Thursday, June 30, 2011
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 4: 17 – 25
(17) (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. (18) Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. (19) And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: (20) He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; (21) And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able to perform. (22) And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. (23) Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; (24) But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (25) Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
In this 4th chapter of Romans Paul is presenting us an illustration in the person of Abraham of how He justifies sinners through faith, and not by works. In the first part of the chapter he showed us that Abraham was justified through faith, not as a Jew, but as a Gentile, because he was justified by faith in Christ 430 years before the Law was given. Therefore, the claim of the Jews that they were saved by the Law because Abraham was their father is totally unfounded and Paul is sweeping away all their sandy foundation, thus leaving them without excuse. Paul has set forth the truth of true Christianity as it is revealed by the Holy Ghost and has thoroughly rebutted the false positions of those who trust in character, in works, in human merit, in ritual ceremonies, in race, or in some other false hope.
(17) (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. “As it is written,” refers to the statement from the previous verse, “who is the father of us all,” and is verified by a quotation of Gen. 17:5. God speaks of His eternal purpose in making Abraham a father, though at this time, Abraham was not a father at all, it was as sure to him as if it had already taken place. God willed it and the result would follow as surely as God calls into existence the things which exist not, for “what His soul desireth, even that He doeth” (Job ). But he became a father at God’s set time, just as our Lord Jesus was “a Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. -20) in the purpose of God, He came in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4-5) to go to that bloody Cross to redeem His people. God, according to His eternal purpose, speaks of things which exist not in the same way that He speaks of things that do exist (Rom. -30; Acts -18).
Reader, let us ever stick with the Word for it is the Word of God that we are to proclaim throughout our life, both in spoken word and deed. The words of C. H. Mackintosh, “Set aside your system of theology and come like a little child to the eternal fountain of Holy Scripture,” show the proper path for the walk of a saint of God. The late Dr. M. R. DeHaan adds these words, “Be on guard against any tampering with the Word, whether disguised as a search for truth, or a scholarly attempt at apparently hidden meanings; and beware of the confusion created by the senseless rash of new versions, translations, editions, and improvements upon the tried and tested Bible of our fathers and grandfathers.”
Abraham was living a life of idolatry in
of the Chaldees, and, as Stephen tells us in his great discourse, “Men, brethren and fathers, hearken, The God of glory appeared unto our father, Abraham” (Acts 7:2). The revelation of Christ in the heart transformed the life of Abraham, just as it has transformed the lives of all in whom the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” has shined. It is a transformation that sets a sinner walking steadfastly in the path of God in Christ and which leads the redeemed sinner into the obedience of faith. The justification of a sinner could by no means be brought about nor accomplished but by the righteousness of faith in Christ. This is what the Holy Ghost’s penman, the apostle Paul, proves from the beginning of the chapter to the end of 17th verse. Ur
“Before him whom he believed, even God;” i. e. in the sight or esteem of God. He was not the father of many nations by the carnal generation in the sight of men, but by spiritual ascendance in the sight of God. As God is the Father of His children taken out of all nations of the world, not of just one, but of all nations, so was Abraham. And, as God is the spiritual Father of all the redeemed, not by carnal generation, so is Abraham. Abraham believed in Him as omnipotent, “who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they are.” This describes the character of Abraham’s faith, and sets forth the power of God in whom he trusted. It was a resurrection faith for that word “quickeneth” means to make alive from the dead, or to resurrect from the dead. Abraham’s faith rested in the resurrection power of God, or better, in the God of resurrection. It is plain therefore, that faith is imputed by God unto righteousness, because it believes the promise, through the promise clings to Christ Who is the Promise, and through Christ relies wholly on God, the God of our complete salvation. God’s omnipotency is described here by two great affects of it. First, making that to have a being again, which had ceased to be, as in the resurrection. He quickens the dead through Christ Jesus, by the revelation in our hearts of the God of our salvation. It is in Christ that God is known as the One that raises the dead (
10:9-10). Faith in God’s power to give life where there is no life is the proper ground of believing anything which God proposes to do (Eph. ). If God gives life to the dead, He can give life to Sarah’s dead, barren womb. In the eternal purpose of God Abraham was destined to be the spiritual prototype of all true believers. This promise to Abraham appeared to face insuperable difficulties due to Sarah’s barren womb, as well as the age of both he and her. It demanded an Omnipotent God for its fulfillment and it was to just such a God that Abraham’s faith was directed (v. 20). The promise of an heir to this aged couple called for nothing less than the impartation of life (v. 19). All spiritual vivification belongs to Almighty God alone (Eph. -20). Secondly, causing that to be which never was; or to make all things of nothing, as in the creation: he expressed this by calling things, to intimate the great facility of this work of God: He only spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and all was created. Abraham believed this all powerful God; as he believed that God could raise the dead, so, that He could raise him seed out of his own dead body, and Sarah’s dead womb. And as he believed that God could create things out of nothing, so that He could give him seed that had none; yea, and make the Gentiles a people that were not a people, giving a new nature and being unto them, which they had not before. Rom.
(18) Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. From this verse through the 22nd verse, he describes that faith of Abraham whereby he obtained acceptation with God; that in all things he might propose him as an example and an encouragement to the children of God. To “believe in hope” is confidently to believe; and to believe “against hope” is confidently to believe when all arguments that might begat hope in him were against him. “Against hope,” is against all motives unto hope whatsoever. All reasons of natural hope were against him. What hope could arise, in or by reason, that two dead bodies should be the source and fountain of many nations? so that against all inducements of a natural hope he believed. These circumstances served to exhibit the strength of Abraham’s faith (v. 19) for he “believed in hope;” that is, such hope as arose, as his faith did, from the consideration of God’s all-sufficiency (2 Tim. ). This believing in hope, when all reasons were nonexistent, is the first thing that is spoken of the manner of Abraham’s faith. In a decay of all natural helps, the deadness of all means, an appearance of utter impossibility that ever the promise should be accomplished, — then to believe in hope is a God-given, commendable faith. And “believed in hope” refers to his persistent belief in God, for the value of a promise resides entirely in the reliability of the Promiser (Titus 1:2). It must be remembered that God had presented Himself to Abraham as the supreme reward of faith (Gen. 15:1). The promise of God to him was that he would become the father of many nations — not the father of one nation. His physical descendants gave us Israel on the side of Isaac and many tribes of the Arabs on the side of Ishmael, but among the Gentile host around the world, his children, who are the spiritual among Jew, Gentile, and Arab, all in Christ, — his children have become as the stars of the sky because the elect from all nations dared to follow him in the fearless path of faith in the God who brings life to the dead and calls the non-existent things to existing. The main characteristic of the faith of Abraham was that he trusted in God to the extent that he believed the Lord of Life could bring life out of death. In his particular case it was a belief that God could bring life out of his sterile body. True faith applies the same principle to all of the Word of God. Abraham believed in the God who could make life out of death, and thus it is that we, with God-given faith, believe individually we have discovered that the new birth is the work of God whereby He creates within poor sinners, within our dead, corrupt Adam nature, the new life in Christ so that we have been made partakers of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). No sinner can ever say that he is trusting God until he, as it were, transfers all his confidence to God. The sinner turns away from everything that’s human and reaches out after God with all his heart and soul and mind, resting upon our Lord’s eternal Word, which is saving faith. The sinner finds rest only in God Himself, just as Abraham’s heart could find no final rest in blessings, but only in the Great Blesser Himself (Gen. 22:2, 12; 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; James 2:23). Our hope of redemption is not just a wish or a desire, but expectation based upon the promise of God and the purchase of His Son (2 Thes. -17; 1 Pet. 1:3).
