LIFE-STUDY OF ROMANS
THE SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE
When Paul wrote the book of Romans, he must have had the Old Testament in view. In Romans 1 we find a clear reference to the book of Genesis. The phrase, “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world, being apprehended by the things made, are clearly seen,” refers to Genesis 1. The “invisible things,” meaning God’s divine attributes, may be apprehended from creation. Thus, Paul began the book of Romans with an allusion to the first chapter of Genesis. Furthermore, Paul’s account of the condemnation on mankind follows the stages of the fall of man recorded in Genesis. In Genesis 4, Cain gave up God, disapproving of holding Him in his understanding. By the time of Genesis 11, the entire fallen race had exchanged God for idols. They exchanged the God of glory for idols of vanity and degenerated into fornication and confusion, which were manifested in the extreme at Sodom. This resulted in the practice of every imaginable evil. Paul used this history of the corrupted race as the background for the section on the condemnation of mankind. In Romans 3 Paul alludes to the picture of the ark with its cover as he portrays Christ as the propitiation place. Therefore, Romans 3 was also written with the Old Testament in view. Moreover, when Paul came to the conclusion of justification, he employed the history of Abraham as a full example. Abraham’s history affords a complete pattern of the genuine and subjective justification of God. If we only had Paul’s teaching in Romans 3, we could never appreciate the depths of God’s justification. We would only have the seed of justification without the kernel.
THE TRANSFUSION OF GOD
I feel the need to share more about the subjective experience of justification. In my spirit I am burdened that Romans 4 be fully opened to the Lord’s people. As I have said already, Romans 4 is a deep chapter, far deeper than we realize. It presents Abraham’s experience with God. Abraham is an example of the experience of God’s called ones with God. We do not have the adequate human language to describe such an experience. After considering this matter very seriously, I have selected the word transfuse to help us understand the interaction between God and man.
The application of electricity depends on the fuse, and we may say that the power of electricity is applied through the fuse. This is transfusion. The heavenly electricity is far away in the heavens, but the place where this electricity must be applied is here on earth. If this divine electricity is to come to us, we need a transfusion. Thus, God transfuses Himself into us. Once we have this transfusion, we will experience a spiritual infusion as God’s essence infiltrates our being. This infusion of God’s element will saturate and permeate us. Transfusion brings in infusion, and this infusion permeates us with God’s element.
FAITH AS A REACTION
This permeation causes a reaction. The spiritual virtues and divine attributes that have been transmitted into us will react within us. The first reaction is believing. This is our faith. This is the highest definition of faith. Faith is not our natural ability or virtue. Faith is our reaction toward God, which results from God’s transfusing Himself into us and infusing His divine elements into our being. When God’s elements permeate our being, we react to Him, and this reaction is faith. Faith is not a human virtue; it is absolutely a reaction caused by a divine infusion, which saturates and permeates our being. Once we have such a faith, we can never lose it. It is deeper than our blood, for it has been infused into us and constituted into our being. Although we may try not to believe, we can never succeed. This is what the Bible means by believing in God.
If my memory is accurate, Paul never uses the term “by faith in Jesus.” However, at least two or three times he mentions “the faith of Jesus,” a phrase that troubles most translators. Some, finding it difficult to define such a phrase, have changed the preposition from “of” to “in.” If we change the preposition, the phrase will read “faith in Jesus” and mean that we believe in Jesus by ourselves. This is not Paul’s meaning. Paul means that we believe in the Lord Jesus by means of the Lord Jesus Himself as our faith. Since we do not have the ability to believe, we must take Christ as our believing ability. We need to believe in the Lord Jesus by His faith. I have tried to understand this for nearly forty years. In the past I explained faith as Christ working Himself into us. That was the best definition I had at the time. However, in the last few days the Lord has given me a better term: faith is our reaction to God produced by His transfusion, infusion, and saturation.
THE PROCESS OF TRANSFUSION
How is this transfusion accomplished? God, as the heavenly electricity, comes to His chosen ones. For example, God came to Abraham by appearing to him. If we study Genesis 11 through 24, including the record in Acts 7, we find that God appeared to Abraham several times. Acts 7:2 says that the God of glory appeared to Abraham. It is sure that Abraham was attracted by the appearing of the God of glory. To be attracted simply means that God transfused Himself into Abraham without his realizing it or being conscious of it. This is similar to the radium treatment practiced in modern medicine. The patient is placed under the X-ray, unconscious of the beams that are penetrating him. God is the strongest radium. If we sit under Him for an hour, He will transfuse Himself into us. This transfusion will cause infusion, saturation, and permeation.
