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156

CHAPTER XIV

JUSTIFICATION AND HOLINESS

Romans vi. 1-13

IN a certain sense, St Paul has done now with the exposition of Justification. He has brought us on, from his denunciation of human sin, and his detection of the futility of mere privilege, to propitiation, to faith, to acceptance, to love, joy, and hope, and finally to our mysterious but real connexion in all this blessing with Him who won our peace. From this point onwards we shall find many mentions of our acceptance, and of its Cause; we shall come to some memorable mentions very soon. But we shall not hear the holy subject itself any more treated and expounded. It will underlie the following discussions everywhere; it will as it were surround them, as with a sanctuary wall. But we shall now think less directly of the foundations than of the superstructure, for which the foundation was laid. We shall be less occupied with the fortifications of our holy city than with the resources they contain, and with the life which is to be lived, on those resources, within the walls.

Everything will cohere. But the transition will be marked, and will call for our deepest, and let us add, our most reverent and supplicating thought.

"We need not, then, be holy, if such is your programme 157 of acceptance." Such was the objection, bewildered or deliberate, which St Paul heard in his soul at this pause in his dictation; he had doubtless often heard it with his ears. Here was a wonderful provision for the free and full acceptance of "the ungodly" by the eternal Judge. It was explained and stated so as to leave no room for human virtue as a commendatory merit. Faith itself was no commendatory virtue. It was not "a work," but the antithesis to "works." Its power was not in itself but in its Object. It was itself only the void which received "the obedience of the One" as the sole meriting cause of peace with God. Then—may we not live on in sin, and yet be in His favour now, and in His heaven hereafter?

Let us recollect, as we pass on, one important lesson of these recorded objections to the great first message of St Paul. They tell us, incidentally, how explicit and unreserved his delivery of the message had been, and how Justification by Faith, by faith only, meant what was said, when it was said by him. Christian thinkers, of more schools than one, and at many periods, have hesitated not a little over that point. The medieval theologian mingled his thoughts of Justification with those of Regeneration, and taught our acceptance accordingly on lines impossible to lay true along those of St Paul. In later days, the meaning of faith has been sometimes beclouded, till it has seemed, through the haze, to be only an indistinct summary-word for Christian consistency, for exemplary conduct, for good works. Now supposing either of these lines of teaching, or anything like them, to be the message of St Paul, "his Gospel," as he preached it; one result may be reasonably inferred—that we should 158 not have had Rom. vi. 1 worded as it is. Whatever objections were encountered by a Gospel of acceptance expounded on such lines, (and no doubt it would have encountered many, if it called sinful men to holiness,) it would not have encountered this objection, that it seemed to allow men to be unholy. What such a Gospel would seem to do would be to accentuate in all its parts the urgency of obedience in order to acceptance; the vital importance on the one hand of an internal change in our nature (through sacramental operation, according to many); and then on the other hand the practice of Christian virtues, with the hope, in consequence, of acceptance, more or less complete, in heaven. Whether the objector, the enquirer, was dull, or whether he was subtle, it could not have occurred to him to say, "You are preaching a Gospel of licence; I may, if you are right, live as I please, only drawing a little deeper on the fund of gratuitous acceptance as I go on." But just this was the animus, and such were very nearly the words, of those who either hated St Paul's message as unorthodox, or wanted an excuse for the sin they loved, and found it in quotations from St Paul. Then St Paul must have meant by faith what faith ought to mean, simple trust. And he must have meant by justification without works, what those words ought to mean, acceptance irrespective of our recommendatory conduct. Such a Gospel was no doubt liable to be mistaken and misrepresented, and in just the way we are now observing. But it was also, and it is so still, the only Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation—to the fully awakened conscience, to the soul that sees itself, and asks for God indeed.

This undesigned witness to the meaning of the Pauline doctrine of Justification by Faith only will appear 159 still more strongly when we come to the Apostle's answer to his questioners. He meets them not at all by modifications of his assertions. He has not a word to say about additional and corrective conditions precedent to our peace with God. He makes no impossible hint that Justification means the making of us good, or that Faith is a "short title" for Christian practice. No; there is no reason for such assertions either in the nature of words, or in the whole cast of the argument through which he has led us. What does he do? He takes this great truth of our acceptance in Christ our Merit, and puts it unreserved, unrelieved, unspoiled, in contact with other truth, of coordinate, nay, of superior greatness, for it is the truth to which Justification leads us, as way to end. He places our acceptance through Christ Atoning in organic connexion with our life in Christ Risen. He indicates, as a truth evident to the conscience, that as the thought of our share in the Lord's Merit is inseparable from union with the meriting Person, so the thought of this union is inseparable from that of a spiritual harmony, a common life, in which the accepted sinner finds both a direction and a power in his Head. Justification has indeed set him free from the condemning claim of sin, from guilt. He is as if he had died the Death of sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction; as if he had passed through the Lama Sabachthani, and had "poured out his soul" for sin. So he is "dead to sin," in the sense in which his Lord and Representative "died to" it; the atoning death has killed sin's claim on him for judgment. As having so died, in Christ, he is "justified from sin." But then, because he thus died "in Christ," he is "in Christ" still, in respect also of resurrection. He is justified, not that he may go away, but that in His Justifier he may 160 live, with the powers of that holy and eternal life with which the Justifier rose again.

