Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
I. GOD'S MERCIFUL TREATMENT OF PENITENT SINNERS.
1. Three expressions are employed in the verses cited, respecting sin. It is said to be forgiven, like a debt remitted, the score against us being erased. It is covered, as the mercy-seat hid the Law from view, or as a stone flung into the depths of the sea is buried in its waters, or as a mantle of fleecy snow conceals the defilements of a landscape. Likewise it is act reckoned against the delinquents, as if God turned a deaf ear and unseeing eye when complaint is lodged against him concerning the transgressions of the culprits. He smooths the wax tablets so that none can read the bill of indictment.
2. These expressions signify a complete pardon. The king may not care much for the presence of the pardoned rebel at his court, but the father is joyful at the return of the prodigal son. No intermediate state of indifference is possible in God's attitude towards his creatures; when he forgives, there is full reconciliation. No look, no tone, hints at past unworthiness!
3. These expressions teach plainly gratuitous justification. No mention is made of human merit. Man's repentance cannot obliterate or atone for the past; forgiveness means a wrong condoned, not undone, Man is a slave, who cannot purchase his freedom; he has thrown himself into bondage, and his only hope lies in free manumission.
II. THE HAPPINESS OF THE FORGIVEN.
1. The penalties of sin are averted. This does not mean that all the consequences of past wrong-doing are prevented from following, but that the wrath of God rests no longer upon the sinner. The future sentence against evil is withheld, and the burden of guilt is thus removed.
2. Justification brings with it admission into a state of Divine favour. Acquittal includes more than a negative result, that of no condemnation; there is likewise a positive entrance into the kingdom of heaven, with all its sacred privileges and relationships. Filial love takes the place of the spirit of fear.
3. The blissful consciousness of a right condition. Instead of slurring over sin, trying vainly to forget it, the fact has been faced, the truth admitted, and the touch of God has rolled the load for ever from the conscience. The Scriptures assume the possibility of knowing ourselves forgiven. Faith opens the inner hearing to rejoice in the assurance, "Go in peace." The devout Israelite had the ceremonies of the temple to symbolize God's plan of mercy as well as the declarations of inspired teachers. The Christian has words of Christ to rest upon, as also the apostolic commentaries upon the sacrifice and mission of Christ. "I'm in a new world," said one who realized his altered position God-wards. Peaceful in mind during life, serene in the prospect of death, with God as his Portion through eternity, surely this is happiness worthy of the eulogy of the psalmist. - S.R.A.
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.
I. A LEGAL FICTION. We protest against this if the expression be meant anything unreal or untrue.
1. We make this statement with a limitation because there are some "legal fictions" which are very far from being unreal. It is "a legal fiction" to say that "the king can do no wrong"; for unquestionably in his private and personal capacity he may even be guilty of crime; but in his public and official capacity, as the head of the State, he is held in the law of this country to be irresponsible, and the errors or crimes of the government are imputed to his constitutional advisers, who are regarded, by reason of their official position, as alone answerable for them. It is a "legal fiction" to say that "the king never dies"; for as an individual he cannot escape the doom of the meanest of his subjects; but royalty survives the person of the monarch. It is a "legal fiction" to say that the Commons of England are assembled in Parliament; for they are there only in the persons of their representatives; and yet the whole nation is bound by their acts, and subject to be governed, taxed, fined, and imprisoned, or even put to death, according to their laws. It is a "legal fiction," and a far from seemly one, to speak of the omnipotence of Parliament; yet that irreverent expression contains the important truth that the supreme power, which must exist in every form of government, and from whose judgment there is no appeal, is vested in the legislative and executive authorities of the State. Is constitutional government, therefore, "a legal fiction," in the sense of being unreal or unconnected with grave responsibilities? Or was adoption, according to the Romish Jurisprudence, which regarded one as the son of another in law who was not his son by birth, a "legal fiction," or a privilege of no real worth when it constituted a new relation between those who were not related before, and conveyed a legal right of inheritance? Or is the rule that the wife is one in law with her husband an unreal thing, when it invests him with serious liabilities? These examples should dispel the prejudice which is excited against imputation when it is described as a "legal fiction," since although "legal fictions" they express important truths.
