The Complete Green Letters, chapter 3
“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” — Romans 5:1
Well, that’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it. How often do I try to make things more complicated than that? Just rearrange the sentence and read it again: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ because we are justified by faith.” Nowhere does it say we have peace with God because we’ve done good works, or we’ve bore much fruit, or we’ve won many souls. No, God says we have peace with Him through faith in his Son.
Consider this: without Jesus, we’re enemies of God. He still loves us…but by nature, God can’t tolerate and condone sin. If something isn’t standing in the gap on our behalf–sacrifices before Christ and then his personal sacrifice–we’re doomed. So when we try to transcend His sacrifice and achieve acceptance through works–we’re basically saying Jesus didn’t do a good enough job. And I would even consider the idea that we remove ourselves from peace with God…whatever that means.
God’s basis must be our basis for acceptance. There is none other. We are “accepted in the Beloved.” Our Father is fully satisfied with His Beloved Son on our behalf, and there is no reason for us not to be. Our satisfaction can only spring from and rest in His satisfaction. It is from God to us, not from us to God. J.N. Darby was very clear on this:
“When the Holy Spirit reasons with man, He does not reason from what man is for God, but from what God is to man. Souls reason from what they are in themselves as to whether God can accept them. He cannon accept you thus; you are looking for righteousness in yourself as a ground of acceptance with Him. You cannon get peace whilst reasoning in that way.”
Now, Stanford goes on to quote Darby further. The statement is pretty interesting–something I don’t know I had thought about before.
The Holy Spirit always reasons down from what God is, and this produces a total change in my soul. It is not that I abhor my sins; indeed I may have been walking very well; but it is ‘I abhor myself.’ This is how the Holy Spirit reasons; He shows us what we are, and that is one reason why he often seems to be very hard and does not give peace to the soul, as we are not relieved until we experientially, from our hearts, acknowledge what we are.
Until the soul comes to that point He does not give it peace–he could not; it would be healing the wound slightly. The soul has to go on until it finds there is nothing to rest on but the abstract goodness of God; and then, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’
I’m really struggling with this section. I’ve written and re-written my thoughts on this quote about three times…and nothing seems to line up and make sense. I just don’t like the phrase “I abhor myself.” I get what he’s saying about the Holy Spirit reasoning down from what God is…and how the Holy Spirit can be pretty harsh at times. But does fully experiencing God’s acceptance of me really require me to say “I’m worthless; I abhor myself?”
When Stanford, via Darby, says “…we’re not relieved until we experientially, from our hearts, acknowledge what we are…”, the first thing that comes to my mind is that “I’m a new creation.” So, when saying I ought to abhor myself so I can fully experience God’s acceptance through faith in Christ…I just don’t jive with that. While the Holy Spirit certainly convicts us of sin, he also empowers us to live lives of righteousness. He doesn’t empower us to wallow in sinner-sorrow.
Maybe I’m being semantically critical. Because as soon as I disagree with it, I again agree. We can’t find rest in the new creation–“the new man”–but rather continually turn back to the “abstract goodness of God”, who is the source of the new man.
Back to the topic of this chapter: acceptance. Stanford, as he’s done the first two chapters, riddles off a bunch of quotes to support his ideas. I’ll list, and react to a few here:
These I agree with:
- To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.
- To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth
- To rely on God’s chastening hand as a mark of his kindness.
- To be proud, is to be blind! For we have no standing before God in ourselves.
These I have trouble with:
- To refuse to make ‘resolutions’ and ‘vows’; for that is to trust in the flesh.
- To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself.
All in all, I had some trouble with some details of this chapter, but I still found the overall message refreshing. God unconditionally accepts me because of the work Christ has done. I can attain no more love from God through works.
This is the first chapter I’ve run into some stuff I don’t agree with. But I’m OK with that; it just firms up convictions.