THE TRANSFUSION IN THE GOSPEL
In any proper gospel preaching there should be such a transfusion, the transfusion of Christ into people. How can Christ be transfused into us? It is by the preaching of the gospel. Whenever we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a normal way, there will be an appearing of the living Christ, and this appearing will transfuse Christ into people.
I can confirm this by my own experience. Although I was born in China and learned the teachings of Confucius, Confucius had no attraction for me. Christianity as a religion did not appeal to me either. When I was nineteen years old, the Lord sent a young sister to my town to preach the gospel. I was curious to see her. As I sat in the meeting place and heard her singing and speaking, the glory of God appeared, and I was attracted. No one had to convince me to believe. As I listened to her, God transfused Himself into me, and this transfusion overwhelmed and conquered me, causing a very positive reaction. Coming out of the meeting hall and walking along the road, I lifted up my eyes to the heavens and said, “God, You know I am an ambitious young man. But, even if the people promise me the whole world to be my empire, I would refuse it. I want to take You. From this day onward I want to serve You. I would like to be a poor preacher going from village to village, telling people how good Jesus is.” In this way the living Jesus was transfused into my being. Immediately I reacted to God, and God reacted back to me. My reaction to God was my believing in Him. That was my faith. God’s reaction back to me was to justify me, to give His righteousness with peace and joy to me. The righteousness of God reacted to me, and from that time on I had that righteousness. Christ was made the righteousness of God to me. Thus I had peace and joy, and I was filled with hope. I had been justified by God. God had called me out of everything other than Himself.
Once Christ has transfused Himself into you, you can never escape; you must believe in Him. I am familiar with many cases that occurred under my own gospel preaching. Some people said, “I simply don’t know what happened to me. After I listened to that preacher the first time and came home, I said that I didn’t want anything to do with Christ, that I did not like Jesus. But something got into me. I tried to cast it away, but I couldn’t do it. Although I don’t want to go back, something within me urges me to go hear him again and again.” What is this? This is the effect of the transfusing of Christ into people. Out of this transfusion a reaction comes—believing in Jesus by the faith of Jesus.
GOD’S APPEARING TO ABRAHAM
God appeared to Abraham again and again. Many of us have held the wrong concept about Abraham, the concept that he was a giant in faith. When I heard this as a young Christian, I was frightened, thinking to myself, “Forget about that. I can never be a giant of faith.” Later, as I considered the history of Abraham, I realized that he was not the giant of faith. The only giant of faith is God Himself. God, as the giant of faith, transfused Himself into him. After Abraham had spent time in God’s presence, He could not help believing in Him, because he had been transfused with God. Thus, Abraham was attracted to God and reacted to Him in believing. His reaction was his believing. Suppose a poor man visited Abraham and said, “Abraham, I know you don’t have a child. Next year I will enable you to have a child born of your wife.” Abraham would have driven such a man away from him, telling him not to talk nonsense. Who actually appeared to Abraham? The God of glory. The incident in Genesis 15 was not God’s first appearing to him. Several other appearings preceded it.
The first appearing was that recorded in Acts 7. Two more appearings are found in Genesis 12: in the first of these (vv. 1-3) God told Abraham to leave his country, his kindred, and his father’s house; in the second one (vv. 7-8) God promised Abraham to give the land to his seed. After this, Abraham, who had little experience in believing, fell into Egypt. God’s fourth appearing to Abraham was in Genesis 13:14-17, when He told Abraham to lift up his eyes and look in every direction at the land. Therefore, the appearing of God in Genesis 15:1-7 was the fifth; it was nothing new to Abraham. God had appeared to Abraham repeatedly, and Abraham had experienced the riches of God’s appearing, coming to have confidence in them. During the first four appearings, God’s element had been transfused and infused into Abraham’s being. When God appeared to Abraham, He did not leave suddenly. He stayed with Abraham for a length of time. How long did God remain with Abraham in Genesis 18? He stayed with him for about half a day, conversing with him for hours as with an intimate friend. Throughout that whole visitation Abraham was infused with God. During the fifth appearing (Gen. 15) God told Abraham that the number of his seed would be like the stars of heaven. As a result of the fifth appearing, Abraham had experienced such a rich infusion of God that he believed. “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6).