The two truths are concentrated as it were into one, by their equal relation to the same Person, the Lord. The previous argument has made us intensely conscious that Justification, while a definite transaction in law, is not a mere transaction; it lives and glows with the truth of connexion with a Person. That Person is the Bearer for us of all Merit. But He is also, and equally, the Bearer for us of new Life; in which the sharers of His Merit share, for they are in Him. So that, while the Way of Justification can be isolated for study, as it has been in this Epistle, the justified man cannot be isolated from Christ, who is his life. And thus he can never ultimately be considered apart from his possession, in Christ, of a new possibility, a new power, a new and glorious call to living holiness.

In the simplest and most practical terms the Apostle sets it before us that our justification is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. We are accepted that we may be possessed, and possessed after the manner not of a mechanical "article," but of an organic limb.8484Not that the imagery of the limb appears here, explicitly. But it does appear below, xii. 5, and in the contemporary passage 1 Cor. vi. 15; and more fully in the Epistles of the First Captivity. We have "received the reconciliation" that we may now walk, not away from God, as if released from a prison, but with God, as His children in His Son. Because we are justified, we are to be holy, separated from sin, separated to God; not as a mere indication that our faith is real, and that therefore we are legally safe, but because we were justified for this very purpose, that we might be holy. To return to a simile we have 161 employed already, the grapes upon a vine are not merely a living token that the tree is a vine, and is alive; they are the product for which the vine exists. It is a thing not to be thought of that the sinner should accept justification—and live to himself. It is a moral contradiction of the very deepest kind, and cannot be entertained without betraying an initial error in the man's whole spiritual creed.

And further, there is not only this profound connexion of purpose between acceptance and holiness. There is a connexion of endowment and capacity. Justification has done for the justified a twofold work, both limbs of which are all important for the man who asks, How can I walk and please God? First, it has decisively broken the claim of sin upon him as guilt. He stands clear of that exhausting and enfeebling load. The pilgrim's burthen has fallen from his back, at the foot of the Lord's Cross, into the Lord's Grave. He has peace with God, not in emotion, but in covenant, through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has an unreserved "introduction" into a Father's loving and welcoming presence, every day and hour, in the Merit of his Head. But then also Justification has been to him as it were the signal of his union with Christ in new life; this we have noted already. Not only therefore does it give him, as indeed it does, an eternal occasion for a gratitude which, as he feels it, "makes duty joy, and labour rest." It gives him a new power with which to live the grateful life; a power residing not in Justification itself, but in what it opens up. It is the gate through which he passes to the fountain; it is the wall which ramparts the fountain, the roof which shields him as he drinks. The fountain is his justifying Lord's exalted Life, His risen Life, poured into the man's being by 162 the Spirit who makes Head and member one. And it is as justified that he has access to the fountain, and drinks as deep as he will of its life, its power, its purity. In the contemporary passage, 1 Cor. vi. 17, St Paul had already written (in a connexion unspeakably practical), "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." It is a sentence which might stand as a heading to the passage we now come to render.

