Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
JUSTIFICATION. Romans 3-5
In the book of Job (chapter 25:4) this great question is asked:. "How can a man be justified with God?" And in these chapters before us we have a clear and decided answer. The importance of the question demands a plain heart-satisfying answer. The question is often asked: "How can a man get on best in the world?" How can a man be healthy? How gain the favor and patronage of men? How can a man be happy? etc. But when a man discovers himself a guilty sinner before God his question is: "How can a man be justified?" We shall try and answer this question by asking a few others.
I. Do all Men Alike Need to be Justified? In Romans 3 we read, "All are under sin" (v. 9); "All the world guilty" (v. 19); "All have come short" (v. 23). "The portrait of both Jew and Gentile under the law is distinctly drawn in verses 10 to 18. And the result sought is "every mouth stopped," every conscience smitten, every soul guilty before God. Each one believing and becoming subject to the judgment of God (see margin). All must be justified alike, for all are condemned alike, "for there is no difference" (v. 22).
II. What is it to be Justified? In these chapters we notice a sevenfold blessing possessed by the justified. Taking the facts as we find them, they are these—
1. To be justified is to be FORGIVEN (chapter 4:7, 8).
2. To be justified is to be SAVED FROM WRATH (chapter 5:9).
3. To be justified is to be RECKONED RIGHTEOUS (chapter 4:9).
4. To be justified is to have PEACE WITH GOD (chapter 5:1).
5. To be justified is to REJOICE IN HOPE (chapter 5:2).
6. To be justified is to POSSESS THE LOVE OF GOD (chapter 5:5).
7. To be justified is to be RECONCILED TO GOD (chapter 5:10).
In view of these precious blessings, what is it not to be justified? The difference is as far apart as light and darkness, Heaven and Hell.
III. Who is it that God Justifies? "Oh," says the wisdom of man, "I believe God justifies the good and the godly." But what says the Scriptures? "He justifies the ungodly" (chapter 4:5). "For Christ died for the ungodly" (chapter 5:6). "He came to save sinners." So "while we were sinners Christ died for us (chapter 5:8). He came not to call the righteous, therefore how could God justify them, whom Christ had not called? Man must take his place in the ranks of the ungodly before he can be justified in God's sight. It is very humbling, but it is the "bowed down" He raises up.
IV. How can God Justify the Guilty? Jesus was delivered for our offences, and raised for our justification (chapter 4:25). God has set Jesus forth to be a atoning sacrifice that He might be just and the Justifier of him which believes on Jesus (chapter 25, 26). God can justify the guilty, because atonement has been made for them (chapter 5:11). The atoning sacrifice was God's own appointment. He Himself paid the price of atonement (Exod. 30:15); and that price having been fully paid, He is just in justifying the believers in Jesus. Man's guilt is first forgiven, then God can righteously justify. He cannot justify men in an ungodly state, it is the believers in Jesus He justifies, for when we believe in Him we are forgiven and so fit to be justified.
V. Will a Man not be Justified by his Good Works? "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight" (chapter 3:20). If a man does as well as he can (and who does that?) will he not be justified? Yes, in the sight of men (James 2:21), but not in the sight of God. "If Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory (in the sight of men), but not before God" (chapter 4:2). There can be no good works in God's sight unless they come from a good heart. And the fact that a man trusts his own goodness instead of God's proves that his heart is still at enmity against Him.
VI. In what Way does God Justify a Man? He justifies him judicially, as by His own righteous act as Judge, the moment he believes in Jesus as his atoning Substitute. But there are three words that occur ten times in this fourth chapter that clearly express the nature and manner of this justification. These words are, "counted," "reckoned," "imputed." Thus the righteousness of God is counted, reckoned, imputed to the believer. In the same sense as our sins were laid on or imputed to Christ. It is wholly a Divine reckoning. This righteousness is "upon all that believe" (chapter 3:22) just as surely as He bore our sins in His own body. Where is feeling then? It is excluded. The question is: What has the Lord done?
VII. Can a Man be Justified by simply Believing? Yes, completely, at once, and forever—and in no other way. God justifies the believer in Jesus (chapter 3:26). Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith (chapter 3:28). Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God (chapter 5:1). Abraham believed God, and it was counted for righteousness (chaps. 4:3-16; 3:22; Acts 13:39). The believing is ours, the counting is God's. By faith we count on God's Word being true, and act accordingly. He who does not reckon on this is an unbeliever; and he who believes not is condemned already (John 3:18).
