FAITH AND WORKS
Copyright © 2006 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.
Christians often proclaim we are saved by faith and not by works. The doctrine of salvation by faith and not by works is largely taken from Paul’s exhortation to the Jews found in Chapters Three through Five of the Book of Romans. Paul uses Abraham and David to prove his point. It is possible that we do not understand what the Apostle Paul was teaching
FAITH AND WORKS
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, (Romans 3:21,22)
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)
America is facing severe Divine judgment. God may not protect us from terrorist bomb plots in the future. Why is this? It is because of the moral slide downhill we are experiencing. Our culture is very different from 150 years ago in terms of moral standards and behavior.
England and America have strong Christian backgrounds. At one time the words and concepts of the Bible filled daily life in these and other countries. When one examines the writings of the founders of America it is seen readily that our early leaders were heavily influenced by the Bible. However, even in those days the leaven of the “rights of man” was working.
Since that time, due in large part but not solely to the entertainment industry and the media, the standards of morality in our country, as well as in England, have deteriorated. An American who entered a time capsule, say 200 years ago, and arrived in Los Angeles or Manhattan, and had an opportunity to experience those cultures, would not believe such a transition was possible.
So one of the contributors to our moral slide is public consensus. Whereas before the attitude of our community would encourage us to behave in a decent manner, this pressure has abated.
The politicians in Washington reflect their constituents, rather than being leaders as one would expect in a republic. They are not leading but following in the realm of morals. Thus we have liberal tendencies in representatives from California and more conservative attitudes on the part of southern politicians. After all, they desire to be reelected.
The public schools as a whole tend to reflect liberal values.
Educators, psychologists, medical people, and other intellectual leaders are not in the business of promoting righteous behavior.
We see the fraudulent actions of the captains of industry and banking—people from whom we would expect reasonably honest and honorable behavior.
None of the above movers and shakers, perhaps with some exceptions, are noted for holding forth righteous behavior as a supreme goal. Our nation is dedicated to the pursuit of happiness rather than the pursuit of righteousness.
This leaves the Christian churches to promote righteousness in our nation. As far as I can see there is no other force in America to which we might look for a powerful declaration of the Divine standards of righteous behavior, a presentation mighty enough to counter the impact of the negative forces and produce the necessary change in thinking and behavior on the part of Americans.
But we look in vain to the Christian churches. While they might fret about abortion and homosexuality, and perhaps attempt to make political changes or even take to the streets to make a statement, the Christians themselves are bound with every kind of sinful practice, from gossip to pornography. They are not looking to Jesus to hear what He is saying, what solution He might have. They are as the blind seeking to lead the blind.
How has this destructive states of affairs come about in America and England? It has resulted from our misunderstanding of Paul’s explanation of the transition from the Law of Moses to the new covenant. The primary source of the confusion is Romans 3:19-5:21. Right here is the reason why America now is vulnerable to the efforts of her enemies to bring her down.
What is the problem? The problem is that the Christians have been taught that once we make a profession of faith in Christ the next step is to die and go to Heaven. However, the bulk of the writings of the New Testament have to do with being changed into a new creation which brings forth righteous works. This emphasis is being ignored in favor of going out and getting people “saved.”
The result of our unscriptural emphasis is that the light of good works is not shining, the churches are filled with the works of the sinful nature. The consequence of churches being filled with the works of the sinful nature is that they are not presenting to our nation an example of godly behavior, an example that is strong enough to arrest the moral slide and bring us to behavior God will accept.
It all is as simple as this.
The only obstacle is the ignorance of the Christian leaders concerning the writing of Paul in the Book of Romans.
We must remember that the other writers of the New Testament did not understand the transition from Moses to Christ, and we get little help from the four Gospel accounts.
The first Christian church comprised 5,000 law-keeping Jews. When the question arose as to the standard of behavior to be imposed on Gentiles behaviors, the response was as follows:
Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. (Acts 15:20)
The Bible promptly ignores this declaration, as it does the election of Matthias to the apostleship. The early leaders had attempted to do what was practical but had not as yet heard from Jesus.
God had a man hidden away in Arabia who was being instructed concerning the transition from Moses to Christ, and also concerning the Body of Christ. The other writers of the New Testament were not given these revelations, it seems.
Paul was a Jew writing to believers who were both Jewish and Gentile, all of whom were heavily influenced by the Law of Moses. What Paul has to say in Romans and Galatians must be understood in these terms. Otherwise one places a Gentile understanding on several verses and comes up with incorrect conclusions.
Let me sum up what Paul was not saying, and was saying, and then elaborate later.
