SAVED BY FAITH ALONE? (EXCERPT OF THE MAINSPRING)
From: The Mainspring
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Apostle Paul taught we are saved by faith, not by works of righteousness we have practiced. The Protestant Reformation stresses justification by faith alone. Yet something is missing. Many Christian churchgoers of today are morally bankrupt. They are not performing the good works that are the only light of the world.
Table of Contents
How the New Covenant Operates
SAVED BY FAITH ALONE?
When we tell people today that righteous behavior is an essential aspect of the Christian redemption, that apart from good works there is no salvation, we are accused of preaching “works.”
Obviously, something is amiss in Christian thinking; for it is clear that the emphasis of the New Testament writings is on the practice of righteous behavior. In fact, the purpose of our redemption is that we might perform good works.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
“Created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
God has created us in Christ in order that we may behave righteously. The goal of both the Law of Moses and the grace of Christ is people who behave in a righteous, holy, and obedient manner.
What is wrong with our thinking and preaching? The churches of today are not beacon lights of godly behavior! One would think from what is being taught that while godly behavior is desirable, no one really expects it of the believers. What has happened to the salvation preached by the Lord Jesus and the Apostles of the Lamb?
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Because the good works often are missing from the Christian churches the world is not glorifying God. The good works are missing from the Christian churches because many influential theologians understand the Apostle Paul to mean Divine grace is an alternative to godly behavior, that we no longer please God by godly behavior.
We should have understood that Paul was not contrasting Divine grace and righteous behavior. Paul proclaimed many times that the believer who behaves unrighteously shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, that he shall die spiritually.
envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
Paul’s attitude toward the practice of incest in Corinth should have alerted us that he was not presenting Divine grace as an alternative to godly behavior.
deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5)
Justification by belief. Paul based his argument against the Orthodox Jews on the fact that God justified Abraham by his faith in the promise of God.
And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
This, however, was not the end of God’s dealings with Abraham. God required a perfect moral life of the patriarch.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)
Neither was this the end of God’s dealings with Abraham. God demanded total obedience from the father of all who believe.
Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)
Abraham was justified when he believed the promise of God.
Abraham was justified when he walked before God with a perfect heart.
Abraham was justified by works of obedience when he offered up Isaac to the Lord.
Was not Abraham our father justified [regarded as righteous] by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? (James 2:21)
He who comes to the Lord for salvation must believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized into His name. He must confess Jesus as Lord and believe in his heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead. Such behavior brings righteousness and salvation.
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
He who comes to the Lord for salvation must live in a righteous, holy manner. Righteous, holy behavior results in eternal life.
“and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:29)
eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; (Romans 2:7)
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
The outcome, the result, of slavery to God, of choosing righteousness and holiness, is eternal life.
He who comes to the Lord for salvation must be ready to obey God sternly no matter what God demands. Such obedience brings fruitfulness and rulership.
Would Abraham have continued to be justified if he had refused to offer up Isaac when the Lord demanded the boy? What is your opinion? If we are going to base our belief in justification by faith on the actions of Abraham then we need to include the whole life of Abraham. We cannot take one incident in Abraham’s life and from this conclude how a righteous person is to respond to the Lord!
It is not scriptural to say we are justified by faith alone. It is only as faith is made perfect in works that we are redeemed. We think the Apostle Paul would give his Amen to this.
Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? (James 2:22)
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)
Romans 10:9,10 is a passage used frequently to support the position that the Christian redemption consists primarily of belief and a spoken confession of faith.
We know from the remainder of Paul’s writings that there is much more to redemption than belief and confession. How, then, do we explain Romans 10:9,10?
Perhaps many of us have had the experience of making a statement that someone called into question. Our response may have been that we cannot tell the whole story in one sentence. A statement we made when stressing one particular point may need considerable explanation before the listener is able to grasp our meaning.
This obviously is true of Romans 10:9,10 and other passages that unwisely are used as “key verses.” We ought to attempt to detect the apostolic line of thought rather than to approach the writings of Paul in the “key verse,” “promise box,” superstitious manner.
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, as is true also of the Book of Galatians, is an argument against Orthodox Jews who were clinging to the Law of Moses while considering the claims of Christ. Paul is emphasizing that the Lord Jesus, not Moses, is the author of eternal salvation. It is not as we practice the Law of Moses that we are saved, it is as we turn in faith toward Jesus, acknowledging Him as Lord of all and believing that God has raised Him from the dead.
It is not the belief and confession that constitute salvation. If that were true there would be no new righteous creation. It is not that the belief and confession are salvation, it is that if we believe and confess we shall be saved. Confessing the Lordship of Christ and believing in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead orients us correctly toward God and authorizes us to enter the program of redemption from the chains of Satan.
Another example of not being able to tell the whole story in one sentence occurs in the Book of Acts.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
An entire Christian denomination has been built on this verse, a denomination that would compel every believer to be baptized into Jesus’ name alone, not including the Father and the Holy Spirit. This denomination goes on to state that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same Person. If the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same Person, then many of the incidents and statements in the four Gospels are an empty show, including the agonized prayer of the Lord in Gethsemane.
Peter was not introducing a new formula for water baptism, a formula different from that given by the risen Lord Jesus. He was speaking to people who knew about John’s baptism and was emphasizing that now we are to be baptized in Jesus’ name. Peter was stressing the Lordship and Divinity of Christ.
A major principle of Scripture interpretation is that every attempt must be made to gain the sense of a passage by examining all the author has to say on the subject. To choose “key verses” and use them to support our topical outline is not a sound approach to preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. But it is the prevailing practice.
The Apostle Paul in his protests against the Orthodox Jews stressed grace and faith as distinguished from obedience to the Law of Moses. The other writers of the New Testament emphasized righteousness of behavior.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (I Peter 1:15)
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (I John 3:7)
“to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 1:15)
Notice, in Jude above, that the judgment is upon those of the churches who have practiced ungodly deeds and have spoken harsh words against the Lord. No reference is made to their lack of belief in the Lordship of Christ or His triumphant resurrection.
The viewpoint today is that while the Apostles indeed did exhort us to righteous behavior, in the final sense we are saved by the unconditional favor of God whether or not we obey the Apostles. This belief removes all strength and urgency from the commandments of the Apostles of Christ.
