In this portion of Scripture the apostle sums up the exercises of heart, and the work of grace; first in these exercises of heart, and then in the revelation of real liberty through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, which we enjoy as redeemed from all that we were in the flesh, from sin and Satan and the world, and from law too. But then, having gone through all this, and having shewn the way by which we, having the Spirit, are children of God and heirs, joint-heirs with Christ, and being conscious of the bondage and corruption which is still around us here, he closes the whole by shewing how, before it, and in it, and above it, and beyond it all, God is for us. He brings out this great truth to shew, not that Christ is in heavenly places, but that He is with us in the difficulties. He shews (and what a blessed thing this is, for by it Paul gets to God Himself!) though he goes into the trouble of time, that, before trouble was, and before you ever were, it is Himself that is for you; and if so, no matter what is against you!
After going through the exercises of soul before redemption and shewing redemption as accomplished, he takes up the great truth that overrides it all and goes through it all; and this is not what we are for God, for we were condemned, and, as he says in the same chapter, enmity against God—not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be—but, by means of the process by which He discovered to me my misery, He has brought out the revelation of what He is for me. And the conclusion he draws from the whole is, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” And you will find that, in the way in which he looks at it, he takes up every side of the question. He does not content himself with looking at the bare fact, though that is blessed in itself, but he takes up every side.
And it is exceedingly precious, beloved friends, to see the way in which God is for us. Not only can nothing escape Him, but He occupies Himself with everything that concerns us. Just in the same way, if a person were ill, a friend might go to inquire for him to know how he did; but if it were a child whose mother were occupied about it, it would have all her care and all her thoughts, for her heart is there. She is for it, and would give everything she has for it, and would not let you come into the house if you made a noise. Yet that is only a human mother, who may forget her sucking child. At the same time it is the character of that perfect love of God in its condescending character. Nothing can escape Him, and He neglects nothing. Surely we may say, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” First, I find here that God is a Giver. Well, I say, He has given His own blessed Son. I have God as a giver in the highest possible way, so that nothing is to be named after this. Observe the reasoning too: the apostle reasons from what God is and does to the effects on us, and not from the effects on us or from what is in us to God. If I reason from what I find in myself, I say I am a sinner: God will not have me. He must condemn me, though there may be a little hope. Still I drawn conclusions from what I find in myself, and then, though there may be some true thoughts of God, it is partly truth and partly mistakes. That is not faith, beloved friends. It is so far true—the soul knows that God is a holy judge; but then the real conviction of sin makes us feel that God cannot have us.
Take the prodigal son. He was converted; he came to himself; he knew his father’s goodness; but he immediately begins to draw conclusions from what he was. So he resolves to say, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” He thought that this was a more proper condition to be in at his father’s house. His confession of sin was all right, but the conclusions he drew were all wrong. This is what persons are doing now. It is perfectly natural and true also, if this were all that was to be known. But they mix up the truth with human notions, just as the prodigal mixed up his sense of sin, which was all right, with thoughts of his father, which were all wrong. When we thus reason, we have not met God; for when the prodigal met his father, he was on his neck, and the best robe was put on him. Till then he never got the father’s own testimony to his dealings from what he was in himself.
Just so is the way the Spirit reasons when drawing conclusions for God. The soul may be thinking that it is humble, when reasoning otherwise; but it is only proving that it is not cast upon grace by an adequate conviction of sin. The apostle had gone through it all; and he says, God has given His Son, and I should like to know what He will not give after that. If I have got hold of this—God has not spared the very best and greatest in heaven—I must say, What will He not give with Him? If I have debts, I do not like to look at my books (if I am not honest); for I know what I shall find there. What is there presses hard upon me; but if someone comes and pays my debts, I am not afraid (when they are paid) to let my creditors see my books. I open them up; and if I find the great amount of them, the more I see of them the more I think of the man who paid them. So it is in redemption. The effect in me, when I see the greatness of what has been done, is to make me think more of Him who is for me; and so repentance goes on growing all a man’s life. For the more I know God, the more I see the evil of sin. But first, I said, it is God giving. If He gave His Son, glory comes in as a kind of natural consequence. If I really feel and know what Christ is, the more I see this. Our being in glory with Him is His seeing the fruit of the travail of His soul; and if we are not in glory with Him, He is not seeing the fruit of His travail—that does follow.
But, further, the aposde says, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? “He is for me both about the sins in putting them away, and about righteousness. It does not only say, he is justified of God, but God justifies. So what matter if Satan accuse as he did in Zechariah? This is “a brand plucked out of the fire,” says the Lord. Are you going to cast it in again? We can triumphantly ask, Who can condemn us? We cannot, of course; it is absurd to think of it. That which is justification here is that Christ is my righteousness. I am in Christ who has glorified God, and is standing before God. As He said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; and if God be glorified in him, he will glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” The work on the cross has glorified all that God is; and now Christ is in the glory, and I am a righteous man in Him. Not only I have what I was in Adam put away, but “as he is, so are we in this world.”
