THE RESOLUTION Copyright Š 2008 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.
Perhaps because of the widespread practice of deductive reasoning in the interpretation of the New Testament we tend to select one aspect of Divine truth and reject the other. One glaring example of this slicing up of truth is today's stress on grace and faith to the virtual exclusion of the vital role in the Christian redemption played by righteous, holy, obedient behavior.
As we are willing to approach the New Testament without wearing the glasses of preconceived axioms we notice from the Gospels to Revelation that righteous, holy, obedient behavior is emphasized to a far greater extent than is true of grace and faith.
God is calling in our day for a return to righteous, holy, obedient living, but many believers are not going to repent until they understand the necessity for righteous behavior. The Apostle Paul, in the second chapter of the Book of Galatians, presents the scriptural resolution to the seeming contradiction of the conflict, in the Divine program of redemption, between the roles of faith and godly behavior.
There are a few passages in the New Testament that speak of Divine grace, of salvation by grace. The remainder of the text, from the Gospels to Revelation, emphasizes godly behavior. Since this is undeniably the case, it is clear the Holy Spirit is teaching us that both grace and godly behavior are essential to the Christian salvation.
How did Christian teaching get so far off base? Is it because the love of man for himself desires to make grace the only essential aspect of salvation so in case he desires to sin a little, or is afraid he may fall, the individual may rest secure that he will never have to suffer for his behavior? Is this why we have such an unscriptural imbalance?
Or is it because we picture God as a good-natured Santa Claus who smiles at the moral behavior of the American Christians and says, "Boys will be boys!" We just can't picture good ol' Jesus taking away our talent and sending us into outer darkness. Such passages must have to do with those Jews or with someone else somewhere.
We of today have little concept of the severity of God.
Or is it because Satan is attempting to convince the creation that those who sin will not surely die, hoping somehow this will be applied to himself.
Whatever the reason, Christian teaching and preaching have become very unscriptural in their overemphasis on grace to the neglect of the role righteousness, holiness, and stern obedience to the Father play in the Christian salvation.
Paul says we are justified by faith. James says we are justified by works. Is the Book of James actually in the New Testament canon? If it really and truly is, why are his words ignored? To go further, why are the numerous warnings ignored that were issued by the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul concerning the dreadful fate of the Lord's servants who do not serve Him diligently? who continue in the lusts and appetites of the flesh?
Paul says we are accepted of God on the basis of grace and faith.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9—NIV)
James says we are accepted of God on the basis of works.
Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24—NIV)
"Not by works, so no one can boast."
"A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."
Are these two statements both the Word of God? Are they equally true?
On the surface they appear to be contradictory? Do we just forget about this or is there a satisfying resolution? If there is no resolution perhaps either the writings of Paul or the Book of James should be removed from the Bible.
Which one do you want to remove?
Actually there is no contradiction. The purpose of grace is to get us started on the road to righteous, godly behavior. This is the purpose of Divine grace under the new covenant. If we see grace in any other way we have been deluded.
Paul gave us the resolution in the following passage. Let's look at it closely.
We who are Jews by birth and not "Gentile sinners" know a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:15-20—NIV)
We who are Jews by birth and not "Gentile sinners." Paul was reminding Peter that he, Paul, was a Jew by birth and not a sinning Gentile. Paul is saying, "Look at me! I, a Jew, am putting my trust in Christ instead of the Law of Moses. I am not a sinner of the Gentiles. Peter, you are not dealing with a Gentile!"
Peter was wavering between his upbringing under the Law of Moses and the grace and faith that Paul was teaching. Remember that only to the Apostle Paul was given the explanation of the transition from Moses to Christ.
Paul wrote some things, according to Peter, that were hard to understand and were being wrested by some (probably Christians influenced by Gnostics) to their own destruction. In fact, this is happening today in Christian churches. It seems sometimes we do not understand Paul at all, thinking he meant we do not have to live righteously.
Know a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Here is where the problem lies. We Gentiles have understood Paul to mean we do not have to behave righteously because we are saved by grace and not by works.
