Romans 4 is a deep chapter. We should not understand it just in a superficial way. If we enter into the depths of this chapter, we will see it reveals that adequate, living justification is God’s deeper work in calling fallen people out of everything other than God and bringing them back to Himself. God created man for Himself and to Himself. However, man fell. The meaning of the fall of man is to be kept from God by anything that is not God. The man who had been created to God fell away from God to other things. It does not matter whether a thing is good or bad. As long as it is not God and it keeps man from God, it constitutes a fall. In God’s justification, God calls the fallen man out of everything back to Himself. Therefore, when God called Abraham, He did not tell him where he should go, because His intention was to bring Abraham back to Himself. Moment after moment and step after step, Abraham’s heart had to cleave to God. He had to trust in God for every move, not leaving His presence for a moment. In other words, Abraham had to be one with God.
After God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, God trained Abraham to believe in Him. As we have seen, believing in God means to believe into God and to make ourselves one with God. In this kind of believing, a man admits that he is nothing, that he has nothing, and that he can do nothing. He agrees that he must be terminated. Thus, believing in God means to terminate ourselves and to let God be our very being, to let God be all that we should be. From the time we first believe in Him, we should not be anything. We should be completely terminated and allow God to be everything in us. This is the accurate meaning of circumcision. It is inadequate even to ask the Lord to circumcise our heart, for the deep and adequate circumcision is to terminate yourself and allow God to be everything.
When a person has been called by God in this way, the living God transfuses Himself into him. This word transfuse is important in describing what transpires at God’s calling. The living God spontaneously transfuses Himself into the called one. As a result, he is attracted by God and to God. Unconsciously, some element, some essence of the living God is transfused into him, and he reacts to God by believing in Him. This reaction is faith.
When you heard the gospel of glory regarding the Lord Jesus, you repented. This means that God called you out of everything other than Himself. At that moment, without your even knowing it, the living Christ in His gospel of glory transfused Himself into you (2 Cor. 4:4). Some element of Christ penetrated your being, and you were attracted to Him. You reacted to Him, and your spontaneous reaction was your believing, your faith. The Christ who transfused Himself into you became your faith. Therefore, faith does not originate with us; it comes from God. Faith is not separate from Christ, for it is actually Christ Himself transfusing Himself into us and producing a reaction within us.
Our believing is an echo. How can there be an echo without a sound? It is impossible. Christ is the sound. When this sound reaches our heart and spirit it causes a reaction, an echo. This reaction is our appreciation of and faith in the Lord Jesus. This faith is actually Christ Himself within us responding to the gospel. Therefore, this faith is reckoned to us by God as righteousness. When Christ transfused Himself into you, there was a reaction within you—believing. After you believed in the Lord, God reacted to you, reckoning your faith, which is Christ, as righteousness. We do not find this experience in the Bible if we read superficially, but if we probe into the depths of the Scriptures, we find it there. It is as if God said to us, “Poor sinner, you don’t have righteousness. As I, the living God, am speaking with you, My essence is being transfused into you. This will cause you to react to Me in faith, and I will reckon this faith to you as righteousness.” When God does this to us, we have an appreciative and loving reaction toward Him. This reaction is our faith, a faith that does not originate with us, but which is the essence of the living Christ within us. This faith returns to God, causing a reaction in God toward us: the righteousness of God is reckoned as ours, and we have something that we never had before. This is our experience of God in justification.
Thus, we have the righteousness of God, which is Christ. Isaac was a type of Christ. Abraham, our believing father, received the righteousness of God and Isaac. Likewise, we have received both the righteousness of God and Christ, the present Isaac. This is an experience of God calling things not being as being. When we came to God on the day we were saved, we had nothing. Nevertheless, God appeared to us and called things not being as being. Formerly, we did not have the righteousness of God; after a few minutes we had it. Before that time, we did not have Christ; after a few minutes we had Him.
