Wednesday, June 1, 2011
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 4:1-8
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? (2) For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. (3) For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (4) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (7) Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
This chapter covers the second sub-section, under the head, “Of the righteousness of God.” Its title is “The Divine Method of Justification, as “without Law,” “by Faith,” “the faith of Christ,” and “upon all them that Believe,” “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”
We remind our readers that God the Spirit is the Author, for all “Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Paul, His servant, is but the pen-man of these Holy Words. When we say the Apostle, whose name the writing bears, saith such and such: We consider GOD the HOLY GHOST Himself the Speaker, by His servant, and give the Lord the glory. May the Holy Ghost keep alive in our remembrance, both the Person (Himself) and authority of Him that speaks.
Verse 1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? The apostle continues to prove his main conclusion that he had drawn in (3:28), which is, that a sinner is justified by faith without works, from the examples of Abraham and David. In his argument to prove that God’s plan of salvation has always been the same (Jude 3), Paul illustrates it by the two most striking Old Testament cases that would appeal to the Jewish mind. Abraham was a man that the Jews knew to have faith and works both, yet the Holy Ghost reveals that he was justified by faith, and not by works; and his true spiritual children are justified after the same manner, which is God’s one and only way of salvation. It is as if Paul had said that he would appeal to Abraham, and see how he was justified — that he was an object of the special favor of God — there could be no doubt. What, then, shall we say of Abraham, our father — the father of all the people of God — as to justification? Shall we say that he “obtained” (Rom. 11:7) that justification which, without doubt, he possessed — shall we say that he obtained this “as pertaining to the flesh?”
In this chapter Abraham is referred to (in a spiritual sense) as the father of all believers (Vs. 11, 12,16, 17, 18), but here the Jews are considering him in his relationship to them in a natural sense. What did he find as pertaining to the flesh? This great father of the faithful, considered in himself, had nothing more to recommend him to God than the greatest sinner. As a natural man he was a Gentile, heathen idolater whom God called from Ur of the Chaldees (on the site of modern El-mughay yar). He, in the Adam nature in which he was born, was equally involved with all mankind in a fallen state. He, as “head” of the Jewish race, received along with them the written Word of God which decidedly declared, “there is none righteous, no, not one.” He was the first of the circumcision and in his religious activities what had he found, or got or attained, according to the flesh? Did he derive it from anything external? Did he obtain it through circumcision, or through animal sacrifices, or through any outward privilege, service, legal obedience or natural efforts? In other words, shall we say that he was “justified by works?” Paul had already answered that in chapter 3, especially verse 28, as well as in Gal. 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.”
Abraham became a great man, not because of anything that he did or any inherent qualities, but because Christ was in his loins and all families of the earth would be blessed in Him. His name would be great because he “believed a Great God in Christ,” and he was to live in HIM whose Name is above every name (Phil. 2:9).
Verse 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. In other words, shall we say that he was “justified by works?” If he was thus justified by works, he can boast of his own merit, but he has NO reason for boasting before God. He would have found in himself something that laid a foundation of self-exultation, as having distinguished him from others, who were not justified, as a fit object of the Divine special favor; for as the apostle had said in chapter three, the law of works, leaves room for boasting. But Abraham had nothing to glory of before God, and therefore, could not be justified by works. The penetrating eye of God, who looks upon the inward man, saw all the sin and corruption of his heart and knew of all his failings (Luke 16:15). God’s way of justifying sinners is such, as shuts out all glorying and boasting of the creature, as the Holy Ghost had before said in Rom. 3:27. Glorying before God in a man’s own works is contrary to His method of grace. Such glorying is absolutely excluded by the doctrine of faith. All those justified are justified by free grace and receive all from God, can boast only of His grace and mercy (1 Cor. 1:31) and glorify God in Christ and His righteousness. The glorious blessing of justification had no reference to Abraham or any other fallen member of the human race. It came entirely from the sovereign grace of God (Rom. 5:17-21).
To be less perfect than God Himself is to be a sinner. All are sinners and stand bankrupt before Him without the coin of Divine righteousness to pay (Isa. 55:1), and, therefore we stand in a hopeless situation in ourselves (Eph. 2:12). While the unsaved religionists boast of their church membership, baptism, decision, etc., the poor sinner falls upon his knees in gratitude, testifying that it was Christ that came to us with full payment to all the claims of God’s Holy Law in our stead. That religious professor, who does anything and relies on it for righteousness, renounces all hope of gratuitous justification. The renunciation of a legal self-righteous spirit is the first requisition of the Gospel (Matt. 23:12). The Holy Scripture clearly teaches that any and every form of self-glorification in the sight of God is vain, vile, wicked, dangerous, yea, damning. There never has been but one method of a sinner’s acceptance before God as the Scriptures clearly reveal. God’s Holy Word condemns all others (4:1-13). Saving faith rests entirely on Christ, not on self; on the Son of God, not on man; on atoning blood, not on tears of penitence. No two things are more opposite than faith or grace on the one hand, and works or debt on the other. The Bible shows emphatically that justification by faith is totally opposed to justification by works, so that even faith itself cannot be accounted as a work-basis for righteousness. All Scripture shuts men up to a wholly gratuitous salvation. But this is a very humbling method. As Jonathan Edwards said, “The Apostle informs us, that the design of the Gospel is to cut off all glorying, not only before God, but also before men.” God’s way of salvation abases man and cuts up his pride by the roots, leaving him no room for boasting, as it forbids glorying (1 Cor. 1:27-29). If we expect to pursue any course which shall in strict justice to us bring God under any obligation to save us, we shall perish in our folly.
Verse 3 For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. On the phrase “For what saith the Scripture?” Thomas Scott wisely said, “In all controversies we should inquire, ‘What say the oracles of God?’. We must always, with safety and profit, refer our sentiments and reasonings, our belief and practice to the unerring rule of SCRIPTURE. ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them’ (Isa. 8:20). Be careful, dear Reader, for it is an awful thing to fight against the Word of the Living God. One declaration of His written Word is of more value than all the arguments and questionings in the world. We must bring every thought to the infallible touchstone of Divine Inspiration for ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness’ (2 Tim. 2:16). The word Scriptures is the Latin word for ‘writings.’ It has come down to us in the word script, and means then that the writings are the WORD OF GOD. What saith the Scripture? This must be our cry. The Bible does not tell us that men were inspired; its constant declaration is that the Scripture, the Word, was inspired. And our Lord Jesus Christ said that this Word ‘cannot be broken’ (John 10:35), divided, or picked over, but it must all be received and portions compared with the whole in order to have the truth on any and all subjects (1 Cor. 2:13). It is the Holy Scriptures that make us wise unto God’s one and only way of salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). I quote from an unknown writer: ‘The Bible is the word of the living God; each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word came from the everlasting lips; each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit. Moses wrote with his fiery pen; God guided that pen. David played and sang the sweet psalms, but God moved his fingers over the strings and taught him the words. When Peter, James, and John tell of their Lord’s life, death, and resurrection, it is the voice of God, not a man’s voice. The very words are God’s words — the words of the Eternal, the Invisible, the Almighty Jehovah. The Bible is God’s Word; and when I see it, I seem to hear a voice springing up from it saying, ‘I am the book of God; man, READ ME! I am God’s writing, open my pages, for I was written by God; He is my Author and you will find Him manifested on every page.’ Paul appeals to the Scriptures in his denial that Abraham, or any other human being, is justified by works. The Scripture is our foundation of faith, the rule of faith and practice and the source of all pure, true information about God, sin, salvation and eternal life (Gen. 15:6; Gal. 3:6; Rom. 4:20-22).”
