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9). We must remember that the verse in 2 Peter 1 does not tell us to make the “calling and election” ours, for it is God who elects and calls We make it sure by being diligent.
Question. What about the next question—“Who is he that condemns?”
How can those be condemned for whom Christ died and rose again? As the Scripture goes on to show, “It is Christ that died,” but He has not only died for us, He has been raised again for our justification. The first thing for us is His death, the second is His resurrection, and the third is His exaltation to the place of power at the right hand of God, where He is making intercession for us. God is for us! Christ is for us! The Spirit is for us (v. 26)! Who can be against us?
Question, is there not a difference between supplication, prayer, and intercession?
Yes. Intercession involves intimacy, and in the place of intimacy on high the blessed Lord intercedes for us. In verse 26 we have the intercession of the Holy Spirit for us down here. In verse 34 we have the intercession of Christ for us up there. How well cared for are those who love God. We have supplication, prayer, and intercession in Scripture. They are put together in Timothy 2:1, but they are all distinct, and it is only one on terms of intimacy that can intercede properly. The saints are invited to be intercessors. Oh that we rose to our privilege!
It is like a second conversion when we wake up to the fact that the Saviour, who loves us and died for us on the cross, is a real living Man at the right hand of God, still serving us. He ever lives to make intercession for us. He is our High Priest before God and our Advocate with the Father. There is the finished work which He accomplished on the cross, and the unfinished work which He is carrying out for us now in the glory, it is the soul that rests on the first that enjoys the good of the second.
Question. Does the next question refer to difficulties in the path of testimony—as we pass through these—“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
Yes, they are outward trials. But if His love for us has taken Him into death; if His love for us is unchanged in resurrection; if His love for us keeps Him serving us at the right hand of God day by day, who can separate us from that love?
The trials are here sevenfold: “Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” Amid all these things (not by being taken out of them) the faithful believer can say, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”
Alexander the Great was a conqueror, but a man who is only a conqueror is not a very happy man, he gets joy for a time, but he is only a conqueror, no more.
If we have not this outward persecution today, in the same way, we should not therefore be careless, for we have to meet the wiles of Satan. We need still to abide in the love of Christ, and be prayerful and watchful.
Question. As to the seven things just mentioned they are more outward, but the next are unseen, are they not?
Yes, the ten things mentioned in verse 38 have that character. They cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The seven were as to the love of Christ: these are as to the love of God. The Apostle says, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Notice particularly that it is “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Some try to put this love of God in the providential circle. It is in a Person, who is now at God’s right hand, who has redeemed us by His blood.
The first thing mentioned is “death,” but the love of God took Christ there for us. Where was that love expressed?—“God commends His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Then death cannot separate us from His love, for Christ has been into death for us.
Question. Is not this Paul’s persuasion? He says, “I am persuaded.”
Yes; but it is about us all, for he says nothing shall separate “us”—not “me.” It takes all in The next thing is “life.” Life cannot separate, for Christ Jesus our Lord is now in life and God’s love is in Him. Nor “angels, nor principalities, nor powers”—none of these things can separate us, for Christ is exalted above and over all—“nor things present, nor things to come, nor height”—“for the love of God in Christ is in the height nor depth”—Christ has been into the depths. Whichever way you look, there is not a single thing that exists now, or ever shall, that can separate us from the love of God. Look into death—God’s love has been there! Look at life—God’s love is there! Look at all the vast range of angels, principalities, and powers—the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord is above all! Look at the present things, look at the future things, look up into the height, look down into the depth, the love of God is beyond, above, and has been in Christ beneath all! Look at any other creature, if there is another anywhere to be found—still the Word says, “Nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”
Question. That is good persuasion to have, is it not?
Yes, the very best. This chapter begins with “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, and ends with no separation from the love of God in Christ Jesus (we are in Him and the love is in Him): and in the middle of the chapter “all things work together for good.” GOD IS FOR US.