JOY IN GOD. Romans 5:11
"Joy" has been defined as the "smile of happiness, and the flower of glory." This joy is—
I. Needed. There is room for a broader "smile of happiness" on the countenance of our life and work. But the smile may be on the face while an aching sorrow is in the heart. This joy comes through the experience of God's salvation, but how possible it is to know God, and yet, like David, to lose the "joy of His salvation" (Psalm 51:12). Where there is spiritual bondage there can only be a joyless testimony. It is when the captivity of the soul is turned back that the joy becomes so great; then we are like men that dream (Psalm 126:1).
II. Possible. It is the will of Christ that His joy should be in us (John 15:11). Christ's joy was the joy of conscious fellowship with the Father. This "oil of joy" is a blessed substitute for the spirit of heaviness. No Christian worker should be without it. Even when he goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, he knows that he will doubtless come back rejoicing, bringing sheaves with him (Psalm 126:5, 6). Peter and John found this joy possible even while suffering shame for the Name and cause of Jesus Christ (Acts 5.:41; see Acts 16:25).
III. Conditional. It is joy "in the Lord" (Isaiah 61:10). It is not joy in ourselves, in anything we have or are. It is joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained reconciliation (Romans 5:11). This holy gladness can come from no other, source, and from no other condition. There is a joy that is like beauty in a face, it is attractive, but only skin deep: this joy is as deep as the heart of the Eternal God; it is joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter I. 8). To rejoice in the Lord is to be joyful—
1. In His NAME. His Name stands for all that He is in His essential character (Psalm 20:5).
2. In His WORK. The redeemed of the Lord shall come with singing, and everlasting joy upon their head (Isaiah 51:11).
3. In His WORD. When His words are believed the soul must rejoice, as one who has found great treasure (Neh.8:12).
IV. Effectual. It is "your strength" or "stronghold" (R.V., margin). Joy is strength, in the same sense in which despair is weakness. Joy in the Lord is one of the most aggressive of all spiritual forces. It was D. L. Moody who said that "God never uses a discouraged man." This joy is a power, because it is the evidence of a life happily adjusted to the perfect will of God. This strength is needed to overcome the manifold temptations that are ever at hand (James 1:1 -3), and to uphold when we are made partakers of the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13). If joy in the Lord is to make us strong, then let us rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice. The Lord Himself fulfill His joy in us for His own Name's sake (John 17:15).
THE BELIEVER'S RELATIONSHIPS. Romans 6.
This chapter explains the "death and life" character of the Christian. The beginning, the cause, and effect of both are clearly stated. To the unspiritual this statement is full of inexplicable riddles. And even to many who know Christ it is full of mysteries. To those who are taught of the Spirit it is an exact portrait of the birth and life of the new inner man. It teaches—
I. The Believer's Relationship to Christ. This connection is of the closest possible kind. It implies—
1. DEATH WITH CHRIST. "Crucified with Him" (v. 6). "Baptized into His death" (v. 3). "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Our first connection with Christ is with His death. Our first dealings with God must be as a sinner. Life for God implies the death of self. "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live." The question of sin must be settled first. It is settled for us in our identity with His death.
2. BURIAL WITH CHRIST. "Therefore we are buried with Him" (v. 4). When a man is buried he is supposed to be out of sight, and on the fair way soon to be beyond all possibility of identification. If the death has not been real the burial will not take place. We don't bury as long as there is a spark of life remaining. So the old man will not be put out of sight as long as he lives. You might try to hide him and conceal his working, but if he is not dead he will be seen or heard somehow.
3. RESURRECTION WITH CHRIST. "Like as Christ was raised from the dead so we also" (v. 4). Resurrection can only follow where death has taken place. The power of the old life must go before the new can come; and this new life is wholly from God. It is a being born from above, a new creation. "You has He quickened who were dead." As surely as we have been dead and buried, so surely are we risen. "Passed from death into life" (John 5:24).
4. LIKENESS TO CHRIST. "We shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (v. 5). This resurrection likeness is the result of being planted in the likeness of His death. If we have not felt the pangs of crucifixion we cannot have the resurrection image, any more than we can have day without night. This is the Divine likeness, the likeness of a conqueror, one endued with power.