When Paul spoke of "works" he was not referring to righteous behavior but to the Law of Moses. "A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." There is no contrast here between faith and righteous behavior but between faith and the Law of Moses.
So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law. "Even we Jews are turning to Christ that we may please God by faith in Him rather than by observing the Sabbath, circumcision, the kosher laws, and the feast days."
Because by observing the law no one will be justified. "Peter, you are not being true to the Gospel. God no longer will justify anyone by keeping the Law of Moses, now that Christ has died on the cross. So why are you trying to bring the Gentiles back under the Law?"
If, while we seek to be justified in Christ. The Jews were accustomed to pleasing God by strict adherence to the Law of Moses. Now Paul is saying we must seek to please God by following Christ.
It becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean Christ promotes sin? The thought here is critical to our understanding. The Christian teaching of grace is a tremendous stumbling block to Jews who want to be righteous. The observant Jew is looking for righteous, holy behavior because this is what he has been taught all his life.
When Christians, misunderstanding how the new covenant works, explain to the Jew that he no longer is required to be righteous, what is he going to think? Will he not run for his life regarding Christians as the children of Satan (just as the Muslims do—and with reason)?
If the Christian continues in sin while claiming to be "saved by grace," then any reasonable person is justified in believing Christ promotes sin. The way we Christians behave gives the world reason to believe Christ is the author of sin. And why shouldn't they believe this? We believe it! We teach and believe Christ came and gave His life on the cross so we do not have to live righteously! Well don't we?
Absolutely not! Does Christ endorse sin? Absolutely not! Is the Christian good news that we can continue in sin without penalty? Well, is it or isn't it? God is looking for truth and integrity today and we are confused. We do not understand the new covenant.
If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. What did Paul destroy that he could rebuild if he chose to do so? Is it not the kind of life Paul described in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans?
Before he came to Christ Paul was in a fruitless interaction with the Law of Moses. The Law commanded Paul not to covet. Paul, having nothing but will power to enable him to keep the Law, proceeded to covet. This is the law of sin and death—the interaction of the Law of Moses with our sinful nature.
Paul is saying, "If I return to the fruitless behavior of the man under the Law of Moses, continuing to strive hopelessly again my sinful nature, I demonstrate beyond doubt that I am a lawbreaker. Is this what you want, Peter? You want me to return to that which never made it possible for me to please God?
"Peter, you are teaching that those who do not keep the Law of Moses are sinners, and that for this reason they are making Christ the minister of sin. But I am telling you that you do not understand the new covenant."
For through the law I died to the law so I might live for God. "The Law drove me to the cross with Jesus Christ. The Law killed me. Now the Law has no more dominion over me because the Law controls only the living, not the dead.
"Listen Peter, (and all of us Christians), I did not die to the Law so I could live as I please. I died to the Law so I might live for God."
Right here is the catastrophic misunderstanding. We are not free from the Law of Moses so we can do as we please. We have been set free from the Law of Moses so we may be married to Jesus Christ. We are living for God but playing by the rules of a different game.
We are seeking to be justified by Christ. Marriage to Jesus Christ is infinitely more demanding than the Law of Moses. To be married to Christ, to abide in Christ, means we are in an intense personal relationship with Him twenty-four hours of every day, seven days a week. Our whole life is to be given to Christ and to become Christ.
Being free from the Law of Moses does not mean we are not under the law of God. It means we have changed from the moral law written on stone slabs to the eternal Divine law written in our mind and heart. This writing goes on day after day, week after week, as through the Spirit of God we are overcoming the evil presented before us each day.
I have been crucified with Christ. The mainspring of the Christian life is oneness with the death and resurrection of Christ. Until we count that we have died with Christ and now are risen with Christ and with Him at the right hand of the Father, we have not started on the path to eternal life.
Our cheap, shallow, threadbare "four steps of salvation," although somewhat theologically accurate, actually lead away from discipleship. The four steps imply we can buy our ticket to Heaven and then wait until we die or are "raptured" to Heaven. What a gross perversion of the new covenant!
We do not begin to be a Christian until we have counted ourselves dead with Christ and risen with Christ. Yet it seems sometimes there isn't one believer in a hundred in the United States who truly has died with Christ, who is presenting his body a living sacrifice to God, who is denying himself, taking up his cross, and following Jesus.
