Righteousness by faith is both the essence and the issue of the gospel. Though often lost sight of by man, this has been basically true ever since its first enunciation at the gates of Eden as God's response to man's fall from righteousness into sin. Its operation is vividly exemplified, in those primeval times, by the twin sacrifices of Cain and Abel. One was an unaccepted offering of a man's best works; the other was an accepted expression of obedient faith in a sinful man's righteous Substitute, the Lamb of God, "through which he [Abell had witness borne to him that he was righteous." Heb. 11:4. This is the sole purpose of the gospel, and here is the earliest recorded example of its manifest operation.
"The righteousness of God" is "unto all and upon all them that believe." Rom. 3:22. Indeed, the great eleventh chapter of Hebrews is simply a mighty chronological panorama of the exercise of that identical saving faith. It could not be otherwise, for the gospel is simply a revelation of the "right. eousness of God. . . . from faith to faith." Rom. 1:16, 17. It is God's provision and offer of power to deliver from "all ungodliness and unrighteousness." Verse 18. And it is all through faith in Christ who "was delivered for our offenses" (Rom. 4:25), and died in our stead "to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past" (Rom. 3:25), and who was made "to be sin for us, . . . that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21), for He "of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30. There is no other provision given among men whereby we can be saved from the reign of sin, which is "unrighteousness." 1 John 5:17.
Therefore the conclusion is both unavoidable and irresistible that the last gospel movement and message of God on earth, specifically directed to preach the everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6), that is, the same changeless good news of the revelation of God's righteousIlss which is revealed from faith to faith, and which was presented to Paul, to Abraham, and to Adam,—it was inevitable, I say, that righteousness by faith should in the gospel's consummating phase be its great heart, its center and its circumference in verity.
Preaching God's final message to man, which, accepted, fits the soul for eternal, immediate fellowship with the God of all righteousness, with no darkening veil between, absolutely demands that the provision whereby righteousness imputed and imparted is realized shall come from the partial obscurity of the past into the blazing forefront of this remnant message. If men were to be silent, the very stones must cry out. For in the consummation of the gospel its very heart and power and object can never have second place, irrespective of the relative emphasis in times past.
It is not correct doctrine and a right theory of the truth that saves the soul, but a character transformation in which human sin is exchanged for divine righteousness. Doctrines are needful. They are the waymarks, but we must not confuse them with the Way. It is one thing to master the directions of the timetable, but quite another so to relate oneself to the transportation offered as to reach the destination. This has often been unrealized, or at least forgotten in the past, but it is destined to come into its rightful place in the finale of this message. Thus there is perfect blending of law and gospel, of consistent, contrasting emphasis on sin and righteousness, and on the consummating issue of loyalty versus treason.
Consequently the stress of righteousness by faith does not minimize emphasis on the claims of the righteous law and the holy seventh-day Sabbath. Rather, it magnifies and exalts them, lifting them to their true spiritual plane, as well as establishing the letter of the law. It is not a substitute for, not an antagonist of, the specifications of the threefold message. Nay, it is its great spiritual heart. The negative phase stresses the solemn warning; the positive phase brings forth God's sole remedy for the climax of sin in the culminating days of human sin and apostasy. And as all disguise of sin and perversion is thrown off in the last hour, so also the contrasting beauty and purity of the wondrous, all-sufficient righteousness of the Christ of the everlasting gospel is to be revealed with a power, a beauty, and a completeness never realized since its first enunciation in Eden. Such is God's design, and His expectation.
And this all harmonizes perfectly with the provisions of the latter rain predicted by Joel, where it is "in righteousness," or as a "teacher of righteousness" (Joel 2:23, margin), that the Holy Spirit comes in His latter-day fullness. How logical and reasonable it all is, for without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Heb. 12:14. And how consistent, then, is God's promise that He will cut short the work in righteousness. It presents a beautiful, harmonious blending of purpose and action. And so the whole purpose of the final, completing phase of the gospel is to prepare a people to see and dwell with God without first tasting death, passing through that dread period of anguish when there is no longer a Mediator for sinners, when those who are accounted righteous have been declared such forevermore, and those who have been found unrighteous still, are obliterated from the universe. Thus it is cleansed eternally from all unrighteousness.
So it is that the gates shall be lifted that the righteous nation may enter in (Isa. 26:2), and God's eternal righteousness shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The hideous blot of unrighteousness which has stained the universe for six thousand years in this period called time, will then be eradicated, and the pristine righteousness of Eden will be restored and safeguarded against any further repetition of the tragedy.
He who preaches anything else or anything less, in these last days, has not only missed the throbbing heart of our message, but stands culpable before God as recreant to His solemn commission as a minister of the everlasting gospel of the righteousness of God by faith. God will not hold him guiltless who preaches a partial, inadequate gospel in this consummating hour of righteousness. God has been steadily leading His people out from the darkness of the Middle Ages to this time of the floodtide of blazing gospel truth, when every reformation is to be completed, every perversion is to be repudiated, and everything partial is to be superseded by that which is perfect.
No other program is conceivable or commensurate with an hour like this. There is therefore no excuse for contentment with the things and the conditions of the past. Sufficient are they unto themselves. This is a day without a parallel. It is a period unique and unmatched, and will never be repeated. While it is the most perilous epoch in the history of man, it is the most glorious because of its matchless provisions. It is leading us swiftly to the crowning climax of the eternal issue of sin and righteousness. And God's remedy is adequate, and complete, and operative. What then is our relation thereto? O God, give us the understanding mind, the loyal heart, and the spiritual vision to see and to declare faithfully Thy full, everlasting gospel for time's last hour. Help us to grasp the truth that the provision of imputed and imparted righteousness by faith is simply the essence of the pure, unchangeable gospel, and that to preach the everlasting gospel in this time of the threefold message will truly present righteousness by faith.
L. E. F.