Because the current teaching of “grace” often neglects initial repentance and then the necessity for the transforming aspect of redemption, it is an error that has destroyed the testimony of the Christian churches. Those who are propagating this error must repent and preach the truth or their talent shall be taken from them and given to another. The blood of the guilty will be on their hands because they did not warn God’s people concerning their sins against God.
The new covenant.
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law [Torah] in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Hebrews 8:10)
It is fashionable to state we no longer are under any law now that grace has appeared. But such a doctrine is opposed to the true nature of the new covenant. The new covenant did not abolish the eternal law of God, it established it.
To lift the Law of Moses from the tables of stone and write them in the mind and heart is not an abolishing of the Law. Rather it is an infinite strengthening of the moral intent of the Law of Moses.
It is true that the Ten Commandments and the Levitical statutes are not a mature representation of the eternal moral law of God, and do not produce the desired result because they make demands on our evil adamic nature that our old nature is not able to fulfill.
But to then teach that God has discarded the moral law in favor of a plan that receives and blesses people who are walking in lawlessness is to misunderstand the new covenant.
Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” (II Corinthians 6:17)
A spirit of falsehood pervades Christian thinking. It is time now for the God of Heaven to execute judgment on this error and to remove it from the presence of mankind forever.
Entrance into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus removes us totally from the authority of the Law of Moses. Then the eternal moral law of God is born in us in the Person of Christ. Command upon command, rule upon rule, a little here and a little there, the law of God replaces the body of sin that resides in our personality. If the process is not aborted by our lack of faith and obedience, the end result will be a person who thinks, speaks, and acts in the eternal law of God.
The new covenant is not a replacement of the law of God. The new covenant is the creation of the law in our personality. This is a completely different concept from the doctrine that new-covenant grace is an alternative to righteous behavior. Apart from righteous, holy, obedient behavior there is no operation of the new covenant, the covenant that is the moral law engraved for eternity in the human personality.
If we Gentiles would understand Divine grace and the new covenant we must consider Paul’s thinking, his attitude toward the Christian redemption.
Before we begin to examine Paul’s attitude toward the Christian salvation, let us redefine some commonly employed terms, giving them definitions that are in line with their usage in the New Testament.
Definition of Biblical Terms
Righteousness. Righteousness always means that which is acceptable and pleasing to God. God desires that people treat other people as they would be treated themselves, not lying or stealing or causing harm to another. God regards highly a truthful, upright individual who walks in integrity.
“But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:35)
Christians, in their haste to impress people with the fact there is no salvation other than that found in Christ, have taken a few passages of Scripture in isolation from their contexts and declared that no righteous person has ever lived. The truth is, there have been and yet are numerous righteous people, including Jews, heathen, and Christians.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. (Psalms 1:6)
When we first receive Christ we are given His righteousness so God will be pleased to receive us. This initial righteousness is termed “imputed (ascribed) righteousness” in that it is assigned to us apart from righteous behavior on our part.
Imputed (ascribed) righteousness is the foundation of the Christian redemption and is of the utmost importance. But ascribed righteousness has been carried into the area reserved for righteous behavior, and this is where the problem lies. The majority of the passages in the books of the New Testament indicate the need for righteous behavior, not ascribed righteousness.
The Kingdom of God is not in imputed righteousness. Imputed righteousness is given to us so we may begin the process of becoming a new righteous creation. The Kingdom of God is not ascribed righteousness, it is the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is done in Heaven. The Kingdom is just that—a kingdom in which the Lord Jesus rules.
There are two kinds of righteousness under the new covenant—imputed (ascribed) righteousness and actual righteousness of behavior. The believer will not understand the Christian redemption until he keeps clearly in his mind the difference between the two kinds of righteousness.
- Imputed (ascribed) righteousness.
- Actual righteousness of behavior.
The role of imputed righteousness is to serve as an atonement, a continual covering while we are being changed from sin and self-seeking to righteousness and holiness of behavior.
Imputed righteousness includes forgiveness. It is an atonement, a covering.
The ascribed righteousness that is part of the grace of the new covenant has little to do with our behavior. It is a legal position that forgives our previous sins. Because the world cannot see our legal position before the Lord, imputed righteousness cannot possibly serve as the Christian witness, the moral light to guide the nations of the earth.
There is no actual counterpart in the Law of Moses to the ascribed righteousness of the new covenant, except possibly the Passover blood. God’s wrath was appeased by the offering of animals. But the atoning blood of God’s Christ enables God to see us as perfectly righteous at all times—a state that never could be produced by the blood of animals.
One great difference between the righteousness of the Law of Moses and the righteousness of the new covenant is that under the new covenant we begin our walk with God being clothed with the very righteousness of Christ.
Ascribed righteousness has been preached accurately and thoroughly by the Christian ministry. A good job has been done. The tremendous problem of twentieth-century Christian thinking is that there is little understanding of the actual righteousness of the Kingdom of God—the new righteous creation made possible by the initial, foundational gift of imputed righteousness.
To carry ascribed righteousness beyond its appointed place, substituting imputed righteousness for actual righteousness of behavior, is to create moral havoc, to destroy the whole purpose of the Divine redemption.
The purpose of all covenants established by the Lord is that people practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Current Christian theory has frustrated the Divine intention by making imputed righteousness almost exclusively the kind of righteousness obtained under the new covenant.
The purpose of imputed righteousness is to give God and us a chance to bring forth Christ in our personality. As Christ is formed in us we begin to behave righteously because of our new righteous nature. To continue to walk in sin and disobedience after receiving the Lord Jesus is to slay one’s own spiritual life.
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life.
For the wages of sin [done by a Christian] is death, but the gift of God [for acting righteously] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22,23)
An initial portion of eternal life is given to us as a gift, just as the gift of ascribed righteousness is given to us. Then, as through the Lord Jesus we being to practice actual righteousness of holiness of behavior, the eternal life increases day by day until we have more abundant life. To not press into righteous behavior but to continue in sin and rebellion will cause the eternal life that was born in us to wither and die.
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2)
To be actually righteous is to practice upright behavior, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8) This is the summary of the Law and the Prophets. This is the Kingdom of God. This is the desire of the Lord for all people.
