Copyright © 1999 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

* * *

Does God regard us as righteous on the basis of believing in Him? Or on the basis of righteous behavior? Or both? God counted Abraham’s belief as righteousness, and Paul used this as an example of righteousness apart from keeping the Law of Moses. But we have not understood Paul. When God gives us a promise (as He did for Abraham), we must believe it, and God will regard us as righteous. When God gives us a command (and the New Testament contains many), we must obey it, and God will regard us as righteous.

Table of Contents

Belief and Righteousness
Promises and Commandments


Belief and Righteousness

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5,6)
What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. (Romans 4:3,4)

God spoke to Abraham concerning the miracle God was going to do concerning Abraham’s seed. Abraham, who had no children at the time, believed God. God counted Abraham’s belief as righteousness.

Paul uses this incident to prove God may choose to declare a person righteous solely on the basis of belief, there being no accompanying works of righteousness. Righteousness through belief in God’s Word is the foundation of Christian theology. But have we really understood what Paul meant?

Paul was speaking to Jews, or to those who were acquainted with the Law of Moses. This is evident in chapters three through five of Romans. (When Paul speaks of the “law”, he is referring to the Law of Moses.)

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20)

And especially in chapter seven. Chapter seven is addressed to the righteous Jew who was troubled because, while he wanted to keep the Law, he was unable to do so because of the law of sin in his body. The law of sin is the interaction of our sinful nature with the Law of Moses, forcing us to sin against our will.

Do you not know, brothers — for I am speaking to men who know the law — that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1)

It is impossible to understand the book of Romans or the book of Galatians until we picture ourselves as a Jewish person who is striving to attain righteousness by keeping the Law of Moses. When Paul spoke of “works”, he was addressing Jews and referring to the works of the Law of Moses. We Gentiles have perverted the doctrine of grace preached by the Apostle Paul because we think of works as upright behavior, not as the observance of the statutes of Moses.

Therefore, “the righteous shall live by faith” is interpreted by Gentile Christians as meaning “We are righteous as long as we believe what God has said, independently of how we behave.” Our conclusion is supported by Paul’s use of Abraham and the ascribing of righteousness to him on the basis of his belief in the promise of God.

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5,6)

Are you with me thus far? If you are acquainted with the New Testament, you know about the many commandments issued by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. You also know that several times in the Gospels and the Epistles, you are warned of dire consequences if you do not do what the Lord said.

But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:45,46)
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

The Christian teaching of today is unscriptural. We are using the arguments of Paul, which were directed against the commandment-keeping Jews, to mean we Gentiles are saved by belief alone. Yet the New Testament teaches clearly in many passages that righteous behavior is the very essence of salvation. Then we say we believe in the full inspiration of the Bible. Are we not inconsistent?

There are a few explanations that seek to reconcile our belief in lawless grace with the warnings of the New Testament concerning sinful behavior. But they all add up to one thing: we are removing many verses of the New Testament, declaring they do not apply to Christians because we are “saved by grace.”

We ought to know better. We have removed the power of righteousness from the Word of God. Consequently, the moral condition of the United States of America, in time past regarded as a “Christian nation,” is such that moslems regard us as “Satan.” They have a basis for referring to us as Satan, because our nation reveals the person and works of Satan far, far more than it does the Person and works of Jesus of Nazareth.

Paul declared that Abraham was considered righteous on the basis of his belief in God’s promise, apart from any actual works of righteous behavior. Paul was saying a Jew can be righteous by belief in God’s promise through Jesus Christ apart from obeying the statutes of Moses.

The conclusion of us Gentiles is that we can be righteous apart from godly living; not apart from obeying the statutes of Moses but apart from godly living. There can be a difference in kind between godly living, as we Gentiles view godly living, and obeying the statutes of Moses concerning circumcision, the kosher laws, and observing the various feast days.

Have we drawn the correct conclusion? Obviously not, in view of the numerous exhortations to righteous behavior found in the New Testament.

Where is the problem located?

The problem, the area of misunderstanding, is located in what is meant by attaining righteousness by “works.” More to the point, it has to do with our very approach to God.

