Copyright © 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved

(“The Righteous Shall Live by Faith” is taken from The Theology of Robert B. Thompson, copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson)

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

Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Table of Contents

The New Covenant
The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

The New Covenant

Perhaps it is true that there is not much said today about the new covenant. Most of the preaching is about how to “get saved.” We say we are under a different dispensation when the Bible says we are under a new covenant.

These two concepts are not at all the same in the way they work out in practice. I believe the new covenant is summed up in the words of Peter when he told us to take heed to the Scriptures until the day dawns and Christ, the Morning Star, arises in our heart.

This teaches us that if we are to bring forth Christ, we, in a sincere adamic personality, must read the Scriptures and pray for help in being obedient to the Word until Christ is formed in us. Such is the true approach to salvation, to the new creation.

Here are the traditional “four steps of salvation”:

  1. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
  2. We cannot save ourselves.
  3. Christ died to forgive our sins.
  4. If we believe and profess this, then when we die we shall go to Heaven to live forever in a mansion.

There is no moral transformation, no new creation, in the traditional four steps of salvation. Therefore this is an unscriptural way of salvation.

Here are four steps of salvation that would agree with the new covenant described in the Book of Hebrews:

  1. We repent and turn away from our sins.
  2. We are baptized in water into the death and resurrection of Christ.
  3. We live as a disciple, pray, read our Bible, deny ourselves while patiently carrying our cross after Christ, and obey God in everything, while Christ is being formed in us.
  4. We have eternal fellowship with God and Christ.

The Apostle Paul travailed in birth until Christ was formed in the believers in Galatia. By doing so, Paul was travailing that the new covenant would be formed in the believers. Christ Himself is the New Covenant!

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—(Galatians 4:19—NASB)
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18—NASB)
So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. (II Peter 1:19—NASB)
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5—NASB)

You know, the Book of Hebrews states clearly what the new covenant is. I don’t believe I ever have heard anyone teach from the Book of Hebrews exactly what the new covenant is. However, it no doubt is true that numerous Bible scholars have taught the new covenant clearly and scripturally.

What I have heard consistently from the time I became a Christian is the famous “four steps of salvation,” including the ideas that all people have sinned; we cannot save ourselves; Christ died to forgive our sins through his atoning blood; if we believe and profess this we will go to Heaven and not to Hell when we die.

I think this approach to salvation must proceed from dispensational theology. It certainly is not laid out as clearly in the New Testament as the new covenant is.

A study of the Book of Acts will reveal that the emphasis was on repentance, that is, on turning away from sin. Then the believers were to be baptized in water and continue to serve the Lord while the new covenant was taking effect.

The American Christians are so weak morally, because of the unscriptural application of Divine grace, that they cannot prevail against the spiritual forces that are driving abortion and homosexual behavior in our country? They are attempting to battle against Satan with political activism instead of with righteous behavior, holiness of personality, and stern obedience to God.

When the righteous are not righteous enough they will be overcome by the wicked.

How do you feel about this? Is this what you have been taught—that God’s grace is a substitute for moral change?

Compare the “four steps of salvation” with how the Scriptures describe the new covenant:

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10—NIV)

The passage above from Hebrews is a quotation from the Book of Jeremiah. The thought is that God was not satisfied with the results of the Law of Moses. There was nothing wrong with the Law itself; but the sinful nature of man prevented satisfactory obedience to the various commandments and statutes.

Right here is the point I am pressing. God has given us a new covenant because the people did not keep his laws. Do you think God’s solution to our sinning is that God no longer will regard our behavior as sinful, having come to the conclusion that we are hopelessly bound in disobedience? Or would it not be reasonable to conclude that the new covenant is a better covenant because it enables us to obey God’s laws?

What do you think would be a “better” covenant from God’s point of view?

The current teaching is that because we could not keep God’s laws under the covenant of Moses, God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, now counts us righteous whether or not we are obeying his laws. Am I correct or incorrect in my understanding of the present teaching?

Perhaps some would be troubled by the fact that God made the new covenant with the “house of Israel,” not with us Gentiles. You may have heard the expression “the Gentile Church.” There is no such institution. There only is the one Olive Tree, the one house of Israel, the one Seed of Abraham, the one new Man.

When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ and become part of Him, we are true Israel. All of God’s Kingdom promises are to the true Israel, although God has promised to visit physical Israel with salvation, at the end of the Church Age.

According to current teaching, the writer of Hebrews should have said, “God has mercy on the people of Israel because they are bound in sin. Therefore He took the penalty of sin upon himself, dying on the cross that they might be forgiven. Now they are reconciled to God forever through the authority of the atonement made on the cross of Calvary.”