The true planting of the Lord always brings forth righteousness and praise in the sight of the nations of the earth.
Actual righteousness is Christ in us. When Christ is in us we practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
To repeat what we stated previously, if the believer would understand Divine grace under the new covenant he must maintain a clear distinction in his mind between imputed, legal righteousness, and actual righteousness of behavior. The two are not at all the same. Legal, ascribed righteousness is one of the means God employs in order to develop actual righteousness of behavior. Actual righteousness of behavior is the Divine goal under all covenants.
When we say that Christians must be righteous people we are not referring to the imputed righteousness given them initially so they may commence the program of moral reconstruction. We mean, rather, they must behave in a righteous, holy, and obedient manner.
Be sure when you are reading the New Testament, from Matthew to Revelation, that you are sensitive to the passages speaking of actual righteousness of behavior rather than imputed (ascribed) righteousness. You will discover that the great majority of the passages are referring to actual righteousness of behavior.
The atonement made by the blood of the cross makes it possible for God to see us as righteous in Christ. The need for this covering steadily decreases as Christ is formed in us. There is no need for a covering between Christ and the Father.
Ascribed righteousness is temporary, a by-pass while the highway of holiness is being constructed. Actual righteousness of personality and behavior is the goal of the Divine redemption and the eternal nature of the Kingdom of God.
We have eternal life when we receive Christ because of the righteousness ascribed to us. Eternal life always follows righteousness whether the righteousness is imputed or actual. After receiving Jesus as Lord and Christ we must press forward into righteousness and holiness of behavior, thus laying hold on an ever-increasing degree of eternal life. Eternal life always is associated with righteous behavior.
Holiness is closely associated with righteousness, although holiness has more to do with our closeness to God. To be holy is to belong to God for His unique purposes and to be free from unclean spirits. In its purest sense holiness, as is true also of righteousness, is the Presence of God in Christ.
Eternal life. Man is the dust of the ground. He is animated by flesh-and-blood life—energy that comes from the burning of oxygen.
In Christ is Life! In fact, Jesus Himself is the Resurrection and the Life. Christ Himself is our Resurrection. He Himself is our Life.
The Old Testament views life principally as adamic life. Keeping the Law of Moses brought long (adamic) life, health, and prosperity to the righteous.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the New Testament is the emphasis on eternal, Divine Life rather than adamic life. From the beginning of His ministry the Lord Jesus preached that He Himself is eternal Life, the Bread of Life, the Life that is the Presence of God. This emphasis is not found in the Old Testament.
Paul pointed out that we must set righteousness and the resulting eternal life as our goals. Both righteousness and eternal life are Christ. To know Him, to be in union with Him, is to possess righteousness and eternal life—not a legally ascribed righteousness and the promise that we will be conscious for eternity, but a righteous nature that is in union with the Divine Life of the Godhead.
Mental confusion arises when we declare that Christ is our righteousness. Imputed righteousness has been stressed to the point that when the statement is made that Christ is our righteousness the hearer understands this to mean we have no righteousness of our own but are righteous because we are identified in God’s sight with the righteous Christ.
The concept is that Christ tells the truth but we lie; Christ is pure morally but we fornicate; Christ is peaceful and patient while we are violent and impatient. However, because Christ is righteous in personality and behavior we through identification with Him are righteous in personality and behavior.
Our lie is acceptable to God because Christ tells the truth. Our fornication is acceptable to God because Christ is morally pure. Our violence is righteousness in God’s sight because Christ is peaceful. Our impatience is accepted of God because Christ is patient. This sometimes appears to be the viewpoint of current Christian theology.
Let us think about this for a moment. Is this what we truly believe? We know that Christ is our strength. Does this mean we continue in weakness but there is no problem because Christ is strong? Doesn’t it mean rather that Christ gives us His strength so we actually are able to exert strength?
Christ is our resurrection and eternal life. Does this mean He has been raised and is filled with the Life of God while we continue in our adamic personality, but God considers us as resurrected and filled with His Life?
Are we to continue in our sinful, joyless, weak, violent state and then rejoice because Christ is holy, joyful, all-powerful, and the Prince of Peace? Or is it true that Christ imparts to us His purity, His strength, His joy, His peace until we are morally pure, strong, full of joy and eternal life?
Experienced Christians have learned that Christ indeed is our strength in that He imparts His strength to us when we need it. To those who have no might He increases strength. Isn’t it the truth?
What is not always clear is that the same is true of righteousness. The fact that Christ is our righteousness means when we first receive Him we are righteous because of the blood atonement. Then the Kingdom of God is developed in us as the righteous Nature of Christ begins to guide our thoughts, our speech, and our actions. If the righteous Nature of Christ does not begin to influence our thoughts, speech, and actions, then we are not entering the Kingdom of God. We are not inheriting the Kingdom of God.
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Moral purity, strength, peace, and eternal life are Divine impartations. Righteousness differs in that it is both a legal state and an impartation. The legal state is necessary so we may be authorized legally to begin to receive the impartation. All of this, the legal state and the impartations, are the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are two ideas associated with “eternal life” that are incorrect. First of all, the concept that eternal life has to do with going to Heaven. In actuality, possessing eternal life has nothing to do with going to Heaven.
Second, the defining of eternal life as eternal consciousness. Satan, the unclean spirits, and wicked people will be conscious forever and they possess no eternal life.
Eternal life is the Presence of God in Christ. It is a form of life. It is righteous, holy, spiritual life.
Eternal life cannot be imputed (ascribed) to us. We possess eternal life in degrees. As Christ grows in us eternal life increases in us.
If we are faithful in putting to death the deeds of our body, thus keeping ourselves filled with the Life of the Spirit of God, then, when Christ returns, the eternal life will extend to our mortal body.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
But if we are not faithful in putting to death the lusts of our flesh, the eternal life will diminish and finally leave altogether. In the Day of the Lord there will be no eternal life to make alive our mortal body. We will reap decay and ruin.
We can notice the reaping of ruin in the parable of the sower, where some seed never came to maturity; in the parable of the foolish virgins, where those who had no oil had the door shut in their face; and in the parable of the vine and the branches, where the branches in Christ that did not bear fruit were cut from the Vine.