Abraham’s faith did not come from his natural ability and it did not originate with himself. His believing in God was a reaction to the heavenly radium, a response to the divine infusion. Figuratively speaking, Abraham’s believing was simply God working like radium within him. What is the proper faith? Genuine faith is the working of God within us. This is why God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. It seemed that God was saying, “This faith is something of Me. It corresponds to Me. This is Abraham’s righteousness before Me.” What was that righteousness? It was the righteousness of God.
ABRAHAM’S FURTHER EXPERIENCE
This divine word in the Bible is deep, and we are unable to understand it if we only read superficially. Abraham received God’s element by a process of divine infusion. Although righteousness had been reckoned to Abraham, he had not yet experienced that righteousness in a solid, concrete way. Likewise, we may have Christ as our righteousness without actually experiencing Him in a substantial way. At the moment we called on Him, we received Christ, and Christ was made our righteousness. However, Christ must still become our experience. Thus, we need a Sarah.
Sarah typifies grace. Hagar, Abraham’s concubine, typifies the law (Gal. 4:22-26). We have Christ within us, but we lack the experience of this Christ. Who can help us with the experience? Sarah. Remember that Sarah typifies God’s grace. Do not work with the law by going to Hagar, but cooperate with grace by going to Sarah. If you join yourself to Sarah, you will experience Christ as your righteousness. Do not go to the law and do not make up your mind to do good. We need to recall Paul’s own experience as recounted in Romans 7: “To will is present with me, but to do is not.” If you will to do good, it means that you are turning to the law. If you determine to honor your parents, love your wife, or submit to your husband, you are turning to the law and marrying Hagar. The result of this union is always an Ishmael. However, if you join yourself to grace, this union will bring forth Christ, the real Isaac.
Isaac signifies the solid experience of the righteousness which God had reckoned to Abraham. On the day you believed in the Lord Jesus, Christ was given to you and infused into you. You responded in faith, and your faith was reckoned by God as your righteousness. In this way, God made Christ your justification, your righteousness. However, at that moment you did not have the actual experience. After you were saved, you went to Hagar, to the law, making up your mind to do good. To a certain extent you were successful, but the result was Ishmael. Now you must join yourself to God’s grace, to Sarah. With Sarah you will have a genuine experience of the Christ you have already received.
In typology, the righteousness which God reckoned to Abraham was Isaac. According to Genesis 17:21, God came to Abraham and said, “Next year at this time Sarah will bring forth a son.” In Genesis 18:10 God reiterated this word in a slightly different way: “Next year at this time I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” If we put these verses together, we will realize that the birth of Isaac was actually the coming of God. Unfortunately, the King James translation obscures these two verses, using the phrase “time of life.” The correct rendering of this phrase is found in the New American Standard Version, which says, “Next year at this time.” The Lord told Abraham that the birth of Isaac next year would be the coming of God. Therefore, the birth of Isaac was extraordinary: it was the coming of God.
THE BELIEVER’S EXPERIENCE
We may apply all this to our experience. In the gospel preaching, through the appearing and transfusion of Christ, we reacted to God in believing with Christ as faith. Then God reckoned this faith back to us as our righteousness, which was a real experience of Christ at the time of our salvation. That was a return of Christ, a further coming of Christ to us after we reacted to God in believing with Him as our faith. As a result of Christ’s appearing and His divine transfusion, He became our faith, reacting to God. This faith was reckoned back to us by God as righteousness, and Christ further became the righteousness of God to us. By a further coming of Christ through God’s grace, we had Christ as our righteousness before God. We may summarize the process this way: in His appearing and transfusion Christ became our faith to God, and in return Christ became God’s righteousness to us. Then Christ became our experience.
Furthermore, we not only have Christ as the righteousness of God reckoned to us, but we have also the experience of Christ as our Isaac. We treasure this experience, holding it as dear and precious and cherishing it as our only begotten.
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