Christ Set Forth
shewing by way of introduction that Christ is the example and object of justifying faith
Who is he that condemneth? 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.—Rom. 8:34.
The scope of words: that they were Christ’s originally.—Christ the highest example of believing.—Encouragements to our faith from thence.
These words are a triumphing challenge uttered by the apostle in the name of all the elect; for so he begins it in ver. 33 foregoing, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.’ And then follow these words, ‘Who shall condemn?’ namely, God’s elect. ‘It is Christ that died,’ &c. This challenge we find first published by Jesus Christ himself, our only champion, Isa. 50 (a chapter made of and for Christ), ver. 8, ‘He is near that justifies me; who will contend with me?’ They were Christ’s words there, and spoken of God’s justifying him: and these are every believer’s words here, intended of God’s justifying them. Christ is brought in there uttering them as standing at the high priest’s tribunal, when they spat upon him, and buffeted him, as ver. 4, 5; when he was condemned by Pilate, then he exercised this faith on God his Father, ‘He is near that justifies me.’ And as in that his condemnation he stood in our stead, so in this his hope of his justification he speaks is our stead also, and as representing us in both. And upon this the apostle here pronounces, in like words, of all the elect, ‘It is God that justifies; who shall accuse?’ Christ was condemned, yea, ‘hath died; who therefore shall condemn?’ Lo, here the communion we have with Christ in his death and condemnation, yea in his very faith; if he trusted in God, so may we, and shall as certainly be delivered. Observe we first from hence, by way of premise to all that follows,
Obs. That Christ lived by faith as well as we do.
In John 1:16, we are said to ‘receive of his fulness grace for grace; that is, grace answerable and like unto his; and so (among others) faith.
For explication hereof.
First; in some sense he had a faith for justification like unto ours, though not a justification through faith, as we have. He went not, indeed, out of himself, to rely on another for righteousness, for he had enough of his own (he being ‘the Lord our righteousness’); yet he believes on God to justify him, and had recourse to God for justification: ‘He is near’ (says he) ‘that justifies me.’ If he had stood in his own person merely, and upon his own bottom only, there had been no occasion for such a speech; and yet consider him as he stood in our stead, there was; for what need of such a justification, if he had not been some way near a condemnation? He therefore must be supposed to stand here (in Isaiah) at God’s tribunal, as well as at Pilate’s, with all our sins upon him. And so the same prophet tells us, chap. 53:6, ‘God made the iniquities of us to meet on him.’ He was now made sin, and a curse, and stood not in danger of Pilate’s condemnation only, but of God’s too, unless he satisfied him for all those sins. And when the wrath of God for sin came thus in upon him, his faith, was put to it, to trust and wait on him for his justification, for to take off all those sins, together with his wrath from off him, and to acknowledge himself satisfied and him acquitted. Therefore, in Ps. 22 (which was made for Christ when hanging on the cross, and speaks how his heart was taken up that while), he is brought in as putting forth such a faith as here we speak of, when he called God his God, ‘My God! my God!’ then, when as to his sense, he had forsaken him, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ Yea, he helped his faith with the faith of the forefathers, whom upon their trust in him God had delivered; ‘Our fathers,’ saith he, ‘trusted in thee; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.’ Yea, at ver. 5, we find him laying himself at God’s feet, lower than ever any man did. ‘I am a worm,’ says he, (which every man treads on, and counts it a matter of nothing for to kill), ‘and no man,’ as it follows; and all this, because he bare our sins. Now his deliverance and justification from all these, to be given him at his resurrection, was the matter, the business he thus trusted in God for, even that he should rise again, and be acquitted from them. So Ps. 16 (a psalm made also for Christ, when to suffer, and lie in the grave), ver. 8, 9, 10: ‘The Lord is at my right hand, I shall not be moved: Therefore my heart is glad, my flesh also resteth in hope,’ or, as in the original, ‘dwells in confident sureness.’ ‘Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,’ that is, under the load of these sins, and thy wrath laid on me for them; ‘neither wilt suffer thy holy One (in my body) to see corruption.’ This is in substance all one with what is here said in this one word, ‘He is near that justifies me,’ for Christ’s resurrection was a justification of him, as I shall hereafter shew.
Neither, 2, did he exercise faith for himself only, but for us also, and that more than any of us is put to it, to exercise for himself; for he in dying, and emptying himself, trusted God with the merit of all his sufferings aforehand, there being many thousands of souls to be saved thereby a long while after, even to the end of the world. He died and betrusted all that stock into his Father’s hands, to give it out in grace and glory, as those for whom he died should have need. And this is a greater trust (considering the infinite number of his elect as then yet to come) than any man hath occasion to put forth for himself alone. God trusted Christ before he came into the world, and saved many millions of the Jews up on his bare word. And then Christ, at his death, trusts God again as much, both for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles, that were to believe after his death. In Heb. 2:12, 13, 14, 15, it is made an argument that Christ was a man like us, because he was put to live by faith like as we are (which the angels do not); and to this end, the apostle brings in these words prophesied of him, as spoken by him of himself, ‘I will put my trust in him,’ as one proof that he was a man like unto us. Now for what was it that he trusted God? By the context it appears to be this, that he should be the salvation of his ‘brethren’ and ‘children,’ and that he should have ‘a seed and a generation to serve him,’ and raise up a church to God to praise him in. For this is made his confidence, and the issue of his sufferings, in that fore-cited Ps. 22, from ver. 22 to the end.
Use. How should the consideration of these things both draw us on to faith, and encourage us therein, and raise up our hearts above all doubtings and withdrawings of spirit in believing! For in this example of Christ we have the highest instance of believing that ever was. He trusted God (as we have seen) for himself, and for many thousands besides, even for all his elect; and hast not thou the heart to trust him for one poor soul? Yea, Christ thus trusted God upon his single bond; but we, for our assurance, have both Christ and God bound to us, even God with his surety Christ (for he is God’s surety as well as ours). A double bond from two such persons, whom would it not secure? If God the Father and God the Son thus mutually trusted one another for our salvation, whom would it not induce to trust them both, for one’s own salvation, whenas otherwise they must be damned that will not?
- This example of Christ may teach and incite us to believe. For did Christ lay down all his glory, and empty himself, and leave himself worth nothing, but made a deed of surrendering all he had into his Father’s hands, and this in a pure trust that God would ‘justify many by him’ (as it is in Isa. 53)? And shall not we lay down all we have, and part with whatever is dear unto us aforehand, with the like submission, in a dependence and hope of being ourselves justified by him? And withal;—
- It may encourage us to believe, especially against the greatness of sins. Hast thou the guilt of innumerable transgressions coming in and discouraging thee from trusting in him? Consider but what Christ had, though not of his own; Christ was made (as Luther boldly, in this sense that we speak of him, speaks), the greatest sinner that ever was, that is, by imputation; for the sins of all God’s chosen met in him. And yet he trusted God to be justified from them all, and to be raised up from under the wrath due to them. Alas! thou art but one poor sinner, and thy faith hath but a light and small load laid upon it, namely, thy own sins, which to this sum he undertook for, are but as an unit to an infinite number. ‘God laid upon him the iniquities of us all.’ Christ trusted God for his own acquittance from the sins of all the world, and when that was given him, he yet again further trusted him, to acquit the world for his satisfaction’s sake.
But thou wilt say, Christ was Christ, one personally united to God, and so knew that he could satisfy him; but I am a sinful man. Well, but if thou believest, and so art one of those who are one with Christ, then Christ speaking these words in the name both of himself and of his elect, as hath been shewed, thou hast the very same ground to utter them that he had, and all that encouraged him may embolden thee, for he stood in thy stead. It was only thine and others’ sins that put him in any danger of condemnation; and thou seest what his confidence beforehand was, that God would justify him from them all. And if he had left any of them unsatisfied for, he had not been justified; and, withal, in performing his own part undertaken by him, he performed thine also, and so in his being justified thou wert justified also. His confidence, then, may therefore be thine now; only his was in and from himself, but thine must be on him: yet so as by reason of thy communion with him in his both condemnation and justification, thou mayest take and turn all that emboldened him to this his trust and confidence, to embolden thee also in thine, as truly as he did for himself. Yea, in this thou hast now a farther prop and encouragement to thy faith, than he had; for now (when then art to believe), Christ hath fully performed the satisfaction he undertook, and we now see Jesus crucified, acquitted, yea crowned with glory and honour, as the apostle speaks; but he, when he took up this triumph, was (as Isaiah here foretold and prophesied it of him), but as then entering upon that work. The prophet seeing the day of his arraignment and agony, utters these words as his; shewing what thoughts should then possess his heart, when Pilate and the Jews should condemn him, and our sins come in upon him, ‘God is near that justifies me; who therefore shall contend with me?’ But now this comes to be added to our challenge here, that ‘Christ hath died, and is also risen again;’ that he was condemned and justified; who therefore shall condemn? may we say, and say much more.
But thou wilt yet say, He knew himself to be the Son of God, but so do not I. Well, do thou but cast thyself upon him, to be adopted and justified by him, with a giving up thy soul to his saving thee his own way, and, though thou knowest it not, the thing is done. And as for that so great and usual discouragement unto poor souls from doing this, namely, the greatness and multitudes of sins, this very example of his faith, and the consideration of it, may alone take off, and help to remove it, more than any I have ever met with; for he, in bearing the sins of his elect, did bear as great and infinitely more sins than thine, yea, all sorts of sins whatever, for some one of his elect or other, for he said upon it, that all (that is, all sorts of) sins shall be forgiven unto men, and therefore were first borne by him for them; and yet you see how confident aforehand he was, and is now clearly justified from them all. And by virtue of his being justified from all sorts of sins, shall all sorts of sinners in and through him be justified also; and, therefore, why mayest not thou hope to be from thine? Certainly for this very reason our sins, simply and alone considered, can be supposed no hindrance.
Thus we have met with one great and general encouragement at the very portal of this text, which comes forth to invite us ere we are entered into it, and which will await upon us throughout all that shall be said, and have an influence into our faith, and help to direct it in all that follows.
Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin. Vol. 4. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 7-10. Public Domain. Original Printing 1651.
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