Then comes another thing; for we can expect everything after the gift of His own Son. Nevertheless in fact there are difficulties in the path; still it is the same thing, “God is for me.” But mark here how he changes the term, “It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Why does he change to Christ? Of course it does mean the love of God in Christ. But why not say the love of God? Because we have to do with the One who has taken the place at the right hand of God, after being down here in the difficulties. We have difficulties on all sides: persecution in the family, not open perhaps, but that which is as hard to bear; Christ had it too. You say, They think me mad; Christ’s friends wanted to take Him, they thought Him mad, too. And so the apostle brings home to us this very love of Him who came down: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Here I have found the divine love coming down to get the experience of what we are passing through. I want to know the sympathy of Christ. I do not get this when God is forgiving me. God has no sympathy with my sins; but in trials I do want to know that Christ suffered, being tempted. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Principalities and powers? Christ was tempted by them and overcame them for me; so they are no stoppage in the way. Life? He went through it too. He had plenty of sorrow in it; and so much the more sorrow we have, the better for us. But still He has said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” Life cannot separate me from Christ, for “to me to live is Christ.” Death? This cannot separate me; yea, it will bring me to Him: “to die is gain.” Persecutions? I not only triumph in them, but Christ is with me in them.
In all these things I learn to know myself as an unprofitable thing, and the faithfulness of Christ. I may know a man to be kind; but if I go on knowing him for thirty years, I get the experience of it; not that he is changed, but I know him better. I find One who got me out of the grand difficulty; He intercedes for me now. He does not repeat what He did at the first, but a kind of confidence grows with every day’s experience; not that I ever learn that faith is not faith, but that I find Him unchangeably the same. I am ashamed of myself for my want of confidence in Him, and the communication of His grace gives me a familiarity of knowledge of Him (speaking most reverently) and a confidence, a happy confiding feeling. We are “more than conquerors,” for we are learning Him our everlasting portion, and ourselves that we want to get rid of. Creatures are all against us, but then they are but “creatures.”
God is for me; not here in the love of a sovereign who thought good for me when I thought not of Him, but it is the love of God in Christ—in Him who passed through all difficulties for us, life, death, etc., and for us met outrage, oppression, resistance, and persecution. Now I see that the very thing which would try me is that through which He passed for me, and it is a witness of the love which passed through everything for me—whatever concerns the person God loves and Christ cares for. In this way we have to pass on to the glory, to Christ if you please, in the consciousness that Christ has brought us into it. Else we are like the children of Israel in Egypt. When they passed the Red Sea, that was quite over. They had left Egypt. Redemption brought them out. Speaking of the work as done, redemption is behind us; in another sense it is not: the forgiveness of sins is, but that is not all of redemption, though included in it.
But we are taken out of the condition in which we were into another, just as Israel was. Though still in Egypt, they were not touched when the judgment came. But this was not all. He took their bodies out too. And so He takes us out of the flesh (I do not mean physically yet, though Christ is out of it in every sense). So the Lord brought the Israelites into a new condition altogether, into the wilderness. There they had the cloud all the way through and the manna. There their garments did not grow old and their feet did not swell; everything was provided by God. They had to gather the manna, it is true; just as diligence is required by us in divine things. Next they crossed the Jordan where conflict begins, and then it is we find that the Lord comes to Joshua as captain of the Lord’s host. When He thus comes as captain, the command is, “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy.”
This is the character of the ways of God. It is not a question of redemption here. He has brought us to Himself; but, having come, that which weighs with us must be according to the holiness of God. Because we are called to fellowship with God, and fellowship means common happiness, common thoughts, common feelings. The Father’s delight is in His Son; and we have fellowship with Him in that. Christ’s delight is in the Father; and we have fellowship with Him in that. So our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Christ Jesus. “If we say we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” The apostle at once brings the character of God to bear on the person.
Thus the effect of redemption is to bring us to God. Being brought to Him, we can say, “Search me, O God.” For He does search, not that He should impute, but that He may cleanse; and therefore we desire that He should. And then it is a blessed thought, beloved friends, that while He has gone through all my difficulties here, He is suiting me for my place there. In every sense this is true, that, if the soul is not sufficiently brought to a sense of sin and to find Christ everything as regards righteousness, it does not understand grace. The Lord only give us to know (I am not speaking of knowledge now, but) in our hearts and consciences, that we have to do with God. Not as Israel had; for now the veil is rent from the top to the bottom, and we ought to walk according to the light because we have been brought into it. This is what I do earnestly desire for us all, that we may know perfect redemption, and have the consciousness that the effect is to bring us into fellowship with the Father and the Son, so that everything contrary to His holiness may be judged and put away.