I do not believe I am exaggerating. Look around you in your assembly; better yet, look in your own heart and see if it is true that you are living the crucified life, that you are presenting your body a living sacrifice to God, that you are denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus.
What we are talking about is the resolution of the apparent conflict between faith and works set forth by the writings of Paul and James.
We are saying true Gospel faith requires a crucified life, a denying of self, a cross-carrying obedience to Christ. Thus our righteous behavior exceeds the righteous behavior of the Scribes and Pharisees, not our imputed righteous behavior but our actual righteous behavior.
Why so? Because all the Scribes and Pharisees had going for them was the law of sin and death, the interaction of the Law of Moses and their sinful nature. But we, as we are crucified and risen with Christ, are growing every day in the righteous Nature of Jesus Christ, a righteous nature that manifests itself in godly thinking, speaking, and acting—righteous, holy behavior that can be seen by the neighbors and that will cause them to glorify God.
Can you see that without faith it is impossible to start on the true and only pathway to eternal life, and that if the faith is not producing a new righteous creation it is dead? So the seeming contradiction presented by Paul and James is completely, totally resolved.
Are we justified by faith? Absolutely!
I our faith revealed in our behavior? Absolutely. When we do not see character transformation we know beyond doubt that no saving faith is present.
And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. If you have counted yourself dead and are not living any longer, then you no longer are bound by the Law of Moses and Christ can perfect His Life in you. If Christ is living in you your behavior will reflect this. How could Christ be living in someone and that person not grow in the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and possess the willingness and the power to choose the good and reject the evil? Let us not be deceived. It is not possible for Christ to be living in someone and that individual not be growing in righteous, holy, obedient behavior.
It is utterly, absolutely impossible! The person saying he knows the Lord and does not keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles is a liar. There is no truth in him. It is as simple as that.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. To live by faith in the Son of God means to bring every decision we make before Him, to bring our mind under His control, to bring our tongue under His control, to bring our actions under His control. It means to press, press, press into Jesus in every place, in every situation, at all times. It means to abide in Him. It means to become part of His life.
If Christ becomes our life, then when He appears we will appear with Him.
There is no Divine salvation apart from moral transformation. Salvation is not a pass out of Hell and a ticket that admits us to Heaven (as is commonly taught). Salvation is our change from the person and works of Satan to the Person and works of God in Christ. This is what salvation is—moral transformation.
We are not saved to go to Heaven. This is not scriptural. Rather we are saved to have fellowship with God and to be qualified and competent to perform the several tasks involved in the establishing and operating of the Kingdom of God. God needs transformed people who can serve as living stones in His eternal Temple, members of the Wife of the Lamb, members of the Body of Christ, royal priests who can govern the saved nations of the earth, judges of men and angels, and so forth. These roles and tasks (and there are numerous others) can be fulfilled only by people who are living by the Life of Jesus Christ, formed in His image, and dwelling in untroubled rest in Christ and the Father.
Titus speaks of the role of righteous behavior, its relationship to Divine grace:
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, While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 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 2:11-14—NIV)
The Christian will say, "Paul did not say we have to live self-controlled, upright and godly live. He only said this is what grace teaches us to do, not that we actually have to do it to be saved." This is how desperate we are to prove our behavior is not an essential aspect of our salvation.
If we will look further in the passage we will see that Christ gave himself for us for the purpose of redeeming us from all wickedness and purifying us as people who belong to Him in a special way. Now I ask you, isn't it true that if we are not redeemed from wicked behavior and purified from uncleanness, Christ's purpose in giving Himself for us has been aborted?
Is it sensible that even though we have not been redeemed from all wickedness, even though we have not been purified from all uncleanness, even though we are not eager to do what is good, He still will regard us as people who belong to Him in a special way? Do you actually believe this? I certainly do not. There are too many other passages that prevent this interpretation.
Previously we mentioned Ephesians 2:8,9:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9—NIV)
These two verses are fundamental to Christian thinking. They were given to me when I first accepted the Lord in 1944 while on duty in the Marine Corps.
