The Error as to Christ’s Righteousness

Many reformers, puritans and theologians seem to believe that Christ makes up for our defects, in effect saying that Christ kept the law for us. But the WORD OF GOD is clear, and tells me that if we are justified by law we are fallen from grace (see Gal 5:4). If Christ kept the law for us, and righteousness imputed to us because of that, we are justified by law. Of course the Lord kept the law, but where in scripture do we find that He kept it for us? According to the WORD OF GOD this doctrine is FALSE, it is legal fiction.

J N DarbyIn 1862 J N Darby wrote to the Christian Examiner about an article in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review.  Teaching which was very prevalent in the established churches was that the Lord had fulfilled the law on our behalf.  Looking at various current sermons and writings on the internet, it would appear that this error is still held by many.

The Truth is needed to keep souls in progress and subjection to God. Scripture, the WORD OF GOD, must have its authority.  The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, forms the unity of Christ’s body on earth and dwells in the believer.  The Lord is about to take the saints to Himself, and then appear with them, his Church, to judge the world and reign for 1000 years.  These teachings will protect us from some of the unscriptural and erroneous doctrine that abounds in Christendom – in Romanism, Protestantism and even amongst evangelicals.

 

What is Righteousness, and what was the Law?

Righteousness is living as we ought and fulfilling our relationships rightly towards others and towards God.  When it says, ‘The righteous Lord loveth righteousness’ (Psalm 11:7) or, ‘Grace might reign through righteousness’ (Rom 5:21) the word is used abstractedly;  when it says, ‘the righteousness of God’ or ‘the righteousness of faith’ (Rom 10:3,6), the expression is more specific.  We ought to love God with all our heart; we ought to love our neighbour as ourselves.  That is the law in its clearest terms.  It would also have been our righteousness had we kept it. But as sinners, we did not, nor could not keep the law.  And since we have a conscience, the sense of good and evil we know we are guilty, unrighteous and lawless.

 

Did the Lord keep the Law for us?

My righteousness under the law is absolutely zero.  In God’s sight, my efforts are evil and nothing else.   Therefore Christ died for me.  I am born again, and I receive Him as eternal life.  Does Christ make up for defects in my righteousness?  What defects?  Is my righteousness patched up by Christ’s acts, when I have acted after the flesh?  Is that what is meant by Christ being made unto us righteousness?  Of course not.

Many reformers, puritans and theologians seem to believe this, in effect saying that Christ kept the law for us.  But the WORD OF GOD is clear, and tells me that if we are justified by law we are fallen from grace (see Gal 5:4).  If Christ kept the law for us, and righteousness imputed to us because of that, we are justified by law.  Of course the Lord kept the law, but where in scripture do we find that He kept it for us?  According to the WORD OF GOD this doctrine is FALSE, it is legal fiction.

We are accounted, imputed or reckoned (the same word in Greek λογισθῆναι/ logisthēnai/Strong 3049) righteous (See Rom 4:11).  Christ has born the sin of each of us, and put it away.  This is no fiction: sin has been dealt with.

 

Applying the Law to a Child of Adam

Those going on with this error pretend that the defects of the old man are somehow made good, so that man, a child of Adam, might appear righteousness before God. He ought to walk in accordance with the law and according to this doctrine, when we fail Christ makes our defects good.  That is not Christianity.

This false doctrine leads to an absurdity.  It confuses practical sanctification, with righteousness before God.  It makes Christ establish our standing as alive before God in the old man.

The truth is that the life which we receive is Christ.  This does not make my flesh good.  As a child of Adam, there is no good in me.  Christ died to put away my sin, so I reckon myself dead, my flesh condemned.  I find myself in Christ, Christ being in me.  I have put on the new man, and that is what I am before God.  In that Christ died, He died unto sin once; in that He lives, He lives unto God (See Rom 6:10). I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.   I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Gal 2:19-20).  I am dead to law by the body of Christ (See Rom 7:4).

 

What Sort of Law or Righteousness?

These people measure the righteousness of God and divine justice by the law. But they contradict themselves.  On one side righteousness is said to be of the law, but at the same time righteousness is a gift’ (See Rom 5:17).

It is nonsense to say that we are living by a personal law.  Indeed they even talk about a person redeeming him/herself.   Grace, not law, is towards a sinner.  Law does not forgive, it condemns.  Satan’s deception is to set aside Christ’s death. He died that we might live, our sin being atoned for by Him.

They might cite James.  But James merely said ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:20).  That cannot be as a result of Christs’s law-keeping.

 

Legal Righteousness

Some would give the impression of a God who is incensed (or vengeful or full of wrath) at our disobeying the law, but at the same time, a God who acts in grace rather than judgment.  This is the doctrine of legal righteousness.  This might appear plausible, but it destroys the thought of a righteous God who reconciles us to Himself and justifies us.  God is just in justifying.  his is the essence of the gospel.

