GOD’S SALVATION FOR THE DEMONSTRATION
OF GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS
There is one book in the Bible, the book of Romans, that tells us how God deals specifically with this one problem. Let us read Romans 3:25-26, beginning with the second part of verse 25: "For the demonstrating of His righteousness, in that in His forbearance God passed over the sins that had previously occurred, with a view to the demonstrating of His righteousness in the present time, so that He might be righteous and the One who justifies him who is of the faith of Jesus." Here I must add a word. Some versions make a mistake in translating verse 25. They translate: "To declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." But the word "for" should not be used in this verse. Instead it should read: "For the demonstrating of His righteousness, in that in His forbearance God passed over the sins that had previously occurred." Further, in verse 26 the word "and" should be understood as linking two things that occur at the same time. Hence, this clause should be understood in this way: "that He might be righteous and the One who justifies him who is of the faith of Jesus." While God justifies those who believe in Jesus, He is shown to be righteous, and man is to acknowledge Him as being righteous.
Verse 25 deals with the problems in the past, and verse 26 deals with the problems in the present. The problems in the past relate to the people of the Old Testament times. The problems in the present relate to the people of the New Testament times. Verse 25 deals with an Old Testament issue. Verse 26 deals with a New Testament issue. Those in the Old Testament times transgressed the law for four thousand years. They were full of sins and transgressions. But God did not send them into perdition or destruction immediately. During those four thousand years, day by day God forbore and passed over the sins previously committed. We do not see the lake of fire immediately after the garden of Eden. Although God told man that in the day that he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would surely die (Gen. 2:17), when Adam did eat of the fruit, he did not go immediately into the lake of fire. Why not? Because God passed over the sins of the Old Testament times; He exercised His forbearance over them. God exercised forbearance and passed over the sins committed by man in the past. But a question arises immediately. Was God righteous in exercising forbearance and passing over man’s sins in the Old Testament? What was God’s purpose in doing this? Actually, in passing over man’s sins and in exercising forbearance, God was declaring His righteousness.
God does not want us to think that after we are saved our salvation is an illegal one. God would not have man harbor such criticisms. God wants to show us that there is nothing illegal or unrighteous in His ways. Concerning the sins of the Old Testament times, He says that His forbearance and His passing over were for the demonstrating of His righteousness. Concerning the sins of the present time, He says that what is done is also for the demonstrating of His righteousness. He desires that in justifying those who believe in Jesus He would be known as the righteous One.
God’s salvation is not some "backdoor merchandise." God wants our salvation to be one that comes from the "front door." Our salvation has to be right and proper. He will not allow anyone to say that our salvation is improper. He does not offer a fraudulent salvation. A fraudulent salvation is rejected by God. God’s intention is to save us, but He will do so in a way that is related to His nature, His moral standard, His dignity, His law, and His righteousness. God cannot save us lawlessly.
Here we have a problem. If God were willing to use whatever means possible to save us and if He were to ignore the matter of righteousness altogether, He could say to anyone, "Go; you are free." There are men who are foolishly good. If God were to say this, He would be a foolishly good God. God would never be like this. If God did not love you, it would be easy—He would just let you die and perish when you sin. But He cannot allow this to happen because He loves you. The problem is that the sin of man and the love of God are together. When the righteousness of God is added to these two, salvation becomes the most difficult thing on earth. If man had not sinned, everything would be fine; and if God had not loved, there would be no problem either. If someone commits a crime and must die, it has nothing to do with me if I do not love him. Today many are taken from prisons to be executed. The matter concerns me little if I do not love them. It is difficult only if I love them and if I want to rescue them. If they have not sinned, the matter would be easy to deal with. And if I do not love them, the matter is also easy to handle. Further, if they have sinned and I love them but have no righteousness, the matter can still be taken care of easily; I can handle the matter irresponsibly through bribery. But if I am a righteous person, I cannot resort to such fraudulent and improper methods. I would not let them go illegally. If I am to rescue them, I have to rescue them righteously. To carry out such a salvation becomes the most difficult task on the whole earth. These three matters—love, sin, and righteousness—cannot easily coexist. Love is a fact; sin is also a fact; and righteousness is a necessity. Because these three are together, God must come up with a way to save us and to satisfy His heart of love, while at the same time preserving His righteousness. Accomplishing such a work would be a masterpiece indeed. Hallelujah! The salvation which God has prepared for us in His Son Jesus is such a masterpiece. He is able to save us from our sins and demonstrate His love, and He is able to do so in a most righteous way. This He does through the work of redemption by the Lord Jesus.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)