"Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" (v. 25). Why bring in the case of Rahab? Was not the example of Abraham conclusive and sufficient? First, because "two witnesses" are required for the truth to be "established"--cf. Romans 4:3,6. Second, because, it might be objected Abraham's case was so exceptional that it could be no criterion to measure others by. Very well: Rahab was a poor Gentile, a heathen, a harlot; yet she too was justified by faith (Hebrews 11:31), and later demonstrated her faith by "works"--receiving the spies at the imminent risk of her own life.
"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). Here is the summing up: a breathless carcass and a worthless faith are alike useless as unto all the ends of natural and spiritual life. Thus the Apostle has conclusively shown the worthlessness of the garb of orthodoxy when worn by lifeless professors. He has fully exposed the error of those who rest in a bare profession of the Gospel--as if that could save them, when the temper of their minds and the tenor of their lives was diametrically opposed to the holy religion they professed. A holy heart and an obedient walk are the scriptural evidence of our having been justified by God.
10. Its Results
The justification of the believer is absolute, complete, final. "It is God that justifieth" (Romans 8:33), and "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it" (Ecclesiastes 3:14). So absolute and inexorable is this blessed fact that, in Romans 8:30 we are told, "Whom He justified, them He also glorified": notice it is not simply a promise that God "will glorify," but so sure and certain is that blissful event, the past tense is used. "Them He also glorified" is speaking from the standpoint of the eternal and unalterable purpose of God, concerning which there is no conditionality or contingency whatsoever. To be "glorified" is to be perfectly conformed to the lovely image of Christ, when we shall see Him as He is and be made like Him (1 John 3:2). Because God has determined this, He speaks of it as already accomplished, for He "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Romans 4:17).
So far as the believer is concerned, the penal side of the sin question has been settled once and for all. His case has been tried in the supreme court, and God has justified him: in consequence thereof the Divine decision is "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Once those very persons were under condemnation--"condemned already" (John 3:18); but now that their faith has united them to Christ there is no condemnation. The debt of their sin has been paid by their great Surety; the record thereof has been "blotted out" by His cleansing blood. "It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth" (Romans 8:33,34). Who will reverse His decision! Where is that superior tribunal to which this cause can be carried? Eternal justice has pronounced her fiat; immutable judgment has recorded her sentence.
It is utterly and absolutely impossible that the sentence of the Divine Judge should ever be revoked or reversed. His sentence of justification results from and rests upon a complete satisfaction having been offered to His Law, and that in the fulfillment of a covenant engagement. Thus is effectually precluded the recall of the verdict. The Father stipulated to release His elect from the curse of the law provided the Son would meet the claims of justice against them. The Son freely complied with His Father's will: "Lo, I come." He was now made under the law, fulfilled the law, and suffered the full penalty of the law; therefore shall He see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Sooner shall the lightenings of omnipotence shiver the Rock of Ages than those sheltering in Him again be brought under condemnation.
How very, very far from the glorious truth of the Gospel is the mere conditional pardon which Arminians represent God as bestowing upon those who come to Christ--a pardon which may be rescinded, yea, which will be canceled, unless they "do their part" and perform certain stipulations! What a horrible and blasphemous travesty of the Truth is that!--an error which must be steadfastly resisted no matter who holds it: better far to hurt the feelings of a million of our fellow-creatures than to displease their august Creator. On no such precarious basis as our fulfilling certain conditions has God suspended the justification of His people. Not only is there "now no condemnation" resting upon the believer, but there never again shall me, for "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8).
The dread sentence of the law, "Thou shalt surely die," cannot in justice be executed upon the sinner's Surety and also upon himself. Hence by a necessity existing in the very nature of moral government, it must follow that the believing sinner be freed from all condemnation, that is, so cleared of the same that he is raised above all liability to punishment. So declared our blessed Saviour Himself, in words too plain and emphatic to admit of any misunderstanding: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). He, the habitation of whose throne is "justice and judgment," has sealed up this declaration forever, by affirming "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Sooner shall the sword of justice cleave the helmet of the Almighty than any Divinely pardoned soul perish.
