A FATAL INTERPRETATION

(Trumpet Ministries,Inc. / Word of Righteousness)

A FATAL INTERPRETATION Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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

The Apostle Paul endeavored to make clear to the Jews that they cannot be saved by obeying the Law of Moses but by putting their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul's words have been corrupted to mean we are saved by our belief system apart from any effort to live righteously or serve the Lord. It is a spiritually fatal interpretation.

Table of Contents

Romans 4:5 We Do Not Have To Keep God's Commandments?  Reacting against penances and indulgences  Orthodox Jewish thinking  The grace bubble  We are saved by belief? The Purpose of God's Commandments Is Only To Make Us See Our Need of a Savior?  God's provision  The purpose of the new covenant Seeming Inconsistency Within the Book of Titus Conclusion

A FATAL INTERPRETATION

Romans 4:5

However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5—NIV)

One time we saw a picture in a Christian magazine of a man sitting on the floor leaning back against the wall. He appeared to be petting his dog. He was showing us there is nothing we have to do because we are saved by grace.

We recently watched a missionary film of a new convert coming up out of the water of baptism. The believer asked, "What do I do now?"

The missionary answered, "Absolutely nothing." This from a fundamental, devout, self-sacrificing missionary society.

"The man who does not work but trusts God."

"His faith is credited as righteousness."

This statement of Paul's has come to mean there is nothing we are to do in the way of righteous, holy living. We are saved by trusting God who justifies the wicked. Period.

Am I correct? Is this what is taught?

Let's think about this.

We Do Not Have To Keep God's Commandments?

How about all the commandments in the Gospels and the Epistles? Do they even apply to us? If so, in what manner?

Jesus said we are to forgive our enemies. But we don't have to do this because we trust God who justifies the wicked. Right?

Paul said we ought to present our body a living sacrifice. But we don't have to do this because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

Paul said we are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. But we don't have to do this because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

John says we must keep the commandments of God. But we don't have to do this because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

Peter says we must add self-control to our faith. But we don't have to do this because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

James says we must control our tongue. But we don't have to do this because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

The writer of Hebrews says we must not shrink back but press forward to salvation. But we don't have to do this because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

Peter says if we turn back from the way of righteousness we are as a dog returning to his vomit. But this does not apply to us because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

Jesus said if we do not bear fruit (His moral image) we will be cut out of the Vine, out of Himself. But this does not apply to us because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

Paul said the immoral will not enter the Kingdom of God. But this does not apply to us because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

John says if we have the hope of seeing Jesus when He appears we must purify ourselves. But this does not apply to us because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

Titus says grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. But this does not apply to us because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

Paul exhorts Timothy to lay hold on eternal life and to set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity so he might save himself and those who hear him. Of course, Paul did not mean for Timothy to take him seriously because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

We can now throw out the Bible because we trust God who justifies the wicked.

If we claim to be "saved by faith alone" then this is what we are saying. God does not expect us to do what the New Testament commands because we are to trust God and permit Him to justify us. No effort on our part is to be added. God justifies the wicked on the basis of their belief alone.

Do you believe all this? As a Christian of today you may or may not. But do you know how Romans 4:5 is reconciled with the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, which are set forth in the Scriptures as though they are to be obeyed?

Much good has come from the Protestant Reformation. But there is death in the pot. We are beginning to see the harvest of the "faith alone" doctrine. The fruit coming forth is horrible. The secular world is reflecting the moral confusion of the Christians.

Reacting against penances and indulgences.

The Reformers spoke against the penances and indulgences practiced by the members of the Catholic Church. When they said we are saved by faith alone they meant faith apart from penances, indulgences and the other requirements of Catholicism. They did not mean faith without righteous, holy living because the New Testament is one long exhortation to righteous, holy behavior accompanied by dreadful warnings if we Christians continue walking in sin.

Let us repeat the verse we are examining:

However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:5—NIV))

The key to understanding what Paul meant is the expression "who does not work but trusts God."

Certainly this could be interpreted to mean there is nothing we are to do but trust God, believing Christ died for our sins.

The problem here is that of taking one verse of the Bible without referring to the remainder of the Bible. We all understand this is something we are not supposed to do, and yet the practice is common.

The remainder of the Bible, especially the New Testament, reveals clearly that Paul did not mean there is nothing we are to do but trust God, believing Christ died for our sins.

We have lifted a verse from its context and are using it as a mold over which all other verses must be hammered into shape. The result has been and continues to be an abundance of every sin imaginable on the part of Christian people.

What, then, did Paul mean when he said God justifies the wicked who trust in Him?

Orthodox Jewish thinking.