If we have received the Lord Jesus we have eternal life in our inner nature but our body is still dead because of the sin that exists in it. Where sin is there always is an absence of eternal life, of the Presence of God.
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit [spirit; inner man] is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
We are to lay hold on eternal life. We do that by cooperating with the Holy Spirit as He enables us to put to death the deeds of our body.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
“Lay hold on eternal life.”
If we continue to walk in the appetites of our flesh the eternal life that we possess will leave. In this case, when we die our mortal body will not be redeemed by the Spirit of life. We will reap decay.
We are emphasizing the reaping of decay because this concept is not understood in our time.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8)
The goal of the Christian discipleship is to attain the out-resurrection from the dead. In order to be prepared for the resurrection that will take place when the Lord appears we must continually be gaining in eternal life today, throwing off the unclean works of darkness. If we do not we will not participate in the resurrection and ascension that will take place when the trumpet sounds announcing the first resurrection from the dead.
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection [Greek: out-resurrection] from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
Grace. The term most in need of redefinition is “grace.” Grace has been defined as “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” While this play on words has a semblance of truth it is destructively misleading.
Grace is thought of among Christians as primarily meaning “forgiveness,” although the term actually is utilized in a number of different ways in the New Testament. The concept is that although we continue in sin, God overlooks our behavior because of “grace.” Grace is viewed as an eternal, unconditional forgiveness.
Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.” This is not a comprehensive definition. Everything God has done for mankind, including the creation of the universe, is unmerited favor, a blessing we have not deserved.
From the following passages we can see that forgiveness is not a fitting synonym for grace. Neither is “unmerited favor,” unless by favor we mean much more than forgiveness.
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
And great “forgiveness” was upon them all?
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (Romans 12:6)
Gifts differing according to the “forgiveness” that is given to us?
For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. (II Corinthians 1:12)
But by the “forgiveness” of God we have had our behavior in the world?
Forgiveness is included in Divine grace but is only one aspect of grace.
Grace in its finest, purest form is Christ Himself. Just as righteousness and eternal life are Christ Himself, so it is true that Divine Grace is Christ Himself. All the believer needs for life and glory is in the Lord Jesus and is the Lord Jesus.
Grace is the Presence of God that has come to mankind in order to make new creatures—life-giving spirits. Grace includes forgiveness but actually is the Divine Virtue in action to change the descendants of Adam into life-giving creatures.
To make new-covenant grace an alternative to godly behavior is to change the grace of God into immorality. It is to completely destroy the purpose of God in the new covenant.
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [immorality, lust] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)
“Turn the grace of our God into lewdness [immorality]” means they had accepted the forgiveness of God and then had continued in ungodly behavior.
Faith. “The just shall live by faith” is a declaration of the Old Testament and is repeated three times in the New Testament. “The just shall live by faith” is the motto of the Protestant Reformation. Some of the Protestants added the idea that justification is “by faith alone.”
The concept of the righteous living by faith is attended by much confusion of thinking. The idea that we are justified by faith alone is not scriptural. This position is denied by the Apostle James.
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)
James has stated that if faith is alone, not accompanied by righteous works, it is dead! The Protestants have misunderstood the Word of God.
The confusion that surrounds the concept of the just living by faith has to do with what it means to “live by faith.”
To live by faith is understood to mean at some point we state our belief that the Lord Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification. We receive eternal righteousness, the legal standing of imputed (ascribed) righteousness, if we ever once state our belief that the Lord Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification. Some teachers, in complete misunderstanding of the Scriptures, go so far as to state that once we make a profession of belief we never again can be lost to the purposes of God.
The above is not at all what it means to live by faith.
First of all, to live by faith is to live by faith. It is a way of life, not a statement of belief.
To live by faith is to live by humble dependence upon God. To not live by faith is to live by arrogance and self-reliance.
The righteous live by humble dependence upon God. The unrighteous live by arrogance and self-reliance.
The difference between the old covenant and the new covenant is not that under the old covenant we pleased God by acting righteously while under the new covenant we please God by believing in the facts concerning Jesus Christ. This is the prevailing understanding and it has destroyed the moral character of the Church. Rather, the difference is that under the old covenant we lived righteously by doing what was written in the Law while under the new covenant we live righteously by interacting constantly with the living Lord Jesus Christ, obeying Him in the smallest detail. Christ gave the old covenant. Christ is the new covenant.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews defines faith. If an individual desires a comprehensive definition of living by faith he may obtain one by examining the manner in which the heroes of old responded to the Lord.
At no point in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is there a reference to belief in a “statement of faith.”
Furthermore, all of the illustrations of living by faith (in Hebrews, Chapter 11) are taken from the behavior of people who served God under previous covenants. Therefore the principle that the righteous live by humble dependence upon God is always and eternally true. The concept of the just living by faith is not a special aspect of the new covenant, a device by which we can behave unrighteously and yet be under the blessing of God.
Salvation. What the Christian salvation is, is in very great need of redefinition.
Salvation is defined today as a blanket forgiveness of our sins, an unconditional amnesty, the purpose of which is to grant us escape from Hell and entrance into the spirit Paradise when we die. To this has been added a flight to Heaven just before the great tribulation commences. Once in Heaven we will live in mansions and possess acres of diamonds. What happens after that seems to be uncertain. This salvation is for Gentiles. The inheritance of the Jews is a kingdom on the earth.
The above is a set of fables. It is an accumulation of traditions added over the past two thousand years. It is as far from the Divine redemption as the Islamic or Hindu religions or the happy hunting grounds of the American Indian.
Salvation is not from earth to Heaven, it is from the presence and image of Satan to the Presence and image of God.
Salvation is not a change of where we are but of what we are.
The problem is, people are sinners. God cannot live with them. His righteous Nature requires that sin be punished; therefore, people live in agony and death. God desires to live joyously among His creatures but their behavior prevents His doing so.
The solution is not to forgive people and carry them to the spirit Paradise. What would this accomplish? Sin began in the spirit Paradise. What would be the benefit of bringing sinners back into Paradise?
The solution to the problem of sinful people is to change the people.
No previous covenant of God has issued the power, the grace to change people, although God’s elect always have been admonished to behave righteously. None of the prior covenants, including the Law of Moses, contains the redemptive grace that changes people.
