I've been reading this wonderful last volume in Dr Lloyd-Jones series in Romans - that I got for my birthday - and was amazed to read his commentary on Romans 14:7; "The Kingdom of God ... is righteousness, peace and joy". His comments on "righteousness" are right at the end of the volume and they are so similar to Rob Rufus's wonderful teaching on righteousness that one might almost think that they are the same people.
I don't know why but I always feel like Christianity sees Rob Rufus as a bit of an "extrem-ist". That his teaching on New Covenant grace is "dangerous" and nigh-on antinomian. I am sure that Rob himself receives far more vicious attacks than I can even dream of from Christians. But what shouldn't really shock me is that Rob is so careful to unpack his teaching from the New Testament and yet why are those of us who he has persuaded on grace feeling like we have to defend ourselves?
Listen to this selection of quotes from Dr Lloyd-Jones:
"Christians are people who have been declared righteous by God, who know that justification is by faith only, and that God 'justifieth the ungodly' (Romans 4:5). They believe all Paul's arguments in the first five chapters of Romans. This is how Christians think of righteousness; not little details here and there but this whole matter of their standing before God and the declaration of God that He "accounts" them as righteous".
Twice Dr Lloyd-Jones mentions the "declaration" of God. We - formerly sinners - have been "declared" righteous! So why are Christians so generally unaware of this "declaration"? If we had to go through the gruelling experience of being in court but yet hearing the exhilaration of the judge declaring - "Not guilty!". Surely we would remember that moment for the rest of our lives? Yet here God the Just - the ruler of heaven and earth - has declared the same - "Not guilty!". So WHY does most of Christianity act as if we are?
Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on to add that it is not just a "declaration" but that we are "clothed".
"Not only that, Christians believe that they have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that God has put this "robe of righteousness upon them" (Isaiah 61:10). They know they have been born again, 'born of the Spirit'. They now belong to the realm of righteousness, whereas before they did not".
So when God looks at us - He sees us as clothed in Jesus Christ's righteousness and there is none more perfect or acceptable than the Son of God! Now most Christians would say they do not have a problem with the justification issue. Most will accept and admit that we are justified by faith and when we accept Christ as our Saviour, we are indeed clothed in His righteousness. It seems to me that the problem comes when we talk about sanctification.
That's when the law seems to creep in along with discussions about spiritual disciplines, attempts to be "more righteous", the whole issue of indwelling sin and the "old man". Dr Lloyd-Jones makes an excellent point on this matter:
"Here is a man who has a conception of righteousness; he wants to be rid of everything that is wrong; he wants to be wholly right, he is interested in holiness".
That is Rob Rufus's key point when it comes to sanctification and it seems to me that's where the issue of divide comes. Many Christians who criticise Rob Rufus and the danger of "a license to sin" seem to be of the opinion that Christians by and large want to sin. Or more often - "My old man wants to sin". But Dr Lloyd-Jones insists that a man who has a conception of righteousness "wants" to be rid of everything that is wrong! He "wants" to be wholly right!
I have to say for myself - I am by far from being perfect. I sin and fall and make mistakes pretty regularly. I've been a first-class legalist and tried all manner of things to "stop sinning" - even to the extent of cutting myself (rather like the priests of Baal), going to self-help Christian groups and talking about how hard it is. But nothing has worked! Yet despite all that - I have always, ALWAYS had the deep agony that I want to be rid of everything that is wrong. I WANT to be right! So this quote of Dr Lloyd-Jones is a huge encouragement to me. I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ because I want to be rid of sin!
I find Lloyd-Jones final comment quite interesting and am not quite sure what to make of it:
"Do you see the point? The righteous are unconcious of their righteousness. That is the glory of their whole position. I trust I am making this clear to you. Christians are righteous in themselves because they have been brought into the kingdom of God and the realm of righteousness".
I'm thinking aloud here. If we went and spoke to non-Christians and asked; "Are you aware that you are unrighteous?" - I wonder what they would say. Unrighteousness of course is a Christian term. But if we explained the concept as clearly as Christians seek to understand righteousness - would they really be "concious" of the daily experience of being unrighteous and far from God? I doubt it. So does it make sense that we too as Christians are unaware of our righteousness? Thinking of the Old Covenant foresights - the blood on the outside of the house in the land of Egypt - was on the OUTSIDE. I am sure the Israelites wondered if the blood would suffice as the angel of death passed over. But the blood was on the outside - just as the righteousness we are clothed in, is on the OUTSIDE.
I hope that these quotes bring a degree of amazing authenticity to what Rob Rufus is saying and preaching. He isn't just some radical who is trying to bring license to sin. Rob is a serious man with a serious heart for the Church world-wide. And his vision is that if we would understand our true standing clothed in the righteousness of God then we would see it as a dramatic step. Rob said this in a recent sermon:
"The devil is not attacking us for the grace message - he's attacking us for where the grace message will take us. He understands that the revelation of grace is the access into the 10/10 glory. Out of the control spirit. Out of guilt. Out of condemnation, fear, rejection and into a constant sense of God is for us, no matter what".
Let's make every effort to be Berean-like and not dismiss teaching just because it disagrees with our experience of the past. Our one unifying heart - across the world - is that we become more like God. Surely our interest must be the best and most biblical way to do that! And while I know that Dr Lloyd-Jones and Rob Rufus may disagree on many issues - I am so thrilled that here on this most important of issues, they stand as one!