Paul was not saying that by making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ we will go to Heaven when we die regardless of whether we keep the commandments issued by Christ and His Apostles. I know it appears this way, but other writings of Paul show conclusively that such is not the case.
Paul was teaching that a Jew can come to Christ and be counted as righteous apart from an observance of the Law of Moses. He does not have to perform religious works of any kind to be justified. Because he has believed and received what God has spoken concerning the Lord Jesus, God counts him as righteous.
Incidentally, righteous behavior is not defined by a specific set of rules written down somewhere. Righteous behavior is whatever God accepts. This is important to keep in mind.
The seeming contradiction is: on the one hand Paul insisted that if we obey the compulsions of our sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God; we will die spiritually; on the other hand Paul insisted that we can come to Christ and have our sins forgiven apart from the observance of any moral code, the Law of Moses in particular.
The ground rule for our discussion is that every word of the received Hebrews and Greek texts is inspired by God and is profitable for instruction in righteousness. Therefore we do not, as is the current practice, ignore the passages that do not fit our understanding. We embrace the entire written Word of God and pray for understanding that will resolve the seeming contradiction. With this ground rule in mind, let us proceed to show that Paul did not mean we can profess faith in Christ and then behave unrighteously without serious, if not fatal consequences. Our hope is that we will turn many to righteousness and thus bring about lasting revival in America.
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, (Romans 3:21,22)
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)
Take a careful look at the two passages above. Do they seem to contradict each other? We are maintaining that both passages are equally inspired.
Is it reasonable that the Apostle Paul would write something in Romans and then contradict himself in Galatians?
Who are being addressed by Paul?
In both cases, those who either are Jews or are being influenced by Jews. In both instances he is writing to Christians—Jews and Gentiles.
Paul is proving something—but what? How can these two passages be reconciled?
Romans, Chapters Three through Five, are the primary basis for modern Christian teaching. It seems as though Paul is saying that righteousness comes through faith and not by the works of the Law. Of course, we Gentiles interpret this to mean Paul is stating that righteousness comes through faith and is not based on any righteous behavior on our part.
Yet in Galatians Paul is stating that if the believer, Jew or Gentile, continues to practice unrighteousness he or she will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Does Paul mean we do not gain righteousness by the works of the Law, but otherwise we have to live righteously in terms of conscience? This may be part of the explanation. I am not certain this is all that is meant.
I do not know where Paul got the idea of the sinful nature or of the works of the flesh. Do you? Did he derive these from the Law of Moses? It does not seem so for he did not mention Sabbath-breaking, or eating pork, or lack of circumcision as being sin.
Perhaps the Spirit of God pointed out to him the sins that Christ is concerned about and Paul describes as the sinful nature. Or maybe Paul’s conscience and intuitive sense of right and wrong played a role. In any case, the works of the sinful nature that Paul mentions often in his epistles are regarded as sin from the standpoint of the Kingdom of God. Whoever lives in them will die spiritually and not inherit the Kingdom of God. This we know from what Paul said in several epistles.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)
It is clear, as we read Romans and Galatians, that Paul is resisting the Law of Moses, not righteous behavior. But how can we judge righteousness if not by the Law of Moses? Paul, in the eighth chapter of Romans, states that the Spirit of God is to us a Law who teaches us to put sin to death—sin as determined by the Spirit of God, not by the Law of Moses.
I think this is part of the answer.
There is another element that needs clarification, and that is “faith.” If we claim to be saved by faith and not by works we need to be positive we are defining faith correctly.
According to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, faith is obedience to God’s personal revelation to individuals. It is noteworthy that every one of the individuals of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews lived prior to the new covenant. So we cannot confine faith to the new covenant.
But can faith be obedience to the written Word of God as well as to a personal revelation? I believe it can. So obedience to a personal revelation is not the key to the definition of faith. Faith comprises both obedience to personal revelation from God and obedience to the written Word of God.
Today, however, faith means we place our trust in what the Bible says about the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do this we are “saved.” Some go so far as to say if we once make a profession of faith in Christ we can never be lost to the purposes of God.
We follow this up by stating that this is all there is to salvation. When we place our trust in what the Bible says about the Lord Jesus we are saved whether or not we live in a godly fashion. We are saved by faith and not by works of righteousness we have done.
And yet the Apostle Paul declared that if we live according to our sinful nature we will die spiritually.
My knowledge of Christian teaching is limited, it is true. But let me say I never have heard a resolution of the seeming contradiction in Paul’s teaching of grace and Paul’s teaching of spiritual death through obedience to the impulses of the sinful nature. Have you?
Let’s take a careful look at some of the verses in the early part of Romans and see if we can understand what the apostle meant by being saved by faith instead of works.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
The above verse is the basis of Christian teaching as salvation is presented. It is absolutely true. However, because of the desire to make a simple formula for “getting saved,” Christian preaching leaves the idea that there has never been a righteous person on the earth. Also, the destructive concept is added that it is useless for any person to attempt to live righteously.
The truth is, the Old Testament refers numerous times to righteous people. Noah, for example was regarded as righteous. God respects the righteous efforts of human beings.
Secondly, no person can succeed as a disciple apart from doing his or her best to live righteously. It is true we have to pray for help if we are to keep the commandments of the New Testament. It is true also that as Christ is formed in us it becomes increasingly easy to do what Christ and His Apostles commanded.
To tell people that no person ever has been righteous, that God does not honor the efforts of unsaved people to obey their conscience, and that it is useless for the Christian to employ what moral strength her or she has to live righteously, disastrously warps the common sense of both the saved and the unsaved. Religion has a way of destroying common sense and integrity, and the Christian religion is no exception.
And are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24)
We are counted righteous on the basis of Divine grace apart from our effort to keep the Law of Moses. Such a verse could be used to support the current error that we are to do nothing but believe in Christ.
The problem here is, Paul was seeking to move the Jew from his trust in the Law to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is not speaking at this point of how we are to live the Christian life but of how to pass from Moses to Christ and still be righteous.
Can you see what Paul is doing here? He is not telling us we can live in an ungodly manner and be righteous. Paul was a righteous man and would be horrified to know Christian people are interpreting his evangelizing of the Jews to mean Christians are free to be sinners.
Paul’s emphasis on faith moves us from Moses to Christ without condemnation, but it is not a manual for overcoming sin.
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25,26)
We notice that the forgiveness of our sins applies to those “sins committed beforehand.” The forgiveness of our sins does not apply to sins after we receive Christ except as we walk in the light of God’s will.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
God demonstrated His justice in that He gave His Son to die for our sin. Otherwise Satan could say God was letting us go unpunished while Satan is to be tormented in the Lake of Fire. But we were punished in Christ, that is, Christ bore our punishment on Himself. Therefore God is just in that He did require that the penalty be paid.
Why God will not extend the atonement to Satan or his angels I cannot say. The answer to this question is hidden in the counsels of God. It is firmly established that man can be forgiven if he receives Jesus Christ as his atonement, but this forgiveness is not extended to Satan. Christ is a Man and died for men, not for rebellious angels.
I have speculated that if Adam and Eve had eaten of the tree of life and had become immortal, and then had disobeyed God, it is possible there would have been no redemption for them. They would have been immortal sinners. However, this is only my thought and is not from the Scriptures.
Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Romans 3:27,28)
We cannot boast of our righteousness. We received it by faith. God did not save us because we had earned His approval. God has declared that all are under sin that there might be one salvation for all men, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor.
Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, Since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. (Romans 3:29,30)
It has become fashionable to speak of a Gentile Church and a Jewish Church. This is completely unscriptural. There is only the Church, the one Seed of Abraham, the one Olive Tree, the one new Man. This is the true Israel. However, it is scriptural that God will turn once again to the physical land and people of Israel as soon as the full number of Gentiles have been added to the Olive Tree.
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)
I think what Paul is saying here is that we are not discrediting the Law of Moses in any manner, recognizing that the Law is holy, and just, and good. The Law tells us what sin is.
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Romans 7:12)
By placing our faith in the atonement we are declaring that we are guilty under the Law and in need of Divine forgiveness. We are upholding the Law by the very fact that we regard ourselves as being sinful, based on the judgments of the Law.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)
It appears that the current teaching of righteousness by faith apart from any effort to live righteously is based on the fact that when God spoke to Abraham, Abraham believed God, and thus was counted righteous apart from any attempt to earn God’s favor.
I think we are missing Paul’s point. Paul was not proving that Christians can live in an ungodly manner and still be counted righteous on the basis of their belief that Christ is God’s Son. Rather Paul was pointing out to the Jews that it is possible to be righteous apart from observing the Law of Moses. The Jews of Paul’s day would find it nearly impossible to believe one could be righteous who was not observing the Law. Can you see that it would be necessary to prove that righteousness was possible apart from the Law, if the Jew was to move from Moses to Christ?
Paul could just as well have used Noah as an illustration, because Noah was held to be righteous apart from the Law of Moses. But Abraham is a better example of righteousness apart from works because Abraham merely believed. He was not advised to do anything except believe, in the passage Paul employs.
The emphasis is not that the Christian is to lead an unrighteous life. The idea is to believe when the required action is to believe, and to act when the required action is to act, if one hopes to be counted righteous in the sight of God.
Notice the following addressed 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 suppose Abraham had thought to himself, “God already has declared me to be righteous, so I do not have to walk before God and be blameless.”
The question is, if Abraham had not at that point made an effort to walk before God and be blameless, choosing instead to have “faith” in the promise of God, would God still have imputed righteousness to him?
If our answer is “no, of course not,” then we, if we are to use Abraham as an example, are saying that at one point in our experience we are to believe God and not attempt to improve on His righteousness, and at another point we are to do what God tells us to do. Are you in agreement with this?
Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17-19)
Did God say He would fulfill His promise to Abraham on the basis of Abraham’s belief and the belief of Abraham’s children?
No, He did not. God said He would continue to bless Abraham because Abraham would direct his children and his household to do what is right and just. Then God would be able to fulfill His promise to Abraham. Would Abraham himself also have to do what is right and just? What do you think?
And later, of course, Isaac was required as a sacrifice.
It is clear that to use the time Abraham acquired righteousness by belief alone as a model for the Christian discipleship is not reasonable. Paul’s point was only to move the Jew from the scroll of the Law so he could come to his Messiah without being regarded as a sinner. It is not a plan for how to live the victorious life, how to conduct our discipleship.
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:4,5)
It is clear that we cannot ignore God’s provision of redemption through Jesus Christ. We cannot say to God, “I will be good to my neighbors and my family and merit your salvation. I really do not need to come to Christ for help.”
When we come to Christ for salvation, repenting, placing our faith in the atonement, and being baptized in water, God meets us with the born-again experience. We now have a portion of Divine life, eternal life.
We cannot live in such a manner that God owes us eternal life. The Jew was seeking to earn eternal life by keeping the Law, thus putting God in his debt. Paul say we are not to do this.
But what about after we are born again? Do we have to live righteously or not?
Paul says if we do not decide to live righteously, choosing instead to continue in slavery to sin, we will die spiritually. Thus there is no contradiction at all. Paul was stating that we receive righteousness and salvation by faith; we do not earn these blessings. But after we receive righteousness and salvation by faith we are to act in a manner worthy of the Kingdom of God.
And here is the main issue: If we do not behave in a manner worthy of the Kingdom of God, we can lose our position in Christ, our eternal life. Perhaps the greatest of the present Christian misunderstandings is that once we have received Christ and been born again we cannot lose our salvation and righteousness. There are any number of verses in the New Testament that tell us we are saved by enduring to the end, that is, salvation is not something that takes place only in our past, but is present and future.
Eternity will reveal how many Christians have lost their place in Christ because they were assured that once they had eternal life they could not lose it. This is the voice of Satan saying, in spite of several passages to the contrary, “You shall not surely die.”
I could list a number of passages. Suffice it to say that if we do not bear the fruit of Christ’s moral image we will be removed from the Vine, from Christ. Whoever is not willing to accept this simple, straightforward declaration of the Lord would not be convinced were I to present ten additional passages.
Our good works cannot possibly produce the Divine salvation. But the Divine salvation always produces good works. This is its purpose.
We have made going to Heaven the goal of salvation. It is not. The goal of salvation is to take fallen man and make him a new creation in Christ. This is what salvation is.
When an individual has not become a new moral creation in Christ, he or she has not as yet proceeded to the fullness of salvation. Going to Heaven has little to do with the plan of redemption. Salvation is a change in what we are, not where we are. It is much more than an escape from destruction in the Day of Wrath, although such escape is one aspect of salvation.
Where there are no good works of righteous behavior there is no evidence of salvation. It is as simple as this. Man was made to be in the image of God. Sin has corrupted that image. Salvation redeems from the hand of the enemy that which has been forfeited or stolen through deception.
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Romans 4:6-8)
David sinned at least three times. He committed adultery. He had Uriah the Hittite murdered. He numbered the people.
How did David react to this sin? He repented! He did not say I am justified because I believe God. Rather, he was afraid God was going to take the Holy Spirit from him.
When David sinned he did what we are supposed to do. He repented and went on serving God. Also, he suffered for his sins, but he always gave God the glory.
It is obvious, from the life of David, a truly righteous man, that Paul is not attempting to prove David was not righteous but trusted in imputed righteousness. No, Paul was seeking to move the Jew from trust in the Torah to trust in Jesus Christ for righteousness. He was not telling the Jew it no longer is necessary he live righteously and attempting to prove this from the life of David—the man after God’s heart!
