"God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us--so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!" (2 Corinthians 5:21)
What could be better than the divine plan of substitutionary atonement? God must punish sin--He could not be God unless He did. It is a necessity of His nature, that He should hate sin with an infinite hatred, and must punish it!
Yet, as He had loved His people with an everlasting love, how could He better show His love to them and His hatred of sin--than by giving up His well-beloved Son to die instead of them! This seems to me to be the most beautiful thing I ever heard of--and it delights my soul to preach it!
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us!" (Galatians 3:13)
~ Charles Spurgeon
(The commentary below on the Romans 4 passage comes from an outline for a presentation posted at BunyanMinistries. The author is not noted, unfortunately.)
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:1-12 ESV)
Paul draws us back to the heart of a true relationship with God which is faith, that is a heart for God that is wholly dependent and not contributory or trusting in external means. Of course such faith in not merely cerebral or confessional, but intensely heartfelt as sinner David describes, “O GOD, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). (Source)
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 4:13-5:11 ESV)
As a father produces like kind, so Abraham has produced a race of believers who have identical faith. The children of Abraham have the vital birthmark of justifying faith that identifies them as being authentic and not illegitimate. The gospel through faith is of grace alone. Why? Because it is of faith alone. Grace and faith harmonize because faith is works-renouncing in a total sense and grace can only operate where works are totally renounced. Faith cleaves to the complete work of Another while grace offers the complete work of Another. Faith confesses personal bankruptcy while grace provides full payment of the debt. Human works nullify this relationship. The gospel through faith ensures the promise for all the seed. Why? Because faith does away with racial distinctions. Law concerns only Jewish devotees. But faith is applicable to Jew and Gentile; it guarantees and validates the provision of the gospel to “all the seed,” But how can we be sure that “all the seed” is a universal term and not exclusively Jewish? What proof is there that Abraham is “the father of us all [all the saints, especially in Rome]”?
Here Paul reaches a climax in his argument that leaves no room for doubt as to the absolute nature of salvation by faith alone that totally excludes human merit, energy. or contribution. The work of redemption of man dead in sin is nothing less that a new creation, the sovereign provision of life for the dead.
God has determined to make a people for himself, out of the pit so to speak (Isa. 51:1-2). Thus, “the justified bring nothing; they are as dead, as those who do not exist. But because of God’s creative call they are brought to newness of life” (Eph2:1-10). As W. T. Matson has written: "Lord, I was dead, I could not stir My lifeless soul to come to Thee; But now, since Thou hast quickened me, I rise from sins’s dark sepulcher."
Paul makes it clear that the outworking of Abraham’s faith was wholly exclusive of any performance on his part and singular in its constant trust in God. He hoped against hope, v. 18.
What specifically then was this faith/hope of Abraham? It was not, “as a ‘leap into the dark,’ a completely baseless, almost irrational ‘decision’ — as Christian faith is pictured by some ‘existentialist’ theologians — but as a ‘leap’ from the evidence of the senses into the security of God’s word and promise.” Physical evidence indicated no possibility of fathering even one descendant; but Scripture truth declared in Genesis 15:5 the certain prospect of a host of descendants, a multitude of nations.
“Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” (Ps. 78:19). Can God cause the waters of the Red Sea to Part? Can God bring forth water from a rock? Can God bring forth streams in the desert so that it blossoms as the rose? Can God cause the barren to rejoice? Can Jesus Christ calm a raging storm? If a man dies, shall he live again? The world in general and man by nature answers, “No!” Abraham believed God, that is His clear revelation and not mere speculation, in spite of human reasoning, and affirmed, “Yes!”
Abraham “grew strong in faith”, but how? Just as “muscles [do] when weights are raised; holiness when temptation is successfully resisted. So Abraham’s faith gained strength from its victory over the hindrance created by the conflict between God’s promise and the physical evidence.” At the same time he was “giving glory to God,” that is “glorying in God,” or growing in his understanding and acknowledgment of God, that is his holiness, integrity, sovereignty, etc. He believed God would perform, v. 21. The climax of the faith/growth process is described in terms of the manner of Abraham’s glorification of God, and it is wholly attitudinal and confessional. The true worship of God here is essentially in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24), that is the soul fully comprehending the promise and expanding in its confidence in it. But further, the glorification of God by Abraham here is solely that of a “faith” response and exclusive of any performance. Once again, sola fide continues to be the justifying principle. God delights in such “faith-full,” self-denying worship.
In the final analysis, it is the nature and understanding of God that determines the ground and strength of assurance. If there is doubt as to God’s ability to accomplish what He has promised, then there cannot be strong faith. But Abraham believed that “He [God] was able also to perform,” that is He had “the power to do.” In Hebrews 11:17-19, concerning the offering up of Isaac, Abraham “considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead.”
The cumulative effect of this evidence leaves not the slightest room for any synthesis of faith and human performance in the minutest proportion, or of faith even being productive of justifying works through the enabling of grace. Since the Fall, this timeless gospel message has been both perverted by man-centered religion and preserved by faithful heralds of God. So Paul now exhorts his readers to continue to personally embrace and defend this glorious, soul emancipating, God glorifying gospel message.
Truth has consequences; doctrine calls for duty; principles require practice; mentors are productive of models; so Abraham is the father of the truly faithful. It is the faith of Abraham that is to be modeled , v. 24a. The Scripture record is for the saints at Rome, and beyond. They too inherit the same gospel blessings, a “reckoned” righteousness through faith, and the intimation is that such readers are to stand more solidly than ever upon this truth; their sola fide is to be more “sola” than ever before. There is the further intimation that the church at Rome should review its gospel witness and make sure that it is precisely what Paul here declares.
It is faith in Abraham’s God, v. 24b. While the “reckoning” is God’s gracious means of providing “the gift of righteousness” (5:17), faith alone is the sinner’s self-renouncing acknowledgment and embrace of sola gratia. It is for this reason that Paul often objectifies faith, that is describes it as if it were a saving object itself (3:28-30; 4:16), nevertheless here he makes it clear that in reality it is faith’s object that saves. The object of true saving faith is Abraham’s God, who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, and raises the ungodly from their death in sin, v. 17. Note here that “those who are believing in Him [God],” present participle, describes the ongoing character of justification by faith, even as the Lord Jesus remains an ongoing intercessor (Heb. 7:25).
Of course for the believer it is the ultimate truth that Jesus Christ was delivered up for my transgressions, my iniquities, my rebellion (Isa. 53:5-6), the result being my justification, my pardon, my reconciliation (Is, 53:11-12). Stephen Charnock illustrates: “Not that we are formally justified by the resurrection of Christ, but that thereby God declared that whosoever believes in him should be justified upon that believing; for if Christ has not risen, there had been no certainty of the payment of the debt. In his death he pays the sum, as he is our surety; and in his resurrection he hath his quietus est [receipt of proof of payment] out of God’s exchequer [treasury].” (Source)
Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:1-6 ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)
A final word from A.W. Pink:
The "no" is emphatic. It signifies there is no condemnation whatever. No condemnation from the law, or on account of inward corruption, or because Satan can substantiate a charge against me; there is none from any source or for any cause at all. "No condemnation" means that none at all is possible; that none ever will be. There is no condemnation because there is no accusation (see 8:33), and there can be no accusation because there is no imputation of sin (see 4:8).
"There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." When treating of the conflict between the two natures in the believer the apostle had, in the previous chapter, spoken of himself in his own person, in order to show that the highest attainments in grace do no exempt from the internal warfare which he there describes. But here in 8:1 the apostle changes the number. He does not say, There is no condemnation to me, but "to those who are in Christ Jesus." This was most gracious of the Holy Spirit. Had the apostle spoken here in the singular number, we should have reasoned that such a blessed exemption was well suited to this honored servant of God who enjoyed such wondrous privileges; but could not apply to us. The Spirit of God, therefore, moved the apostle to employ the plural number here, to show that "no condemnation" is true of all in Christ Jesus.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." To be in Christ Jesus is to be perfectly identified with Him in the judicial reckoning and dealings of God. And it is also to be one with Him as vitally united by faith. Immunity from condemnation does not depend in any way upon our "walk," but solely on our being "in Christ." "The believer is in Christ as Noah was enclosed within the ark, with the heavens darkening above him, and the waters heaving beneath him, yet not a drop of the flood penetrating his vessel, not a blast of the storm disturbing the serenity of his spirit. The believer is in Christ as Jacob was in the garment of the elder brother when Isaac kissed and blessed him. He is in Christ as the poor homicide was within the city of refuge when pursued by the avenger of blood, but who could not overtake and slay him" (Octavius Winslow, 1857). And because he is "in Christ" there is, therefore, no condemnation for him. Hallelujah!
Laura Miller aka mrsdkmiller
Looking for a list of articles published around the web?
Looking for posts written in response to 5-Minute Friday prompts? Click here:
Her March Isn't Over
Across the River
When God Pries My Fingers Off My Children
Life's Defining Moments
To the Christian Wife Who Berated Her Husband in Front of My Daughter
Zeal and Grace in France
An Unconventional Love Story
Seeing What's in Front of Our Eyes
Remembering Why I Called You Hannah
Love Your Sister.
Because He Came Home
Go Valiantly! A Prayer for New Homeschooling Moms
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