Now the just by faith shall be living. (Romans 1:17)
WHEN Martin Luther visited Rome in 1510 and was paying his devotions with frantic zeal
like the rest of the infatuated multitude, as he climbed the stairway of St. Peter's on
his knees to obtain the large indulgence promised, he says, "A voice like thunder
seemed to say to me, `The just shall live by faith!'" This incident marked the
beginning of the restoration of the gospel Paul preached, lost to the world nearly
fourteen centuries before.
As we pointed out in Chapter IX, Paul vehemently contended that the evangel which was
preached by him was not in accord with man, neither did he accept it from man, nor
was he taught it, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal.1:11,12). He strengthens
the fact further by designating it as "my gospel."
For this evangel, Paul tells us that he was severed (Rom.1: 2), that he is not ashamed
(Rom.1:16), that it would be woe to him if he should not be preaching it (1 Cor.9:16).
Through the evangel which he preached, we are saved, if we are retaining what he said in
preaching the evangel, outside and except our belief was a sham (1 Cor.15:1,2). He gives
it in detail to the Corinthian saints, emphasizing the essential elements in these words:
"Now I am making known to you, brethren, the evangel which I preach to you, which
you accepted also, in which you stand also, through which you are saved also, if you are
retaining what I said in preaching the evangel to you, outside and except your belief is a
"For I give over to you first what I accepted also, that Christ died for our sins
according to the scriptures, and that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the
third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor.15:1-4).
From this Scripture we see immediately that the evangel Paul preached was concerned
with Christ--His death, burial, and resurrection. It is God's power
for salvation and nothing can take its place. There is no other power in the universe
which can turn men to God. All modern substitutes and expedients, sanitary or social,
impassioned oratory or emotional excitement, cannot save or make men righteous before God.
The evangel alone, without any additions or apologies, is able to save everyone who
What a wonderful study--man's justification, righteousness and salvation through the
deliverance which is in Christ Jesus, Whom God purposed for a Propitiatory, through faith
in His blood --the evangel! Truly it is glad tidings, or good news, indeed.
I. CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. This is the first essential fact
or truth of the evangel. A clear understanding of all that it involves, together with a
realization of the permanent abiding, sin-cleansing efficacy of His blood, delivering us,
not only from the natural effects of sin, but also from God's indignation on account of
it, and clothing us in divine righteousness, beyond the reach of condemnation, cannot be
But in what way did Christ die for our sins according to the Scriptures? This question
has caused and is causing much concern among honest as well as dishonest hearts.
Therefore, realizing to some extent the dire need for a thorough study of what God has
revealed concerning this momentous question, we will use the utmost care and reverence in
presenting the subject from the word of His grace, hoping thereby to help all who read.
Paul opens the subject by a comparison with the acts of men. Thus he magnifies and
intensifies the love of God, in His transaction at the cross. He says:
For hardly for the sake of the just will anyone be dying; for, for the sake of the
good, perhaps some may even be daring to die (Rom.5:7).
Many who read this, are aware of the truth it contains by personal observation. Many
years since, in the state of Virginia a terrible tragedy was enacted in a court house, as
a result of a verdict, when the judge and several court officials were shot to death. The
criminals escaped and hid in the mountains for quite a while, but were finally apprehended
by a posse and brought to justice and convicted. Among the group was a young man, ideal in
every way, beloved by all the community, but sentenced with the others to the electric
chair. As the time approached for the execution a man from over the mountain appealed to
the Governor to be allowed to die for the sake of the good man! Other instances could be
given where, for the sake of the good, perhaps some may even be daring to die.
Yet God is recommending this love of His to us, seeing that, when we are
still sinners, Christ died for our sakes (Rom.5:8).
Yet we are observing Jesus, having been made some whit inferior to messengers (because
of the sufferings of death), wreathed with glory and honor, so that He should, by the
grace of God, be tasting death for the sake of all (Heb.2: 9).
For the One knowing no sin, He makes sin for our sakes that we should be
becoming God's righteousness in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21).
These scriptures reveal the profound grace of God which is recommended to us through
the death of Christ for our sakes, yet I am wondering if we really grasp the deep
significance of it all? In the first place, we must get a clear realization of the
sinfulness of sin in God's sight, and His righteous indignation and condemnation of it.
