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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 34

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

There Is No Difference

There is no difference between a drunkard down in the gutter and the man of morality (but out of Christ)? Yes, there is a difference. The one fellow is worse than the other, as far as sensual sin is concerned, but as far as being a lost man, there is no difference! Neither one has righteousness with God. A state penitentiary may contain several hundred men. Some of them are in for life, some are murderers, others are thieves. Some may be more deeply criminal than others. But there is no difference as far as one thing is concerned: they are all there in prison because they are all lawbreakers.

This phrase "no difference" occurs in one other place in Romans: "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him" (10:12). That is the other side. If there is no difference when it comes to man's need, thank God there is no difference in God's meeting that need.

All Have Sinned

In the clause, "For all have sinned," the tense indicates something done in the past. It does not matter how many times a man does it - a man may sin a hundred times, but as God looks back, He simply says, "All have sinned."

All Come Short

Then Paul uses the present tense: "all ... come short." Let us read it this way: "And are continuously coming short of the glory of God." That is the result of "all have sinned." What if someone denies that and says, "I have not sinned"? To such a one there comes the answer from the first epistle of John, "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:10).

That verb has another significant meaning, indicated by its grammatical voice. The middle voice points to the fact that the cause of man's condition is not from outside himself, but "in" him.

What is this glory of God that men are constantly coming short of? John 1:14 gives us the explanation: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." What is that glory there? Was that the glory that made John fall down when he saw Him, as stated in the book of Revelation (1:17), or s in Isaiah when he saw Him in the temple (6:1)? No, because He did not have that glory then. This is simply His moral and spiritual glory. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (John 1:10). He was sinless, and that was His glory. Every man, woman, and child is conscious of coming short of that glory, day by day, hour by hour, and every moment. We praise God for Paul's statement: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are going to be "like Him," for we are going to "see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). We fall short of the glory now, but some day we shall attain it by His blessed power. That is what he is talking about here. Every man knows that he is coming short of the glory of God as it is in Christ Jesus.

Righteousness Bestowed

Being Justified

What does it mean to be justified? Some people say it means to make a man righteous. Catholic theologians say that when God justifies a man, He makes him righteous. Therefore it is progressive. This means that when God justifies a man, He makes him better and better. However, let us settle the meaning of this word by noting in the Scriptures the use of the word. "The doers of the law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13). Think about that. Suppose it means to make the man righteous. Isn't the man that does the law already righteous? How could you make the doer of the law righteous, if he is already righteous? But actually, the word "justify" means to pronounce a man righteous. He is not "made" righteous, but pronounced righteous. In speaking of God, Paul says, "that Thou mightest be justified" (3:4). Suppose we insert the phrase "to make righteous" in place of the phrase "mightest be justified." Can God be made righteous? No, because God is righteous. All that a person can do is to say, "Oh, God, You are righteous." That means that God is pronounced righteous, which is exactly what "justify" mean: to pronounce a man righteous and to treat him as such. Remember that definition: justify means to pronounce and treat as righteous. It is vastly more than being pardoned; it is a thousand times more than forgiveness. You may wrong me and then come to me; and I may say, "I forgive you." But I have not justified you. I cannot justify you. But when God justifies a man, He says, "I pronounce you a righteous man. Henceforth I am going to treat you as if you have never committed any sin." Justification means sin is all past and gone - wiped out - not merely forgiven, not merely pardoned; it means clearing the slate and setting the sinner before God as a righteous man, as if he had never sinned, as if he were as righteous as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 35)

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