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Waggoner on Romans

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    The Justice of Mercy

    January 23, 1896

    The last lesson showed us that since all men are declared guilty by the law, there can be no righteousness in the law for any man, and that, as a consequence, if men were left alone with the law, there would be no hope for any. The law is only the written statement of the righteousness of God, and therefore can impart no righteousness; but God is a living God, and his righteousness is a living righteousness; his Spirit has all-pervading power, and therefore he can put his own righteousness into and upon all that believe; for faith is the reception of God into the heart. In the reception of this righteousnessWOR 60.1

    “There is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:22-26.WOR 60.2

    Questioning the Text

    How is the righteousness of God manifested apart from the law?WOR 60.3

    “By faith of Jesus Christ.”WOR 60.4

    In whom is it manifested?WOR 60.5

    “Unto all and upon all them that believe.”WOR 60.6

    What distinction is made between people?WOR 60.7

    “There is no difference.”WOR 60.8

    Why not?WOR 60.9

    “For all have sinned.”WOR 60.10

    In sinning, of what have men come short?WOR 60.11

    “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”WOR 60.12

    While in this state, what do those who believe receive?WOR 60.13

    “Being justified.”WOR 60.14

    How justified?WOR 60.15

    “Freely.”WOR 60.16

    By what?WOR 60.17

    “By his grace.”WOR 60.18

    Through what?WOR 60.19

    “Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”WOR 60.20

    How did this come about?WOR 60.21

    “Whom God hath set forth.”WOR 60.22

    What for?WOR 60.23

    “To be a propitiation.”WOR 60.24

    By what means?WOR 61.1

    “Through faith in his blood.”WOR 61.2

    What does he declare?WOR 61.3

    “To declare his righteousness.”WOR 61.4

    Whose righteousness does he declare?WOR 61.5

    God’s righteousness-the righteousness of him who set him forth. See Psalm 40:6-10.WOR 61.6

    For what is God’s righteousness declared in Christ?WOR 61.7

    “For the remission of sins that are past.”WOR 61.8

    Of what is this a manifestation?WOR 61.9

    “The forbearance of God.”WOR 61.10

    Why is it that God’s own righteousness is declared for the remission of sins?WOR 61.11

    “That he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”WOR 61.12

    “No Difference.” -In what is there no difference? There is no difference in the way in which men receive righteousness. And why is no difference made in the manner of justifying men? Because “all have sinned.” Peter, in relating to the Jews his experience in first preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, said, “God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Acts 15:8, 9. “Out of the heart of men,” not of one class of men, but of all men, “proceed evil thoughts,” etc. Mark 7:21. God knows the hearts of all men, that all are alike sinful, and therefore he makes no difference in the Gospel to different men.WOR 61.13

    “One Blood.”-This lesson is one of the most important to be learned by the missionary, whether laboring at home or abroad. Since the gospel is based on a principle that there is no difference in men, it is absolutely essential that the gospel worker should recognize the fact, and always keep it in mind. God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17:26. Not only are all men of one blood, but they are also of “one kind of flesh.” 1 Corinthians 15:39. The great burden of the Epistle to the Romans, as has appeared up to this point, is to show that so far as sin and salvation therefrom are concerned, there is absolutely no difference between men of all races and conditions in life. The same Gospel is to be preached to the Jew and to the Gentile, to the slave and to the freeman, to the prince and to the peasant.WOR 61.14

    Coming Short. -People are fond of imagining that what are called “shortcomings” are not so bad as real sins. So it is much easier for them to confess that they have “come short” than that they have sinned and done wickedly. But since God requires perfection, it is evident that “shortcomings” are sins. It may sound pleasanter to say that a bookkeeper is “short” in his accounts, but people know that the reason for it is that he has been taking that which is not his, or stealing. When perfection is the standard, it makes no difference in the result, how much or how little one comes short, so long as he comes short. The primary meaning of sin is “to miss the mark.” And in an archery contest, the man who has not strength to send his arrow to the target, even though his aim is good, is a loser just as surely as he who shoots wide of the mark.WOR 61.15

    “The Glory of God.” -From the text we learn that the glory of God is his righteousness. Notice, the reason why all have come short of the glory of God is that all have sinned. The fact is plain that if they had not sinned they would not have come short of it. The coming short of the glory itself consists in sin. Man in the beginning was “crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:7) because he was upright. In the fall he lost the glory, and therefore now he must “seek for glory and honor and immortality.” Christ could say to the Father, “The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them,” because in him is the righteousness of God which he has given as a free gift to every man. It is the part of wisdom to receive righteousness; and “they that be wise shall shine.”WOR 61.16

    “Being Justified.” -In other words, being made righteous. To justify means to make righteous. God supplies just what the sinner lacks. Let no reader forget the simple meaning of justification. Some people have the idea that there is a much higher condition for the Christian to occupy than to be justified. That is to say, that there is a higher condition for one to occupy than to be clothed within and without with the righteousness of God. That can not be.WOR 62.1