“Abraham believed God,” and although we know that there were pious men before Abraham, as Abel, Enoch and Noah, yet the man whose justification is first so distinctly and formally stated is Abraham. And it is not merely given as a fact, but the means and ground of it are given. In the verses 23 and 24 which follow we are told that this is a model case, a real pattern for the instruction of believers in all coming ages: “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to who it shall be imputed, if we believe.” Abraham was the father of all believers. The great Reformer Theodore Beza states, “In whatever way Abraham, the father of believers was justified, in the same must all his children (that is, all believers) be justified; but Abraham was not justified, and made the father of the faithful, by any of his own works, either preceding or following his faith in Christ”
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The Scripture represents Abraham as justified by believing; and this representation proves at once that justification is by faith, and is without the Law. The passage quoted by the apostle here, and elsewhere, is from the 6th verse of the 15th chapter of Genesis. Abraham believed what God REVEALED to him — he counted it true, and he counted it true because God had revealed it to him. The great Puritan John Owen said, “He proves by the testimony of Scripture, declaring the nature and grounds of the justification of Abraham, that he was justified no other way but that which he had before declared, — namely, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, verse 3. ‘Abraham believed God’ (in the promise of Christ and His mediation), ‘and it was counted unto him for righteousness,’ verse 3. He was justified by faith in the way before described (for other than justification by faith there is none), in opposition unto all his own works and personal righteousness thereby.” The man God was pleased to use in the great awakening in
, Jonathan Edwards, declares, “Because faith includes the whole act of union to Christ as a Saviour. The entire, active uniting of the soul, or the whole of what is called coming to Christ, and receiving of Him, is called faith in Scripture . . . to close with Christ as a Mediator.” The faith of Abraham was faith in the promise of God. It was the promise of the seed of the woman, and the seed was Christ. It was this promise that was the Object of Abraham’s faith. His faith, therefore, was saving faith. Abraham believed through Christ in God. The Heidelberg Catechism correctly remarks (on the objective act of God as He counted Abrahams faith as righteousness), “That does not at all imply that faith as an act of man is in itself worthy of righteousness; nor can it mean that God reckons arbitrarily faith as righteousness, for God cannot reckon what is not true; but it undoubtedly does mean that all our righteousness is in Christ only, and that faith is the bond that unites us with Christ, so that through faith we are righteous in Christ even before God.” America
Stephen, in Acts 7:2 said, “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham.” Jehovah is thus called in Psalm 29:3. And in the Gospel of John the term is applied to the Incarnate Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John ). We see from Genesis 15:1 Who and what was REVEALED to Abraham as the object of his faith and trust. It was Jehovah, the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, here styled “the Word of the Lord,” the essential Word of God, and called His “shield”, and “exceeding great reward.” This faith of Abraham was not a mere assent to the promise of God, but a fiducial act of faith in him; and was not merely concerned with temporal, but with spiritual things, namely, about our Lord Christ, the promised seed. He is revealed as the “shield” of the justified, as the defender of the Lord’s people, the shield of faith. He is the “exceeding great reward”, both the safety and the treasure of the saints. He is the spring of every joy and the only satisfying portion. If the elect have Christ and nothing else, they are rich indeed. He is the only satisfaction to the hunger and thirst of sensible sinners (Psa. 134:2; 42:1-2; 73:26). And Abraham “believed” in Jehovah. Mark the object of his belief. The Incarnate Word of God was revealed to him; He stood before him, and there was an inward revelation in the heart of Abraham as to WHO our LORD JESUS IS. That very Word, when Incarnate and upon this earth, said to the Jews: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John ). Abraham heard Him, for the Word spoke unto him as He does speak to our spirits in His effectual call (John ). He felt Him, for the Word led him forth. He believed in Him and became a converted soul, justified by His righteousness, yea, the father of the faithful until the end of time. And God imputed it unto him for righteousness.
“Many today teach a form of doctrine whereby we are just before God on account of some work we perform, or our decision to ‘accept Christ as Saviour’ and join a church, or? — (and then follow their own prescribed conditions). According to our text, Abraham is the great example of a man who is set free by believing in the Lord for righteousness apart from all works of the flesh. Go back to Genesis and read the story of how the Lord in His sovereign grace, working on the basis of election, had called Abraham out of his native land. ‘Get thee out unto a land that I will show thee,’ was God’s effectual call; and Abraham went forth to go into the
. When Abraham had come as far as the plains of Mamre, the Lord appeared to him in a special way, revealing Himself and His purpose to His chosen and called servant. We read that Abraham ‘believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness’ (Gen. 15:6). And what was the Word of the Lord to Abraham, upon which he staked his destiny and that of all his descendants? ‘I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward’ (Gen. 15:1). God said, ‘I have called you out, and I am going to bring you into the land. I will make of you a great nation, will give you strength to conceive seed, and out of you shall come the Messiah, the Redeemer, and all of My elect of all ages shall be called spiritually ‘Abraham’s seed.’ Read Genesis 15 and Galatians 3. ‘Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed . . . For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus . . . And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Gal. 3:7-8, 26, 29)” (Wylie W. Fulton). land of Canaan
Abraham was made the father of all who would come after him in the spiritual line. Paul proves this by the promise to Abraham and his seed, and shows that this seed refers, not to his carnal descendants, but to THE spiritual descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). It was the promised seed, the Messiah, and His righteousness, which Abraham, by faith looked unto, and believed in, that was made unto him righteousness by imputation, as it is to all the elect (vs. 24). Abraham was not justified in the sight of God by works, but by faith in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and it follows, that no other person whatever, ought to seek for, or expect to be justified in any other way.
