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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 44 - Romans 4:6-8 - How Did David Get His Blessedness? Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


The apostle asks, How was Abraham justified? He answers, "By believing." Then he asks, How was David justified? And he answers, "By believing." In both cases by the "righteousness of God"; a righteousness "without works"; a righteousness "without law;' and yet a righteousness witnessed by the law and the prophets; a righteousness in accordance with all true law and government; a righteousness for the unrighteous.

Again, the apostle raises the question, What makes a blessed man? And he refers to David's announcement respecting blessedness, and its cause or root. The blessed man is the man to whom "God imputeth righteousness without works." To a sinner this is absolutely essential; it is a sine qua non, indispensable. There can be no blessedness in any other way. After the imputation has taken place, there are innumerable sources of blessedness, all pouring in their joy and peace; but this is the beginning. No blessedness without this divine reckoning of righteousness; but with this a man's blessedness commences. Heaven is begun within him, the heaven that David tasted, and which he so often speaks of: "in His favor is life." (Psalm 3:5.)

There is, then, blessedness on earth, even to a sinner,—true blessedness,—that which God calls by that name. In spite of weariness, sorrow, conflict, cares, fears, burdens, there is such a thing as blessedness. And this blessedness God freely presents to each unblessed, sorrowful, burdened son of Adam, without money and without price.

The apostle, in quoting the words of David, thus prefaces and interprets them: "David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." Righteousness without works was that which David enjoyed. He obtained righteousness without working for it at all; righteousness by simply taking it from another, and using it as if it were his own.

We must have a righteousness, else we cannot stand before God; we cannot have a religion. God must deal with us, and we must deal with God, on the footing of righteousness; not simply of grace; for He is the righteous as well as the gracious God. When we go to Him we must do so with a righteousness in our hand, either our own or another's. Our transactions with God must all be of this nature. They must be righteous transactions; dealings between a righteous God and men who are, at the same moment, in His eye, both righteous and unrighteous, and therefore needing both grace and righteousness. A personal righteousness on our part is an impossibility. We cannot work for it; and we cannot get it by working. In going to God we must begin, not encl with righteousness; so that we must have it before we can please God or do any good thing; in other words, it must be free, and it must come to us at once, and it must satisfy both God and our own conscience. Only the righteousness of another can do this; "righteousness without works"; righteousness which does not depend on our doing, or feeling, or praying, or repenting, but which comes to us at once from God, as the root and fountainhead of all working, and goodness, and holiness on our part. The prodigal did not work for the "best robe," but got it all ready-made from his father's hands; Joseph did not work for his coat of many colors, but received it as the gift of his father's love; Adam did not work for the skins with which the Lord God clothed him: so is it with the sinner in his approaches to God, and in God's approaches to him. "Righteousness without works" is given him; nay, put upon him as a raiment, a divine raiment, to fit him for drawing near to God.

There are three things noted here as making up this blessedness, and indispensable to its existence:

I. Iniquities are forgiven. It is "transgression" in the original Psalm. This is one kind of sin, and generally denotes the worst. There is then "transgression" or "iniquity"; but it is forgiven (or "borne," as the word means); for there is forgiveness with God, that He may be feared; a complete, free, divine forgiveness; such as God delights to give, and the sinner to receive. "He forgiveth all our iniquities"; He forgives without reserve, or stint, or uncertainty. He removes our iniquities from us as far as east is from the west. He retains not one; He blots out all.

II. Sins are covered. There is, and there has been, sin; but it is no longer visible; it is buried; it is covered; it is put out of sight, as if God himself no longer saw it. It is God who covers, not man; He covers by means of the blood of atonement; He covers by burying it in the grave of Christ. Thus our sins are completely covered, hidden, forgiven. They are first "borne," and then "buried." Could any words more completely express forgiveness?

III. Sin is not imputed. There are three words in this passage expressive of sin, as in God's first full announcement of Himself as the great forgiver (Exodus 34:6.); transgression, iniquity, sin; meaning every kind and form of sin. And there are three words used in reference to the putting away of sin,—forgiving (bearing), covering, not imputing. This last,—the non-imputation,—is said specially to be Jehovah's doing. This non-imputation is without works; it is free; it is divine; it is perfect; it is sure; it comes as the consequence of believing.

Thus there are three foundation stones laid for the sinner's blessedness; each of them ample; all of them together fully sufficient. On these he must rest. Without these he can have no joy. His belief of God's testimony to these is that which connects him with this threefold foundation, and with the blessedness. He believes, and becomes a blessed man. The grace or free love of God, contained in these three things, is that which pours blessedness into his soul.

The Psalmist adds, and "in whose spirit there is no guile." Forgiveness makes him a guileless man; it takes away all temptation to speak or act untruly and deceitfully with God, or with man, or with himself. He becomes an Israelite indeed. Pardon has made him such. Being fully forgiven, he has no longer any motive to conceal the very worst of himself. God's forgiveness frank and ample has superseded the necessity of any palliation or excuse; has delivered him from the temptation to make the best of his case and of himself. He thinks, feels, acts, speaks honestly. He confesses sin, and he finds God faithful and just to forgive his sins.