BUT WHAT IF WE—DON'T?
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.
Our traditional Christian thinking is that the New Testament teaches a state of grace; that we stand in grace; that we are saved by the merits of Jesus Christ and our behavior is of little consequence. Perhaps we better do some hard thinking, find out what the goal of salvation actually is, and then look again at our traditions.
BUT WHAT IF WE—DON’T?
When reading through Philippians last night, during my nightly devotions, I came across the following passage:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11—NIV)
Everyone who is acquainted with my teaching knows my belief that current Christian teaching and preaching is not emphasizing nearly enough the role of righteous behavior in the Christian salvation, how absolutely critical it is that we are transformed morally.
The above passage reveals clearly, it seems to me, that Paul is not speaking of being filled with the fruits of imputed righteousness but the fruit of actual righteous behavior.
Would you agree with this? I think most Christians would.
I think nearly every Christian pastor and teacher would agree we ought to be growing in righteousness each day, although some are emphasizing “grace” to the point that any effort we make to keep Christ’s commandments appears to be an affront to God’s willingness to save us independent of our behavior. (We enclose grace in quotation marks because the New Testament in most instances does not define “grace” solely as forgiveness, as we do today, which is a problem in itself.)
Even such extremists of the “grace” preaching probably would not deny that Philippians 1:9-11 is implying there is at least some Divine interest in how Christians behave: “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Such passages are numerous in the New Testament.
I can’t imagine anyone insisting we are saved by our beliefs about Christ apart from a daily interaction with the living Savior who continually is leading us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. However, those who keep pressing “salvation is by faith alone” might be tempted to take such a position.
We will assume, then, that nearly every Christian, leader or follower, agrees that Christians ought to live an upright life, and righteous behavior is somehow connected to Christianity.
The problem arises concerning what will happen to us if we do NOT live a righteous life.
What if we don’t live the Christian life of godly behavior? Or is there even such a thing as a Christian life as characterized by godly behavior?
The majority opinion, I believe, is that even if we do not live a righteous life we are saved anyway because we “stand in grace.” A “state of grace” exists, it is maintained, that protects us in case we do not obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles with any suitable degree of fervency.
“We stand in grace.” “We are in a state of grace.” “We are saved by the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord apart from righteous conduct on our part.”
Do we dare question these venerable positions?
Yes, we do dare to question them. We have found them to be without basis in the Scriptures. They have destroyed the churches of Jesus Christ. They are a monumental deception.
Their origin is: “You shall not surely die,” and we know where this advice came from.
In order to get at the unscripturalness and illogic of the concept that we are “saved” independently of our behavior, let us think for a moment about the goal of salvation. (I know my readers are tired of my incessant repetition of our problem of goal, but the issue is central to the question being raised here.)
The truth and the lie keep getting more clearly defined in my mind and so I struggle out of bed (at the age of seventy-two), sit down at the computer, and think, “I will try once more. There must be many people, particularly young people (for whom I have a special burden), who will understand if I make another attempt while it is so clear in my mind, and Paul’s words from Philippians are cascading over the falls, sparkling and shining as pure waters from the highest mountains.”
The “stand in grace,” “state of grace,” “saved by the merits of Jesus Christ” position assumes that the goal of salvation is eternal residence in the spirit Paradise. To be saved is to go to Heaven when we die.
Isn’t this the assumption underlying the question of what happens if we do not live righteously? Isn’t the issue whether we will go to Heaven when we die if we do not take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus as we should?
If we change the goal in any manner, if to be saved does not mean to go to Heaven when we die, then the argument must be reviewed carefully.
How do we discover what the goal of salvation actually is? We go to the Bible. We look and see what it says about the goal of salvation being to go to Heaven when we die.
Look!—look again!—look again!—look again! Search the Scriptures to see if there is any clear statement that to be saved means to make our eternal residence in Heaven. If there is no such statement then we need to rethink why we are a Christian and what it means to be a Christian.
Did the Lord Jesus teach about going to Heaven? No, He did not. He told us to lay up our treasures there, and we may have assumed He meant we would go there when we die and get our treasures. But this is an assumption. Other passages inform us the Lord will bring our rewards with Him when He returns. The rewards are coming to us. We are looking for a city that is coming from Heaven, a Paradise that will come to the earth when God has His saints prepared to govern it.
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14—NIV)
The Lord did not teach about going to Heaven. Read the four Gospel accounts and see for yourself. The Lord taught about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not a place where you go, it is a state of being that is developed in you as Christ is formed in you. The Kingdom will come as an entity when the Lord Jesus Christ and those in whom He has been formed return to the earth. The Kingdom is in them, thus corporately they constitute the Kingdom that is to come to the earth.
We enter the Kingdom of God by being born again. This does not mean taking the “four steps of salvation” gives us a pass out of Hell and admittance to Heaven. It means we enter the Kingdom of God as Christ is formed in us. The Kingdom of God is not a place, it is a realm of authority.
Paul told us the believer who continues in sin shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. This is because sinful behavior is not permitted in the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God always results in the doing of God’s will in the earth.
As we study the New Testament we find the goal of salvation is to deliver us from the person and works of the devil; to conform us to the moral image of Jesus Christ; and to bring us into rest in the perfect center of God’s will.
These Kingdom changes in us are necessary for the following reasons:
- So we shall be pleasing to God.
- So we can have fellowship with God.
- So we shall be eligible and competent to fulfill the roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God.
- So Jesus Christ will know us and we can walk with Him. How terrible to have done mighty works in His name and then have Him say, “I never knew you!”
- So we can abide in the Vine, in Jesus Christ.
- So we can bear in our personality, words, and actions a true witness of God, of His Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ.
Now, let’s stop and think.
Would you agree that the goal of salvation is as we have stated—deliverance from Satan, change into the moral image of Christ, and rest in the center of God’s will?
If you cannot accept the goal as we have presented it, but continue to believe (in spite of the fact that there is no scriptural basis for your belief) that the goal of salvation is that we may escape Hell and go to live forever in the spirit Paradise, then I cannot help you. My reasoning will not make sense to you. Your time will be spent more enjoyably in some other direction.
So let’s continue with those who have, from the Bible, verified my statement that neither Jesus nor His Apostles pointed us to residence in Heaven as the goal of salvation but rather toward becoming a new creation of righteous behavior.
Remember, we are speaking of the unscripturalness and illogic of the alleged “state of grace” and “standing in grace” teaching that is so much a part of our Christian tradition.
Man was created on the earth. This is where the Lord intends man should live for eternity.
Man lost the right to live on the earth. He died physically, meaning he was forced into the spirit realm, into Heaven. At least we believe Adam and Eve are in Heaven. We cannot go to Heaven until we are forced to do so by dying physically. We cannot return to earth until we are resurrected physically. It is our physical return to earth that is the victory of the Christian salvation. Isn’t this what Paul taught in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians? Think carefully about the preceding statement for it represents a radical shift in our concept of redemption.
Man’s Redeemer has come. To redeem someone is to restore him to his former position. What did man lose in the beginning?
- He was no longer pleasing to God.
- He no longer had fellowship with God.
- He no longer was eligible and competent to fulfill the roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God.
- Jesus Christ no longer knew him and or would walk with him.
Adam and Eve no longer bore in their personality, words, and actions a true witness of God, of His Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ.
Can you see what was lost? Far more than Paradise was lost. The very purpose for man’s existence was lost.
Heaven was never lost to man because man was not created in Heaven. Therefore, redemption does not bring us to Heaven. Departure to Heaven is a temporary situation until we can be redeemed.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23—NIV)
We lost our bodies through sin. Our Redeemer will restore our body to us, after our inward nature has been transformed, so we can live once again in Paradise on the earth. Physical death is the last enemy that Jesus Christ will destroy.
I don’t believe any Christian would have a real problem with what I have written thus far, except many would have trouble abandoning residence in Heaven as the goal of salvation.
Maybe we do not think hard enough about what we believe. Maybe one part of our brain says one thing and another part of our brain says something else and we have not perceived that our thinking is inconsistent.
Residence in Heaven, and a change in our personality such that we can have fellowship with God and do His will, are not at all the same thing. One is a change from one place to another. The goal we are presenting is not a change from one place to another but a change in us leading to a change in our relationship to God and Christ.
These are not the same thing.
Do you believe Adam and Eve have changed? They have been in the spirit realm for six thousand years. If they have not changed, are they ready to be permitted back into Paradise? On what basis?
Will “standing in grace” qualify Adam and Eve to reenter Paradise if they have not changed?
Will a “state of grace” qualify Adam and Eve to reenter Paradise if they have not changed?
