J N Darby – French Letter No. 110 – Sad News of a Wayward Brother

December 1873

To Mr P

Very dear Brother,

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

… He was, and I have said this to him, entirely under the influence of this guilty inclination, fallen in heart, if not in body. And when one is thus, in a state of folly and bondage: one deceives oneself, one knows it, and one deceives oneself still. And nothing astonishes me about what has created this state. Look at the beginning of the book of Proverbs; see the epistle to the Corinthians, and how the apostle goes over this point. I do not say that our brother’s soul will not be restored, but I do not know if he has recognised all his prevarication, and how he seeks to avoid the accusations, while doing evil; but once in a fault, with the reputation of Christian and minister, one is guilty of all. This is not hypocrisy, it is the deceitfulness of the flesh. It is a state of soul in those who judge and I do not believe can be the fruit of the Spirit of the Lord. To judge the act, the evil, the loss of truthfulness, everything natural is in the state where this poor friend was, is all very well. But to judge evil as severely as it deserves, is something else than to say that the one who does evil is hypocritical. I fear that he is not bottomed as he must. But there is little spiritual power to restore among the brethren. For there has been among them a very strong reaction following the great confidence they had in him. They feel wounded in their affection, their confidence betrayed. In this I sympathise with them, but their spiritual judgment will have had to rise above the inward wounds of heart. I understand them; but personal regret, however just it may be, does not suit a judge, and in this case they are in the position of judges. However, it is time that the same things are severely smitten … What heartbreak, what a humiliation, what a disgrace it is to the Lord! I am surprised at His goodness, I may say, in not judging, because if God does not keep us, we are all capable of doing this too; but it gives us to think much of the danger in which the Lord’s workmen are, and particularly when, by having superior light, they are put forward. My consolation is that the Lord manifests His government here: it is a sorrowful way to learn but the thing that one learns is very precious.

Pinkerton[2] has found much encouragement; he is now in Syria; he has imported with him a press to print tracts in Arabic; a local person is able to work with him. I have blessed God indeed. In Haifa also, he has found opened doors, this will also tend to enlarge the brethren’s horizon, although it is in a certain sense still within the kingdom.

Everywhere here where Christ is fully announced one finds a numerous and attentive audience, souls everywhere are famished. The Nationalists[3] have been compelled to begin a kind of mission in the churches, which has equally attracted a lot of the world. The floods of evil rise, but evidently God works; the Lord is waited for more. There must be much to encourage in the work here, for one can only suffer here; but He who does all will do His work …

 

Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.

Darby on Romans 7 – Released from the Law

That law as applied to the inward man.
That in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing (18)
That the old man has died so we can say, ‘When we were in the flesh’ (5).
That it is not I; (because I hate sin having being renewed); It is then sin in me
That it is too strong for me.
So I stop trying to be better, and look for a Deliverer instead. The Deliverer is Jesus. Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

RomeIn Romans 7 we have the distinction between a soul under law, and a soul in life with a risen Christ. We have the soul’s experience being quickened and renewed in its desires and delights, but not knowing deliverance. It does not understand that it has died with Christ, and is now connected with another – Christ risen from the dead. The description of the deliverance follows, and we have the condition of the delivered soul in Romans 8.

Having been crucified with Christ, we are free from law. The law has power over a man as long as he lives. This is illustrated by the case of marriage, and the law or bond of husband and wife, which lasts evidently as long as one lives, and no longer; the survivor is free to be to another when the other is dead.

We are delivered, being dead to the law, by the body of Christ. (See v.4). Death puts an end to our legal obligations, but of course we have not died actually: Christ has died for us.   Now we are united to Him in resurrection, so we can bear fruit to God in the power of life.

Because Christ has died, we do not stand before God as Adam’s children. We can therefore say, ‘when we were in the flesh’ (v.5); clearly we could not say that if we were still in it. When we were in the flesh, and hence the law, our sinful acts brought forth fruit unto death. If a child is told that something is forbidden, he or she is apt to desire it even more. A disobedient child only pushes harder against the obstacle opposed to him. This leads to actual sin unto death.