But the new covenant changes people, it does not merely forgive them. The new covenant writes the law of God in the mind and heart. The new covenant writes the law of God in the inner man by creating Christ in the inner man.
The new creation, Christ in the inner man, does not sin. He does not sin because he has been born of God.
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (I John 3:9)
As soon as people have been transformed by the indwelling Christ they are ready to walk with God and can serve God anywhere in His creation. They are equally at home in Heaven and on the earth.
Redemption has nothing to do with going to Heaven. Redemption is release from Satan and union with God.
To be saved is to be saved from sin, from Satan, from spiritual and (when the Lord returns) physical death.
The arguments concerning “once saved always saved,” or “can I continue to sin and still be saved,” are meaningless. They are based on a false definition of salvation.
To ask if once I am saved will I always be saved must be reduced to specifics if we are to answer the question. Do we mean once we are saved from hatred we always are saved from hatred? The answer is yes, if we continue to walk in the Presence of God; no, if we return to our sinful behavior and permit the spirit of hatred and malice to once again enslave us.
Can I continue to sin and still be saved? This is an illogical question. It is to ask, “Can I continue in chains and still be delivered? Can I remain sick and still be healed?”
If we are asking, “Can I continue in sin and still go to Paradise when I die?” the Scripture answers in several places that if we continue to sin we will die spiritually. We will lose the eternal life that was given to us. Can we be spiritually dead and still enter the spiritual Paradise when we die? Can we reap corruption and still enter the spiritual Paradise? Can we be cut out of the Vine and still enter the spiritual Paradise? Only the Lord Jesus knows the answer to these questions.
We cannot determine whether or not salvation is by faith alone until we think in terms of the scriptural usage of terms.
We have defined righteousness as that which pleases God and is accepted of Him. We have said the new covenant includes both legal (imputed) righteousness and actual righteousness of behavior. We have stated further that the majority of the passages of the New Testament emphasize actual righteousness of behavior.
Unrighteousness is behavior that is unacceptable to God.
Eternal life was shown to be the Life of God in Christ given to us as we continue in a state of righteousness before the Lord.
Spiritual death is the absence of the Presence of God.
Grace includes much more than forgiveness. Grace should be viewed as the Presence of God in Christ that has entered the world in order to deliver people from the bondages of sin and death. Grace is the Divine enablement that stands ready to receive and transform whoever will receive.
Lack of grace is lack of the enabling Presence and Virtue of God in Christ.
Faith is our grasp upon the Character of God. Whoever comes to God must believe God exists and that He will reward every individual who seeks Him fervently with a pure heart. Faith is our willingness to live in humble dependence upon God.
Lack of faith is an unwillingness to trust God in every aspect of personality and behavior.
Salvation is deliverance from Satan and entrance into the image and Person of God.
To be lost is to be cut off from the Presence of God, to not be sharing in the program of deliverance from sin.
Christ Himself is our Righteousness.
Christ Himself is our Eternal Life.
Christ Himself is our Grace.
Christ Himself is our Faith.
Christ Himself is our Salvation.
Christ Himself is our Wisdom, our Sanctification, our Strength, our Song, our Joy.
This does not mean we are righteous by imputation (assigned righteousness) or identification because Christ is righteous. It does not signify we have eternal life because Christ has eternal life; we have grace because Christ has grace; we have faith because Christ has faith; we have salvation because Christ has salvation.
It means, rather, that Christ Himself is our righteousness, our eternal life, our grace, our faith, our salvation. The more of Christ we possess the more righteousness we possess; the more eternal life we possess; the more grace we possess; the more faith we possess; the more salvation we possess; the more resurrection we possess.
God’s goal is that we practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. As Christ is formed in us we practice righteousness, we love mercy, and we walk humbly with God. In this manner Christ becomes our Salvation. Christ Himself Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
We must keep in mind that God’s desire for man never has changed and never shall change. It is an eternal desire.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
The requirements placed upon Adam and Eve were minimal. The requirements upon Noah were greater, and God’s dealings with Abraham were stricter yet. But the goal always has been people who practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
The perceived reward for righteous behavior at the time of the patriarchs seems to have been acceptance by the Lord—righteousness in His sight. The goal of eternal residence in the spirit Paradise, in Heaven, appears to have been added at a later date—although Abraham was looking for a city that has foundations (actually, the new Jerusalem that is to come to the earth).
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
The Law of Moses comprises various statutes and ordinances that are to be obeyed. The individual who practices these statutes and ordinances was viewed as righteous.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (Luke 1:6)
The devout Hebrew found righteousness, peace, and joy and through observing the statutes and judgments of the Lord.
‘You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 18:5)
For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” (Romans 10:5)
An Orthodox Jew always has been, and is today, extremely zealous of the Law.
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; (Acts 21:20)
In the above instance, these were Christian Jews. Think of it! It was the Apostle Paul who introduced the idea of salvation apart from the Law of Moses.
We mentioned previously that before we examined Paul’s attitude toward the Christian salvation we would redefine some commonly employed terms, giving them definitions that are in line with their usage in the New Testament. Having presented our definitions, let us proceed to discover the attitude of Paul as this righteous Jew approached the Divine salvation.
Paul’s Attitude Toward the Christian Redemption
The Apostle Paul came to regard every one of his accomplishments in the Law as so much trash. This remarkable individual was able in his lifetime to discard all that had been the basis for his hope of God’s blessing. He let it all go that he might look up from the Torah and embrace Christ, and come to know the righteousness that is of God by faith in Christ. Paul understood that he who possesses Christ possesses all that God Is and all that God has created.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (Philippians 3:8,9)
The Apostle Paul, the Hebrew of the Hebrews, had been very zealous to obey all the aspects of the Law of Moses.
And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:14)
Why had Saul of Tarsus been so zealous of the Law of Moses? Because he was seeking righteousness.
We will never understand Paul’s epistles until we see them from the standpoint of a person seeking righteousness.
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
From the context of the above verse we know Paul was not seeking to die so he could go to Heaven to live in a mansion. Neither was he hoping to be free from the aches and pains of an aging body or from the rigors of persecution or Roman imprisonment. Rather, Paul was hoping for release from the body of sin that was dwelling in his flesh so he could behave in a righteous manner.
