11. How No One is Righteous or Can Truly Be Said to Live in Comparison with God.
First let us look at the words, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” That is equivalent to saying that He is not the God of sinners but of saints. For it was a great gift to the Patriarchs that God in place of His own name should add their name to His own designation as God, as Paul says, 4706 “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” He is the God, therefore, of the fathers and of all the saints; it might be hard to find a passage to the effect that God is the God of any of the wicked. If, then, He is the God of the saints, and is said to be the God of the living, then the saints are the living and the living are saints; neither is there any saint outside the living, nor when any one is called living is the further implication absent that in addition to his having life he is a holy one. Near akin to this is the lesson to be drawn from the saying, 4707 “I shall be well pleasing to the Lord in the land of the living.” The good pleasure of the Lord, he appears to say, is in the ranks of the saints, or in the place of the saints, and it is there that he hopes to be. No one pleases God well who has not entered the rank of the saints, or the place of the saints; and to that place every one must come who has assumed beforehand, as it were in this life, the shadow and image of true God-pleasing. The passage which declares that before God no living being shall be justified shows that in comparison with God and the righteousness that is in Him none, even of the most finished saints, will be justified. We might take a parable from another quarter and say that no candle can give light before the sun, not that the candle will not give light, only it will not when the sun outshines it. In the same way every “living” will be justified, only not before God, when it is compared with those who are below and who are in the power of darkness. To them the light of the saints will shine. Here, perhaps, we have the key to the meaning of that verse: 4708 “Let your light shine before men.” He does not say, Let your light shine before God; had he said so he would have given a commandment impossible of fulfilment, as if he had bidden those lights which have souls to let their light shine before the sun. It is not only, therefore, the ordinary mass of the living who will not be justified before God, but even those among the living who are distinguished above the rest, or, to put it more truly, the whole righteousness of the living will not be justified before God, as compared with the righteousness of God, as if I were to call together all the lights which shine on the earth by night, and to say that they could not give light in comparison with the rays of the sun. We rise from these considerations to a higher level when we take the words before our minds, “I live, saith the Lord.” Life, in the full sense of the word, especially after what we have been saying on the subject, belongs perhaps to God and none but Him. Is this the reason why the Apostle, after speaking of the supreme excellency of the life of God and being led to the highest expression about it, says about God (showing in this a true understanding of that saying, “I live, saith the Lord”); “who only hath immortality.” 4709 No living being besides God has life free from change and variation. Why should we be in further doubt? Even Christ did not share the Fathers immortality; for He “tasted death for every man.”
Heb. xi. 16.333:4707
Ps. cxvi. 9.333:4708
Matt. v. 16.333:4709
1 Tim. iv. 16.