Romans 6 gave us the doctrine of our old man being crucified with Christ. Romans 7 gives are connection as children of Adam with law and our But deliverance from it. As life in which we were connected with the law has ended, the bond which attached us to that life does not exist any more. Instead, we are connected with a risen Christ, serving in the newness of spirit, not in the legal oldness of letter. We cannot have two husbands at once.   Christ, not the law, is now our life and husband, and we have power to bring forth fruit to God, something that the sinful flesh could never have. We just cannot have the law and Christ together.

The law does not condemn our nature or treat us as lost, but it does make us conscious of our state – what we are. Was it the fault of the law, that sin had dominion over us? No, it was sin and lust, and these things were condemned by the law. Sin deceived us, and killed us. The law said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ (v. 9) We may not be criminals – we have not murdered, stolen, or committed adultery; but who of us has never lusted, or coveted? If we claimed not to have lusted, we would be saying that we were not children of Adam. It is important to stress that we are not speaking of sinful acts, but of our sinful state; not forgiveness of sins, but of deliverance from sin. It is not what we have done, but what we are. We discover the sinful source in us – that there is no good there – a humbling discovery! We cannot make a child of Adam good, he has to be born again.

Because of the law, we have the knowledge of sin: without it, sin was dead. When the commandment came, I felt my guilt, and death came upon my conscience. I was a living child of Adam, unconscious of sin, but when the law of God forbade lust, my conscience was affected, and I died under its judgment. Whereas the law said to me, ‘Do this and thou shalt live’ (Luke 10:28), I took up the law, thinking I had power to be good and righteous by it. I could not, as sin showed itself to be in opposition to, and in transgression of, God’s holy, just, and good will. So the law killed me.

We now have the expression ‘οἴδαμεν γὰρ – We know’ (v.14). This is a technical expression for the Christian’s knowledge. I have learnt:

  1. That law as applied to the inward man.
  2. That in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing (18)
  3. That the old man has died so we can say, ‘When we were in the flesh’ (5).
  4. That it is not I; (because I hate sin having being renewed); It is then sin in me
  5. That it is too strong for me.

I cannot do what I want to do – indeed, I do not know how to do it. I desire to do what is right, but good never comes. That is not the Christian state.

But I have light from God. The law is spiritual but I am carnal, a slave to (or sold under) sin. I consent to the law that it is good; I have knowledge of sin, but I do what I hate.

But, thank God for His grace: I have a new man, a new life, and I can treat sin as a stranger, even though it dwells in me. Now the renewed man comes out – the positive will to do good – I delight in the law of God in the inner man – that is more than consent. But still I have no power: I cannot do good. There is another law in my members, a constantly operating power of evil bringing me into captivity, even though against my will.

Poor wretched man! But (immense advantage) I know it. I know my real state: I know there is no good in my flesh, and that I have no power. I am just like the poor man at the pool of Bethesda: he desired to be healed, but did not have the strength to get healed. (See John 5). So I stop trying to be better, and look for a Deliverer instead. The Deliverer is Jesus. Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The difference in me is immense. The power of the flesh has broken, and I have no thought of being in the flesh before God. Even though the evil flesh is still there, I am not in Romans 7 any longer. Christ has set me free. ‘So, then, I myself with the mind serve the law of God; with the flesh, the law of sin(v.25). This leads me to Rom 8:1, ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’ Romans 8 develops this further.

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

Darby on Romans 6 – Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Walking in the path of obedience to Him, the soul is delivered evil – will and lust – which is not obedience. We grow in the knowledge of God and in intimacy with Him. We cannot do this in our own will. But we live more in His things, and that is holiness: that is more than obedience. But that is the gift of God. The path to it is the path of obedience and holiness, but itself is the gift of God. Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The gift of God is nothing less than eternal life. God gives it to us.

