This is just the kind of sinner that God accepts.  He has no truck with the Pharisee who stands in prayer, lauding his own character and boasting of his superiority to other men.  It was, said Jesus, the publican who smote upon his breast and pleaded for mercy based upon God’s gratuitous grace alone, who went down to his house justified.  That parable furnishes the perfect commentary upon the principle which Paul is here enunciating.  The publican had no works of virtue which he could plead before God; all he could do was stand in shame, confessing his own vileness.  And yet, his case was infinitely better than the proud Pharisee who thought himself right with God because of his own exact obedience to the law.  God is a God Who justifies the ungodly!  This is the marvel of marvels, and the one which ought to fill the heart of every believer with joy unspeakable and full of glory.  It would only be compatible with human reason to imagine that God justified men who were trying hard, doing good, and living exemplary lives.  Yet, in the role of the saints, we see many who were as black as the soot of hell with sin, translated from the power of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.

This very principle demolishes forever all worksmongering religion.  Any and every doctrine purporting itself to be Christian, which teaches that a man must live up to some standard of obedience to either obtain or attain justification, is here annihilated once and for all time.  Rome is the chief offender at this point, though admittedly she has many imitators of varying stripes.  The Pope’s doctrine is that a person is justified from original sin through baptism, but must live a holy life by the assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to maintain a state of justification.  The commission of a mortal sin deprives a person of the grace of God, and it can only be regained through rigorous submission to the exacting requirements of Mother Church.  It is strange that Paul the apostle knew nothing of any such concept.  He simply states that God justifies ungodly sinners, for no other reason than that they believe His promises.  Just like in the case of Abraham, that faith is counted for righteousness; or, if we may speak more precisely, the object upon which that faith attaches itself, is counted as righteousness; for, as we shall find in the 5th chapter, it is the obedience of Christ, in which our faith rests, which is the believer’s righteousness before God.

 

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