THE OLD TESTAMENT HOUSE OF THE LORD: TWENTY
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Twenty” is taken from The Tabernacle of the Congregation, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries)
The Necessity for Holy Living
Table of Contents
The Nature of Holiness
A Balanced Concept of Grace
Grace and Works
Christians Are Held Accountable for Their Actions
The Context of Romans 8:1
The Necessity for Holy Living
The concept of spiritual progression from least holy to most holy is illustrated by the design of the Tabernacle. The Most Holy Place was the location of God’s Presence. We learn from this pattern that the Christian life progresses toward complete sanctification (I Thessalonians 5:23) and that the culmination of Christian experience concerns the place of residence of God Himself. The completely sanctified Christian heart is God’s Holy of Holies.
When the Lord gave to Moses the plans for the Tabernacle He began with the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:10,17). These are the holiest of the furnishings of the Tabernacle as shown by the fact that they were located in the Most Holy Place.
So it is that God, during the process of setting up His Kingdom on earth, has started with the Most Holy Place. First came Christ, the Holiest of all. Next, the Body of Christ is being prepared.
When the Body has been completed, or perhaps we should say as the Body is being completed, the work will extend outward toward the perimeter of the Kingdom until the entire earth is filled with the Glory of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9; Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:10; Romans 8:19-21; Revelation 2:26,27).
The Nature of Holiness
It appears that one of the most important messages that the Tabernacle has for us today is that of the need for holiness. A holy human heart follows the Lamb wherever He goes. A holy human heart is reserved for God’s use. A holy human heart refuses the influences of unclean spirits.
Holiness is the Presence of God.
Since holiness is one of the major messages of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, we are setting aside a section devoted to this subject. It is interesting to note that the Spirit of God is termed the Holy Spirit, and that the new Jerusalem is referred to as the holy city.
The holiness of the Tabernacle is emphasized in such verses as the following: Exodus 28:36; 29:33; 30:21; 40:32; Leviticus 10:10; 11:1-15:33; Numbers 6:1-6; Deuteronomy 23:14. It may be accurate to state that Exodus through Deuteronomy, to a great extent, is one long exhortation to holiness. One of the principal themes of the entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, is holiness.
Holiness is a personal condition of purity of motives and deeds, a right attitude of the heart toward God. In one way of considering it, holiness means freedom from the influence of evil spirits.
To be holy is to be set apart to God for His exclusive enjoyment and use.
The Old Testament doctrine of unclean food emphasizes the concept of the difference between the clean and the unclean (Leviticus, Chapter 11).
Some spirits are holy and some are not. The only way we can distinguish between the clean and unclean is by the Scriptures combined with everlasting prayer and watchfulness as the Holy Spirit guides us moment by moment.
We must learn to distinguish between good and evil and then to embrace the good and repulse the evil.
The Holy Spirit of God is interested in every motive, imagination, word, and deed of every Christian. We may be in a hurry to do things. The Holy Spirit, who has the power to create galaxies of stars, is more concerned with spiritual cleanliness than He is with our accomplishments. He is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will gladly take the time to “sit down” with the Christian and rehearse fine points of behavior moment by moment throughout the day. There is no need for haste. It is easy for God to create a star. But holiness of motive and deed in a human—that is a problem!
By teaching the need for holiness we do not mean to create self-tortured, introspective Christians. The constant searching out of motives and deeds can be maintained by the Spirit of God while the Christian is conducting a poised, joyful, fruitful life. Spiritual experience and maturity are required if we are to remain victorious as the Holy Spirit brings sin to our consciousness.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
“Blessed and holy”!
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)
An unholy Christian can have little fellowship with a holy God.
We are saved by calling on the name of the Lord, apart from righteous conduct on our part. We are justified by our faith in the redeeming blood of Christ. But we enter the Kingdom of God as the Holy Spirit enables us to live in a righteous and holy manner.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
One of the most important ideas revealed in the Tabernacle of the Congregation is that of holiness to the Lord. The parts of the Tabernacle, and the priestly ministry associated with the Tabernacle, portray the utter holiness of the Lord God Almighty.
Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord! This is what the Tabernacle proclaims in its every dimension. Everyone and everything associated with the Tabernacle had to be holy. So it is today. No liar, no lustful person, no fearful, no murderer, no idolater, has any part in the inheritance of the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:8; 22:15).
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
The above two verses are addressed to believers, not to the unsaved.
