Question 23b- Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction” – Rom 3:20-22 ESV
Therefore by the deeds of the law, Hence it most clearly appears, that there can be no justification before God by the law, since it stops the mouths of men, and pronounces them guilty: by “the deeds of the law” are meant, works done in obedience to it, as performed by sinful men, which are very imperfect; not as performed by Adam in innocence or by Christ in our nature whose works were perfect; but as performed by sinful men and of themselves, and not as performed in and by Christ for them who is the fulfilling end of the law for righteousness to all believers: now by such works as these whether wrought before or after conversion, with or without the strength and grace of Christ,
there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: that is, no one person: “flesh” designs men, and men as corrupt and carnal, in opposition to God, who is a Spirit pure and holy; and may have respect to the vain opinion of Jews and Gentiles, who were vainly puffed up in their fleshly mind; the one on account of their wisdom and learning, the other on account of their righteousness; and includes all the individuals of human nature:, the word “justified”, does not signify being made righteous by the infusion of righteousness, for the infusion of a righteousness, or holiness, is sanctification, which is a work of the Spirit of God, is internal, and imperfect, and so not justifying; but it is a forensic word, or legal term, and stands opposed to a being condemned; and signifies to be acquitted, discharged, and made righteous in a legal sense, which can never be done by an imperfect obedience to the law: men may be justified hereby in their own sight, and in the sight of others, but not in “his sight”; in the sight of God, who is omniscient, and sees not as man seeth; who is pure, holy, and righteous, and whose judgment is according to truth: this is said in direct contradiction to the Jews, who say, “a man is not justified for ever, but by the words of the law:” but in his sight none can be justified, but by the perfect obedience and righteousness of Christ. The reason for it is,
for by the law is the knowledge of sin; it discovers to a man, by the light of the Spirit of God, and as under his influence, and attended with his power, the sins both of his heart and life; and so he is convinced by it as a transgressor and finds himself guilty, and liable to condemnation and death; wherefore he can never hope for and expect justification by it. The Jews ascribe such an use as this to the law, which they suppose it performs in a very gentle manner; “he that rises in the night (say they), and studies in the law, חובה ליה מודעא קא אוריתא, “the law makes known to him his sin”, but not in a way of judgment, but as a mother makes known to her son in tender language:” but this is generally done in a rougher way, for the law works wrath.
But now the righteousness of God, The apostle having proved that all men are unrighteous, and that no man can be justified in the sight of God by his obedience, either to the law of nature or of Moses, proceeds to give an account of that righteousness, which does justify before God; and so returns to his former subject, Rom 1:17, concerning “the righteousness of God”, the revelation of which he makes to be peculiar to the Gospel, as he does here; since he says, that it
without the law is manifested: meaning, either that this righteousness is without the law, and the deeds of it, as performed by sinful men; or that the manifestation of it is without the law, either of nature or of Moses; for the law discovers sin, but not a righteousness which justifies from sin; it shows what righteousness is, but does not direct the sinner where there is one to be had, that will make him righteous in the sight of God: this is made known without the law, and only in the Gospel:
being witnessed by the law and the prophets; a testimony is borne to the justifying righteousness of Christ both “by the law”, particularly in the five books of Moses; which testify of Christ, of his obedience, sufferings, and death, by which he brought in life and righteousness; see Gen 3:15, compared with Dan 9:24; and Gen 15:6 with Rom 4:9; and Gen 22:18 with Gal 3:8; and Deut 30:11 with Rom 10:5. And the prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others; see Isa 42:21.
Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, A further account is given of this righteousness: why it is called “the righteousness of God”, and in what sense revealed and manifested; see Gill on Rom 1:17; Here it is said to be “by faith of Jesus Christ”; not by that faith which Christ himself had as man, but by that faith, of which he the author and object: the Alexandrian copy reads, “by faith in Jesus Christ”; and not by that as the cause of justification; for faith is neither the efficient, nor the moving, nor meritorious cause of it; no, nor the instrumental cause of it on the part of God or Christ: nor is faith the matter of a justifying righteousness; for faith is a part of sanctification, is itself imperfect, is a man’s own, as it is implanted in him, and exercised by him; is here and elsewhere distinguished from righteousness; something else, and not that, as the obedience and blood of Christ, are said to be what men are made righteous and justified by: but faith is a means of apprehending and receiving righteousness; it views the excellency of Christ’s righteousness; it owns the sufficiency of it; the soul by it renounces its own righteousness, submits to Christ’s, rejoices in it, and gives him the glory of it: now this is by, or through faith,
unto all, and upon all: not all men, for all have not faith, nor are all justified and saved: but
all that believe; which must be understood, not of believing any thing, nor of any sort of believing; but of such, who truly and with the heart believe in Christ for salvation; and who are here opposed to the wise philosophers among the Gentiles, had to all self-righteous persons among the Jews. Though this character does not design any cause or condition of justification, but is only descriptive of the persons, who are declaratively interested in a justifying righteousness, which is said to be “unto”, and “upon them”; that is, it is appointed, provided, and wrought out for them, and directed and applied unto them, and put upon them as a garment, and that upon all of them:
for there is no difference; of nation, age, or sex, or of state and condition; no respect is had to persons or works; nor is there any difference with respect to weak or strong believers; the righteousness is equally applied to one as to another, and one is as much justified by it in the sight of God as another.
Answer – God — having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life — did enter into a Covenant of Grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
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