What shall we say then? Shall we cling to (ἐπιμενοῦμεν, ἐπιμένωμεν) the sin that the grace may multiply, the grace of the acceptance of the guilty? Away with the thought! We, the very men who8585Οἵτινες: the paraphrase is perhaps a slight exaggeration of the force of the pronoun. died to that (τῇ) sin,—when our Representative, in whom we have believed, died for us to it, died to meet and break its claim—how shall we any longer live, have congenial being and action, in it, as in an air we like to breathe? It is a moral impossibility that the man so freed from this thing's tyrannic claim to slay him should wish for anything else than severance from it in all respects. Or do you not know that we all, when baptized8686Ὅσοι ἐβαπτίσθημεν: we give a paraphrase, not a translation, to shew the meaning practically. into Jesus Christ, when the sacred water sealed to us our faith-received contact with Him and interest in Him, were baptized into His Death, baptized as coming into union with Him as, above all, the Crucified, the Atoning? Do you forget that your covenant-Head, of whose covenant of peace your baptism was the divine physical token, is nothing to you if not your Saviour who died, and who died because of this very sin with 163 which your thought now parleys; died because only so could He break its legal bond upon you, in order to break its moral bond? We were entombed therefore with Him by means of our (τοῦ) baptism, as it symbolized and sealed the work of faith, into His (τὸν) Death; it certified our interest in that vicarious death, even to its climax in the grave which, as it were, swallowed up the Victim; that just as Christ rose from the dead by means of the glory of the Father, as that death issued for Him in a new and endless life, not by accident, but because the Character of God, the splendour (δόξα) of His love, truth, and power, secured the issue, so we too should begin to walk (πετιπατήσωμεν) in newness of life, should step forth in a power altogether new, in our union still with Him. All possible emphasis lies upon those words, "newness of life." They bring out what has been indicated already (v. 17, 18), the truth that the Lord has won us not only remission of a death-penalty, not only even an extension of existence under happier circumstances, and in a more grateful and hopeful spirit—but a new and wonderful life-power. The sinner has fled to the Crucified, that he may not die. He is now not only amnestied but accepted. He is not only accepted but incorporated into his Lord, as one with Him in interest. He is not only incorporated as to interest, but, because His Lord, being Crucified, is also Risen, he is incorporated into Him as Life. The Last Adam, like the First, transmits not only legal but vital effects to His member. In Christ the man has, in a sense as perfectly practical as it is inscrutable, new life, new power, as the Holy Ghost applies to his inmost being the presence and virtues of his Head. "In Him he lives, by Him he moves."

To men innumerable the discovery of this ancient 164 truth, or the fuller apprehension of it, has been indeed like a beginning of new life. They have been long and painfully aware, perhaps, that their strife with evil was a serious failure on the whole, and their deliverance from its power lamentably partial. And they could not always command as they would the emotional energies of gratitude, the warm consciousness of affection. Then it was seen, or seen more fully, that the Scriptures set forth this great mystery, this powerful fact; our union with our Head, by the Spirit, for life, for victory and deliverance, for dominion over sin, for willing service. And the hands are lifted up, and the knees confirmed, as the man uses the now open secret—Christ in him, and he in Christ—for the real walk of life. But let us listen to St Paul again.

For if we became vitally connected (σύμφυτοι), He with us and we with Him, by the likeness of His Death, by the baptismal plunge, symbol and seal of our faith-union with the Buried Sacrifice, why (ἀλλὰ), we shall be vitally connected with Him by the likeness also of His Resurrection, by the baptismal emergence, symbol and seal of our faith-union with the Risen Lord, and so with His risen power.8787We thus paraphrase a difficult sentence. It seems to us that the ὁμοίωμα τοῦ θανάτου Αὐτοῦ must refer to the baptismal rite. If so, our paraphrase as a whole will be justified.—As to the "plunge" and "emergence," we would only say, without entering further on an agitated question, that it seems to us clear that baptism was at first, theoretically, an entire immersion, but that, also primevally, the theory was allowed to be modified in practice; the pouring of water in such cases representing the ideal immersion. As early as "the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," cent. i. (ch. vii.), there are signs of this. This knowing, that our old man, our old state, as out of Christ and under Adam's headship, under guilt and in moral bondage, was crucified with Christ, was as it 165 were nailed to His atoning Cross, where He represented us. In other words, He on the Cross, our Head and Sacrifice, so dealt with our fallen state for us, that the body of sin, this our body viewed as sin's stronghold, medium, vehicle, might be cancelled, might be in abeyance, put down, deposed, so as to be no more the fatal door to admit temptation to a powerless soul within.

"Cancelled" is a strong word. Let us lay hold upon its strength, and remember that it gives us not a dream, but a fact, to be found true in Christ. Let us not turn its fact into fallacy, by forgetting that, whatever "cancel" means, it does not mean that grace lifts us out of the body; that we are no longer to "keep under the body, and bring it into subjection," in the name of Jesus. Alas for us, if any promise, any truth, is allowed to "cancel" the call to watch and pray, and to think that in no sense is there still a foe within. But all the rather let us grasp, and use, the glorious positive in its place and time, which is everywhere and every day. Let us recollect, let us confess our faith, that thus it is with us, through Him who loved us. He died for us for this very end, that our "body of sin" might be wonderfully "in abeyance," as to the power of temptation upon the soul. Yes, as St Paul proceeds, that henceforth we should not do bondservice to sin; that from now onwards, from our acceptance in Him, from our realization of our union with Him, we should say to temptation a "no" that carries with it the power of the inward presence of the Risen Lord. Yes, for He has won that power for us in our Justification through His Death. He died for us, and we in Him, as to sin's claim, as to our guilt; and He thus died, as we have seen, on purpose that we might be not only legally accepted, but vitally united to Him. Such is the connexion 166 of the following clause, strangely rendered in the English Version, and often therefore misapplied, but whose literal wording is, For he who died, he who has died, has been justified from his (τῆς) sin; stands justified from it, stands free from its guilt. The thought is of the atoning Death, in which the believer is interested as if it were his own. And the implied thought is that, as that death is "fact accomplished," as "our old man" was so effectually "crucified with Christ," therefore we may, we must, claim the spiritual freedom and power in the Risen One which the Slain One secured for us when He bore our guilt.