Gen. 15:5 is quoted here and it is related to a later reference, Gen. 17:5. In verses 17 and 18 of this our 4th chapter of Romans, the Holy Spirit brings together these two references from Genesis in such a way that one interprets the other. And, behold, O ye literalists, the interpretation of the apostle is not literal. Gen. 17:5 is quoted in our 17th verse above: “I have made thee a father of many nations.” This is a promise to Abraham that goes beyond natural
in its fulfillment, and has in view the Gentile nations who will be blessed through the Gospel. Then verse 18 says that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, “So shall thy seed be.” The dispensationalist falsely tells us that Gen. 15:5 and 17:5 refer to the natural seed of Abraham, etc. the nation of Israel . But this New Testament interpretation by the Holy Ghost tells us that Abraham is to be the father of many nations. In other words, the seed includes the saved sinners from among all nations. And as we consider the promise of seed for Abraham being fulfilled in the salvation of Gentiles from all the nations, another reference to seed should be looked at. Christ had no natural seed, and Isaiah 53:8 suggests this fact in the words, “. . . and who shall declare his generations?” However in the 10th verse of this same chapter, Isaiah writes, “. . . when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” The only possible seed which Christ can have is a spiritual seed. Yet it is as the spiritual seed of Christ our Lord that we become the seed of Abraham: “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. ). Israel
Verse 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb. God denied Abraham, who Paul said was as good as dead at this time (Heb. ), and Sarah, who was said to be “past age” (Heb. ), an heir until all natural hope was extinguished. This clearly demonstrated that His fulfillment of the promise was strictly supernatural in character. This explains why, in the life of Abraham, so many things proceeded contrary to nature. He was kept childless until an age when he was considered “as good as dead”, that God’s Divine Omnipotence might be evident as the Source of Isaac’s birth (Gen. 21:1-7; Isa. 51:2; Rom. 4:19-21; Heb. 11:11). Although fully aware of human inability, Abraham did not waver, because he trusted in the God who promised. This does not imply that there was no inward conflict with doubt in Abraham’s mind, for there are always obstacles and difficulties in the life of true believers, but none that our Lord cannot overcome (Gen. 18:14; Matt. 19:26). We cry with Peter in our troubles, “Lord, save me” (Matt. ), for we rightly doubt ourselves and our own abilities and in our distress and troubles we “cry unto the Lord and He delivers us” (Psa. 107). True faith is the gift and operation of God (Eph. 2:8; Col. 2:12). It comes in the soul by the Holy Spirit’s power, and in reality is a regeneration, a re-begetting, and a revival of life from the dead.
Abraham believed that he should be the father of many nations, and that in his seed all the nations of the world should be blessed; herein he had an eye unto our Lord Jesus Christ. But when God intends to give special mercy by fulfilling His promise, He does first of all write the sentence of death upon the mercy, and unto the means that do tend unto it. His mercy is shown unto His people in such a way that may give all the honor and glory to His greatness. It is when all means are dead and yet the mercy comes that a poor soul says, “Now I see that God is the living God.” When all means are strengthless, and all means are dead, and yet God shows mercy, the soul sees that God is an Almighty God, God all-sufficient. Sinners do not trust in God until a desolation comes upon the means. “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). That a believer’s comforts, therefore, may not falter, but may be more sure and steadfast; God takes this course with His people, putting a sentence of death upon the mercy, and upon all the means that do lead unto it, before He gives it out unto the soul. Our Lord promises to help the spiritual children of Abraham only when all means fail: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (Isa. 41: 17). And so here in 4th chapter of Romans Abraham believed when all means failed; he believed God in His promise, and he is brought before us as our example, that we should believe the promise also when means fail. And if we look at that great catalogue of believers in Hebrews 11, we find that many of them believed when the means failed, beyond means; and they are brought forth as examples for the Lord’s people. A faith that believes only in a God of means is not worthy of the God of the Bible for He gives life from the dead, without means, and to trust in means is to trust other than God Himself.
Faith shows the soul the glorious, invisible things of God and His grace. It was a hard thing for Moses to leave all the pleasures, and profits, and preferments of
: he did it though, choosing rather the afflictions of Pharaoh with God’s true people. He did this because “He saw him that is invisible” (Heb. ). He saw Him by faith. Faith opens the eyes to see the works of God in Christ, which are not seen by the world; God’s pardoning mercy, not seen by the world; vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ and the great privilege thereof, not seen by the world; the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus for a poor sinner, not seen by the world; the great power of and the effect on the soul of poor sinners, not seen by the world, religious or otherwise. “Faith is the substance of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1); it does not only show a sinner things that are otherwise not seen, but brings them in power and reality to the soul; salvation real and felt; pardoning mercy real and felt; vital union with Christ real and felt; Christ’s satisfaction real and felt; and so when difficulties and discouragements do arise, the soul says, through God-given faith, “Why should not I be satisfied with any condition, seeing Christ has given Himself as satisfaction for me? God has made me one with Christ. When Christ died, I died; when Christ rose, I rose; when Christ ascended, I ascended; Christ sitting in Heaven, I sit there in Him.” Egypt
This true, saving faith, is that grace whereby the sinner takes up the yoke of Christ as his LORD, as his King; and it is no true faith that does not do so, and put the sinner upon willing and loving obedience which Christ, as the Captain of our salvation, requires at our hands. But in the matter of justification, faith closes with Christ for righteousness and acceptation with God only, and in that act it is no less exclusive of good works than of sin. It closes with Christ as our righteousness by which we are justified.
Verse 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. Unbelief is folly, is perversity, is ruin. Faith believes best when it reasons least. The first element of true faith originates with God and not with man, for true faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Only He fills the sinner with true faith and enables us to acknowledge the emptiness of all of earth’s cisterns, as He opens up the never-ending spring of faith in our souls. This was the experience of Abraham. He had seen the glory of God in Christ and had learned his own nothingness, yea, the nothingness of all men. From that saving encounter his new heart was turned toward God in whom He believed with strong faith. Now God had spoken and Abraham clung to Him and His Word, did not dispute nor waver against it. God told Abraham that he would have a child that would fulfill the promises which had been made to him and Abraham brushed aside every argument from circumstances. He looked away from his aged body and the barren, aged body of Sarah, and all the weaknesses, to the Word of his powerful, faithful God. It is as if he said, “It is my Lord and my God who said that I shall have a son, and, so I look at my body and say that it doesn’t enter into the consideration of the question. My Lord gives life out of death and when He speaks, all is sure (Matt. 8:8).”