Will they be permitted back into Paradise by “trusting in the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord” if they have not changed?
Did the Lord Jesus Christ come to earth so people can reenter Paradise on the basis of forgiveness with no change in their personality?
If so, what will prevent people from disobeying God again?
You might assume once we go to Heaven we cannot sin. Think again. Sin began in Heaven around the Throne of God. Sin is a spiritual matter. It does not cease just because we die.
Now, the things we have just written are to orient us to the solution of the problem. The problem is, the writer is claiming that the venerable “state of grace,” “standing in grace,” “saved by the merits of Jesus Christ,” are so incomplete in their implication as to be fatally destructive to our thinking.
Let us assume the goal of salvation is not residence in Heaven but deliverance from the person and behaviors of Satan, change into the moral image of Jesus Christ, and untroubled rest in the center of God’s will. Let us assume these three changes in us are the goal of salvation leading, to a satisfying relationship to God and the performance of His will.
Acceptable so far? Sound like it might be scriptural?
Now look what this does to our argument.
“Standing in grace” means we will escape Hell and go to Heaven when we die whether or not we are transformed morally. This is the conventional thinking. But if salvation is our moral change, how then can we be saved if we are not being transformed?
To be in a “state of grace” means we will go to Heaven when we die whether or not we are delivered from the person and behaviors of Satan; whether or not we are changed into the moral image of Christ; whether or not we are living in the center of God’s will. But if such deliverances and transformations are the very goal of salvation, and are, in fact, what salvation is, how can we be saved without being saved?
To be saved “by the merits of Jesus Christ” means we will go to Heaven when we die whether or not we actually are saved from worldliness, lust, and self-will. Is this concept compatible with our revised (and I think totally scriptural) goal of salvation?
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2—NIV)
The purpose of salvation through Christ is to set us free from the law of sin and death.
Because we have the wrong goal the whole system is thrown into disarray. Any systems analyst will tell you that if your goal is incorrect, no element in the system can be analyzed as to its effectiveness or even its right to be included in the system.
We have the wrong goal, an unscriptural goal. This is how we have arrived at the “standing in grace,” “state of grace,” “merits of Jesus Christ” conclusion.
The merits of Jesus Christ are as follows. The Lord Jesus Christ kept the Law of Moses perfectly. If we will receive Him the righteousness of the Law of Moses will be ascribed to us. This gives us a fresh start in life.
The imputation of the righteousness of the Law of Moses is not a pass out of Hell and admittance to Heaven, it is the first step toward our being set free from the law of sin and death. It is the starting point for our becoming a new creature. If we are not willing to follow the Holy Spirit in the work of moral transformation, then we come under judgment, and righteousness no longer will be ascribed to us. We have defeated the purpose of imputed righteousness.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:13—NIV)
Does the above verse sound to you like the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses are fully met in those who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit of God?
Do you believe from this that the righteousness the Lord Jesus Christ purchased by observing the Law of Moses perfectly will continue to be imputed to those who are living according to the sinful nature and not according to the Spirit of God?
What do you think about the relationship of living after the Spirit of God as a condition of continuing in imputed righteousness? It appears to me that our assigned righteousness depends for its continuance on our resisting our sinful nature and living according to the Spirit of God.
Paul goes on to state it is not possible for us to live in the flesh and continue in a state of grace, or stand in grace, or be acceptable to God on the merits of Christ. We will die spiritually.
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—NIV)
We could list numerous New Testament verses that declare with absolute clarity that the Christian who continues to walk in sin, not following the Spirit, not taking up his cross and following Jesus, not presenting his body a living sacrifice, will die spiritually. He will be cut out of the Vine, out of Jesus Christ. He will not be resurrected and ascend to meet the Lord when He returns. The door will be shut in his face. He will be resurrected to shame and everlasting contempt. If he is saved into the authority of the Kingdom of God, and not destroyed at the coming of the Lord, it will be as by fire resulting in an entrance into the Kingdom as a naked spirit. To be saved by fire is not an enviable destiny.
I do not understand how the notion that Christ is our alternative to moral transformation instead of what He is, the means of our transformation, ever gained the historical and universal grip it has on Christian thinking. It may have arisen because Gentile scholars have misunderstood Paul’s point of view. Some of Paul’s Epistles are addressed to the attempt of the Judaizers to force the Gentiles to adopt all or part of the Law of Moses. Paul’s repeated insistence that we are not saved by works but by grace means we cannot gain righteousness by observing the Law of Moses now that grace and truth have come through the Lord Jesus Christ.
That Paul did not mean by this that Christ came so we do not have to change morally is revealed in his numerous exhortations to righteous, holy behavior. And Paul did not exhort us to righteous behavior with the understanding that even though we do not become a new creature in Christ we still stand in grace, we still are in a state of grace, we still are saved by the merits of Jesus Christ. Paul exhorted us to righteous behavior with the idea that it is this or nothing. If we do not undergo moral transformation we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
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—NIV)
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24—NIV)
If we have not crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires, or are not in the process of doing so, we do not belong to Christ Jesus. There is no such thing as a state of grace such that we can ignore the commandments of Christ and His Apostles and still belong to Christ. Such a state would contradict the teachings of the Apostle Paul.
Jesus said if we do not bear the fruit of His image in our personality we will be cut out of the Vine, out of Himself.
The question is not of our going to Heaven, it is that of abiding in Christ so we are being made a new creation. If any believer abides in Christ there is a new righteous creation coming forth.
The Lord Jesus commanded us to abide in Him, to live by Him as He lives by the Father. If we do not abide in Christ we will be cut out of the Vine, as we have said. We will be cut out of Christ. What would it be like to enter Heaven and not be part of Jesus Christ. I do not care to find out, do you?
We see then that our goal, as was true also of the Apostle Paul, is not Heaven but Christ Himself formed in us and dwelling in us. Am I correct in this?
When Paul, in the second chapter of the Book of Galatians, was dealing with the issue of leaving the Law of Moses and yet walking in righteousness, not making Christ the minister or promoter of sin, he resolved the problem as follows: “I am crucified with Christ and Christ is living in me.”
What Paul is saying is this: I am not walking in the righteous precepts of the Law of Moses. But this does not mean I am behaving sinfully. If I were I would be making Jesus Christ the minister of sin, the promoter of sin.
Does Jesus Christ promote sin?
According to the belief of most Christians the answer is yes, although they would not care to have the matter defined so precisely. However, it remains true that if Jesus Christ is the Divine alternative to righteous behavior, the Divine apology for the sins of His disciples, He indeed is a promoter of sin and the new covenant is decidedly inferior to the old covenant in terms of producing righteous people who love mercy and walk humbly with God.
This is the position we are taking when we claim it does not really matter if we continue in sin because we are saved by “grace.”
But Paul said this is not the case. “While it is true I am not seeking to please God by obeying the precepts of the Law of Moses, I still am not living in sin. I am living a crucified life such that Jesus Christ is living in me.”
Of course, to be crucified with Christ and to have His life working in and through us makes infinitely greater demands on our behavior than ever could be true of obeying the statutes of the Law of Moses.
How the Christian churches have persevered through the centuries until they have arrived at 2004, and still believe the transition from Moses to Christ means we do not have to live righteously, is very puzzling; since the New Testament is clear that the goal and validation of salvation is a changed personality, a new creation. For a believer to continue in the flesh and state he is saved by grace is unthinkable, according to the New Testament. Yet this idea prevails to the present hour.
We know in time past there have been, and yet are, sterling Christians in the churches. In every Christian church you can find a handful of true Christians who are serving God. But they are doing so in spite of Christian doctrine, not because of it.
How much greater and more lasting would be the effects of the periodic refreshings of the Spirit, the revivals that occur from time to time, if our doctrine were in accordance with the New Testament!
I think God is calling out a remnant today. From what I have heard and seen the majority of believers will continue playing the fleshly games of religion. But there will emerge from the churches a remnant of saints who are hearing the voice of the Spirit. They are preparing themselves, and others as they have opportunity, for the tumultuous days ahead. While the fleshly believers are jumping up and down next to their pews preparing for the unscriptural “rapture,” the godly remnant are preparing for the age of moral horrors we are entering, by drawing close to the Lord Jesus.
I do not know whether I have proved my point to you.
We Christians are holding a wrong goal and are hoping to arrive at our goal by unscriptural means. We are hoping to escape Hell and enter Paradise in the spirit realm by making a profession of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The scriptural goal is deliverance from Satan, change into the image of Christ, and untroubled rest in the center of God’s will. The way we arrive at the goal is by following the Holy Spirit until we are able to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. If we do this Christ will be formed in us, and then the Father and the Son will take up Their eternal abode in that which has been formed in us.
It would do the Kingdom of God no good if all the churches in their present state were carried up to Heaven and brought into the Presence of God. It would solve nothing as far as the Kingdom is concerned.
God is looking for mature saints who are able to ride behind Jesus Christ in the cavalry charge of Armageddon. These will establish the Kingdom of God on the earth, which is the goal of our redemption.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as in Heaven.
This is what we pray. It shall come to pass, but not while baby believers are reclining at their ease in their mansions in Heaven.
God is looking for warriors, for those who are willing to submit to His rigorous discipline. The warriors that follow Christ are called, chosen, and faithful. The army will not be made up of those who are standing in grace, or living in a state of grace, or who are going to Heaven by the merits of Jesus Christ. All the soldiers of the army are victorious saints. Through Christ they are conquering today and through Christ they will conquer in the Day of the Lord.
We are entering terrible, wonderful days. The tares of Satan will come to maturity and the wheat of Jesus will come to maturity.
We shall see sin develop until the earth indeed is a suburb of Hell. But we also shall receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation until we know what we are doing. The holy nation will be born at once. Christ will be formed in the believers as never before in history.
An army of witnesses is being prepared that will go to every nation on earth, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness to all people: “The Kingdom of God is soon to come to earth! Repent and believe the good news!” The testimony of the army of witness will exceed in power and demonstration of the Spirit the revivals of any past era.
Christ has kept the good wine until now.
While they are bearing witness, something else will be taking place in the godly remnant. Christ, the ruler of the kingdoms of the world, will be being formed in them so they can return with Him and set up the Kingdom of God on the earth.
The eleventh chapter of Revelation tells of the army of witnesses, using the symbolism of two lampstands and two olive trees. As we understand the portrayal, the two lampstands speak of Christ and His Body and the two olive trees represent the double portion of the Holy Spirit that will rest upon them, empowering them to bear witness of the Kingdom of God to every nation on the earth.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14—NIV)
The twelfth chapter of Revelation tells of the birth of the Son who will govern the nations. The Ruling Son will be formed in the believers of today who are willing to follow Christ as He develops in them iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.
Both of these Divine interventions, the empowering of the army of witnesses and the forming of Christ in the believers, will be operating in the same group of people: one operation that will serve us now and one that will be activated when the Lord returns.
How about you? Do you desire to continue in the present traditions or are you willing to search the New Testament to test what we are stating?
There are vacant thrones, there are positions in both armies, there are places by the side of Christ—all waiting to be filled by those who care enough to stir themselves.
There is a place for you if this is what you desire above all else in life.
But if you wish to continue in the delusion that you are standing in grace and it doesn’t really matter how intensely you seek Jesus Christ, then slumber on. You will be awakened by a trumpet blast that calls you from the dead. There you will be required to explain to God why you refused to respond diligently to His Son.
The kings from the East will come soon enough, and then Antichrist will be destroyed from the earth. But for the present we must seek the gifts and ministries of the Spirit so we can build up our brothers and sisters into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The believers must be prepared in the present hour for their witness to every nation and for their participation in the cavalry charge of Armageddon.
Are you doing all you can to bring your brothers and sisters in the Lord to the place where they are able to serve God in His Kingdom?
Let the children and young people arise, for the anointing is on them. Let those of us who are older, parents and other leaders, prepare them as well as we possibly can. The children and young people are facing, as we have mentioned previously, a terrible, wonderful future. Terrible for the hypocrites in the churches. Wonderful for those who will give their lives to the Lord Jesus.
If you won’t stir yourself for your own sake, caring more about your retirement plan then you do for the Kingdom of God, then press into God for the sake of your children. Give them the best preparation you can. They are watching you. Are they seeing integrity and faithfulness or the foolish, sloppy, fleshly games being played in the churches?
The saints from every period of history are watching us from their resting places in the spirit realm. They know we are approaching the climax of history, the time when the Kingdom of God will dispossess the rulership of the kingdoms of the world and those nations will be given to the only rightful King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many of our Christian traditions are unscriptural and destructive of our growth in Christ, as we have pointed out.
Friend, do you care enough to look into the matter?
(“But What If We—don’t?”, 3579-1)