Moral Law – an unscriptural Expression

People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression. They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV). They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity. The Christian has been delivered from the law.

There are expressions which are used by Christians, which as well as being unscriptural, convey a meaning which is also contrary to the truth as presented in scripture.   One of these is ‘moral law’.

People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression.  They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV).  They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity.  The Christian has been delivered from the law.

Christians under a so-called ‘moral law’ have set aside Paul’s teaching.  They show a semblance of piety, but are effectively seeking to be justified by works.  Even if the works were good ones, they are under a curse. (see Gal 3:10).  A Christian, being of a fallen race, finds himself ruined by the law, deceived by it to his own sorrow.  The law knows no mercy.  He is spiritually dead.

Paul found that experimentally.  Paul saw that the law condemned lust.  So, because he lusted he was self-condemned.   Lust was in his nature.  The law claimed absolute obedience to God, but he found he did not have the power to keep it.  He wanted to do what was right but couldn’t.  In short, he coveted, and thus broke the law.  What was ordained to life, he found to be to death (see Rom 7:10).

 

Christ and the Law

God gave the promise to Abraham.  The law was given later.  If the law could have given life, righteousness could have been by the law.   But the law did not give either the motive or the power to do right.  That is why in Galatians the law is treated as a schoolmaster.  The law condemns sins.  More than that, it condemns sin.

In Romans 7 Paul insisted that one cannot have two husbands at the same time.  A Christian cannot cannot be under obligation to both Christ and the law.  A Christian is ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ(Rom 7:4).   If he (or she) is dead, he is no longer under the law.  ,  ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom 6:14).

Somebody might say, ‘Yes; but the flesh is still there, so I need the law, not to put away sin, but that it might not have dominion.’  That is false – The Christian is to be consciously dead in Christ.  If a person is dead, he is beyond the reach of law by death.  The Christian has died with Christ and is resurrection: he is in newness of life – in Christ, not Adam.

I am ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ’ (Rom 7:4)The death that the law sentenced me to in my conscience has fallen on another — Christ.  Otherwise I would have been left in everlasting misery.  But in love Christ put Himself in my place.  Now I am justified and have a right to reckon myself dead, because Christ has died and has risen again.  I have  received Him into my heart as life: He is really my life.

Godliness is walking with a risen Christ – that is Christian life.   The measure of that walk is Christ, and nothing else.

The Divine Law

A true believer always holds difference between right and wrong, to be an immovable and fixed moral foundation.  It is revealed by God in His word.

The Lord said ‘Keep my commandments’ (John 15:10) and John wrote ‘This is love, that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:2) .   Some are afraid of the word ‘commandment’, as if it would weaken the ideas of love, grace and new creation.  But keeping the commandments and obeying one we love is the proof of our love.   Christ Himself said, ‘I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so I do.’ (John 14:31).   His highest act of love, in dying for us on the cross, was His highest act of obedience.

The Spirit will produce fruits against which there is no law.

  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law’ (Gal 5:22-23.
  • Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love’ (Eph 5:1-2 Darby).
  • Put on therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any should have a complaint against any; even as the Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye. And to all these add love, which is the bond of perfectness’ (Col 3:12-14 Darby).
  • A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)

 

This is a summary of part of letter written by John Nelson Darby.  It is published in Collected Writings Volume 10 (Doctrinal 3) page 1.

This summary covers the first wrong term ‘moral law’.   A subsequent article, will, God willing, cover the second term ‘Christ’s righteousness’.

Sosthenes

December 2016

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

 

 

After the Rapture, the Jewish Remnant – Particularly from the Psalms

The Psalms connect Christ with and Israel, and with the remnant in particular. It would be impossible to enter into the detail of all 150 Psalms here, but what we cannot fail to see is that there is, in the latter day, a godly pious Jewish remnant – tried, oppressed and all but overwhelmed. Jehovah owns and encourages His people and rewards them with Jewish blessings according to promise, Christ having entered into their sorrows and borne their sins. Christ, as Jehovah, comes to judge. The Son of man and King in Zion enters into the temple with all things under His feet, subjecting all the nations to Himself.

 

JohnNelsonDarbyIn the Psalms we have Jehovah’s sympathetic thoughts and feelings for the Jewish remnant. God and God’s purpose regarding Christ, His anointed, ar erevealed.  We see this clearly in the first two psalms.