 

We know who bore the wrath for us.  Let us never forget the cross, the cup that Jesus had to drink, His sweat in Gethsemane, His being made sin, and crying ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34).  He was perfectly obedient.

 

Conclusion

But how can we have righteousness?  We need a new righteousness, by faith, fit for the throne of God.  If we are to be accepted, the righteousness must meet all that God is His own infinite excellency.

Christ revealed God’s nature, and glorified Him when He was made sin for us. Hence we are made the righteousness of God in Him.  Christ finished the work His Father gave Him to do.  Now the ground of our acceptance and righteousness, is complete.  Christ becomes our life.

The law does not, nor cannot do this.

This is a summary of a paper  by John Nelson Darby.  The Pauline Doctrine of the Righteousness of Faith. It is published in Collected Writings Volume 7 (Doctrinal 2) page 349. 

Sosthenes

January 2017

How can a man be just with God? – Romans 1-8

‘How can a man be just with God?’ (Job 9:2). This is the great question in Romans. In the first eight chapters of Romans we learn the answer. Sinners want justification.

There are two aspects of justification, so there are two parts to Romans 1 to 8.

Justification ‘from sins’ – clearing me of my old state,’ (Rom 1:1-5:11)
Justification ‘of life’ – putting me into a new place before God. (Rom 5:12-8:39)

JohnNelsonDarby

How can a man be just with God?’ (Job 9:2).  This is the great question in Romans.  In the first eight chapters of Romans we learn the answer.  Sinners want justification.

There are two aspects of justification, so there are two parts to Romans 1 to 8.

  1. Justification ‘from sins’ – clearing me of my old state,’ (Rom 1:1-5:11)
  2. Justification ‘of life’  –  putting me into a new place before God. (Rom 5:12-8:39)

 

Part 1 – Justification from Sins

Chapter 1

The first thing we see in this epistle is that it concerns God’s Son Jesus Christ’ (See v. 3).  It is not primarily about ourselves.  Romans is about the claims of Christ, the ‘author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him’ (Heb 5:9).  People have lost sight of that.

In chapter 1 we see why justification is needed:  ‘The wrath of God revealed against all ungodliness’ (v. 18).  That is wrath against the sinner, because ‘all have sinned, and come short’ (Ch. 3:23).  It does not say ‘of what we ought to be’, or ‘of the law’, but ‘of the glory of God.’  The glory of God involves the light.  In Christianity we must walk in the light, or we can have nothing to do with God.  It is as simple as that.  God is in the light; He has not hidden Himself behind a veil.  We are to walk in the light, as He is in the light, and even become ‘partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light’ (Col 1:12).  Justification makes us fit for that.  Christ’s work in grace fits us for glory.

Two things are found in the first four verses: promises and revelation.

  1. People rest on promises. But the promises are fulfilled by Him. ‘For all the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us’ (2 Cor 1:20).
  2. God’s righteousness is revealed because there was none in man. ‘Therein [i.e. in the glad tidings] is the righteousness of God revealed’ ( 17).   Faith receives God’s righteousness, whereas the law claimed righteousness from man. The gospel is the righteousness of God.

Chapters 2 & 3

In chapter 1 the righteousness of God is revealed; in chapter 2, we have the proof of this; in chapter 3, having been brought under sin, we are given righteousness.  ‘But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets’ (v. 21).  The Lord our righteousness was witnessed in the prophets who were under law.  However, He is now manifested without (or apart from) law.  Righteousness is ‘through faith in His blood’ (v. 25).  God sits as a Judge, and man is brought before Him and found guilty.  The penalty is death. But the death of a sinful man could not glorify God.  Only the death of Christ alone glorifies Him, and through it He puts away the sins of the old man.  Now we see how God makes a new man.

Under the old system the law required man to establish his own righteousness. ‘The law entered that the offence might abound’ (ch. 5:20).  It is not that sin might abound, but the offence.  The law not only made sin more manifest, but also aggravated its character.  The authority of God was despised, not because of the offence, but because of the people’s disobedience.  In ch. 2:12, what is translated sinned ‘without law,’ is the same word (ἀνομία – anomia) as in 1 John 3:4, ‘transgression of the law’ – (KJV) or ‘lawlessness’ – (Darby and others).’  The Day of Atonement was necessary:-

  • The scape-goat – ‘Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many’  (Heb 9:28) – Part 1 above (sins)
  • The sin-offering – ‘He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (Heb 9:26) – Part 2 (sin).

The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat.  This is now the ground of God’s invitation to the sinner.  In Leviticus 16, the sins of Israel were confessed over the head of the scape-goat.  For us, Christ has died, and the blood is on the mercy-seat.  Now I will be received if I come to Jesus.  Not only has the Lord Jesus put away my sin, but He has borne all my sins, and confessed them as if they were His own: they are all gone.  My sins are forgiven: past, present and future.

