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... Self-assurance is in vogue, and as ugly as any other pretension. On the other hand:-
Let us look at Romans 5 and 8, with other words from those divine lips.
1. Romans 8 and the Pillars of Glory
A) The Preliminaries
The Law of Life and the Lord of Life
After the defeat shown in Romans 7, we find it duly translated into victory in Christ Jesus who did what the law could not do (Romans 8:3) since the flesh merely revolts. This, we read, He did by personally becoming a sacrifice for sin which rubbed out the debt, cancelled the call and deleted the dynamic as sovereign, natural and necessary, leaving a deposit of power. Which? That of the Spirit of LIFE which lives in the life of the Christian as sap lives in the branches of the tree.
This, the Holy Spirit, has not only the NAME of life, but the LAW of life. This "makes me free from the law of sin and death". That is found in Romans 8:2. HOW is this so? In several ways. First, THAT old law is countermanded not by abrogation, as if it were recalled as inferior, but by having its claims MET, because Christ was called to cover the case, did so and leaves no charge to the recipients of the mercy He THEREFORE provides.
Yet there is far more than this in the liberation of the believer. Secondly, then, there is a presence which provides a perspective, power and indeed personality which lives within the life of the Christian. Thus, 8:5-8 shows that there is a carnal mind, an independent-irrationalism which parades as natural but is in fact pathological. It is INCAPABLE of bowing in adoration before the true and vocal God whose ways are known. It MUST be itself, because... that is what it is. Divorced from God, it is not part of HIS household, does not have His pervading presence, the law of HIS life, and so has its own. It may of course also harbour parasitical growths within, devils and the like, philosophies which are their threshold and home call, idols and extraneous ecstasies, 'pure' dreams that unhappily omit the only God who is there, and so are mere infections of the mind.
says Paul, "who are in the flesh CANNOT please
God," - 8:8 (capitals added).
The world-weariness, sardonism and indeed cynicism of many resides in this that their greatest efforts here not only fail, but MUST do so. There is what might appear a certain mesmerism in this. It is like a frog trying to leap to the moon. It is earth-bound, not having the law needed to enable such a prodigy, within.
If, on the other hand and thirdly, "Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" - 8:10. Sins cancelled, their ground annulled, their dynamic replaced and distanced - though it may strive yet it meets a greater: the Christian has a life in two respects. First it is a donation as to status and secondly it is an innovation of a most special character: it takes him/her back to where things were, except for this: that in Eden man had the presence of God and left it, whereas here, man being redeemed is guaranteed that God will NEVER leave and NEVER forsake him. Righteousness therefore is inherent, not AS the Christian, but as the status given; it is ineradicable, since Christ having redeemed, owns; and it is dynamic, since Christ being resident, WORKS where His presence is thus implanted, within.
As to the donation, see Romans 6:23, 3:21ff., 5:15, John 10:9, 27-28; as to special innovation and regeneration which RESTORES to the image of God, see Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10; as to ineradicable righteousness granted - see II Corinthians 5:19-21, I John 3:9, John 5:24, Psalm 17:15, Psalm 139, Isaiah 51:6 and of course what follows. More interesting yet is this: while Christ IN YOU (Colossians 1:27) THE HOPE OF GLORY means He is in us who believe; Isaiah 61:3 shows His servants as those PLANTED BY THE LORD, trees of righteousness. Planted where? Paul tells us: "Rooted and grounded" in love (Ephesians 3:17), you have Christ living in your heart: it is by His Spirit like the sap which flows. Again, you are "rooted and built up in Him". The imagery changes and the impacts are cumulative.
Thus you are founded in His love, and so have His presence; and equally, yet again, you are grounded in Him, and so may be built on His foundation. As to those so planted, Isaiah continues in 61:7 - "Everlasting joy shall be theirs!" Again, as he prepares for the grand declaration of redemption in the Messiah (then to come), Isaiah pronounces this: "So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy upon their heads" - 51:11.
Here are the
Jews who are Jews indeed (Romans 2:29), here is the Zion which is free
and the "mother of us all",
which is above (Galatians 4:26). Certainly, there is a fulfilment as we
have shown in SMR Ch.9, of the Jewish covenant in their return a) to the
land and b) to the Lord; but in this spiritual domain, this is a mere sub-section
of the "new name" (62:1-3,
65:10-13) Christian Church, as has often been shown in these works; and
the everlasting character of the joy comes from the everlasting association
with Him who provides it, and whose righteousness flows like a torrent
wherever souls are His (Amos 5:24, Romans 8:10.
Indeed, in this city, "you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise"; for here the citizens are those of the commonwealth of heaven (Colossians 3:20). From heaven, indeed, "we eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even o subdue all things to Himself" - Colossians 3:21. Here there is the same frank certainty -"will transform", as in John 10:27-28,9, Romans 10:9. God knows how to keep His children.