This possession is also a glorious prospect, for it is permanent with the eternity of His Life. It not only is, but shall be. Now if we died with Christ, we believe, we rest upon His word and work for it, that we shall also live with Him, 8888More literally, perhaps, "shall also come to life with Him." If we read this aright, it points to the prospect future at the moment of the atoning Death, when, ideally, we died. It does not therefore mean, practically, that we do not live with Him now, as we certainly do (see just below, ver. 11). But it is as if to say, "we believe that our share in His risen Life surely follows, now and always, our share in His atoning Death." that we shall share not only now but for all the future the powers of His risen life. For He lives for ever—and we are in Him! Knowing that Christ, risen from the dead, no longer dies, no death is in His future now; death over Him has no more dominion, its claim on Him is for ever gone. For as to His dying (ὃ ἀπέθανε), it was as to our (τῇ) sin He died; it was to deal with our sin's claim; and He has dealt with it indeed, so that His death is "once," ἐφάπαξ, 167 once for ever; but as to His living (ὃ ζῇ), it is as to God He lives; it is in relation to His Father's acceptance, it is as welcomed to His Father's throne for us, as the Slain One Risen. Even so must you too reckon yourselves, with the sure "calculation" that His work for you, His life for you, is infinitely valid, to be dead indeed to your (τῇ) sin, dead in His atoning death, dead to the guilt exhausted by that death, but living to your (τῷ) God, in Christ Jesus;8989The words τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν are to be omitted from the text. welcomed by your eternal Father, in your union with His Son, and in that union filled with a new and blessed life from your Head, to be spent in the Father's smile, on the Father's service.

Let us too, like the Apostle and the Roman Christians, "reckon" this wonderful reckoning; counting upon these bright mysteries as upon imperishable facts. All is bound up not with the tides or waves of our emotions, but with the living rock of our union with our Lord. "In Christ Jesus":—that great phrase, here first explicitly used in the connexion, includes all else in its embrace. Union with the slain and risen Christ, in faith, by the Spirit—here is our inexhaustible secret, for peace with God, for life to God, now and in the eternal day.

Therefore do not let sin reign9090Μὲ βασιλευέτω: possibly the present imperative may imply, "do not go on letting it reign." in your mortal body, mortal, because not yet fully emancipated, though your Lord has "cancelled" for you its character as "the body of sin," the seat and vehicle of conquering temptation. Do not let sin reign there, so that you should obey the lusts of it,9191Omit αὐτῃ ἐν from the text. of the body. Observe the 168 implied instruction. The body, "cancelled" as "the body of sin," still has its "lusts," its desires; or rather desires are still occasioned by it to the man, desires which potentially, if not actually, are desires away from God. And the man, justified through the Lord's death and united to the Lord's life, is not therefore to mistake a laissez-faire for faith. He is to use his divine possessions, with a real energy of will. It is for him, in a sense most practical, to see that his wealth is put to use, that his wonderful freedom is realized in act and habit. "Cancelled" does not mean annihilated. The body exists, and sin exists, and "desires" exist. It is for you, O man in Christ, to say to the enemy, defeated yet present, "Thou shalt not reign; I veto thee in the name of my King."

And do not present9292Παριστάνετε: we may perhaps explain this present imperative also to mean "do not go on so doing." your limbs, your bodies in the detail of their faculties, as implements (ὅπλα) of unrighteousness, to sin, to sin regarded as the holder and employer of the implements. But present9393Παραστήσατε: the aorist certainly implies a critical resolve, a decision of surrender. yourselves, your whole being, centre and circle, to God, as men living after death, in His Son's risen life, and your limbs, hand, foot, and head, with all their faculties, as implements of righteousness for God.

"O blissful self-surrender!" The idea of it, sometimes cloudy, sometimes radiant, has floated before the human soul in every age of history. The spiritual fact that the creature, as such, can never find its true centre in itself, but only in the Creator, has expressed itself in many various forms of aspiration and endeavour, 169 now nearly touching the glorious truth of the matter, now wandering into cravings after a blank loss of personality, or however an eternal coma of absorption into an Infinite practically impersonal; or again, affecting a submission which terminates in itself, an islam, a self-surrender into whose void no blessing falls from the God who receives it. Far different is the "self-presentation" of the Gospel. It is done in the fulness of personal consciousness and choice. It is done with revealed reasons of infinite truth and beauty to warrant its rightness. And it is a placing of the surrendered self into Hands which will both foster its true development as only its Maker can, as He fills it with His presence, and will use it, in the bliss of an eternal serviceableness, for His beloved will.


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