Chapter 4

In chapter 4 we have, ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin’ (v. 4).  A man is faultless before God if Christ has made atonement for him.  The first part of Romans, referred to above, has to do with sins and the remedy – Christ dying for our sins.  (In Part 2 below, it is sin and the remedy, my dying with Christ).  This whole work was settled on the cross, resurrection making it complete.  In this chapter it is justification by faith.  ‘If we believe in him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead’ (v. 24).  We are justified, and Christ’s work is ratified.

Unless we see Christ in resurrection, we do not have the assurance of being justified. ‘If Christ is not risen, ye are yet in your sinsif in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable’ (1 Cor 15:17,19).

Chapter 5 v. 1-11

Chapter 5 begins, ‘Having been justified, we have peace’ (v. 1).   We get past, present, and future:

  • Justified, as to the past
  • Having peace with God, and standing in the favour of God, as to the present
  • Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, as to the future.

What more can I want?  I may have all sorts of trouble, but what a mercy it is that God sees me as righteous!  In God’s eyes I am a righteous man.  Now I can boast in tribulation, knowing that this leads to patience, experience and hope (see v. 3).  I am not ashamed ‘because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us’ (v. 5).  I can rejoice, too, in God Himself (before whom, in ch. 3:19, I was guilty, and my mouth stopped).  Not only do I know myself, but I know God as well – God in His own absolute goodness.  Knowing that everything is settled, and that I am reconciled, I have peace.  Peace is deeper than joy: I may have joy, but not yet know myself reconciled.  The prodigal had some joy when he left the far country, but he did not have peace till he met the Father, and learned what is the Father’s heart was toward him.

Foreknown, predestinated, called, justified, glorified!  No creature power can break that chain of five golden links, for it is purely of God.

 

Part 2 – Justification ‘of Life’

Chapter 5 v. 12-21

From chapter 5:12, we come to man’s condition.  Adam ruined us all.  We are now dealing with the state of the race, not of the individual.  I have a nature away from God, and without the knowledge of the grace of God, I would be driven to despair. But grace has put away my sin.

Even if I know that my sins are forgiven, I can be extremely troubled because of the sin that is in me.  The remedy is not in the fact that Christ has died for my sins, but that I have died with Christ to sin.  I am a sinner because of Adam’s disobedience.  However by the obedience of One (Jesus) I am made righteous, with no condemnation: ‘There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (ch. 8:1).  If that is the case, can I live as I like?  ‘No’, the apostle says, ‘You have died.’  How can I live in sin if I am dead?  I am justified; I have life.

Sin is never forgiven. but condemned. ‘God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin, in the flesh’ (ch. 8:3).  Sin is got rid of by death.  If a man dies, that is the end.  Adam received a commandment, and lived so long as he obeyed it.  But from Adam to Moses there was no commandment or law, and death reigned over those who had transgressed.  We find no forgiveness there.

Chapter 6

In Romans 6, I am dead and justified from sin.  I reckon myself dead.  I have had enough of ‘I.’  Now Christ is ‘I’.  ‘I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2:20).  In Romans I am cleared from what I was as a child of Adam, and get the privileges of a child of God.  I am perfectly free: what am I going to do with myself?  I was once a slave to sin: now I am to yield myself to God.

Chapter 7

In chapter 7 we have the same principle applied to law.  We have died to the law by the body of the risen Christ, so now we are connected with Him in resurrection.  We cannot have both the law and Christ. ‘We are delivered from the law, that being dead by which we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter’ (v. 6 (Darby).  The law isn’t dead; I am dead.  The law is the jailer; I am the prisoner.  The mistake people are making is that they are killing the jailer instead of the thief.  The jailer is not dead, the thief is.

In chapters 2 and 3 we saw what a man does.  In chapter 7 we see is what he is.   Many Christians do not know what verse 7 means – ‘When I was in the flesh’.  It is my previous state.  This chapter is experimental, not just a doctrine.  We must learn the truth not merely as a theory, but experimentally.  I can say that my sins are forgiven – that is doctrine, not experience, but if I tell you something about myself, that is experience.  It is not just that I have done bad things, but I have found by experience that ‘in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing’ (v. 18).

In Romans 7 the soul learns three things:

  1. That in himself, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing ( 18).
  2. That the flesh is not himself (he is not in the flesh) – he hates it ( 15).
  3. That the flesh is too strong for him, and he cries out for deliverance. ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ ( 24).

