“BEING justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
“How should man be just with God! If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.” – Job ix. 2, 3. The wisdom of the world can never tell us how transgressors can be justified before God. It is only the gospel of Christ that yields us the answer to this momentous inquiry, and the declaration at the commencement of our writing proclaims the good news.
Justification. Glad tidings indeed is this to .sin-burdened, contrite souls, for such have come to the knowledge of the hopelessness of their condition if their justification depends upon the creature. Let us then for our comfort and hope look at the presentation of the subject in the text before us.
The first consideration is that it is ‘‘God that justifieth.” – Rom. viii. 33. What, the righteous God, who hateth iniquity, justify vile transgressors of his holy law! Yes, this is the divine mystery in the gospel. What moved God to such acts? O, he was self moved, it was his own graciousness, it was the good pleasure of his will, it was according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. “Being justified freely by his grace.” This graciousness of the Lord is very consoling to us unworthy ones, and it is all treasured up in the Son of God, the head of the church. So it is written, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” – 2 Tim. i. 9. Then, from everlasting, grace was given us, given us, not apart from, but in Christ Jesus. God’s love also is declared in this same manner: “The love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Rom. viii. 31. God hath chosen his people in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love, and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places were given to the elect in him. (Eph. i. 3.)
“In Christ, from everlasting loved,
The saints were chosen and approved;
Formed for himself, with him joint-heirs,
All things in heaven and earth are theirs.
In Christ they were accounted one,
All known, all blest, ore time begun,
And one in covenant bonds of grace,
They were ordained to see his face.”
And as I muse upon this my heart exclaims:
“O wondrous grace and mystery profound,
In God’s eternal purpose I was found;
His sovereign love, his grace, his deep decree,
In some mysterious way included me.”
It is ever well for the heirs of promise to trace the streams of their present blessedness to the eternal source from whence they all flow. This will abase all our pride, we shall see there is no ground for creature glorying in the sight of God, and while in humility, in nothingness, we are bowed before him, do not our hearts throb with adoring gratitude that grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began? Perhaps the most perfect presentation of .Jehovah’s abounding and reigning grace in the Scriptures is found in Romans viii. 29, 30: “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” “Whom he did foreknow.” Before he gave them being in Adam, when as yet there were none of them, he knew them, he had taken them into heart intimacy unto himself, he loved them, his chosen in Christ Jesus. The Son of God prays unto the Father, saying, Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. “For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” – John xvii. 24. God predestinated them to be conformed to the image of his Son. This signifies they shall attain to the highest excellency, to be in nearness to Jehovah in all the nearness of the Son of his love; it declares their attainment to immortal beauty, they shall be like the altogether lovely One; it reaches forth to their ultimate glorification when in the resurrection at the last day (John vi. 40,) they shall be raised incorruptible, immortal, then shall they fully bear the image of Christ, the heavenly One. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” “Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Read on to the end of the chapter this joyous song, and as you read may your heart taste that divine inspiration, that you may in faith march on and sing with the loved and ransomed host their triumphant song. O this song is as a mighty flowing river, and yet flowing so sweetly that I, a poor sinner, taste and drink to satiate my sin-wearied, tempted soul. We have read of the animating powers of martial music, of songs that wrought to enthusiasm and inflamed our fellow sinful men to do exploits, to march “to victory or death,” such as the Marseillaise hymn. But what are all such songs? they cannot compare with this, they are hushed, they are silent, they perish with the perishing, they sink down into the pit and are entombed to rise no more. O in all human literature there is no martial song that can be heard with this. Would you be familiar with the most preeminent martial hymn! then read this which the apostle Paul penned by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. They who have learned and sing this song are not going forth to “victory or death;” no, they go forth conquering and to conquer, they hold on their way from victory to victory till their last enemy is destroyed, which is death. Christ, the glorious Head of the redeemed, has triumphed, and has ascended on high, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and all the members of his body shall at length in eternal triumph stand with him upon mount Sion, (Rev. xiv. 1,) and reign in life eternal with him. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is well established in the Scriptures that there is no meritorious cause in us that God should justify us, and under divine instruction we learn that by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in his sight. (Gal. ii. 16.) There being then no procuring cause in us that God should bestow his justifying favor, we are taught then to appreciate the divine revelation that God justifies a sinner “freely by his grace.” How rich and full, running over, is this language! It signifies that God justifies us without money and without price, gratuitously justified. How suitable is this to those who have “nothing to pay.” Our justification is not of necessity, not reluctantly bestowed, but the Lord very cordially, in all affectionate bountifulness, justifies the ungodly. As in another place, in the new covenant God says, “Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart, and with my whole soul.” – Jer. xxxii. 41. There is no half-heartedness in his gracious work, no hesitation, but freely he pours it forth, it is shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
The apostle having declared that justification is most freely and graciously given by God, proceeds to announce the glorious and almighty acts according to which he is just and the justifier of his justified ones. We are justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be the propitiation through faith in his blood. Christ is the propitiation for our sins, he is our Redeemer from the curse of the law, he only could put away our sins, and this he must do even by the sacrifice of himself; this was the way, this is what it cost to present us faultless in justification of life unto God. Consider awhile with me our mighty Redeemer, and how it became him to redeem us in order to our acceptance and everlasting happiness before the throne of God. “What think ye of Christ?” – Matt. xxii. 42. It is so essential that our thoughts are the truth concerning him.
“What think ye of Christ? is the test
To try both your scheme and your flame;
You cannot think right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of him.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ is God and man, he is David’s Lord and David’s son. (Matt. xxii. 42.) The apostle Paul presents the divine mystery of his person in these words: “The second man is the Lord from heaven.” – 1 Cor. xv. 47. “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” – 1 Tim. iii. 10. He is Emmanuel, God with us. (Matt. i. 23.) The Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of God, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Phil, ii. 7; Heb. i. 3.)
“Some take him a creature to lie,
A man, or an angel at most;
Sure these have not feelings like me,
Nor know themselves wretched and lost.
So guilty, so helpless am I,
I durst not confide in his blood,
Nor on his protection rely,
Unless I was sure he is God.”
Surely the pleasure of the Father shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah liii. 10.) Then also it is very satisfying to consider how in every way Christ Jesus was fitted to accomplish the redemption of his people. As our High Priest, Surety and Ransomer he was without Haw; as our sacrifice he is the Lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter i. 9.) He knew no sin. (2 Cor. v. 21.) He did no sin. (1 Peter ii. 22.) In him is no sin. (I John iii. 5.) He could say, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” – John xiv. 30. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” – John viii. 40. “Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undented, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” – Heb. vii. 20. How is it that it became the Son of God to undertake our redemption? It became him to become incarnate and to be found in fashion as a man; (Heb. ii. 17,) to humble himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, because in those transactions in the eternal counsel of God in which the elect were accounted one in the foreordained Christ, the anointed One. For the eternal election of the church by God the Father was not apart from, but in Christ Jesus, the Son of his love. So the elect of mankind were ever accounted, in the eternal counsel of Jehovah, in union and one with the Son of God, the Word, who in the beginning was with God, and was God, and who in the fullness of time, (Gal. iv. 4,) was made flesh and dwelt among us. It became the Son of God then to undertake the redemption of the church, for as he is the Husband and Head of the elect, he is in the very nature of this relationship the Savior of the body. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body.” – Eph. v. 23. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.” – 1 Cor. xii. 12. There are other grounds embraced in the eternal purpose in Christ Jesus revealing to us why it became him to redeem his people; one I will mention: the predestination of the elect unto the adoption of children. (Eph. i. 5.)
“All the Lord’s honored, chosen race,
Adopted were l»y sovereign grace;
As viewed in Christ, they ever stood
The children of the living God.”
In Heb. ii. 14-17, we have the incarnation, the ransoming, propitiary sufferings and death of the Son of God declared as flowing from this union. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” He is the near Kinsman, and the right of redemption is his. (Lev. xxv. 49) I will not enlarge upon this, but would now present some thoughts upon the redemption through which the saints are justified.
Mankind in their creation in Adam were under law to the Creator, and in Adam all mankind fell by transgression under the condemnation and curse of the law. In the redemption therefore of the elect, God “sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” – Gal. iv. 4, 5. Eternal justice must be satisfied, and Christ the Head of the church very willingly came to satisfy all its claims against his chosen. The law demanded obedience, and penal sufferings for the transgressions of the church, and
Christ very willingly (Heb. x. 5-7; John iv. 34,) gave himself an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor unto God for the iniquities of his people. Having taken upon himself the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, we have then to contemplate those mysterious and infinitely glorious acts of God in which Jehovah laid upon Christ the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah liii. 6.) He was made sin “for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Then was the infliction of divine wrath upon the Lamb, who in himself was without blemish and without spot, but now found bearing our iniquities. “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” He was the victim, the sacrifice, our propitiation. He delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. i. 10.) He was made a curse for us. (Gal. iii. 13.) “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah liii. 5.
“On him almighty vengeance fell,
That must have sunk a world to hell:
He bore it for the chosen race,
And thus became their hiding-place.”
He ransomed his own from the power of the grave and redeemed them from death. (Hosea xiii. 14.) Thus by his mighty acts, his awful, transcending sufferings, he obtained eternal redemption for us. (Heb. ix. 12.) We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace. How unspeakably blessed to the soul when with eyes of faith and love we are looking into these God-glorifying transactions of redeeming love. Our sins are purged away, there is no more curse, for now we have atonement and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and to our hearts the Lord our Savior speaks: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” By Christ’s obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, the propitiation for our sins was fully and gloriously made, and the fruit of it is that all for whom he gave himself a ransom are presented in justification of life before the face of his Father. For though we were some time alienated, and enemies in our minds by wicked works, yet now hath Christ reconciled in the body of his flesh through death to present us holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight. (Col. i. 21, 22.) We have together traced the meritorious source of our justification to be by Christ’s obedience, (Rom. v. 19,) through the redemption in him, (Rom. iii. 34,) and by the shedding of his blood. (Rom. v. 9.) We are therefore saved from wrath through him, he was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification. His resurrection was the manifest proof of his having paid the mighty debt, that he in very truth had purged our sins, and having full atonement made, having magnified and honored the law in behalf of the members of his body, he could not be holden of death, for it is written, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” – Acts ii. 27. If Christ be not risen we are without hope, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins and are of all men most miserable; but now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. He is the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. To the gospel there are such wonderful discoveries of the glories of our Lord, and the apprehension of these things by the teaching of the Holy Spirit is very blessed. Even David describe!h the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom God will not impute sin. (Rom. iv. 6-8.) We are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. vi. 11.) Yes, it is the Spirit of our God who so efficaciously reveals in us those divine accomplishments of Christ in behalf of his people, and causes us by the operation of his power to look to, to trust in the obedience and blood, the sufferings and death of the Savior as the only hope of the acceptance of the sinner before the throne of God. (Gal. ii. 16.) How blessed are the justified. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” Is there anything wrong in this, is the law dishonored? No, God is just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. It is the Holy One that inhabiteth eternity who justifies his people, .and to our faith he is revealed dwelling between the cherubims, and speaks from above the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat. (Exodus xxv. 22.) God is in his holy temple, the place where his honor dwelleth, (Psalms xxvi. 8,) so all is honorable and glorious in the justification of sinners. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” – Rom. viii. 34. Ah, when my heart is disquieted, when the accuser would cast me down, (Rev. xii. 10,) O then to view the finished work of the Redeemer, and to have it applied by the Comforter to my sin-plagued, tempted soul, how blessed. Then I can sing:
“From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on thee?
Complete atonement thou hast made
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with thy blood?
If thon hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine;
Payment God cannot twice demand-
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.
Turn, then, my soul, unto thy rest,
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty.
Trust in his efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee.”
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 74, No. 7
April 1, 1906