RomeIn Romans 6 we have the practical consequence of deliverance from sin. in the first part of the epistle (Rom. 1:18; to 5:11) we read nothing as to practical conduct. The guilty sinner is cleared, but nothing is said as to our consequential conduct. The conclusion of Romans 5 is that by one Man’s obedience we have been made righteous, and that, by having part in Christ’s death, we have part in this righteousness.

But having part in death (that is, dying) is, of course, not the way to live. How shall we who are dead to sin live in it any longer?  By our profession of Christianity, we are baptised unto His death, the old man being judged and crucified. Now as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father (God’s power), so our life is to be a new resurrected one.

Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin’ (v.6). This means that sin as a whole is annulled or rendered powerless: it has closed its existence. ‘He that is dead is justified from sin’ (v.7). Here it is not here sins or guilt: a dead man may have to answer for his sins, but he cannot sin: he does not have evil lusts nor a perverse will. However for us, the power of death has been destroyed by the resurrection of Christ. He came to take our place as sinners and deal with the question of sin: He died to sin, once for all. On the cross sin was the question – He was made sin. Now He is risen; He dies no more; death does not have dominion any longer. Now He lives and lives to God, sin having been done with for ever, to the glory of God

In His life down here Jesus served God perfectly. He lived by the Father, having Him always before His mind. Before He died on the cross, He had to do with sin – though He was sinless.   Sin was all around Him: it grieved Him; He was a Man of sorrows because of it, and He had to be made sin for us. In love He manifested God; as Man come to do God’s will, when fully proved to be the sinless One Himself – who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). But now He has done with it for ever. Now He is risen into a new state as Man: in thought, object, and life, He lives to God. Now everything serves God’s glory. Though the flesh is always the same, the life of Jesus is manifested in our bodies (see 2 Cor 4:10). This is what the true Christian state is.

So we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God through Him, our old man being crucified with Him. We are not physically dead, but have a new and free life, alive to God, not through Adam, but through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is not that we never sin or lust; but we do not let sin obey its lust: we walk in the power of a new life. Instead of being slaves to sin, we hold the reins, and yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Sin does not have dominion over us any longer, because we are not under law, but under grace. Being under law leaves us under the dominion of sin. What we need is freedom from the bondage of sin; for the law forbids sins, but gives us neither the life nor power to obey it. But under grace we have the power, sin having no dominion over us. The power comes from on high, so we are set really free, and can give ourselves to God willingly and freely. Shall we sin because we are not under a law which forbids it, and which curses us if I do it? God forbid!

Now Paul returns to the Gentile condition. If we yield ourselves to sin, we are its slaves. Even without law, death and the consequent judgment of God, were the appointed wages of sin.   But now we are alive to God, and that must involve obedience. Christ was the obedient Man: His Father’s will was the motive of everything He did. He lived by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. (See Deut 8:3). His path was practical righteousness, and He was the pattern of it. So the apostle thanks God that, whereas they had been slaves of sin, they had obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine that had been delivered to them (v.17).

It is the obedience of faith. As we receive the word of God into our hearts, we are linked with the life-giving God. It is the true life of Christ, the obedient Man. As free from sin, we yield ourselves to obey, becoming ‘slaves’ to righteousness. [Note that JND uses the word ‘slave’ here, whereas in the Darby Bible he uses the word ‘bondman’. A ‘slave’ is someone bought and owned by another. A ‘bondman’ on the other hand, is someone who was a slave, been given the opportunity for freedom, and has decided to remain for life in the service of their Master.]* Hence it is true liberty: we were fruitlessly wasting our members as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness. Now we freely yield our members to be slaves to righteousness. The blessed result is holiness, our hearts separated to God, knowing Him, the soul brought into His image. ‘And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him’ (Col 3:10).

This is the general doctrine: Christ having died, we reckon ourselves dead as if we had died. We have died – we have been crucified with Him, and, as Christians, we do not consider the flesh to be alive any more. I speak of all that has happened to Christ as if it had happened to me, because He is become my life, and I live by Him. I am a son whose father had not only paid his debts, but made him a partner in a business. He speaks of ‘our capital, our connections,’ though the son brought nothing into the business, everything having been done and acquired beforehand. We have therefore a living association with the Lord. It is neither ascension, nor union, nor resurrection with Him, but the death of the old man, and a new life in Christ with freedom from being slaves to sin. This is the full answer to the allegation that, having righteousness in Him, we have license to sin. Instead of sin reigning in our mortal bodies, having dominion over us, we enjoy subsisting power.

Walking in the path of obedience to Him, the soul is delivered evil – will and lust – which is not obedience. We grow in the knowledge of God and in intimacy with Him. We cannot do this in our own will. But we live more in His things, and that is holiness: that is more than obedience. But that is the gift of God. The path to it is the path of obedience and holiness, but itself is the gift of God. Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The gift of God is nothing less than eternal life. God gives it to us.

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

* Acknowledgments to ‘Underground Theologian’ http://theologicalmuse.christianblogsites.com/blog/post/2009/04/24/slave-or-bond-servant

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.

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Exodus

In Exodus we find God visiting His people; redemption, and the establishment of relationships with His people. These relationships are presented in the testing of law, and the arrangements of grace.

lay-preachingIn Exodus we find God visiting His people; redemption, and the establishment of relationships with His people.  These relationships are presented in the testing of law, and the arrangements of grace.   God bears with His people, with the distinct purpose of dwelling with them, and making them dwell in a place He had prepared for them.   There are four immense principles – redemption, bringing to God, God’s dwelling among them, and consequently holiness.   Priesthood is established to maintain the relationship with God, when the people cannot be in immediate relation.   Connected with all this you have, the judgment of the world, and the final deliverance of the earthly people.  With Moses, the man of grace, you have Zipporah, who represents the church, whereas the people are witnesses of Christ’s abiding connection with Israel.

From the Red Sea to Sinai we find the whole picture of God’s dealings in grace in Christ by the Spirit on to the millennium, and the millennium itself.

In chapter 19 the people put themselves under law, and get law instead of worship founded on deliverance and grace.

Lightly edited by Sosthenes, May 2014

The Love of God 1 John 4:9 
by J. N. Darby

God presents what He is to men, so we know that He is holy, righteous and love. He is love, and love draws me. Love is the divine nature.

I need to be separate from evil: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14). It is not said, ‘He is holiness’. Indeed I as a sinner would be repelled by mere holiness. He is holy. He is just, and He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. (Hab 1:13) He may be the God of judgment, but He blesses His own so that they might be eternally happy in holiness, for He is holy love.

A summary by Sosthenes

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

God presents what He is to men, so we know that He is holy, righteous and love.  He is love, and love draws me.  Love is the divine nature.

I need to be separate from evil:  “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14).  It is not said, ‘He is holiness’.  Indeed I as a sinner would be repelled by mere holiness.  He is holy. He is just, and He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity(Hab 1:13)  He may be the God of judgment, but He blesses His own so that they might be eternally happy in holiness, for He is holy love.

Whatever our state may be, God is perfect in His love, and He would make us learn, enjoy and walk in it now, not when we get to heaven.

Our selfish, unbelieving nature hinders us down here, but this only serves to magnify God’s grace and love.  In spite of all, He brings us to the knowledge of perfect love because “Perfect love casteth out fear, for fear hath torment” (v.18).   If, when thinking of God, we fear, we have torment.  That is the conscience.   Man may seek to bury his conscience, but only succeeds in hardening it.

If we seek peace in ordinances, it is not love but fear. The effect of true ministry is to put the soul in direct contact with God.  False ministry brings in something between the soul and God.

The soul must have the blessed consciousness of perfect peace with God.  God brings you into the joy of His perfect love in His presence; “Who shall separate us? … More than conquerors.” (Rom. 8:35)

The family character of the children of God is light and love.  It is God’s nature, and seen in both in Christ and in all God’s children.  I must have the new nature to know this; but how do I get it?  Where is it found?  In Jesus Christ Himself, image of the invisible God. (Col 1:15).   In Christ I find a perfect manifestation of His love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us(v10).

There is no mention of anything required of us, but the simple fact of what we were “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1)

Though He is a God of judgment, He brought out the means of our approach: through Christ’s sacrifice.  Abel’s faith testified how man was to approach to God, so from Abel downwards God showed mercy.

Man as man refuses to come to God “none righteous.”  (Rom. 3:10) When Christ comes, it is another thing altogether.  God now approaches man in grace; not man approaching God.  He visited men in their sins, “that they might live through him.” (v.9)  All around was darkness, degradation, and idolatry. God took them out of that condition that they might live through Christ. “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  (1 John 5:10). Thus we are brought into His presence.

We live through His only-begotten Son. He is bringing us into His presence, before the One in whom all His delight was from eternity.  It is the eternal enjoyment of it to know eternal life in the Son; but down here we often question it, because we do not see this love in us. He is “a propitiation for our sins.(1 John 2:2)

God has loved me not only when I wanted it, but because His knew what I wanted.  He has not mistaken my case; Christ on the cross made the propitiation for my sins.  So I can say, “Herein is love.” (v.10)  I have found God, and my soul rests there. The cloud has been taken away for ever. If you say, ‘I have committed such and such a sin’; I answer, ‘It is for the sins you had or still have that Christ died; for He died for your sins.’

He cannot bear sin, and therefore He must put the sinner in his sins away, because He cannot bear the sins.  I learn to judge sin according to God, because I am brought into the light.  I find many sins in myself. He is the propitiation for my sins. I believe this, and then I enter into communion with Him. Why do I find fear and torment when I find sin in myself?   Can I not trust that love?  Have I not believed the love God has towards me?

God does not expect fruit from man, but His grace produces fruit.  We should feel sin, and know it has been blotted out.  We are told that  “The glory thou hast given me I have given them, that the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:24)  “There is no fear in love.” (v.18).   It is a matter of communion and we live through Him. “… Perfect love casteth out fear.”

I am not honouring God, if I do not trust the work of Christ in love on the cross.  I come to Him just as I am, and then I know God.  He enables me to trust in blood of Jesus Christ His Son – the perfectness of His work in putting away sin.

 

The Righteousness of God

counter the belief, which was taught at that time that Christ became our righteousness, that is that what was due under the law from us, He took on himself. Hence He would help us walk in according to the same law here if we are to follow Him.

A Summary by Sosthenes of a Paper by John Nelson Darby

For the original paper click here – JND Collected Writings Vol 7 (Doctrinal 2)

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

In this paper Darby sought to counter the belief, which was taught at that time that Christ became our righteousness, that is that what was due under the law from us, He took on himself.  Hence He would help us walk in according to the same law here if we are to follow Him.  Personally, I have not heard this taught, nor do I know where it is still taught, but any tendency for Christians to place themselves under a legal obligation must have its root in this unscriptural teaching.  There is that favourite Easter hymn ‘There is a green hill far away’.  It goes on ‘He died to make us good’  and ‘try his works to do’.  Oh dear!

Is the righteousness of God legal righteousness?

We should bless God that Christ is our righteousness and that by His obedience we are made righteous.  It is the settled peace of our souls.

There are three stages of sin: lust, willful lawlessness (or transgression), and hatred of God. In sovereign grace Christ was made sin for me, and died to put me in a wholly new position.   He is the heavenly Man; He is my righteousness and He has set me in the righteousness of God, seated in heavenly places in Him.  Christ was the root and spring in life of the redeemed race. We are united to Christ in His new position, where He is the righteous man at the right hand of God.  The first is wholly set aside, judged, condemned, and dead.  “I am dead to the law, by the body of Christ, being married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.” (Rom 7:4)

If, as sinful creatures, we were under the law of righteousness, we could only be condemned. “Do this and live” (Luke 10:28) is not written on the gate of heaven.  It was written on Sinai, which is not the gate of heaven.

Judaism was flesh under law, and flesh was judged.   This was what judgment was  pronounced on.  It is a mistake if I look to legal obedience, the law reaches the disposition and condition of my heart, when spiritually apprehended.  It does not only say, ‘Do’, but ‘Be’.  If I say ‘Love and do not lust’ (the two aspects of the law), righteousness is taken out of the sphere of doing.  Doing becomes evidence of my state and nature.

The Error of Substituted Righteousness

I know of no scripture which says that a doer of the law was entitled to heaven, or which promises heaven to a doer of the law.

The error put out by a Mr Molyneaux, which JND sought to counter went along the following lines:

No man can enter into the kingdom of heaven unless he is garbed in a perfect robe of righteousness.  Over the gate of heaven is written, Do this and live.  Though a man is cleansed from his sin in the blood of Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit of God, He cannot go to heaven on that basis.  He needs something more still; he must have a perfect obedience. Heaven is suspended on a perfect obedience, God said to Adam, ‘Do this and live.’ He failed. You must present a perfect obedience when you come to God. It is the active righteousness of Christ; it is not His sufferings — that blots out sin; it is not His Spirit — that sanctifies the heart; but it is His perfect righteousness.  ‘By his obedience shall my righteous servant justify many’. (Isa 53:11, misquoted)  The wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ… To enter into heaven legal righteousness is absolutely required.  It may have been very gracious of the Lord to have righteousness provided it for me, but it had to be done.

This doctrine (no doubt unintentionally) denies the extent of sin and the true character of redemption.  Nor is Christ’s righteousness a scriptural expression, though no Christian doubts He was perfectly righteous.  Law is perfect in its place.

Calvin goes a step farther: I understand, by the righteousness of God, that which can be approved before the tribunal of God; as, on the contrary, men are accustomed to the righteousness of men, what is held and esteemed righteousness in the opinion of men (Rom. 1;  2 Cor. 5) – (I cannot find this quote – Sosthenes).   His statement is very poor. He implies that to come short of the glory of God means that we can glory before God in the same shortness.  In Romans 10 he makes the righteousness of God that which God gives, and our own righteousness, that which is sought from man.

The great evil of the whole scheme is, that it is a righteousness demanded of man as born of Adam, though another may furnish it. The thing furnished is man’s righteousness. If Christ has done it for me, it is still what I ought to have done. It is meeting the demand on me — ‘Do this and live’.

The Truth of God’s Righteousness

The righteousness of faith is contrasted with that of law.  The law says ‘Do this and live’.   I do not accept the principle that the requirements of righteousness have been met by another, but righteousness on another principle altogether.   But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise . . . that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Rom 10:9).

The first Adam, the flesh, is thoroughly and wholly condemned.  God looks for nothing from the first.   Another, the last, Adam is set up — the Second Man.

To make this clearer — there are two ways I can consider the relationship between God and man.  I may take the counsels of God and begin with them. This is Ephesians. Or I may take the actual state of men as responsible children of Adam, and show how grace meets this state – this is Romans.  Romans and Ephesians confirm one another, but from a different point of view.

Ephesians

When I read in Ephesians of the counsels of God, I find nothing of the law at all.  All is God’s work, and all is in Christ.   Man is found dead in sin.  All is God’s work from beginning to end. Christ is seen — in order to bring about this blessed counsel in grace — dead; and we, as dead in sin, are brought back to God with and in Him, according to these counsels.