“It was counted unto him for righteousness” is speaking of the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Abraham was DECLARED RIGHTEOUS (meaning of ‘justified’), not because of his unselfishness, generosity, bravery and sacrifice, but through faith in the promise of God. ‘For the promise that he should be heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith’ (Rom. ). Abram had FAITH in Jehovah and Jehovah counted it (his faith) to him RIGHTEOUSNESS. His was a ‘righteousness without works’ (Rom. 4:6). Works are not required for the righteousness of faith. For the righteousness of faith is a righteousness which we obtain not by human effort, but through the instrumentality of God-given faith. Faith alone receives the righteousness of God! Righteousness is not dependent upon works! It rests entirely on the grace of God . . . We should notice further that ‘for righteousness’ does not mean ‘instead of righteousness’ . . . Scripture does not teach that a man’s faith becomes righteousness; faith itself is not righteousness, but by faith a man is REALLY righteous, so that there is accounted to him not something instead of righteousness, but ACTUAL righteousness. Believing is not righteousness, but is the means through which we obtain the gift of righteousness. ‘For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness’ (Rom. ). Abram’s exceedingly great reward is therefore the reward of righteousness, and ‘I am thy reward’ means JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU, ‘the Lord our Righteousness’ (Jer. 23:6)” (Robert C. Harbach).
God in His gracious mercy devised a way to justify poor sinners by the imputed righteousness of Another, the sinner’s Substitute. “The justification which comes from God Himself must be beyond question. If the Judge acquits me, who can condemn me? If the highest court in the universe has pronounced me
JUST, who shall lay anything to my charge? Justification from God is a sufficient answer to an awakened conscience. The Holy Spirit by its means breathes peace over our entire nature, and we are no longer afraid. With this justification we can answer all the roarings and railings of Satan and ungodly men. With this we shall be able to die; with this we shall boldly rise again, and face the last great assize” (C. H. Spurgeon).
The act of believing, however, was not the ground of Abraham’s justification. That he was enabled to exercise such faith, was due not to his inherent character, but only to the grace of God who could work such faith in him. The Puritan Thomas Shepard said, “Faith is accounted for righteousness; not the act of faith, as the Arminians would, but the Object of it apprehended by faith (Rom. ).” God cannot and will not accept the act of faith itself as a meritorious ground of justification. Even faith, as a gift of God, is imperfect coming from a poor sinner. Sinners are justified by faith only in the merits of the Redeemer. Some contend that faith itself is taken as the ground of acceptance, but the Scripture says the elect are saved by Christ’s blood, by His propitiation, by His sacrifice, by His intercession! And that we are not justified by works of any kind, legal or evangelical, moral or ceremonial, is abundantly declared throughout its pages. Nor is it true that we are ever said to be saved on account of our faith, but by it or through it as an instrument. No, none are justified by faith itself as a righteousness. It is monstrous to find men, claiming to be scholars, exalting faith to the rank of a meritorious righteousness, a work to be rewarded with eternal life. Let all eschew this dangerous error. Jeremiah 23:6 reads, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Christ the Lord is the Righteousness of all the saved. Faith is not and cannot be righteousness and anyone and everyone who trusts “their faith” are in the “gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” We love the following quote of Dr. Robert Hawker as he well says, “That which was and is counted for righteousness, is not our faith in that righteousness, but the righteousness itself imputed to the persons of the faithful, from their union and oneness in Christ.”
“And the sinner is justified when He believes. The faith to believe is, of course, the gift of God — and only the elect have faith. But the fact remains that this marvelous gift of justification is withheld until the sinner actually believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified’ Galatians 2:16. ‘Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.’ Many have contended for ‘eternal justification,’ declaring that the elect sinner’s justification was completed before the foundation of the world. Now, we know that it was the PURPOSE of God from all eternity that He would in free grace justify all whom He had chosen in Christ. But the PURPOSE is in the mind of God alone — it must ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE in a sinner’s experience. When does this take place? When he truly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not before” (Wylie W. Fulton).
We follow this quote with the words of E. Steane, “To say that the believer is justified from eternity is to confound the purposes of God with their practical development. Just as reasonable would it be to speak of him as regenerated from eternity, or even of the world as created from eternity. ‘Known unto God,’ no doubt, ‘are all his works from the beginning;’ but it is simply an abuse of language to say that what God knows or determines to do is therefore actually done. He has determined, and eternally determined — for all His purposes are eternal — that those who believe in Christ shall be justified by the imputation of ‘righteousness without works;’ but it is a contradiction to describe that righteousness as being already imputed while they are yet in unbelief. ‘Abraham believed God,’ says the apostle, ‘and it was counted to him for righteousness’ — the obvious meaning of which is, that it was so counted to him at the time he believed. And it is thus in every other case. Righteousness is imputed upon believing. When a sinner believes, that is, as soon as he believes, he is justified. From that moment he stands a pardoned and accepted man through the imputed righteousness of Christ; for, since nothing but faith is necessary to make that righteousness his own, this result follows, and follows in its completeness, the moment he believes.” And it is only through grace that any sinner believes (Acts ).
God’s people are justified and pardoned by Him. Wylie W. Fulton wrote: “The elect are all pardoned for Jesus’ sake when they come to faith in Him. This means that we are forgiven and are not required to pay the penalty, since He paid it for us. But is this ‘all we mean’ by justification? No. We have all our sins pardoned, yes, and they can no longer condemn us, no longer drag us down to Hell. But we have more: we have acceptance into the presence of God, in the righteousness of Christ imputed or credited to us . . . Pardon ‘sets the criminal free,’ but full justification, acceptance in Christ’s righteousness, ‘makes the record clean’ — as though he had never sinned, yea, were as righteous as Christ Himself. Pardon only set aside the penalty of the guilt, but full justification ‘took the very guilt itself all away.’ ‘He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities’ (Psa. 103:10) — there is the pardon, freeing us from the ‘penalty.’ ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us’ (Psa. 103:12) — there you have the very ‘transgressions, the guilt,’ all taken away! Oh, the marvelous grace of a pardoning, justifying, accepting God in Christ!”