As to the flesh, there is no question of forgiveness.  I do not forgive an offending power; I want deliverance from it.  The more spiritual I am, the more I shall see the infinite value of the cross.  I keep the cross before myself in faith, and hold it the to the flesh (because I am not in the flesh, otherwise I could not do it).  That is what ‘Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body’ means. (2 Cor 4:10)

I have to learn what sin is.  Christ, who has met the consequences of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, becomes the tree of life to me.  Now, in Romans 5:1-11, I learn what God is in love to the sinner.

Chapter 8

Now in Chapter 8 I learn my condition as a believer with God.  The new man in Christ Jesus is in a higher place: God is for me, and I can say, ‘Abba, Father’.

Glory is certain through the promise of God. ‘Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified’ (v. 30).  The whole chain is there, from beginning to end, and depends on His faithfulness in keeping us.

 

Summary by Sosthenes

Based on   How are we Saved? Romans 1-8Collected Writings vol. 21 (Evangelic) page 193

April 2016

 

 

Adoss Newsletter No 15 December 2014

A few years ago, the company I ran was going to be bought by a very devote Muslim businessman in Britain. I got on well with him, and in general he was upright in business, and generous to a number of charitable causes. At one break in a meeting he was talking about his work. He said ‘I hope that God accepts me for what I’ve done’. I immediately replied ‘Abdul*, I know that God has already accepted me because of what Jesus has done!”.

Zech 4:10
Who hath despised the day of small things

Adoss Newsletter No 15

December 2014

A Day of Small Things

By Σωσθένης Ὁἀδελφὸς – Sosthenes the Brother

 

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

 

Focus on Pakistan

We read a lot about problems that Christians face in Muslim countries: Pakistan is as bad as any.  There is a sad story about the couple who were burned alive.  We wonder what goes through peoples’ minds – we are reminded of Saul of Tarsus.  God can make those poor people think.

Then today’s shocking news: 141 killed in a school by the Taliban. Muslims killing Muslims.

My interest in Pakistan goes back to my young days. The sister of one of my friends was at Oxford University. Being a Christian she found herself outside some of the fraternities (or sororities). Another outsider was Benazir Bhutto, whose father was then prime minister. He was assassinated; then in 2007 Benazir herself lost her life too when campaigning for re-election to the same position. There was much corruption – and violence.

In our conurbation of 250,000 people we have only a few who follow Islam.  There are, I think, two mosques.  However it is important for us to remind ourselves of the sufferings of our brethren in Islamic countries – Satan behind the aggressors – ‘Whom resist, stedfast in faith, knowing that the selfsame sufferings are accomplished in your brotherhood which [is] in [the] world’ (1 Peter 5:9 Darby).

 

‘Walking in the Light of the Assembly’ in Urdu

A few months ago I was approached by a sister in Pakistan for help in publishing this booklet in Urdu. She provided me with a translation, and during the past month I sent her a number of copies in her native language. (Not an easy job as their books go ‘backwards’). Rabail had had a good job but lost it when she was converted. Recently she has been running an orphanage for which I put her in touch with the Barnabas Fund for financial support.

 

‘I hope that God accepts Me for what I’ve done’

A few years ago, the company I ran was going to be bought by a very devote Muslim businessman in Britain.  I got on well with him, and in general he was upright in business, and generous to a number of charitable causes.  At one break in a meeting he was talking about his work.  He said ‘I hope that God accepts me for what I’ve done’.  I immediately replied ‘Abdul*, I know that God has already accepted me because of what Jesus has done!”.

A few weeks later I was chatting with his son and daughter who ran their company.  They wanted me to be a guide to Ismail*.  We got talking about the differences between Christianity and Islam.  I asked ‘How good to you have to be to pass God’s test?  Is it like in an exam, 47%?’  Of course they had no answer.  That set me going with the gospel.  Ismail* was not really interested, but Faiza* was taking in every word.  I believe that secretly she had given her heart to the Lord Jesus.  But she sat there in her hijab, and didn’t admit to her faith.  I don’t blame her when you consider the possible consequences.    Thank God for His deliverance.

Not surprisingly, the next day I received an email from Abdul* terminating the relationship

* Not their real names.

 

Men and Animals

Billions are spent on proving that we are no better than animals. A probe was sent to a comet to determine if that was the source of life. Of course they came to the conclusion that it wasn’t. They could have saved all that money by reading Genesis 1.

But it is quite amazing to see how intelligent – even ‘religious’ – some animals are. A few days ago I saw a video about a herd of elephants. They knew where new sources of food were and where they would be safe from poachers. On their route they passed some bones of a long-deceased elephant – maybe an ancestor. They stopped and gathered round them very reverentially. They treated it like a shrine.

Are people any different? They speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves (Jude: 10).

But we know, don’t we, that man is special. Created in God’s image, man became a living soul. (Gen 1:27, 2:7)

 

Christmas

No ADOSS reader believes that Jesus was born on 25 December. So called Christmas has become a season of self indulgence and commercialism where God is left out entirely.

