PRACTICAL AND DOCTRINAL
There is not a subject apparently more difficult than that of righteousness. Books and treatises without number have been written on it, and theologians in all ages have crossed swords over this knotty question. What is the result of centuries of wrangle and strife? Persons are as muddled and confused about it as ever, and a subject which in itself is simple has been so tortured and twisted in polemical dispute that a clear exposition of the doctrine of righteousness is an imperative need of the day. Righteousness is the necessary basis of God's dealings with saint and sinner; the ground, too, on which grace gloriously sways its sceptre (Rom. 5. 21), and the superstructure on which all Christian life, progress, and service repose. It underlies every position and relation of life. Righteousness is the keystone of the arch of Divine revelation. Hence a more important theme can scarcely be thought of, and it will be readily admitted that a mistake on this subject so vital to all may seriously affect the soul's relation to God, as also our responsibilities to others.
Righteousness is a relative term, that is, it involves dealings or relations with others. The simple idea in the word is what is right. This consideration will simplify a study of the subject, because whatever additional shades of meaning there may be, and however variously applied, the root-idea is every passage is that of a state of rightness in reference to God or to man. We might define it as consistency in every given position and relation which a creature occupies in regard to others.
1. The Righteousness of God (Rom. 3) signifies God's consistency with His nature, His character in freely and perfectly justifying a sinner believing on Jesus. Now this, it will be observed, cannot be imputed. It is God's righteousness, not man's. God cannot impute that which is essential to Himself in His dealings with men. The question of imputation does not occur in this chapter at all, nor in any passage where the term "the righteousness of God" occurs. In chapter three of the Romans, after the demonstration of the personal sin of Jew and Gentile (verses 1-19) - for human righteousness there was none (verse 10) - we have the revelation of the righteous ground on which God can, and does, freely justify a guilty sinner. God acts rightly; in perfect consistency with His nature in so doing. How very simple, therefore, yet withal profound, is this Pauline expression, "the righteousness of God," when divested of certain theological meanings usually ascribed to it. As used by St. Paul in chapter three of the Romans - for he alone of the sacred writers of the New Testament employs the term it is the sure repose of the soul. We may remark that the phrase, " the righteousness of Christ," is not once to be met with in the Holy Scriptures. The substitution of this latter for the scriptural term, "the righteousness of God," has done much to mystify the subject in the minds of many of God's dear people. "The righteousness which is of God" (Phil. 3.9) shows a verbal difference from that in Romans 1. 17 and 3. 21, 22. But the difference is not in words merely. In Philippians 3. 9 the, apostle is contrasting two kinds of righteousness; that which is of, or from, the law, he would not have; whereas that which is of, or from, God, he desired to possess.
2. Righteousness Imputed (Rom. 4). In this chapter we have righteousness reckoned or counted to one who in himself is destitute of it. Of this Abraham is the great illustration (verses 3, 18-22), while David describes its blessedness (verses 6-8). It would be an immoral action for king or magistrate to declare a man right who was wrong. In point of fact a judge cannot justify, or declare judicially right, a proved offender; he may pardon, but he cannot justify. God alone can justify a guilty sinner. He alone can impute righteousness to one who has it not. it is not putting a quantity of righteousness in a man. It is simply holding, or regarding as righteous or just, one who is not so either in nature or practice. How God can do this chapter three has fully informed us. Righteousness imputed supposes that one (else why reckon it?) is destitute of it. There is not the slightest thought in the chapter of conferred inward righteousness. it is simply a man who in himself is wrong being counted right. Christ bearing the judgment of God, and God believed on Who raised Him from the dead, explains it all. The reader will observe that "righteousness" occurs eight times in the chapter, and, further, that the words "of God" are not added in a single instance. "The righteousness of God" is nowhere said to be reckoned or imputed; but "righteousness" simply is put to the account of a guilty person believing on God. God is as righteous in justifying as in punishing, as consistent with the claims of His nature in doing the one as the other, hence the imputation of God's righteousness is a moral impossibility. It is God's righteousness, and ever will be; part of Himself we may so say, but displayed in relation to His creatures.
