"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Gal. 5:16. What a blessed promise! And as sure as it is blessed, to everyone who believes. Think of the lust of the flesh. How all-pervading it is! How stern are its dictates! How oppressive its rule! How dismal is the slavery that it lays upon man! Thank the Lord, there is deliverance. It is found in Christ Jesus and in the Spirit of our God. Rom. 7:25; 8:1,2.
"In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love." Gal. 5:6. With those who were in mind when this scripture was originally written, circumcision was everything, and it was everything simply because of what it represented. And what circumcision represented to those people was works and works only. It was the greatest of all works -- greater than creation itself -- because, as the rabbis put it, "So great is circumcision, that but for it the Holy One, blessed be He, would not have created the world." "It is as great as all the other commandments," "equivalent to all the commandments of the law." -- Farrar's "Life of Paul," chapter 22, para. 5, note; chapter 35, para 4, note. Yet this which to them was so great, the Lord sweeps away, as with a blast, in the words, "Circumcision is nothing," and in Christ Jesus, circumcision avails nothing. And, in view of what circumcision meant to them, this was simply to say that works are nothing and in Christ Jesus works avail nothing.
The righteousness of God is revealed to faith. Rom. 1:17. Faith is complete dependence upon the word of God, expecting that word to do what the word itself says. Is there, then, righteousness spoken by the word of God, so that people can depend completely upon that word, that the word shall accomplish what the word says? There is. Indeed, that is the very object of the gift of Christ.
"The just shall live by faith." Who are the just? -- They are only those who are of faith, because men are justified only by faith. For though we all "have sinned and come short of the glory of God," yet we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." For "to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Those who are of faith and those alone are the just in the earth.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Therefore the word of God is the only means of faith. Therefore, where there is no word of God there cannot be any faith. And where the word of God is, faith is entire dependence upon that word for the accomplishment of what that word says. From all this, which is the truth, it is perfectly plain that in order for anyone to ask in faith, he must first of all be sure that he has the word of God for what he asks.
Faith is complete dependence upon the word of God only, for the accomplishment of what that word says. This being so, it must never for a moment be forgotten that where there is no word of God, there can not be any faith. This is shown also in the truth that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom. 10:17. Since faith thus comes indeed by the very word of God itself, it is perfectly plain that where there is no word of God, there can be no faith.
Since faith is the depending upon the word of God only, for what that word says, being justified by faith is simply being accounted righteous by depending upon the word only. And since the word is the word of God, dependence upon the word only is dependence upon God only, in the word. Justification by faith, then, is justification -- being accounted righteous by dependence upon God only, and upon him only because he has promised.
"To HIM that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Rom. 4:5. This is the only way that anybody in this world can ever become righteous. But the truth is that everybody, in everything, has come short of being like God. Then, as there is not one on earth who is not ungodly, and as God justifies the ungodly, this on God's part makes justification -- righteousness, salvation -- full, free, and sure to every soul on earth.
When Abraham and Sarah had cleared themselves of all the scheme of unbelief which had produced Ishmael and had stood upon faith alone -- dependence on the word of God alone -- Isaac, the true child of the promise, was born. In harkening to the voice of Sarai (Gen. 16:1), Abram had swerved from the line of strict integrity to the word of God, from the strictness of true faith, and now that he had returned to the word only, to true faith, he must be tested before it could be certainly said of him that his faith was counted for righteousness.
"The knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith is more important than any other knowledge that can be obtained." Faith is the expecting the word of God to do the thing which that word speaks and the depending upon the word only to accomplish the thing which that word speaks. Abraham is the father of all them which be of faith. The record of Abraham, then, gives instruction in faith -- what it is and what it does for him who has it.
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