Some of our friends will have nothing to do with Christmas and if that is what they feel, then I respect them for it. Personally we see it as an opportunity to entertain elderly ones who would otherwise be on their one, and to provide something for the children.

So may I take this opportunity of wishing you, and your family, God’s richest blessings at this time – and if the Lord does not come for us, or if we are taken to be with Him – a happy and healthy 2015. 

God’s blessings, your brother,

Sosthenes Hoadelphos

 

Darby on Romans 5:1-11 – The Result and Effect of Grace in our present Standing under that Grace

Baptism with the Holy Spirit was one of the two great acts ascribed to the Lord in John 1. It is consequent on the value and efficacy of His blood, that the sins of those who believe are put away. In the Old Testament, the leper was washed with water, sprinkled with blood, then anointed with oil. We are washed with the word, sprinkled with Christ’s blood, then anointed with the Holy Spirit. That is not being ‘born again’: new birth applies to the Holy Spirit’s work in unbelievers: it is after we believe that we are sealed.

Rome

 

We are brought to the separation of our hearts from the world, and a clearer consciousness of what God is as we pass through the world. We hope, and we are weaned from the world which tends to shut Christ glorified out of sight. Our hope is clearer. Though we may have tribulations, we have both the key and the power to bear them.   In grace, as God does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous, He watches over us in blessing, making everything work together for our good. The love of God [what He is in His nature] is shed abroad in our hearts. (v.5)   It is God’s love, known by the Holy Spirit’s presence, bringing in what God is in His nature to our hearts.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit was one of the two great acts ascribed to the Lord in John 1. It is consequent on the value and efficacy of His blood, that the sins of those who believe are put away. In the Old Testament, the leper was washed with water, sprinkled with blood, then anointed with oil. We are washed with the word, sprinkled with Christ’s blood, then anointed with the Holy Spirit. That is not being ‘born again’: new birth applies to the Holy Spirit’s work in unbelievers: it is after we believe that we are sealed.

This has practical importance. We are accepted, forgiven and sealed. God’s perfect love to us when we were sinners, is not a matter of experience. Being accepted, we are sealed. Experience has its place, and some Christians would even oblige souls to have the experience of Romans 7, in order for the salvation of Romans 5 to be true.

While we enjoy God’s sovereign, causeless love by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the knowledge and proof of that love is in a work outside and independent of us. ‘For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly’ and, God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:6,8) – such was our state.

The Holy Spirit reveals the truth; he does not reason it. be. Man is always reasoning naturally, with a vague thought of mercy. Even when repentant he carries on reasoning till he has really met God, and known His grace. (The prodigal talked of being made a hired servant before he met his father.) The Holy Spirit makes us see clearly that we are lost, but then we reason about God, and what He has done for us. Whilst this is going on, we are still in a legal state. When we reason naturally there is either carelessness and self-delusion, or a mixture of law and grace. With the Holy Spirit, there is no mixture: just clear condemnation on the ground of responsibility, or salvation and blessing on the ground of grace.

Hence we have hope. ‘And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us’ (v.5). Then we reason from the starting point of divine grace –

  • We glory in God Himself
  • We are reconciled
  • We rejoice in salvation and in the God who has made Himself known through it
  • We learn to joy in God.

This closes the first part of the epistle. Justified, having glory in hope, and joy in Him whom we have known through this great salvation.

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

Darby on Romans 3:21-31 – Justification by Faith

We have the mercy-seat through faith in His blood. The value of the blood brings the witness of righteousness in the remission of past sins. It justifies us, maintaining fully the justice or righteousness of God. He is just, and the Justifier, not the condemner, of those that believe. The principle of righteousness by faith is incompatible with law: one rests on grace, the other on works; one on God’s work, the other on man’s. In grace, God’s work justifies freely; in law, man’s work in righteousness seeks to make peace, redemption and God’s work unnecessary. Law recognises the claim of righteousness, but man having failed, God has met that claim in grace. The grace that was incompatible with law, met the claim of the law, in order to justify the person who had failed under it.

Rome

God being revealed, sin is measured by the glory of God.

After demonstrating that the heathen, the moralist and the Jew had all sinned, Paul returns to the subject of the righteousness of God. Man clearly had none If he had had a righteousness it would have been by the law, so it would only be for the Jews.  But all men – Jews and Gentiles – have proved to be under sin, so God has manifested His righteousness by faith, entirely separate from the law. It is towards all, and upon all who believe. It is free, by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

In chap. 1:17, we were told that God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel. Now in Rom. 3:21, it is wholly apart from the law, the way of man’s righteousness)  As all of us are under sin, we are justified by God’s grace, through redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

We have in Christ the atonement or propitiation for our sins, giving us a place of access to God on the ground of redemption.   The saints in Old Testament times had been subjects of God’s forbearance. God passed over the sins of the Abrahams, the Samuels, and millions of others on the basis of the propitiation that was to be wrought by Christ. God forgave sins as if Christ’s work had already been accomplished.  In His exercise of forbearance, He justified His remission of the sins committed before Christ was here.