Dear believer, we had always led a life of ungodliness, both in our worldly and in our false religious life. But the Holy Ghost awakened us from our sleep of death. We saw ourselves as lost sinners, and we saw a Holy God, who governs this world by His inflexible Law that is holy, just and good; and we are shut up alone with Him as we face that broken Law which we have transgressed times innumerable. Our false religious presumption gave way to reality and our iniquities took hold of us and led us to self despair. We are no longer in the maze of credulity, following the easy believism, free will groups who desire to bring us into their church or group. Preachers and soul winners came to us and attempted to persuade us to exercise faith in the promises, believe Jesus, but our helpless condition was ever before us as we fled to our closets to seek the Lord. The Holy Spirit striped us and we took our place as a guilty, vile, needy sinner in the sight of God as we cry for mercy. We have sinned against God’s spotless rectitude. We endeavored to fasten our eyes steadfastly on the Cross of Christ and plead for mercy, but we have long slighted and abused the Gospel message of His grace and turned a deaf ear to His Word. All within us was dark. Our history was black with sin and wickedness. Our hope for mercy looked dismal. We sank into sadness in self despair, yea, bordering on all despair. Of the renewal of our fallen nature we had no hope. To us it looked as if everything in God was against us. So far were we gone in our downward road of rebellion and remorse, that it was clear as day that we would never have peace in believing, we could not believe, if ever we were to believe it must be a faith, which is the gift of God. No human ability or persuasion could ever fetch us up from the depths, to which we had fallen. It must be given us from above to believe in the great Sacrifice of Calvary, and see there in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ all the Divine attributes harmonizing in his salvation. By Divine inward revelation God enabled us to “see the Son and believe” and we saw Him in all His glory, dying for us in order to satisfy the holiness and justice of God, and now, by free grace we can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Psa. 27:1). Even then our faith may have been weak, compared with that of others, but it is yet precious faith (2 Pet. 1:1) and a mighty principle that wonderfully changed our relations with the Three-One God and all things.
The “promises of God” are the declaration of the purposes of His grace towards His elect, according to the tenor of His covenant. That pointed to here in this verse is the old great promise of Christ (Gen. 3:15), which contains in it all others; because “in him all the promises of God are yea and amen,” (2 Cor. 1:20). This promise exhibits the Lord Christ and the free grace of God in Him unto sinners. Abraham had seen the God of glory in Christ; his ears by the Spirit had heard the command to get out from land, home, and kindred. In his heart his affections had laid hold upon the truth of the promise, and when the Lord further appeared to Abraham and spoke to him concerning the child that was to be born to him, his heart laid hold upon the promise, and his spiritual eyes fastened upon the Object of faith and his ears never stopped listening to the promise echoing in his spiritual mind. Thus His walk became an unwavering walk. We recommend the reader read and re-read the following great quote: “If I read a promise, I find that all and each one contains Christ in their bosom; they become promises only from being in Him; He Himself being the great ‘Promise of the Bible.’ To Him they were are first given; from Him they derive all their efficacy, sweetness, value and importance; by Him they are brought home to the heart, and in Him they are all Yea and Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (Dr. Robert Hawker).
Any man who sets his own mind above the Divine revelation that was given us from God, concerning Christ our Lord, and recorded in the Word, is guilty of presumption — the deception of presumption makes it impossible for any man to receive reality — these all must one day suffer the punishment of condemnation that Christ has announced, when He declared that He would say, even to those who claim to have done many mighty works in His name, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye workers of iniquity” (Matt. 7:23).
“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.” In the words of Matthew Henry “unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God’s promises.” This Abraham did not do for his confidence was in his great God. He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He is “the only true God,” who knows all, is all-powerful, unchanging, eternal, and never-failing. He is pure and perfect, never has, will nor can make a mistake because of who and what He is. He can never be taken by surprise by anything that happens, for He decreed all things in eternity past (Jer. ). Abraham’s faith was in the God of his salvation and he was not “weak in faith.” He did not have this so-called faith of our modern religionists that believes in itself, for a faith in itself is worthless. A professed faith is true faith only if it clings to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“This, then, was Abraham’s faith. It was a firm credence in the promise of God made to him, and yet a faith that lived under opposition, hoping against hope, and being fully persuaded that what God had promised He would perform. Our faith, then, if it be genuine, must resemble that of Abraham. It must anchor in the truth of God as made life and spirit to our soul. It must meet with every opposition from without and within; from sin, Satan, and the world; from nature and flesh and reason all combined against it. But in spite of all, it must hope against hope, and be fully persuaded that what God has promised He is able to perform; and thus by perseverance and patient waiting obtain the victory” (J. C. Philpot). But we must add a few words concerning the experience of true Christians who do not have (or feel that they do not have) such strong faith. The true saints of God differ one from another (and the experience of the same believer varies at different times), for there are some, like Abraham, strong in the faith, wholly relying on God’s promises, without doubting when appearances are entirely against them. When our Lord said to his own disciples “O ye of little faith,” He chided them and reproved them not for a total lack of faith, but for the weakness and small measure of it, their doubting the very God of providence. So there are many true saints with weak faith (as we all feel in our experience). But weak, trembling faith is ever reaching out to but touch the hem of Christ’s garment in true seeking of Him. It is not the degree or strength of faith that renders it efficacious, but the clinging to the right Object, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the faithful One. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. -23). Just as Abraham had looked upon the God of glory in Christ and knew His faithfulness, just as he was cleaving to Him without wavering, and his faith was strong because his faith was centered in God Himself who is all our strength, so do we.
Abraham was “strong in faith, giving glory to God,” trusting Him, that He can and will do all He says. He laid hold of our Lord’s promise and knew that the promise was secure. As John Calvin said, “We must note that no greater honor can be given to God than by sealing His truth by our faith.” (Contrast 1 John with John ). Strong faith glorifies our God as it puts all honor on His Word, His grace, His power, His wisdom, and His faithfulness. It is the highest destiny of any creature to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We conclude out comments on giving glory to God with the good words of A. W. Pink: “Here are some of the ways by which God is glorified. By ascribing glory to Him, which is His due (Psa. 29:1-2). By loving Him and making Him our supreme delight (Psa. 73:25). By implicit confidence in Him: Abraham ‘was strong in faith [thereby] giving glory to God” (Rom. ). By dedicating our bodies to Him (1 Cor. ). By yielding obedience: ‘that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. ). By our repentance (Rev. 16:9b). By confession of sin (Josh. ). By cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: ‘Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit’ (John 15:8). By adoring God’s excellency: ‘Whosoever offereth praise glorifieth me’ (Psa. 50:23). By readiness to suffer for Him and patiently bear afflictions (1 Peter -16). By disowning any credit to ourselves, attributing to Him all good in and from us (Rom. 3:12b). ‘That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 4:11b) is the end we should ever aim at, avoiding whatever is contrary, making all subordinate and subservient.”