Moreover, though the universe depart (and of course it will - Matthew 24:35, Isaiah 51:6, II Peter 3, Hebrews 12), yet in Him and in those who are His there is a righteousness as undivorceable as gene from progeny: we who are His are BRED from Him, and are MOULDED by Him, and His donated righteousness is not merely imputed but resident in His Person, while are beings are subjected to the new law appropriate for their new birth, the LAW OF LIFE (I John 3:1-10). This is that joy which the "ransomed of the Lord" know on the HIGHWAY of HOLINESS (Isaiah 35:8-10).
It is something which they "obtain", while "sorrow and sighing shall flee away". It is endemic with the Lord: this combination of eternity, righteousness and joy. Thus Isaiah 61:10 declares:
Note of course that this righteousness imputed is in the practical life of the saint, duly mortified in that his sins being cancelled, their power is alien and their life not his. It is not that it is inescapable in some form of sinless perfection at this stage. Rather it has in practice a resilience and a redemptive realisation in the heart of the ransomed that is ineffaceable, impervious to invasion and ineradicable through the intransigeance of the truth in Christ which supplants all contest. IF such a person fall into a sin, then there is the ADVOCATE (I John 2:1-3), Jesus Christ; and this advocate LIVES ON THE PREMISES and imparts His own life and power, so that "if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" - Romans 8:10.
Indeed, with Christ in you, you find that "He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you... for as many as are led by he Spirit of God, these are the sons of God" - Romans 8:13. THIS is the way it is, THIS is how it works, THIS is His life lived in His saints.
B) The Pillars Themselves
Now that we have seen the foundations, the life, the dynamic, the residency of our president, Jesus Christ, by His Spirit and all that this entails, in due address to the first part of Romans 8 and allied scriptures, let us turn to Romans 8:28-30. The intervening verses have been given attention in BEYOND THE CURSE, earlier in this volume.
First, notice that there is a gardener in our lives. The One who planted us indicates for this garden, that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" - 8:29. Thus there may be, will be suffering, and "through many tribulations" you enter the kingdom of heaven, as Paul states (I Timothy 3:12, Acts 14:22), but this is in the format of test, refinement, exposure of evil through loving grace and if need be opposition that surges though it is overcome, providence and planning. In the end, the structure of thought and the construction of the way leads to this blessed outcome.
The tempest may remove dead wood, uproot the unstable and carry off in a flourish of dynamic swirls, what is rubbish; but the children of the Lord are otherwise founded, rooted and grounded. Wisdom and knowledge is the stability of their times (Isaiah 33:6), and none will by any means snatch out of the Father's hand (John 10:27-28).
As to these CALLED according to His purpose, these who LOVE GOD (Romans 8:28), there is no static in the play of God's history, no tearing of the leaves of His book. It is planned from the first and kept true to the last. Romans 8:29-30 then gives us what you could almost - if it did not seem irreverent - liken to a circuit diagram; and certainly to an architectural structure.
There are FIVE steps in the circuit. First, there are those whom God FOREKNEW. This we recall, FOLLOWS the fact that all things work together for good to the lovers of God, in His purpose. They DO so work because He foreknew them. Before all time (Ephesians 1:4) He chose them as Christians. Not that He foresaw any righteousness in them, for (Ephesians 2:8-10) it is NOT of works, lest any man boast, and it is by faith through grace. Indeed, it is without the works of law that man is saved (Romans 3:28), and there is yet more! In Romans 9, Paul goes on to declare this: It is NOT a matter of the exercise of the human will, a question of our arraigning God by will: on the contrary, it is of God who calls: HE arraigns us! (9:16). HIS purpose according to predestination is going to stand, says Paul (9:11). HIS prior choice will be enacted. YOU, said Christ (John 15) have NOT chosen Me, but I have chosen you!
We have elsewhere (see Love that Passes Knowledge, in The Kingdom of Heaven; Predestination and Freewill etc.) shown that this by no means counters God's equally clear protestations of love and desire that "none should perish" and that "all should come to a knowledge of the truth" (I Timothy 2), a statement made in the parameters of there being ONE GOD and ONE MEDIATOR between God and man! It does however make clear that without reference to any meritorious performance or quality of mind or will, GOD CHOOSES. He KNOWS who are His (II Timothy 2:19), and indeed, of the Christian, it says this: He "has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" (II Timothy 1:9).
Thus the historical circuit, the terrestrial realities flowing from the celestial preparations! FIRST, He foreknows His own. SECOND: He predestinates them, He sets them their positions, apportions their lot; THIRD, He calls them in that special call which is "effectual", which is the one which is obeyed, which is apt for this circuit and sufficient for this result. FOURTH, He justifies, cancels the sin debt and apportions the righteousness gift (Romans 6:23, II Corinthians 5:19-21, Colossians 2:14, I Corinthians 1:30). Finally, and FIFTHLY, He glorifies the justified. At ANY point, there is a prior action and a prospective action, until the fifth, which is eternity in blissful independence from the very environment and presence of sin.