Now for those of us who live subsequent to His work, we have God’s full present justice. Christ has been exalted. Now in righteousness God could be just and justify believers in Jesus. This is an immense truth: God’s righteousness has been revealed, justifying those who believe in Jesus and His perfectly finished work. He has gone up on high, having glorified God perfectly on the cross, revealing and declaring God’s righteousness.  Man has not accomplished it, man has not procured it. It is of God, it is His righteousness.  We participate in it through believing in Jesus Christ.

We have the mercy-seat through faith in His blood. The value of the blood brings the witness of righteousness in the remission of past sins. It justifies us, maintaining fully the justice or righteousness of God. He is just, and the Justifier, not the condemner, of those that believe.

Man cannot boast, for justification is by God’s work – God’s grace received in faith. We cannot mix gaining a thing by working, and receiving it by faith – one excludes the other.   God justifies sinners in His dealings for them, not man justifying himself by a law which he could not keep.  Sinners are justified freely by (on the principle of’) grace, through (by means of) redemption.

Justification was by faith does not set aside the law. The law brought the conviction of sin, the curse even, from which men under it had to be delivered. Christ delivered men from the curse, thus sanctioning the law to the highest degree. He bore the curse, and established the authority of law as nothing else could. The Jew just had do be convicted of the necessity of grace, redemption and the blood of Christ; he had to recognise his debt and obligations, and that Christ’s work had put an end to those.

The principle of righteousness by faith is incompatible with law: one rests on grace, the other on works; one on God’s work, the other on man’s. In grace, God’s work justifies freely; in law, man’s work in righteousness, seeks to make peace, rendering redemption and God’s work unnecessary. Law recognises the claim of righteousness, but man having failed, God has met that claim in grace. The grace that was incompatible with law, met the claim of the law, in order to justify the person who had failed under it.  Had it been a human righteousness, it would have been by the law which had been given to the Jews only. But being the righteousness of God Himself, is unto all.

Thus far the imputation of righteousness goes no farther than the forgiveness of sins. There is more farther on; but here that is all .

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans , with additional material from the Synopsis.

Darby on Romans – Introduction to Romans

We need to understand two aspects of man’s state of sin

Man as living in evil ways, alive to sin and lust. According to Romans, death must come in to free him from the evil – redemption by grace.
Man as dead towards God. Ephesians treats man as dead in sins and gives us new creation.

RomeBackground in Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians

It may facilitate our apprehension of the epistle to the Romans, if we briefly survey Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians.

We need to understand two aspects of man’s state of sin

  1. Man as living in evil ways, alive to sin and lust. According to Romans, death must come in to free him from the evil – redemption by grace.
  2. Man as dead towards God. Ephesians treats man as dead in sins and gives us new creation.

Galatians

Galatians brings out the following points: –

  1. Promise, in contrast with law, which brought a curse and no justification of man
  2. Redemption from that curse, by Christ’s being made a curse for us
  3. The promised Seed, come of the woman (once the source of sin), to redeem those under the law.

The law had been the school-master until Christ came. Now, as sons by faith, having the Spirit, we are consciously heirs – not servants but sons.   The flesh, our evil nature, may lust against the Spirit, but, we are not under law. There can be no law against the fruit of the Spirit – elementary, though most important teaching.

 

Ephesians

Ephesians begins with the counsels of God:

  1. Our place before God, morally like Himself
  2. Christ’s position, as gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God
  3. God’s purposes as to the Christ Himself, head over all as Man
  4. The inheritance and the earnest of the Spirit given to us
  5. The present exaltation of Christ
  6. The working of the same power in us, so we are raised with Him
  7. The church His body associated with Him
  8. Christ as Head over all things, to the church.

Eph. 2 gives Christ’s work. God’s power comes in and raises us up into His place of glory and blessing. We are sons and heirs.   The church, Christ’s body is united to Him, something hidden from all ages and generations, impossible to exist or be revealed till the middle wall of partition had been broken down.

The gifts of the Spirit from the Man on high builds up the saints, forms the body in union with Christ, and evangelises the world. From Eph. 4:17 onward we have practical conduct.  Having been brought to God in Christ, we are to display God’s own character, Christ being the perfect pattern in man. Having put off the old man and put on the new, we love one another as Christ loves His church. Finally we are God’s warriors in Canaan – that is, in heavenly places – and have need of God’s whole armour against spiritual wickedness, walking in dependence on God.