At the law's impotence (in which it was infirm through the flesh) God, when sending His
Own Son in the likeness of sin's flesh and concerning sin, condemns sin in the flesh,
that the just requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who are not walking in accord
with flesh, but in accord with spirit (Rom.8:3,4).
This Scripture reveals God's condemnation of sin in the flesh, and the vast love and
grace which He has so marvelously and unmistakably recommended to the world, when sending
His Own Son in the likeness of sin's flesh and bringing Him into the dust of death on the
cross. O that we may grasp the reality of that great transaction on Golgotha! The account
of Christ's prayers and suffering in Gethsemane are familiar to all, yet they only prepare
our hearts for the deeper unfoldings of the cross, where the Sinless One was made to be
sin for our sakes. By entering into the dark scene of Gethsemane, we find the transaction
of the cross transformed from a mere manifestation of human and satanic hatred into a
deliberate and foreordained act of God. The terrible treatment of the Holy One by the God
Whom He so faithfully served is a far more perplexing problem than the introduction of
evil into the creation. No one will dispute that Christ did not deserve to drink the
bitter cup that the Father set before Him. In the dark shadows of Gethsemane, the problem
of evil was solved for us.
Father, if it is Thy intention, carry aside this cup from Me. However, not My will, but
Thine come to pass! (Luke 22:42).
This is a divine picture of the great conflict between good and evil in its most
intense exercise. Our Lord well knew the evil that lay ahead of Him, for He had been
speaking of it again and again. He himself did not wish to drink the cup! Let us get this
clear: the sufferings of Christ were not His will, but the will of the Father.
Hitherto there had been perfect unanimity between the will of the Father and that of the
Son, but in this most extreme agony of soul acquiescence gives place to submission.
From the dawn of creation He had delighted in the will of God. He had gladly emptied
Himself of the glories of the form divine and took on the form of a slave, entering into
the humiliation of humanity. But when it came to the ignominious death of the cross, His
soul revolted and His will refused to follow! Our wills are so constantly in conflict with
God's will that it is almost impossible for us to realize the awful gulf revealed in the
agonizing words, "not My will, but Thine."
From Gethsemane's dark scene, we follow Him to the cross at Golgotha. And, without in
the least minimizing the guilt of man or the sin of Satan, we may look beneath their
hateful deeds and see God using them as His puppets in the preparation of the great
Sacrifice foreknown, indeed, before the disruption of the world (1 Peter 1:20).
The dread darkness was but a physical indication of the withdrawal of the divine
Presence from the silent Sufferer. This was incomparably more awful than the opposition of
His enemies or the desertion of His friends. Until the darkness enveloped Him, He had
always lived in the light of God's smile. Now, He is hanging on a tree and "accursed
of God" (Gal.3:13). Sinless, He is made sin (2 Cor.5:21). Then it was that fire
from above entered into His bones (Lam.1:13). There it was that the Lord bruised
Him and made His soul an offering for sin (Isa.53:10). It was the travail of His soul
in those dark hours that settled the sin question for a finality. To know a
little of what He suffered, try to grasp the meaning of the words of the Psalmist David
I am poured out as water.
All my bones are dissected.
My heart becomes as wax:
It is melted in the midst of my bowels.
My vigor is dry as earthenware,
And my tongue is clinging to my jaws.
Thou art setting me on the hearth stones,
On the soil of death.
Death at the hands of God: can we grasp it? And, it is only as we see God
against Him there in condemnation of sin, that we can appreciate how much He is for us
now. Crucified by man at the behest of Satan, and abandoned by God, He is the most forlorn
creature in the universe!
O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy Head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner's stead--
Bear'st all my ill for me:
A victim led, Thy blood was shed:
Now there's no load for me.
Death and the curse were in our cup--
O Christ, 'twas full for Thee!
But Thou hast drain'd the last dark drop:
'Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup--love drank it up,
Now blessings flow for me.
The Holy One did hide His face.
O Christ, 'twas hid from Thee!
Dumb darkness wrapt Thy soul a space:
The darkness due to me.
But now that face of radiant grace
Shines forth in light on me.