How do you feel about this? Does what I have just written correspond with what is being taught in America as being the plan of salvation, the new covenant?

But is this what the Word of God states?

Now, let us compare what the Bible says with what is being taught today and see if we can determine whether God has concluded that we are helpless sinners and must please him only by being forgiven regardless of our conduct, or whether the new covenant does something to correct our behavior.

There really is a vast, practical gulf between these two conclusions regarding the new covenant. Think about the following carefully, and compare it with the popular conception of the Christian salvation:

“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.”

Contrast this with:

“We are reconciled to God (made righteous) forever through the authority of the atonement.” Can you see any significant difference, any practical difference between the two understandings?

What is the significant, practical difference? The scriptural version of the new covenant is that of writing God’s laws in our mind and on our heart. The current version is that of forgiveness alone. The current version does not contemplate a change in what we are or how we behave, except in an incidental manner: “We ought to try to do good in appreciation for what Christ has done for us on the cross.”

But there is no power in that stance. There only is the good will of the believer. Such good will cannot possibly survive in the demon-infested culture of the United States of America. Our endeavoring to please Christ out of appreciation for what He has done for us is not mentioned by the Spirit when setting forth the new covenant. This approach to our redemption from the hand of Satan does not possess enough strength to resist the present wave of pornography, for example.

Let me clarify what is meant by the laws of God. The laws of God that are to be written in our mind and on our heart are not the same as the Law of Moses. They are the eternal moral laws of God. The eternal moral laws of God are what God Is. They compose his moral image. They have existed from eternity and shall exist into the future, ages without end. God never changes what He Is.

The Ten Commandments and the remainder of the Law of Moses never were intended to be the permanent covenant of God with man. They are a reflection of the eternal Divine Character. Their purpose was to keep sin under control until the Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ, came making it possible for the eternal moral law of God to be created in the personalities of God’s sons.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the eternal moral law of God, made flesh. We, through Christ, are the flesh being made the Word of God, the eternal moral law of God, the moral image of our Father, God.

We conclude that if God’s intention is to make man in his moral image, conforming him to the Firstborn Son, then forgiveness alone is not going to accomplish God’s purpose.

But precisely how does God go about putting his eternal moral laws in our mind and writing them on our heart? First we notice that it is God who does it. It is not merely a program of memorizing the Scriptures and then attempting to obey them.

I think there is a passage in the Book of Second Corinthians that provides some insight into the process of writing God’s eternal moral laws in our mind and on our heart:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18—NASB)

When the statement is made about the “unveiled face” it means the Glory of the Lord no longer is hidden from us, as the covering over Moses’ face concealed the Divine Glory from the people of Israel.

But precisely what is the mirror into which we are to look in order to see the Glory of the Lord.

That mirror is, first of all, the Scriptures. It is the Scriptures that reveal the Glory of the Lord. It is the Scriptures that show us whether our face is clean or dirty.

The Scriptures work together with the things that happen to us, the problems and challenges we encounter.

We do not see all the dirt on our face all at once, but little by little, line upon line, commandment upon commandment.

This is how it works. Paul, in the first chapter of the Book of Romans, tells us that those who gossip are worthy of death. It may happen that someone points out to us that we are gossiping. We may become angry and justify ourselves, saying, “I am no worse than anyone else in the church!”

Then the next morning, during our devotions, we happen on Paul’s statement in Romans. The Holy Spirit causes the word “gossips” to stand out. We are convicted of sin.

So we go to prayer. We tell the Lord Jesus that we are sinning. We are gossiping. We are slandering others. We are judgmental. We confess this attitude as sin. We ask for forgiveness, resolving that with the Lord’s help we never again will gossip.

Because of our confession and resolve we are given to eat of Jesus Christ, the Tree of Life. In this manner the power of the new covenant is increased in us.

By the way, our actions here result in the driving out of the spirits of gossip. This is the doctrine of “eternal judgment” mentioned in the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. It is an eternal judgment of evil spirits.

What happens when we do this? The result of our prayer indeed is profound and has eternal consequences. First, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us for gossiping, our hateful, judgmental attitude.

We do not realize it, but by confessing our sin and resolving to turn away from it, we have partaken of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are more able now to recognize that which is good and that which is evil. This is how Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness, isn’t it?

In addition we are given to eat of the Tree of Life, which is the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. It is eternal resurrection life, the Life of Christ. We now have strength that we did not have before to embrace that which is good and renounce that which is evil.

We are more in the image of God than we were before we confessed and turned away from the sin of gossiping.

Whenever the Israelites obeyed God strictly, slaying all the inhabitants of the designated cities, as they did under Joshua, they prospered mightily, But when they became careless and did not pursue the enemy ruthlessly, they were defeated and forced to permit their enemies to live among them.

So it is if we are not ruthless in dealing with the sins of our flesh and spirit, parts of our sinful nature will cling to us and may even profess to help us.

God now has written his eternal moral law in our mind so we understand that gossiping is evil and not of the image of God. It belongs in the Lake of Fire with all other aspects of murder and hatred.

God has written his eternal moral law on our heart so that we desire to cease gossiping and from now on seek to speak that which builds up our fellow members of the Body of Christ.

While we are undergoing this transformation into the image of the Glory of the Lord, God forgets our sins of the past and overlooks those aspects of our behavior that He has not dealt with as yet.

What I have just described is the operation of the new covenant. It is a better covenant, because God not only forgives us but redeems us from all the works of darkness, from the person and image of Satan, from all that is not of the image of the Lord God of Heaven.

If we will be faithful to confess and turn away from our sins as the Spirit of God points them out to us, God will give us an inheritance among those who have been made holy, as they obediently have cooperated with his Spirit throughout the process of creating the believers in his image.

The Book of First John states that God has forgiven the sins of the whole world. Forgiveness is on the table. We have to eat of it by faith. Christ never will be crucified again.

There is no provision, under the old or new covenants, for willful sin, only for sins of ignorance; or when someone suddenly and fiercely is tempted, falls, and then is in an agony of repentance. But the Christian who willfully and knowingly keeps on sinning would be crucifying Christ again and again, and God will not stand for this. That individual is near to cursing and burning.

The new covenant presumes that the sins of every believer have been forgiven once and for all—the sins of the past, present, and future. The new covenant presumes also that the believer is a consecrated Christian who is not following his sinful nature but is praying and seeking the Lord every day.

Thus we see that the new covenant is a covenant between two or more people. It is not a testament, in which a person bequeaths money or property to chosen people and the recipient has no obligation but to receive the inheritance.

The blood atonement, on the other hand, is a testament, requiring the death of the Testator. It is not a covenant. We are obligated only to receive by faith the forgiveness paid for by the death of Jesus. Thus forgiveness comes as an inheritance, we might say. The new covenant includes the testament of forgiveness, but its primary purpose is to change the character of the person entering into the contract with the Lord God of Heaven.

The new covenant is a covenant, not a testament. It is a contract. If one of the parties defaults on the contract, the other party is not obligated to fulfill his part of the contract.

In every contract there are considerations—benefits that accrue to each signer of the contract. So we need to think what benefits accrue to God, and what benefits accrue to us if we keep our end of the contract. God always will keep his end of the contract if we are faithful to do what we have agreed to do.

The benefits that accrue to God, if we are faithful to follow Christ each day, begin with God receiving a loving, obedient son or daughter. The son and daughter then can become living stones in the eternal tabernacle of God, the tabernacle through which God can govern and bless the nations of the earth.

Additional benefits include brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ; a Wife for the Lamb; judges of men and angels; soldiers in an army that shall install with force the Kingdom of God on the earth; and the means of fulfilling all of the other roles and tasks that must be performed in God’s Kingdom.

The benefits that accrue to us are first, we are counted righteous in God’s sight. We are approved of God. This was the Apostle Paul’s main goal.

And then the following: We now can have fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We will live eternally in the fullness of the Presence of God. We will have immortality in our body. We will inherit people whom we can love and serve as members of the Royal Priesthood. All these considerations and many more will accrue to the individual who keeps his or her part of the new covenant.

The doctrine that teaches the benefit that accrues to the faithful disciple is eternal residence in the spirit world, and that he arrives there by grace apart from any moral transformation, has destroyed the witness of the Christian churches in America. Therefore Divine judgment is in store for us. The Christian people cannot serve as lights of the world when they have not been transformed morally.

Our nation may be past the point of restoration, as in the days of King Josiah. But the Book of the Law has been found, so to speak. If we will repent, as did King Josiah, God will bless us and our loved ones with righteousness, security, love, peace, and joy throughout the coming Gentile holocaust, even though, because of abortion and other abominations, our nation loses its position of leadership in the world.

Christ is the eternal Covenant of God with man. If we are obeying Christ, we are becoming through Christ the eternal Covenant of God with man, the flesh being made the Word of God. This is the new covenant.

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10—NIV)

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

To be “righteous” is to be free from Divine condemnation and to be pleasing to God in Heaven.

The watchword of the Protestant Reformation is, “The righteous shall live by faith.” As I understand what took place, the Catholic Church, at the time of the Reformers, was emphasizing penances—various acts of self-mortification or devotion intended to secure righteousness for the believer.

“The righteous shall live by faith” was a reaction to these penances. The concept is that we are free from Divine condemnation and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ by placing our faith in Christ, apart from any acts of self-mortification or devotion.

Inasmuch as several hundred years have occurred since “the righteous shall live by faith” became the watchword of the Reformers, the understanding that the expression has to do with the rules of the Catholic Church appears to have been lost. Now the understanding is that we are righteous by believing correct doctrine, and any effort on our part to obey the commandments of Christ and his Apostles is to be regarded as “works of self righteousness.”

The result is, numerous Christians of our day appear to know less about righteous behavior than any other group of people in the world. Since God’s Kingdom is one of righteousness of behavior, significant impairment of God’s intention through our Lord Jesus has occurred because of our misunderstanding of the new covenant.

The term “the righteous shall live by faith” is stated three times in the New Testament, but its origin is in the Old Testament:

See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4—NIV)

Now, what is being contrasted here? Is it a person who is seeking to live righteously as opposed to a person living by faith in God? Or is it a person who is arrogant, having his own unjust desires, as opposed to a person living by faith in God?

Obviously, the contrast is between a person who is arrogant, having his own unjust desires, as opposed to a person living by faith in God. Would you agree with this? It is certain that this verse is not contrasting living righteously with having faith in God.

Would you agree with me that the Apostle Paul undoubtedly had the scriptural contrast in mind when he wrote that the righteous are to live by faith?

This scriptural concept has been altered in our day to, “the people whom God regards as righteous are those who believe the facts about Jesus Christ, even though they are arrogant and have unjust desires.”

Am I correct? If I am, it assuredly is time for a reformation of Christian thinking.

The righteous shall live by faith means the righteous submit every aspect of their thinking, speaking, and acting to Christ for his direction and enablement. I like to say that the most destructive of all possible practices in which a human being can engage is to pursue his own way without looking to the Lord Jesus Christ for guidance and strength.

We have a lingering shadow of the Catholic emphasis in our own efforts to secure righteousness when we stress various formulas by which we hope to convince God to pour out his Spirit on us. The truth is, as Peter said, “God gives his Spirit to those who obey him.” It is obedience to God that brings righteousness and God’s Spirit. Obedience is better than sacrifice!

We have brought ourselves into this confusion by turning what should be a daily walk with the living Person of the Lord Jesus into a religion that operates according to our own understanding. We look to our religion instead of to Christ himself for how we should live.

I had an interesting experience when I first became a Christian. I was living at a Marine Corps depot near Honolulu, Hawaii. I had been a Christian for a few weeks, and here came an elder from the Seventh Day Adventist church in Honolulu. How he knew I had become a Christian I have no idea.

He spoke to me convincingly about Saturday as the Sabbath Day. I believed what he said. It caused a problem, however, in that when we practiced drilling on Saturday I was not certain whether or not I should carry my rifle on the Sabbath day.

I was in a quandary to be sure. Carl Hoferer, an experienced Christian who lived in a barracks close to me, began to pray for me with such intensity he became ill. I remember that!

Then I received a book through the mail from my aunt, Gertrude (Boots) Sallies. She knew nothing about my conversion to Seventh Day Adventism. The book is titled The Robe, written by Lloyd Douglas.

In The Robe, Douglas tells how a Jew would carry an empty scroll for a specific distance from his home on the Sabbath. Then he would throw the empty scroll down on the ground and go another Sabbath day’s journey, because the scroll would be regarded as his possession, his home.

When I read that about the scroll nonsense, something clicked in my mind (due no doubt to Carl’s fervent prayers). Somehow I knew the stress on not working on Saturday had nothing to do with my salvation. Don’t ask me how reading about the scrolls showed me I was getting off the track.

I just remembered, as I am writing about this incident, that as I was attempting to use the Bible to convert Carl to Seventh day Adventism, Carl, who was a member of the Navigators and a confirmed believer in the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, exclaimed, “I don’t care what the Bible says. This is wrong!” Knowing Carl, this was a remarkable statement—kind of funny in a way.

Let me say that I am convinced there are any number of Adventist people who really love Jesus. I am not by any means seeking to cast aspersions on them or their churches.

This experience taught me something I never have forgotten, and I think it is the real issue in today’s misapplication of “the righteous shall live by faith.”