"Imputed righteousness" is not accurate thought -or language. Righteousness in itself has . not the character of imputation, as the foregoing expression would imply; but righteousness imputed or reckoned is another thing, and it is of this that chapter 4 of Romans treats. We may also observe that the righteousness of one cannot be put to another's account. if you could transfer one person's righteousness to another, then one is left destitute of it. If MY being right in my relations to God or man, as the case may be, could by any possibility be put to another's account, then clearly I would be found positively wrong. What then of the common theological phrase, "The imputed righteousness of Christ?" Will it stand the test of Scripture? Incorrectness in this vital subject affects both the person and sacrifice of Christ. If "the righteousness of Christ "be put to our account, then it leaves Him without it, or unrighteous; on the other hand, if by the vicarious obedience of Christ to the law we are declared righteous, then clearly His death is in vain (Gal. 2. 21). if personal and vicarious righteousness by law-keeping or obedience in life is ours, then "justified by blood" is a nullity. Thus both the Person and Sacrifice of the Saviour (unconsciously, no doubt) are called in question by this unscriptural teaching. How important, therefore, to "hold fast the form of sound words." It is law-breakers, not law-keepers, who, believing on Jesus, are accounted righteous by God. Substitutionary life-obedience is not taught in Scripture, but substitutionary death-obedience is.
3. We Made or Constituted the Righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5. 21). Christ on the Cross was made sin for us; now on the throne He is the Righteousness of God, ie., the perfect expression of it. The grandest, fullest witness of right on the part of God expressed in setting Christ at His own right hand - crowned and glorified. What a marvellous exhibition of the righteousness of God is witnessed up yonder! But that is not all, for we, too, as "in Christ," are practical living witnesses of it. He for the moment was made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (see RN., 2 Cor. 5. 21). We confess we are amazed at the greatness of the grace; too much for such as we to receive, but not too much for God to give. We cannot point to the exalted place of angels as an illustration of God's righteousness; we must look at the yet more exalted place of saints as "in Him." By and by the heavens will "declare His righteousness, and all the people (peoples) see His glory" (Psa. 97. 6). When and how? At the Second Advent of Christ into this world, accompanied by all His heavenly saints, and by their revelation in glory with Him. What a witness to God and to His ways towards His people!
4. Practical Righteousness in Everyday Life (Titus 2. 12). This is a large subject, and covers every relation and position in life. Do what is right. Doing the will of God is the Divine claim of righteousness for one and all. Faithfully and minutely fulfil every obligation of life, as a saint, servant, and worshipper of God; as a man, master, servant, and citizen in the world; as a husband, father, child, or wife in the circle of social relationship; and in the use of all that which God has entrusted us with, as health, time, talent, money, power, gift, &c. To be righteous is simply to be right and to do right towards God and towards man. But where are we to learn practical righteousness? Where do we learn the full extent of our obligations to God and to each other? How are we to be supplied with motive and power to act rightly in all things, at all times, and in all relations? For this we must turn to the Word of God. It is there only we find life's duties fully unfolded. Not only so, but we are also directed to Christ as the grand and constraining motive, and to the Holy Spirit as the power by which practical righteousness is effected. We would press upon one and all the necessity of being consistent in every relation of life. Action in keeping with each respective relation gives us the practical righteousness demanded from one and all. Where this is lacking the soul is exposed to the attacks of Satan, our determined, wily, and ever-watchful foe (Eph. 6. 14), and leaves one weak, powerless, and unfruitful in service. Practical righteousness is the key-note of the sermon on the mount (Matt. 5. 7.). It is the ground of appeal in prayer (Psa. 34.4). The paths of righteousness are trod by the blood-purchased flock (Psa. 23).