The answer to Paul’s cry for deliverance from the bondage of sin is found a few verses later.
Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)
In the verse above, Paul reveals that if we persevere in cooperating with the Spirit of God, the hour will come when God adopts our mortal body. How will God adopt our mortal body? By redeeming it from indwelling sin.
Here is Paul’s crown of righteousness—a body liberated from the compulsion of sin. Now this righteous Jew can serve God with a spirit, soul, and body that have been totally delivered from sin. Now Paul is a candidate for the fullness of eternal life.
In the Old Testament the reward for righteous behavior was life. But life under those conditions was viewed as healthy physical life accompanied by material prosperity. Eternal life, the Life of God in Christ, is the unique message of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles.
The Apostle Paul was seeking righteousness with all of his strength, and he viewed eternal life as his reward.
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
“And the end [of righteous, holy behavior] everlasting life.”
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)
“A crown of righteousness”!
What a difference in goals—a crown of righteousness as opposed to a mansion in Heaven and acres of diamonds!
We Gentiles ordinarily do not come to Christ with a desire for righteousness. Most of us were not seeking righteousness before we were saved, and salvation was not presented to us as the solution to our personal problem of excelling in righteous behavior.
Many of us had to be told that all men are sinners. Then we were informed we cannot save ourselves, meaning we shall go to Hell when we die rather than to Heaven. In some instances we may have felt convicted because of our sinful state.
Salvation was presented to us as the guarantee that when we die we shall not go to Hell but to Heaven, there to abide forever in a mansion.
It is interesting that Paul never used the phrase “go to Heaven,” nor does the term “Hell” appear even one time in all of Paul’s Epistles. Because the expressions “go to Heaven” and “saved from Hell” do not appear in Paul’s writings, and Paul’s writings are the most revelatory and foundational of all Christian writings, we should be alerted to the fact that our teaching and preaching are in need of review.
Paul mentioned we are saved from the wrath of God; but it seems most of his warnings had to do with dying spiritually or with not inheriting the Kingdom of God. The New Testament warnings concerning the wrath of God often stress what will take place at the coming of the Lord or God’s present attitude toward us, rather than what happens to us after we die.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Matthew 3:7)
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (Romans 2:5)
If we are to understand the writings of the Apostle Paul we must reorient ourselves to the Christian salvation. The Christian salvation has as its purpose the creation of righteous personalities. The reward for righteous behavior is eternal life, which is equivalent to entering the Kingdom, the rule of God.
This pattern appears throughout the Epistles of Paul.
One cannot possibly understand Paul’s writings if he or she holds the traditional view of redemption.
Let us look once again at the traditional view of redemption; the six terms we have redefined; and the goal of the Apostle Paul. Remember, the question we are asking in the present paper is whether salvation is by faith alone or whether faith of necessity must live in works.
The traditional view of redemption. Salvation is a blanket forgiveness of our sins, an unconditional amnesty, the purpose of which is to grant us escape from Hell and entrance into the spiritual Paradise when we die. To this has been added a flight to Heaven just before the great tribulation commences. Once in Heaven we will live in golden mansions and have many material delights in a spiritual setting. What happens after that seems to be uncertain. This salvation is for Gentiles only. The inheritance of the Jews is a kingdom on the earth.
The six terms we have redefined:
- Righteousness is that which pleases God and is accepted of Him. We have said the new covenant includes both legal (imputed) righteousness and actual righteousness of behavior. We have stated further that the bulk of the passages of the New Testament emphasize actual righteousness of behavior.
- Holiness has to do with closeness to God, and the absence of unclean spirits.
- Eternal life is the Life of God in Christ given to us as we continue in a state of righteousness before the Lord. Eternal life is a kind of life, as is true of the life of flesh and blood.
- Grace is the Divine enablement in Christ that stands ready to receive and transform whoever will receive.
- Faith is a willingness to trust God in every aspect of personality and behavior.
- Salvation is deliverance from Satan and entrance into the image and Person of God.
The goal of the Apostle Paul. The goal of the Apostle Paul was perfect righteousness in God’s sight and the resulting eternal life. Paul viewed eternal life as complete union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Paul was seeking to attain the out-resurrection from the dead, that is, the resurrection and ascension that will take place when the Lord appears.
Paul groaned for the redemption of his mortal body, not that he might escape fear and pain but that he might be righteous in the sight of God. Paul’s ideal was the possession of a spirit, soul, and body filled with Christ’s Presence.
Paul never contrasted righteous behavior and the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. Paul understood better than anyone else that the saving grace of the Lord is for the purpose of creating righteous behavior in us.
Paul strongly emphasized we are not saved by the works of the Law of Moses but by the enabling Virtue that is in Christ and is Christ. Paul was reacting against the Law, not against man’s attempts to practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
We Gentiles, not approaching God for the same reason as Paul, think Paul was saying it no longer is necessary to behave righteously. As one translator expressed it when commenting on a passage in Romans, God no longer is interested in our seeking to live righteously but has shown us a different way to get to Heaven:
The following quotation from Taylor (Tyndale House Publishers. Living Letters by Kenneth N. Taylor), quoted in The New Testament from 26 Translations, is a comment on Romans 3:21: “But now God has shown us a different way to heaven—not by being ‘good enough’ and trying to keep his laws….”
Where Taylor derived this translation we have no idea. It is not related to the Greek text. Finding the way to Heaven is never presented by Paul as being the goal of salvation. Going to Heaven has nothing to do with the context of Romans 3:21. The Gentile reader would understand “not by being ‘good enough’ and trying to keep his laws” to mean God has given us a plan of salvation that is an alternative to godly behavior.
Taylor is not alone in his thinking. The concept embodied in the above translation has destroyed the moral strength of the Christian churches. The current ignorance of the Christian redemption is demonstrated here. The idea is that God has changed His mind about reforming people and has agreed to take them to Paradise on the basis of their confession of Christ, and that this is the Divine redemption of fallen man. The descendants of Adam are redeemed from life on the earth and brought to the spirit Paradise where they will enjoy earthly delights in a spiritual setting. We shall not be redeemed from sin and self-will but from life on the earth in a physical body. This is today’s concept of salvation.
The Christian churches of our day have lost their lampstand, their testimony, because of ignorance of the purpose and procedure of the Divine redemption.
Although we may not have come to Christ in order to obtain righteousness, let a righteous personality and righteous behavior now become our goal. Let us pursue righteousness and the resulting eternal life. Let us realize our true Goal is Christ Himself, for it is as we come to know and possess Him that we come to know and possess righteousness and eternal life in the Presence of Almighty God.
If we make righteousness and eternal life our goal, understanding that to serve unrighteousness is to lose the eternal life that was given us on the basis of initial imputed (ascribed) righteousness, then all of the writings of the Apostle Paul, including his striving to attain the resurrection, will make perfect sense. But to continue in the current traditions will permit us to understand only a few scattered fragments of Paul’s reasoning.
How the New Covenant Operates
Let us now examine how the new covenant of salvation operates, comparing it with the operation of salvation under the Law of Moses.
Salvation in terms of the Law of Moses. Under the Law of Moses the believer was to make every effort to obey the commandments of the Lord, particularly the commandments contained in the first five books of the Scriptures (the Torah). When he sinned he was to offer the designated sacrifice, and make restitution if indicated.
If he obeyed the Scriptures he was promised long life and the blessing of God. Although there are references in the Old Testament to the resurrection of the dead and also to the new heaven and earth and the glorified Jerusalem, as a general rule the worshiper was not pointed to a joyous life in the next world as being the reward for keeping the Law.
The Israelite obeyed the set of rules. The blood of animals made an atonement for his sins. The reward was that God counted him as righteous and he was blessed in this world. Also, he had the hope of Divine favor when he died and of a resurrection that would bring him into the land of Israel.
This is what Paul meant by works—the works of the Law of Moses. There were the Ten Commandments, dietary observances, admonitions concerning physical relationships, and statutes governing crime, leprosy, the handling of money, and so forth.
Not one element of the Law of Moses is to be made a part of the Christian salvation. The Christian covenant is a new covenant. It is vastly superior to the old and is bound by no aspect of the old.
Salvation in terms of the new covenant. The Law of Moses and Christian grace have:
- Different goals.
- Different orientations.
- Totally different procedures.
Different goals. The goal of the Law of Moses, as we have stated, was a righteous individual who was eligible to receive the present physical blessing of God plus a vaguely defined Divine favor in the next age.
The goal of Christian grace is that we be changed into the moral image of Christ and filled with the Presence of God and Christ through the Holy Spirit. The accomplishment of such image and union make possible all of the other objectives, roles, services, and positions of the Kingdom of God.
The goal of Christian grace is a person who is righteous as the Lord Jesus is righteous; holy as the Lord Jesus is holy.
The goal of Christian grace includes all of the rewards promised to the overcomers, the victorious saints.
The goal of Christian grace includes participation in the roles that God has designated. These roles include but are not limited to:
- Being a member of the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9).
- Being part of the Temple of God (Ephesians 2:22).
- Being a member of the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12).
- Being a part of the vehicle for the end-time revival (Isaiah 60:1,2).
- Being a restorer of Paradise on earth (Romans 8:21).
- Being a member of the royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9).
- Being a witness of God (Isaiah 43:10).
- Being a son of God (Revelation 21:7).
- Being a brother of Christ (Romans 8:29).
- Being an overcomer of the accuser (Revelation 12:11).
- Being a governor of the nations (Revelation 2:26,27).
- Being a judge of men and angels (I Corinthians 6:2,3).
- Being a wall of defense around the Glory of God (Revelation 21:14).
- Being a part of the revelation of Himself—God in Christ in the saints (Revelation 3:12).
We see therefore that the goals of Christian grace, of the new covenant, are as high above the Law of Moses as the heavens are high above the earth.
Different orientations. The orientation of the believer under new-covenant grace is as radically different from orientation to the Law of Moses as the goal of the new covenant is different from the goal of the Law of Moses.
The orientation of the believer under the Law of Moses was simple and straightforward. He was a part of Israel (or joined to Israel in some manner), a member of the congregation, and was expected to adhere to the commandments of the Lord given through Moses. He was always conscious of his sinful state.
The believer under the new covenant approaches God through death and resurrection. No worshiper under the Law of Moses ever was required to enter the death and resurrection of anyone.
We are baptized in water into the death and into the resurrection of Christ. We commence our new life totally without condemnation. The Law of Moses does not govern dead people. Our death in water baptism sets us free from every aspect of the Law of Moses. Because we are one with Christ in His death and resurrection, no element of the Law of Moses is to be introduced into the Christian salvation.
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1)
Every particle of the comprehensive goal of the new covenant, as set forth above, is possible only as the believer is willing to become one with the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and one with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection is a position we adopt by faith upon entering the Christian salvation. Soon the Holy Spirit is actually bringing us down to the death of the cross and raising us up in the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus.
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, (II Corinthians 1:9)
The goals of the two covenants are very different. The orientations to the two covenants are very different. The procedures of the two covenants are very different.
Totally different procedures. Under the Law of Moses the worshiper was to make every attempt to obey the commandments. He always was aware of his sin but the blood of animals helped him gain a clear conscience. There were (and yet are!) fervent Jews who spent their lives studying the Law of Moses and the Talmud and who strove diligently to obey all the statutes written therein. There were numerous others who acknowledged the holiness of the Law but were not nearly as diligent in observing the various ordinances.
The new covenant follows a much more comprehensive procedure. The new covenant is the Law, the Torah, written in the mind and heart.
God was not pleased with the response of the people to the Law of Moses and so He has given Himself to be our salvation.
The procedure of the new covenant is as follows:
- We enter union with the death and resurrection of Christ, thus completely coming out from under the authority of the Law of Moses.
- We abide under the continuing righteousness of the blood of the cross.
- We do what the New Testament Apostles command.
- Christ is formed in us with the result that we begin to behave righteously because of our new nature.
- Eternal life results from our righteous behavior, leading to more righteous behavior and more eternal life.
We have already discussed the fact that no part of the new covenant is available to us apart from our union with the death of Christ and union with His resurrection.