In order to understand Paul we have to move from Gentile thinking to Orthodox Jewish thinking. Paul was attempting to turn the Orthodox away from trying to gain righteousness in God's sight by the Law of Moses, to gaining righteousness by putting their trust in the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.

We cannot understand Paul clearly as long as we are thinking as a Gentile.

The Orthodox were extremely concerned with keeping the Sabbath, with circumcision, and with the kosher dietary laws.

Are you concerned with these? If you are a Gentile you probably do not even think about them. But they were important issues of those Paul was addressing.

If you are not trying to earn righteousness by keeping Sabbath, by being circumcised, by observing the kosher laws, the feast days, bar mitzvah, and all the other points of the Torah and Talmud, then you will not readily understand what Paul was talking about in the early chapters of Romans.

Paul was telling the Jews you cannot earn righteousness with God by the works of the Law, now that God has given His Son.

For a Gentile to conclude from this that "who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked" means we are to make no effort to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles concerning righteousness, holiness, and stern obedience to God is to miss entirely the program and goal of the new covenant.

By "who does not work" Paul means who does not try to gain righteousness by keeping the Law of Moses.

The "grace" bubble.

There is a concept that has been held at least for the last two hundred years, maybe even from before that time. The concept is that the believer lives in a "state of grace" that shields him from the Divine examination of his behavior. The atonement is viewed as a covering that prevents God from seeing our conduct. Once we believe in Jesus we are placed in some kind of bubble such that our salvation is unrelated to our behavior.

The concept of the bubble that shields us from the laws of the Kingdom of God gives "belief" a role in our salvation that God does not mean for it to have. If we are justified in God's sight merely by our belief in the atonement, then what is most of the New Testament speaking of?

Obedience to Christ, keeping His commandments and those of His Apostles, is vastly more important than belief in theological facts. Belief has value only as it results in our obeying Christ.

We are saved by belief?

The doctrine that we are saved by belief is more Gnostic than Christian. Gnosticism, an ancient heresy, is still running strong in our day. We can believe in Christ all we want to, but if that belief does not result in our doing the works commanded by the writers of the New Testament, then our belief is worthless.

What do we mean by "believe"? Do we mean we believe Christ died on the cross for our sins? Do we believe there is a God? Do we believe there is a Heaven? Do we believe there is a Day of Judgment (many Christians do not believe there is a Day of Judgment that applies to them because this would mean their behavior is at issue)?

Do you know the demons understand all this? They know only too well that these are facts. Are they saved by their belief? Do they have eternal life?

If belief is our salvation, why, then, did Christ, when warning us of His return, never mention our belief but only our behavior—whether or not we beat our fellow servants and so forth?

Why does Christ, in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, speak only of our works, never of our belief, if belief is the primary aspect of our redemption?

We must learn the difference between belief and faith. Belief is our recognition and acceptance of facts of the spirit realm, such as the blood atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith, on the other hand, is our grasp on God's character. Faith is the assurance that what God has promised us will take place. Faith is always moving forward in God, pressing the battle. Faith is a race. Faith is a fight as we enter the rest of God, the place where we are doing God's perfect will from the heart.

Belief is static. It really is mental assent, and there is not a drop of salvation in it except as it leads us to daily interaction with the living Lord Jesus Christ.

No human being who has ever lived, from the time of Abel, has pleased God by any means other than faith. The Law of Moses itself was of little value except as the believers approached the Law in faith.

No one has ever pleased God by merely believing the facts concerning God.

The Purpose of God's Commandments Is Only To Make Us See Our Need of a Savior?

It is sometimes stated that the only reason God gave us His commandments is that we might see we cannot keep them and thus have need for a savior.

Perhaps this strange idea came from such passages as the following:

Now we know whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. (Romans 3:19—NIV)

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:22—NIV)

I suppose someone could get this wild notion from the above two verses, but if he would read the remainder of the Bible he would soon discover God means for us to keep His commandments. He did not issue them just to frustrate us and drive us to Himself.

Do God's holy requirements drive us to Christ? Yes, they do; not for perpetual forgiveness but for deliverance from sin and change into His moral image.

The idea that God does not expect us to keep His commandments is ridiculous.

Did God give us commandments in order to frustrate us, to make it impossible for us to please Him? Or has He made a way for us to please Him through Jesus Christ (and I am not speaking of the grace of forgiveness, the atonement, the remission of sins, but of the grace of wisdom and power to live differently)?

Did your earthly father ever tell you to do something? Did he expect you to do it or did he give you jobs to do you could not possibly perform so you would tell him how wonderful he is and how you need his mercy?