If we are to be filled with the fruits of righteousness (Phil. 1. 11). and wait through the Spirit for its hope, which is glory (Gal. 5. 5), we must be prepared to "follow righteousness" (2 Tim. 2. 22) in all things, in all relationships, and everywhere. Never sanction evil on any plea whatever. "Of two evils choose the least" is an utterly false principle. A holy path to tread, a clean place to dwell, a good conscience in exercise there must be, unless you belie the nature of God, and sacrifice at the shrine of expediency, of numbers, of supposed usefulness, of an ecclesiastical unity, the practical righteousness demanded from every saint and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
MAN AND UTTER RUIN
Man is a complete moral wreck. "Thou turnest man (the race) to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men" (individuals) (Psa. 90. 3). From Adam to Moses abundant evidence is forthcoming that man was a sinner. From Moses to Christ, or during the age of law he was shown to be a transgressor. From Christ crucified to the judgment of the great white throne his history is one of determined enmity to God (Rom. 5. 12-20; Rev. 20. 11-15). Two great landmarks in human history are the Flood and the Cross. Before the Flood it is declared that the imagination of man's heart is only evil from his youth (Gen. 8. 21). Before the Cross the Lord declared that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, &c. (Matt. 15. 19); after the Cross the testimony of the Holy Ghost is equally full and explicit (Rom. 5. 6-10).
Nothing can change the flesh, which is in every human creature; it is irremediably bad. The presence of Christ in grace drew out the depths of human hatred (Matt. 27. 22); the presence of Christ in glory will only intensify the horrible nature of man's undying enmity to God (Rev. 20. 8,9).
It is an absolute impossibility for man in the flesh, i.e., viewed morally, to please God, or to subject his carnal mind to the authority of God. (Rom. 8. 7,8). Probably the most awful description of man's state is detailed in Ephesians 2: "Dead in trespasses and sins" (verse 1), as also the willing slave of Satan (verse 2), thus revealing a condition out of which there is no escape unless God works in sovereign grace. In Romans it is man's guilt that is in question, hence God justifies; in Ephesians it is a moral scene of death out of which God quickens. Man is also born in sin (Psa.51. 5); but not born a slave to sin, this latter he becomes by voluntarily yielding himself to it (Rom. 6. 16). You are not responsible for being born in sin, but you are responsible not to become a slave to it. Man in root, fruit, and branch is incurably bad, hence the necessity of the new birth so imperatively insisted upon by the Lord for any who would enter into or even see the kingdom of God (John 3. 1-8).
The whole tree is bad, from the root to the topmost bough, and outward to every branch. You may as well look for a rose on a thorn bush, or a lily on a thistle, as expect the fruit of holiness from the corrupt nature of man. A fallen creature can no more change his nature, or live in consonance with a life which he does not possess, than can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots.
missing the mark, i.e., God's glory (Rom. 3. 23); lawlessness (1 John 3. 4, RN.).
fundamental and final ignorance of God Who is light (John 1. 5; 1 John 1. 5).
breaking a known command; passing over a boundary (Rom. 5. 14).
morally distorted or perverted - contrary to equity (Psa. 32. 5).
moral or ceremonial uncleanness.
state of inconsistency with one's relations to God or man.
GUILT (a judicial term)
amenable to judicial punishment.
THE NEW BIRTH
"Born again (John 3) is but a feeble statement of this fundamental truth of Scripture. "Born anew" (R.V.) intimates a new source, a fresh commencement of life altogether different in character and origin from birth of the flesh (verse 6). Both the birth and life imparted - Divine and Eternal - are absolutely independent of, and totally unlike the old. New birth is an act of Divine sovereign power, having its origin solely in the Divine will and purpose (John 1. 13); yet it is not dissociated from faith (verse 12). In the new birth eternal life is actually communicated to believers. The Holy Spirit is the agent (John 3. 8), and the Word of God, i.e., the incorruptible seed 1 Peter 1. 13), is the instrumental means by which new birth is effected (James 1 18). There can be no amalgamation of "flesh" and "spirit. In character (Rom. 7. 25) and results (Gal. 5. 17-23) they are diametrically opposed - are contrary powers. Thus the man born of God has within him two totally distinct natures, the one wholly corrupt, the other absolutely impeccable. The natures are irreconcilable in character. While every act, thought, and word flows from the respective nature of which it is the source, it must ever be borne in mind that the man, i.e., the person, is the responsible I The man, not the nature, is born of God, and he, not it, is responsible for the activities of either nature. The "new man" is created after God, i.e., after His likeness (Col. 3. 10), while the person is born of God (1 John 5. 1).
