But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;…
There is not a more interesting episode in English history than the story of the siege of Calais by Edward III. The king had beleaguered the town for a year, when the garrison surrendered, and the incensed monarch demanded that six of the principal citizens should be sent to him with the keys of the town, having halters about their necks. Six brave men volunteered to go on this cruel embassy, and were instantly ordered to execution. Queen Philippa, however, strenuously interceded for them, obtained their release, entertained them, and dismissed them in safety. Now compare this much vaunted instance of human clemency with that of God and then you will confess how unlike His ways are to our ways, and His thoughts to our thoughts. Those burgesses deserved not to suffer, and the king only granted them their lives in sullen submission to the importunity of his queen. And she did not make them her friends, but only dismissed them in a manner honourable to herself. With how much greater love has our offended God dealt with us! We appeared before Him as culprits condemned, and if He had ordered our instant execution we could not have impugned His justice. Not waiting to be moved, He was the first to ask us to be reconciled; and then forgiving us our sins He receives us as children. Note —
I. THE RELATION WHICH SUBSISTS BETWEEN GOD AND MAN.
1. God is a great King; and we all are His natural subjects. This is quite independent of our choice or suffrages. A person born in England finds himself hedged about with laws which were neither of his devising nor of his adopting, yet to which he is bound under penalty to conform. By a like anterior necessity he is born under a system of physical laws. From that which is human and political we can escape; but from that which is Divine and natural there is no escape. Now just as you are of necessity born into the midst of these two systems of laws, so are you also born under subjection to a third, possessing a higher and more awful character. You are amenable to God's moral laws, which are more searching in their application, more stringent in their requisitions, more tremendous in their sanctions, more enduring in their operation than the other two. You may get away from the coils of national law by journeying to another country; and you will be released from physical laws when death shall transfer you to another world; but you will not even then escape from the control of God's moral law.
2. The whole world is proven guilty in God's sight.
(1) We resorts His authority and feel submission a hardship, simply because we are conscious rebels before Him. Ours are the feelings of culprits who hate the laws which they have broken, and the breach of which has brought them into trouble. This is true of all mankind, without limitation or exception. This is the truth which St. Paul demonstrates in chaps, 1 and 2.
(2) But another mode of reasoning is adopted in chap. Romans 5. There Paul boldly announces, as a fundamental principle of God's dealings with mankind, the organic unity of our race. Therefore, if any part be naturally foul and vile, all is so too; if one be guilty before God, all must be the same. We are a sinful race as inheriting the sin of Adam.
II. Such being the case, let us ask, "HOW CAN A MAN BE JUST WITH GOD?" The answer constitutes the very marrow and pith of the gospel. And what we learn is —
1. That God can save us from our sins and recover us to His favour.
2. That He can do this by freely and generously forgiving us all our sins, and absolutely remitting their penalty.
3. That this forgiveness of man's sins is not a wanton and arbitrary act of the Divine clemency which might outrage His own holiness and dishonour His law.
4. Nor is it the reward, merited or unmerited, of works of righteousness and legal obedience, which we can render in the future as a counterbalance and set-off against our transgressions in the past.
5. But it is rendered possible by the sacrificial sufferings and death of His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for our souls.
6. That this benefit accrues to us simply and solely on the condition of faith or trust in the blood of Christ, assuming only that we have a true knowledge of sin which leads us heartily to repent of it, and to seek deliverance from the curse of a broken law.
7. That thin is a mode of making us righteous in God's sight in complete harmony with His own perfect righteousness of character and law.
8. That this method of justification appertains alike to all mankind, for as there is no essential difference in their sinfulness, so there is none in the way of their recovery to holiness and life.
9. That this plan of mercy leaves no ground of boasting to man, but ensures all the glory to God.
10. That it is the same which has existed from the beginning, being spoken of, however dimly, by both Moses and the prophets. The inference is plain that none need despair; that all may he saved; that the blame of any man's being lost, to whom the word of this salvation is sent, must rest with himself and not with God; and that it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation to proclaim a free and full and present salvation to everyone that believeth.
(T. G. Horton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;