Romans

In Romans we have the ways of God in His moral government met by grace.  Man is proved to be dead, dying under the effects of sin and his moral condition as a living responsible being.  He is a child of the first Adam, a sinner who has ruined himself, and his responsibility is met by grace.  The curse is taken by another; it is not met by another fulfilling it.

I must have righteousness; but I am not under law.  If righteousness came by law, Christ died in vain.   I am crucified with Him; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me(Gal 2:20).   As regards walk, If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under law (Gal 5:8).   If we are led of the Spirit, we are going right, but we are not under law. We are not children of the bondwoman.

This is the view taken in the Romans — If I build law after Christ, I am a transgressor.  But I through law, am dead to law (i.e., not bound to it), that I might live unto God (which no one under law ever did: it is weak through the flesh); for by works of law shall no flesh be justified, be he Jew, or Christian, or who he may, or whoever may do them.  See Rom 3:20

Imputed Righteousness

A believer in Christ is justified through faith – he is reckoned righteous. He has Imputed righteousness.  However it is not the value or strength of his faith which is accounted as righteousness and then imputed.  Yet righteousness will be imputed if we believe.  Abraham was accounted, and we are accounted, righteousness on the ground of believing.  That is the meaning of imputed righteousness.  It is not a substantive righteousness, apart from the person, and afterwards reckoned to him, but the condition of the person in God’s sight. God views him as righteous, though nothing entitles him to it inherently.  It is righteousness reckoned to him, in his standing before God. Hence it is imputed or reckoned.

It is not merely that God does not impute the sin done, but he does not view the believer as in sin, but as in righteousness.  It is not a question of innocence.  The Greek word is not dikaioma (δικαίωμα, Strong 1345,  an act of righteousness), when imputed righteousness is spoken of, but dikaiosune (δικαιοσύνη, Strong 1343,  God’s judicial approval) — not an act or sum of things done, but a state.  He is reckoned to be in the state of dikaiosune: dikaiosune is imputed to him.

The Quality of Righteousness

The Epistle to the Romans places the individual on the ground of righteousness, and shows us liberty in life, but it does not reach the union of the body with Christ.   All the world is guilty before God, but grace meets this.   In Romans, I find the responsible man in flesh proved guilty, not dead; but with no remedy for his condition. So death is brought in, providing righteousness: God’s, not man’s.  God’s righteousness has its character, quality, and source from God, not from man.

It is not “the righteousness of God”, which is spoken of, but “righteousness of God” — the quality of righteousness.  It must first be found in God Himself; or it would not have that essential quality.  As a result, we are created in true righteousness and holiness, as to the new man, after God.

God’s Righteousness by Faith

How and why are we accounted righteous?  It is the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe (Rom 3:22) – Jew or GentileWe are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (v.24-25).  It is plain: God who knew everything, is righteous in remitting the sins of the Old Testament believers, to whom He exercised forbearance, because of the blood of Jesus.

Our Standing

We stand in a known revealed righteousness, not in hope of forbearance, great as the mercy that we have received may be.   God is just and the justifier.  Here there is an all-important principle: the righteousness of God means just that: God’s own righteousness — He is just.  It is not man’s, or any other positive righteousness made up of legal merit.

In His Blood

The righteousness of God is declared or manifested by virtue of the blood of Christ. God is righteous in forgiving and justifying; witness the former saints, who were borne with before His blood was shed.  We appreciate it now by faith; we are justified by his blood. (Rom 5:9) Man is a sinner, without law and under law.  Now, entirely apart from law (choris nomou, χωρὶς νόμου Strong 5655, 3551), God’s righteousness is displayed in justifying the believer through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and through faith in His propitiating blood.  God is righteous and justifies those who believe in Jesus.  We understand that God’s righteousness is the quality or character that is in God Himself.  We are justified by His grace, through redemption, and righteousness is declared in God’s act of remission.