The Psalms connect Christ with and Israel, and with the remnant in particular.  It would be impossible to enter into the detail of all 150 Psalms here, but what we cannot fail to see is that there is, in the latter day, a godly pious Jewish remnant – tried, oppressed and all but overwhelmed.  Jehovah owns and encourages His people and rewards them with Jewish blessings according to promise, Christ having entered into their sorrows and borne their sins.  Christ, as Jehovah, comes to judge.  The Son of man and King in Zion enters into the temple with all things under His feet, subjecting all the nations to Himself. 

There is much more method than is supposed in the five books of Psalms.   Christ enters in spirit into the remnant’s position.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit arouses godly feelings; at other times He enters personally and sympathetically in grace into their trials.

 

First Book

Psalm 1 distinguishes the righteous person from the rest of nation, thus marking out the remnant morally.  ‘The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous’ (v. 5).  Not only this, the godly righteous Jew, who delights in the law, is promised present blessings.

In Psalm 2, the heathen and Jewish rulers rise in rebellion against Jehovah and His Anointed. Son of God sits upon the throne of Zion, and calls upon the kings and judges of the earth to submit to Him.

In Psalms 3-7 the godly man is under constant attack.  His faith is tested, and the enemy taunts him, beckoning him to desert.  He is in distress as to the wicked and appeals to God, the righteous Judge.  Christ, the true godly one, enters in spirit into all the sorrows of the righteous remnant.  Their deliverance wrought by judgment, because heir blessings and the character of their righteousness are Jewish (which is not the case of the raised or heaven-born saints).  As they wait on God, their cry is heard and they are exhorted to persevere and depend.  The earth is their portion.

Then, in Psalm 8, the remnant own Jehovah their Lord as having made His name excellent in all the earth, while the Son of man, (rejected when He came as Messiah), is given universal dominion.  The result is blessing for Israel when the Son of man takes His place in glory.

In  Psalms 9 and 10, we have the trial and judgment of the last days: the poor and oppressed are not forgotten.  The heathen perishes out of the land (Ps 10:16).

In Psalms 11-15 the thoughts, feelings, and apprehensions of the remnant are further developed. Those walk uprightly, work righteousness, speak truth without backbiting or doing evil to his neighbour will dwell in God’s holy hill (see Ps 15:1-3).

Psalm 16: Christ’s takes His place with the godly remnant, as He did historically when He was baptised with John’s baptism.  God’s delight was in Christ, who surely needed no repentance.  But He says ‘unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight’ (Ps 16:2-3).  That corresponds to the New Testament: ‘Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one’ (Heb 2:11).  In the Psalm, Christ says that he takes the place of a servant to Jehovah (not His divine place).   He follows the path of life, does not see corruption, and finds His eternal joy as Man in God’s presence at the right hand of Jehovah.

In Psalm 17 Christ will behold God’s face in righteousness and be satisfied, awaking up in His likeness, the true eternal image of the invisible God.  (See v. 15).

In Psalm 18 we see what God has done and will do for the people – from their deliverance o from Egypt, to their final deliverance under David.

In Psalm 19 we have the testimony of creation and the law.

Psalm 20:  We have God’s sympathetic help for the remnant.

Psalm 21 Christ’s sorrows and desires culminate in His glory.  His days are for ever and ever as man and right hand finds out all His enemies.   The consequence of His suffering at the hands of man is that He will make His enemies ‘as a fiery oven in the day of His wrath’ (Ps 21:9).

In Psalm 22 we have, not just the sorrows of sorrows from man, but His forsaking by God,  bearing His wrath.  The result is all grace, which He exercises in making known His name to His brethren, and associating the remnant, then all Israel, with Himself in praise   The fruit is unmingled blessing, nothing else.

Psalm 23 shows Jehovah’s faithful shepherd care through every difficulty.  It is now exercised in our favour by Christ- the portion of every believe.  He knows His sheep and is known of them.  Restoration is not exclusively from sin, though He does restore us for that, but from sorrow and oppression of heart.

In Psalm 24, the Lord of Hosts walks with the sheep in grace.  In the last day will take His place in glory in His hill and in the house of Jehovah’s glory.  Both the remnant and the gentiles are brought in.

From this point to the end of Psalm 41 we have every kind of practical exercise which the remnant will be subjected to in joy or sorrow.  But these Psalms always speak of the godly, even when sins are confessed and forgiveness is sought.   Christ gives them confidence: ‘This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him’  (Ps 34:6),

Psalm 25: From here on sins are referred to, and forgiveness; for, after all, the remnant had sins, and Christ took them on Himself.