Once I became convinced that I was under the Ten Commandments, especially the commandment to do not work on Saturday, when Saturday came I did not look to the Lord Jesus as to whether or not I should carry my rifle.

You may not understand why I put the above words in italics. It is because this is the very heart of the matter. As Paul taught us, under the old covenant we obtain righteousness by doing what the Law of Moses commands. Under the new covenant we obtain righteousness by looking to Jesus at all times and doing what He commands. This is what it means to live by faith in Jesus.

Can you see that the two cannot be mixed? Either I look to the Law and not carry my rifle on Saturday, or I look to Jesus to see what I should do concerning this issue, and all other issues, on Saturday.

Someone might say, “When it is written in the Scriptures we do not need to pray.” My answer is, “Under the new covenant the believer must always—and I mean always—look to the Lord Jesus as to how to fulfill any passage of Scripture. This is the manner in which the new covenant operates. The new covenant is of the Spirit, not of the letter.”

I can see this clearly now. But in those days, I just knew somehow that this business of the empty scroll was nonsense.

I have been in Jerusalem many times. I love that city, although as Paul says, it is in bondage with its children. Actually, we Christians have no city on earth that we can call our own, except Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the closest thing we have to a holy city.

I occasionally have lived in a high-rise while in Jerusalem. These stone structures are many stories high, and there are elevators, of course. It is interesting to see how the Orthodox behave when they want to go up to their apartment without having to push a baby carriage up many staircases. You see, they are forbidden to push the elevator button on Saturday. So they must wait for a Gentile to do that.

I admire their faithfulness to Moses, but I cannot see that pushing an elevator button has anything to do with practicing righteousness, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. Also, I do not understand how pushing a button is work and pushing a baby carriage is not. Do you?

But that is not my point. My point is that living by faith in Jesus Christ does not mean subscribing to the Statement of Faith of a Christian denomination. Rather it means to look to Jesus for all we think, say, and do.

The sons of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God. As we follow Christ closely, we become increasingly aware of our sinful nature. We are guided to vigorously, fiercely renounce and reject the actions of our sinful nature and to vigorously, fiercely embrace the righteous path along which the Spirit is leading us.

Contrast this with the casual believer in America who lives almost completely in the desires of his flesh, giving way to his sinful nature continually while claiming he is righteous because God sees him in Christ. Such would far rather believe in what he thinks is true about Christ, and hold to the statement of faith of his denomination, than to give his life entirely to Jesus and grow every day in the ability to accurately follow the Spirit of God.

What a deplorable misunderstanding. This error is the reason why the Muslims refer to America as the “great Satan.” They see our behavior, while we smugly are claiming that God pays no attention to what we are doing because we profess belief in Christ.

Righteousness exists in obedience to God at every moment. There is no overarching imputed righteousness that exists when a person is being disobedient to God.

There indeed is an overarching righteousness that keeps a believer acceptable to God, provided he is working with the Holy Spirit in the program of redemption, that is, in putting to death the actions of his sinful nature. But the belief that there is an overarching righteousness imputed to a Christian who is not obeying Christ is a destructive error.

When we believe there is something Christ wants of us and we do not obey him, we are unrighteous even if we profess belief in Christ. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

The concept that we are righteous by belief rather than by living righteously does not promote fellowship with Christ. Religion develops a set of doctrines we are to believe, declare, and adhere to. The set of doctrines is derived from deductions from axioms that have been chosen. This is the case with the Protestant denominations as well as with the Catholic Church.

Scriptural truth is not arrived at deductively. It is gained inductively from a lifetime of prayerfully meditating in the Scriptures.

True faith in Christ is not a religion. It is a conscious fellowship with a living Person.

As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. I think in numerous instances the Christian religion is more involved in its doctrines than it is in being led by the Spirit of God. Am I incorrect in this?

When we are listening to Jesus and obeying Him in every detail of life, we are behaving righteously. The scepter of King Jesus is that of righteousness. Where the Lord Jesus is, there is righteous behavior. To believe otherwise, to believe that God is smiling down on our sinful behavior because we say we believe in Jesus, borders on blasphemy, doesn’t it?

How could we be so blind as to believe that God has given us a covenant that is unlike all of the other covenants God has made with man, in that it does not insist on righteous behavior?

Well, we have been mistaken, perhaps due to our humanistic leanings. It is time now to return to God and his holy pathway—that which the saints of all ages have followed, even though it often has cost them much suffering.

When the Spirit of our older Brother is in us, we delight to do God’s will.

I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. (Psalms 40:8—NIV)

(“The Righteous Shall Live By Faith”, 3227-1)

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