What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, has found?…
I. HOWEVER MUCH THE MOST PERFECT OF THE SPECIES MAY HAVE TO GLORY OF IN THE EYE OF HIS FELLOWS, HE HAS NOTHING TO GLORY OF BEFORE GOD. The apostle affirms this of Abraham, whose virtues had canonised him in the hearts of all his descendants, and who still stands forth as the embodiment of all the virtues of the older dispensation. But of his piety we have no account, till after that point which Paul assigns as the period of his justification. And whatever he had antecedently of the virtues that are useful to and call forth the praise of man, certain it is, that with every human being, prior to that great transition in his history, God is not the Being whose authority is recognised in any of these virtues, and he has nothing to glory of before God. Here we are surrounded with beings, all of whom are satisfied if they see in us their own likeness; and, should we attain the average character of society, its voice will suffer us to pass. But not till the revelation of God's likeness is made to us do we see our deficiency from that image of unspotted holiness — to be restored to which is the great purpose of our dispensation. Job protested innocence and kindness and dignity before his friends, but when God, whom he had only before heard of by the hearing of the ear now appeared before his awakened eye, he abhorred himself and repented in dust and in ashes. This is the sore evil under which humanity labours. The magnitude of the guilt is unfelt; and therefore does man persist in a most treacherous complacency. The magnitude of the danger is unseen; and therefore does man persist in a security most ruinous.
II. THIS DISEASE OF NATURE, deadly and virulent as it is, and that beyond the suspicion of those who are touched by it, IS NOT BEYOND THE REMEDY PROVIDED IN THE GOSPEL. Ungodliness is this disease; and it is here said that God justifies the ungodly. The discharge is as ample as the debt; and the grant of pardon in every way as broad and as long as is the guilt which requires it. The deed of amnesty is equivalent to the offence; and, foul as the transgression is, there is a commensurate righteousness which covers the whole deformity, and translates him whom it had made utterly loathsome in the sight of God, into a condition of full favour and acceptance before Him. Had justification been merely brought into contact with some social iniquity, this were not enough to relieve the conscience of him who feels in himself the workings of a direct and spiritual iniquity against God. It is a sense of this which festers in the stricken heart of a sinner, and often keeps by him and agonises him for many a day, like an arrow sticking fast. And there are many who keep at a distance from the overtures of mercy, till they think they have felt enough and mourned enough over their need of them. But we ought not thus to wait the progress of our emotions, while God is standing before us with a deed of justification, held out to the ungodliest of us all. To give us an interest in the saying, that God justifieth the ungodly, it is enough that we count it a faithful saying, and that we count it worthy of all acceptation.
III. WHILE THE OFFER OF A RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD IS THUS BROUGHT DOWN TO THE LOWEST DEPTH OF HUMAN WICKEDNESS, AND IT IS AN OFFER BY THE ACCEPTANCE OF WHICH ALL THE PAST IS FORGIVEN — IT IS ALSO AN OFFER BY THE ACCEPTANCE OF WHICH ALL THE FUTURE IS REFORMED. When Christ confers sight upon a blind man, he ceases to be in darkness; and when a rich individual confers wealth upon a poor, he ceases to be in poverty — and so, as surely, when justification is conferred upon the ungodly, his ungodliness is done away. His godliness is not the ground upon which the gift was awarded, any more than the sight of him who was blind is the ground upon which it was communicated, or than the wealth of him who was poor is the ground upon which it was bestowed. But just as sight and riches come out of the latter gifts, so godliness comes out of the gift of justification; and while works form in no way the consideration upon Which the righteousness that availeth is conferred upon a sinner, yet no sooner is this righteousness granted than it will set him a-working.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?