The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘justification

Are you a good person?

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Most of us like to think that we are good people.  After all, there are so many other people who are much worse than us.  We think we know what is right.  We often want to do what is right, but it is hard to do the right thing.  Why do we do things that we know are wrong?  And why do we feel bad inside when we do things that we know are wrong?  How do we measure goodness?  And how good is good enough?

The Lord God, who made you and takes care of you, has told us what is right and wrong.  One day we will all have to face Him.  He will judge everything that we have done, everything that we have said, and even everything that we have thought.  Jesus said, “Be ready, for the Son of Man [Jesus Christ] is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew’s gospel, chapter 24, verse 44).  How can you be ready?  Will you be good enough?

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Take a moment to read God’s Ten Commandments:

1.  You shall have no other gods before Me.

2.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.  For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

3.  You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

4.  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.  In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

5.  Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

6.  You shall not murder.

7.  You shall not commit adultery.

8.  You shall not steal.

9.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

10.  You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.

How do you compare to this standard?  You might think you can make fun of the standard: “I’ve never coveted anybody’s ox or donkey!”  You might think it easy to point to the things that you haven’t done: “I’ve never murdered anyone”.  But Jesus taught that the Ten Commandments go much deeper than we imagine.  They are as much about our thoughts, our hearts, our attitudes, as they are about what we physically do (if you have a Bible, you can find this in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 5, verses 17-30).  Jesus said, “whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5.22) and “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5.28).

No wonder the Bible teaches that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (the letter to the Romans, chapter 3, verse 10).  We have all broken the Ten Commandments: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23).  Is any one of us good enough for God?  No!

But that is not the end of the story.  Why did God write these Ten Commandments if none of us can keep them?  The Bible answers this question.  God says that the Ten Commandments – God’s holy law – is our “tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (the letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 24).

How does Jesus Christ fit in, and what does it mean to be justified by faith?

Jesus fits in because “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians, chapter 4, verse 4).  Jesus Christ, being both God and man, obeyed the law of God perfectly.  He lived according to the law, and is the only man who never broke one of God’s Ten Commandments in his thoughts, words, or deeds.  Read the accounts of His life in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and you cannot find one instance when He sinned: He was never less than perfect in all that He thought, said and did.  But what does that have to do with us?

The Bible teaches that we all have a sinful nature.  After all, nobody needs to be taught how to do wrong things – it is the way we are, and we act in accordance with it.  But the Bible promises that “through one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5.19).  That verse is talking about Jesus, and means that somehow sinners like us can benefit from the perfect and sinless life that Jesus lived.

If we are to face God in judgment and not be damned for our sins – condemned for all the things that break God’s law – then we need the holiness and perfection of Jesus.  This is what it means to be justified: for God to declare us to be right in his sight.  For that we need a perfect righteousness.  How do we get this righteousness?  Through faith in Jesus Christ, his righteousness is put to our account.  Then, “justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5.1).  Peace with God!  If your conscience tells you that you have done things wrong, and must one day face God, what would you not give to know peace with God?

Don’t try and have peace with God by trying to be better, by trying to keep God’s Ten Commandments better.  We cannot keep God’s law: “No one is justified by the law in the sight of God” (Galatians 3.11).  That sends us to Jesus Christ for the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”  God’s answer is this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”  This salvation is “by grace . . . through faith” (Ephesians 2.8).  “By grace”: it is the gift of God, and not something that we can earn or deserve.  “Through faith”: repenting of our sins, and trusting completely and only in Jesus Christ.  He lived the life that we should have lived, but could not.  He died the death that we deserved, being punished by God for the sins of His people.

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Examine your life, examine your heart.  Consider the standard of God’s Ten Commandments, and compare yourself to it.  Listen to your conscience.  Then repent of your sin, and ask God to save you through Jesus Christ.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 5 November 2009 at 11:37

“We sing the grace of God above”

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Niagara  L.M.

We sing the grace of God above,
Of boundless goodness, boundless love;
The story on our hearts engraved
Of sins forgiven, of sinners saved.

Here justice, mercy, wisdom shine –
The outworked plan of grace divine.
In Jesus Christ the cords all meet,
In Christ we see the plan complete.