We abide under the continuing righteousness of the blood of the cross. Because we are associated with the death of Christ the guilt of our sins is removed totally. We now are without condemnation as we walk in the law of the Spirit of life. As long as we are walking in the light of God’s perfect will we have fellowship with God and the blood of Christ is cleansing us from all sin.
It is being taught today that salvation is unconditional, being a sovereign work of God removed from our personality and behavior. In actuality the continual covering of the blood of atonement is conditional, being based on our walking in the light of God’s will, on our abiding in the death and resurrection of Christ. When we return to our fleshly behavior, life lived in the appetites of the flesh, we come under the Law and the judgment of God.
We are free from the authority of the Law of Moses only as we are an integral part of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and are seeking to obey the commandments of the Apostles.
But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:32)
but if it bears thorns and briars [neglectful Christians], it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8)
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (II Peter 2:20)
As long as we are obeying the Lord, serving Him with all of our strength, we are without condemnation. The blood atonement is covering us and we are perfectly righteous in the sight of God.
We then are to do what the New Testament Apostles command.
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (Romans 6:17)
We are to obey from the heart the doctrine of the Apostles. If we do not we cannot continue under the new covenant.
There is a false teaching today. It is that we are to do nothing in the way of righteousness but to wait until Christ does the work in us. It is added that anything we attempt to do in the way of righteousness and holiness is legalism. This teaching is close to the truth but its effect is paralyzing.
The new covenant begins with the efforts of the adamic nature. Our old personality must continually study the New Testament (as well as the Old Testament) writings and strive to do what God has commanded (not the ceremonial statutes of the Law of Moses but the exhortations to righteousness of the Old and the admonitions of Jesus and His Apostles found in the New).
We Christians are obligated to serve the Lord to the best of our ability, battling against all the powers of evil that come against us. If we do not, if we do not present our body a living sacrifice, pray, study the Scriptures, gather with fervent saints (as possible), serve, give, and do all else associated with victorious Christian living, then it is not possible for us to continue in the new covenant.
Meanwhile the position that we hold by faith is that we are dead with Christ and have risen together with Him to the right hand of God. We must maintain our position by faith while our adamic nature is striving to obey God. Little by little the adamic nature decreases and Christ increases, if we continue in steadfast faith.
Notice that the New Testament has hundreds of commands we are to obey as well as we can, calling on the Lord at all times to help us in our struggle against our love of the world, our love of sin, and our love of our self-will.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (Romans 6:12)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34)
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:5-8)
We are to diligently obey the above commandments, calling on the Lord continually for help in our time of need. If we do not we will not please the Lord. We will not continue in His covenant.
The worshiper under the old covenant had little to assist him in the struggle to overcome darkness and death. Under the new covenant we have the born-again experience, the body and blood of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the testimony of the Apostles to strengthen and guide us. Jesus is making intercession for us at the right hand of God. Through the atoning blood of Jesus we can enter past the veil and obtain assistance as we struggle to do what God has commanded.
None of this assistance was available under the old covenant.
Our efforts to obey the Apostles are not the new covenant but are the necessary approach to the new covenant.
The new covenant is the forming of Christ in us, and then the coming of the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit into the transformed inner nature to dwell in us for eternity. This is eternal life, the Kingdom of God, and the final result of the working of the new covenant.
We are to take heed to the prophecies of the Scriptures until the Day Star, Christ, rises in our heart.
And so we have the prophetic word [the Scriptures] confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star [Christ] rises in your hearts; (II Peter 1:19)
We must do what the Apostles have commanded until the new covenant comes to maturity in our inner nature. To say we are to do nothing until Jesus performs it in us is an interesting theory but it certainly is not in accordance with the admonitions of the Apostles.
The end of the Divine working is that we are crucified with Christ and Christ is living in us; the life that we now live is no longer us but is Christ in us. As soon as Christ has come to maturity in us, then it is true that the Kingdom of God has come to maturity in us, the new covenant has come to maturity in us, eternal life has come to maturity in us. Now all the things and purposes of God through the coming ages are ours by inheritance.
Perfect righteousness now is ours. Christ in us always practices justice, always loves mercy, always walks humbly with God. That which never can be true of Adam is now eternally true of us.
Our efforts to please God have resulted in Christ being formed in us. Christ is eternal life. The eternal Life of Christ in us causes us to practice righteousness, which in turn leads to more eternal life—and so on and on as we grow in the image of Christ throughout eternity.
All of this takes place as we choose to yield ourselves as servants to righteousness.
I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. (Romans 6:19)
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
Different goals. Different orientations. Different procedures. The new covenant is a better covenant founded on better promises.
If the new covenant were only a covenant of forgiveness and did not require righteous behavior on the part of the worshipers, it would be inferior to the old covenant in terms of God’s objectives. If God desires people who practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, who delight to do His will, then a covenant that does not require righteous, holy, obedient living is not at all satisfactory.
The new covenant is eminently satisfactory because it meets all of God’s eternal standards.
Now, let us look at our original question. Is it true that the Christian salvation, the Christian righteousness, is by faith alone?
The answer is no, if by faith we mean taking a doctrinal position and believing in it apart from any attempt to live righteously, any transformation of personality, any new creation.
The answer is yes, if by faith we mean practicing righteousness, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God to the best of our ability and God’s help until Christ comes to maturity in us.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18)
The cry of Amos reveals the eternal heart of God:
But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Amos 5:24)
Any covenant that God makes with man will always have the practice of judgment and righteousness as its objective. This is true of both the old covenant and the new covenant.
Because of the wickedness of our hearts we always misunderstand God. The devout Orthodox Jew seeks righteousness by studying the Law. The study of the Law becomes an end in itself—it does not always lead to judgment and righteousness.
The Christians have been taught that under the new covenant God abandons His desire that people practice judgment and righteousness and is willing to take them to Paradise if they will confess Jesus as Christ.
Neither the Orthodox Jew nor the Christian understands the Lord.
The God of Heaven is seeking people who will let judgment run down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream, not scholars who spend their hours in an endless analysis of the Torah or Christian believers whose primary hope is that they will fly away to Paradise before they are required to endure suffering.
It is time for a reformation of Christian thinking.
(“Saved By Faith Alone?”, 3840-1)