The Doctrine of Resurrection

Justification by His blood is not all.  A very important part of Romans remains — the doctrine of resurrection.   He was raised again for our justification, as He was delivered for our offences.  How is righteousness set forth?  In the resurrection of Christ.  But there is more: God has shown His righteousness in setting Christ as Man at His right hand.   Christ had a title to be there, and He is there.  Righteousness is in heaven. He demonstrates righteousness to the world “because I go to my Father.” (John 16:10)

Christ is our life, and we have received a nature which in itself is sinless.  Looked at as born of God, we cannot sin because we are born of God.  It is a life holy in itself, as born of Him.  But we also have the flesh, though we are not in it, and even though we have this new life, we do not meet the just demands of God.  If we should pretend to present the deeds done in the body, we cannot fulfill our responsibility before God.  That is, we do not have righteousness by being born again.  We need, and have, a perfect righteousness apart from our life, though in Him who is our life.  Christ is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. (1 Cor 1:30) We cannot have settled peace any other way.  We are accepted in Christ – His perfection, with no diminution of its value. God delighted in His obedience, and we are received in that.   What we have done as children of Adam, He took on the cross in grace, and entirely put it away.  And this is our acceptance with God.  It is needed for us, for otherwise we have no righteousness.  For us it is a joy, because we enter, as objects of His grace, into the immediate delight that God has in His own Son.

Abraham believed that God was able to perform what He had promised.  We believe that God has raised up our Lord Jesus from the dead, and therefore, like Abraham, our faith is reckoned for righteousness.

The first Adam is set aside. I am not in the flesh (in the state to which the law applies).  I have an entirely new status before God in resurrection, by virtue of the work of Christ. The risen Christ is the pattern and character of my acceptance, as He is the cause of it.  As He is, so am I in this world. (1 John 4:17)

I Fail

Even though I am not under law, have I not neglected duty?  Yes, but this has been atoned for.   My responsibility is not to make good the failures of the old or first Adam: I am wholly out of that.  In absolute and perfect acceptance in the second before God, I am called to yield myself to God as one that is alive from the dead.  The old thing is gone — atoned for.

I should serve, not in the oldness of letter, but in newness of spirit.  Instead of satisfying the requirements the law in my old condition under law, I am passed out of it.  Christ has borne the curse that I merited.  I have  passed into another condition — Christ’s — before God, as one alive to God through Him, God having been perfectly glorified.

The Doctrine of Romans 5-8

This is the doctrine of Romans 5, 6 and 7, founded on chapter 4, and the results fully developed in chapter 8.  Chapter 5 applies resurrection to justification, founded on His death.  Chapter 6 applies resurrection to life.  You are justified because you are dead, and have now to walk in newness of life. How can a man dead to sin still live in it?   If he does, he is not dead.

Law has dominion over a man as long as he lives.   But we are not alive; we are dead.  In a word, Christ is alive for me before God, and I am justified, but as having died; and thus I have a place in this blessing. Hence I am dead to sin, and no longer alive in the nature to which law applied.  Therefore, Paul says, in Romans 7:5,When we were in the flesh.”  I am married to another, I cannot have two husbands at a time — Christ and law.  But, if under law, I have died under it in the body of Christ, and I am free. Through law, I am dead to law.

Law is for the first Adam, for the unrighteous.  Righteousness is in the Second man.  The law is righteous, but it was given to sinners when in their sins, and never as a law to anybody else. The law imposed the rule. “Thou shalt love” (Deut. 6:5).  That is a transcript of the divine mind – It loves sovereignly.  Christ here was love, and was perfect in holiness — holy enough in His being to love sinners as above sin, and further — what law cannot do – to give Himself up for sinners.

We are to be “imitators of God as dear children” (Eph 5:1) — “to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16).   The law knows nothing about this, and law teachers strive against the whole doctrine of Paul, and the righteousness of God.

Where, then, and what is the righteousness of God? God’s righteousness is His perfect consistency with His own perfect and blessed nature.

March 2014