And did this Christ come from on high,
This sinful soul to justify?
Yes, our Redeemer left his throne
And came to earth to claim his own.

And shall I come to heaven above?
‘Tis all of grace and all of love
That Christ should live and die for me,
And set my soul at liberty.

He died for us, our sins to atone;
He died to make us each his own,
And soon we join our Christ on high:
Elect, redeemed, and glorified.

Then lift your hearts to speak his praise –
The wonders of his matchless grace!
This humble gift we gladly bring:
The praises of our Saviour King.

©JRW

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See all hymns and psalms.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 26 September 2008 at 15:07

What is faith?

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Repentant sinners sometimes agitate over whether or not they really are believing. Fearful saints often agonize over whether or not they have faith. What is it? Are they deluding themselves? Are they really trusting?

There are at least two misconceptions that often lie behind such concerns. The first is the felt need for something that feels real and definite, perhaps for something that is palpably concrete, even spectacular. “Is it real?” is the question. “Have I really put saving faith in Jesus Christ?” It has to do more with the right kind of faith, the reality of faith. The second has to do with degrees of faith. In essence, the question becomes, “Do I have enough faith?” The crisis hinges on whether or not we really are savingly attached to Jesus Christ with the kind of grip that truly delivers from sin and death and hell.

Both of these misconceptions have a common root. In both instances, the fearful one is looking at something in himself rather than at the fulness that is in Christ. Often, deeply distressed persons will assure a friend that they have no doubts whatsoever about the ability of Christ to save, but they wonder whether he has saved them, whether they really have faith. The problem may lie with false notions of what justifying faith really is, in its proper relation to Jesus Christ.

We must never forget that it is Christ who saves by faith. It is not faith in and of itself that delivers a soul from death, but Christ. Faith reaches out to Christ. Weak faith in a strong Christ saves just as well as far stronger faith! And that faith is not necessarily a spectacular event; it is not necessarily something which is felt with consistent passion and constant awareness. It is, in essence, a simple thing. In chapter 15 of his work On Justification, John Owen asks and gently answers the question, “What is faith?” The answers are drawn from the language of Scripture. It does us good to set Christ before us, and to consider the Scripture language for saving faith in all its simple sweetness, and to rest in the unchangeable Christ with confidence in him, and not in the presence of absence of felt vigour in the faith which holds fast to him.

The truth which we plead has two parts:- 1. That the righteousness of God imputed to us, unto the justification of life, is the righteousness of Christ, by whose obedience we are made righteous. 2. That it is faith alone which on our part is required to interest us in that righteousness, or whereby we comply with God’s grant and communication of it, or receive it unto our use and benefit; for although this faith is in itself the radical principle of all obedience, – and whatever is not so, which cannot, which does not, on all occasions, evidence, prove, show, or manifest itself by works, is not of the same kind with it, – yet, as we are justified by it, its act and duty is such, or of that nature, as that no other grace, duty, or work, can be associated with it, or be of any consideration. And both these are evidently confirmed in that description which is given us in the Scripture of the nature of faith and believing unto the justification of life.

I know that many expressions used in the declaration of the nature and work of faith herein are metaphorical, at least are generally esteemed so to be; – but they are such as the Holy Ghost, in his infinite wisdom, thought meet to make use of for the instruction and edification of the church. And I cannot but say, that those who understand not how effectually the light of knowledge is communicated unto the minds of them that believe by them, and a sense of the things intended unto their spiritual experience, seem not to have taken a due consideration of them. Neither, whatever skill we pretend unto, do we know always what expressions of spiritual things are metaphorical. Those oftentimes may seem so to be, which are most proper. However, it is most safe for us to adhere unto the expressions of the Holy Spirit, and not to embrace such senses of things as are inconsistent with them, and opposite unto them. Wherefore, –