Psalm 26 is their trial and appeal.

Psalm 27 is their separation from the ungodly.

Psalm 31 reassures the saints.  They have confidence founded on Jehovah’s ways with the poor man.

Psalm 37: The full heart is guided and encouraged by God.  The inheritance of the earth is promised to those blessed of Jehovah.

In Psalm 40 we have the source of all the blessings in the counsels of God.  Christ undertakes to accomplish God’s will.

Psalm 41 speaks of the the poor man.  Christ is the supreme example even in the face of treachery.   What is done to the least of His brethren is done to Him. The Lord God of Israel will accomplish His purposes in blessing.

 

Second Book

psalmsThe remaining four books give the position of the remnant, and the place Christ has taken in relation to the sorrows of the poor and needy.  Jehovah delivers them.  The seed of His servants inherit Zion, and they that love His name dwell there.

In Psalm 45 the Messiah appears, and the remnant’s full deliverance is celebrated at the end of Psalm 48.

Psalm 49 is the world’s instruction by the judgment.  We see the price of redemption.

Psalm 50 gives the general judgment of Israel.

In Psalm 51 we have Israel’s confession of Christ’s death now that their Messiah has appeared.

Psalms 52-72: The people are cast out and the power of Antichrist is established

Psalms 65, 66 & 67 sounds out the praise of God’s deliverance, bursting forth in Zion.  The nations are glad.

In Psalm 68, an ascended Christ is the real secret.

Psalm 69: Christ suffers and ascends up in glory, securing the poor and needy in Zion.

Psalms 70 and 71, whilst speaking of David’s faltering hope, may be applied to the remnant rather than Israel.

Psalm 72 describes the full reign of peace.

 

Third Book

The third book, Psalms 73-89, goes out to all Israel, not simply the Jews, and gives God’s government and His dealings with them.  This goes on till the latter days: the glory and blessing of Zion, and the certainty of mercy by God’s infallible promises.

 

Fourth Book

The fourth book  shows God’s faithfulness to both Israel and the nations.  God’s First-begotten comes into the world.  Christ suffers and Zion is restored.  He is the Eternal Creator in Psalm 102.

 

Fifth Book

In the closing book, the fifth, we have some of the consequences and effects of the bringing back of Israel.   There are explanatory Psalms of the scheme of God such as as Psalm 110, and the law is written on Israel’s heart in Psalm 119.   The Songs of Degrees (Psalms 120 to 134) comment on God’s ways.  The book ends with the praise of God, pursued in view of millennial blessedness.

Such is the testimony of the Psalms.

Note

The name of the Father and the thought of the church do not appear, though He calls the saints brethren (See Ps 22:22).  The Holy Spirit’s work is suggested in the form of gifts in man: Israel will have them in the last day.

 

Summary by Sosthenes

Based on   The Rapture of the Saints and the Character of the Jewish Remnant’ – Collected Writings vol. 11 (Prophetic 4) page 134 

April 2016

 

Our walk here

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

In this short article, based on a lecture by J N Darby entitled,32 p  ‘This one thing’ – Collected Writings vol. 32 (Miscellaneous 1) page 347 ,  he goes over Paul’s experiences from his arrest on the Damascus road till his writing the epistle.  He saw the Lord in glory, and at that point everything that he had trusted in was smashed.

Philippians 3

  • There are two ways in which we may look at the Christian. One is according to the counsels and thoughts of God (Hebrews – in respect to the grace Christ obtains for us as Priest on high)
  • The other as walking in this world (Philippians – down here, and the energy and power of the Spirit of God working in him). Philippians is the book of experience, the Christian on earth.

We have to pass through the world, and there are difficulties in our path.  As we walk in the power of God’s Spirit, we rise above these difficulties.

In Philippians, we have a person entirely above it all the troubles; one who can ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (ch 4:4). Paul had been four years in prison at that time, which must have been very trying, as he could not engage in his missionary service.  He could have reproached himself for going up to Jerusalem, but he remained positive saying, ‘I can rejoice in the Lord always’ (see Phil 4:4).

We know Paul’s early career. He used to have an earthly righteousness, and he boasted in it.  He said, ‘touching the righteousness which was in the law, blameless’ (ch 3:6). But the Lord met him, and he discovered that all that had been gain to him had brought him into open enmity with God.  All that Saul of Tarsus could clothe himself with outwardly, was utterly smashed[1], and he was left to dwell in darkness three days.  During this, he discovered in his own soul what this terrible revelation meant.