 

Colossians

In Colossians saints are not sitting in heavenly places, but with a hope laid up for them in heaven. Their are affections are to be set on things above, where Christ sits. They are buried with Him by baptism unto death (as Rom. 6). The believer is looked at as previously alive in his sins, but now quickened with Christ (Col. 2:13). Colossians does not reach on to the full level of Ephesian doctrine, but we do not get these thoughts in Romans at all.

The fullness of the Godhead is in Christ in Colossians; in Ephesians it is the body that is His fullness. The glory of an exalted Christ is before the Christian’s eyes – the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

This should enable us to study the epistle to the Romans more intelligently. Romans does not develop the counsels of God, but lays the ground for their accomplishment. All have sinned, Jew and Gentile, and have the same fleshly nature. There is no difference: God’s righteousness is applicable to both. Sins are put away, and we have deliverance from the old man. Romans treats the responsibility of man, explains God’s righteousness, and unfolds His grace unfolded as the source and principle of God’s dealings with us.

The epistle to the Romans furnishes the eternal principles of God’s relationship with man – the way in which, by means of Christ’s death and resurrection, the believer is established in blessing.   It reconciles of these things with the promises made to the Jews, by Him whose gifts and calling are without repentance.

 

Romans comprises several parts:

 

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans 

 

The Resurrection

The Church’s hope in Christ, founded on the certainty of the word, brings out the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection. Its proof forms the basis of the Christian religion.

The resurrection throws its bright light even into the dark tomb of Christ, the only righteous One, exposing the emptiness of the apparent victory of the prince of this world.

Fundamental Truth  – a Summary by Sosthenes on John Nelson Darby’s Article ‘The Resurrection, the Fundamental Truth of the Gospel’.

To view the complete paper, click here.

 To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 3 Doctrinal 1 – p147) – click here 

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

The Church’s hope in Christ, founded on the certainty of the word, brings out the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection.  Its proof forms the basis of the Christian religion.

The resurrection throws its bright light even into the dark tomb of Christ, the only righteous One, exposing the emptiness of the apparent victory of the prince of this world.

1 Cor. 15 shows us the importance of the resurrection of believers as well as  Christ Himself — two truths indissolubly united. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (v.17)

The misery of the slumbering Church was mitigated by the recovery of the truth of the completeness of Christ’s work.  Unfortunately though, many Christians stop there, missing the full light of the resurrection, or rather the hope of having a part in it.

True Christians hunger and thirst after God, rejoicing in Christ, His resurrection, and all the glory which is His.

The Person of Christ and His Resurrection

The fundamental truth of Christianity concerns the Person of Christ.  He is declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).  So the Christian finds, in the resurrection, not only the foundations of his faith (Rom. 1:4), and the proof of the satisfaction for sin (1 Cor. 15:17), but much more besides.  The resurrection was, to Paul as to Peter, the object and source of a living hope, the power of the life within.  Despite sufferings, Paul sought to know the power of the resurrection.   So the glory of the risen Christ is the object of our hope too: ” He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29)

Justification by Faith

In Galatians 5:5 it says, “We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”  We do not wait for righteousness, we have it already in Christ, being justified by faith.  We see in Christ, the glory and the recompense consequent upon it.  We are filled with the Spirit through which we behold Christ — the Spirit whose presence is the seal of that righteousness.

Faith in the power of “God who quickeneth the dead,” justified Abraham. “It was imputed to him for righteousness; and not to him only, but to us also, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Rom 4:17,24)

The Work of Christ

Amazing love led our Saviour to become the Church’s substitute in meeting the pains of death for the sins that she had committed.  It was not

the triumph of the prince of darkness, but the display of his defeat.  Satan had had to meet, not men captive in his power in the first Adam, but the Captain of our salvation.  “Through death he destroyed him who had the power of death,” Heb. 2:14.

The resurrection shone upon the world, like the rising of the sun.  Faith alone beheld it, the faith of those whose eyes were opened to see the great and sure result of that combat, the consequences of God’s judgment.  The victory was gained by Christ alone; but the Church, as the object of it, participates in all its results.   She is blessed with Christ; she is the companion of His glory, the co-heritor of all the promises.

Buried and Risen with Him

Now the saints are also looked at as risen with Christ, living before the Father in the life of Christ.  They are chastised by the Father (who loves them perfectly as He loves the Son Himself) when they turn aside from the ways which please Him.  But if we have been raised with Christ, it is because we were dead in our sins. The doctrine of our entire misery, our complete fall, flows from, and (so to speak) springs out of, this truth.

We are buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. The Spirit continues, “Were dead in sins , hath he quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” Eph. 2:5, 6.   The saints, then, are regarded by God as risen with Christ, and  perfectly justified from all their sins.

