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28/11/2009 / Test All Things

A Study Of Romans 5:1

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ.

(Romans 5:1)

It has been, and is now, my fervent desire to bring forward again
this marvellous, this glorious, divine doctrine of justification. Its
importance to us can never be overstated; for it goes to the very root of
all our everlasting interests. It matters not what else we are; if not
justified before God, we are condemned. We may have much religion
without being justified; and we may feel to have none, and yet be
justified.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. It is His glory to cast
behind His back into the depths of the sea all the sins of His people.
There are two creations in particular that the Scriptures speak of. First,
the creation of man, and this was in righteousness; that is, He made man
in His own image. Second, the creation of righteousness for sinners,
whereby many are made righteous. This comes from heaven. Of it God
speaks: “Let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and
let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together;
I the Lord have created it” (Isa. 45. 8). The first creation needed but the
word, “Let there be.” The second needed that God Himself in the
Second Person of the Trinity should come down to earth, assume our
nature, be made under our law, and obeying it, become the “end of the
law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” This is wonderful.
My friends, we are interested in the righteousness of Christ, or we are
not. If we are, when blessed with quickening grace we are concerned
about it. Till it is made out to us, we can have no solid satisfaction about
our state and standing for eternity. When the heavens are commanded to
drop down righteousness, and the earth to open and receive it, its
influence on the heart is wonderful.

In the verses before the text, Abraham was promised a Seed, the
same promise being enlarged to him that was given to Adam in Eden.
The line in which Christ was to come was now made known and
promised to him. And “what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed
God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Hence that
stumbling mystery: “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that
justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4.
3, 5). We find in the case of the leper [under the law], the scrutiny made
again and again of his case was not to find out what good parts there
were, but narrowly to examine the bad. This points out that when God
would pronounce a man clean, He makes a close scrutiny of every hair
apparently affected. And if He is dealing with you, you will not find out
ever so many good places, but be all over bad.

Justification from first to last is the act of God, “according to His
good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself” from all eternity
(Eph. 1. 9). In that is involved the coming, work, death and resurrection
of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it is said that He “was delivered for
our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Now, sinner,
that great act of the Father when He gave His only begotten Son to die,
and that great act of Christ when He came to do the will of His Father,
both were to provide a righteousness, an absolutely perfect righteousness,
to be put to the account of sinners. When Christ was raised from the
dead, He was “justified in the Spirit” openly, and declared to be the Son
of God with power. And He had that justification in Himself before He
expired, when He cried, “It is finished.” No imputed sin or guilt
remained on His soul, but the darkness was past, wrath was finished, the
curse ended; and His holy soul no longer suffered, but left the body, and
went to paradise. But this justification was not known openly; the
disciples knew it not; for they feared they were deceived, until He was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. Then He was justified
in their eyes, and declared to be the Son of God with power by His
resurrection (Rom. 1. 4). Though they had not the New Testament
Scriptures to bear witness to Him, the Holy Spirit manifested Him as the
Son of God; and ever since He has continued to be shown to spiritual
Israel.

By His death sin was removed in one day. All His people stood
then in that state of justification in the estimation of the law and the
judgment of the Father; and their sin remained no more, neither on them,
nor on Him. The Trinity were concerned in that great act of justification.
All the blackness of His people’s nature, the vileness of their hearts, sins
which are done by them in all states, all their bitter enmity, Jesus fully,
perfectly, absolutely atoned for, and left nothing to be done.

Therefore,

1. I will notice, justification is a state belonging to the people of
God, long before it is an experience or feeling. All must be in a state of
justification or condemnation in God’s sight, as interested in Christ or
otherwise. Think of God’s holy eye looking on the church and beholding
no spot in her. Think of her who was born in her natural head and father
Adam, who sinned in him and in her own person, yet whose sins shall
never rise in judgment against her, because Jesus took them on Himself,
the Father imputing them to Him; and so they are taken away. This is the
truth of the matter. He “was raised again for our justification.” This
doctrine, therefore, goes to the root and foundation of all our interests for
eternity. A man may be interested in it, and none know it. Who would
have judged Saul of Tarsus to have been a justified person? But God
made it manifest by the work of grace in him. And he who can talk
freely about justification as a doctrine, a state, an act of God, may not be
justified, and be quite content to live in sin.

2. There is such a thing, then, as an experience of it. When a man
is really a sinner experimentally, he is fitted for that gift of God,
justification. It is for sinners who are unrighteous when tried, and know
themselves so. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that
which was lost” – that is, in the man’s sense of it.

Now because justification is a legal term, I will speak of it in
experience as belonging to a law suit entered into by the Lord God
against a sinner. If we never have direct dealings with God here below
in our hearts and consciences, we cannot know Him. But we shall have
distinct dealings with Him hereafter, if not here, when He pronounces
openly the sentence of banishment. Now when the Lord will have a
sinner before Him wearing that beautiful robe Jesus wrought, does He
take it to the sinner in his corruption, and put it on him, leaving him as
he is? No, He descends on Sinai, and summons him to the foot of that
mount; and there are thunders and lightnings, and the law given out with
more or less power, which make him wither. He knows he can never
comply with God’s commands. Knowing God’s character, the sinner
knows his own. If He is holy, we shall prove we are unholy in the light
of His holy Majesty. Arraigned at His bar, how our hearts fear, our
iniquities are searched out! “How are the things of Esau searched out!”
When iniquity is found on the skirts, then He comes closer. “I will
search Jerusalem with candles.” He shows the wickedness in the heart
that we never thought ourselves capable of doing. Our own eyes see it,
and our consciences feel it. Here it will come to light.

But Christ says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to
repentance.” If we are righteous, Christ will say, “You are not suitable
to Me.” But if we say, “My sins exceed all others’, and the awfulness of
them cannot be put into words,” Christ says, “I came to call sinners to
My fountain, to My righteousness. My salvation shall not tarry.” Were
we self-condemned, our hearts would say, “God is righteous; I am
wrong.” Between God and sinners there is an infinite distance; not only
the infinite disparity between God and creatures; it is not a shame to have
that. But there is shame and guilt in this moral distance; and the sinner
feels it. This is now to be our experience as sinners – to be justified by
faith. Jesus comes to one self-condemned, and says, “Thy sins are
forgiven.” So He said to the woman charged with adultery, “Hath no
man condemned thee? … Neither do I condemn thee.” He speaks this on
the ground of His own death and resurrection: “Who was delivered for
our offences, and was raised again for our justification”; and it follows,
“Therefore being justified,” we have peace with God by faith. Our faith
when drawn out by the Holy Ghost will go to this justifying God,
notwithstanding all our badness, and believe that what is impossible with
men is possible with God –

“Here’s an amazing change indeed –
Justice is now for me!”

This man is to see God’s well-pleased face, is to feel God has no
complaint against him, that Christ is the right ground of hope for a
sinner, the door of access to God.

When one comes here, it is like the river Ezekiel saw, which rose
higher and higher. At first it was to the ankles – only a hope in Christ’s
righteousness is very wonderful, very invigorating. He gets to the knees
in this river of justification, of eternal love, and O how he is
strengthened! To be there even to his knees, to see a little of the grace
of Christ, the love of the Father, and the unction of the Spirit, to feel the
waters flowing into the soul – who can express the sweetness of it? It is
a river that makes everything live where it comes. Yet there is more to
be had than this; the prophet soon found it a river to swim in. When you
get the witness of the Spirit, the love of God, the righteousness of Christ
all in your soul, there is a river to swim in, to bathe in. To feel clothed
in this robe, to have God’s heavenly smile, the kiss of the Trinity on your
conscience, no charge laid against you; to see Jesus and embrace Him,
to close in with Him, to get hold of Him; for faith to entwine about Him,
to be able to say, “Here is a good and merciful God, and I know Him for
myself” – this is justification in experience. There may be charges
afterwards, but let us sing while we can. When we look on Christ, let us
look as long as we can. Having Him in our arms, let us hold Him as long
as we can; and when He speaks, listen as long as we can. Here we feel,
“My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof,
and be glad.”

3. In the next place, what is the effect of justification? “Peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is plenty of peace in the
world, but not much that is good. If I could I would break the peace of
some here tonight; but that is God’s work. We read, “When they shall
say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as
travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape” (1 Thess.
5. 3).

True peace is the sweet sense of reconciliation to God in Christ. It
is a holy Sabbath in the conscience, the removal of the distance so
painfully felt before. Now, like Joseph, Christ says to the soul, “Come
near to Me, and dwell near Me.” He runs to meet the returning sinner,
falls on his neck, and kisses him. Joseph assured his brethren of his
relationship to them and friendship; and then they talked with him. So
when Christ has made Himself known to a sinner, there is communion.
Nor are we to forget for the rest of our days through whom our
justification flows – the Man Jesus, very God and very Man. We shall
never love Him enough, nor value Him enough, nor fully realise what it
cost Him to make this open way for us, “through the veil; that is to say,
His flesh”; to open the window through which light has streamed into our
souls. Is it not wonderful to you that all the goodness you want, and have
none of before the Lord comes, instantly fills your soul when He comes?
You are “full of goodness,” as said Paul (Rom. 15. 14). A man who is
justified is filled with goodness, God’s goodness, under the pouring out
of the Spirit, with faith and love. The righteousness of Christ will grow
in his esteem. I think what I saw of it at the beginning was nothing
compared to what is made out to me in it now.

4. Now there is another effect of this justifying robe, which is
especially felt in prayer – power with God by faith. That robe enables a
man to draw near to God by faith in its merits, and so to prevail, like
Jacob. It is said, “By his strength” – his faith – “he had power with God:
yea, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made
supplication unto Him: he found Him in Bethel, and there He spake with
us; even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his Memorial” (Hos. 12. 3-5).
But if you have not faith, you have not power with God. You have
no dealings with the Lord; you have never owned the worst of your state,
never justified Him if He should condemn you. “For he that cometh to
God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11. 6). You have never spoken into His ear
one single confession, or preferred one true prayer – if you have not
faith. It is a good word,

“Close in with Christ by saving faith,
And God’s your Friend for ever.”

Till a man does that, he does not know Christ as his Saviour.

“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom
also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.”

O to believe we are the delight of God! that He has not such pleasure in all the
works of His providence and creation as He has in the heart of a sinner,
one that is found in Christ. He says, “Where is the house that ye build
unto Me? and where is the place of My rest? For all those things hath
Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to
this man will I look, even to him that is poor” – and with him will I dwell
(Isa. 66. 1, 2; 57. 15). That is, “He shall have access; he shall dwell with
Me, delight in Me. He shall have ‘plenty of silver’ or enough for this
world, peace in his soul, and a good prospect for eternity.” For
“godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that
now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4. 8). Hence he rejoices
“in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5. 2). He shall overcome at last,
and be made a pillar in the temple of God, and shall go no more out (Rev.
3. 12).

The good Lord deal with us, and bring justification into our hearts,
that we may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and have
peace with God through Him.

By J.K. Popham

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