1. That faith whereby we are justified is most frequently in the New Testament expressed by receiving. This notion of faith has been before spoken unto, in our general inquiry into the use of it in our justification. It shall not, therefore, be here much again insisted on. Two things we may observe concerning it:- First, That it is so expressed with respect unto the whole object of faith, or unto all that does any way concur unto our justification; for we are said to receive Christ himself: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,” John i. 12; “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord,” Col. ii. 6. In opposition hereunto unbelief is expressed by not receiving of him, John i. 11; iii. 11; xii. 48; xiv. 17. And it is a receiving of Christ as he is “The Lord our Righteousness,” as of God he is made righteousness unto us. And as no grace, no duty, can have any co-operation with faith herein, – this reception of Christ not belonging unto their nature, nor comprised in their exercise, – so it excludes any other righteousness from our justification but that of Christ alone; for we are “justified by faith.” Faith alone receives Christ; and what it receives is the cause of our justification, whereon we become the sons of God. So we “receive the atonement” made by the blood of Christ, Rom. v. 11; for “God hath set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” And this receiving of the atonement includes the soul’s approbation of the way of salvation by the blood of Christ, and the appropriation of the atonement made thereby unto our own souls. For thereby also we receive the forgiveness of sins: “That they may receive forgiveness of sins … by faith that is in me,” Acts xxvi. 18. In receiving Christ we receive the atonement; and in the atonement we receive the forgiveness of sins. But, moreover, the grace of God, and righteousness itself, as the efficient and material cause of our justification, are received also; even the “abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness,” Rom. v. 17. So that faith, with respect unto all the causes of justification, is expressed by “receiving;” for it also receives the promise, the instrumental cause on the part of God thereof, Acts ii. 41; Heb. ix. 15. Secondly, That the nature of faith, and its acting with respect unto all the causes of justification, consisting in receiving, that which is the object of it must be offered, tendered, and given unto us, as that which is not our own, but is made our own by that giving and receiving. This is evident in the general nature of receiving. And herein, as was observed, as no other grace or duty can concur with it, so the righteousness whereby we are justified can be none of our own antecedent unto this reception, nor at any time inherent in us. Hence we argue, that if the work of faith in our justification be the receiving of what is freely granted, given, communicated, and imputed unto us, – that is, of Christ, of the atonement, of the gift of righteousness, of the forgiveness of sins, – then have our other graces, our obedience, duties, works, no influence into our justification, nor are any causes or conditions thereof; for they are neither that which does receive nor that which is received, which alone concur thereunto.

2. Faith is expressed by looking: “Look unto me, and be ye saved,” Isa. xlv. 22; “A man shall look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect unto the Holy One of Israel,” chap. xvii. 7; “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced,” Zech. xii. 10. See Ps. cxxiii. 2. The nature hereof is expressed, John iii. 14, 15, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” For so was he to be lifted up on the cross in his death, John viii. 28, chap. xii. 32. The story is recorded Numb. xxi. 8, 9. I suppose none doubt but that the stinging of the people by fiery serpents, and the death that ensued thereon, were types of the guilt of sin, and the sentence of the fiery law thereon; for these things happened unto them in types, 1 Cor. x. 11. When any was so stung or bitten, if he betook himself unto any other remedies, he died and perished. Only they that looked unto the brazen serpent that was lifted up were healed, and lived; for this was the ordinance of God, – this way of healing alone had he appointed. And their healing was a type of the pardon of sin, with everlasting life. So by their looking is the nature of faith expressed, as our Saviour plainly expounds it in this place: “So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him,” – that is, as the Israelites looked unto the serpent in the wilderness, – [“should not perish.”] And although this expression of the great mystery of the gospel by Christ himself has been by some derided, or, as they call it, exposed, yet is it really as instructive of the nature of faith, justification, and salvation by Christ, as any passage in the Scripture. Now, if faith, whereby we are justified, and in that exercise of it wherein we are so, be a looking unto Christ, under a sense of the guilt of sin and our lost condition thereby, for all, for our only help and relief, for deliverance, righteousness, and life, then is it therein exclusive of all other graces and duties whatever; for by them we neither look, nor are they the things which we look after. But so is the nature and exercise of faith expressed by the Holy Ghost; and they who do believe understand his mind. For whatever may be pretended of metaphor in the expression, faith is that act of the soul whereby they who are hopeless, helpless, and lost in themselves, do, in a way of expectancy and trust, seek for all help and relief in Christ alone, or there is not truth in it. And this also sufficiently evinces the nature of our justification by Christ.