As a consequence, we share in the righteousness of God, being quickened with the life in which Christ was raised from the dead, coming up out of the grave, all our trespasses forgiven.   So we partake of that life, in the power of Christ risen.

We acknowledge the grace that redeemed us, and are convinced that our life is not of us but of God. It is in the power of life that we seek the things which are above, things that are both in and belong to Christ.   Our affections are towards God, and we are truly sanctified, the old man being judged as dead, because Christ has died on account of it.

We cannot rightly estimate sin but by the resurrection, and for this reason, it is the doctrine of the resurrection, and of our being raised with Christ, which teaches us that we were dead in sin.  Otherwise it might be be a message of healing, or an amelioration of man such as he is.

Sonship

Another consequence is the feeling of the favour of God attached to the idea of being a son: “the grace in which we stand(Rom. 5:2).  Having entered by the cross, we stand in the favour of God in the holy place.   having received not the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15).  Our participation in the resurrection is our being born of God.  As delivered, we stand before God as His children, accepted and holy. Love is manifested towards us in that we are in Him.   As sons we have been purified from sin and joyously clothed with the righteousness.  We have become children of God, not servants.

The Church United to Christ

The resurrection of Christ is the firstfruits, that of the saints the harvest. There is an intimate connection between the resurrection of the saints and the resurrection of Christ, on account of the union of the Church with Him, because of the one Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ, and which dwells in Him and in all the members of His body.

The actual resurrection belongs to the saints.  It is a full result, of their union with Christ.   It is not as a preliminary to our judgment; indeed Christ has already been judged for them and suffered the penalty of all our sins.

Jesus said, “I will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).  This is the judgment of the Church at the return of Christ. We will be manifested before His judgment seat, but we have been glorified already.

Two Resurrections – the Living and the Dead

The resurrection of the Church as entirely distinct from the resurrection of the wicked.  As well as being separated by 1000 years, these two resurrections are as different, in their objects and character, as in the persons who will take part in them.  The first resurrection, the redemption of the body, applies to our bodies in the power of the life of Christ who saved us, in order to accomplish His word, toward us.  The other demonstrates the vindication of His glory in judgment, and the exercise of the justice of the living God against all those who have sinned.

Martha did not understand this truth when she said,  “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  (John 11:24).  She had faith, and had learned this much.  She was not a Sadducee.  This is the faith of the Church generally.   However the same thing might also be said of the most wicked man, rising after the millennium.  “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?(v.23-27).   She made a good confession: all those who are saved believe it.  But here, in fact, the faith of the greatest part of the Church stops.  “I am the resurrection and the life” was too deep for her; her heart was not at ease in the company of Jesus speaking thus.   Mary was different.  She had sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word.  She understood what had proceeded from the heart of Jesus and was more capable of maintaining communion with Him.

Darby’s Prayer for the Church

Poor Church — yes, poor every one of us! May the love of Jesus shine upon you!

If the Church is weak, strengthen her; if she has turned aside, O God, she loves Thee. Bring her, O bring her back to Thyself, even to Thyself — her blessedness and her joy, her eternal joy, her Saviour, and her strength. Bring her near to Thee. Where can she find that which shall renew her strength, if not in Thee, who art the resurrection and the life?

Darby’s Word to the Christian

Christian, do you know the power of the resurrection of Christ?   Are your thoughts those of one who is risen with Him, set on things above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God?  (Col 3:2).  Is your salvation a thing accomplished for your soul, so that in the perfect confidence of a new life before God, you can, under the conduct of the good Shepherd, as sheep known of the Lord, go in and out and find good pasture in the fields of His delight?   Are you, as being raised up with Him, dead to sin, dead to the pleasures, to the greatness, to the fading glory of the world which crucified the Lord of glory?   Do the things of the world exercise no longer an influence over your thoughts — over your life; those things which, as far as man was concerned, caused the death of Jesus?   Do you not desire to be something in the world?   Ah! you do not hold yourselves for dead. The darkness which surrounded the cross is still upon your hearts.  You do not breathe the fresh air of the resurrection of Jesus, of the presence of your God.  Oh! dull and senseless people of God — people ignorant of your real treasures, of your real liberty!   Yes, to be alive with Christ is to be dead to all that the flesh desires.

But if the risen life of Christ, the joy of the light of His presence, the divine and tender love of which Jesus is the expression and the object, beam on you, mortify your members which are upon the earth.  Friendship of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).   Christian, do you believe this?

Christian, Christian, death has written its sentence on all things here: by cherishing them you only fill his hand.   The resurrection of Christ gives you a right to bury them, and to bury death itself with them in the grave, the grave of Christ; that “whether we live, we may live unto God,” (Rom 14:8) and become inheritors with Him in a new life of all the promises.   Remember, that, if you are saved, you are risen with Christ.  May He, from whom all grace and every perfect gift proceed, grant you this!