The individual who is seeking righteousness by observing the Law of Moses is acting blindly, not in faith toward God. He is devout. He wants to be righteous. So he masters the points of the Law of Moses and sets out to obey them apart from a sensitivity to the immediate attitude or will of God. It is a blind earning of merit by obeying the kosher laws, the Sabbath, circumcision, the feast days, the purification bath, and so forth.

He is not living by faith. He is living by obeying a set of rules. Yet the righteous shall live by faith in God, not by a set of rules.

Faith is moment by moment interaction with the living God. The purpose of the commandments, both Old Testament and New, is to bring us to this interaction.

Before a Jew can receive Christ and walk in the Spirit, he must realize that he is no longer bound to obey the statutes of Moses. The atoning blood of the Lord Jesus has declared him righteous.

It is at this point that the destructive error is made.

The Jew has come out from the Law of Moses. But there is another law he must enter if he is to be considered righteous in the sight of God. He must — he absolutely must — follow the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God takes the place of the Law of Moses. If the believer does not follow the Spirit of God, he does not remain without condemnation. He is living in disobedience.

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)

Abraham believed God when He gave him a stupendous promise. God counted Abraham’s belief as a righteous act. When God gives us a promise and we believe it, God counts this as righteousness. Whenever we respond in obedience to God, in love for God, in faith toward God, our obedience or love or faith is counted as righteousness.

In the book of Romans, the singling out of the response of belief is because of the blind adherence to the Law of Moses that was prevalent, not because mental belief is the only acceptable response to God. Paul was pressing the idea that the Jew could turn away from Moses and put his faith in Jesus Christ and still be counted righteous. But the major part of Paul’s writings concerns righteous behavior, not with the response of mental belief.

The reason I say “mental belief” is that true belief, which is a loving, faithful response to God, always is followed by behavior of some sort. It is a belief from the heart. “If you believe in your heart.” True belief never remains as a static mental acceptance of facts God has stated.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:10)

Throughout the Bible we see that numerous responses make up faith, not just belief in Divine promises. Faith always is based on the Divine promise. But sooner or later the promise calls for more than static belief.

Can you see the awesome distinction here?

For example, God gave Abraham a staggering promise. There was nothing Abraham could do about it at the time except believe it. Therefore the appropriate response was belief. Appropriate responses to the living God always place righteousness to our account.

Later God spoke to Abraham:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)

Now the Lord was calling for blameless behavior on Abraham’s part. In order to continue in a state of righteousness, Abraham would need to live blamelessly. Suppose Abraham had thought: “Since God credited me with righteousness because I believed His promise concerning my descendants, all I have to do is believe that God told me to live blamelessly. I do not actually have to behave blamelessly, just believe God said it.” Do you think God would issue righteousness to Abraham if he did not walk blamelessly before God, only believed that God had told him to walk blamelessly?

This is exactly what we are doing today. Instead of realizing Paul was making it possible for the Jew to look up from blind adherence to the Law of Moses and place his faith in what God was now doing, we are concluding that God only requires our mental assent to the facts concerning the atonement and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We really are doing the same thing the Jews were doing. We are trying to develop a formula that does not require a daily response to the living God. The formula the Jews used to avoid looking constantly to God for His will and direction was to diligently adhere to the letter of the Law. The formula we Gentiles use to avoid looking constantly to God for His will and direction is to maintain that we hold a right belief concerning Christ and therefore we are “righteous by faith.”

We have lost the Presence of God in America by doing this.

God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed God by doing what was commanded. Abraham could not merely believe God had spoken to him. He had to get up in the morning and bring Isaac to the place of sacrifice. It was not enough to just believe God had spoken to him.

So it is with us. There is a time when God says, “Only believe.” The only correct response is to believe.” When we do this, apart from any adherence to a moral code of conduct, we are held to be righteous in God’s sight.

But there are times when the Lord directs us to do something, either in His written Word or by personal revelation. Then the appropriate response is not belief; it is the indicated action. In fact, genuine belief requires that we take the indicated action. Only then are we held to be righteous.

Hebrews chapter 11 is a long, graphic definition of “the just shall live by faith.” Most if not all of the appropriate responses outlined in this chapter are actions rather than mental assent. Faith is shown to be action based on the promises of God, not merely belief in the promises of God.

Several times in the Gospels, Jesus told us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:23). Christ issued many commandments, especially through His Apostles. They are things we must do. If we don’t do them, with the Lord’s help (which is His grace), we do not have saving faith. We have a mental belief in the promises of the New Testament, but we do not have the saving faith that directs us to do what is written.

Because of this monumental error of interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s doctrine of Divine grace, the Christian churches, in many instances, are void of the Spirit of God or else lurching out wildly in unscriptural directions, trying to develop a program God will endorse.

We must learn to wait. There are times when the righteous response is to wait on the Lord for His direction, even if the time of waiting extends to many years. Even though we are not out trying to save the world while we are waiting, we are credited with righteousness. Why? Because we are obeying God. The correct response is to wait, and it is the correctness of the response that brings righteousness.

Then there are times when the Lord tells us to get busy because the time is short. Then we must keep looking to the Lord for strength and wisdom so our efforts are precisely what He desires. Our response is to act, and we act in obedience to His will. Therefore, righteousness is ascribed to us. It would not be ascribed to us if we did not act when He told us to, but we kept on waiting instead.

It is the response to God that brings righteousness, not the fact that we believed without doing anything.

We cannot add to the marvelous salvation that has come to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot add one drop to it. But we must work it out. The correct response, the response that brings righteousness, is to work out our salvation. How do we work it out? By looking to God day and night for His Presence, His will.

The Lord Jesus told us in John chapter 14 that He would come to us and not to the world. He was not speaking here of His descent in glory when every eye would see Him. Rather, He was speaking of His coming to us personally to prepare us to be with Him where He always is, that is, in the center of the Person of the Father.

I do not know about past eras, but I do know the Lord is coming today to each Christian who is performing His will. He is very real today. All we need to do is to look up to Him with a pure heart, desiring His will, and sooner or later He becomes real to us. Look up to Jesus right now, and see if you do not become aware of His Presence.

But you always must do what He commands. True faith, as we have said, is our response to the immediate will of God for our life.

The Lord has a present truth for every generation. Today in America the Lord Jesus is standing at the door of our heart. He wants to come in and drive out the moneychangers, so to speak. He wants to drive out our love for the evil world-spirit. He wants to drive out our slavery to the bondages of sin in our flesh and soul. He wants to drive out our self-will and self-love until our will is in total agreement with His will.

We now are in the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish convocations of Blowing of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. We are moving past the Jewish convocation of Pentecost.

As we look continually to the Lord Jesus, He tells us what He wants us to do right now. If it is to wait, we wait. If it is to put on a big Gospel meeting, we put on a big Gospel meeting. If our response is one of faith as demonstrated by what we do, God will count us righteous. Thus we are righteous by faith and not by any given code of behavior.

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:8,9)

“A righteousness of my own that comes from the law.”

Notice in the passage above that when Paul is speaking of having a righteousness of his own, he is referring to the Law of Moses, not to godly behavior which is what we Gentiles would think of when reading of Paul having a righteousness of his own.

There is a big difference between thinking of a righteousness of our own as being not eating pork, and thinking of a righteousness of our own as telling the truth. The first is of the Law of Moses, which has been done away in Christ. The second is of the eternal moral law of God, which is never done away. The eternal moral law existed before the Law of Moses and will endure forever.

When Paul spoke of the “law” (the Law of Moses), he was usually referring to the ceremonial and dietary laws, not the eternal moral law of God, which includes truthfulness, honesty, avoiding sex outside of marriage, and so on.

It is not that our telling the truth earns righteousness. It is that as we walk in the Spirit of God, we learn to tell the truth. Thus telling the truth is not a means of earning salvation; rather, it is an evidence that we are abiding in Christ. However, now that the Lord Jesus Christ has come, refraining from eating pork is not an evidence that we are abiding in Christ. Can you see the difference? The difference is at the heart of the error in Christian thinking.

If we read the context of Philippians 3:8,9 (above) to see what Paul meant by living according to the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith instead of by the Law of Moses, we do not find anything resembling what we mean today by “living by faith instead of works.” Rather we find a life lived in the Presence of Christ, a life in which all accomplishments not wrought in Christ are regarded as garbage, a life lived in the power of Christ’s resurrection, a life lived in the sharing of the sufferings of Christ.

This is not what we mean today by “the righteous shall live by faith.” We are unscriptural. We have destroyed the Christian churches with our incorrect understanding of the Apostle Paul’s doctrine of salvation by faith.

We should have known we were off the track when we read the words of Jesus Christ and His Apostles concerning righteous behavior. But we were willing to ignore all these commandments, or apply them to the Jews, or to another “dispensation.” We have made the commandments of Jesus Christ null and void with our faulty reasonings.

We have destroyed the Great Commission, which is to go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey the commandments of Christ. Instead, we go into all the world and build churches, telling our converts that they do not have to keep the commandments of Christ because they are “saved by grace.”

The expression “saved by grace and not by works,” when used by the Apostle Paul, always refers to the works of the Law of Moses — observing the ceremonial and dietary laws. Paul’s commission from the Lord was to make the transition from the Law of Moses to the salvation which is in Jesus Christ.

It is absolutely true that we can transfer Paul’s argument to the code of conduct of any religion. We cannot save ourselves by ignoring the Presence of the living God and following any code of behavior. Righteousness always comes to us as we find out what God wants for the moment and do it. It is our response that is at issue. It is not whether we make an effort to live righteously that is at issue, it is our response to God that is at issue.

Sometimes the proper response is to just believe Christ has borne our sins on the cross. Sometimes the proper response is to put the sins of our body to death through the Holy Spirit. Neither response will bring righteousness if it is not what the Lord is leading us to do at any given moment. We cannot earn our salvation, but we must work it out. If we do not work it out, we are not considered righteous, because we are not responding to God the way he wants us to.

There is a hue and cry in America concerning “legalism.” Whoever is instructing God’s people in righteousness is considered a “legalist.” Let us look closely at this for a moment. On the television and Internet of our day there is much moral filthiness being portrayed. Now I ask you: Should a pastor warn the young people to not watch such works of Satan or should he not? Is he being a legalist when he warns them not to fill their minds with the antics of demons? What is your answer? Should he or should he not tell them it is not the will of Christ that they watch such filth, and that if they do they are not disciples of Jesus, not genuine Christians?

What does the Bible say?

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (II Corinthians 7:1)

The issue is joined at this point. If we realize the Apostle of Christ exhorted us to purify ourselves from moral filth, and to bring our personality and behavior to a state of holiness, are we bound to do this or not?

What is the correct response? Is it to claim “I am saved because I believe the promise that whoever receives Christ will be saved, even though I ignore the commandments of Christ and His Apostles”? Is this the appropriate response that will bring righteousness to us? Or should we view the appropriate response to be to pray to God to help us develop holiness of personality and behavior?

The major Christian stance today, if I am correct, is to say, “You should do what the Apostle says; but if you do not you still will go to Heaven ‘by grace.’”

So the issue boils down to what is meant by “grace.” If by grace we mean God overlooks our behavior because we have believed the promise of God, in the same manner that Abraham received righteousness by believing the promise of God, then we have misunderstood the Apostle Paul.

How do you think John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul, John, Jude, the writer of the book of Hebrews, would regard the pastor who refused to warn his young people that they should not participate in the moral filth of the American society because they are “saved by grace?” I’ll tell you how they would react. They would say:

  • “You are totally deceived!”
  • “You are wresting the teaching of Paul to your own destruction!”
  • “Your common sense should tell you that God is holy and if we would walk with God we must be holy!”
  • “You are leading the flock to destruction!”
  • “You are disobeying Christ, revealing that you do not love Him. You are attempting to make God’s Word a means of justifying the works of the devil!?
  • “You are turning the grace of God into an excuse for immorality?”
  • “You are sowing to your flesh and you certainly shall reap corruption in the day of Christ!”

Can you imagine John the Baptist, Christ, or Paul sitting and watching a situation comedy from Hollywood? If you can, you do not know the Lord or His witnesses. You may be a member of the Christian religion, but you assuredly do not know the Lord.

The Apostle James warned us against the concept of being justified by faith alone. He pointed to the obedience of Abraham when he offered up Isaac as being just as much a means of justification as was true of Abraham’s belief in the promise of God.

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:21)

We ought always to believe the promises of God, no matter how awesome and wonderful. This is a righteous action.

We ought always to obey the Word of God, no matter how demanding it may prove to be. We have access to the Mercy Seat in Heaven (grace) when we need help in keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. Such obedience also brings righteousness to us.

The Lord is telling us Christians in America to turn back to Him and begin to keep His commandments, realizing we have been deceived. We have been deluded into thinking God will have fellowship with wickedness. We have left the ways of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God. We have forsaken the old paths in favor of the abominable “dispensation of grace” doctrine which teaches that God no longer requires righteous behavior of His people.

We need at this point to return to common sense. Many who teach the philosophy of Dispensationalism are dedicated Christians who know that God does not accept wicked behavior. They are godly people. Yet their teaching is not in accord with their basic sense of God’s insistence on righteous, holy behavior. Without intending to, they are compromising the Word of Christ, leaving their congregations with the impression that even though they are living lukewarm lives, they are still ready to go to Heaven in a “rapture.” They are not pointing out the fiery Nature of the God of Israel. They are not bearing a true witness of His Person and ways. They are placating the disinterested, careless, pleasure-loving, lukewarm American armchair-Christians. That is just what they are — armchair Christians.

If someone were to tell them they cannot be Christ’s disciple (a genuine Christian) unless they deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus on the thorny way that leads to life, enduring hardship as good soldiers, they would flee from the assembly. They would find a pastor who is willing to comfort them with the unscriptural idea that Jesus is accepting them no matter how they behave because they are saved by grace. They ought to do what is right, but if they don’t, they are going up to Heaven by grace at any moment now.

This is false, destructive, unscriptural teaching.

We who are leaders have destroyed God’s Church. Judgment hovers over the United States of America because of our worldliness, our yielding to the lusts of our flesh and soul, and our self-will.

Perhaps if we turn to God now and begin to keep His commandments, God will come and give us righteous government and heal our land.

But if we do not turn away from our wicked way, humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, our nation is going to suffer judgment until we are humbled completely in the sight of the other nations of the world. I think we are going to have much trouble in the days to come (I am writing this on February 23, 1999). The purpose of the trouble, whatever form it takes, is to turn us to God

But if we do not learn from the fiery judgments that come upon us, then the United States of America will be reduced to a fourth-class nation, that is, if we survive at all.

The Lord Jesus loves us, but we are not keeping His commandments. We are showing Him by our actions that we do not love Him. As many as He loves, He rebukes and chastens. Let’s you and I turn now to the Lord and start obeying His commandments in the New Testament, as He gives us the grace to do so. In so doing, we might save ourselves and our loved ones while the flames of judgment fall on the rebellious.

Now let’s consider the subject of belief and righteousness in a slightly different manner, that is, in terms of belief in the promises and obedience to the commandments.

Promises and Commandments

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

The bedrock of Christian doctrine is justification by faith, that is, the accrediting of righteousness to us because of our belief that God is faithful to fulfill His promise. What we must come to know is that while the proper response to the Divine promises is belief, the proper response to the Divine commandments is obedience. It is not the belief or the obedience that brings righteousness; it is our response to what God is speaking to us at the time.

Righteousness comes to us when we believe the promise of God at the appropriate time. Everything else of the Kingdom comes to us when we obey the commandment of God at the appropriate time. There is a tremendous need today for the Christians in America to know the importance of keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.

Abram believed the fantastic promise made to him. As a result of his belief, God ascribed righteousness to Abram.

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars — if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5,6)

One of our major Christian doctrines, derived from Paul’s Epistle to the saints in Rome, is that we go to Heaven primarily on the basis of our belief in the promise of God. Obedience to the commandments of Christ and His Apostles is not viewed as essential to our salvation. (Can you imagine!) Without going into a lengthy explanation, we might point out that nowhere in the New Testament is there found a promise that we will go to Heaven if we believe Jesus is our Savior. The goal is not Heaven!

However, it certainly is true that Paul emphasizes the importance of our not seeking righteousness by obeying the statutes of Moses, but by believing in God and in His Son Jesus Christ who died on the cross to make an atonement for our sins.

The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness — for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

There is no question in my mind that we have greatly overemphasized the role of belief in the promise as being the only really important aspect of the Christian salvation. This overemphasis is uncomfortably close to the first-century heresy of Gnosticism — the philosophy that teaches salvation is primarily a matter of knowledge.

I think we need to know that while Divine promises are to be believed, Divine commandments are to be obeyed. We show our love for the Lord Jesus by keeping His commandments. This clearly is scriptural. It appears the moral strength of the Christian churches in America has been destroyed by the one-sided emphasis on belief to the neglect of the importance of obedience to the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.

Let’s think for a moment about Abraham.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)

And notice:

I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.” (Genesis 26:4,5)

God blessed Isaac because Abraham “kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws,” not because Abraham merely believed the promise of God.

What if Abraham had declared that he believed God wanted him to conduct himself in a blameless manner, but that he was righteous already because he previously had believed the promise of God and had been declared righteous, and therefore he was not obligated to obey God’s commandment? Would God still regard him as righteous? I think not! Yet, this is the pattern in too many instances in our day. It is taught that we do not need to keep God’s commandments in because we have already been declared righteous because of our belief in Christ, and the next stop is Heaven. How totally, absurdly unscriptural!

But let’s proceed.

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:15-18)
  • Abraham received blessing, not because he believed but because he obeyed.
  • Abraham received fruitfulness, not because he believed but because he obeyed.
  • Abraham received dominion over his enemies, not because he believed but because he obeyed.
  • Abraham received the ability to minister the blessing of the Spirit of God to other people, not because he believed but because he obeyed.

Blessing, fruitfulness, dominion, and the ability to communicate the Spirit of God were the result of obedience, not of belief, as is true today.

Why then did the Apostle Paul single out one aspect of the Kingdom of God — righteousness and the role of belief in the Divine promise as the means of obtaining righteousness — and then ignore all the other aspects of the Kingdom of God that Abraham obtained by obedience?

The reason is, Paul was addressing Jews. They were gaining righteousness by obeying the Law of Moses. In order to start them on the program of salvation, they had to be persuaded they could be righteous apart from keeping the Law of Moses — a tremendous issue with them.

However, when considering Paul’s teaching concerning obtaining righteousness by belief, we are speaking only of three chapters in the book of Romans. The rest of Paul’s writings contain numerous commandments — none of which can be ignored without affecting our salvation. We must obey Christ and His Apostles if we expect to enter the Kingdom of God.

Belief has its role. So does obedience to the commandments. We cannot emphasize the one and ignore the other and expect God to be pleased with us. This should be clear to anyone who has studied the New Testament.

Now, we know righteousness can come by believing the promises of God. But righteousness can come also by obeying the commandments of God.

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:22,23)

“His faith was made complete by what he did” — by what he did!

We see that righteousness comes by obeying God. What else comes by obeying God?

We already have mentioned blessing, fruitfulness, dominion, and the ability to communicate Divine Life. But there are other results of obedience to the commandments.

  • The rewards to the overcomer.
  • The new man in the image of Christ, as we choose to be the servant of righteous behavior.
  • Entrance into the rest of God as we do God’s works rather than our own works.

Let’s consider the rewards to the overcomer. The rewards to the overcomer are found in Revelation chapters 2-3. To my knowledge, none of these rewards is obtained on the basis of belief alone. Overcoming begins with belief but is accomplished by the necessary behavior.

To give you an idea of what Christ said about how to gain the rewards that we usually associate with the Christian salvation, notice the following. Each statement is taken from Revelation chapters 2-3.

  • “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”
  • “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
  • “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.”
  • “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”

The above quotations are characteristic of the Words of Christ as He describes what He means by “overcoming.” Today, some are teaching that all we must do to overcome is believe the theological facts concerning Christ. This obviously is not scriptural.

But what does obedience have to do with forming the new man in the image of Christ?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

First, we must believe God is able to change us into the moral image (and finally the bodily image) of Christ.

Then there are things we must do. Just believing this central promise of salvation is not sufficient to bring the fulfillment.

After believing God can and will change us, we must choose to be the servant of righteousness rather than of sin.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

Can you see from the above passage that we have a decision to make concerning how we behave?

Some will say, “This is all well and good, but even if we do not choose to offer ourselves to God in this manner, we still will be saved.”

They are incorrect. Paul’s conclusion in the last two verses of Romans chapter 6 is that if we as a Christian do not choose to be the servant of righteousness, we shall die spiritually. Paul repeats this warning in chapter 8.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13)

It is not enough to believe that God intends to change us into the image of Christ. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the program of turning from the sinful ways of the adamic nature and embracing the righteous ways of the Lord.

Belief alone is not enough.

But what about the positive aspect of our salvation, not just the turning from sin. Does this also require action on our part, or is belief alone sufficient?

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Timothy 4:15,16)

Belief alone is not enough. We save ourselves and our hearers by doing the things Paul commanded.

But what about entrance into the rest of God. Isn’t this a matter of just ceasing from our own works and believing? No, it is not. Rather, the rest of God consists of doing God’s works rather than our own works.

The Lord Jesus Christ always dwells in the rest of God. Notice how the rest of God operates. It is the eternal Sabbath. First, in the Old Testament.

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, (Isaiah 58:13)

The Sabbath rest is not a case of just doing nothing. Rather it consists of doing God’s will in all matters. Notice how the eternal Sabbath works in the life of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. (John 5:19,20)

The rest of God is described above. It is not a matter of mentally assenting to the Divine promise. It is that of seeking Christ until we know what He is doing. Then we do the same thing. We interact with Him on a daily basis, judging as He is judging, speaking as He is speaking, understanding as He is understanding, acting as He is acting. As He is, so are we in this world. This is the true Christian life. This is what God has desired for man from the beginning of time. But somehow we do always err in our heart.

The Jews chose to bury themselves in the Law rather than live in daily interaction with God.

In the first century, many Christians chose to follow the Christian-Gnostic path of “believe only” rather than live in daily interaction with God.

The Catholic Church substituted its many rituals, plus the Virgin Mary, for living in daily interaction with Christ.

Today we are back to the Christian Gnosticism of the first century. We simply are unwilling to present our body a living sacrifice, living twenty-four hours of every day in constant communion with Christ. We say we are saved by “faith alone.” Let’s think about this unscriptural expression for a moment.

Hebrews chapter 11 is the “faith chapter” of the Bible. It is introduced in the tenth chapter by the familiar “the just shall live by faith.”

But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

Chapter 11 is a definition of “My righteous one will live by faith.” We can see no instance in Hebrews chapter 11 of belief in the facts of theology. Rather, the type of faith described here is interaction with the living God and obedience to God.

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.”

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.”

Notice carefully the following:

“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” And, “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age — and Sarah herself was barren — was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.”

Looking forward to the city and considering Him faithful who had made the promise are excellent examples of faith apart from keeping the commandments of Moses. It is this type of true faith from the heart, not a sterile acknowledgment of theological facts, that brings righteousness and the fulfillment of the promise. This is what is meant by “with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness.”

So we see that the promise is to be believed from the heart. The commandment is to be obeyed with diligence. Belief and obedience were demonstrated in the life of Abraham and they, working together, resulted in righteousness and the fulfillment of the promise.

The mental belief of today, not being combined with obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, does not result in righteousness nor does it bring fulfillment of the promises.

The New Testament warns us that the Israelites, after having been saved from Egypt, died in the wilderness without having entered the land of promise — a type of the Christian who begins the program of salvation and then does not gain the inheritance in Christ because of unbelief and disobedience.

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:16-19)

Can you see in the above passage how obedience and belief are related?

There are those who would claim that this warning does not apply to us because we are saved by “grace.” If it does not apply to us, why did the Holy Spirit include it in the New Testament? Have we not become willfully ignorant?

Righteousness comes through a heartfelt belief in the promise accompanied by strict obedience to what God has commanded.

Righteousness, blessing, fruitfulness, dominion, ministry, the rewards to the overcomer, the new man in the moral image of Christ (as we choose to be the servant of righteous behavior and as we nurture the Divine Seed), and entrance into the rest of God as we do God’s works rather than our own works — all come to pass in our life as we believe what God has said and then obey the commandments given by Christ and His Apostles.

(“Belief and Righteousness”, 3225-1, proofed 20230725)

  • P.O. Box 1522 Escondido, CA 92033 US