For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee.
Thou'rt ris'n; my bands are all untied,
And now Thou liv'st in Me.
When we with Thee above abide,
Thy glory then for me.
For His own sake, God never would have abandoned Him, but for my sake and your sake,
dear reader, He endured not merely the physical pain, the mental torture, the moral
degradation which men inflicted, but the deeper, direr despair of the awful enmity of God.
There suspended between earth and heaven, God pressed "the cup" to His lips
and turned His back, leaving Him in darkness to drink it to the dregs alone! Only
after it was past and the light returns is He able to cry to God, and then He utters that
most incomprehensible question:
My God! My God! Why didst Thou abandon Me?
Think of it! While we are still sinners God makes His Son a Sin Offering for our sakes,
in order to recommend His love to us and win our responsive love in return. The grace of
it all lies in our unworthiness of such a great Sacrifice. Condemnation and death was our
only portion. But God is love, and "love longs for love responsive," so Christ
is made the great Sin-bearer, Whose blood settles for sins, past, present, and future,
vindicating God's justice and making it possible for Him to be the Justifier of all who
are of the faith of Jesus (Rom.3:24-26).
II. HE WAS ENTOMBED
The death of Christ is essential in the evangel, yet that is not enough. That, alone,
would be no evangel. He must be entombed--buried--a token that sins have been settled for,
cleansed, put away! Yet this is not enough, for a dead and buried Christ cannot save. Vain
is our faith, we are still in our sins, if that is all! Paul declares:
If we have an expectation in Christ in this life only, we are more forlorn than all men
In other words, what would our faith amount to, if Christ were still in the tomb?
But we are not only believing Christ Who died for our sins according to the
Scriptures and was entombed, we are also believing in the Christ Who has also been roused
the third day, according to the Scriptures.
III. HE HAS BEEN ROUSED THE THIRD DAY
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians fifteen twenty:
Yet now Christ has been roused from among the dead, Firstfruit of those who are
This is glad tidings indeed! Yet how few realize the exultant truth of the evangel
found in the resurrection? How far present-day preaching falls short of
exemplifying the scriptural pattern concerning this part of the evangel! The resurrection
was the outstanding appeal of all apostolic preaching. It is the climax of all that has
gone before in the evangel, a true apprehension of which brings a comforting assurance and
an exultant joy which cannot be had otherwise. Romans four twenty- five presents the
glorious truth so clearly that all who read can understand:
Now it was not written because of him [Abraham] only that it is reckoned to him, but
because of us also to whom it is about to be reckoned, who are believing on Him Who rouses
Jesus our Lord from among the dead, Who was given up because of our offenses, and was
roused because of our justification.
This requires no explanation: simply faith to believe it! He was roused because of
our justification. Do we grasp the glorious truth those five words express? Let us
read the lines again:
Who was given up because of our offenses, and was roused because of our justification.
Here, it is written, that Christ actually died for our sins, and was roused from among
the dead because the sins which He bore are gone, and we are justified. The
question is now confined to an understanding of what the Scriptures mean by the use of the
word "justification." As we will treat this subject exhaustively in our next
chapter, we shall note here only that which will enable us to enter into the glorious
truth which God is expressing by the use of this word.
First, we press the fact that it does not mean "pardon" or
"forgiveness" nor even does it hint of such. To speak of it thus, is to degrade
and belittle the efficacy of that inestimable Sacrifice which God made in Christ on the
cross. O the shame of such teaching! What untold loss it has brought to the saints of God!
We find that "justification" is the translation of the Greek word dikaiooo,
and means to justify, acquit, or vindicate. To justify means to declare guiltless or
blameless; to acquit means to declare innocent, to exonerate; while vindicate
means to defend and maintain successfully as just and right against all that may attack.
He was roused because of our justification: His resurrection is the proof!
The blood of Christ is the memorial of the abiding efficacy of His death, and fends us
from all future indignation. If Christ died for us when we were still sinners, surely we
have no need to fear aught, now that we are justified.
But how is this justification or righteousness of God which is in the evangel reckoned
or imputed to us? Paul says it is "out of faith for faith." Let us consider the
For I am not ashamed of the evangel, for it is God's power for salvation to
everyone who is believing--to the Jew first, and the Greek as well. For in it God's
righteousness is revealed out of faith for faith (Rom.1:16, 17).