The new birth is not a process of improvement, nor is it the sanctification of or even the subjugation of the corrupt nature - a sheer impossibility (Rom. 8. 7). It is an absolutely new work of God in which a life as real as Adamic-life becomes ours, of which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is its pattern and display (Eph. 4. 21). New birth is a subjective condition, as "regeneration," with which it is often confounded, is an objective one; of course the man who is the subject of so mighty a creative act ever retains his responsibility as a creature intact, this latter having its source in the speciality of his creation (Gen. 2. 7). We may further observe that it is not the life or nature communicated that is born of God, as some have strangely supposed, but it is a man, "he is born of God" (1 John 3. 9). In new birth one is made a child of God. It is an act done once, and cannot be repeated. It is an eternal fact. It is therefore a monstrous idea that a child of God can ever be finally lost.
The new birth is not the Gospel, although a necessity on the part of any who would enter into the kingdom of God. Believers in Old and New Testament times equally born of God; in this there can be neither degree nor measure, although in the development of the truth about it there is. The later revelation is, of course, more full and precise in its teaching on this vital subject than will be found in the earlier oracles. Jerusalem was the place, and Nicodemus the person, where and to whom the Lord opened out in its fulness the truth of new birth (John 3), and lesson being that neither religion nor the highest culture can avail as a standing before God. The new birth lays the axe at the root of the tree. Not improvement, but a new nature, a new source of life must be imparted even to the most religious, moral, and learned ere fruit acceptable to God can be produced. It was not in Samaria, nor to the immoral woman of Sychar, nor on the Cross, and to the dying robber that the lesson of the new birth was so solemnly opened out by our Lord. This naturally unpalatable subject should be especially declared in cathedrals, churches, and chapels, for all need it. Religious rites and ordinances tend to obscure this great truth.
Eternal life is frequently confounded with eternal existence, and with immortality. All responsible creatures eternally exist, but all have not eternal life, this latter being God's gift to believers only. (Rom. 6. 23; John 5. 24; 3. 36; 1 John 5). Unbelievers "shall not see life," yet they will exist, for it is added, "the wrath of God abideth on him." Thus life and existence are distinguished. Then in common parlance we speak of a man as merely existing, while of another we say he enjoys life. Nor must eternal life be confounded with immortality, i.e., not subject to death. God alone has immortality as to its source and independent possession (1 Tim. 6. 16). Angels, too, are immortal (Luke 20. 36). Immortality when applied to believers refers alone to the body when raised or changed at the coming of the Lord (1 Cor. 15. 53, 54). Need we add that the soul of man is immortal, although the word is not applied to it. This is proved from Matthew 10. 28. Men can kill the body, hence it is mortal; they cannot kill the soul, hence it is immortal.
Eternal life, therefore, is necessarily distinct from either eternal existence or from immortality. Neither angels nor unbelievers are said to have eternal life. The former are immortal, the latter eternally exist. For the miserable state of the wicked after death and before resurrection, see Luke 16. 19-3 1; for their condition after resurrection and in eternity, see Revelation 21.8. Life in its nature, i.e., what it is, cannot be defined. The vital principle in man, in the dog, and in the plant is a problem which has baffled the keenest research of the scientist. Every possible test has been applied to discover what life is, but in vain. We know that life exists by its characteristics. Man in his manifold activity, the plant in its foliage and growth, the bird as it skims through the air in its lofty flight, and the denizen of sea and river in rapid movement, all declare the existence of life in their respective spheres. But the inward vital force which impels to action and which we term life can neither be seen, heard, touched, felt, or recognized by any of the senses; in fact, our senses are simply characteristics of life; these direct to a governing principle, but what it is neither Scripture nor science informs us. There is spiritual life and natural life, we know of no other, and both are undefinable. It has been said that John 17. 3 supplies us with a definition of eternal life: "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee (the Father), the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent." But eternal life was ever in the Word as a Divine Person (John 1. 4), and ever with the Father (1 John 1. 2), hence to define spiritual life as knowing God and Jesus Christ is absurd. The very fact that it is ever in the Word, ever with the Father, coeval with the existence of each of the Divine Beings, makes eternal life an absolutely unknown thing in its nature. In its very nature it cannot be defined. The life is infinite and eternal. Its character and action towards us through grace we do know something about. We understand John 17. 3 to teach that eternal life is needed ere any one can know God and Jesus Christ; without it the knowledge of God is impossible. You must have a new nature in order that God may be rightly known and enjoyed.