Once we have an experience of the righteousness of God and Christ, we will guard it as a priceless treasure. We will proclaim, “I have the righteousness of God. I have Christ.” However, one day God will intervene and say, “Offer this on the altar.” Will you do it? Not one out of a hundred Christians is willing. Instead they say, “O Lord, don’t ask me to do this. I would do anything else, but not this.” Nevertheless, we must remember the reactions which go back and forth between man and God. The righteousness of God and Christ are ours—these came as God’s reaction to our faith. Now we must return this reaction to God by offering it to Him. After we react in this way, God will react again. God’s first reaction was to call things not being as being. His second reaction is to give life to the dead. This is profound.
According to Romans 4, the ultimate issue of this series of reactions is the resurrected Christ. This resurrected Christ is now in the heavens as a strong proof that God has been satisfied and that we have been justified. The resurrected Christ is in the third heavens at the right hand of God as conclusive evidence that all of God’s requirements have been satisfied and that we have been thoroughly and adequately justified. However, this resurrected Christ is not only in the heavens, but also within us to impart life that we may have a life of justification. Therefore, justification is not merely a positional matter; it becomes a dispositional matter. The death of Christ gave us a positional justification, and the resurrected Christ in the heavens is a proof of this. Now the resurrected Christ also lives inside us, reacting within us and living out a life of dispositional justification. Eventually, we are justified both in position and in disposition. We not only have an objective justification, but a subjective justification as well. We may now live such a subjective, dispositional justification.
This justification is the real, living circumcision. What is circumcision? Circumcision means to terminate ourselves and to come into God: it terminates us and it germinates God into us. The Jews do not care for the inward reality of circumcision; they only care for the outward form, the practice of cutting off a piece of flesh. This is not circumcision in the eyes of God. In God’s eyes, circumcision means to cut off yourself, terminate yourself, and allow God to germinate Himself within you to be your life that you may have a new beginning. This circumcision is the outward seal of the real, inward justification.
Abraham experienced God as the One who calls things not being as being. By the birth of Isaac Abraham experienced God in this way. Furthermore, by the resurrection of Isaac, Abraham experienced God as the One who gives life to the dead. There are two kinds of Isaac: the first is Isaac born; the second is Isaac resurrected. The God in whom Abraham believed had these two aspects. He believed in the God who calls things not being as being and who gives life to the dead.
Regardless of who we are or of what situation in which we find ourselves, the general human condition is one of not being. This means that nothing exists. The second general condition of everyone and everything is deadness. Thus, the overall situation of man has two aspects—nothingness and deadness. The actual condition of us all is nothingness and deadness. But the God in whom our father Abraham believed and in whom we also believe is the God who calls things into existence out of nothing. When we say, “Nothing,” He says, “Something.” When we say, “Not being,” He says, “Being.” Do not say that the church in a certain place is poor. It may be poor in your eyes, but not in the eyes of the God in whom Abraham believed. God may tell you, “You say nothing exists. After one minute, I will call something into existence.” Suppose the person of James Barber did not exist. If God wanted a James Barber, He would simply call, “James Barber,” and James Barber would come into being. This means that God calls things not being as being. When God told Abraham, “Your seed shall be as the stars of heaven,” nothing existed at that time as far as the descendants of Abraham were concerned. There was not even one descendant. Nevertheless, God made such a declaration regarding Abraham’s seed, and Abraham believed. Approximately a year later, Abraham’s first descendant came into being: Isaac was born. By the birth of Isaac Abraham experienced God as the One who calls things not being as being.
However, this is only half of the experience of God, for Abraham also experienced God as the One who gives life to the dead. When Abraham received Isaac back after offering him to God on the altar, he experienced God giving life to the dead. A church may exist in a certain locality, but be quite dead. Do not be quick to make a judgment, because God gives life to the dead. When a church is dead, it provides an excellent opportunity for the God in whom Abraham believed to enter in and impart life to that dead church.
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