II. The Believer's Relation to Sin. It is—
1. THE RELATIONSHIP THAT LIFE HAS TO DEATH. "Reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God" (v. 11). Sin is not dead, but the believer is to be dead to it. Death puts an end to fellowship in this life. There is a great gulf fixed between the living and the dead. No passing from one to another. So ought it to be with the Christian and sin.
2. THE RELATIONSHIP THE ACQUITTED HAVE TO THE BROKEN LAW. "He who is dead is freed (justified) from sin" (v. 7). When a man has been acquitted before the Court, the law has no more claim on him. So the believer has been liberated from the claims of sin. The claims of the law end in death. Having therefore died in Christ, we are justified from sin. It will still make demands, but, remember, you are free (v. 18).
3. THE RELATIONSHIP THE VICTOR HAS TO THE VANQUISHED. "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (v. 14). It is a foe disarmed, a king dethroned; as one whose power and authority are destroyed, but whose nature remains unchanged and unchangeable. A frozen serpent (that is powerless until warmed), over which we have the mastery and can easily destroy. Sin was once our master, but we must no longer "obey it" (v. 12).
III. The Believer's Relationship to Service. It is—
1. ONE OF PERSONAL SURRENDER. "Yield yourselves unto God" (v. 13). They first gave themselves unto the Lord. The whole man, with his affections and desires, must be consecrated to God. Some are prepared to yield time and money, but still reserve themselves for themselves. Your members are to be yielded as His servants to righteousness (v. 19).
2. ONE OF HEARTY OBEDIENCE. "You have obeyed from the heart" (v. 17). There can be no true service without hearty obedience. There is much service done to please man. God looks upon the heart. If a man has not obeyed the doctrine of Christ he cannot be a servant of Christ. His truth and work go together.
3. ONE OF SINGLENESS OF PURPOSE. "Become servants to God" (v. 22). "Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord." Call no man master in this matter. If a believer has got the single eye, where is man-pleasing? There is often a wide difference between men-pleasers and God-pleasers. "You are not your own, for you are bought with a price."
NO CONDEMNATION. Romans 8:1
I. What? "No condemnation!" What a happy privilege! What a blessed hope! All the black dread past blotted out. Blessed are the people that are in such a case.
II. When? "Now." "There is therefore now no condemnation." Then this great blessing may be enjoyed in this present life. We may walk through this world of sin and sadness with the assurance in our hearts that we are forgiven, and that our sins have already been judged, and that the night of guilt is passed and the day of peace has dawned in the soul.
III. Why? Because "In Christ Jesus." He is the Refuge of the soul. God is our refuge and strength. Here the soul is as secure as Noah was in the ark. To be "in Christ" is to be cleansed from all sin, and enrapt up in the center of God's eternal purposes. To be in Him is to be a branch in the True Vine, fitted to bear fruit. In Christ, we are complete, for He is made of God unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). In Him, we are not found with our own righteousness, but clothed upon with the beauty of the Lord. If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, therefore there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.
THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT. Romans 8:2.
The law of the Spirit is as certain as the law of gravitation. He has His fixed method of operation, although, like the wind, He goes where He wills.
I. Its Nature. "It is the law of life." "The law of the Spirit of life." The law of the living One. It is the Spirit that quickens. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. The moral law cannot give life, its force is only felt in making sin exceeding sinful. "I through the law am dead" (Galatians 2:19).
II. Its Sphere of Action. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." This law of life can only operate through the Prince of Life. The living truth of God comes to us through Him who is the Word of God (John 3:34).
The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him to preach good tidings to the meek. The last Adam was made a life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
III. Its Power. "Has made me free from the law of sin and death." The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is mightier than the law of sin and death, bringing deliverance and freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free" (Galatians 5:1). Having been made free from sin, it is that we might become servants to God (Romans 6:18-23). The sting of death is sin, but thanks be to God which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:56, 57).
THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN. Romans 8:3
I. The Weakness of the Law. "What the law could not do." The law can do much for it is "holy, just, and good," but it cannot forgive sin. It is utterly weak to justify a sinner. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." The law made nothing perfect (Hebrews 7:18).
II. The Love of God. "God sending His own Son." In this was manifested the love of God toward us (1 John 4:9). Who can measure the depths of this love in allowing His "Only Beloved" to be identified with human sin and guilt (John 3:16).
III. The Grace of Christ. "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh." What grace is this on the part of the Son! "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us... full of grace and truth. Although in the form of God, and equal with God, He made Himself of no reputation... and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:6-8). By grace are you saved.
IV. The End of Sin. "And condemned sin in the flesh." By the offering of His body as a sacrifice, He has finished transgression and made an end of sin as an obstacle in man's way to God. "He was made sin for us...that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10). Sin was condemned in Him that we might be justified in Him.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LAW. Romans 8:4, 5
I. Its Character. The law is righteous, and demands righteousness. It is "Holy, just, and good." It is an expression of the righteousness of God. By the law is the knowledge of sin. They are ignorant of God's righteousness who seek to establish their own.
II. Its Fulfillment. "The law might be fulfilled in us." Fulfilled by our submitting to the righteousness of God in Christ, for He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. Love is the fulfilling of the law. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness. We can only be made the righteousness of God in Him, who was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
III. The Condition. "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." They who would rejoice in Christ Jesus can have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). To walk after the Spirit is to walk in the mind of Jesus Christ. Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Those led by the Spirit are not under the law. Walk in the Spirit and the righteousness of the law will be abundantly fulfilled in you, for the fruit of the Spirit which is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control," will be manifested. Surely the law could not have a better fulfillment than this. These are not works, but the fruit of the indwelling Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). Those created after the Spirit will mind the things of the Spirit (v. 5).
THE CARNAL AND SPIRITUAL MINDS. Romans 8:6, 7
I. The Carnal Mind. "The carnal (or fleshly) mind is death." There is absolutely nothing in it that is pleasing to God. He who sows to this fleshly mind shall reap corruption, the proof of death. They that are in the flesh cannot please God. The carnal mind is not death in a passive sense, for it is even worse than that, it is "enmity against God," and so very bitter that it cannot possibly be subject to the law of God (v. 7). A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. The only cure for the carnal mind is crucifixion. Saul was delivered from his fleshly mind when he said, "What will You have me to do?" "I am crucified with Christ."
II. The Spiritual Mind. "To be spiritually minded is life and peace." It is the evidence of a great change. Life and peace are the results of this new Spirit-creation. The enmity has been slain by the Cross. They now sow to the Spirit and reap life everlasting. The spiritual mind is a mind illumined by the Spirit of truth, enjoying the love of God, and seeking the carrying out of His purposes. They are alive unto God, and thus members are yielded to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:11-13). It is the good tree that cannot bring forth evil fruit (Matthew 7:18). It is a condition of life in Christ and peace with God.
IN THE SPIRIT. Romans 8:8, 9
I. Not in the Flesh. "You are not in the flesh," although still in the body. They that are in the flesh (carnal mind) cannot please God, for they are in a state of death (v. 6). You are not in that condition, for you have passed from death into life, being born of God.
II. In the Spirit. Not in the fleshly mind is to be in the spiritual mind. Not to have the Spirit of Christ is to be none of His. The flesh stands for sinful, helpless man the Spirit is the holy, mighty, life-giving One. To be in the Spirit is to be in God, bound up in the bundle of the living ones.
III. The Spirit in You. "If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." "Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). After that you believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts (Galatians 4:6). The indwelling Spirit is the secret of Divine wisdom and power. He is able to work the good will of God in the heart and through the life. If the Spirit of God who leads into all truth, is in you, then you need not that any man teach you (1 John 2:27).
THE RESURRECTING SPIRIT. Romans 8:10, 11
I. The Cause of Death. "Sin." "The body is dead because of sin." Sin was the death of the soul, it is also the death of the body. In Christ Jesus both soul and body will yet be delivered from its power (John 11:25, 26).
II. The Secret of Life. "The Spirit is life because of righteousness." The Spirit brings life because it brings the soul of the believer into rightness of relationship with God. "He who is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17).
III. The Abode of the Spirit. "The Spirit that raised up Jesus dwell in you." When Christ was restored to the home of His Father's bosom, the Holy Spirit came to seek a home in the hearts of those redeemed by His blood. "He shall abide with you forever."
IV. The Relationship Between the Spirit and Christ. "If Christ be in you...His Spirit dwells in you." The indwelling or abiding of Christ in the Spirit is often spoken of as synonymous. "Strengthened by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Ephesians 3:16, 17). The precious truth is this, that Christ's presence and power is realized by us in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us. Hear what the Spirit says.
V. The Power of the Spirit. We are taught here that—
1. HE RAISED UP CHRIST FROM THE DEAD. He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18). This same mighty Spirit who has quickened us into newness of life quickened Him.
2. HE SHALL ALSO QUICKEN YOUR MORTAL BODIES. He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also (2 Corinthians 4:14). This corruptible must put on incorruption. The Holy Spirit, who has begun the good work in us, will perfect that which concerns us, even our mortal bodies. By the same Spirit shall they be changed like unto His own glorious body (2 Corinthians 5:4, 5).
THE NEW LIFE. Romans 8:12-14
I. This is a Life not After the Flesh. "We are debtors not to live after the flesh." Fleshly wisdom or energy could never produce such a life. It is a life which you have from God. Born of God.
II. This Life Owes Nothing to the Flesh. "We are debtors not to the flesh." It received nothing from the flesh, gave nothing to it. The new man owes the old man nothing. Let the time past suffice for the will of the flesh.
III. This is a Life Opposed to the Flesh. "Mortify the deeds of the body." The salvation brought to us by the grace of God teaches us to deny all ungodliness. Paul kept his body under lest he should be cast aside as a useless weapon (1 Corinthians 9:2-7).
IV. This Life should be in the Power of the Spirit. "If you through the Spirit." In yielding to the Spirit we shall obey the truth, thereby our souls shall be purified (1 Peter 1:22). This is God's great purpose concerning us (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
V. This Life is to be Under the Control of the Spirit. "Led by the Spirit." When the Spirit comes within us it is that we might "walk in His ways" (Ezekiel 36:27). He will guide you into all truth.
VI. This is to be a Life of Fellowship. "Sons of God." Beloved now are we the sons of God. Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Communion of the Holy Spirit.
THE PRIVILEGES OF SONSHIP. Romans 8:15-17
In our present condition we are very slow to apprehend all that is meant by being "Sons of God."
I. Sons are Delivered from Bondage. "They have not received the spirit of bondage." The fear of the law has been taken away (Exod. 20:18, 19). As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. Perfect love casts out fear.
II. Sons have the Spirit of Adoption. "We have received the Spirit of adoption." They are not only adopted, but they have the true Spirit of children born of God.
III. Sons Acknowledge the Father. "We cry Abba Father." I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, the Maker and Lord of all is my Father.
IV. As Sons they have the Witness of the Spirit. "The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (1 John 5:10).
V. As Sons they are Heirs of God. "If children, then heirs." Having been joined to Christ they become joint-heirs with Christ, and He is "Heir of all things." All things are yours, for you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
VI. As Sons they Suffer with Him. "If so be that we suffer with Him." The disciple is not greater than his Lord. If you be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are you.
VII. As Sons they shall be Glorified with Him. "Glorified together." The Head and the members are not separated in suffering, nor in glory. The will of Christ the Son has made this sure (John 17:24). Having been made partakers of the divine nature they shall also be made partakers of His heavenly glory.
THE FUTURE MANIFESTATION. Romans 8:18-25
I. It is a Great Reality (vv. 18, 19). "It does not yet appear what we shall be." Just now the world knows us not as it knew Him not. When He shall appear then shall we appear with Him.
II. It will be the Deliverance of Creation from Bondage (v. 21). When Adam sinned the ground was cursed for his sake. At the appearing of the Second Adam, the Lord from Heaven, the curse will be rolled away.
III. It will have an Effect in every Creature (v. 22, margin). The glorious manifestation of the sons of God will herald the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to every creature.
IV. It will be the Redemption of the Body (v. 23). The sealing of the Holy Spirit is until the day of Redemption, when we shall have a body like unto His own glorious body (Philippians 3:20, 21).
V. It is a Time Earnestly Longed for (v. 23). We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit and the Bride say. Come, and let him that hears of the Coming Savior say Come. Come, Lord Jesus—Come quickly.
VI. The Prospect of it gives Joy in Suffering (v. 18). Our present affliction is light, knowing that it works for us an eternal weight of glory while we look at the things which are unseen. Like Moses let us have respect unto the recompense of reward, and endure as seeing Him who is invisible. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
THE PLEADING SPIRIT. Romans 8:26, 27
I. The Spirit is Needed. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought." Without the guiding Spirit the Lord would need to be saying to us continually what He said to the mother of Zebedee's children, "You know not what you ask."
II. The Spirit Helps our Infirmities. He imparts the needed wisdom whereby we may know our need and Christ's fullness.
III. The Spirit Makes Intercession for the Saints. It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you. The indwelling Spirit pleads for the saint before both God and men. Being filled with the Spirit is the sure way to prevail, both in prayer and testimony.
IV. The Spirit Makes Intercession with Groanings. The groanings of the Spirit are often realized by a soul thirsting for God in silently waiting before Him in the unspeakable solemnity of holy adoration.
V. The Spirit Makes Intercession According to the Will of God. What was true of the Son is also true of the Spirit. Him God hears at all times, because He delights to do His will. If we are "praying always in the Spirit" we are praying always according to the will of God. If we ask anything according to His will He hears us. Believe in the Holy Spirit.
VI. The Searcher of Hearts Knows what is the Mind of the Spirit. Solomon says: "The prayer of the upright is the Lord's delight." How will He delight, then, in the prayer of the Holy Spirit! The great Heart-Searcher looks for the mind of the Spirit in us. Let our wills to Him be given.
THE ALL-SUFFICIENT PROMISE. Romans 8:28
I. To Whom it is given.
1. TO THE LOVING ONES. "To them that love God." We love Him because He first loved us. He seeks first, not the work of our hands, but the love of our hearts.
2. TO THE CALLED ONES. "To them who are the called according to His purpose." "Beloved of God called to be saints." Make your calling sure (2 Timothy 1:9).
II. The Nature of It. It is—
1. GREAT. "All things." All things that pertain to life and godliness are included here. "All things are yours."
2. ACTIVE. "All things work." In the kingdom of grace everything is constantly on the move for the believer's good. As in the material world, there is no standing still here.
3. HARMONIOUS. "All things work together." There is no jarring or irregularities where all is working according to His purpose. All is right for the called of God, even when it seems most wrong. "Believe you that I am able to do this?"
4. PRECIOUS. "All things work together for good." Jacob said, "All these things are against me," but they were all for good (Genesis 50:20). Have faith in God.
5. SURE. "We know." We know, because we know the faithfulness of the God in whom we trust. Faithful is He who has promised. And because we know, our hearts are kept in perfect peace with regard to things present and things to come. "My grace is sufficient for you."
THE ETERNAL PURPOSE
I. The Great Purpose of God.
1. THAT HIS SON SHOULD BE THE FIRSTBORN among many brethren. He humbled Himself, but God has highly exalted Him. In all things He must have the pre-eminence.
2. THAT BELIEVERS SHOULD BE CONFORMED to the image of His Son. As His workmanship, we are created in Christ Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God. Be not conformed to the world.
II. The Footsteps of Grace. It is profoundly interesting to notice the workings of infinite love on the way out to seek and save the lost.
1. FOREKNOWN. "Whom He did foreknow." "I knew you before you earnest forth" (Jeremiah 1:5). Written in the book of life, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
2. PREDESTINED. Appointed according to the will of God. In Acts 4:28 the same word is translated determined. Whom He foreknew, them He has appointed.
3. CALLED. There is no room for caviling at these things. Let us say with Paul, "It pleased God, who called me by His grace." Called through the Holy Spirit to be a separate people unto Himself.
4. JUSTIFIED. "Whom He called, them He also justified." It is God that justifies. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Justified freely by His Grace. 5. Glorified. "Whom He justified, them He also glorified." The glory which you have given Me, I have given them." If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together by having a body like unto His glorious body.
THE GREAT CHALLENGE. Romans 8:31-35.
I. Who can be Against us if God be for us? (v. 31).
"The Lord is on my side, I will not fear what man can do unto me" (Psalm 118. .6). Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. All the resources of God are for those who are for Him.
II. Who can Condemn when Christ has Died for us and is risen again? (v. 34). Having died with Him, we are now risen with Him. Free from the law. To them who are in Christ Jesus there is therefore now no condemnation, neither by God, man, angel, nor Devil.
III. Who can Lay Anything to our Charge when God has Justified? (v. 33). The heritage of the servants of the Lord is, "No weapon that is formed against them shall prosper" (Isaiah 54. .17). When Satan attempted to bring a charge against Joshua, the Lord rebuked him (Zechariah 3:1, 2).
IV. Who shall Separate us from the Love of Him who Gave Himself for us? (v. 35). "I have given unto them eternal life, they shall never perish, neither shall, any pluck them out of my hand:" The Lord's people purchased by His own blood, are too precious to be easily parted with. The Father having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.
V. Who can Hinder God from Giving us all Things when He Spared not His Son? (v. 32). Being reconciled, we shall be saved in his life. (Romans 5:10, R.V.., margin). In Him every need will be met. You are Christ's, and all things are yours. How will He not with Him freely give us all things?