But not only are the sins of all who truly come to Christ eternally remitted, but the very righteousness of the Redeemer passes over to them, is placed upon them, so that a perfect obedience to the law is imputed to their account. It is theirs, not by promise, but by gift (Romans 5:17), by actual bestowment. It is not simply that God treats them as if they were righteous, they are righteous and so pronounced by Him. And therefore may each believing soul exclaim, "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels" (Isaiah 61:10). O that each Christian reader may be enabled to clearly and strongly grasp hold of this glorious fact: that he is now truly righteous in the sight of God, is in actual possession of an obedience which answers every demand of the law.
This unspeakable blessing is bestowed not only by the amazing grace of God, but it is actually required by His inexorable justice. This too was stipulated and agreed upon in the covenant into which the Father entered with the Son. That is why the Redeemer lived here on earth for upwards of thirty years before He went to the cross to suffer the penalty of our sins: He assumed and discharged our responsibilities; as a child, as a youth, as a man, He rendered unto God that perfect obedience which we owed Him. He "fulfilled all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15) for His people, and just as He who knew no sin was made sin for them, so they are now made "the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). And therefore does Jehovah declare, "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee" (Isaiah 54:10).
By actually believing with a justifying faith the sinner doth receive Christ Himself, is joined to Him, and becomes immediately an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ. This gives him a right unto and an interest in the benefits of His mediation. By faith in Christ he received not only the forgiveness of sins, but an inheritance among all them that are sanctified (Acts 26:18), the Holy Spirit (given to him) being "the earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:13,14). The believing sinner may now say "in the LORD have I righteousness" (Isaiah 45:24). He is "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10), for by "one offering" the Saviour hath "perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). The believer has been "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6), and stands before the throne of God arrayed in a garment more excellent than that which is worn by the holy angels.
How infinitely does the glorious Gospel of God transcend the impoverished thoughts and schemes of men! How immeasurably superior is that "everlasting righteousness" which Christ has brought in (Daniel 9:24) from that miserable thing which multitudes are seeking to produce by their own efforts. Greater far is the difference between the shining light of the midday sun and the blackness of the darkest night, than between that "best robe" (Luke 15:22) which Christ has wrought out for each of His people and that wretched covering which zealous religionists are attempting to weave out of the filthy rags of their own righteousness. Equally great is the difference between the truth of God concerning the present and immutable standing of His saints in all the acceptability of Christ, and the horrible perversion of Arminians who make acceptance with God contingent upon the believer's faithfulness and perseverance, who suppose that Heaven can be purchased by the creature's deeds and doings.
It is not that the justified soul is now left to himself, so that he is certain of getting to Heaven no matter how he conducts himself--the fatal error of Antinomians. No Indeed. God also imparts to him the blessed Holy Spirit, who works within him the desire to serve, please, and glorify the One who has been so gracious to Him. "The love of Christ constraineth us... that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:14,15). They now "delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22), and though the flesh, the world, and the Devil oppose every step of the way, occasioning many a sad fall--which is repented of, confessed, and forsaken--nevertheless the Spirit renews them day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16) and leads them in the paths of righteousness for Christ's name's sake.
In the last paragraph will be found the answer to those who object that the preaching of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith alone, will encourage carelessness and foster licentiousness. Those whom God justifies are not left in their natural condition, under the dominion of sin, but are quickened, indwelt, and guided by the Holy Spirit. As Christ cannot be divided, and so is received as Lord to rule us as well as Saviour to redeem us, so those whom God justifies He also sanctifies. We do not affirm that all who receive this blessed truth into their heads have their lives transformed thereby--no indeed; but we do insist that where it is applied in power to the heart there always follows a walk to the glory of God, the fruits of righteousness being brought forth to the praise of His name. Each truly justified soul will say: