THE TRAGIC RESULT OF MISINTERPRETING TWO VERSES

THE TRAGIC RESULT OF MISINTERPRETING TWO VERSES Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Because of a misinterpretation of the Apostle Paul's doctrine of grace, the Christians in America, for the most part, have no moral laws to which they subscribe. They have been taught that salvation under the new covenant is a covering of our behavior in God's eyes so when we commit sin, God see the righteousness of Christ in us. When we lie, God sees the truthfulness of Christ in us. We should know there is something wrong with this doctrine, but we don't. The result has been the destruction of the Christian testimony in America.

THE TRAGIC RESULT OF MISINTERPRETING TWO VERSES

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:4,5)

Romans, Chapter Four, verses four and five, have been misinterpreted. The result has been the moral decline of the United States of America. This may lead to the end of the leadership role of our country.

It used to be said the sun never set on the British Empire. This no longer is true. England today is largely confined to her small island and could not be considered a leader of the nations of the world. Why? My opinion is that this once superbly Christian nation has experienced severe moral decline. The nation that previously gave us some of the greatest of the world’s writers is now famous for its rock groups.

It is said of America today that it is the leading nation of the world. Unless God chooses to send a massive wave of repentance, the handwriting is on the wall. America is finished as major player on the world scene; especially if a nation arises that enforces godly behavior.

Why is this happening to America? It is because of sin. Behavior that is acceptable today, and even protected by law, would have caused a public outcry a hundred years ago. We do not realize the depths to which we have sunk, with the entertainment industry leading the way.

In the Western nations, at least, the principles of moral behavior are commonly taken from the Bible. We might say that the Christian churches bear the prime responsibility for pointing toward what is right and what is wrong.

But the churches have fallen down on the job. Why is this? It is because wrong doctrine is being preached. It is commonly asserted that we are saved by faith alone and that our behavior is not a critical aspect of our salvation. Because this teaching, which may have a strong Lutheran flavor, has permeated the major Evangelical organizations, many assemblings seem to have lost their moral compass.

One can hear Sunday after Sunday about how we are saved by grace; how we are going to go to Heaven to live in mansions; how we are going to be raptured into Heaven to avoid the Great Tribulation; how Christians should be rich. Numerous other sidelines are pursued varying from church to church.

There is a strong emphasis on getting other people "saved." But the program of salvation seems to end once the individual has made a profession of faith, been baptized in water, and has joined our church. There is insufficient emphasis on moral transformation.

Perhaps not enough preachers are choosing passages of the Bible and explaining the meaning to their congregations. Instead there are topics that have social relevance and attract American people who want a more satisfactory life in this world.

How often do we hear "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus"?

My thinking is that all of this meandering in the current traditions springs from a lack of understanding of the program of moral transformation—its essential role in our salvation. When we do not grasp the true meaning of salvation, which is moral transformation, most of the text of the New Testament, from the Gospels to the Book of Revelation, becomes incomprehensible and irrelevant.

For example: the Apostle Paul stated that if we as a Christian continue to yield to our sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. What does this mean? What is the Kingdom of God? How does it differ from Heaven? How does it differ from eternal life? What did Paul mean when he said we will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

Does anybody know?

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)

What did the Lord Jesus mean when He taught that if we do not bear fruit we will be cut out of the Vine? If we are saved by faith apart from a change in our behavior, what did Jesus mean when He warned we would be cut out of the Vine? Does this signify we could at one time be a branch in Christ and then be removed from Christ? What does it mean to be cut off from Christ? What is the fruit to which the Lord referred?

Recently a minister of the Gospel attempted to prove this passage does not mean if we do not bear fruit we would lose our salvation. "You shall not surely die!"

Given the ceaseless barrage of the worldly, often sinful, media; and given the increasingly demonic spiritual atmosphere in which we are attempting to survive; it is no wonder that the moral light of the churches is flickering and about to go out altogether.

Due to the popularity of polling, we rapidly are changing from a republic led by men and women of principle into a democracy in which the leaders do what their public is demanding. If such is the case, and if the public is receiving little or no moral guidance from the Christian churches, then our government, including the Supreme Court, is going to pass and support laws which are not in keeping with the Bible.

God’s purpose in furnishing government is that His moral laws might be enforced. The government "bears not the sword in vain." When any government no longer enforces God’s principles of morality, that government will be replaced. You can count on that. God is still controlling His world!

We come then to the fundamental question: Why are the Christian churches no longer providing the moral light needed so desperately in the United States of America? Why is the emphasis on adding more and more converts, and then keeping them content with formulas for worldly success? Why are we neglecting the numerous New Testament passages that equate salvation with the moral transformation of the individual?

Let’s think a moment about the passage that can be interpreted to mean how we behave is not related critically to our salvation.

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:4,5)

From the above verses we deduce that how we behave is not critically important. Our task is to trust God to view our wicked behavior as righteous.

What do we conclude from this? We conclude that no matter how we behave, if we trust God He counts us as righteous. We are saved by faith alone.

We are defining "work" as efforts to earn righteousness.

This is clear, isn’t it? Even if we commit the wickedness of fornication seven days of the week, if we have faith in God, God views us as righteous.

This is a major premise of Christian thinking in our day. How radically it is applied may vary from church to church, but the poison of it has been sufficiently virulent to destroy the testimony of Christ in the United States.

Have we considered that such an interpretation is in direct conflict with other passages of Paul’s writings? More about this in a minute.

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:4,5)

Two words in the passage need to be defined. These are "faith" and "works."

"Faith" is not mental agreement with theological positions. "Works" is not speaking of righteous behavior, such as telling the truth.

"Faith" is a way of living in which we do not trust ourselves but walk humbly with God. Faith includes constant prayer as we look to the Lord for every detail of life and cooperate fully with the Holy Spirit.

"Works," as the Apostle Paul uses the term, is referring to the statutes of the Law of Moses, as found in Exodus through Deuteronomy. It may be noticed in several places in the Book of Romans that Paul is speaking to Jews and to those who have been taught by Jews.

Now let’s rewrite the passage in terms of our definitions and see how it can be interpreted:

"To the man who does not observe the statutes of the Law of Moses but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his humble walk with God, as he prays constantly, looks to the Lord for every detail of life, and cooperates fully with the Holy Spirit, is credited as righteousness."

This latter interpretation is in line with Paul’s other writings. The former interpretation contradicts Paul’s other writings.

We can proceed now to other passages in Romans and see what else Paul had to say about the Christian way of salvation.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18)

Paul is saying here that the Christian, having been declared righteous by his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, must choose to be a slave to sin or else a slave to righteous behavior.

No human being is the master of sin. Whoever sins is the slave of sin. We cannot maintain that we will be no one’s slave. To not be the slave of righteous behavior is to be the slave of sin. Slavery to sin leads the Christian to spiritual death. Slavery to righteous behavior, the conduct imposed on us by the Holy Spirit, leads the Christian to the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

This is a far cry from the consequences of the "faith alone" teaching.

What would the United States be like today if every believer was a slave to righteous behavior?

There is another passage in the Book of Romans which cannot surpassed for its succinct description of the Christian plan of salvation. Again we see that the interpretation of Romans, Four, verses four and five, to mean there is nothing we are to do but believe, is utterly destructive of God’s intention under the new covenant.

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4-6)

"You also died to the law through the body of Christ."

The "body of Christ" is referring to the physical body of Jesus Christ.

The Law of Moses stipulates that the soul that sins shall die. This principle can never be done away. The Lord Jesus kept the Law of Moses perfectly. He did not sin even one time.

This is the meaning of the expression "You also died to the law through the Body of Christ. By assigning ourselves to the cross with Jesus Christ, which we do in water baptism, we die to the Law of Moses. Now we live because we are part of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus. Christ has given us the eternal life He earned.

The Law has no authority over us because Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Law and we died and rose again with Him.

"That you might belong to another."

We did not die to the Law of Moses through the crucified body of Christ so we can go to Heaven when we die. We died to the Law of Moses so we may belong to Christ. What a different concept this is from the current teaching that we make a profession of belief in Christ so we will be saved and go to Heaven when we die.

Are American believers interested in belonging to Jesus Christ or are their hopes fastened on going to a mansion in Heaven? You be the judge.

"In order that we might bear fruit to God."

The above statement is extremely important if we are to understand our salvation.

We have not been set free from the Law of Moses and married to Jesus Christ so we can live as we please and still go to Heaven. We have been brought into union with Jesus Christ so we might bear fruit to God.

God is a Farmer. He is looking for fruit in the earth. The fruit God is looking for is the image of His Son: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, teachableness, self-control, and all the other characteristics of the moral Nature of Christ. This is what salvation is all about—it is moral transformation.

But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:8)

If we do not bear the fruit of the Spirit, but instead as a Christian exhibit hatred, misery, unrest, impatience, harshness, badness, treachery, arrogance, and lack of self-control, Christ will work with us patiently. If after a season there still is no change we will be removed from Christ. This is that God said.

Contrast this with the current poison derived from Paul’s righteous intentions in Romans 4:5,6. That poison announces to us, "You shall not surely die no matter how you behaved. Once you accept Christ you can never be lost."

Those who teach this claim if a person continues to sin, he or she never knew Christ in the first place. Which is to say, the only proof of salvation is righteous conduct. I would agree with this.

But Christ speaks of someone actually being a branch in the Vine, in Himself, and then being removed. Peter speaks of the individual who knew the ways of righteousness and then went back to his or her moral filth. The Apostle Paul tells the Christian people that if they continue to live according their sinful nature they will die spiritually, will reap destruction in the Day of Resurrection, and will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The Christian message in the United States of America is not in agreement with the New Testament. Are we going to get back on the right track so we begin to produce moral lights instead of spiritually apathetic churchgoers?

Paul goes on to say, in the seventh chapter of Romans, that by "dying to what once bound us," referring to the interaction of the Law of Moses and our sinful nature, we no longer are under the authority of the Law of Moses so we may "serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."

When we receive Jesus Christ as our Way of righteousness we pass from the authority of the Law of Moses. But we did not pass into the right to do what we please, as I am afraid is so often thought today. We now are to be in union with Jesus Christ at all times and to serve in the new way of the Spirit.

This is what is missing today—the concept of the "new way of the Spirit."

People are heard to say, "I am not under Law but under grace." By this they mean they do not gain righteousness by behaving righteously but by believing in the forgiveness of God.

They have misunderstood the Apostle Paul. They should say, "I am not under the Law of Moses but under the grace of God. The grace of God offers me a new way of the Spirit. I do not strive to keep the Law of Moses. I stay close to Christ and obey the Spirit of God. I also pray for strength to do what Christ and His Apostles have commanded. Now the righteous behavior I always have desired is coming forth in me."

If the United States is even to survive, let alone maintain its role of leadership, there must be a massive turning to God and to moral living. Is such a moral revolution possible? I am not certain.

I tell the young people in our church that if they manage to get the upper hand over their sinful nature and live the victorious Christian life, they will during their lifetime steer thousands of people toward the righteous behavior that Christ demands. People will glorify God when they see individuals who are living righteously according to what the New Testament teaches.

If, however, the Christian churches keep on teaching that all there is to the plan of salvation is belief in the facts concerning Jesus Christ, and willfully interpret Romans 4:4,5 to mean it is not critically important how we behave, I see little hope for the future of our country.

In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4)