3. It is, in like manner, frequently expressed by coming unto Christ: “Come unto me, all ye that labour,” Matt. xi. 28. See John vi. 35, 37, 45, 65; vii. 37. To come unto Christ for life and salvation, is to believe on him unto the justification of life; but no other grace or duty is a coming unto Christ: and therefore have they no place in justification. He who has been convinced of sin, who has been wearied with the burden of it, who has really designed to fly from the wrath to come, and has heard the voice of Christ in the gospel inviting him to come unto him for help and relief, will tell you that this coming unto Christ consists in a man’s going out of himself, in a complete renunciation of all his own duties and righteousness, and betaking himself with all his trust and confidence unto Christ alone, and his righteousness, for pardon of sin, acceptation with God, and a right unto the heavenly inheritance. It may be some will say this is not believing, but canting; be it so: we refer the judgment of it to the church of God.

4. It is expressed by fleeing for refuge: Heb. vi. 18, “Who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us.” [See] Prov. xviii. 10. Hence some have defined faith to be “perfugium animæ,” the flight of the soul unto Christ for deliverance from sin and misery. And much light is given unto the understanding of the thing intended thereby. For herein it is supposed that he who believes is antecedently thereunto convinced of his lost condition, and that if he abide therein he must perish eternally; that he has nothing of himself whereby he may be delivered from it; that he must betake himself unto somewhat else for relief; that unto this end he considers Christ as set before him, and proposed unto him in the promise of the gospel; that he judges this to be a holy, a safe way, for his deliverance and acceptance with God, as that which has the characters of all divine excellencies upon it: hereon he flees unto it for refuge, that is, with diligence and speed, that he perish not in his present condition; he betakes himself unto it by placing his whole trust and affiance thereon. And the whole nature of our justification by Christ is better declared hereby, unto the supernatural sense and experience of believers, than by a hundred philosophical disputations about it.

5. The terms and notions by which it is expressed under the Old Testament are, leaning on God, Mic. iii. 11; or Christ, Cant. viii. 5; – rolling or casting ourselves and our burden on the Lord, Ps. xxii. 8, [margin,] xxxvii. 5 – (the wisdom of the Holy Ghost in which expressions has by some been profanely derided); – resting on God, or in him, 2 Chron. xiv. 11; Ps. xxxvii. 7; – cleaving, trusting, hoping, and waiting, in places innumerable. And it may be observed, that those who acted faith as it is thus expressed, do everywhere declare themselves to be lost, hopeless, helpless, desolate, poor, orphans; whereon they place all their hope and expectation on God alone. unto the Lord, Deut. iv. 4; Acts xi. 23; as also by

All that I would infer from these things is, that the faith whereby we believe unto the justification of life, or which is required of us in a way of duty that we may be justified, is such an act of the whole soul whereby convinced sinners do wholly go out of themselves to rest upon God in Christ for mercy, pardon, life, righteousness, and salvation, with an acquiescence of heart therein; which is the whole of the truth pleaded for.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 27 May 2008 at 09:56

Christ our righteousness #5 A real reliance essential

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(Part 5 of 5. See parts 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.)

Finally, we must ask the question: How does a sinner obtain such incalculable blessings? “In him.” The blessings are obtained by being united to Christ. God is “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3.26) and in so doing his justice and holiness are by no means compromised but rather exalted. Faith is the instrument of union with the Lord Jesus: real, lively, engaged faith, as opposed to something static or inactive. Faith is not a child stillborn: it cries! It is a gift of God by which the regenerate man reaches out with an empty hand to latch hold of Christ. Christ saves, and the instrument by which he saves is faith. Do we describe faith as active or as passive? Faith acts, but it acts by receiving. It is not mindless, it does not bypass man and his faculties, but is the engagement of the whole man with the whole Christ, by means of which union the God-righteousness of Christ is made man’s. Robert Traill speaks of justifying faith thus:

They all, both Christ’s enemies and his disciples, knew that faith in him was a believing that the man Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, so as to receive, and look for salvation in his name (Acts 4.12) . . . . That faith in Jesus Christ justifies (although, by the way, it is to be noted that it is never written in the Word that faith justifies actively,[1] but it is always expressed passively: that a man is justified by faith, and that God justifies men by and through faith; yet admitting the phrase) only as a mere instrument, receiving that imputed righteousness of Christ, for which we are justified. And this faith, in the office of justification, is neither condition, nor qualification, nor our gospel-righteousness, but is in its very act a renouncing of all such pretences.[2]

These blessings belong to a man in union with Christ, and nowhere else; that union is effected by saving faith, and nothing else. We shall be judged in accordance with our relationship with Jesus Christ the Righteous, and faith alone brings us into a saving connection with him.