2. Suppose that it were justly described as a "legal fiction" it might still represent an important truth, under the scheme of God's moral government.(1) If He has promulgated His law in a covenant form, as a law for the race at large, and imposed it on the first Adam as their representative, then that constitution must be productive of results in which they as well as he will be found to participate; and yet these consequences, so far from being mere "legal fictions," are assuredly very solemn realities: the curse on the ground, the doom of death, the loss of God's image, the forfeiture of His favour, and all the evils which have followed in the train of sin, — all these are brought upon us under the operation of that law, and every one of them is real.(2) In like manner if God has promulgated a scheme of redeeming mercy, and this, too, in a covenant form, through the second Adam as the representative of His people, imposing upon Him the fulfilment of its conditions, and securing to them the benefits of His work on their behalf, then this constitution must be productive of results, in which they as well as He will be found to participate; and yet these results, so far from being "legal fictions," are substantial blessings of the highest and most permanent kind: pardon, the restoration of God's favour, renewal in His image, adoption, eternal life. Hence it is vain to talk of "legal fictions" whether under law or gospel; for while condemnation on the one hand and justification on the other are strictly forensic acts, and must necessarily have some relation to the justice of God, and while the representative character both of the first and second Adam, and the consequent imputation of their guilt and righteousness to those whom they represented, can only be ascribed to the sovereign will of God, yet the results are real and not fictitious.
II. A THEORY invented by man to account for these results. A similar prejudice exists against all the peculiar revelations of Scripture, as if they were matters of speculative interest, rather than of practical importance. Yet nothing is more remarkable in the doctrines of Christianity than this, that every one of them is simply the statement of a fact, and that they all relate either to substantive beings — God, angels, and men, or to real events, past, present, or future. What is the doctrine of God but the revelation of His existence, and of the perfections which belong to Him as the Creator and Governor of the world? What is the doctrine of the Trinity but the statement of a fact respecting the existence of distinct hypostases in His one undivided Godhead. What is the doctrine of the Incarnation but the statement of a fact respecting the union of the Divine and human natures in the Person of our Lord? And in like manner, what is the doctrine of Imputation, whether of sin or righteousness, but the statement of a fact respecting the relation in which we stand to the first or second Adam, and the consequences which result to us from the disobedience of the one, and the obedience of the other? No doubt, when these facts are revealed, and become the subjects of human thought, they may occasion speculation, and speculation may give birth to wild theories, when unrestrained by faith; but let the facts be believed on the testimony of the Revealer, let them be duly realised in their full Scriptural meaning, and in their application to our own souls — and we may safely discard every human theory, and adhere only to the truth as it has been taught by God.
(R. Buchanan, D. D.)in forma pauperis, that is, he pleads as a poor man, he pleads his poverty; and there are certain privileges allowed to those who thus plead in forma pauperis which are not accorded to the wealthiest persons in the land. This is the only successful way in which to plead with God: we must come as paupers, having nothing of our own; giving up every pretence of right or claim of deserving. We must cry, "Lord, I am lost! I am lost! I am lost! but Thou hast lived and Thou hast died; Thy life, Thy sufferings, Thy griefs, Thy groans, Thy death, all these were for those who needed such a sin-atoning sacrifice, and on that sacrifice by blood I rest; I cast myself, lost and ruined, upon the work which Jesus Christ has done for me!"
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgivenI. ITS NATURE.
1. A non-imputation of the offence.
2. A covering of its guilt.
3. A remission of its punishment.
II. THE ACT.
3. Through faith in Christ.
III. ITS BLESSEDNESS.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. FORGIVEN, as a debt we are unable to pay.
II. COVERED, as an object not to be looked upon by a holy God (Habakkuk 1:13).
III. NOT IMPUTED, as a crime deserving eternal death (Romans 6:23).
(T. Robinson, D. D.)Jeremiah 50:20). This blessing is the foundation for all other mercies.
I. IT IS AN ACT OF GOD'S FREE GRACE. The Greek word deciphers the original of pardon: it ariseth not from anything inherent in us, but is the pure result of free grace (Isaiah 43:25). When a creditor forgives a debtor, he does it freely. Paul cries out (1 Timothy 1:13), "I obtained mercy" (Gr., "I was be-mercied"). He who is pardoned is all bestowed with mercy. When God pardons a sinner, He does not pay a debt, but gives a legacy.