David indeed did say the man is blessed whose sin is not counted against him by the Lord. David was referring, I believe, to the fact that although he had sinned, God had forgiven him on the basis of his heartfelt sorrow and repentance. David was blessed because God did not hold his sin against him. But to use this to prove that David did not live righteously but counted on God to remain blind to his sins is certainly not a sound approach to the Scriptures.
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:9-12)
The blessing of ascribed righteousness was given to Abraham before he was circumcised. Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already was righteous through faith, not a means of making him righteous.
This makes Abraham the father of people who believe but have not been circumcised, the idea being that righteousness might be ascribed to them.
In addition, Abraham is the father of those who have been circumcised and also continue in the faith that Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Again, the point is that the Jew can move from Moses to Christ and still be counted righteous.
It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, Because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (Romans 4:13-15)
The promise that Abraham would inherit the world came to him on the basis of his faith; although we saw previously that the promise came also when God was assured that Abraham would command his children to keep the righteous ways of the Lord.
Paul goes on to declare that if those who keep the Law of Moses are the heirs of the world, then faith has lost its value and the promise is worthless. The reason the promise is worthless is that the Law brings down the wrath of God on those who do not keep every point of the Law. An increase in guilt is the result of trying to find righteousness through the works of the Law.
Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. (Romans 7:9,10)
Since the Law-keepers are now found to be transgressors, they cannot inherit the world. If the promise is not through faith then we are undone, our hope of righteousness and glory has lost its foundation.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. (Romans 4:16,17)
Because the promise of being the heir of the world, comes by faith, being by God’s grace and not our works, then those who are not Jews, not keepers of the Law of Moses, can receive the inheritance. Abraham is our father also. “Many nations” includes more than the nation of Israel. We Gentiles become part of the one Olive Tree.
God spoke to Abraham concerning Abraham’s inheritance when he was past the years of child-bearing as though the blessing already had been received. God has a way of calling things not as yet in existence as though they already are present.
We understand, therefore, that God took the initiative with Abraham. Abraham was not a man so diligent in the things of religion that God was obligated to bless him. God spoke of the inheritance, and then guided Abraham all the way along. Abraham’s task was to believe and be obedient, not to “dare God to do great things” as we say in our time.
So it is now. We do not choose Christ, He chooses us and justifies us as the Father directs Him. Our task is to believe and be obedient. We are to diligently apply ourselves each day to discovering God’s will for us and to performing it. We are not to attempt to “do great things for God” or to be presumptuous. Our role is to be patient and obedient, denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ as closely as we can.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. (Romans 4:18,19)
We are saved by hope—the hope that one day our body will be redeemed, that is, will be filled with the eternal Life of God. We are not to stagger at the promise of God through unbelief but to be strong in faith, confident that God will purify our spirit, soul, and body until we are part of the Bride who is without blemish of any kind. We hope that in place of our body of sin and death we will have a new body that seeks righteousness. The Apostle Paul groaned for such a body.
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, Being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 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. (Romans 4:20-24)
To have faith in God is to believe that God knows the details of our life; that God’s intention is to bring us to joy; that God has the power to bring us to joy. This is what faith is. Eve was tempted to disbelieve that God truly was desirous that she have fullness of joy.
If we are to live in victory in Christ we must continue to believe that God is acting in our best interests. This test of our faith can be quite difficult at times. All through our tests and trials we can see what it means for the righteous to live by faith. Our faith is to hold steady if we are to maintain our position in Christ.
We are not earning our salvation by holding steady, although we are demonstrating we are worthy of the Kingdom of God—an expression Paul used on occasion. It is not a case of righteousness by works but of working out our salvation. To not work out our salvation in faith is to lose what had been given to us in the beginning. We are one of the foolish virgins and the door will be shut in our face when the Lord returns.
I wish I could impress Christian people with the seriousness and urgency of salvation. You know, God works patiently with us, giving us many opportunities to change our ways and serve Him. Because judgment does not fall on us immediately we begin to think we are acceptable to God and will come to no harm.
Suddenly God has had enough of our disobedience. Without our realizing it our gifts are taken from us and given to another, and we pass into spiritual darkness. Again I say, we may not realize this is taking place, supposing that all such punishment will take place when the Lord returns to earth. The same is true also of the careless virgins who were denied entrance when the Lord came to call His people to Himself. It can take place today!
Calvary was a serious business. It is not wise to assume God is pleased with us when we are not denying ourselves and following Jesus, as is true of so many American believers.
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
Had the Lord Jesus not been raised from the dead we still would be in our sins. But now we have right standing with God because the Lord has triumphed over the grave and has been brought back to life and raised into the Presence of the Father.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1,2)
The Jew can look up from the Torah and find righteousness and peace with God through Christ. He can rejoice in the hope that God has received him and will bring him into the fullness of Divine Glory in the Day of Resurrection.
Can you see there is no emphasis here on how we are to pursue the Christian life? The emphasis is on our turning from Moses to Christ. Paul is presenting the initial act of redemption, not the rugged path that leads finally to the resurrection to eternal life.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Paul is not speaking now of righteousness through naked belief. Paul is telling of the sufferings of the Christian discipleship and of the patience, character, and hope that are produced by our tribulations. Meanwhile God pours out His love into our hearts through His Holy Spirit, and so our hope does not disappoint us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
“Christ died for us,” Paul is telling the Jews. At the appointed time in history the atonement was made. We were in our sins, condemned by the Law of Moses. It was necessary therefore that Christ die on our behalf.
This is not the redemption the Jews expected, which was deliverance from the Romans. Rather it is deliverance from the hand of Satan. We cannot earn or acquire such deliverance by any works of our own, only by the grace and goodness of God.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:9,10)
The blood of Calvary credits righteousness to us. Our past sins have been forgiven. The slate has been wiped clean. Now we have assurance that we will be spared in the Day of Wrath.
While we yet were God’s enemies, because of being condemned by the Law, we were reconciled to God through the death of Jesus Christ. How much more is it true that we shall be saved through His life?
We can see what a powerful argument this would be to Jewish people. The Law was a yoke around their necks, keeping them in condemnation.
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10)
Now God has replaced the Law with faith in His Son, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, with the born-again experience, with deliverance from the Day of Wrath, with the fullness of righteousness. Yet the Jews were not easy to convince because of the depth and power of their traditions.
They [the leaders of the Jews] arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. (Acts 28:23,24)
We Gentiles do not understand why Paul kept stressing faith, thinking Paul meant there is nothing we are to do but believe and wait to go to Heaven. We are not able to appreciate what a wall of resistance Paul was seeking to breach. Our misunderstanding of Paul’s context is a monumental misunderstanding and has profoundly affected the Christian nations of our day, and consequently the governments and citizens of those nations.
It is time now for us to return to the Lord and find out how He wants us to remedy this deplorable situation.
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)
It is important to understand there are two dimensions of our reconciliation to God. We are reconciled to God legally, as it were, when we place our faith in the blood atonement. This reconciliation takes place the moment we truly believe in Christ.
Then there is a lifetime of being reconciled to the Lord in actuality. We go through a multitude of tests and some fiery trials as we are being delivered from worldliness, lust, and self-will. The righteous are saved with difficulty.
We have to endure to the end to be saved. We have to hold confidently to our faith in Christ because of the fierce opposition we encounter. We have to always be wary that our crown of rulership is not taken from us.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—(Romans 5:12)
Every person who does not have Christ is spiritually dead. He is little more than intelligent dust. Only in Christ is there true life, the Divine Life of God.
This death came to us from our ancestor Adam, who sinned against God. We were born under this condemnation.
God does not blame us because we were born under condemnation; neither does God judge us because we were born in sin that we did not choose. God does blame us if we neglect to take advantage of the deliverance from sin He has provided through Christ. The great sin is that of neglect.
They were marrying. They were giving in marriage. They were buying. They were selling. They were burdened under the anxieties of life. None of these actions and situation are inherently sinful. The problem arises when the cares of life prevent us from seeking God’s salvation. The flood comes and carries us off, not because we were sinful but because we were neglectful.
We have many temptations in America, especially that of engaging in immoral behavior. But I think by far our greatest problem is the activities and opportunities in which we can be involved. It is quite difficult for the American to gain the ability to be in a continual dialogue with Christ about every aspect of his life, because so many situations are calling for his attention. And yet it is to this dialogue that we have been called.
The Lord knocks on the door of our heart. He wants to enter and dine with us, to commune with us, to dialogue with us. But we simply do not have the time. Thus we miss the day of our visitation. The Son of God is kept outside and we waste our years toiling for that which never can satisfy. This is the great tragedy of America in the twenty-first century.
For before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. (Romans 5:13,14)
What kind of death reigned from Adam to Moses? Spiritual and physical death, the penalty issued against Adam because of his sin. This was true even in the case of those who did not disobey a commandment given to them by the Lord.
Sin was in the world prior to the Law of Moses. How was sin defined in those days? Sin was the transgression of the eternal moral law of God, the law of which the Ten Commandments is an abridged, covenantal, somewhat negative version.
Sin was not taken into account prior to the Law of Moses, and yet death, the result of sin, reigned.
None of us asked to be born under condemnation, to have physical and spiritual death working in our body from the time we are born, or to have a sin nature that wars against our desire to be righteous. But we have been born under condemnation, and we do have a sin nature. Therefore salvation must include not only the forgiveness of our sins, the removal of condemnation, but also deliverance from the sin nature. Paul tells us in his epistles how to deal with the sin nature we inherited.
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:15)
We all died because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. We all will live if we will accept by faith the gift of eternal Divine Life that has come to us through Jesus Christ.
We humans love religion. We enjoy having something we can do to earn the favor of God. More than this, we like to have some religious practices we can perform and then get on with our life.
We tend to avoid what God wants, which is continual interaction with Him. We do not want to turn from our own way of life and just look to the living Jesus moment by moment. This is why we have to labor to enter the rest of God. It is because of the pressures on us to walk in our own path.
Christ stands in front of us and invites us to receive resurrection life. How wonderful to be able to let go and just live in Jesus. To enter the eternal abiding in Christ, the eternal dialogue, is well worth fighting for and striving toward. This is the goal Paul was seeking—attainment to the resurrection that is out from among the dead. The misunderstanding we have today is that eternal life is a gift handed to us apart from a daily communion with Christ. It is a monumental, destructive error!
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When we attempt to make Him a theological ticket or passport, instead of the Way, we lose both the Truth and the Life.
Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:16,17)
One man’s sin brought spiritual and physical death to mankind. One Man’s obedience brought righteousness to multitudes.
Death reigned through Adam. Those who receive God’s grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through Jesus Christ.
Reigning in life means that as we continually seek the Lord Jesus Christ, we are able to denounce and renounce the spiritual death that is in us. We are preparing for the resurrection of our body when the Lord returns.
Either death is reigning in us or we are reigning in life. We make this decision each day. The struggle is death, and life; death, and life; death, and life.
Each day we are tempted to collaborate with death and each day we choose to collaborate with death or to collaborate with the Life that is in the living Jesus. To give in to the pull of death in our sinful nature leads toward corruption in the Day of Resurrection. To resist the death and choose Christ leads toward eternal life in the Day of Resurrection. God always will help us if we desire to choose life instead of death.
We can see from this how utterly, terribly misleading is the current Christian understanding of the Apostle Paul, thinking he was teaching us we can keep on sinning with the hope of going to Heaven on the basis of our profession of faith in Christ. Such an attitude prevents our learning to war successfully against our sinful nature. It does not encourage us to resist the government of death, the rule of death we inherited from Adam.
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18,19)
Adam’s one sin brought condemnation on all of us. Christ’s obedience to God purchased righteousness for all, and eternal life resulting from that righteousness.
The disobedience of the one man made all men sinners. The obedience of one Man made many men righteous.
Can you see from the above that Paul is not telling us how to conduct our discipleship; how to live the Christian life? Rather Paul is portraying clearly how through Christ we pass from the sin and death of Adam to the righteousness and life of God through Christ.
This the Law of Moses can never do, and such is Paul’s point.
Once we receive this righteousness, this life, then we have to follow the Holy Spirit each day as He leads us in paths of righteousness. If we do not, then the program of redemption is aborted. As Paul says, if we continue in the sinful nature we will die spiritually and reap corruption in our mortal body in the Day of Resurrection.
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)
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (II Peter 2:20-22)
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, (Romans 5:20)
Where sin increases grace increases all the more. Some of Paul’s day and some in our day twist Paul’s statement to their own destruction.
Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved. (Romans 3:7,8)
You know, I have been studying the Bible for many years. I have come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit has placed some passages in the Bible so those whose hearts are wrong will be able to justify their deceptions from the Scriptures. They will find that when they play games with God, God will play games with them. And God always wins!
If your heart is wrong you will find in Paul’s writings proof that you are justified in your sin. In fact, the humanistic thrust in today’s world has seduced Christian leaders into believing that Christ is justifying their sinful behavior because they profess belief in Him.
Those whose hearts tell them somehow today’s preaching is not of God may rejoice to discover they have been correct all along. The current grace-rapture-Heaven emphasis is not the burden of the Spirit in our time. The Spirit is calling for righteous behavior on the part of all believers; then on the part of our government; then on the part of all men.
I say in the name of the Lord Jesus that God is requiring righteousness today. Those who repent and seek the Lord will be spared with their families in the day God comes to punish America for her moral sins. But the arrogant believers who believe Christ is accepting their lying and gossiping, their covetousness and seeking preeminence, their love of pleasure and entertainment, their willingness to participate in the Antichrist world spirit, will suffer greatly in the coming days.
So that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)
Sin has reigned in spiritual death in our life, especially under the Law of Moses. God wants His grace, His willingness to forget our transgressions of the past, and the gift of His Divine Virtue through Christ that we might behave righteously, to bring eternal Divine Life to us. His grace indeed shall bring His Life to us if we will look to Jesus for His guidance at every point of our life.
Paul, understanding that his reasoning with the Jews could be misunderstood, issued the following disclaimer:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1)
Is this the conclusion to be drawn from my reasoning with the Jews? Am I teaching that we should keep on sinning (the conclusion reached by so many of today’s Christian scholars)?
Then Paul goes on to explain, in the sixth chapter of Romans, that if we continue in slavery to sin we will die. This is what Paul meant by “the wages of sin is death.”
Because we have received the Life of Christ we now have the authority and the power to choose to be the slave of righteousness. If we choose to serve righteousness we will enter eternal life. If we choose to serve sin we will die spiritually.
This is the message of the sixth chapter of Romans, the guard against an incorrect interpretation of Chapters Three through Five, and the necessary foundation for Paul’s explanation of the path to the redemption of our mortal body, presented in Chapter Eight.
Since man was created on the earth God has had one goal for him—that he practice righteousness, that he love mercy, that he walk humbly with God. Covenants come and covenants go. But God’s goal for man does not change.
All religion is scaffolding designed to be done away when the goal has been reached.
The Law of Moses is holy. If a law could have been given that would have accomplished God’s objective, the Law of Moses would have been it. The Law promotes righteousness and blesses those who keep its commandments.
But the Jews, in many instances, fastened on the keeping of the Law rather than on God’s goal. They observed the letter of the Law but their hearts were far from God.
We see in the time of Christ that the Pharisees, those great Law-keepers, did not practice righteousness; they were unmerciful; and when God was among them they did not recognize Him much less walk with Him.
We Christians have made the same error. We have seized upon Paul’s writing and have constructed a doctrine that makes it unnecessary to practice righteousness, to love mercy, or to walk humbly with God. All we have to do is to make a profession of faith and we are on our way to Paradise.
Thus God is always thwarted, and we and our nation are going to reap the results of our ignorance and disobedience.
What does God desire?
That we walk uprightly before God and man. That we are kind to the poor, honest in our dealings, truthful, and morally pure.
That we are merciful, slow to judge other people, ready to forgive, with a heart of compassion and understanding.
And here is the most important part—that we walk humbly with Christ.
To communicate with the living Jesus at every moment, to be guided by Him in all that we do, is the highest form of law and righteousness. All the scaffolding of religion falls away and we are found abiding in Christ in God. Any religious routine we attempt to add to the simple walk with Christ brings confusion and loss for Christ.
So simple! And yet so elusive as the various pressures of life plus the antagonism of Satan and his workers strive endlessly to bring us down from our high place in Christ. What diligence, what wisdom, what experience, what courage, what faithfulness are required if we are to maintain our place in Christ filled with righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
There are some who will be successful in the pursuit of Gods’ goal. They will enter God’s rest and provide a dwelling and rest for God through which He can govern and bless His creation. I do not know how many will care enough to press through to such victory. But the rewards mentioned in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are theirs. In fact, they will inherit all the works of God’s hands.
You and I must let go of everything else, counting it all garbage, that we may learn to live in the fullness of resurrection life and power. We shall profit immeasurably, and—best of all—our Father in Heaven will be pleased and will possess that which He had in mind when he created man.
We conclude, therefore, that Paul was stating the unrighteous person can come to God and receive the gift of righteousness without earning it. In his discussion in Romans 3:19-21, Paul was not teaching us how to live the Christian life. He presented his doctrine of how to pursue our discipleship in other places in Romans and as well as in his other epistles. His emphasis in these other passages is not primarily on naked belief but on shunning the impulses of our sinful nature and embracing godly behavior.
Again: Paul’s emphasis on faith moves us from Moses to Christ without condemnation, but it is not a manual for overcoming sin.
There are great thrones to be gained, and there are great battles to be won if we are to be successful. The promises are to the victors. The spoil is shared with the strong. To be a coheir with the Lord Jesus Christ is to possess no small inheritance!
God has made every provision for us that we might be more than an overcomer. If we come short of the Glory of God it is because we were careless, not assigning enough importance and urgency to the promises of God.
(“Faith and Works”, 3266-1)