More than a century and a half ago Thomas Bradbury put together eight verses of Scripture which show the various phases of justification. We conclude our remarks on this 3rd verse by giving these 8 verses with our very brief statement upon each. First, every true believer is justified in the sovereignty of God, wholly because of His own will. This is deduced from the clear statement: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” (Rom. ). In the second place, poor ungodly sinners are justified without a cause in them solely by His free grace. This is set forth in the Holy Ghost statement, “Being justified freely [without a cause] by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. ). In the third place, we are justified meritoriously by the virtue of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, as vividly set forth in the following Scripture: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9). Fourthly, we are justified, imputatively (by imputation), by our Lord Christ’s obedience, as we read, “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. ). Fifthly, we are justified authoritatively by the resurrection of our blessed Lord Christ from the dead; we read, “Who was raised again for our justification” (Rom. ). In the sixth place, we are justified efficaciously by the work of the Holy Ghost, according to the Word of God, “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. ). In the seventh place, we are justified experimentally by the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it is written, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Gal. ). Eighthly, and finally, the evidence of our justification is to be shown forth in our works, which God Himself hath wrought within us as Isa. 26:12 states. In James we read, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Verse 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. The inspired narrative of Abraham’s justification consists of four parts: — (1) God revealed Himself in Christ to Abraham; (2) Abraham believed that revelation; (3) God reckoned Abraham to be, what he was, a true believer; (4) Reckoning him a believer, He justified him. Thus, it is proved that the Divine method of justification, as exhibited in the case of Abraham, was “without Law” and “by faith.” We have this proof in the 4th and 5th verses and the gist of it is “The language of this narrative does not at all suit the case of a man justified by Law; it exactly suits the case of a man justified simply by true believing.” When a man receives a stipulated reward for a piece of stipulated labor, he has got no favor; he has got what he worked for as a matter of right. But all works are inconsistent with that imputation whereby Abraham was justified. The Scripture reveals that all true believing is “through grace” (Acts ). Believing is God’s work (John ); God’s gift (Phil. ); wholly of God (Eph. 2:8). It is not a work that is done in order to obtain God’s favor. (Read the next verse along with this 4th verse). Our God will be debtor to no man, but to Him the whole election of grace are debtors. The Holy Spirit tells us in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” Here we have fallen man working for wages — SIN. And the wages for the work is DEATH. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The works of man brings sin and death; the gift of a merciful God brings eternal life. And the 5th verse says, “But to him that worketh not.” The true believer works not because he feels himself before a Holy God unable to perform one good thing. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly.” Working and believing are here put in very striking contrast. Believing that is the mere work of the creature, is all of the flesh. True believing, the work of God, is wholly of the Holy Spirit. The grace of true believing is a fruit of the New Covenant. The Lord works this grace in His people and when this is done their faith embraces the Lord Jesus Christ as their salvation, yea, and our all in all.
If it were possible for a man to be justified by his perfect obedience to the Law of God, then God would owe him eternal life as a matter of debt. The hypothesis is stated only to be dismissed in the following verse (Rom. ; Gal. -12). The God of the Bible is not under obligation to any individual and He never puts Himself under obligation to anyone. The Scripture is clear that no person has any merit, natural goodness, or righteousness whatsoever, all men are utterly, totally depraved and no man deserves eternal life, but rather all men are already condemned justly and shall suffer eternal damnation unless effectually called by the Lord Jesus Christ.
All unsaved persons are alienated and enemies of God and all their works, so far from being virtuous and meriting reward, are wicked (Col. 1:21), abominable (Psa. 14:1), deceitful (Prov. 11:18), evil (John 7:7), unfruitful (Eph. 5:11), and done in darkness (Isa. 29:15). Only the regenerated saints of God are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. ). These works do not and cannot save (Titus 3:5), justify (
4:2-6), nor secure righteousness (Rom. ). They are wrought by God in the true believer (John ; Isa. 26:12), and designed for God’s glory (Matt. ). So there are good works in the true believer, but he does not work in order to attempt to obtain life and salvation. We work because we love Christ our Lord, not in order to be justified (2 Cor. -15), as the vain unsaved religionists and moralists do. Rom.
This leads us to the need to say something of the nature of Justification and Sanctification. It is absolutely true, whom God justifies He also sanctifies, but justification is not sanctification, and the imputation of righteousness is not the infusion of righteousness. Wylie W. Fulton has well said, “It is heresy to mix these two gracious works of God’s grace; they are related but they cannot be commingled. We give only a few hints. Justification is imputed (charged to the sinner’s record) but not imparted to the sinner. Sanctification is both imputed and imparted to the sinner.” Mr. C. Breed added, “To justify is not to make righteous but to declare righteous judicially. Observe that the verb ‘to justify’ is often used as the opposite of the verb ‘to condemn’! . . . To condemn is not to ‘make’ inherently guilty, but to ‘declare’ guilty judicially; therefore to justify, which is the opposite, is not to ‘make righteous’ inherently, but to declare righteous’ judicially . . . Making righteous is involved in sanctification. To declare righteous is involved in justification.” Then Mr. J. C. Ryle says, “Justification is the act of God ‘about’ us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God ‘within’ us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.”
Brother Fulton continues, “In free justification, our STANDING before God is the righteousness of Christ. Our STATE here in this world may appear far otherwise. We are sanctified, set apart and cleansed, in the operations of God’s grace throughout our Christian experience. ‘Mortify the deeds of the body’ — this has much to do with our sanctification but nothing to do with our justification. We must strive against sin as we travel in the midst of this world, but that is not the way to justifying righteousness. Justifying righteousness is all in Christ, imputed to our account, but ‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above’ (Col. 3:1) — that is bringing our lives, in the present STATE here below, to manifest the blessed righteousness which is already our STANDING in the court of Heaven above. And, while our goal is to overcome the flesh, to live a pure and holy life before Him in love, to become victorious in our daily conversation and walk — we are nevertheless already seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). That’s our standing in this matter of justification by the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. And while we oppose the licentiousness of antinomians who care not for seeking after holiness in this life, let us not for one moment think that our works here in this world have anything to do with our acceptance at the throne of God! By the imputation of Christ’s satisfaction (perfect atonement), my Lord has said to Divine justice concerning all my sins, ‘PUT THAT ON MY ACCOUNT’ (Philemon). Hallelujah!”
Verse 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. He works not for the purpose of being justified for in despairing of acceptance with God by “working,” he does not attempt it. Man’s works, whatever they be, have no influence into his justification, nor hath God in justifying of him any respect unto them. God considers no man’s works, no man’s duties of obedience, in His justification, seeing sinners are justified “freely by His grace.” The grace of the Gospel appears, in that God, in justification, has no regard to any goodness of man. Gospel grace consists in salvation being given without works; and him that worketh not, and him that is ungodly, are meant the same thing; and all works, of the ceremonial law, of morality and godliness, are excluded from justifying sinners. Sinners, not by works, but in belief of the truth, are justified by God as a free gift. Man is ungodly — undeserving of God’s favor; he does not and cannot perform a service (work) to buy back the Divine favor; he believes by God-given faith a declaration of God, indicating kind regard to him; and, reckoned by God a believer — for he is one — he is treated by Him as if he were a righteous person.
