Righteousness made possible.
G. Campbell Morgan on the gospel’s revelation of righteousness.
Reformation Day is right around the corner (this Sunday, in fact!), which means there will likely be a bevy of sermons on the solas and Reformation doctrine this weekend. (I pray there is, at least.) I, myself, am studying that great text in Romans 1:16–17, which spurred that German monk to stand against the authority of the papacy. I have such a fondness for Reformation history, and have come to find that era to be my favorite from which to glean theological and ministerial insights. The legacy of the Protestant Reformation is a fathomless well of affecting knowledge and applicability, inspiring none too few churchmen throughout the ages. For instance, the eminent orator G. Campbell Morgan has a delightful sermon on that same text in Romans 1, in which he spends a great deal of time elaborating on what the apostle means when he declares that the gospel is “the power of God into salvation.” He writes:
The declaration clearly means that the gospel reveals the fact that God places righteousness at the disposal of men who in themselves are unrighteous, that He makes it possible for the unrighteous man to become a righteous man. That is the exposition of salvation. Salvation is righteousness made possible. If you tell me that salvation is deliverance from hell, I tell you that you have an utterly inadequate understanding of what salvation is. If you tell me that salvation is forgiveness of sins, I shall affirm that you have a very partial understanding of what salvation is. Unless there be more in salvation Thant deliverance from penalty and forgiveness of transgressions, then I solemnly say that salvation cannot satisfy my own heart and conscience . . . mere forgiveness of sins and deliverance from some penalty cannot satisfy the profoundest in human consciousness. Deep down in the common human consciousness there is a wonderful response to that which is of God. Man may not obey it, but in the deeps of human consciousness there is a response to righteousness, an admission of its call, its beauty, its necessity. Salvation, then, is making possible that righteousness . . . In the gospel is revealed a righteousness of God, which, as the Apostle argues and makes quite plain as he goes on with his great letter, is a righteousness which is placed at the disposal of the unrighteous man so that the unrighteous man may become righteous in heart and thought and will and deed. (8:290–91)
This, indeed, is the good news. “Righteousness made possible,” accomplished “once for all” by God’s only Son and proffered to one and all on the basis of faith alone. This gospel bars no one from receiving it. There is no other requirement but to repent and believe. And upon the moment of belief — that very instant — righteousness is conferred. That’s worth a hearty “Amen.”
Grace and peace.
G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit: The Preaching of G. Campbell Morgan, Vols. 1-10 (Fincastle, VA: Scripture Truth Book Co., 1954).