    “Freely.” -“Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” That is, let him take it as a gift. So in Isaiah 55:1: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” It was the Epistle to the Romans that accomplished the Reformation in Germany. Men had been taught to believe that the way to get righteousness was to purchase it either by hard work or by the payment of money. The idea that men may purchase it with money is not so common now as then; but there are very many who are not Catholics who think that some work must be done in order to obtain it.WOR 62.2

    Making Prayer a Work.-The writer was once talking with a man in regard to righteousness as the free gift of God, the man maintaining that we could not get anything from the Lord without doing something for it. When asked what we must do to win forgiveness of sins, he replied that we must pray for it. It is with this idea of prayer that the Roman or Hindu devotee “says” so many prayers a day, putting in an extra number some days to make up for omissions. But the man who “says” a prayer, does not pray. Heathen prayer, as for instance when the prophets of Baal leaped and cut themselves (1 Kings 18:26-28), is work; but true prayer is not. A man comes to me and says that he is starving. Afterwards he is asked if anything was given him, and he says that he received some dinner, but that I made him work for it. When asked what he had to do for it, he replies that he asked for it. He could hardly make any one believe that he worked for his dinner! True prayer is simply the thankful acceptance of God’s free gifts.WOR 62.3

    Redemption in Christ Jesus.-We are made righteous “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” That is, through the purchasing power that is in Christ Jesus, or “through the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8. This is the reason why it comes to us as a gift. Some one may say that everlasting life in the kingdom of God is too great a thing to be given to us for nothing. So it is, and therefore it had to be purchased, but since we had nothing that could buy it, Christ has purchased it for us and he gives it to us freely, in himself. But if we had to purchase it from him, we might as well have bought it in the first place, and saved him the task. “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21. “Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ.” 1 Peter 1:18, 19, R.V. The blood is the life. Leviticus 17:11-17. Therefore the redemption that is in Christ Jesus is his own life.WOR 62.4

    Christ Set Forth.-Christ is the one whom God has set forth to declare his righteousness. Now since the only righteousness that is real righteousness is the righteousness of God, and Christ is the only one who has been ordained of God to declare it upon men, it is evident that it can not be obtained except through him. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.WOR 62.5

    A Propitiation.-A propitiation is a sacrifice. The statement then is simply that Christ is set forth to be a sacrifice for the remission of our sins. “Once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:26. Of course the idea of a propitiation or sacrifice is that there is wrath to be appeased. But take particular notice that it is we who require the sacrifice, and not God. He provides the sacrifice. The idea that God’s wrath has to be propitiated in order that we may have forgiveness finds no warrant in the Bible. It is the height of absurdity to say that God is so angry with men that he will not forgive them unless something is provided to appease his wrath, and that therefore he himself offers the gift to himself, by which he is appeased. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death.” Colossians 1:21, 22.WOR 63.1

    Heathen and Christian Propitiation.-The Christian idea of propitiation is that set forth above. The heathen idea, which is too often held by professed Christians, is that men must provide a sacrifice to appease the wrath of their god. All heathen worship is simply a bribe to their gods to be favorable to them. If they thought that their gods were very angry with them, they would provide a greater sacrifice, and so human sacrifices were offered in extreme cases. They thought, as the worshipers of Siva in India do to-day, that their god was gratified by the sight of blood. The persecution that was carried on in so-called Christian countries in times past and is to some extent even now, is but the outcropping of this heathen idea of propitiation. Ecclesiastical leaders imagine that salvation is by works and that men by works can atone for sin, and so they offer the one whom they think rebellious as a sacrifice to their god not to the true God, because he is not pleased with such sacrifices.WOR 63.2

    Righteousness Declared.-To declare righteousness is to speak righteousness. God speaks righteousness to man, and then he is righteous. The method is the same as in the creation in the beginning. “He spake, and it was.” “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.WOR 63.3

    God’s Justice in Redemption.-Christ is set forth to declare God’s righteousness for the remission of sins, in order that he might be just and at the same time the justifier of him who believes in Jesus. God justifies sinners, for they are the only ones who need justification. The justice of declaring a sinner to be righteous lies in the fact that he is actually made righteous. Whatever God declares to be so, is so. And then he is made righteous by the life of God given him in Christ. The sin is against God, and if he is willing to forgive it, he has the right to do so. No unbeliever would deny the right of a man to overlook a trespass against him. But God does not simply overlook the trespass; he gives his life as a forfeit. Thus he upholds the majesty of the law, and is just in declaring that man righteous who was before a sinner. Sin is remitted sent away from the sinner, because sin and righteousness can not exist together, and God puts his own righteous life into the believer. So God is merciful in his justice, and just in his mercy.WOR 63.4

    “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
    Like the wideness of the sea;
    There’s a kindness in his justice,
    That is more than liberty.”
    WOR 63.5

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