Seeing Christ in glory resulted in his setting aside and putting away all that was of man. Whereas the first thing we need as sinners is ‘redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Eph 1:7), with Saul of Tarsus it was different.  His own righteousness had kept him away from God, and that had to be put away.  The upright, honest, law-keeping Pharisee had been full of enmity against God.  Now he learned the end of the first man, not just as a doctrine, but practically.  The best man in the world (best as man goes) was the chief of sinners.  Now he knew what redemption through the blood meant.

The law had required righteousness from man for God, but, nobody had attained it. So it does not say, ‘not having my own sins’, but ‘not having mine own righteousness’ (see ch 3:9).   Paul saw that God would not accept him clothed in the human Adamic robe of his own righteousness..

He needed Christ who appeared to him on the way to Damascus and said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 9:5).’ He saw the Man in the glory – the rejected carpenter’s son.  Paul was totally and entirely condemned.  But he soon learned that Christ had taken the place of everything, and that everything he had counted gain was finished.  He came to that  ‘There is … now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1).  The whole standing of the first man was judged in his soul; and another Man, Christ in glory, would now be for him.

When Paul was writing to the Philippians many years later, it was still a present reality to him – ‘I… do count them but dung’ (Phil 3:8).    Right from his conversion, Paul was a man whose whole course and career were marked by one object before him.  That object was Christ.

Having judged all that he was naturally, Paul was brought him face to face with all kinds of difficulties.  An example of this was his death sentence[2].  He was going to be tried for his life; but he had done with the old ‘Paul’.   He no longer trusted in himself, but in God: in effect he says, ‘The God I know, has raised Christ from the dead, so I am not afraid of death or of anything that might come on the road; I can glory in it all.’

Have we had a revelation of Christ?  Are we following Him?  Is He our  only object? As we follow, we are called to suffer in a small way for Christ’s sake.  But as we go through the world of sin and sorrow that crucified Christ, we also learn what it is to suffer with Him.  It may be a difficult road, and we might get distracted, but we get refreshment as we go: it is the road that He travelled.

A term used by some Christians is ‘higher life’.  But in reality they are following the world.  The Christian has no calling to anything down in this world.  His calling is to a risen, glorified Christ –  this is the only Christ.  Christ down here is a pattern for our walk, but we cannot attain Christ down here.  Attempting it only lowers the standard of holiness: instead of being ‘higher Christian life’, it is lower life.  It is the hope of being like Him in glory in glorified bodies, that makes us purify ourselves even as He is pure (See 1 John 3:3).  I may get to heaven now in spirit, and be happy there with Him, but I never attain to or win Him, until I am with Him in the glory.   Then I shall have won Christ.

In these days, when people are giving up Christianity everywhere, it is well to know what Christianity is. Christianity is perfect peace, perfect reconciliation with God, perfected for ever before Him.   Then as regards my path in this world, it is having our eye on Christ Himself in glory, with all our energy in following Him. In every step we take, we get to knowing Him better, and we become more like Him.

Of course, when it says, ‘as many as be perfect’ (ch 3:15), it does not mean being being perfect like Christ was, when He was down here.  But in walking with Him up there,  we become like Him down here.  That is what is meant by being a  perfect, or fully grown, Christian.  He knows that all his debts have been paid, and in running the race, he says, ‘I have seen the excellency of Christ Jesus, my Lord, and it has set aside everything here. I have done with it all; I belong to another place, and no longer own this old man’.

Paul contrasts the Christian life with mere profession.  Professors are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ (v.18).  They carry the name of Christian, but go on with the world, not perceiving that Satan, its prince, is against Christ.  The world is subject to Christ’s execution of judgment. It does not know HIm as Saviour.

As Christians, our conversation, or citizenship, commonwealth or relationships of life are in heaven (See ch. 3:20).  Though we live, our relationships up there, because Christ is up there – He is our life.   A Christian’s life is not here at all.   Christ is there, and we await our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our hope, therefore, is not to die, for our Saviour to ‘ change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body’ (v. 23).