Verse 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he has promised, he was able to perform. Matthew Henry said, “Though weak faith shall not be rejected, the bruised reed not broken, the smoking flax not quenched, yet strong faith shall be commended and honored.” Abraham remained “fully persuaded.” His heart relied upon the infinite sufficiency and almighty power of Him who promised. That was what sustained, yea, rejoiced Abraham while he awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise. He was convinced and confident that what God had promised, He was able to perform (Heb. 7:25; Phil. 3:20-21). Such faith can walk in darkness and have no light, and yet trust in the Lord to do all He promised He would do. The word “able” here implies both His power and willingness to perform.
In saving faith we are enabled by the power of the Holy Ghost to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; to hearken to Him as our Prophet; to yield ourselves unto Him as our King; and depend upon Him as our Priest. Desiring Christ, is an act of faith in Christ, because He is called the desire of all nations (Hagg. 2:7). There belongs to true faith a sense of the ability and sufficiency of our Lord Christ to save, and for His fitness for the work of salvation (see Matt. 9:2, 21, 28-29). Our verse here in Rom. tells us that what He has promised, He is able to perform. We see His fidelity in Matt. 14:30-31 when Peter began to sink when walking on the sea and cried out, “Lord, save me.” Our merciful Master immediately reached out His strong arm of salvation and saved him. We see His readiness and willingness to save poor sinners in Matt. 15:22 when the Canaanite woman came to Him and cried out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord,” and He delivered her (vs. 28). We see and trust His ability to save us when we consider the poor leper (sinner) in Matthew 8:2 when he kneeled before Him and cried “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” and our Blessed Saviour cleansed this poor sinner (vs. 3).
Verse 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. There are times when our faith is weak, and there are other times when our faith grows strong. It is when we see the impossibility of our own condition that faith turns wholly to the promise of God to feed upon His Word and grow strong on the heavenly nourishment. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. ). We do not build upon impossibilities but upon God and His Word only. In Abraham’s case, it was because he did not trust in the natural strength of his own being that he could face the seeming absurdities in his situation and yet not lose faith. He had, with spiritual eyes seen Him who is invisible. He held fast to the eternal Omnipotent One. He had been given ears to hear the Divine promise. He knew in reality the sweetness of God’s presence. He had spiritually tasted God’s grace and mercy in His Promise and he knew that in Christ was his very life. His senses turned away from nature and turned to the heavenly Object which God revealed to the eyes of God-given faith. It is impossible to separate true faith from the living God. It is impossible to think of real faith without thinking of God in Christ as the one and only Object of faith. True faith acts because it is joined to Christ, its Object. True faith is a going out of oneself to “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” It is anchored in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Faith, to be the real kind of faith that is set forth in the Scripture and illustrated in our text, is that which looks past all outward circumstances, cleaves to the Three-in-One God Himself, feels the power of and lays hold upon His Word, and understands that God gives life to the dead (Eph. 2:1) and calls into being the things which do not exist. It was this God that Abraham glorified by his faith. By His free gift of saving faith we are vitally joined to Him, through which He flows to us.
It is the “righteousness of God” (Rom. ) that is imputed to us in the justification of sinners. It is plain that by this expression is not indicated righteous of God as an attribute, but as a gift of God to elect sinners. It is a righteousness which God from eternity has conceived in His sovereign counsel, a righteousness which He realized for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and which God Himself bestows upon us by the gift of faith. It is, therefore, from the beginning to the end a righteousness, not of man, but of God alone. We are not justified because of the worthiness of our faith, but only because faith lays hold upon the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He is our righteousness before God, and we are justified freely by His grace.
Paul’s pen has been guided by the Holy Ghost to show us: (1) that we are justified by faith only; (2) that this faith whereby we are justified is not another work; it stands opposed, not only to the work of the Law, but to all merit: it is not meritorious in any sense; (3) that, nevertheless, it is accounted by God for righteousness; (4) that the basis of this imputation on the part of God is the promise to which faith clings, and THE PROMISE IS CHRIST, so that HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS and HOLINESS is the only and ultimate ground of our righteousness before God.
Verse 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him. “These things were not recorded as mere historical facts, but as illustrations for all time of God’s method of justification by faith” (David Brown). The account of how Abraham was justified and received righteousness was not recorded for his sake alone nor applicable to him only. It is by faith that every real believer is justified. There were others justified by faith before Abraham, but his testimony of God justifying sinners by faith is the first recorded in Scripture. He was the first man singled out and designated as the progenitor of the Messiah (Gal. ). Therefore, he is called the father of all believers.
The Holy Spirit turns from ancient to modern times, from our father Abraham, long since dead and now alive forevermore, unto us, to us also; that is, to the true believers who are blessed with Abraham, and called his children. Throughout this fourth chapter our attention has been directed to him, the great man of faith, who is called the father of many nations, because of the great God-given faith which was his, and which would be worked in the hearts of multitudes of believers throughout the centuries. But now the scene changes and there will be no more mention of Abraham until we reach the 9th chapter. Now the focus is upon all true believers who live in this present age, all who are effectually called of God. And all true believers in this age are linked with the promises of the past and are shown to be one with Abraham in the solidarity of faith. And all that has been written of him, we find, was not written for his sake alone, but for us also. Even when the words of promise were written in 15th chapter of Genesis, the definite purpose in the mind of God concerned the company of real believers through all the ages. This verse shows us all the redeemed, apart from time or circumstances, presented as one justified body, possessing one justifying righteousness, the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST. There are many passages in the Word of God that show us that all believers are in a Divine oneness, from Abel, the first to die in faith, down to the last one of the elect that shall be redeemed from this earth. This is the body of the redeemed.
Some readers may say that we must believe in order to be justified before God, and that; therefore, it is faith that makes us righteous before God. Yes, it is very true that we are justified by faith only. He that believeth on Him Who justifies the ungodly is righteous, and he only. That means that we must believe on God as He revealed Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead. For this righteousness is imputed to us “if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (next verse). There is no other way than that of faith to become righteous before God. Trying any other way leads to certain damnation. All our so-called works are but filthy works. All our own supposed goodness and piety, our very religiousness and the very best of our religious acts must be counted but dung and utterly discarded as a ground of righteousness; and we must fall on the mercy of God as naked, guilty sinners, trust only on God Who justifieth ungodly sinners, if we would ever obtain mercy and life. By faith we are justified. But, dear reader, let us beware, lest we make of faith another good work on our part on the ground of which we are justified. Faith is not the ground of our justification. We are not justified because we believe. Nor are we justified by faith because through faith we become holy and capable of doing good works. CHRIST CRUCIFIED
AND RAISED IS THE ONLY GROUND OF OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. And faith is only the instrument through which we are united with Christ and the spiritual power whereby we lay hold on this righteousness, so that we know and wholly rely on God Who justifieth the ungodly. By faith we repent and cry, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” By faith we hunger and thirst after righteousness and lay hold on the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord. And by that same faith we abhor the ways of sin and earnestly strive to walk in holiness in the midst of this present evil world, longing for the day when we shall be perfectly delivered from the body of this death, to sing the praises of our Redeemer, who delivered us from the dominion of sin and called us out of darkness into His marvelous light! Praise His Holy Name!
