Things That Differ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - Righteousness

Never was there a time when the Lord's people needed to pray more earnestly for "a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eyes of the heart to be enlightened." We may be sadly led astray or be brought into confusion unless we have understanding by the Spirit in the foundational matters of our life in Christ.

We would here give one or two illustrations of what we mean. There are matters upon which not a few children of God are being made to slip up.

The Person and the Work of Christ

There are many who put a not permissible division between these two. The Word of God does not allow of such a separating. There is no surrendering to Christ apart from a recognition and acceptance of the work of His Cross. There is no making much of His Person, not even of His deity and Godhead apart from that which He accomplished at Calvary.

Look where you will in the New Testament and you will find that the two are always related, even in those parts where the greatest unveiling of His Person is given. The Holy Spirit has put these two together, and no man may put them asunder. In different words the one abiding relationship is "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." This is followed through even into the Revelation, where to a very large extent, the day of salvation is past.

Let us beware that we do not fall into the snare of the devil in putting Christ in a place of importance as One to be surrendered to, talked about, or championed, and at the same time fail to realise or accept all the implications of His Cross as to our place therein. Such a course can never be of pleasure to the Lord Himself.

Sin in Relation to the Person of Christ

It may surprise some people when we say that, in the eyes of God, the matter of our sin and salvation is not a question of the number or nature of our sins. It is not sins few or many, bad or not so bad. If it were so, then salvation would have to be on a sliding scale by which allowance would have to be made for good or bad heredity, training, or the lack of it; and all such considerations.

Salvation has never been based upon the confession of our sins (plural) either to God or to man. ("Confess your faults one to another" is something said to believers.) The Holy Spirit convicts believers of specific sins, but He convicts the unsaved of sin. Then sin is not regarded as something apart and by itself. It is always looked upon in relation to a Divine Person. Men often confuse sin with vice or vice with sin. Vice is usually that which relates to either the one who commits it or to the person or persons against whom it is committed. Vice is something against self or society. Sin is against God. We are never saved by ceasing to commit acts of wrong, vice, or sin against ourselves or others. We are saved when we come to see by Divine illumination that sin is what we are, and that in His Cross Jesus Christ representatively and substitutionally took us under the judgment of God against a sinful race, and has set us aside by nature, so that in Christ risen we take our stand by faith as having died to sin.

This whole question is gathered up in one comprehensive statement of Christ's. "When he, the Spirit, is come, he shall convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on me. Of righteousness, because I go to the Father. Of judgment, because the prince of this world has been judged."

Sin then is a matter of our faith union with Christ as Saviour. The one question which will ever be the basis of our justification or condemnation will be, not how many sins, or how we have sinned, but what is our relationship with Christ the Saviour? God will never say, "were you a bad sinner or guilty of few or many sins?" But, "what did you do with my Son, the Lord Jesus, in view of His atoning work on the cross?"

Righteousness is a question of relationship with Christ as having gone to the Father. No one ever yet went to the Father who was not absolutely righteous and sinless. Which means that Christ being there is our righteousness, and we have none apart from Him. Our acceptance by God is only upon the ground of our faith union with Christ as made unto us essential righteousness from God.

The question of judgment is settled upon the same basis. The prince of this world has been judged. The Word of God says that "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." We are, therefore, by nature in the wicked one. This is the opposite of being "In Christ." Judgment was first formed for the devil, man was never intended for judgment. If, however, we do not choose to take our place in Christ, seeing that, by Adam's voluntary act he has involved the whole race in the captivity of the devil, we must share in the devil's judgment. God has provided the Way out in Christ, and there is no other way. Judgment therefore rests upon our position out of or in Christ.

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