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Romans 8:1-11 - Homilies By C.h. Irwin

The judgment-day, and how to prepare for it.

The apostle speaks much in the language of the Law. He himself was not only acquainted with the useful handicraft of tent-making or sail-making, but he was also trained in the profession of the Law—brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. He had a considerable acquaintance, too, with the practice of the law-courts. From the brief references in the Acts of the Apostles to his personal history before his conversion, it would appear as if previous to that time he had been engaged as a public prosecutor of the Christians. After he became a Christian, he was frequently called upon, for Christ's sake, to appear at the bar of Jewish and Roman courts of justice. On his first missionary visit to Europe he was dragged before the magistrates at Philippi, and again before Gallio at Corinth. Then, again, he stood before the Jewish council at Jerusalem; before Felix, Festus. and Agrippa at Caesarea; and, finally, before Nero himself at Rome. On the present occasion he is writing to residents at Rome. Rome at the time was the metropolis of the world, the centre of the world's legislation. To stand at Caesar's judgment-seat was to stand before the highest earthly authority then in existence, and to be tried by the greatest code of laws which, with the exception of British law, the world has ever known. The laws of the XII . Tables, as they were called, which were the basis of all the Roman laws, were engraved upon twelve tables of brass, and set up in the comitium, or public meeting-place, so that every one might be able to read them. Every educated Roman youth learned by heart these XII . Tables. It was to a people thus familiar with the ideas and the practice of courts of justice that Paul, himself a well-trained lawyer, was writing. He keeps before their minds and his own the thought that there is a higher than all human authority; that there is a judgment-seat more terrible than that of Caesar; and that the great concern of every human being is how he or she shall fare in that great day of reckoning—that day which bulks so largely in St. Paul's mind, which stands out so prominently before his mental vision, that he constantly speaks of it as " that day. " It is an important subject, how to prepare for meeting God in the judgment.

I. THE PREPARATION OF THE CHRISTIAN . The apostle speaks of the Christian as being prepared for a judgment-day. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." That day needs a preparation. "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The thought of that judgment makes strong men tremble. Felix trembled as Paul the prisoner reasoned with him of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come. It is that dread of something after death that makes the murderer's sleep so restless, and that makes the dishonest man's gains like a weight of lead upon his mind. Conscience does, indeed, make cowards of us all. The Christian recognizes that there is a terror in the judgment, as Paul did when he spoke of "the terror of the Lord" ( 2 Corinthians 5:11 ); but the judgment brings no terror to him. He knows that he too will be judged according to his deeds, that the fire will try every man's work of what sort it is, and, therefore, he will realize his responsibilities and privileges. But he knows that one thing is certain, and that is that he is safe from condemnation. He carries his pardon in his hand. The Christian's confidence comes from the very Judge himself who sits upon the throne. That Judge is Jesus Christ himself. But before he would sit to judge men, he came into the world to die for them as their Saviour. To every one who receives him and accepts his salvation he gives the white stone ( Revelation 2:17 ), the token of acceptance and pardon. He becomes their High Priest, their Advocate with the Father. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." In Christ ! What a sense of security that brings with it! In Christ! Not till we stand before the great white throne, and our names are found written in the Lamb's book of life, shall we fully realize what that means. In Christ! That was Paul's great wish for himself. "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him." In Christ! Yes. Jesus is the Ark, into which we may betake ourselves from the dangers of temptation and destruction. He is the City of Refuge, to which we may flee from death, the avenger of blood. He is the sure Foundation, on which we may build with perfect confidence all our hopes for eternity. He is the Rock, in the clefts of which we may hide ourselves, and feel that all that concerns us is safe. Your pledge of safety at the judgment-day is the character and promise of the Judge himself. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." " I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day"' Let it not be said that this confidence leads to carelessness; that because we are delivered from condemnation, therefore it does not matter how we live. The verses which follow the declaration that there is no condemnation are the answer to this suggestion. "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. " ( verses 3, 4). No true Christian ever thought or acted as if, because he was delivered from condemnation, he was thenceforth free to commit sin. If we are Christ's, we have no longer a guilty fear of death and condemnation, but we have a filial fear that shrinks from offending and grieving our heavenly Father. We are constrained by the love of Christ in our hearts to love what he loves, and to hate what he hates. We are constrained by a feeling of gratitude. We have been bought with a price; therefore we will strive to glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are his. We have the hope of heaven in our hearts; and therefore we seek to walk worthy of our high calling, to purify ourselves, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. So far from being a motive to carelessness, the Christian's safety in Christ is the grandest motive to holiness and usefulness of life.

II. THE PREPARATION OF THE CHRISTLESS . At the judgment-day there will be just two classes—those whose names are found written in the Lamb's book of life, and those whose names are not there; the Christian and the Christless; those who are "in Christ," and those who are not. Many are relying upon their moral life, though it may be utterly worldly and godless, as their hope for eternity. But whatever human expectations may be, God's Word makes it very plain how it will fare on the judgment-day with all who are out of Christ. It is not the fault of God the Father. He so loved the world that he gave his own Son for our salvation. It is not the fault of the Son. Christ says, "I am come that ye might have life." It is not the fault of the Spirit, who is constantly striving with us. If Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, surely it is clear that there is no salvation in any other. "He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God" ( John 3:18 ).—C.H.I.

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