Verse 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Abraham was a pattern, a leader, an heir, a father of all, Jew or Gentile, who truly believe; and all, upon whom saving faith is bestowed, leading them to embrace Christ in the truth concerning Him as proclaimed in the Gospel, and we shall have the same glorious righteousness, the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ our Lord imputed to us. Of this righteousness the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is the Divine revelation, the testimony of God. In the Scripture Christ is risen, and secondly, He is also raised. When the Scripture declares that He is risen, it denotes the resurrection as an act of His own, of the Divine Son, who by and through His resurrection is powerfully set forth as the eternal Son of God (see our comments on Romans 1:3-4), the resurrection and the life. When, however, the Bible teaches us that Christ is raised, it considers the resurrection of our Lord as an act of God with respect to Christ in His human nature. And as such it is the Word of God concerning our justification (vs. 25). For “he was delivered for our offences, and was raised for our justification.” He had assumed the responsibility for the sins of the elect, though He was personally without sin and guilt. Because of His taking our sins upon Himself as our Mediator, He was worthy of death, though certainly, as far as His personal relation to God was concerned, He was the object of God’s favor.
The righteousness of Christ, a righteousness which is of God, prepared by Him for us, is the ground of our justification. This great truth of the resurrection of our Lord Christ is absolutely necessary to saving faith, a fundamental truth of Christianity. Doubting of this wonderful truth renders preaching and faith both vain to the hearers. Our faith, true faith, must be in Christ Who was raised. The faith of the saints is not in a dead Christ, but in our living Lord. Our Lord Jesus is alive, seated and reigning on His throne, and the throne of our hearts. Real faith is faith in the crucified, buried, risen, ascended, reigning Lord Jesus Christ. It is this God of resurrection Who can resurrect a dead sinner to life. The Scripture often presents belief in the Gospel as belief in the Resurrected Christ, because this wondrous event is the ultimate vindication of our Lord Christ’s claim to be the very Son of God, and the decisive proof of God’s acceptance of His redeeming work in the sinner’s stead (Rom. 10:9; Acts 1:22; 4:33; 17:31; 1 Cor. Chapter 15). The foundation of saving faith involves the Person and work of our Lord Christ, Who was promised of the Father, sent by the Father, bruised by the Father, raised by God and seated victoriously at the Father’s right hand (John 3:14-16,36).
Our blessed Lord Jesus is the justified One and His justification is the justification of all the elect, of all that believe on His name. He is the eternal Son of God, the only begotten God, that is in the bosom of the Father (John ). If Christ is not God, if He is not the God of our salvation, the very foundation of this truth crumbles. But He is very God of God, co-eternal with the Father, and with the Holy Ghost. He came in the flesh (John ). He, Jehovah, the Lord, Who is above the Law, came under the Law. He came in the state of man. He became a servant, and must function as a servant, He, the Son of God in human nature. Even that was an act of His own, freely performed. He was not of necessity born a son of Adam, but, He freely assumed our flesh and blood. Even more, He not only came under the Law, He entered into the state of sinners though He himself was not a sinner. The guilt of Adam could not be imputed to Him, for He was, personally, not of man, but the Son of God. The corruption of the human nature could not touch Him, for He was conceived by the Holy Ghost (Matt. ). He was pure, holy and righteous, and He knew no sin. But He entered into the state of sinners. He took the legal position before God of a sinner. He assumed the responsibility for the sin of the elect. In that state it became His obligation to pay the penalty for their sin. He must not merely suffer the punishment for sin, which is death: He must actually pay for sin. He must cancel the debt of sin, if, in the state in which He had voluntarily entered, He was to be justified. And to cancel that debt, He must satisfy the righteousness of God. This satisfaction could only consist in an act of love. For man must love God with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. That is the demand of the Law of God, and that demand is unalterable. And so, when Christ our Lord, the Son of God, assumed the form of a servant, and entered into the state of man, he was obliged to keep that Law of love. And when, as the Servant of God, He entered into the state of sinners, it was His calling to love the Lord His God, even in His wrath, even when, in the hour of judgment God poured out all the vials of His wrath and indignation upon Him. My soul, this is what our blessed Lord did for sinners. This He did all His life upon earth. In the state of a servant, and in the state of sinners, He functioned before our holy God in perfect righteousness and holiness, never faltering. Even when the shadows of death and wrath deepened, He remained perfectly obedient. At last, He entered into the deepest death and desolation, and became obedient even unto the death of the Cross. All the righteousness of God against sin He perfectly fulfilled; He satisfied for sin. And GOD RAISED HIM from the dead! That resurrection from the dead of the Son of God in the flesh is God’s sentence that His Servant is justified. Hallelujah! Christ’s life within us assures us: the Lord is risen indeed!
Verse 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. The Cross and the resurrection belong together. Without a proper understanding of the Cross, we cannot grasp the resurrection and its significance. And without the resurrection, the Cross stands alone — dark and gloomy. The connection between the two, between Cross and resurrection, is very plainly expressed in the Word of God, yea, in our 25th verse. “The two aspects, if I may use the expression, of our gracious Lord, in which are wrapped up all our faith, and hope, and love, are a dying Jesus and a risen Jesus; Christ in his sufferings and death, Christ in his resurrection and life. This is the Christ of God; this is the Son of God in whom we believe unto life eternal, as he is presented to our view in the Scriptures of truth, and by the inward teaching and testimony of the Holy Ghost. If, then, you do not believe in a dying Christ and in a risen Christ, your faith is not the faith of a Christian.” (J. C. Philpot).
Christ was raised on account of our resurrection. That is really the meaning of the word “for” which is used in both halves of this text. This text therefore means: He was raised on the ground of, for the reason of our justification. Christ is our Surety (in whose justification of all who truly believe in Him, and whose Surety He is, are virtually justified), was not justified till He had done the work the Father had appointed Him, and kept the Father’s commandments through all trials; and then in His resurrection He was justified. When He that had been put to death in the flesh was quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter ), then He that was manifest in the flesh was justified in the Spirit (1 Tim. ). But God, when He justified Him in raising Him from the dead, did not only release Him from His humiliation for sin, and acquit Him from any further suffering or abasement for it, but admitted Him to that eternal and immortal life, and to the beginning of that exaltation that was the reward of what He had done. And indeed the justification of a believer is no other than his being admitted to communion in, or participation of the justification of this Head and Surety of all the elect, true believers; for as Christ suffered the punishment of sin, not as a private person, but as our surety; so when after His suffering He was raised from the dead, He was therein justified, not as a private person, but as the Surety and Representative of all that should truly believe in Him; so that He was raised again, not only for His own, but also for our justification, according to our text. From all eternity He had undertaken with the Trinity to stand for His elect, and put Himself under the Law, by that Law He was obliged to suffer, and by that same Law He was obliged to obey: by the same Law, after He had taken the elect’s guilt upon Him, He Himself being our Surety, could not be acquitted until He had suffered, nor rewarded until He had obeyed: but He was not acquitted as a private person, but as our Head, and true believers are acquitted in His acquittance; nor was He accepted to a reward for His obedience, as a private person, but as our Head, and we are accepted to a reward in His acceptance. The Scripture teaches us that when Christ was raised from the dead, He was justified; which justification, as we have already said, implies, both His acquittance from our guilt, and His acceptance to the exaltation and glory that was the reward of His obedience: But believers, as soon as they believe, are admitted to partake with Christ in this His justification.