In closing, I want to address each of you with two questions.

Firstly, what is your relationship with Jesus Christ and his righteousness?

Are you in Christ? Have you ever reckoned with the fact that God will reckon your sins to your own account if they are not reckoned to Christ? Have you realised that if your sins are put to your own account then you are under the just condemnation of a holy God, and exposed to the damnation and abandonment that your sins deserve? Will you not turn from your sins to Christ, in order that you might be saved? Or perhaps you are in agony of conscience, and have been for days, or weeks, or months, or even years, and you feel yourself to be on the outside, longing to be reconciled to God and to have peace with him? As an ambassador for Christ, I implore you: “Be reconciled to God!” Believe and be saved! Trust in Christ for your reconciliation with God! Come to this glorious Redeemer, receive this real righteousness, rest upon the promises of the merciful Almighty. How poorly we have painted his glory, but how glorious is his sufficiency for guilty sinners! Trust in Jesus Christ the righteous and these blessings are yours. The most perverse and filthy sinner who trusts in Jesus Christ receives in that moment pardon for his sins, and is accounted in the eyes of God as actually possessing the flawless righteousness of the perfect God-man, in whom he is well pleased. This is what it means to be “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1.6): this is God’s grace in Christ.

But are you indeed in Christ by faith? Then you, as John Owen says, have obtained acceptance before God, with a right and title unto a heavenly inheritance. What joys and blessings are unshakeably and unmistakeably yours! You are loved like Christ (Jn 17.23) on account of the righteousness of Christ imputed to you, received by faith. You are a justified man: having been justified, you have peace with God through your Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also you have access by faith into this grace in which you stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but you also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom 5.1-5). How many sweet hours we might spend considering what we have in Christ: privileges and blessings unshakeably, securely, and eternally ours! These joys and blessings do not rest upon your works, or lack of them. They can never be taken from you. No flaw shall ever be found in the righteousness which God considers as yours, and so there will never be any falling short to be made up in your relationship with God through Christ. He is yours, and you are his, and in him you stand eternally secure.

Secondly, what is your report of Jesus Christ and his righteousness?

What is your report to heretics and opposers? What do you have to say to those who set themselves against these truths? Christian, if you die, this will be your hope – shall you therefore be ashamed of it while you live? We live in an age when once more the very heart of the gospel is at stake, and we must take pains to identify and defend truth, and identify and contend with error. This is a time when there is a great necessity of standing for the truths upon which the destiny of your immortal soul is hanging. Can we not afford to suffer a little now for the sake of the Christ who suffered to obtain these blessings for us, especially when we recall that those sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom 8.18)? Martin Luther put it this way:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.[3]

This is no “little point”: this is the centre of things. As we have already seen from Mr Traill, all the great fundamentals of Christian truth centre in this of justification. The Trinity of Persons in the Godhead; the incarnation of the only Begotten of the Father; the satisfaction paid to the law and justice of God for the sins of the world by his obedience and sacrifice of himself in that flesh he assumed; and the divine authority of the Scriptures which reveal this: these are all straight lines of truth that centre in this doctrine of justification of a sinner by the imputation and application of that satisfaction.