It is God Himself who justifies and it is ungodly sinners He saves: the only kind that God saves. From the standpoint of God’s eternal decrees they are the elect (Rom. ). From the standpoint of the effects produced in the sinner by the quickening operations of the Holy Ghost they are those who believe (Acts ). But from the standpoint of what they are considered by God to be in themselves, they are the ungodly. In justification God marks the record of the sinner as in a state of being just as if he had never sinned. Justification is a legal term and portrays God sitting in judgment, judging every man according to the deeds he has done, good or bad. Someone is judged to be righteous by the Judge of Heaven and earth when God judges him as being 100% in harmony with His Holy Law, which requires perfect love in all his actions, words, thoughts, and impulses always. There is no such creature for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
However, in the justification of mankind it is the UNGODLY SINNER who is declared to be righteous. God sees him as “ungodly.” He has no works of righteousness to his credit, is wholly worthy of condemnation, and is guilty because of Adam’s and his own sins. The sinner is hopeless, without one plea in himself, and his conscience condemns him (like the publican who could only beat upon his chest and beg for mercy). All the sinner, who is justified by the Lord, has is his God-given faith, which clings to the God Who justifies the ungodly. This sinner God declares to be perfectly innocent, as if he had not had nor committed any sin! To this ungodly sinner, who by faith clings to the God Who justifies the ungodly and who confides wholly in the God of his salvation, is righteousness imputed. Wherefore, although in and with the justification of an ungodly sinner, he is made godly, — for he is endowed with that faith which purifies the heart (Acts 15:9), and is a vital principle of all obedience, and the conscience is purged from dead works by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14), — yet antecedently unto this justification he is ungodly and considered as ungodly, as one that worketh not, as one whose duties and obedience contribute nothing to his justification.
“Believeth on him that justifies” means that justification is by faith only. But what is this faith? It is certainly not that fleshly, carnal faith which is made another work of man. It is made man’s work when it is defined as man’s response to the false gospel of God’s so-called free offer. It is turned into a free-will response or decision where the sinner makes the final choice in salvation. It is turned into a simple and emotional raising of the hand, coming forward, or repeating the words of a preacher or “soul-winner.” It is something which the lost and “dead” sinner must do in order to save himself. This is certainly not the Biblical presentation of saving faith. We quote the scripturally sound words of A. W. Pink, “Many have argued that God imputes to faith itself an intrinsic value which He accepts in lieu of perfect obedience to His Law. But this is a most horrible perversion. Faith is an emptying thing, which causes the pauper to gladly receive God’s gracious gift, and possess no more merit than does the appeal of a beggar for charity. The phrase ‘his faith is counted for righteousness’ does not mean ‘in the stead of’ for the Greek preposition is ‘eis’ and not ‘anti,’ and signifies ‘unto’ as is Romans 10:10: ‘with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.’” This justifying faith, that faith counted for righteousness, believes ON HIM, its especial Object, God as “justifying the ungodly” — that is, freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. It is not a mere assent unto Divine Revelations: it is not such an firm ascent unto them that should cause us to yield obedience unto all the precepts of the Scripture — though these things are included in it; but it is a believing on and trusting unto Him that justifieth the ungodly, through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s elect are justified by the righteousness which is of Him by faith in the blood of Christ Rom. 5:9).
It is not faith in itself that is “counted for righteousness” for faith is not in any sense regarded as meritorious, but by nature it is a resting upon Christ for salvation. It is the righteousness of God that is imputed unto us; for we are “made the righteousness of God in Christ,” (2 Cor. ); “The righteousness of God upon them that believe,” (Rom. -22); but faith itself, absolutely considered, is not the righteousness of God. God justifies the sinner only on the basis of the perfect merits and righteousness of Jesus Christ. By grace He descended into Hell for His people and in their stead. By grace He was raised on account of our justification (Rom. ). By grace the gift of faith and repentance is bestowed upon His people (Eph. 2:8; Acts ). By grace that faith is counted for righteousness, solely because it is the appeal to the perfect righteousness of Christ and because it is the act whereby our soul is united with Christ forever. It is all or grace, pure grace! Glory to the God of our Salvation! Dear reader, the great Reformer Martin Luther gave us these words of wisdom, “You will never find true peace until you find it and keep it in this . . . that Christ takes all your sins upon Himself, and bestows all His righteousness upon you.”
Verse 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works. The argument of this fourth chapter of our epistle to the Romans is an illustration from the life of Abraham to show that the famed patriarch, father of the nation, was not saved by the rites and ceremonies of the Law, since he lived and died several hundred years before Moses gave the written Law, but that he was justified by the sovereign free grace of God through faith, apart from the works of the Law. In the midst of the story of Abraham a quotation of David is given, as if to show that at the mouth of two witnesses this truth should be established. Alongside the first witness, Abraham, the father of all the faithful and called the friend of God, Paul, the penman of the Holy Spirit, now quotes David, the great king, to whom was given the promise that the Messiah should be raised up from His seed to sit upon His throne. The case is made that both Abraham and David were saved by free grace without the work of the Law. The freedom of our justification by faith, without respect unto works, through the imputation of God’s righteousness in Christ, in the instance of pardon of sin, which essentially belongs thereunto, is proven. And this is done by the testimony of the Psalmist, who placed the blessedness of a sinner in the remission of sins. David, the chosen king, the man after God’s own heart, is quoted on the subject of the blessedness of the man who believes God and seeks acceptance and righteousness in Christ, not in his works (Psa. 32:1-2).
Should it be objected that David nowhere said that “he is blessed unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,” it must be noted that the apostle Paul interprets this absence of sin as the positive imputation of righteousness. This is in keeping with true Scriptural interpretation as the inspired apostle expounds the words of the prophet; not the prophet the words of the apostle. We must therefore understand David according to the Holy Ghost’s New Testament apostle; and not the reverse. Take note oh ye dispensationalists that read the Holy Scripture as a daily newspaper of literal, material facts and place the proper understanding of words into the minds of the carnal, natural man. The Scripture is a spiritual Book and it cannot be understood by the natural man (1 Cor. ). Our Lord’s Word can only be understood by those spiritually born from above for His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). The Lord Jesus spoke in parables, and a parable is a “dark-saying” — truth deliberately shrouded in mystery so that its message should be understood only to true faith and not to carnal understanding (Matt. 13:10-11). Through the impenitence and unbelief of the natural man, it is not given to them to know the truth.
When David describes the “blessed man” — that is, the justified man, the object of God’s favor, which is life, happiness — he describes him as a person whom God reckons righteous, or justified “without works.” He does not describe him as a man who has never sinned; nor, as a man who has made atonement for his sin; nor, as a man who, as a reward of his obedience, or on account of his repentance has obtained forgiveness. He describes him as an ungodly sinner — a freely forgiven sinner — a sinner who is justified merely because God, in His wondrous mercy, has imputed or reckoned righteousness to him, without him working. To a sinner this is absolutely essential. There is no blessedness without this Divine reckoning of righteousness; but with this a man’s blessedness commences. Heaven is begun within him, the Heaven that David tasted, and which he so often speaks of: “in His favour is life” (Psa. 30:5). Then there is blessedness on earth, even to poor sinners, — true blessedness, — that which God calls by that name. In spite of weariness, sorrow, conflict, afflictions, cares, fears, burdens, there is blessedness to redeemed sinners, by the sovereign grace of God. When the true believers are blessed, it is because the love and grace of God are, and have been, poured forth upon them.