II. IT IS A REMISSION OF GUILT AND PENALTY. Guilt cries for justice, but in remission God indulges the sinner. He seems to say, Though thou hast fallen into the hands of justice and deservest to die, yet I will absolve thee, and whatever is charged upon thee shall be discharged.
III. IT IS THROUGH THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Free grace is the impulsive cause; Christ's blood is the meritorious (Hebrews 9:22). Justice would be revenged either on the sinner or on the surety. Every pardon is the price of blood.
IV. IT MUST BE PRECEDED BY REPENTANCE. Therefore both are linked together (Luke 24:47). Not that repentance merits forgiveness: Christ's blood must wash our tears; but repentance is a qualification though not a cause. He who is humbled for sin will the more value pardoning mercy.
V. GOD HAVING FORGIVEN SIN WILL CALL IT NO MORE INTO REMEMBRANCE (Jeremiah 31:34). The Lord will make an act of indemnity. He will not upbraid us with former unkindnesses, or sue us with a cancelled bond (Micah 7:19). Sin shall not be cast into the sea as a cork which riseth up again, but as lead which sinks to the bottom.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
And whose sin is covered.Proverbs 28:13), which consists in not confessing it, or denying it — Gehazi's covering, which was by a lie; and by justifying ourselves in it. All these are evil coverings, and he that thus covereth his sin shall not prosper. But there is a blessed covering of sin, when God hides it out of sight by forgiving it.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
I. THERE IS NO VACUUM IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. As Dean Alford says, "There is no negative state of innocence — none intermediate between acceptance for righteousness and rejection for sin."
II. THE NEGATIVE PROCESS OF REMISSION OF SIN AND THE POSITIVE PROCESS OF IMPUTATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE REALLY ONE, and only capable of being separated in thought. To say that the bucket has been let down into the well when not dry is the same as to say that the bucket is full of water.
III. BOTH OF THESE PROCESSES PRESUPPOSE EACH OTHER, like the rising of one scale presupposes the falling of the other, and vice versa. Righteousness could not be imputed unless sin be forgiven; while sin could only be forgiven in view of the righteousness provided and imputed.
(C. Neil, M. A.)
I. THE MAN WHO IS PARDONED IS BLESSED —
1. With respect to God in the person of the Father, as the moral Governor, and as the God of salvation. God has forgiven all his sins — past, present, and to come.
2. He is blessed by God, in the person of the Son, with perfect Christian liberty and freedom from all the demands of law and justice.
3. He is blessed by God the Holy Ghost, who effects that work in him by which he receives Christ, and the pardon of sin with Him; and the Spirit makes his body a temple to dwell in.
4. He is blessed with perfect deliverance from all danger by Satan, that cruel and bitter enemy who has destroyed so many.
5. He is blessed with perfect deliverance from the danger of sin, which has been the ruin of all who have perished, and will be the ruin of all who shall perish.
6. He is blessed with deliverance from the second death.
7. He is graciously blessed with grace in the heart. This is the leaven which will not cease. Every grace now takes root in the soul; and the believer learns to exercise each in its proper place.
8. Now he can lay hold of the promises in Christ as his own; and, while he can act every spiritual grace in measure and degree, he lives by faith in the Lord Jesus, and has an interest in "the great and precious promises, by which he is made partaker of the Divine nature," and is blessed with the enjoyment of all the promises, which "all in Christ are yea, and in Him amen, unto the glory of God by us."
9. He is blessed with the law of God "written in his heart," and has a right to enjoy all the blessings of the covenant which is "ordered in all things and sure." He is daily conforming more and more to the Divine image, and is daily more and more "made meet to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light."
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS BLESSEDNESS IS OBTAINED ON OUR PART IS FAITH.
1. To ascertain this principle we must consider the doctrine of regeneration, by which we understand a saving change effected in the believer by the gracious influences and operations of the Holy Spirit, for Christ's sake.
2. When this saving change is effected, the believer is considered in Scripture as "a new creature" — a "new man" — "created in Christ Jesus unto good works"; and the confidence and reliance of this new man upon the Lord Jesus Christ is called faith.
(James Kidd, D. D.)
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