“He was delivered.” When we take into account our Lord’s absolute moral purity and perfection, we conclude, that His penal death was vicarious; and when we take into account His Divinity, we must conclude, that they were expiatory, — that they were intended for the elect — and that they have been effectual for the elect and for that which nothing else could have been effectual — for the expiation of the sinner’s guilt, the ransom of his our soul. He Who died is indeed the image of the invisible God, — the Prince of the whole creation, — the Creator, and Preserver, and Proprietor of all things, — Who “is before all things, and by Whom all things subsist,” (Col. 1:14-17) — assuredly “in him we have redemption through His blood,” His stripes heal the sinners soul (Isa. 53:5). He has made an efficacious sacrifice for the sins of His people, when He offered up Himself to God in our stead. He has taken away our sin. He has “finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness” (Dan. ). In His death He took the punishment of our offences, satisfied a Holy God, and this is our justification: and, being our justification, leads to His resurrection, to be followed by the resurrection of all the elect in due order.
“He was delivered” expresses especially four things. (1) It presupposes One Who delivers. (2) The One Who delivers stands in a legal position. (3) This One Who delivers passes a sentence. (4) It means that having passed the sentence, the One Who is delivered is given over to the executioner, that the sentence may be carried out. Thus it was with our Lord Christ. He did not merely die, but His death was a deliverance into the hands of the executioner. It was a legal sentence. But, by Whom was our Lord delivered? The text calls our attention to the Author of this deliverance and this resurrection. We are told by evangelical ministers that the Lord Jesus was certainly delivered by the power of darkness, by the whole world, with the devil, the prince of this world, back of it. They betrayed Him, and condemned Him, beat and buffeted Him, and killed Him. The Jews, the Sanhedrin, Herod, Pontius Pilate — they all delivered Him to be crucified. But it is not of them that our text is speaking. For they did not and could not deliver Him “for our transgressions,” as our verse says. His death was by the will of the Trinity as He laid down His life for the sheep. The same One Who delivered Him raised Him. It was God Himself Who judged Christ (Isa. 53:10), Who sentenced Him, Who delivered Him. God delivered Him into all the awful darkness of His suffering and death. He was delivered over to the agony of His body and soul. He was delivered over unto the wrath and malicious will of His enemies. But He was delivered not merely to the physical and temporal we see on the Cross. He was delivered to deepest death, death as it was manifested in His cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He was delivered up to the oppressing power of God’s wrath against sin. But thanks be unto God, that is not the last word.
For He was raised again for our justification. Note carefully, the text does not simply say that He lives again. Neither does it say here that He arose from the dead, however true that may be — and Scripture certainly speaks this language elsewhere. But here the Word of our God says that He “was raised again.” This means that while He had entered into death and hell weak and in dishonor, from that deepest depth of death, He is lifted up, raised, for such is the resurrection of our Lord. He was raised to glory, to Heavenly and eternal glory, in body and soul. He was raised to incorruptibility and immortality. The raising of Jesus Christ our Lord was a judicial, a forensic act. Yes, He is risen, and by this He is powerfully proven to be the Son of God. But here the emphasis is upon the fact that God did not leave His Son in the deepest death, or His soul in hell. God raised Him by His own power. And in raising Him, God passed judgment on Him again. Even as in delivering Him, God had judged Him, with the sins of the elect upon Him, worthy of death, so now God by raising Him from the dead revealed that He judges our Lord Jesus Christ worthy of the reward of life. There was a change in Christ’s judicial status, in His legal position. When God delivered Him up, He, as the sinner’s Substitute, was in the state of guilt; God had judged Him worthy of death. When God raised Him, He was in the state of righteousness; God judged Him worthy of eternal life. He was delivered up on account of our offences, sin, on account of guilt. He was raised because His former state of sin and guilt is no more, and because He has entered into a state of righteousness. This is the meaning of His resurrection.
He was delivered for “our” offences, so He was raised again for “our” justification. As pointed out earlier, the word “for” means on account of, because of, on the ground of. Therefore, because of our offences, our transgressions, Christ was delivered. And because we were justified, that is, because in His death He had paid the debt of our guilt, had atoned for all our sins, had secured our righteousness, that is, because God had declared us righteous on the ground of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, therefore He was raised. So, Christ’s death is the sentence of God against us. In Christ’s death God condemns us, and lays our condemnation upon Him. Our Lord Christ’s resurrection is also a sentence of God concerning us, but now, it is the sentence of our acquittal, the sentence of our perfect righteousness, the sentence of our justification. By the raising of Jesus Christ the elect are declared righteous by God. Our justification in Christ Jesus is not a possibility, but a fact, and, His resurrection is indeed the Divine seal of our justification.
“By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11). He justifieth all those, and only those, whose iniquities He bore on the Cross. Those for whom God gave His Son, to them, in Him, He freely gives all things; therefore, all things obtained by His death must be bestowed, and are, on them for whom He died (Rom. ). They for whom Christ died are justified, are God’s elect, cannot be condemned, nor can any thing be laid to their charge; all that He has purchased for them must be applied to them, for by virtue thereof it is that they are saved (Rom. 8:33-34). We conclude this chapter with the words of A. W. Pink: “The costly price of redemption was far too precious in the sight of God for it to be cast away on souls that perish. Therefore did He predestinate that the Spirit should communicate life to all for whom Christ died. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. ): that is clear enough — all whose “offences” Christ bore, must be justified! There are inseparable and saving benefits bestowed upon all them whom Christ loved and gave Himself for. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10): these go together, hence, as the greater part of men are not ‘saved’ by His life, that is proof positive that they were not ‘reconciled by His death’.” RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 4: 17 – 25.
Verse 17. The
is the symbol of death, and it is not until the saint appropriates the solemn truth or has learned from painful experience that death is written upon all his natural powers that he is likely to make any real spiritual progress or enter practically into his fair heritage. That was the great lesson which had to be learned by the father of them that believe, before his longing could be realized and fruit borne. Because Sarah was barren he thought to obtain the desired son by Hagar, only to bring trouble upon his household. Not until he truly recognized the natural impotency of himself and his wife did he count upon Him who quickeneth the dead (Rom. -21). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952). Jordan
The proof and guarantee of all these workings of life out of death are to be found, of course, in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If there is no resurrection of the body of Christ, then there is no Christianity. But He had announced, constantly, that He would die and rise again, and on the third day His tomb was empty, and He was seen of hundreds of witnesses. He had said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John ). He was speaking of the temple of His body. Again the Lord Jesus announced that He was going to lay down His life so He might take it again (John -19). He said, “No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” — Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960).
Just as in the beginning God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light, so, at the moment He appointed for our new birth, He said, ‘Let there be life’ and there was life. — J. A. Motyer.
Verse 18. Where Jesus is truly the sinner’s hope, He is believed on and loved. — Thomas Hardy.
All my hope is nowhere but in God’s exceeding great mercy. —
of Hippo (354-430). St. Augustine
Noah’s heart laid hold of the Divine promise of his preservation in the ark by the same faith whereby he was made “heir of the righteousness” (Heb. 11:7). So too Abraham by the same faith whereby he was justified believed God’s promise that he should have a son in his old age (Rom. ). Let this point then be duly observed and the order remembered wherein faith lays hold of the Divine promises. It first apprehends God’s mercy in Christ and then His providential care for us . . . As the Christian expects to be saved by faith after death, so he must live by faith in this world. — A. W Pink (1886-1952).
Abraham “against hole believed in hope” (Rom. ). O my soul, thou hast not one single promise only, like Abraham, but a thousand promises, and many patterns of faithful believers before thee: it behooves thee, therefore, to rely with confidence upon the Word of God. And though the Lord delayeth His help, and the evil seemeth to grow worse and worse, be not weak, but rather strong, and rejoice; since the most glorious promises of God are generally fulfilled in such a wondrous manner, that He steps forth to save us at a time when there is the least appearance of it. He commonly brings His help in our greatest extremity, that His finger may plainly appear in our deliverance. And this method He chooses, that we may not trust on any thing that we see or feel, as we are often apt to do, but only upon His bare Word, which we may depend upon in every state. — C. H. V. Bogatzky (1690-1774).
Verse 19. I sometimes think that the very essence of the whole Christian position and the secret of a successful spiritual life is just to realize two things . . . I must have complete, absolute confidence in God and no confidence in myself. — Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981).
A letter may be written, when it is not sealed; so grace may be written in the heart, and the Spirit may not set the seal of assurance to it. — Thomas Watson (1620-1668).
In the Gospels, Jesus often rebukes weak faith, but never rejects it. — John Berridge (1716-1793).
A weak hand may receive a rich jewel. — Richard Sibbes (1577-1635).
The promises are not made to strong faith but to true. — Thomas Watson (1620-1668).
Verse 20. Abraham staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief. Why Not? Because he consulted not nature, reason, and sense; but considered the sovereign power, everlasting faithfulness, and irresistible ability of God the Promiser. So faith gives glory to God. Learn to do likewise. — William Mason (1719-1791).
A great many believers walk upon the promises at God’s call in the way to Heaven even as a child upon weak ice, which they are afraid will crack under them and leave them in the depth. — Robert Traill (1642-1716).
“Oh,” say you, “I stagger frequently at the promises of God.” So do I. So did Abraham. We cannot be too careful in respect of the plain statements of Holy Scripture. It is not, “He staggered not at the promises,” but “at the promise of God.” Here I would desire you to read for yourselves, Job 23:11-12; Psa. 18:21-22 and Psa. 44:17-22. In these portions you see that the persons who receive God’s words from God’s lips, and God’s promise by God’s power, cling to the promise through flood and through flame — through weakness and woe — through failures and falls — through sorrows and sins. God’s quickened elect — God’s living redeemed — God’s called and chosen ones, can never give up their hold of the promise of life in Jesus. They may be deep down in the filth they have prepared for themselves, but Christ, God’s Word of promise, they cannot let go, and that because He fails them not. — Thomas Bradbury (1831-1905).
The Lord’s presence is infinite, His brightness insupportable, His majesty awful, His dominion boundless and His sovereignty incontestable. — Matthew Henry (1662-1714).
All our comforts flow from faith, our miseries from unbelief. — William Mason (1719-1791).
Verse 21. There are three degrees of faith. There is faith which reposes on the truth of the Gospel, when the weary and heavy-laden sinner comes to Christ and rests his soul upon His atoning sacrifice. There is a faith which reckons, counting upon the veracity and fidelity of God to fulfill His promises and undertake for us (Rom. ; 2 Tim. ). There is also a faith which risks, which dares something for the Lord. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
God is not waiting to show us strong in His behalf, but Himself strong in our behalf. That makes a lot of difference. He is not out to demonstrate what we can do but what He can do. — Vance Havner (1901-1986).
Some think there is no sin but unbelief (which is a sin against the Gospel only), and therefore, there being no sin against any Law (Christ having by His death abolished all them), the Law cannot be a rule to them. An adulterous and an evil generation made drunk with a cup of the wine of the wrath of God, and strong delusion, do thus argue. Are drunkenness, whoredom, lying, cheating, witchcraft, oppression, theft, buggery, no sins, and consequently not to be repented of, nor watched against, but only unbelief? Is there no Day of Judgment, wherein the Lord will judge men, not only for unbelief, but the secrets of all hearts, and whatever hath been done in the body, whether good or evil, according to Paul’s Gospel? (Rom. ; 2 Cor. 5:10). How comes the wrath of God to be revealed from Heaven, not only against unbelief, but against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of man? (
1:18). If there was no sin but unbelief, how can all flesh, Jews and Gentiles, become guilty before God, that so they may believe in the Gospel, (as it is Rom. 3:21-24), if they are all guiltless until unbelief comes in? There is no sin indeed which shall condemn a man in case he shall believe; but will it follow from hence that there is no sin in a man but only unbelief? . . . Sin is before unbelief comes; a sick sinner before a healing Saviour can be rejected; sin kills the soul, as it were , naturally, unbelief, morally; no sin shall kill or condemn us if we believe; but doth it follow from hence that there is no sin before or after faith, because there is no condemning sin unless we fall by unbelief? No such matter; and yet such is the madness of some prophets in these times, who, to abandon not only the directive use of the Law, but also all preparing and humbling work of the Law, and to make men’s sinning the first foundation and ground of their believing, do therefore either abolish all the being of any sin beside unbelief, or the condemned estate of a man for sin, yea, for any sin, until he refuse Christ by unbelief; for publishing which pernicious doctrines it had been well for them if they had never been born. — Thomas Shepard (1605-1649). Rom.
Has He given us “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4)? Then there is the “exceeding greatness of his power” to make them good! That was the ground of Abraham’s assurance when God declared he should have a son in his old age: “Being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead . . ., neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able to perform” (Rom. 4:19-21). When we remember the power of God, weakness and readiness to faint are changed into confidence and joy (Psa. 77:7-15). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 22. Under the New Testament there was a necessity of a more full and clear declaration of the doctrine of it; for it is among the first and most principal parts of that Heavenly mystery of truth which was to be brought to light by the Gospel. And, besides, there was from the first a strong and dangerous opposition made unto it; for this matter of justification, the doctrine of it, and what necessarily belongs thereunto, was that whereon the Jewish church broke off from God, refused Christ and the Gospel, perishing in their sins; as is expressly declared, Rom. 9:33; 10:3-4. And, in like manner, a dislike of it, an opposition unto it, ever was, and ever will be, a principle and cause of the apostasy of any professing church from Christ and the Gospel that falls under the power and deceit of them; as it fell out afterwards in the churches of the Galatians. But in this state the doctrine of justification was fully declared, stated, and vindicated, by the apostle Paul, in a peculiar manner. And he doth it especially by affirming and proving that we have the righteousness whereby and wherewith we are justified by imputation; or that our justification consists in the non-imputation of sin, and the imputation of righteousness. — John Owen (1616-1683).
I will explain what we mean by the imputation of Christ’ 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 righteousness 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. The Scripture uses the word impute in this sense, viz., for reckoning any thing belonging to any person, to another person’s account: as Philemon 18, “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on mine account.” In the original it is impute that to me. It is a word of the same root with that which is translated impute, Rom. 4:6, “To whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” And it is very same word that is used in Rom. 5:13, that is translated impute, “sin is not imputed where there is no law.” — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
These things, I say, are always to be attended unto, in our whole disquisition into the nature of evangelical justification; for, without a constant respect unto them, we shall quickly wonder into curious respect and perplexed questions, wherein the consciences of guilty sinners are not concerned; and which, therefore, really belong not unto the substance or truth of this doctrine, nor are to be immixed therewith. It is alone the relief of those who are in themselves guilty before, or obnoxious and liable to, the judgment of God, — that we inquire after. That this is not any thing in or of themselves, nor can so be, — that it is a provision without them, made in infinite wisdom and grace by the mediation of Christ, His obedience and death therein, — is secured in the Scripture against all contradiction; and it is the fundamental principle of the Gospel, Matt. 11:28. — John Owen (1616-1683).
Verse 23. Do these things: Love the Word of God; make it your guide and your food. — Philip Henry (1631-1696).
When Satan borrows sense to speak one thing, let faith borrow Scripture to speak the contrary. — David Dickson (1583-1662).
God’s Word is pure and sure, in spite of the devil, in spite of your fear, in spite of everything. — R. A. Torrey (1856-1928).
One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. — Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994).
Verse 24. All believers, from the bruised reed to the tallest cedar; from the smoking flax on earth to the flaming lamp in Heaven; from Thomas, who said he would not believe without seeing, to Abraham, who believed without staggering; are all in a state of life. And all, from the most beautiful moralist to the most venomous toad in nature’s field; from the young man in the Gospel, who was not far from the kingdom of Heaven, to Judas, who was in the very bottom of Hell; all are in a state of death. — Stephen Charnock (1628-1680).
This is no appendix to the faith. This is the faith. He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! — James A. Stewart (1910-1975).
The resurrection of Christ was not only the pattern of ours but also both the pledge and procuring cause thereof, for “he was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). The resurrection of Christ was necessary not only to evince God’s acceptance of His satisfaction on our behalf but as a necessary step to secure the application of the merits of His sacrifice to us, to communicate “the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34) to us. “Because I live,” said He, “ye shall live also” (John 14:19); otherwise He would be a Bridegroom without a bride, a Redeemer with no redeemed, the living Head of a lifeless body. God’s raising of Christ from the dead was the pledge that He would quicken into newness of life all for whom He died. The Corn of wheat which died “bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 25. This living hope is produced “by” means of “the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.” The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most striking and satisfactory proofs of the divinity of His mission, and, of course, of the truth of all its doctrines; and, among the rest, of that grand characteristic doctrine of His Gospel on which the hope of eternal life is founded. It is, indeed, not so much one evidence as “a cloud of witnesses.” It is the fulfillment of Old Testament predictions respecting the Messiah, and thus proves Him to be the Messiah — it is the fulfillment of His own predictions, and therefore proves Him to be a true prophet. It is God determining the controversy between Him and His unbelieving countrymen. He declared Himself to be the Son of God, and they put Him to death because He declared Himself to be the Son of God; and God interposed, and by doing for Him what none but God could have done, proved that He was right, and they were wrong. Most powerfully was Jesus Christ demonstrated to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. — John Brown of Edinburg (1784-1858).
Christ did not rise as a private Person, but as the Head of the elect Church; so that they did, as it were, all rise with Him. Christ was justified in His resurrection, i. e. , God acquitted and discharged Him thereby, as having done and suffered enough for the sins of all His elect (Rom. 4:25). And God put Him in possession of eternal life, as the Head of the Church, as a sure earnest that they should follow. For when Christ rose from the dead, that was the beginning of eternal life in Him. His life before His death was a mortal life, a temporal life; but His life after His resurrection was an eternal life: Rom. 6:9, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him.” Rev. 1:18, “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen,” — But He was put in possession of this eternal life, as the Head of the body; and took possession of it, not only to enjoy Himself, but to bestow on all who believe in Him: so that the whole Church, as it were, rises in Him. And now He Who lately suffered so much, after this is to suffer no more forever, but to enter into eternal glory. God the Father neither expects nor desires any more suffering. — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
Now I saw that Christ Jesus was looked upon by God, and should be looked upon by us, as the common or public Person, in whom all the whole body of His elect are always to be considered and reckoned: that we fulfilled the Law by Him, died by Him, rose from the dead by Him, for the victory over sin, death, the devil, and Hell, by Him; when He died we died; and so of His resurrection. — John Bunyan (1628-1688).
Hence the resurrection of Jesus was like going into the presence of God to cancel the bond, the hand-writing of ordinances, that was against us. It was as if Jesus gave this testimony in His glorious resurrection, that both sin and death had lost their retaining power; the dominion of both were for ever done away, and all true believers in Christ might join the Apostle’s song — ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died — yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.’ My soul, be sure to keep this in constant view, when, at any time, thou art meditating on the death and resurrection of Jesus: and let both be thy daily meditation. Think how truly blessed, how truly happy, how present and everlastingly secure, must those souls be, who are interested in the death and in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. By the one He hath purchased their pardon, and by the other He hath justified their persons; so that, when Law and justice present their charge against them, this is the unanswerable plea — Jesus was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. Oh! Dearest Lord! Grant me daily and hourly to be bringing into all my spiritual enjoyments the sweet sense and consciousness of being thus interested, justified, and secured. Give me a present right and title , that I may live upon it; and by and by, when Thou shalt call me home, then, O Lord, present me finally and fully, once for all, as made comely in Thy comeliness, clothed in Thy righteousness, and fully prepared, both in soul and body, for everlasting happiness and glory among them that are sanctified. — Robert Hawker (1753-1827).
There is, however, a much closer connection between the resurrection of Christ from the dead and the hope of eternal life that is set before His people. His emerging in triumph from the tomb furnished indubitable proof of the efficacy of His propitiatory sacrifice, by which He had put away the sins of those for whom it was offered. This being accomplished, by His resurrection Christ brought in an everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24), thus securing for His people the eternal reward due Him by His fulfillment of God’s Law by His own perfect obedience. He who was delivered up to death for our offences was raised up again for our justification (Rom. 4:25). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).