All believers, irrespective of time and dispensation, have eternal or everlasting life, both in the Son and in themselves; in the Son as its source (John 1. 4; 1 John 5. 1 1), and in themselves as derived and dependent upon Him (John 5.24; 6. 53). The positive gift of eternal life to believers has been denied. It has been contended that Old Testament believers were born of God, but had not eternal life. Can you conceive of birth without life? The expressions of delight in God, of obedience to Him, and of dependence upon Him, so common in the lives and experiences of saints of old, unmistakably point to the existence and activity of a spiritual life or nature in them. The roll-call of the illustrious dead in Hebrews 11 evidences without doubt that believers of old had, must have had, eternal life in them, for its issues are plainly enough declared in those acts and deeds of faith which have formed a stimulus to believers in all ages.
That eternal life is actually and positively in believers the following Scriptures abundantly prove: John 3. 15, 16, 36; 4. 14; 5. 24; 6. 47, 53, 54; 10. 10, 28; 1 John 3. 15, &c. We have it in the Son, and we have it from Him in ourselves. "Life in you" (John 6. 53) and "hath eternal life" (verse 54) are reciprocal statements. Again, "Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3. 15). Then believers have it abiding in them.
The revelation of eternal life awaited the coming of the Son. He is THE WORD OF LIFE, the perfect expression of it in His person and ways (1 John 1. 1). The term "eternal life" occurs but twice in the Old Testament, and in millennial connection (Psa. 133. 3; Dan. 12. 2). But we would again repeat that while no formal statement affirms the existence of eternal life in Old Testament saints, yet they had it, for no One could be in vital relationship to God without it. It was always in the Son for them, as for us.
Eternal life is but rarely mentioned in the synoptical Gospels, and only then as a future thing (see Matt. 25. 46; Mark 10. 30; Luke 18. 30). In John's Gospel and first Epistle eternal life is generally spoken of as a blessing presently possessed and enjoyed by believers. But John also shows that the bodies of God's saints shall share in the blessing of eternal life (chap. 5. 29; 6. 39, 40). Both Paul and John present eternal life as a matter of promise, to Christ (Titus 1. 2), and to us (1 John 2. 25). Paul, while assuming that believers have eternal life in them, yet nowhere directly affirms it, but writes of it as future (Rom. 5. 17; 6. 22). Thus eternal life is spoken of as a thing in us now, and yet future, to be fully enjoyed in a scene in keeping with its character.
We may remark that, while life for the soul has been brought to light in the incarnation and ministry of our Lord (1 John 1. 1), the revelation of life and incorruption as applied to the body is through the Gospel, i.e., the death and resurrection of the Lord. "Christ Jesus, Who abolished death, and brought life and incorruption to light through the Gospel" (2 Tim. 1. 10, R.V.).
To briefly sum up. The Psalmist and the Hebrew prophet Daniel tell us that Jewish saints on earth in the millennial scene will have eternal life; while the Lord Himself informs us (Matt. 25) that Gentile millennial saints on earth shall also share the same blessing. John teaches, in repeated statements of priceless value, that believers now have eternal life, in the Son and in themselves. Paul treats of it as a future blessing - the sphere of its enjoyment.
It only remains to add that life - that is , spiritual life and eternal life are, of course, the same. "Eternal" is applied to life because, in itself, you cannot predicate of spiritual life either beginning or end; it is eternal. "Eternal life" and "everlasting life" are used interchangeably (John 3. 15, 16). The same Greek word expresses both, but the latter term is the more fitting one in its application to believers, because in us it has a beginning, but shall never end, hence everlasting. In itself it is, of course, eternal, having neither beginning nor end.
Eternal life is needful for the soul's enjoyment of Christ and delight in all that is holy, and good, and heavenly. When a soul is quickened of God, born of Him, then he only and truly begins to live, and that is termed Eternal Life.
CHILDREN AND SONS
All believers in every age are children of God. They are constituted such by being born of God (John 1. 13) and of His Spirit (3. 6). It is an exceedingly blessed relationship, and one more near and intimate than that of sons. Child intimates a filial relationship to God. We have the feelings and nature proper to such a near and blessed relation because founded on the birth-tie. Son refers to our position before God, which is one of great dignity and privilege. The apostle John in his Gospel and Epistles never terms us sons, but always children, save in Revelation 21. 7, an important, if exceptional passage, as showing that sonship intimates a relationship subsisting in eternity. For "sons" in John 1. 12 and 1 John 3. 1, 2, read "children."
The relationship, then, of child is founded on the precious fact that one has become the subject of God's mighty work of grace and power in the new birth. Angels are spoken of as " sons," but are not termed "children." Every creature owes its being to God, and thus all are His offspring (Acts 17. 29). But the new, or spiritual birth, in virtue of which we become His children, and are privileged to call him "Father," is predicated alone of those saved out of the human family.
All creatures are "the offspring of God" (Acts 17. 29). There is "one God and Father of all" (Eph. 4. 6). God is the Creator, and Source or Author (Father) of all creation, animate, and inanimate. In God all live and have their being, but filial relationship only exists in relation to believers.
John treats more fully of our relationship as children than any other of the sacred writers. He traces it to its source, the sovereign will of God, and unfolds in interesting detail the moral characteristics of the nature which we have as God's children (see first Epistle).
On the other hand, Paul in accordance with those broader aspects of truth, of which he was a faithful steward connects the coming and glorious inheritance with our place as children (Rom. 8. 17), and with our position as sons (Gal. 4. 1-5); as Christians are both children and sons our magnificent future is thus doubly assured. We are children, sons, and heirs. The first refers to nearness to God; the second to our position before God; and the third to our future inheritance.
Sonship, however, is a New Testament blessing. Old Testament saints were, of course, children, but they had not the dignity of sons conferred on them. This latter is a privilege peculiar to believers of this dispensation - one of an eternal character as well (Rev. 21. 7). This is evident from the reasoning in Galatians 4. 3-5, "When we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world (the former position as under the law), but when the fulness of the time was come 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."
That sonship is a blessing peculiar to this dispensation is further proved from the way we become sons. "Ye are all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3. 26, R.V.). No saint prior to the ascension of Christ could be a son of God, as faith in Christ Jesus was impossible till the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord had taken place. Thus sonship was dependent on Christ going on high. Believers in this dispensation are both children and sons. Believers in previous dispensations were children, but not sons. Israel is termed God's son, but that was national, and did not involve a vital connection with God (Exod. 4. 22, 23).
New birth constitutes one a child, while faith in Christ Jesus on our part and adoption on God's side (Eph. 1. 5, R. V.; Gal. 4. 5) give the position of son. We, as Gentiles, are never spoken of as children of Abraham, for that would imply natural descent from Israel's great progenitor, but we are regarded as sons of Abraham (Gal. 3. 7, R. V.). Thus we are sons of God and sons of Abraham. One may become an adopted son, but not an adopted child. Natural descent is demanded by the latter term.
Child of God is the expression of our filial relationship to God as Father. Son of God is used to denote our public dignity and possession of full Christian privilege. We become the former as born of God; we become the latter by faith in Christ Jesus. These relationships and distinctions are interesting and helpful.
This word, which signifies a new beginning, occurs but twice in the New Testament Scriptures (Matt. 19. 28 and Titus 3. 5). In current phraseology, and in most confessions and creeds of doctrine, the truth of new birth is confounded with that of regeneration. Scripture, on the other hand, carefully distinguishes them. They are not the same.
Regeneration in Matthew 19. 28 refers to that new and outward change of things on earth, spoken of by Peter as the "restitution of all things" (Acts 3. 21), ie. the millennium.
In Titus 3. 5, the only other occurrence of the word, it is used to set forth the believer's new and outward place on earth, into which baptism introduces one, and of which it is the expression, hence "the washing of regeneration." Regeneration is an objective state or condition, while the new birth is the expression of an inward or subjective one. "The washing of regeneration" can be discerned by the eye of man, as it is an outward change. "The renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3. 5) can only be witnessed by God, as it indicates an internal condition. We may here remark that the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" is not the same as new birth by the Holy Ghost. The former is a process, a "renewing," the latter is an act effected once, finally, and in its nature incapable of repetition. When theologians speak of a "regenerated person," as in the writings of the Puritans, they mean the person is born of God, but, as already observed, the terms "new birth" and "regeneration" are not interchangeable, while both are true of the same individual.
Repentance is not conversion (Acts 3.19), nor faith (Acts 20.2 1), nor godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7. 1 0), neither is it simply a change of mind - its etymological signification. Repentance is a deep, thorough soul-searching process. It is the wakening up of the conscience to the truth of one's moral state before God, so as to produce a godly judgment of oneself and ways, and a turning from them. The repentance of a sinner is shown in Luke 15. 17, 18; that of an erring saint in Luke 22. 61, 62; and of a failed and failing assembly in 2 Corinthians 7. 8-11.
It is the goodness of God which leads to repentance (Rom. 2. 4), preceded also by godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7. 10). It is God's sovereign gift, and is unto life (Acts 11. 18) It is God's command to all men and everywhere (Acts 17. 30), and is accompanied by the "remission of sins" (Luke 24- 47). Repentance is toward God, while faith is toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20. 21). Both repentance and faith are necessary to the soul's salvation, and both are simultaneous acts, at least practically so in the case of a sinner. Repentance and faith are inseparable.
The truth of repentance when preached and insisted upon ever produces solid results; the converts saved under such preaching, as a rule, stand. Faith in Christ is the great characteristic in evangelical preaching, and in this we unfeignedly rejoice, but repentance toward God needs to be more strongly pressed. We should look for depth of work in the conscience; but where sin is slurred over and repentance scarcely referred to you cannot have either depth or stability. The more thoroughly the conscience is dealt with on account of sins, the more solid and enduring are the results. What is needed is not so much quantity, but quality of work.
Repentance in the Old Testament, when spoken of in reference to God, as in Genesis 6. 6 and elsewhere, signifies a change of action or dealing; but in the New Testament there are only two instances in which repentance is directly spoken of in regard to God, and in both the unchangeableness of His action is declared (Rom. 11. 29; Heb. 7. 2 1). What a stay to the heart!
The root idea of this word is setting apart from what is common and unclean, and all persons and things thus separated are termed "holy." In the Old Testament sanctification is more frequently spoken of in regard to things, while in the New it is, with but few exceptions, treated of in connection with persons. Man in his morally fallen state is guilty and unclean; these are the two main characteristics of his condition as responsible to God. How is this twofold condition met? God justifies the guilty and sanctifies the unclean.
Sanctification in its source is traced to the will of God, as indeed is every Christian blessing (1 Thess. 4. 3; Heb. 10. 10); it is accomplished through the "one offering" - its ground (Heb. 10. 14; 10. 10); by the Spirit of God - the agent (1 Cor. 6. 11; 1 Peter 1. 2; 2 Thess. 2. 13); the Word - the instrumental means (John 17. 17); then Christ on high - the object presented to the soul (2 Cor. 3. 18).
It is Absolute, Progressive, and Positional.
Absolute. The instant a person utters the new -born cry "Abba, Father," one can say he is set apart, or sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1. 2), perfectly and for ever, to God; to Christ also, and to His obedience on earth and moral likeness in glory. In this first blessed aspect of sanctification there can be no improvement or progress. It is an accomplished act by the Spirit of God, and is not repeated. "Ye are sanctified" (1 Cor. 6. 1 1; Acts 26. 18; Heb. 10. 14).
Progressive. Thus not only are we sanctified, but we are being sanctified; this latter is the carrying out in daily life what we are as true before God. The former is true position, the latter real Practice. Progressive sanctification, with which most Christians are familiar, is taught in John 17. 17; 1 Thessalonians 5. 23; The measure of this is Christ on high (John 17. 19), and is effected, not by dwelling on personal experience, but by the application of the truth, i.e., that contained in both Testaments, and by the unfolding of Christ to the soul.
Positional sanctification is taught in Hebrews 10. 29 and 13. 12; that is, all who take the ground of Christianity are set apart by the blood of Christ from the rest of the world. it is an outward, external position in this world. Christendom is on that ground and responsibility before God, in contrast to Judaism and Paganism. It is no question whatever of the state of the soul before God, or of a purged conscience, or of eternal life. it is simply Christian profession, which may or may not be real that is regarded in these verses. In this outward or external thought of sanctification persons (1 Cor. 7. 14) and things (1 Tim. 4. 4, 5) are embraced. Whoever or whatever is separated from the mass to God, brought into external privilege, is sanctified. It is not internal, but an external position in this world towards God.
It is interesting to note that both sanctification and cleansing are ascribed to the Word (Eph. 5. 26). The former is setting apart to Christ on high, the latter is the removal of defilement. Sanctification and justification when treated of in systematic theology ever reverse the scriptural order, making justification precede sanctification. In 1 Corinthians 6. 11 and 1 Peter 1. 2 sanctification precedes justification.
This is a judicial term, and as such connects itself with the throne, or government, of God. Do not be afraid of the word "throne," for it would be an awful calamity were God not governing the universe according to the truth of His nature. Heaven, earth, and hell are subject to the sway of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. God ever sits upon the throne (Dan. 4. 34, 35). Of course no one having right thoughts of the majesty of the Lord of hosts would in such a connection entertain the idea of literality. The yea or nay as to a literal throne in Heaven, and on which God sits to judge, is a trifling matter to argue about, but we do contend, and most strenuously, for the truth of that which the throne symbolises, i.e., God judging and ruling according to the truth of His Being.
Justification is the gracious act of God in taking up a sinful, guilty creature, rightly subject to Divine judgment, clearing him from every charge because of the sacrifice of Christ, and setting him holily and righteously before His throne. "Justified in Christ" is neither correct in thought nor expression. If a man is in Christ he does not need justification. A guilty sinner is justified by God on the ground of the blood having been shed. "In Christ" conveys a different order of truth. Justification does not apply to infants nor to irresponsible persons, neither does it refer to the sinful nature in each one of us. The nature is condemned (Rom. 8. 3); the person is justified (Rom. 4. 5) and born of God (1 John 3.9). Justification applies to our acts, not to the root of those acts; to what men have done, not to what men are. The wrath of God will not be endured by impenitent sinners because they inherited a sinful nature from the head of the fallen race. The works of men - their deeds - form the alone ground of condemnation (Eph. 5. 5, 6; Rev. 20. 12). We are not responsible for our birth in sin (Psa. 51. 5), but we are responsible for the fruits of our nature, and to this latter justification applies.
It is the early part of the Romans (1. 5. 11) which specially treats of man's guilt and of God's justification of sinners. Turn to it, therefore, and you will not find Adam - head of the race - named even once, nor are infants at all in question; but men and women - each one responsible to God - sinning, too, in full light of Divine testimonies and witnesses to God; such alone form the subjects of God's justification. The guilty are justified, the lost are saved, the dead are quickened, the unclean are washed, the alienated are reconciled, the sinful are forgiven, the unholy are sanctified. These and other characteristics of our once sinful condition are, of course, true of all the justified, but the correspondencies are important to bear in mind.
The persons, then, whom God justifies are "the ungodly" (Rom. 4.5); the righteous ground of it "His blood" (v. 9). We share in it by "faith" (v. 1); while its source is the "grace" of God (3. 24). Justification, as placing one according to God's righteousness before His throne, constitutes a standing magnificent beyond all thought. There, in the full blaze of the uncreated glory of God! There, before the blood-sprinkled throne! There, in presence of cherubim and seraphim - judgment and holiness! Oh, it is a marvellous position! What a solid and Divine standing! The blood of the typical bullock of old was sprinkled once upon the mercy-seat and seven times before it (Lev. 16. 14). In the full value of this double sprinkling Israel stood before God for one year. What the high priestly action with the blood on the annual day of atonement prefigured is now gloriously accomplished, and we stand, yea, and we will, for ever, before God's throne, a righteously justified people (Rom. 5. 2). A higher position there could not be for any creature. The righteousness and glory of that throne are now for us; without the blood the throne would be against us.