God “imputing righteousness” and God not imputing “sins” are two things which are never separated in the Scripture for they cannot be divided. Unto whom God imputes not sin He imputes righteousness; and unto whom He imputes righteousness, He imputes not sin. God imputes that righteousness which was wrought out by our Surety, that obedience to the Holy Law of God which was vicariously rendered by our Substitute, even “the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). This righteousness is not only “unto all” but also “upon all them that believe” (Rom. ). It is called “the righteousness of God” because it was the righteousness of the God-man Mediator, just as in Acts His blood is called the blood of God. “I would explain what we mean by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Sometimes the expression is taken by our divines in a larger sense, for the imputation of all that Christ did and suffered for our redemption, whereby we are free from guilt, and stand righteous in the sight of God; and so implies the imputation both of Christ’s satisfaction and obedience. But here I intend it in a stricter sense, for the imputation of that righteousness or moral goodness that consists in the obedience of Christ. And by that obedience being imputed to us, is meant no other than this, that that righteousness of Christ is accepted for us, and admitted instead of that perfect inherent righteousness that ought to be in ourselves: Christ’s perfect obedience shall be reckoned to our account, so that we shall have the benefit of it, as though we had performed it ourselves: and so we suppose, that a title to eternal life is given us as the reward of this righteousness” (Jonathan Edwards).
There was nothing in the elect that caused God to justify them; all began in the eternal decree of God and went out to us poor sinners in sovereign grace. It was upon us as ungodly sinners the righteousness of God was placed. In the accounting the very righteousness of God was reckoned, credited, and imputed. The Lord God Himself, by an act of amazing grace moved by His sovereign, everlasting love, took our record and blotted out everything that was against us, and then wrote down on our record that He, our most merciful Lord, counted, reckoned, credited, us poor sinners to be perfect even at a moment when we were ungodly wretches in ourselves. That is His gratuitous, gracious Justification of poor sinners by sovereign, free grace.
Verse 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. While the carnal and unsaved religionist takes his pleasure and joy in the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15), the convinced sinner finds his joy in the forgiveness of his sins. And if David, as do all the elect, considered the greatest blessing (true joy and happiness) to be the non-imputation of sin, then this leaves no room for any “good works” or human activity. Moreover, as justification includes the remission of sins, Paul here takes this part for the whole, because God’s forgiveness necessarily implies the complete reinstatement of the sinner. The “blessed man” is here described as one who is, in himself, a polluted creature, and a guilty criminal. This blessed man, before grace made the difference, was on a level with the worst of mankind; equally unworthy, and equally wretched: and the sacred penman informs us, that all his blessedness arises from an imputed righteousness. Our Lord forgives all our iniquities. In the Psalm the word is “transgressions.” This is one kind of sin, and generally denotes the worst. Our Lord forgives without reserve — a complete, free, Divine forgiveness — such as God delights to give and the sinner receive. He removes our iniquities from as far as east is from the west. He retains not one; He blots out all and they are remembered no more (Psa. 103:12).
Our “sins are covered” and it is God who covers, not man; He covers by means of the blood atonement of Christ; He covers by burying it in the grave of our Lord Christ. He has, through the sacrifice of His Son, covered them from Divine justice and they shall never be seen again or brought into judgment (Rom. -34).
Verse 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. True happiness is found only in those to whom God will not reckon or charge sin. In justification by His grace and His saving mercy we have been placed in Christ where there is now no condemnation (
8:1), and we shall appear at the judgment before Him without fault or blame; shall be unreproveable. He justifies and acquits (Col. 1:22; Jude 24). Rom.
The Psalmist, in (32:1-2) from where this quote is taken, adds “in whose spirit there is no guile.” These words do not describe a state which is without sin, but one which is without hypocrisy. The true saints of God do not hide their sin: “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psa. 32:5). The distinction is between the elect sinner which humbly confesses his sin and repents thereof, and the Pharisee who covers his sins with a cloak of self-righteousness. God’s forgiveness makes a sensible sinner a guileless man; it takes away all temptation to speak or act untruly or deceitfully with God, or with man, or with himself. God’s grace has made him such. Being fully pardoned and forgiven, he no longer conceals the very worst of himself. He confesses his sin, and he finds the Lord faithful and just to forgive his sins (1 John 1:9).
O dear child of God, how can we comprehend the greatness of God’s so great salvation (Heb. 2:3)? He alone could decree a way whereby He could bring filthy sinners unto Himself. He alone could have found the way to declare ungodly sinners godly and justified. He alone could have taken chosen sinners from Adam’s fallen race and through regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification brought them to dwell, as “Conformed images of Christ” (Rom. ), with Him for all eternity. He alone could have taken those who were joined to the harlotry of sin and by His grace and power turned them into the true Church, the pure bride of Christ. He alone could have taken such unworthy sinners, which were nothing in ourselves, and made of us that which He Himself declares to be “the fullness of him who filleth all in all” (Eph.1:23). He alone could have condescended to our depth (our pit of sin) in order to raise us to His height. He alone could bring to reality the way whereby guilty sinners could be counted as justified; the impure could be looked upon as pure and holy. He alone could stride through Heaven to the record hall of creation, dip His garment in blood and wipe away the stains of sin from our record, and, then, in the majestic gesture of Deity, write down on our credit account that we were declared wholly righteous, and justified in His sight, made supernaturally pleasing before Him. He alone, who is all knowledge and intelligence, could say that He would perform the miracle of forgetting our trespasses and sins, so that that which had appeared before Him as the greatest offense should henceforward be considered as though it did not exist, yea, as though it never had existed. He alone who could have looked down upon an evil race totally estranged from Himself, gone aside after the worship of false gods, and could have picked an old sinner like you and me , and declare us to be righteous. Oh, amazing love! Oh, amazing grace! Oh how can we but worship Him and our hearts sing His praises; He who called us and declared us righteous when we were yet ungodly, and who credits to us the very righteousness of God when we with God-given faith, believed in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, our all in all. RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 4: 1-8.
Verse 1. Sinners need two things to take them to Heaven — a title to it, and a meetness for it. For most positively without a good and valid title they cannot possess it, and without a proper and sufficient meetness or fitness for it, they could not enjoy it. Redemption through Jesus Christ is what procures this perfect title, and the work of the Holy Spirit prepares the redeemed to enjoy those everlasting pleasures at God’s right hand. — W. S. Craig (1867-1961).
Justification is by faith only. It was especially this truth which gripped Luther’s soul at the time of his personal struggle to find peace with God. He had sought this peace in the way of good works, as
had instructed him, but he found none. How can one who is ungodly gain the approving sentence of the Judge (Job 24:4; )? God’s Spirit led Luther to see in Scripture that righteousness is not of works, but of faith only. He who is justified simply believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is saved. — Ron Van Overloop. Rome
Our One Covenant God displays the glory of the Trinity in the precious doctrine of justification: for this is the act of the Father, procured through the merits of the Son, and is made known by the sealing of the Holy Spirit in the redeemed sinner’s heart. — Edward Carr, Strict Baptist.