MORE THAN CONQUERORS. Romans 8:35-37
I. We are to be Conquerors. Not slaves to the fashions and pleasures of the world, but victors for God. Having been born of God, we belong to the upper class, and overcome the world through faith.
II. We are Conquerors in the Midst of Suffering. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword. All these are still with us, but faith gives the victory. We are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake. This present world always keeps in the place of death those who have the life of Jesus in them, but they conquer still, and press on to know Him.
III. We are More than Conquerors. Enemies are not only conquered and subdued, but brought as willing servants into the work of the Lord. Saul was more than conquered when he became a preacher of the Gospel he so much hated. Take note of this. To be more than conquerors we must be more than conquered. It is not enough that we be overcome, there must be the willing and entire surrender of ourselves into the hands of God, to say, to be, and to do all that He may appoint.
IV. We are More than Conquerors through Him. The power of conquest and aggressive work for God is not in ourselves, nor in our plans and organizations, but in the God who works in us. Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb. The blood of the Lamb is the sharp edge of the sword of the Word, the Spirit's holy weapon. Cling to it, use it.
THE LOVE OF GOD. Romans 8:38, 39
I. Nature of It. "The love of God." God is love, so that in manifesting His love He manifests Himself. Herein is love. Yes, herein is God. Not that we loved Him, but that He loved us. Behold, what love!
II. Channel of It. "Which is in Christ Jesus." He is the Mediator between God and men, the Ladder that reaches from earth to Heaven. In Him was manifested the love of God toward us that we might live through Him. "I am the Way."
III. Objects of It. "Us." He loved us and gave Himself for us (John 3:16). Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sin.
IV. Power of It. "Neither death," etc., "shall be able to separate us from the love of God." "I have loved you with an everlasting love." The trifling things of this world may be allowed at times to separate our love from Him, but, bless His Holy Name, nothing can separate from His love. His love is stronger than death.
V. Assurance of It. "I am persuaded." It is a great testimony when we can say in truth, "We have known and believed the love that God has to us" (1 John 4:16). Having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and going on living day by day as those who believe in the infinite and everlasting love of God, this is the secret of a restful, joyful, contented life. "I am persuaded that nothing shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
SELF-DEDICATION. Romans 12:1, 2
In the foregoing chapters Paul has been dealing with fundamental doctrines. Now he comes to the application, for he is no mere theorist. Christianity is intensely practical, and the beseeching of the apostle proves how keenly he feels it. The Christianity of some is like a certain fish that is almost nothing but head. Whole-heartedness for God ought to characterize every Christian, and this is evidenced by our presenting our bodies a living sacrifice unto God.
I. The Sacrifice to be Offered. "Present your bodies." We are so apt to be content with committing our souls unto Him, and to give the body as a sacrifice to the soul. We seem to think that our bodies are all our own, and that our souls belong to God. Now the body is the temple of soul and spirit, and the medium through which these act, and by which they manifest themselves. The inner man thus acts through the outer man. Then the medium ought to be in the hands of God as well as the individual actor. In fact, unless God has full charge of the whole being, the Divine power will be withheld. He does not give us power so much as He desires to manifest His power through us. Each one must present his own body, as the Jew presented his lamb, and left it in the hands of the priest.
II. The Nature of this Sacrifice. It is to be—
1. A LIVING Sacrifice. The death of Christ has swept forever all dead sacrifices from the altar. Now He seeks living ones. That is, we are, as it were, to live on the altar. The old sacrifices were on the altar only for a few moments. Ours is a CONSECRATED LIFE. "To me to live is Christ."
2. A HOLY Sacrifice. "Know you not that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit?" This temple must be holy, for God dwells in you, and in offering the body a sacrifice we offer Him what He has already claimed and sanctified for Himself.
3. An ACCEPTABLE Sacrifice. In the margin of the Revised Version it is "well pleasing unto God." Not only acceptable, but in reality satisfying to God. God is not fully pleased with regard to our salvation until we offer ourselves a willing, holy, sacrifice unto Him. We are saved to serve.
III. The Motives Urged. These are twofold.
1. THE MERCIES OF GOD. "I beseech you by the mercies of God." "Great are Your mercies, O Lord" (Psalm 119:156). What are His mercies toward us? Think of His love in Christ, His forgiveness, His peace, His joy, His Holy Spirit, His promises (chapter 8). These should constrain us to yield ourselves entirely up to Him. The goodness of God ought to lead us to repentance in this matter of withholding from Him what is His due, nay, what is His own by right of purchase (1 Corinthians 6:20).