Note too how we are prepared for this circuit in Romans 8, in addition to those preliminaries already shown. Thus "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" - 8:18. Yes, this is personal, individual and a work of God and of grace. If, being His and thus so moved, we "suffer with Him", then we shall be "glorified". This then is the glory of which He speaks: it is the counter to suffering, it is the future to this regime and world, it is the place of heirs (8:17), and as such we share His glory.
THAT is how sure a foundation the saints have; THESE are the pillars of righteousness which cannot be moved; HERE is the security which makes safe-deposits archaic and almost mirthful! ONCE enter into this circuit, and all is assured. Justified, then you were foreknown; foreknown you will be glorified. In this stream, this current, you are carried remorselessly by the One who made both it and you! NONE shall snatch you out; NOTHING shall separate you from the love of God here.
This, in fact, is precisely what Paul goes on to say (Romans 8:35-39) in one of the prodigies of revelation of the liberalities and securities and graces of God! Read it, it is energising merely to hear!
C) The Flags on the Pillars
In the interim, in 8:31-34, you have equally, amazing Biblical Blessings to add to these. IS there any COUNTER to this? asks Paul (8:31). Not at all! If GOD is for us, there is NOTHING else that can avail. A lawyer, a potentate, a king, a president? Flesh that dies. If GOD is for us, WHO can be against us!
His commitment? IF He did not SPARE His ONLY Son, but delivered Him up for us all (speaking to the called and justified), HOW SHALL HE NOT with Him freely give us all things! (Keep here carefully to the context, for He is addressing the called with that "for" in verse 29), and God does NOT at all give all things, freely or otherwise, to those who are not His, but rather everlasting contempt and everlasting destruction (II Thessalonians 2, Daniel 12).
But some might urge: COULD not God bring some charge against us, Himself? Paul's answer again exposes the prodigious liberality of God's grace: "Who shall BRING A CHARGE against God's elect? It is God who justifies!" GOD is the VERY ONE who has put away sin by the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9) so bringing in "everlasting redemption". No it is not He! Who then is it that condemns? The very word is anomalous, for the active agent in this matter, at the very surface of the earth, at the very picturing of the face of God to man, is Christ, and as to Him, HIS will and action and activity in the field is this: IT IS CHRIST WHO DIED. Death is His contribution, but not this only: HE ROSE, He has arisen in power, He is in prayer at the right hand of God. Constant, consistent, faithful, fearless and favouring, He is the One who is our lawyer (I John 2:1-3), our Lord, our Saviour and our Redeemer, whose contribution is sacrificial death and glorious salvation.
These are like practical flags flying on the pillars of security, CHRIST-ASSURANCE, the assurance of the certainty of eternal and blessed salvation which is His. The circuit is strong; the flags are beautiful, and the life works as He says.
In all these things, Paul proceeds to declare, "I am persuaded that we are more than conquerors". Mere conquerors might flex their muscles and in the turmoil and troubled times, snatch and have snatched away again, in due course. Here however is an eternity of bliss; for no depth, height, no power, political, social or cultural, quasi-celestial, no power of any spirit, of any past, of any present thing or future thing: NOTHING shall be able to separate us from
the love of Christ.
2. Romans 5 and the Effulgence of Blessing
Before all this, Paul had already given such a presentation of the case of man on earth, and the grace of God from heaven as to be like a dawning light, coming ever brighter to the brilliant day.
In this Chapter 5, Paul has traced the sin of the first created pair, and then proceeded to contrast the DIFFERENT manner of sinning of those born from him, in his lineage and line, for "as by one man's disobedience, many were constituted sinners, so also by one man's obedience many will be constituted righteous." This constitution is not an inherent perfection, but a delegated position, a status, a manner of being, a placement in God's eye: it is situational, with dynamic consequences. Thus all born since Adam were sinners from the start, born in iniquity as David puts it (Psalm 51), not angles by any stretch of the imagination. Similarly, all born of Christ are given as it were spiritual genes, which though they are not perfection-determinants in the sense that sin is excluded, they do indicate a form of tree that naturally proceeds to bear good fruit. Moreover, there is a placement of the tree, a rooting and grounding as we saw. They are made into plants in the blessed botanics, whilst the other set is made into those of the cursed botanics. There are totally different criteria for both.