If you took this attitude he would tell you to stop flattering him and start obeying him.

Isn't this what Jesus said? "Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don't do what I command you to do?"

How in the world did we Christians ever get ourselves into such a doctrinal mess?

God has commanded us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

Does God expect us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God, or did He command this behavior so we would see how high His ways are above us, go to Christ for forgiveness, and then continue in unjust, unmerciful, and proud behavior?

God's provision.

Has God made provision for us so we can do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?

First of all, He has forgiven all our sins through the blood of the cross.

He has given us of His Holy Spirit to strengthen, guide, and comfort us.

He has given us the writings of the Apostles as well as the four Gospels.

He has given birth to Christ in our heart.

He has given us fellow saints to encourage us.

He has torn the veil so we can go directly to the Mercy Seat for help in our time of need.

He has given us the body and blood of Jesus Christ to eat and drink so we can live by Christ as He lives by the Father.

God has warned us of the consequences of continuing in sin.

God holds out to us fabulous rewards if we will overcome the evil that strives against us.

God has given us the gifts and ministries of the Spirit.

God has given us the record of His past dealings with Israel so we might have examples of how to conduct ourselves in the Kingdom of God.

Why has God given us all these? So we can do nothing and wait for Christ to take us to our mansion on the basis of our naked belief?

Surely no person of at least average intelligence would believe such a farce.

God has roles and tasks in His eternal Kingdom that are to be performed by people. But before people can serve effectively in the Kingdom they must be changed into the moral image of Christ and brought into union with God so they are serving God and not their own desires.

How can a sinful, rebellious, self-seeking slanderer, as many Christians are, serve God as a living stone in His temple, a member of the Body of the Servant of the Lord, a part of the Bride of the Lamb, a judge of men and angels?

Let us not be foolish!

The purpose of the new covenant.

The purpose of the new covenant is to carve the eternal moral law of God in our mind and heart. For us to remain basically unchanged, not becoming a new creation in Christ, is to remain outside the Kingdom of God whether or not we believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

The lady who followed Paul knew he was a servant of God proclaiming the way of salvation. Was she saved? Did she have eternal life on the basis of the accuracy of her profession?

It is time for the Church to wake up. We have been grievously deceived. We are a valley of very dry bones.

There are evidences of spiritual refreshing today. I am thankful for them but have little faith they will accomplish lasting good until Christian doctrine undergoes a change from holding forth a belief system to demanding that Christian people keep the hundreds of commandments found in the New Testament.

I don't care how excited and blessed people get or how they fill the churches. They will not stand in the age of moral horrors we are approaching until they begin to take up their cross and follow the Lord Jesus in stern obedience to the Father.

We have a multitude of deceived believers who have been taught grace, grace, grace, rapture, rapture, rapture. They still are in diapers. They have no idea of the terrific spiritual forces that are to be unleashed on the earth in the last days. They will not be able to stand themselves and certainly will be of little help to the people of the world in the hour of trouble.

To enter the new covenant is to pray, study the Scriptures, and, as the Lord leads, begin to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. Fellowship with fervent Christians is a requirement, that is, if you can find an assembling of fervent, cross-carrying disciples. We are to serve, give of our means, and do all else that is written in the New Testament.

As we faithfully press forward in prayer Christ begins to be formed in us. This is the rising of the Day Star in our heart. The more of Christ that is formed in us the easier it becomes to serve God. The day finally will come when Christ is living in us in His fullness. Then we will behave righteously by nature.

But if we do not do what He has commanded, if we do not through the Spirit of God obey the Word, then Christ will not be formed in us. We will fail the course.

I am not certain how we ever got drawn into this monumental error of believing ourselves righteous in God's sight because we give assent to the words of the Scriptures. But it is certain this delusion has destroyed the moral strength of the churches.

Seeming Inconsistency Within the Book of Titus

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, (Titus 2:11,12—NIV)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:4,5—NIV)

The first passage (above) informs us that Divine grace teaches us to live an upright, godly life. The second passage tells us that God has not saved us according to the righteous things we have done but by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

The battle is joined right here. Our understanding of salvation is defined right here.

Which of these passages is the more important?

You might say, "Neither, because they are both the inspired Word of God." You would be absolutely correct.

Are they reconciled in that we are saved apart from righteous behavior but we ought to try to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions?

What do you think?

If one were to visit Christian churches he might hear the second passage repeated again and again. He might never hear the first passage. If he did it would be accompanied by repeated assurances that we stand in grace, and while we ought to try to do better we have our ticket to Heaven because God has not saved us "because of righteous things we have done."

Anyone with experience among Christian believers knows the attempt to "try to do good" is often an utter failure. The believers are walking in the sins of the flesh, counting on God to save them apart from righteous behavior.

But what if righteous behavior, rather than eternal residence in Paradise, is the goal of salvation? Does this change the equation?

Think about the first verse.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, (Titus 2:11,12—NIV)

Salvation is our change into righteous behavior.

For the grace of God that brings about our change into righteous behavior.

That fits.

Let's try the second verse.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:4,5—NIV)

He changed us into righteous behavior through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

That also fits.

So the seeming discrepancy arises because we are using an incorrect definition of what it means to be saved. If we change our definition of "saved" from eternal residence in Heaven, to change into righteous behavior, then the two verses from Titus are seen to be in perfect agreement.

The reader is invited at this point to reread the New Testament and count the passages that tell us our goal is to live forever in Paradise, and then count the passages that tell us our goal is to live righteous lives in this present world and that if we do not we are in very serious trouble.

You will find no passage that declares the goal of salvation to be eternal residence in Paradise, or Heaven. You will find numerous passages that portray righteous behavior as the goal of salvation and stipulate the fearful consequences of not obeying the injunction of Titus to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Notice:

Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:14—NIV)

Why did Christ give Himself for us? The answer is, "to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

If the goal of our redemption is that we might be a purified people, eager to do what is good, delivered from all wickedness, then our equation is changed. It no longer appears true that we are saved apart from righteous behavior. Righteous behavior is seen to be the result and proof of salvation.

Righteous behavior is not conduct that is merely "nice," or something we should attempt in order to show our appreciation to Jesus for "saving" us. It is what salvation is. There is no salvation apart from a transformed personality because salvation is our change from Adam to Christ.

Can we save ourselves apart from Christ by keeping the Law of Moses or by our Gentile efforts to do what we think is righteous?

Absolutely not. We are saved by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."

What is the result of being saved?

The result of being saved is deliverance from all wickedness and the possession of power and wisdom, through the Holy Spirit, to live as holy people belonging especially to God, eager to do what is good.

Is there any salvation apart from a transformed moral nature?

The answer is no, and yes.

There is no salvation apart from our change into the moral image of Jesus Christ because this is what salvation is.

If by salvation we mean only preservation from destruction in the Day of Wrath, this depends on how Jesus judges us. He always reserves the right to permit any individual to enter Paradise. There are people who receive Christ at the last minute who never had a chance to follow Jesus through the work of becoming a new creation.

But let not the careless Christian who neglects to press forward into the rest of God suppose he or she will be "saved by grace." The expected destiny of the careless, lazy, disobedient believer is the outer darkness.

How do church people behave today?

For I am afraid when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (II Corinthians 12:20,21—NIV)

Now, where did Paul get the idea that people who were saved and spoke in tongues would ever behave in the above manner?

How did Paul respond?

Paul said, "Do not worry, beloved. As long as you are in this world you have to sin. But you stand in grace so don't be overly concerned about your behavior. You must try to do better but God and good old Jesus have so much love for you that no matter what you do you are going to spend eternity in Heaven."

How did Paul actually respond?

I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, (II Corinthians 13:2—NIV)

He called them to repentance and righteous behavior.

Conclusion

We have today a fatal interpretation of the Scriptures, particularly of the Epistles of the New Testament. Are there any believers who care enough to search the Scriptures to see if what we are saying is true?

Many outstanding men and women of God have emerged from the Catholic and Protestant denominations, but they have done so in spite of the prevailing doctrine, not because of it.

How much stronger would be the call to repentance if we realized that if we do not repent we will face an angry Christ when we die?

How much greater would be the number of strong saints coming forth from the churches if we taught what the Scriptures state and not our traditions?

Our hope is for the children now growing up in the churches. If we who are pastors, teachers, and parents will go to God and begin to serve Him in righteousness and holiness so the children and young people can see what Christ expects of disciples, we are going to have the finest crop of saints ever seen on the earth.

But if we continue making excuses for our conduct, insisting that God does not see our behavior, we are entering an age of horrors, a moral nightmare. There will be no light of good works to guide the steps of those lost in the night.

When the deceived believers die and face Jesus Christ they will not hear "Well done, good and faithful servant" because they have not been good and faithful.

Their teachers deceived them until they no longer could hear the voice of their conscience or understand the Bible.

Will you be one of those who will stand up against the current traditions and begin to proclaim the demands of God? Jeremiah represented God in the midst of a sinning Israel, and this is what God said to him:

Therefore this is what the LORD says: "If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you," declares the LORD. "I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel." (Jeremiah 15:19-21—NIV)