Verse 2. It is the office of true faith to look to and receive His righteousness as being absolutely sufficient to fully justify the believer, and as entirely free. For true faith is the receiving of it by trusting in Jesus Christ and His righteousness, or a full dependence upon Him alone for eternal salvation. Such is the faith of God’s elect, and the comforting evidence of its truthfulness and reality in the heart is the felt love of God, peace of conscience and hope of glory. — W. S. Craig (1867-1961).
Men think within themselves, that had it been some great thing that was required of them that they might be saved, they would with all speech address themselves thereunto; but to come to God by Christ, to be freely forgiven, without more ado, they like it not. Some rigid, austere penances, some compensatory obedience, some satisfactory mortification or purgatory, had been a more likely way. This of mere pardon in and by the cross, it is but folly, 1 Cor. , 20. “I had rather,” saith the Jew, “have it ‘as it were by the works of the law,’ Rom. ; . This way of grace and forgiveness I like not.” So say others also; so practice others every day. Either this way is wholly rejected, or it is mended by some additions; which with God is all one with the rejection of it. — John Owen (1616-1683).
Verse 3. Who justifies? “It is God that justifieth.” The Judge, the Lawgiver, is the Justifier. Self-justification is as useless as it is impossible. To acquit myself is of no avail, unless the Law and the Lawgiver do the same. I must have my sentence of acquittal or justification from God Himself. It is only His verdict that can satisfy me now, or can avail me in the day of the great reckoning. “Not guilty” from my own lips or from man’s lips, will profit nothing; “not guilty” from His lips is altogether sufficient; I need no more to set my soul at rest, and to give me peace of conscience, tranquility of soul. — Horatius Bonar (1808-1889).
FROM Genesis to Revelation the Bible contains one unbroken testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ ... “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believed not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47). We make no apologies for repeating these words of our Lord, for they make us face up squarely to the question, Was Jesus mistaken when He gave His unqualified endorsement to the writings of Moses? To reject the Books of Moses is to reject Jesus Christ Himself. Yet, those who consider us stupid, and hold themselves up as intellectuals and scholars, openly repudiate the words of the Lord Jesus and still call themselves Christian. Yet these so-called intellectuals and scholarly theologians laugh at the literal interpretation of the Scriptures. They make the bold, wholly unsupported claim that the first five books of the Bible were composed by a dozen or more authors and written hundreds of years after Moses was supposed to have lived. They frankly assert that Moses was not a real person at all, but a fictitious person invented by these fraudulent writers. According to these scholars the Books of Moses are simply a mythical and confused account of the origin of the people and institutions of
. The Books of Ruth and Esther are only romantic love stories, and are mere fiction. Most of these critics now deny that David wrote any of the Psalms. And this is being taught in many of our so-called Christian (?) colleges and seminaries and preached from many of our pulpits in the land. Israel
However, to be a believer in Jesus Christ all this nonsense, while it may be disturbing, does not move us from our position of believing all the Scriptures. We repeat, it is either all or nothing. To the believer, the fact of the Lord Jesus is to be found on every page of Scripture plainly and unmistakably. How then are we to account for the inability of these highly educated scholars to see what the humblest child of God sees in the Bible? Jesus gives the explanation in His discourse with a highly intellectual and educated scholar by the name of Nicodemus. Here was a prominent leader in the nation of
, a real brain if there ever was one, and yet he was totally blind to spiritual matters. He asked of Jesus, “How can these things be?” And Jesus gives him the answer, “Ye must be born again.” Nicodemus with all his education and training was as blind as a bat, and so Jesus says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see” (John 3:3). He cannot see. He is blind to spiritual things, although he might be the brainiest, brightest genius in the realm of the natural. Have you ever wondered why some of the wisest of our scientists, astronomers, geologists, physiologists, biologists, doctors and teachers fail to see God’s hand in all their investigations? It is simply because until a man is born again he is totally blind to spiritual matters. — Dr. M. R. DeHaan (1891-1965). Israel
Grace is not a reward for faith; faith is the result of grace. — Anonymous.
The Bible knows nothing of mere pardon. There can be no pardon except on the ground of satisfaction of justice. — Geoffrey Wilson.
There is no way that we by ourselves can generate sanctification. Our sanctification is Christ. There is no way we can be good. Our goodness is Christ. There is no way we can be holy. Our holiness is Christ. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 4. It (the grace of God) is the eternal and absolute free favour of God, manifested in the vouchsafement of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and the unworthy. — Abraham Booth (1734-1806).
THE grace of God is more powerful than sin. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. ). Here is the sinner’s only hope, although until quickened by the Spirit of God, he does not know it. No man can rescue himself from the tyranny of sin. Men may reform, but they cannot regenerate themselves. Men may give up their crimes and their vices, but they cannot, by their own strength, give up their sins. Can the Ethiopian change his skin? No. Can the leopard eliminate his spots? No. Sin abounded unto
Paradise but grace abounds unto Paradise regained. Sin abounded unto man’s “shameful failure and loss.” Grace abounds unto man’s eternal riches in Christ. Without the intervention of saving grace the gates of mercy would have been forever closed. “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might GRACE reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. ). In all the sixty-five hundred hymns Charles Wesley wrote, I doubt if there are any sweeter words than these: “Plenteous grace with Thee is found, Grace to cover all my sin.”— Dr. R. G. Lee (1886-1978).
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace. Of faith we read expressly that ‘it is the gift of God.’ This is the grand master-grace of the soul; it is the grand wheel which moves every other wheel in the heart; it is the eye, the ear, the hand of the new man of grace. Only so far as we have faith, and the Lord draws out this faith in exercise, have we any true spiritual feeling. But what makes me prize the gift of faith? It is knowing so much and so painfully the in-being and in-working of unbelief. Is not this the case naturally? What makes me prize health? It is having a poor, weakly tabernacle. What makes me prize rest? Fatigue. What makes me prize ease? It is pain. What makes me prize food? It is hunger. What makes me prize the cup of cold water? It is thirst. By these feelings, I not only know the reality by the want of it, but also enjoy the blessing when communicated. It is just so spiritually, as naturally. What can I know of faith, except I am exercised (and exercised I am more or less daily) by the workings of unbelief, infidelity, questionings of the reasoning mind, and all the spawn of an unbelieving heart? As the soul is tossed up and down, (and often, it is tossed up and down on this sea of unbelief,) it learns to prize the harbor of faith. And when the Lord mercifully communicates a little faith to the soul, and faith begins to realize, feel, experience, and feed upon the truth as it is in Jesus, then we know what faith is by the possession of it. What a mercy it is that the Lord has the gift of faith to bestow! Here are poor souls toiling, troubling, laboring, groaning, sighing, oppressed with unbelief, that great giant in the heart, who has slain his thousands and tens of thousands. How our souls sometimes sink down under this wretched unbelief! But how we prize the faith all the more when it comes! How all the sinkings make the risings higher, and all the sadness makes the change more blessed! As the tossings to and fro of the sailor upon the sea, with all the perils and sufferings of the voyage, make the calm harbor so pleasant; so all the tossing up and down of unbelief endears the holy calm of living faith to the soul. — J. C. Philpot (1802-1869).