But what is meant by the phrase "out of faith for faith?" Apparently little
is realized, and less is preached, concerning Jesus Christ's faith! Even the translators
of the King James version did not apprehend it and glossed it over in almost every
instance where the great Author expressed it. A study of the translations of Wycliffe,
Tyndale, Cranmer, Geneva, and Rheims- Douay, as well as most of the modern versions,
reveals the fact that very few, if any, apprehended the far-reaching significance of the
truth that our Lord Jesus Christ was "the Inaugurator and Perfecter of faith"
(Heb.12:2), and due to this oversight, the very Scriptures which shed forth blessed rays
of light for the comfort of the saints have been corrupted by the opinions of men, and the
saints have suffered the loss.
Christ is the Inaugurator and Perfecter of faith, and it is "out of His
faith" for "our faith" that the righteousness of God with eonian life is
reckoned to us. The holy Spirit speaks expressly through Paul a number of times concerning
Yet now, apart from law, a righteousness of God has been manifested (being
testified to by the law and the prophets) yet a righteousness of God, through Jesus
Christ's faith, for all and on all who are believing (Rom.3:21,22).
We, who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the nations, having perceived that a man
is not justified by works of law, except it be through the faith of Christ Jesus, we
also believe into Christ Jesus that we may be justified by the faith of
Christ and not by works of law, seeing that by works of law shall no flesh be
But, to be sure, I am also deeming all to be a forfeit because of the superiority of
the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, because of Whom I forfeited all, and am deeming it
to be refuse, that I may be gaining Christ, and may be found in Him, not having my
righteousness, which is of law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the
righteousness which is from God for faith (Phil.3:8,9).
Here, by clinging to consistency of translation, we find that the channel
through which we obtain God's righteousness is Jesus Christ's faith. He alone of
all mankind, not only did good and kept the law, but He believed God when He smote
Him for our sins. Therefore, it is out of His faith for our faith that we
are justified--clothed with God's righteousness. We are furthermore assured by the
Scriptures that it is of faith that it may accord with grace (Rom.4:16). If it be by aught
else than faith, it would clash with grace. Hence there is no room for boasting.
So the evangel which Paul preached was concerned with the death, burial,
and resurrection of Christ. He was given up because of our offenses. He died for
our sakes while we were still sinners. He was entombed. He was roused the third day,
according to the Scriptures, because of our justification. This brings us to the place
where we can apprehend our opening phrase, which arrested Martin Luther, "Now the
just by faith shall be living." The righteousness of God which is in the evangel does
not come by works of righteousness which we do ourselves. Paul lamented over the fact that
Israel had a zeal of God, but, being ignorant of the righteousness which is of God, and
seeking to establish their own righteousness, were not subject to God's righteousness
(Rom.10:1-4). And just so it is: all who are ignorant of God's righteousness are seeking
to establish their own righteousness by conforming themselves to works of law, ritual,
forms, and ordinances, and refuse to become subject to God's righteousness which comes
only by faith.
Christ died for our sins; was given up because of our offenses, and was roused because
the sins which He bore are gone and we are justified! Now the just by faith shall be
living. Christ's death, burial, and resurrection is the evangel. It is God's power for
salvation to every one who is believing. It is a finished work with an abiding efficacy
through which comes justification, acquittal, and vindication in the sight of God. By
faith, then, we are clothed in God's righteousness and shall be living for the eons.
Then why can we not joyfully exclaim with the apostle Paul:
For I am not ashamed of the evangel, for it is God's power for salvation to everyone
who is believing--to the Jew first, and to the Greek as well. For in it God's
righteousness is revealed out of faith for faith, according as it is written: "Now
the just by faith shall be living!"
And for the climax of this comforting, heart-satisfying doctrine of God's transcendent
grace, we close with the Scripture of how that Christ
was given up because of our offenses, and was roused because of our justification.
Being, then, justified by faith, we may be having peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ, through Whom we have had the access, also, in faith, into this grace in which we
stand, and may be glorying in expectation of the glory of God (Rom.4:25-5:1,2).