2. THE REASONABLENESS OF THE SERVICE. "Which is your reasonable service." It is but rational that we should yield ourselves to God if He has redeemed us to Himself. It is but reasonable that He should have all. Then it is most unreasonable to withhold what is His.
IV. The Consequences of this Sacrifice.
1. A NONCONFORMING TO THE WORLD. "And be not conformed to the world." This is the remedy for worldly conformity. A definite yielding of ourselves unto God and a constant acknowledgment of the same. There is no likelihood of the dead following the fashion of this world. "Reckon you yourselves dead." "He gave Himself for us that He might deliver us from this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4) Those who are wholly in God's hands are not much troubled as to whether this or the other thing is consistent with the, Christian life. He decides.
2. A TRANSFORMING OF THE CHARACTER. "Be you transformed by the renewing of your mind." The transforming of the outward life will just be in proportion to the renewing of the inner man. When Christ was transfigured it was but the visible manifestation of the glory within. "As a man thinks in his heart so is he." Many long for the renewed life who wish not the renewed mind. The yielding is ours, the transforming is God's.
3. A NEW EXPERIENCE OF THE GOOD WILL OF GOD. "That you may prove what is that good...will of God." Many have never proved the goodness and perfection of the will of God, because they have not given themselves wholly to God. And so the will of God to them is irksome. They dread it, instead of delight in it. The will of God is perfect, and only in His will are our lives perfect before Him. When the acceptable sacrifice is presented the acceptable will will be proved. He is able to work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
OUR REASONABLE SERVICE. Romans 12:1
The thought of sacrifice runs through the books of the Bible like the crimson thread in the ropes and cords of government. Sacrifice has two general aspects: (1) As a gift, handed over for the good of another, as in Mark 7:11; (2) As an object of "burning" to be utterly used up, as in Leviticus 1:9. Cain's offering belonged to the one class, and was incomplete. Abel's belonged to the other, and was acceptable. Both were voluntary acts, and so became a revelation of character. Here are three reasons why sacrifice on our part is most reasonable: Because—
I. Sacrifice was Made for Us. "Christ loved us and gave Himself for us" (Ephesians 5:2). "Himself for our sins" (Galatians 1:4). What a costly sacrifice for such a purpose. By the sacrifice of Himself He has put away sin forever, as an obstacle in the sinner's way of approach unto God (Hebrews 9:26). In giving Himself, He gave all that He was and had: not an impoverished self, for He who was rich for our sakes became poor, that we, through His self-emptying, might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He, as the "corn of wheat," willingly died, that He might bring forth fruit in the lives of those for whom He died. If He gave Himself for us, surely we should give ourselves for Him.
II. Sacrifice is Asked of Us. "I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God" (Romans 12:1). Why the body? Because the body is the instrument, or weapon, of the Holy Spirit, which dwells in you. The possibilities of the body, for good or evil, are tremendous (Romans 6:13). How often backsliding and failure may be traced to the unconsecrated members of the body. To be a "living sacrifice" is to be continually and completely at God's disposal. This is "holy and acceptable to God." And also because of its acceptability to Him, it is most reasonable that it should be given. The yielding of ourselves unto God is the root and branch of self-denial, without which there can be no true discipleship (Matthew 16:14). It is true in the deepest possible sense, that "You are not your own, for you have been bought with a price: therefore we should glorify God in our bodies and our spirits which are His" (1 Corinthians 6:20). Is it not reasonable that God should have His own, that which He has bought with His own blood? We are robbing God when we are keeping back this part (bodies) of His purchased possession.
III. Sacrifice Ensures Greater Blessing for Us. In presenting ourselves "a living sacrifice" to God, we are saving ourselves from being "conformed to this age," and also putting ourselves into that position in which we can "prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1, 2). The goodness and beautiful perfectness of the will of God we shall never prove in our own personal experience until we are completely abandoned to it; just as we cannot prove the power of water to sustain our own bodies until we have made an entire committal. A life wholly surrendered to God is the only reasonable life which a Christian can live. It is the secret of usefulness, because it means the proper adjustment of the faculties and functions of our being to the perfect will and purposes of God. Every gift laid on the altar is sanctified by the altar.