Did not Christ come so the liars and the fearful might enter the Kingdom of God? Emphatically yes! He surely did! Christ came to deliver us from the ungodliness of the world. The only acceptable response to the love of Christ is to cooperate with Him in the re-creating of our personalities so we no longer live according to the lusts of the world.
We are to be made new creations by the power of Christ working in our lives. If a transformation into holiness of conduct does not occur after a period of time, if our character remains as it was before we were converted to Christ, then the Divine redemption is not taking place in our personality. If we are not experiencing continuously the renewing power of Christ and are not moving forward in the knowledge of Him, then we may need to seek the Lord with increased fervor.
Sometimes it is not evident that Christ is moving in our life and we are required to endure seasons of dryness and heaviness. Such dryness is part of the normal Christian experience. Plants profit as much from the dry energy radiating from the sun as they do from the moist refreshing of the rain.
But there is a difference between the dry seasons through which the saints must walk at times, and the dryness and deadness of seeking to fulfill the desires of our fleshly nature. The dryness of the victorious spiritual experience leads after a season to increased power and revelation of God. The dryness of walking in the flesh leads to spiritual death. It is wise to ask God for a progress report so we can learn how well we are doing.
Brothers, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:17-19)
Paul is referring (above) to believers who have chosen to walk in the appetites of the adamic nature.
Mortify [put to death] therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence [lust], and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: (Colossians 3:5,6)
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: (I Thessalonians 4:3-5)
We are obeying Christ when we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” God sends strong delusion on people who take pleasure in unrighteousness and who imagine that God takes pleasure in their unrighteousness.
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (II Thessalonians 2:10-13)
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
Salvation results from our being set apart by the Spirit of God to holy behavior, as we obey the truth set forth by the Apostles of the Lamb. Salvation is not restricted to a momentary experience in which we acknowledge the truth of Christ’s atoning death, triumphant resurrection, and Divine Lordship. The Lord Jesus is not a ticket to Heaven. He is the Way of holiness and of eternal life.
A Balanced Concept of Grace
It is very misleading to define grace as meaning only a forgiveness of sins apart from the converted moral behavior of the Christian disciple.
Paul argued that man is saved apart from adherence to the laws and statutes of Moses. A careful study of Paul’s writings will show that man cannot achieve righteousness in himself apart from Christ and thus earn the favor of God. This concept is altogether different from the idea that the Christian salvation has little to do with righteous and holy behavior—which is the conclusion of the argument that grace means only forgiveness of sins apart from holiness of deed, word, motive, and imagination.
Paul never intended his letters be used to teach that Divine grace releases the believer from having to account for his sins of word and deed while the unbelievers are to be brought into judgment for every sin. Paul understood from the Scripture that Jerusalem always receives “double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:2).
The next passage gives a more balanced concept of grace than that which often is presented. Paul helps us understand that grace is much more than a blanket forgiveness of the sins that we commit, although such forgiveness is included as part of the atonement when we first receive Christ and holds true as we learn to walk in the Spirit of God.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
“Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.”
“We should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
“Purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
We observe from the above that in Paul’s mind, the next coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is associated with our living a godly life in the present hour.
The reason for this is as follows: the purpose of the grace of God, of salvation, is to preserve us when the wrath of God is poured out at the coming of the Lord. Preservation during the Day of Wrath is the scriptural meaning of the term salvation. God is saving us with the understanding that we will be a people belonging especially to Him, eager to do good works.
We are to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7). The scornful of the world have mocked this part of the message of salvation (fleeing from the wrath to come) until the churches have become timid in speaking along this line.
We are wise when we flee from the wrath to come. The grace of God saves us from the wrath to come, not only by providing the means for the forgiveness of our sins but also by teaching and empowering us until we are able to live in the world without the lust, murder, idolatry, drunkenness, and sorcery that are part of the peoples of the earth.
If we are not growing stronger each day in a truly holy pattern of behavior, then it is unlikely we are sharing in the grace of God. By holiness we mean putting off the works of the flesh of Galatians 5:19-21 and putting on the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22,23. One important aspect of grace is the forgiveness of sins, after the fashion of the thief on the cross (Luke 23:40-43). Another important aspect of the grace of God is the empowering of the Christian to lead a godly life.
To emphasize one of these aspects at the expense of the other is to create moral confusion, to destroy the testimony and power of the Church, to render the work of God ineffectual in one’s life, and to invite delusion concerning our relationship with God.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. (Hebrews 6:7-9)
The “things that accompany salvation” are the actions of a godly life in Christ. The Book of Hebrews is addressed to backsliding Christians. One of the emphases of the Book of Hebrews is the dedicated Christian life that always is pressing forward in Christ. Read through Hebrews with this in mind.
Meditate on the following passage, remembering that these words are addressed to Christians:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God. (Hebrews 10:25-31)
Grace and Works
The exhortations and warnings of the Lord Jesus to the seven churches of Asia have to do with works of righteousness.
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not [here is a warning concerning “Christian” teachers who claim to be apostles sent from the Lord Jesus], and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love [not as fervently in love with Jesus as at first]. (Revelation 2:2-4)
The admonition in the above passage does not conform to the interpretation of God’s grace that often is preached.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:22,23)
The exhortation to the Christian people in Thyatira includes ideas that are not part of the current teaching of grace. In fact, the admonition to the believers in Thyatira reminds us of Paul’s reasoning with Felix concerning righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:2-4)
The current doctrine of grace maintains that the only worthiness there is comes from our identification with Christ—a doctrinal position that does not conform to the warning to the believers in Sardis.
Some of the Christians in Sardis were walking in the flesh and others were following Christ in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Are the Christian people of today attempting to use the grace of God to cover impure conduct.?
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked [the Christian Church in Laodicea]:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire [Christian character refined by suffering], that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment [a righteous, holy life], that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve [the Spirit of truth], that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Revelation 3:15-19)
The admonition to the Christians in Laodicea is not at all in harmony with the concept of grace as being only the forgiveness of sins by belief in the name of Jesus.
Paul stressed grace as opposed to works because he was teaching the transition from the Law of Moses to the law of the Spirit of life. Paul was reacting to Jewish teachers who were attempting to mix the Christian redemption and the Law of Moses.
Paul was emphasizing the fact that salvation does not come by keeping the Ten Commandments and observing all the points of the Levitical ordinances. Salvation comes only through Christ.
In some instances we Christians have interpreted Paul to mean there is little need for personal holiness on the part of church people, since we are “saved by grace and not by works.” A little reflection will enable us to understand that Paul never would contrast grace and holiness of behavior. Paul was contrasting salvation by faith in Christ, and attempts to earn eternal life by keeping the Law of Moses.
We are not saved by observing the Levitical statutes. But Paul indeed would be amazed if he were to appear today and hear his teaching concerning the distinction between works and grace being understood to mean people are saved by professing belief in Christ while they continue in unholy, unrighteous conduct.
One of the principal effects of receiving Christ is the creation of holiness in the heart. There is no salvation apart from the creation of holiness in the heart and life because that is what salvation is. Salvation is deliverance from the power of Satan and the development of union with God through Jesus. If we are not being transformed morally we are not being saved. If we are not becoming healthier we are not being healed. It is as straightforward as that!
Salvation is not a ticket to Heaven, it is a change of personality.
“Not everyone who says to me, Lord! Lord!…”
There is no such thing as an abstract saving faith, a possession of Christ apart from the development of godliness in the personality of the Christian. The only valid test of genuine Christianity is the growth of godly character in the believer (I John 3:6).
Grace is the authority and power of God working in the life of an individual to re-create his nature, delivering him from all satanic influences. This is a different concept from that of grace being a legal maneuver that qualifies an individual for escape from the Day of Wrath and eternal residence in the spirit paradise.
There are situations in which the legal waiving of guilt is, for a season, the only functioning aspect of redemption. However, for most believers most of the time, true grace produces holiness, in keeping with the symbolism of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The major portion of the writings of the Apostles of the new covenant is devoted to the necessity for holy behavior.
Anyone who teaches that a religious belief is of relative importance in the eyes of God when weighed against the development of a pure and holy character is inviting delusion on himself and his hearers. There is no substitute for a Spirit-filled life of holiness to the Lord. There is no other kind of Christian experience that is acceptable to the God of Heaven.
Sectarian practices come and go and vary from church to church. Some are more edifying than others. But the Word of God is eternal and unchanging, and it is one from Genesis to Revelation: Israel must be HOLINESS TO THE LORD!
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings [insults], evil surmisings [wicked suspicions], Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (I Timothy 6:3-5)
Christians Are Held Accountable for Their Actions
When we first are saved we bring an entire life of sin to Christ, asking for forgiveness through the blood of Christ. No one is turned away. We receive complete forgiveness.
But what about the sins we continue to commit while we are Christians? Does God bring them into judgment? Indeed He does! The contemporary Christian belief appears to be that a Christian can lie and it is excused while a non-Christian is judged for his lie. This is a misunderstanding of the manner in which the atonement of Christ operates.
The fact is, the lie the Christian tells is of far more serious consequence that the lie of the non-Christian. The Christian is a member of the Body of Christ. Christ is the Judge of the heavens and the earth. God will examine the Christian lie with unusual interest because the Body of Christ, the eternal habitation of God, the fulfillment of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, must be utterly holy.
The Body of Christ is to be righteous and holy in all of it imaginations, motives, words, and deeds. God judges very carefully the motives, words, and deeds that proceed from each Christian.
A glance at the writings of the Christian Apostles reveals that God judges sin whether committed by a Christian or a non-Christian.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
The above passage is referring to Christians.
The Context of Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
The above verse, interpreted in isolation, seems to imply that God treats sin in the life of the Christian in terms of a lesser standard than is true of the unbeliever. But Paul’s logic, commencing with Romans 1:16 and proceeding through 11:36, leads to the true meaning of Romans 8:1.
Paul is teaching in Romans 8:1 that the believer who is living in obedience to the Holy Spirit, the overcomer, is free from guilt. He is free from the guilt of the sins committed by the law of sin that dwells in his flesh. If the Christian did not have access to the blood-covering that keeps him guiltless while he is moving forward in the process of salvation he could not have fellowship with God.
The blood-shield over the fleshly tendencies of the overcomer as he or she is learning to follow the Spirit, the shield that covers the lying, foolishness, gossiping, hatred, jealousy, lust, sectarian pride, idolatry, hypocrisy that remain in the saint, is not to be confused with an indulgent attitude on God’s part toward Christians and their misbehavior.
The belief that God continually overlooks, covers, or is indulgent toward the multitude of sins in the churches, on the basis of a profession of belief in the doctrines taught by the churches, has destroyed the testimony of the churches.
During the time that the victorious saint is free from all condemnation through the legal remission (forgiveness) of guilt by means of the blood atonement, the Holy Spirit continues to point out the sins that are proceeding from the law of sin that resides in his body.
The Holy Spirit illumines the sins one by one and helps the saint put them to death. Putting sins to death is a continuing process and is one of the main aspects of the victorious Christian life. The continual destruction of sin under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is commanded as follows:
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)
There is a great gulf between the concept that God overlooks or is indulgent toward sins committed by Christians, and the concept that God shields the saint from the guilt of the sinful acts of his fleshly body during the time the Holy Spirit is guiding him in the spiritual warfare against the “deeds of the body.”
We must call to mind that the purpose of the Christian redemption is to do what the Law of Moses could not do—enable the believer to keep the eternal moral Law of God. The current doctrinal confusion has arisen because grace is being defined as the forgiveness of our sins so we can go to Heaven when we die. This tradition is widespread but it is not at all scriptural.
God gave the new covenant to the Jews because they were not able, with human ability, to keep God’s commandments. There is power and authority in the new covenant to enable each of God’s elect to keep God’s commandments. The Law, the Torah, is written in the heart of the true Christian, enabling him to walk in righteousness and holiness. To view the new covenant as a legal maneuver by which the believer goes to Heaven apart from keeping God’s laws is to miss completely the Divine goal and program of redemption.
If the goal of redemption were to bring us to Heaven to live forever in the spirit realm, it is conceivable that forgiveness through the blood of Jesus would be the only grace included in the Divine atonement; although such a limited definition still would not be scriptural.
But because the goal of redemption is to create us in the image of God and bring us into total union with God so we may be able to serve Him throughout His creation, forgiveness alone cannot serve the purpose of God. Divine grace must include all the components necessary for accomplishing the needed transformation.
It is a knowledge of the goal of redemption that will open the meaning of the Scriptures to us. As long as we hold the unscriptural view that the goal of redemption is to bring us to eternal residence in Heaven we cannot understand the Kingdom of God or the redemption that is in Christ.
What do the Apostles of the early Church have to say about sin in the life of the Christian? Do they advise us to forget about righteous, holy living as soon as we accept the Christian faith?
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (Romans 13:13,14)
These words are addressed to Christians.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)
These words are addressed to believers.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (I Corinthians 3:16,17)
This warning is directed toward the followers of Christ.
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. (I Corinthians 5:1)
This tragic affair was found among the tongues-speaking Corinthians. Notice that Paul did not say there was no real problem here because of God’s grace that covers the sins of the believers.
The teachers of today, in order to prove that God does not see the sins Christians commit, will claim the man never was a Christian or he would not have done such a thing. Incorrect on two counts. First, the context of First and Second Corinthians establishes the fact that the man was a member of the assembly, considered to be a brother in the Lord. Second, numerous Christians commit moral sins. This does not signify they never have accepted the Lord, only that they are bound in sin.
But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. (I Corinthians 5:11)
These words are addressed to Christians.
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. (I Corinthians 6:15)
These words are addressed to Christian people.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (I Corinthians 10:12)
These words are addressed to Christians.
We could go on and on, keeping well within the unforced interpretation of the exhortations of the Apostles of the early Church.
The following is the manner in which God responds to sin in the Christian:
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:32)
God indeed does bring the Christian to strict account for all of his motives, thoughts, words, and deeds. If the Christian is living in the Spirit he will judge himself (I Corinthians 11:13).
The Holy Spirit will lead the Christian in a successful program of putting to death the deeds of his body (Romans 8:13,14). The Christian will be baptized with fire from time to time in order to make him “fireproof” in preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus in the blazing fire of Divine wrath.
The Christian is made “fireproof” by having all the sin of his personality burned out of him in advance. When the fireproofing has been completed the Christian will be ready to stand and minister before God in that Day (Isaiah 33:14). This is one way in which we are “delivered from the wrath to come.”
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (I Thessalonians 1:10)
Admonitions of the Scripture apply primarily to the Church. It is difficult for us to understand the New Testament passages concerning sin because we have for so long a time applied such rebukes to the unsaved. Yet the setting and text of the New Testament writings show that the exhortations to godly behavior are addressed to the Church.
Current Christian teaching implies that God overlooks the sins of the believers and then pours out frightful afflictions on other people who are doing no worse than we. What kind of righteousness would that be? Would God look at two people performing some lustful deed, visit one with wrath, and let the other go free because he names the name of Christ or attends a Christian church? Would not God rather chasten His own son and be more indulgent toward the unsaved person because of his ignorance?
Would God destroy one individual because he is full of hate, and pass by another person who also is full of hate but who names the name of Christ? Would this be true of Him of whom it is said: “True and righteous are your judgments” (Revelation 16:7)? Instead, would not God rebuke His own child in advance so he would be prepared for the judgment to come?
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:32)
Let us review a few more of the admonitions from the Apostles that we may understand God’s judgment on sin in the Christian life, and that we may not be confused concerning the manner in which grace operates under the new covenant.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:17)
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness [immorality], idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
How can we, in the light of such words, continue in the concept that God overlooks sin in the Christian because of his profession of belief in Christ?
Concerning Galatians 5:19-21, we of today might exclaim: “Isn’t it wonderful that God doesn’t hold us accountable for such things now that we have found Christ!”
To think or say such things is to be deceived. In contrast, Paul, speaking to the Church, proclaims: Those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Perhaps it is time for us to examine once again the manner in which God deals with sins of motive, thought, word, and deed in the Christian life.
That ye put off concerning the former conversation [former way of life] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
The next passage sums up the apostolic attitude toward the sins of the Christian:
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:3-7)
Consider the following:
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:14)
Christ gives the Christian man and woman the authority and power to overcome sin and lead a holy life. This a different concept from that of attaching the label of Christ to a human life that continues in unholy behavior, stating that Christ is saving that one by “grace.”
It is the writer’s understanding that God will save multitudes of people from destruction in the Day of Wrath on the basis of their accepting the Gospel of Christ. Many of these may not have lived a victorious life for one reason or another. Only Jesus will decide the fate of each person.
However, it is an extremely dangerous position to trust in God’s mercy to save us if we know the Gospel and are careless in our response to it. There are stern warnings in the Scripture concerning the lazy servant!
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)
In addition to basic salvation from wrath, it is God’s will that the Church grow in holiness and power until it is a militant, overcoming force in the earth. We must expand our understanding of grace to include the power to move from victory to victory over the impulses of the flesh and fleshly mind.
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Twenty”, 3240-1)