Verse 5. The wonder of this justification is that at the very moment when God declares us righteous, we are very really sinners, worthy of damnation in ourselves, and that of this we are deeply conscious. The believer who receives this grace of justification is a justified sinner. That is the great marvel of it. — Herman Hoeksema (1886-1665).
That God justifieth the ungodly, neither by making him godly before He justify him, nor leaving him ungodly after He hath justified him; but that the same grace that justifies him, doth immediately sanctify him. — Robert Traill (1642-1716).
Can any thing be more explicit? Can any thing be more directly to the point? Salvation must be given gratuitously, that no flesh may glory in God’s presence. The “reward” of the man that “worketh,” the apostle says, is not of “grace,” but of “debt.” It therefore follows that the works of no kind whatever can give a title to the atonement of Christ or the favor of God. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Faith is the one link between the sinner and the Saviour. Not faith as a work, which must be properly performed to qualify us for pardon. Not faith as a religious duty, which must be gone through according to certain rules in order to induce Christ to gives us the benefits of His finished work. No, but faith simply extended as an empty hand, to receive everything from Christ for nothing. Reader, you may be the very “chief of sinners,” yet is your case not hopeless. You may have sinned against much light, great privileges, exceptional opportunities; you may have broken every one of the ten commandments in thought, word and deed; your body may be filled with disease from wickedness, your head white with the winter of old age; you may already have one foot in Hell; and yet even now, if you but take your place alongside of the dying thief, and trust in the Divine efficacy of the precious blood of the Lamb, you shall be plucked as a brand from the burning. God “justifieth the ungodly.” Hallelujah! If He did not, the writer had been in Hell long ago. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
These are very sweet and precious words to those who look upon their own best virtues and performances by nature as sinful, and upon their best condition by grace as extremely weak and imperfect. How comfortable a thing is the justification of the penitent by faith, when the soul was stripped quite naked before God, and thoroughly convinced of wickedness and weakness! A mere moral man does not meddle with this; he pretends to make amends for his former sins, by altering his course, and doing better works; but this is not making amends at all, since we are but unprofitable servants, and want continually forgiveness of sin, even when we have done all. There is but one way to be justified, and to obtain and preserve the blessing of a good conscience, which is by humbling and confessing ourselves guilty, and looking only for forgiveness and righteousness in Christ. Thus we are made by Him the righteousness of God. May the Lord put us all in this way. — C. H. V. Bogatzky (1690-1774).
Verse 6. Justification, therefore, is from the first an act complete in itself, needing no supplement and suspended on no future contingency. When hereafter the believer stands at the Great Tribunal, he will stand there as being already absolved from guilt and at peace with God. His justification, instead of taking place then, will then be recognized, admitted and proclaimed as a transaction antecedently accomplished, at once begun and finished when God imputed to him “righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:6). — Edward Steane (1798-1882).
There are three kinds of righteousness spoken of in the Scriptures. First, inherent, which Adam had when he left the hands of his Maker (Eccl. ), which none possess by nature today. Second, imputed righteousness (
4:6), which is the whole of our justification before God. Third, imparted righteousness (Eph. ), when God the Spirit makes us new creatures. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952). Rom.
The worker must be justified before God before he can work any good thing. Men judge the worker by the works; God judges the works by the worker. The first precept requires us to acknowledge and worship one God, that is, to truth Him alone … Thou canst not be delivered from the evil of unbelief by thine own power, nor by the power of the Law; wherefore all thy works which thou doest to satisfy the Law can be nothing but works of the Law; of far less importance than to be able to justify thee before God, who counteth them righteous only who truly believe in Him; for they who acknowledge Him the true God are His sons, and do truly fulfill the Law. If thou shouldst even kill thyself by working, thy heart cannot obtain this faith thereby, for thy works are even a hindrance to it. — Martin Luther (1483-1546).
It is plain that as Christ the Surety was made sin, so are His people made righteous; their sins were laid upon Him, and His righteousness laid upon them. And wherever this glorious doctrine of imputed righteousness is not believed (or held only in name), there will Jesus Christ be lightly esteemed, His praises faintly declared and sung, and as a certain consequence human excellence as a procuring fitness for Heaven, will stand quite highly exalted. That righteousness by which sinners are justified is a free and gracious gift, ‘the gift of righteousness’ (Rom. ). And believers by faith receive it, instead of performing it. Our blessed Redeemer is called ‘The Lord our righteousness’ (Jer. 23:6). We are ‘made the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Cor. ). He is a made unto us ‘righteousness’ (1 Cor. ). His people are declared to be justified in Him (Isa. ); accepted in Him (Eph. 1:6); complete in Him (
Co. ); and saved in Him (Isa. ). Such is the divinely appointed means for the justification of sinners. Reader, do you think that this grand and heavenly arrangement will result in their salvation? And do not forget that there is a curse resting upon all earthly creation, outside of the Lord our Redeemer’s redemption. — W. S. Craig (1867-1961).
Verse 7. The justification which Christ procures for the sinner includes the pardon of his sins. This means that the score against him is wiped out. It does not mean that there never was a score against him. The fact that the man has sinned is not changed, but the fact that the sin is followed by penalty is changed so far as he is concerned. The three Hebrew worthies were cast into a burning fiery furnace. That was one fact. Men cast into a burning fiery furnace burn. That was a second fact. But God came to the rescue of these three men, and they not only escaped death, but when they came out from the furnace there was not so much as the smell of fire upon them. God’s coming to their rescue did not change the fact that they had been cast into the burning fiery furnace, but it did change the second fact so far as they were concerned. And so Christ’s coming to a man to procure for him justification does not change the fact that the man has sinned, nor does it excuse his sins, nor does it diminish the wickedness of them; but it does make a change in respect to consequences. And therefore it comes to pass that a man who has been condemned by the Law of God because of his sins may be set free from this condemnation and be in no more danger of punishment than if he had never sinned. This is what pardon, as a part of the blessing of justification, means. — O. C. S. Wallace.
God is sternly and inflexibly just towards sin as if He never forgave iniquity, and yet He forgives sinners through Christ Jesus as freely and fully as if He never punished a transgression. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
Sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power and the contempt of His love. — John Bunyan (1628-1688).