If the heart of truth is shifted, it will bend and bias all the lines of truth which centre upon it; if the lines of truth are twisted and bent, they shall lead no one to salvation. We face a battle to defend truth, but William Gurnall reminds us that one of the qualities of truth that helps us to love it and hold to it is that it is victorious. He admits that “sometimes, I confess, the enemies to ‘truth’ get the militia of this lower world into their hands, and then truth seems to go to the ground,” but reminds us that “persecutors need not be at cost for marble to write the memorial of their victories in, dust will serve well enough, for they are not like to last so long”:

Who loves not to be on the winning side? Choose truth for thy side, and thou hast it. News may come that truth is sick, but never that it is dead. No, it is error that is short-lived. ‘A lying tongue is but for a moment;’ but truth’s age runs parallel with eternity. [4]

We might be tempted to wonder at Gurnall’s suggestion that error is short-lived, given that we are fighting old errors reborn, but when we realise that his context is eternity, then we are encouraged! Truth’s face is now covered in tears and blood, but we must stand with her and fight for her, in the sure anticipation of her eventual and eternal victory.

And what is your report to the ignorant and needy? What report do you have of Christ and his righteousness for your lost family members, neighbours, friends and colleagues? We are none of us apostles, but we all of us have some duty and warrant in this text to call to the ungodly: “Be reconciled to God!” These and these alone are the truths that can heal the broken-hearted – no-where but here is salvation to be found. Again, Traill asks of the man or woman whose conscience is awakened, who asks what must they do to be saved:

Why should not the right answer be given, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved’? Tell him what Christ is, what he has done and suffered to obtain eternal redemption for sinners, and that according to the will of God and his Father. Give him a plain downright narrative of the gospel salvation wrought out by the Son of God; tell him the history and mystery of the gospel plainly. It may be the Holy Ghost will work faith thereby, as he did in those firstfruits of the Gentiles in Acts 10.44. If he asks what warrant he has to believe on Jesus Christ, tell him that he has an utter indispensable necessity for it, for without believing on him he must perish eternally; that he has God’s gracious offer of Christ and all his redemption, with a promise that, upon accepting the offer by faith, Christ and salvation with him are his: that he has God’s express commandment (1Jn 3.23) to believe on Christ’s name, and that he should make conscience of obeying it, as much as any command in the moral law. Tell him of Christ’s ability and goodwill to save; that no man was every rejected by him who cast himself upon him; that desperate cases are the glorious triumphs of his art of saving.[5]

Do you do this, brethren? Are you speaking for, praying for, and looking for the glorious triumphs of the art of Christ’s saving through his finished work? Can you tell the history and mystery of the gospel plainly and clearly? Are you ready to give to wretched and needy sinners a plain downright narrative concerning Christ and him crucified, the forgiveness of sins, and a God-righteousness obtainable through faith in Jesus? Are you calling sinners to trust in this Jesus and thereby to be delivered from sin, to obtain acceptance with our holy God, and to receive a right and title to a heavenly inheritance?

On these things hang the eternal destinies of our own souls, and the souls of every man and woman, boy and girl, in this world. Let us, then, love, hold to, and proclaim the Christ of the truth, and love, hold to, and proclaim the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.


[1] Traill’s point is not that faith does not act, but rather that God does not view us as righteous because of our faith (which would make faith, in essence, a work), but because of Christ’s righteousness, which is appropriated by the God-given instrument of faith.

[2] Traill, Justification Vindicated, 29 and 46.

[3] Martin Luther, Briefwechsel [Correspondence], Works (Weimar Edition), 3:81.

[4] William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1964), 316.

[5] Traill, Justification Vindicated, 27-28.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 30 April 2008 at 10:40

Christ our righteousness #4 A real righteousness imputed

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(Part 4 of 5. See parts 1 and 2 and 3.)

There is a further element, a positive change for the man or woman, boy or girl, in Christ. We are not merely declared or constituted innocent – free from guilt – on account of our sins being counted to and fully punished in Christ. God does more than a human judge might do at the bar of a human court. The human judge can look at the criminal before him and – so long as the law has somehow been satisfied, perhaps through lack of evidence to convict – he can declare the guilty man’s innocence. However, he cannot declare him righteous, and put obedience to his account. The criminal might leave the courtroom declared innocent, and free from guilt in the eyes of the law, but still lacking any particular positive merit in the eyes of the law.

In God’s dealings with us in Christ, the Lord Jesus is made our sin-bearing substitute with the intention of a corresponding transfer the other way. The transfer of our sin to Christ is with a definite purpose: “in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him” – the transfer of righteousness from Christ to man. Again, the language is both profound and deliberate. It is not the language of a process that occurs over time, but the language of one mighty and decisive act of the reconciling God, without any possible or necessary contribution from man. The language is not even that of accounting, or imputation. Murray elucidates:

Just as Christ became so identified with our sins that, though knowing no sin, he was made sin, so we being in ourselves utterly ungodly and therefore knowing no righteousness are so identified with Christ’s righteousness that we are made the righteousness of God. In reality the concept is richer than that of imputation; it is not simply reckoned as ours, but it is reckoned to us and we are identified with it.[1]

This is more than appearance, than a mere gilding of righteousness: this is divinely constituted reality. I could freight a load of gold-leaf into the pulpit and cover all the wood so that it appeared to be gold to the outward observer, but it would not change the nature of the wood. However, if I possessed the enviable alchemic power actually to alter the nature of the wood so that it became, by some supernatural means, gold, then no matter how deeply you bored or drilled, it would have ceased to be constituted wood, and would have become gold. It is altogether gold, and cannot be considered otherwise. And so it is with us – and what gold! We “become the righteousness of God”! As Christ’s sin was not of him, so our righteousness is not of us – it is of God, it is divine in its quality. Adam before the fall was a man without any sin upon his record, and righteous with the righteousness of a man who had not sinned. The sinner saved by the grace of God in Christ is a man stripped of the sin that was upon his record – his trespasses are not imputed to him, because Christ has been made sin for him – and who has been constituted not humanly but divinely righteous in God’s sight. The righteousness is nothing less than “God’s own” – it is divine in quality[2] – and God’s own righteousness satisfies God’s righteous demands as completely, absolutely and eternally as could be calculated or imagined. Under the microscope of divine scrutiny, God has himself assured that the redeemed sinner lacks nothing and possesses everything that is required, and is constituted the fit object of the holy God’s delight.


[1] John Murray, ‘Justification’ in Works (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977), 2:214.

[2] Professor Murray carefully points out that this God-righteousness “is not, of course, the divine attribute of justice or righteousness, but, nevertheless, it is a righteousness with divine attributes or qualities, and therefore a righteousness which is of divine property.” Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 127.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 29 April 2008 at 09:27

Christ our righteousness #3 A real Redeemer supplied

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(Part 3 of 5. See parts 1 and 2.)

How can God remain holy and yet declare a sinner righteous in his sight? How can he be just and yet justify a sinner (Rom 3.26)? If God is to be just, sin must be punished – it cannot be overlooked, excused, or forgotten: it must be dealt with in righteousness. So, if God does not impute our trespasses to us (v19) then how does he deal with sins in accordance with his holiness?

The non-imputation of our sins rests upon the fact that Christ was made our substitute: he paid the price of our ransom from the guilt and power of sin, and its necessary and appropriate penalty.

He was qualified in himself for such a substitution, for he ‘knew no sin’. Of all men who ever lived, only Jesus the Christ was entirely without sin. Peter quotes Isaiah to tell us that he “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth” (1Pt 2.22), calling our attention to the fact that his blood was “precious . . . as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pt 1.19). The writer to the Hebrews builds his case for the absolute supremacy of Christ in part upon his sinlessness, informing us that he was “without sin” (Heb 4.15), “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Heb 7.26). Given the opportunity, even Christ’s enemies could bring no charge against him to convict him of sin (Jn 8.46); Pilate himself, that vacillating judge, confessed that “I find no fault in him” (Jn 19.4). The Lord Jesus recognised sin for what it was, and was grieved, appalled and angered by it, but he had no personal acquaintance with it: he was a stranger to it in his personal experience. He never indulged in sin, never committed one transgression, was guilty of no iniquity. He had no trespasses of his own to be imputed to his own account.

This one, whose sinlessness Chrysostom exposits and throws into sharp relief by speaking of him as ‘Righteousness-itself,’ was alone capable of standing for others precisely because he was under no obligations of his own. Perhaps a very prosaic illustration will help. Imagine that you have done your weekly shop, and – as tends to be the case – you have as many heavy bags as you have fingers, and you pull up outside your home and open the boot of the car to carry your bags inside. Your neighbour looks over and sees you struggling with the burden. If he had likewise just pulled up with his own shopping, and was laden down with it, he would be in no position to assist you with yours. If he was carrying any of his own, he would not be able to bear all of yours. But, fortunately, he has no burden of his own, and so is able to come and relieve you of the entirety of the weight that you would otherwise have to bear. So with Christ: having nothing of his own to bear, he is able to relieve us of the entirety of the sins that would otherwise be put to our account. He alone, being sinless, was able to bear the sin of others.

And that is precisely what he did: being qualified, he accomplished in himself this substitution. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” Peter tells us that this sinless one “himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree” (1Pt 2.24). Isaiah uses similar words: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . he bore the sin of many” (Is 53.6, 12). The thought almost seems to beggar the meaning of language: he who was never personally defiled by his own sin was accounted the embodiment of sin by God, and punished accordingly. The sins not imputed to us were counted his, and he exhausted the curse those sins deserved. This very one was delivered up – in the place of others – to the damnation and abandonment which sin merits. This is substitutionary atonement, and this is not the doctrine of ‘cosmic child abuse,’ as some would have it! This is the Triune God satisfying divine justice, the Son voluntarily bearing sin in the place of his people and the Father necessarily punishing it in the person of his Son. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8.3).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 26 April 2008 at 07:32

Christ our righteousness #2 A real reconciliation required

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(Part 2 of 5. Part 1 here.)

Five times in verses 18 to 21 Paul uses variations on a word having to do with the concept of ‘reconciliation.’ This has the essential meaning of the restoration of a relationship previously characterised by hostility, of ending a relationship of enmity and substituting in its place one of goodwill and peace.[1] The two parties in view are God and man, and the cause of the contention that requires resolution is clearly the transgression of man (v19). In other words, this whole discussion necessarily pre-supposes the reality of sin and its effect in making a breach between God and man. So long as he counts or imputes our trespasses against us, there can be no peace between this holy God – who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness (Hab 1.13) – and fallen man in all the God-antagonising grime of his sin. Elsewhere, from what Paul states about the relationship that a justified man sustains to God, we can imply what is lacking beforehand: there is no peace with God, but hostility and war; there is no standing in grace before him; there is no joy, because no hope of glory, but only a fear of wrath (Rom 5.1-2). This is the fearful condition of the natural man in his relationship with the Almighty God. Note, too, that while man is considered to be at enmity with God, the more fundamental issue is that God is angry with sinful man, and that man cannot in his own sinful self please God (cf. Rom 8.8-7): God is offended by our sin and he is angry with the wicked every day (Ps 7.11). Such is the obstacle to be overcome.

Furthermore, it is evident that this reconciliation must be of God: man has neither instinctive desire nor actual ability to initiate or accomplish such a restoration. This must be the work of God in sovereign love and mercy, both initiating and accomplishing this work of reconciliation, and so we find it in 2 Corinthians 5: “God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ;” “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” This reconciliation must be and is a sovereign act arising unbidden by man out of the will of the Lord of heaven and earth, in accordance with his gracious purposes.

This, then, is the context of the whole matter of justification: a holy God angry with sinful man, who – if he is to obtain acceptance before God, with a right and title to a heavenly inheritance – must be brought back by God into a right relationship with himself, but only and necessarily in such a way “that the purpose of his love to lost men may be accomplished in accordance with and to the vindication of all the perfections that constitute his glory.”[2] The reconciliation of God to man, if it is to be accomplished, must be accomplished without in the least degree compromising the holiness of God.

What a fearful obstacle to overcome! What mere man would begin to dream of a solution to such an awesome conundrum, let alone suggest his scheme to the offended God of heaven and earth?

And yet here we have a God-appointed man, speaking as an ambassador for Christ himself, as though this holy God were himself pleading through him – fearful responsibility! – and crying out to sinners: “Be reconciled to God!” Gospel imperatives (the commands of the Word of God) are founded upon gospel indicatives (the facts recorded in God’s word) and come with divine power. Is this what we find in this instance? Is there really a solid foundation for such a bold declaration and invitation? This is precisely what we find in verse 21.


[1] See also Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Preaching the Atonement,” in The Glory of the Atonement, ed. Charles E. Hill & Frank A. James III (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 432-433.

[2] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1961), 32.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 25 April 2008 at 07:49

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