We are running the race towards the place where our standing is?  Can we say with the apostle, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God’ (Gal 2:20)?  We are in earthly Is circumstances, but are we living by them, or are we living to Him?   Time presses on; His return is near.  Each of us is to take up our cross and follow Him. May we have a conscious relationship with the One whom we love.  We look for Him to come from heaven to change our vile bodies because they will not suit that place.  May the Lord give us so to have our eyes set on Him in His love, and that we might know real deliverance from the power of sin and the world.  The Lord fix our eyes on Him in steadiness and earnestness of heart, so that we may say with David,  ‘My soul followeth hard after thee’ (Ps 63:8).

Summary by Sosthenes

February 2016

 

[1] Note that it is not that Paul was smashed, as some have erroneously affirmed.  It is what he could boast in according to flesh, and the whole system he relied upon.

[2] Paul says that he was going to be tried for his life, according to JND.  That raises an interesting question as to what is meant,  Was it:

  1. As a sinner, in the race, he is guilty and death is the consequence.
  2. As Paul, it would be the legal judgment for the murder of Stephen
  3. As having to do with sin, and the man who sinned, he was passing the death sentence on himself.

If we Fail

f anyone sin, we have an advocate

John writes in his epistle, ‘If anyone sin, we have an advocate’ (1 John 2:1), not ‘If anyone repents and goes to Him’. Jesus washed the His disciples’ feet, they did not ask Him to do it.

The righteousGods graceness of God has placed us before Him in the light. We should now walk in the light, even though we are weak, are tempted and too often stumble. We should maintain communion with God, glorifying Him. Once we were in darkness; now with the Lord we are in the light.

As High Priest, He bears our judgment in our favour according to God’s light and perfections. As the objects of the Father’s love, we are accepted in Christ, because of the Father’s affection for Jesus, and of Jesus’ rights over the Father’s heart.

The Lord obtained the Holy Spirit for us, for us to enjoy the place where we He has placed us. If we fail our relationships with the Lord and the Holy Spirit are disturbed – but they are unchanged. The Holy Spirit is grieved, but the God’s grace towards us, and our righteousness before Him are unaltered. Can the Father overlook sin, and bless us as if nothing had happened? No, that would be impossible. Our failures and weaknesses bring out the grace that purifies us and establishes us. We get to know ourselves more deeply as we become more divested of self. We become calmer, humbler and with more holiness, knowing God better. His grace is sufficient for us.

That is how the Priesthood of Christ operates.


The above is based on part of a letter written by JND.  Click here for the original French version and the translation by our brother Brian Surtees

 

 

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.

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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 4 – Christ’s resurrection as sealing His work

Law requires power in man to fulfill it. A dead person has no power; resurrection is by God’s power, and Abraham believed that. If God spoke, the thing was certain. That is why his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. When man justifies God not himself, God justifies him. Abraham believed that God was able to perform what He had said; we believe that He raised Christ from the dead – delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.

RomeThere is more in Israel’s history than the law.  Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. (See Rom. 4:3). He was reckoned righteous because of his faith.   Also, David said, ‘Blessed is the man whose iniquity is forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed the man to whom the Lord imputeth no sin.’ (Psalm 32:2). No sin was imputed to him. He was held to be wholly clear of it before God; it was forgiven and covered. The responsibility of man was fully met, and he knew it.

Faith was counted for righteousness to Abraham. Circumcision was only a seal of the righteousness he had already before he was circumcised.   Therefore he became the father of all who believe (including uncircumcised, believing Gentiles), and more than that, the father of those truly separated to God – circumcised in spirit, not in letter.

The promise to Abraham that he would be the heir of the world was a matter of law, but of the righteousness of faith. Promise is not law: promise and faith go together. If promise had been on the basis of law, faith would have been void – man could not have had an inheritance because of transgression. But the inheritance is of faith, not law, that it might be by grace. Faith just believes in grace.

When Abraham received the promise, as far as having offspring was concerned, he was as good as dead. But he believed what God had said as to his seed. So we have another important principle: grace and promise on the part of God, and faith, and the redemption that is in Christ, on the part of man.   God’s power comes in; God raises the dead, and makes them to be as He calls them. This applies to Abraham’s seed, to the Gentiles’ blessing, and to Christ’s physical resurrection.

Law requires power in man to fulfill it.  The law being given to the sinner, wrath was the consequence of its imposition.  A dead person has no power; resurrection is by God’s power, and Abraham believed that. If God spoke, the thing was certain.  That is why his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. When man justifies God not himself, God justifies him. Abraham believed that God was able to perform what He had said; we believe that He raised Christ from the dead – delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. God glorifies Himself in grace by granting  divine righteousness to man, when he had no human righteousness before God.

As to ourselves, righteousness is imputed to us, as we believe on the God who raised up Christ from the dead. We do not merely own Christ’s work, but God’s acceptance of that work, and His power to quicken the dead. As John said, ‘God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.’ (Matt 3:9).   God demonstrated His power in raising up Christ from death, the state into which our sins had brought Him through grace. Of course, God could not leave Him in death, for He was satisfied as to the matter of sins, and righteously raised Him from the dead – in public testimony.

 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.

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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 Counsels of God and the Responsibility of Man

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Introductory remarks to the Exposition to Romans

We should consider the difference between the counsels of God and the responsibility of man. The counsels of God have their accomplishment in the second Man, who is from heaven.   However, every intelligent creature has responsibility, and a believer more so than a mere child of Adam.

Purpose was before responsibility. It is a wondrous and blessed truth that God’s purpose and delight was in man – especially the Son of His love. Before the world existed, man was in God’s thoughts. Wisdom was there, and man occupied Wisdom’s (i.e. God’s) though and delight.

Human responsibility awaited the creation of a responsible creature (angels are different). This is seen in 2 Tim. 1:9, “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works [that is responsibility], but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality [incorruptibility] to light by the gospel, whereunto I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles.”

Hence when the Word became flesh, the angels acclaimed, ‘Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good pleasure [not merely goodwill] in men’ (Luke 2:14). God used the same word when He said, ‘in thee I am well pleased’ (Luke 3:22) God’s purpose was thus in the second Man, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the Son of God’s love, and in those in whom His delight was associated with Him.

The purpose of God was not accomplished in the first man. That came with the second Man, who dealt with the whole question of man’s responsibility.

Let us look at the history of man:

First man was innocent. He failed, tested by the simple claim of obedience without an evil lust.   But he distrusted God, and listened to Satan. Man lost God; lust and transgression came in; man became afraid of God, and was driven out by Him. When Adam failed, no promise was made to him. No promise could be made to sinful flesh – only judgment. But the woman was told that her seed would crush the serpent’s head. That was Christ.

What prevailed afterwards was utter lawlessness: then the flood and judgment came upon the earth. God established restraint and authority in Noah, but he failed and got drunk.   Though individuals such as Abel and Enoch had been dealt with in grace, no new system of grace had set up. After the flood, man rose up in rebellion to make himself a name, but God confounded his language, nations were formed, and Satan introduced idolatry (a vague consciousness of God, deified ancestors, astrology and reincarnation). God was set aside; men put demons in His place, and clothed deified lusts with His name.

Then God called Abraham out from the world and revealed Himself, making him head of a family, both naturally and spiritually.   Grace was revealed: a free unconditional promise being given to Abraham. Abraham became the father of the faithful, this being confirmed by a figure representing the death and resurrection of Christ (Gen. 22). The promise and the seed were fully united in God’s revelations.

After this came another very important aspect of God’s dealings with the fleshly seed of Abraham – the giving of the law. It raised the question of righteousness, and required it from man.   The law provided a perfect rule for Adam’s children: blessing and life dependent on obedience. We know the result: the golden calf was made even before the tables of the law could be brought into the camp.

Finally God came into this sinful world in grace, beseeching men to be reconciled to Him. The promised son of David, son of Abraham came, and when He came, not only was there sin and lawlessness everywhere, but mercy had been rejected. The promise, and the promised One, had been despised. The tree was bad; and brought no true fruit to God. It bore only leaves, and it was judged for ever. God’s one beloved Son, was cast out and slain; God’s wedding-feast invitation was despised. God had come in grace, but Man had cast Him out in hatred. Sin was complete; man was lost.

Wicked hands had slain Christ, but it was according to the pre-determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The truth was, He had appeared at the appointed time to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.   The Lord met the consequences of man’s responsibility, bearing his sins in His own body on the tree. Propitiation was perfect; redemption was accomplished; and God was perfectly glorified in all that He is – love. In the cross of Christ (the second Man, the last Adam, the Lord from heaven), the foundation was laid in righteousness for the accomplishment of divine counsels in glorifying the redeemed,. Sins had been put away, and Christ being at the right hand of God, the righteousness of God was now on solid ground.

Thus we have these two great subjects before us: the responsibility of man and the counsels of God.

 

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