But I was never informed of the next verse. I wonder why? It is not a wise practice to take verses out of context, but it is the only way you can support the current Christian position.
If you will consider Ephesians 2:10 (the "orphan") you will see what I mean.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10—NIV)
I think you will agree with me that verses 8 and 9 must be balanced with verse 10.
We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Furthermore God prepared these good works in advance (probably from the beginning of the world) for us to do.
In fact if we read the context of Ephesians 2:8,9, beginning with verse eighteen of Chapter One and concluding with verse ten of Chapter Two, studying and considering each verse carefully, we will see that the current application of Ephesians 2:8,9 as a ticket to Heaven is a terrible perversion of the intent of the Apostle. It truly represents a biased scholarship, unworthy of devout, competent Bible teachers and expositors.
If all this were not enough to demonstrate beyond doubt that faith in Christ and moral transformation are of equal rank in reconciling us to God, we have the several stern warnings of the Lord Jesus concerning the believers who do not bear the fruit of righteous behavior.
We all remember how our Lord said the branch that does not bear fruit will be cut from the Vine, that is, from Himself; how He told the members of the church of Thyatira that He was going to repay each member according to his or her deeds.
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Revelation 2:23—NIV)
Do we also know some of the passages in which Paul warned us concerning the fate of the believer who continues to live in the lusts and appetites of the flesh. Paul said if we Christians live in the appetites of our flesh we will die spiritually. In the context he meant we would prevent the redemption of our physical body.
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)
Paul said in the Book of Galatians that if we Christians continue to sin we will not 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)
He stated also that if we live in the flesh rather than in the Spirit of God we will reap corruption instead of eternal life.
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—NIV)
I could go on and on from the Book of Hebrews, from First John, from James, demonstrating that the New Testament has much more to say about our behavior than about Divine grace. When grace does not bring about righteous behavior is has been perverted. It has been rendered useless.
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4—NIV)
Today's Christian message has embraced one side of the faith-works team and despised the other. Upon this unscriptural foundation has been built a superstructure of error that has us going to Paradise to live forever in a mansion on the basis of a profession of belief in Christ. What a travesty of the Scriptures, of the Christian salvation!
God is calling today for repentance, for a change in our behavior. If we continue to present grace as a ticket to Heaven without regard to our behavior, then Christian people are not going to repent. Why should they? If they are going to go to Heaven anyway, whether or not they repent, why should they turn away from the attractions found in the United States—the professional sports, the entertainment, the technological advances, the pursuit of money? Why should they turn away from these and present their body a living sacrifice if it is not absolutely necessary.
In fact some preachers are teaching that any effort we make to live righteously is legalism, an affront to the perfect redemption we have through Jesus Christ. Isn't that a cunning way to get around Jesus, Paul, James, John, and Jude?
Others are claiming we must wait until Jesus causes us to live righteously. This may sound right but it doesn't work. You have to do what the Bible says while still in your adamic nature if you expect the Life of Christ to be formed in you to the extent that you will be able to do good by nature. Read the writings of Paul and see the numerous commandments you are to observe now, not wait for Christ to do it for you. You have to pray and make your adamic nature serve God. As Paul said, you have to keep your body under your control!
There will be no thorough, lasting repentance until God's pastors and teachers begin to convey to the members of the Christian churches that there is no such thing as a Christian experience in which the individual is not in the process of becoming a new righteous creation in Jesus Christ.
We have been commanded to present our body a living sacrifice. We have been commanded to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. We have been commanded to abide in the Vine that we might bear the moral image of Jesus Christ in our personality. We have been commanded to let our light shine that people may see our good works and glorify God.
There absolutely is no salvation apart from the change from unrighteous behavior to righteous behavior.
Dreadful judgment hangs over the United States because of the immorality of the people. The blame rests on the Christian churches. We are the only moral light of the world. Because we are not teaching and living righteous lives, due to the false teachings of faith without works and the pre-tribulation "rapture," the secular population is living in moral chaos.
We have not sounded the alarm in the churches. Perhaps the blood of the sinners in the United States is staining our hands.