ONCE A CHILD OF GOD ALWAYS A CHILD OF GOD
Regeneration is a radical and supernatural change of the inner nature, through which the soul is made spiritually alive, and the new life which is implanted is immortal. And since it is a change in the inner nature, it is in a sphere in which man does not have control. No creature is at liberty to change the fundamental principles of its nature, for that is the prerogative of God as creator. Hence nothing short of another supernatural act of God could reverse this change and cause the new life to be lost. The born-again Christian can no more lose his sonship to the heavenly Father than an earthly son can lose his sonship to an earthly father. The idea that a Christian may fall away and perish arises from a wrong conception of the principle of spiritual life, which is imparted to the soul in regeneration.
So far as the believer is concerned, the penal side of the sin question has been settled once and for all. His case has been tried in the supreme court, and God has justified him: in consequence thereof the Divine decision is “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Once those very persons were under condemnation—”condemned already” (John 3:18); but now that their faith has united them to Christ there is no condemnation. The debt of their sin has been paid by their great Surety; the record thereof has been “blotted out” by His cleansing blood. “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth” (Rom. 8:33, 34). Who will reverse His decision! Where is that superior tribunal to which this cause can be carried? Eternal justice has pronounced her fiat; immutable judgment has recorded her sentence.
It is utterly and absolutely impossible that the sentence of the Divine Judge should ever be revoked or reversed. His sentence of justification results from and rests upon a complete satisfaction having been offered to His Law, and that in the fulfillment of a covenant engagement. Thus is effectually precluded the recall of the verdict. The Father stipulated to release His elect from the curse of the law provided the Son would meet the claims of justice against them. The Son freely complied with His Father’s will: “Lo, I come.” He was now made under the law, fulfilled the law, and suffered the full penalty of the law; therefore shall He see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Sooner shall the lightnings of omnipotence shiver the Rock of Ages than those sheltering in Him again be brought under condemnation.
Not only is there “now no condemnation” resting upon the believer, but there never again shall be, for “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:8).
The dread sentence of the law, “Thou shalt surely die,” cannot in justice be executed upon the sinner’s Surety and also upon himself. Hence by a necessity existing in the very nature of moral government, it must follow that the believing sinner be freed from all condemnation, that is, so cleared of the same that he is raised above all liability to punishment. So declared our blessed Saviour Himself, in words too plain and emphatic to admit of any misunderstanding: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). He, the habitation of whose throne is “justice and judgment,” has sealed up this declaration forever, by affirming “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Sooner shall the sword of justice cleave the helmet of the Almighty than any Divinely pardoned soul perish.
But not only are the sins of all who truly come to Christ eternally remitted, but the very righteousness of the Redeemer passes over to them, is placed upon them, so that a perfect obedience to the law is imputed to their account. It is theirs, not by promise, but by gift (Rom. 5:17), by actual bestowment. It is not simply that God treats them as if they were righteous, they ARE righteous and so pronounced by Him. And therefore may each believing soul exclaim, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isa. 61:10). O that each Christian reader may be enabled to clearly and strongly grasp hold of this glorious fact: that he is now truly righteous in the sight of God, is in actual possession of an obedience which answers every demand of the law.
This unspeakable blessing is bestowed not only by the amazing grace of God, but it is actually required by His inexorable justice. This too was stipulated and agreed upon in the covenant into which the Father entered with the Son. That is why the Redeemer lived here on earth for upwards of thirty years before He went to the cross to suffer the penalty of our sins: He assumed and discharged our responsibilities; as a child, as a youth, as a man, He rendered unto God that perfect obedience which we owed Him. He “fulfilled all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15) for His people, and just as He who knew no sin was made sin for them, so they are now made “the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). And therefore does Jehovah declare, “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee” (Isa. 54:10).
By actually believing with a justifying faith the sinner doth receive Christ Himself, is joined to Him, and becomes immediately an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ. This gives him a right unto and an interest in the benefits of His mediation. By faith in Christ he received not only the forgiveness of sins, but an inheritance among all them that are sanctified (Acts 26:18), the Holy Spirit (given to him) being “the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13, 14). The believing sinner may now say “in the LORD have I righteousness” (Isa. 45:24). He is “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10), for by “one offering” the Saviour hath “perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). The believer has been “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6), and stands before the throne of God arrayed in a garment more excellent than that which is worn by the holy angels.
How infinitely does the glorious Gospel of God transcend the impoverished thoughts and schemes of men! How immeasurably superior is that “everlasting righteousness” which Christ has brought in (Dan. 9:24) from that miserable thing which multitudes are seeking to produce by their own efforts. Greater far is the difference between the shining light of the midday sun and the blackness of the darkest night, than between that “best robe” (Luke 15:22) which Christ has wrought out for each of His people and that wretched covering which zealous religionists are attempting to weave out of the filthy rags of their own righteousness. Equally great is the difference between the truth of God concerning the present and immutable standing of His saints in all the acceptability of Christ, and the horrible perversion of Arminians who make acceptance with God contingent upon the believer’s faithfulness and perseverance, who suppose that Heaven can be purchased by the creature’s deeds and doings.
Let it be said in conclusion that the justification of the Christian is complete the moment he truly believes in Christ, and hence there are no degrees in justification. The Apostle Paul was as truly a justified man at the hour of his conversion as he was at the close of his life. The feeblest babe in Christ is just as completely justified as is the most mature saint. Let theologians note the following distinctions. Christians were decretively justified from all eternity: efficaciously so when Christ rose again from the dead; actually so when they believed; sensibly so when the Spirit bestows joyous assurance; manifestly so when they tread the path of obedience; finally so at the Day of Judgment, when God shall sententiously, and in the presence of all created things, pronounce them so.