ONE man's sin, says Paul, led to MANY sinning; but ONE man's obedience does two things. First, it means that towards ALL this justifying righteousness is presented, freely available, and genuinely offered. Towards MANY, it becomes on reception, what results in "justification of life" (5:18), and these "will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (5:17). The law, says Paul, showed up and even incited sin, such was the sinfulness of sinners (Ch.7 and 5:20). But although sin in these ways abounded, yet grace superabundantly abounded, and REIGNS through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ. Righteousness is imputed, His presence is implicit and domestic to the heart, and in this His kingdom of power and empowering, enabling and adopting, there is an eternity of righteousness.
Those receiving this grace shall reign in life. Now we are considering the two lives, the former and the present, the unconverted and the converted. While it is indeed true that the converted life will be consummated in bliss without sin in the resurrection, it is no less true that it BEGINS NOW, and just as Adam died and imputed in history, so Christ rose and enables in history The "Reign in Life" begins now, albeit with many a tribulation. Look at the life of Paul: though the reign is one of service in the ever present sovereign and Saviour, what service, what deliverance, what presence and what enablement was provided!
THAT is the historical sketch. But what of the diagram, as it were, of FUNCTION? If that is the skeleton, what is the flesh? If that is the plan, what is the personality behind it?
THIS! Here we come to Romans 5:6-11.Now we come to the cyclotron of logic.
A. First, God's approach is as to unlovely sinners, and so far from being caught in desire for delightful mortals whose loveliness is impelling, God shows the purity and wonder and depth of His love in having His only Son die for us, while we were STILL IN THAT HORRID STATE! It is paying for a leper, offering to adopt a deaf mute. "Christ died us the ungodly", and God DEMONSTRATES His love in this, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". THAT is evidence astounding of the reliability and depth of the committed love.
B. Next comes the cumulative point that applies for those who become Christians.
IF we are justified by His blood (and this applies to His own), THEN this is our assurance that we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Wrath where such tokens of grace are exuberant; wrath where such cancellation of its ground occurs! Wrath where successful war has been waged on its basis! War at such a bold stroke of utter love and total justice! Heaven forbid!
The totality of the sacrifice, the depth of the undertaking, the expression of the commitment, the adequacy of what is committed to cancel sin, the stature of the One who does it: all this assures us that IF blood covers sin, then Christ whose blood it is, covers us. His life for our lives, His virtue for our vice, His adequacy for our spiritual inadequacy, His unbreachable purity for our unteachable impurity. He has us covered - with His blood, His death, His offering, His adequate and infinitely prized guarantee - Himself.
C . Now: If we are so saved by His weakness, His death, His sacrificial buffering even to blood: then HOW MUCH MORE are we to be kept by His strength, His resurrected and impenetrable life, for He dies no more; for He was dead, but is alive for evermore (Revelation 1). He HAS MET the requirements of covering sin's penalty, and having done so, continues by "the power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16), indeed as one whose it is to have "life in Himself" (John 5:19-26).
Death saved in weakness, life keeps in strength; the death of His SON brought salvation, the LIFE of this SON will keep by its munificence and eternity. Death was deserved by us as ENEMIES, yet God intervened; HOW MUCH MORE will He keep as FRIENDS, those who He has NOW and THUS reconciled! (5:10).
Let us illustrate. Suppose two aircraft were on fatal collision course, neither knowing at this immense dual speed of approach, how to act so as to avoid the other. Then someone on the radio gives joint instructions, and with split-second timing the noses climb and fall respectively by just a fraction sufficient to deliver from destruction. IF when this was imminent, intervention enabled deliverance from disaster and death, HOW MUCH MORE will SAFETY be managed when the crisis is past.
Indeed, says Paul, not only are we who have been reconciled by this prodigy of grace and performance by God, saved by HIS LIFE, whose death so availed for us; we REJOICE in God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:11). As in Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is your strength". How else! Through Him we have received the atonement guaranteeing that we shall reign in life, here enabled, there ennobled in the form of the spirits of the just made perfect (Hebrews 12:23)! Then shall He have wrought even further, for He "shall change our lowly body, that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" - Philippians 3:21.
is not only warranted, but super-abundantly secured for the children of
God: they are His! And He? He is God (I John 3:9, John 10:9,27-28, 8:58.
3. Divine Appointment
For the Christian, then, the child of God whose spiritual reconstitution has meant new spiritual 'genes', there is to all this a divine "appointment". With sin's guilt cancelled in a life for life proposition (Hebrews 10:10,14, 9:12-15, 6:19-20, 9:27-28, Romans 8:15-17, 32-39, 5:12-17, 4:25 with 8:29, 6:23, 10:9, 14:8-9, Colossians 2:13-14 and 3:24, Ephesians 1:4-11, ), there is "justification of life" that just as sin reigned to death, so grace should reign to eternal life. Thus we
The appointment is sure, the destiny determinate, the adoption taken out in the name of the Almighty. For, says Paul in I Thessalonians 5:9-10: