CREDITED AND DEMONSTRABLE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS (EXCERPT OF WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE LORD)
Taken from “Credited and Demonstrable Righteousness and Holiness”,
an excerpt from, What I Have Learned From the Lord.
Copyright © 2012, by Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There is a difference between credited, and demonstrable righteousness and holiness. By credited righteousness and holiness I mean God has counted the individual as being righteous and holy. So in one way of looking at the behavior and attitude of the person, he or she actually is righteous and holy because God deems him or her righteous and holy. God does have the authority to do that.
If God says we are righteous and holy, then we actually are righteous and holy, whether or not an onlooker says we are unrighteous and unclean.
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. (I Corinthians 7:14)
In the fourth chapter of the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul stresses that when we have faith in Christ, God credits us with righteousness. Paul based his teaching on an analogy to Abraham.
What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)
Paul said also in another place that when we have faith in Christ, God credits us with holiness.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (I Corinthians 1:30)
If God says we are righteous, we are righteous even though it is not evident that we behave righteously.
If God says we are holy, we are holy even though it is not evident that we are holy in thought, speech, or actions.
Perhaps if I said “actual” righteousness and holiness rather than “demonstrable” righteousness and holiness, it would be easier for some of my readers to grasp what I am teaching. The problem with using “actual” is, when God credits righteousness and holiness to us we actually are righteous and holy, even though it would not appear so to the onlookers. So I am stuck with “demonstrable.”
I wish to interject a thought here that may prove to be a bit confusing. No individual is righteous and holy in God’s sight unless God views that individual as righteous and holy. Whether or not the individual is demonstrably righteous and holy, it always must be true that God views the individual as being righteous and holy.
Let me give an example. A person might assist someone in need. This is a righteous act. But whether or not God views it as righteous may depend on other factors. The individual may have rejected Christ and is seeking to win God’s favor by acts of mercy. In this instance, his act is righteous from our point of view, but God does not view his act of mercy as righteous because his motive is wrong.
A person might give money to the church. But God may perceive that his purpose is to exalt himself in some manner, as was true of the Pharisees.
We conclude, then, that in the final sense it is God, who knows the heart, who alone can credit righteousness and holiness, whether or not the individual behaves righteously and holily by our standards.
But if God is to credit righteousness and holiness to us, we must obey Him. When God told Abraham that he was to have a vast offspring, and Abraham believed God, his belief was credited as righteousness.
Later in his life, God requires of Abraham that he offer up Isaac as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah. Now if Abraham had refused to obey God and offer his only son, would he still be righteous?
Now he would not, and this is the error of today. We are teaching that once we believe in Jesus Christ we are forever righteous, even though as we go along in our Christian walk we disobey God. That initial righteousness based on our belief does not carry over so when we disobey God, we still are righteous. We ought to know better than that, but apparently we don’t!
Paul’s point was that it is possible to have righteousness credited to us on the basis of belief in God’s promise, apart from the Law of Moses. Indeed, Noah was counted righteous prior to the giving of the Law of Moses. This is all Paul is claiming.
Actually, the basis of all righteousness and holiness is obedience to God. There is nothing magic about belief. Belief brings righteousness only when our belief results in obeying God. It is not the belief that brings righteousness, it is the obedience that credits us with righteousness and holiness.
We see the close relationship between obedience and belief, in the following passage:
And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:18,19)
Now, was it disobedience or was it unbelief that displeased God? It is my point of view that it was disobedience that displeased God. Why were they disobedient? Because they did not believe God. So if we truly believe God, we will obey God. It is obedience that ultimately pleases God. We can say we believe that God can bring us into our inheritance. But if we do not obey God, our belief is worthless.
We have made “belief” a sort of magic. If I believe in Christ I will be saved “by grace,” even though I do not obey Christ by obeying the commands of Him and His Apostles. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? This belief and grace business is a destructive misunderstanding!
I think today’s theologians in some instances may be confused about what Paul was teaching. They have seized upon the fourth chapter of the Book of Romans and are declaring that God has decided to bring us to Heaven by “grace,” meaning that God now and forever deems us righteous and holy even though it does not appear to the onlooker that we indeed are righteous and holy.
It is a kind of de jure righteousness and holiness, in that God is regarding us legally as being righteous and holy although we are not demonstrably so.
One reason behind the above assumption by scholars is that they are interpreting Paul’s reasoning with the Jews as contrasting faith and the works of righteous behavior. A closer look at the fourth chapter of the Book of Romans may reveal that Paul was contrasting faith and the Law of Moses, not faith and upright behavior.
Paul was comparing faith in Christ with obedience to the Law of Moses, in the fourth chapter of Romans. In many other places Paul insisted that if we Christians continue to yield to our sinful nature we will reap corruption rather than inherit the Kingdom of God.
Superficially, emphasizing faith in one place and righteous behavior in another appears to be inconsistent. It is not at all inconsistent when we have the whole picture. But today’s Bible teachers have grasped only the faith, or belief, emphasis while ignoring the numerous passages dealing with righteous behavior.
If I am not mistaken, Paul was emphasizing that if we would please God we must look to Him and obey Him rather than ignore God and attempt to obey the commands of the Law of Moses. In fact, the very heart of religion, and the reason it is such a murderer of Christ, is that religionists seek to please God by disciplining themselves to follow written regulations rather than to look up to God and determine what He is saying to them.
I think the battle here is due to man’s desire to be in control. By following the words of a text, man can remain in control. And this where Satan enters religion. By looking to Christ constantly for how one should proceed, man puts God in control. The struggle between those who want to remain in control, and those who wish to put Christ in control, has continued for the two thousand years of the Church Era.
Certainly if the priests and elders of Israel had looked to God instead of to the Torah they would not have murdered Christ. If those who are of the faith of Islam would seek the face of God they would not murder Christians. If the officials of the Catholic Church had looked to God instead of to their religion there would have been no Inquisitions.
So Paul, who wrote much about the need for righteous behavior and holiness of personality was not, in the early chapters of Romans, saying there is no need for us to do good works that people can see because God regards us as righteous if we confess Christ.
Here is a question. Is the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, basically one of credited righteousness and holiness, or is it one of demonstrable righteousness and holiness—that is, a righteousness and holiness that people can see? What do you think?
According to the Apostle Paul, the Bride of the Lamb is to be perfect, without spot or wrinkle. Do you think this perfection would be credited to her, or would her perfection be something we can see?
Is the Kingdom of God one of credited righteousness, or a righteousness that can be observed? Is the Kingdom one in which people are righteous and holy only in the mind of God, or are they righteous and holy in behavior and a personality that people can observe? This is an important question in our day because of the stress on grace and unmerited favor.
The following is one of many in which Paul emphasizes demonstrable righteousness:
God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6-11)
Let’s look at the passage above. Is Paul speaking here of credited righteousness based on faith in Christ, or is Paul speaking of demonstrable righteousness, the righteousness of righteous works? What is your opinion?
God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. Will God give eternal life on the basis of persistence in doing good? What do you think? Or did Paul’s argument in the next few chapters do away with what he wrote in the second chapter?
What does Paul say in Chapter Six of Romans?
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:12,13)
Is Paul saying in the above passage that God will credit righteousness to us even if we permit sin to reign in our body?
What does Paul say in Chapter Eight of Romans?
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, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13,14)
Is Paul teaching us that the Spirit of God is leading us to put to death the misdeeds of our sinful nature so we will not die spiritually? What is your opinion?
If Paul is warning us Christians about sinning, why then would he go to such lengths in Romans, Chapter Four, to stress that God saves people apart from righteous behavior? This truly is the question that needs to be answered.
Let us put ourselves in Paul’s position. He was attempting to prove to Jewish leaders that they can be righteous apart from the Law of Moses. If they turn to Christ and look to Him for salvation, God will count them as being righteous. Am I correct by saying this?
Now, if the Jews can be righteous by leaving the commands of the Law, and those commands were many and covered all aspects of life, and can receive righteousness by believing in Christ apart from the commands of Moses, does it follow that the Jews then are free to lie, steal, bear false witness, and so forth?
No, they are not free to live an immoral life. Why not? They have turned away from the Ten Commandments, circumcision, and the other bedrock principles of the Law of Moses? Why then are they not free to follow their sinful nature seeing that they have abandoned the Law?
The reason the Jew, upon leaving the Torah is not free to abandon himself to his sinful nature is that there is a law higher than the Torah. The higher law is what Paul terms “the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.”
So the Jew has turned away from the Law of Moses that he may embrace a higher law. It is the Law of the Spirit of God. It is of interest that the Spirit of God will lead the Jew to obey all the aspects of the moral law of the Torah, and enable him to keep these aspects on a much more complete level.
Let me give you two examples.
First: under the Law of Moses, the Jew who sinned, if he wished to be forgiven and regain fellowship with God, had to sacrifice an animal. Under the new covenant, the Jew has to offer his own body as a sacrifice to God in order to prove God’s will in every detail of his life.
Second: regrading the Sabbath commandment. The thesis of the Book of Hebrews is the rest of God. The rest of God is that state of being in which we set aside our own life that we might live by the Life of Jesus. We are to think as the living Jesus is thinking. We are to speak as the living Jesus is speaking. We are to act as the living Jesus is acting. We are to learn to live by the Life of the Holy One of God just as He lives by the Life of the Father.
We see, then, how the Sabbath Commandment is brought to a much higher level, and how the Spirit of God enables us to fulfill it. The rest of God, commanded in the Book of Hebrews, is the eternal Sabbath, the Sabbath of the seventh day of creation, in which God rests. The seventh day has no evening or morning. It is eternal.
We have been warned to be careful not to come short of the eternal rest of God. It is God’s purpose in redemption that we live by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ for eternity.
The Apostle Paul knew of this rest and was living in it. Christ was living in Paul. Paul could not explain all this at once, so he began by telling the Jews that they can turn from the Law of Moses and receive the righteousness that Abraham received when he obeyed God.
It may be noted that later in the Book of Genesis, God commanded Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless. This obviously meant blameless in obedience to God—a faith that results in obedience.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1)
If Abraham had said to God, “I do not have to walk blamelessly before You because I already have been declared eternally righteous due to the fact that I believed You concerning my forthcoming seed,” how do you think God would have responded? Yet that is the position today of numerous believers in Christ.
Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6)
Abraham was blameless apart from the Law of Moses. The Jew can be blameless apart from the Law of Moses, if he places his faith in Jesus Christ and is obedient to Him.
When there is a new covenant, as there has been since our Lord rose from the dead, we show our faith by obeying the new covenant. The new covenant is the placing of God’s eternal moral laws in our mind and heart such that we become a new creation of righteous behavior and a personality that delights in the holy ways of Christ.
With all that I have stated kept in mind, we can see that the current interpretation of the Apostle Paul, that the new covenant provides a credited righteousness and holiness apart from any actual transformation of the believer, is as grievous and destructive error as possibly could be contrived.
It is my opinion that most Christian people believe we cannot have fellowship with God, or live in the Kingdom of God, if we are filled with lying, stealing, immorality, unforgiveness, hatred, anger, and so forth. Since numerous Christian people exhibit these traits, the solution offered is that God sees these aspects of our personality through Christ, with the result that we are blameless in His sight. Our demonstrably sinful behavior will in no manner hinder our entering Heaven when we die.
Because of our profession of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, we permanently are credited with righteousness and holiness independently of our behavior. As questionable as such a position may appear, it seems to be the prevailing position of church-goers in our day.
When faced with the prospect of our fellowship with God and our residence in a mansion in Heaven, while we are exhibiting sinful behavior and an unholy attitude, the believers realize something is amiss.
So two resolutions of the problem have been offered. One, that when the Lord returns, we will be delivered immediately from all worldliness, our sinful nature, and our self-will and unbelief.
Two, that when we die and enter the spirit world we will be delivered immediately from all worldliness, our sinful nature, and our self will and unbelief.
These solutions sometimes are presented. Yet, there is no scriptural basis for either of these two suppositions.
The thirteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew tells of the removal of all sin and sinners from the Kingdom of God.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)
The passage above tells us that there is coming a time when Christ sends out His messengers and removes all sin and sinful people from the Kingdom of God. We understand from this that credited righteousness and holiness will be superseded, as they must be, so that demonstrable righteousness and holiness prevail among saved people.
It is my point of view that such removal of sin has begun and will continue until the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, terminating with the final resurrection of the dead.
Any doctrine that portrays an instantaneous transformation of worldly, sinful people into perfected saints is in error. We cannot be changed immediately. We can by faith receive credited righteousness and holiness immediately, but we simply cannot reveal demonstrable righteousness and holiness in our actions and personality by means of a sudden Divine intervention.
Perfection of character cannot be accomplished in a moment. The Bride of the Lamb cannot be made spotless by a sudden Divine action. Credited righteousness and holiness can be accomplished in a moment. But demonstrable righteousness and holiness cannot possibly be accomplished in a moment by the Lord’s return, or by dying and entering the spirit world.
I have said that Matthew 13:40-43 has commenced and shall continue throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
God deals with our worldliness over a period of time, on occasion by bringing us through painful experiences in the world, such as betrayal, lawsuits, or domestic problems. These devices will weaken the hold of the world on us provided we keep making the attempt to limit our involvement in the Antichrist world system.
God deals with the sins that dwells in us by pointing them out to us one at a time. Then we are obliged to turn away from them, renouncing them vigorously. Since there are many sins residing in our sinful nature, the cleansing of our personality requires a long period of time. If God removed them all at once we would collapse; for prior to Christ being formed in us, the passions of our flesh and spirit, as well as our worldliness and self-will, are the driving motivations of our life.
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
God deals with our self-will by placing us in a prison of frustration. We may be required to suffer for many years the deferring of our most ardent desires, or to remain in a situation we detest. We always should pray that God will give us the desires of our heart; but if we are to receive the crown of life we must not force our way out of our prison.
We understand, therefore, that the removal of worldliness, sinful compulsions, and self-will from our personality, and the forming and final dwelling of Christ in us, cannot possibly be accomplished by a sudden Divine action. Time is required for the transformation, because God always works in conjunction with our will and desires.
Sometimes the question is raised: are our salvation and sanctification sudden events, or are they wrought over a period of time?
The answer is, perfect, complete righteousness and holiness are credited to us the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Demonstrable righteousness and holiness are wrought in us over a period of time as we turn away from our sinful nature, renouncing every aspect of it vehemently, and vigorously press forward in faith in Jesus Christ each day and night of our sojourn on the earth.
The perfect, complete righteousness and holiness that are credited to us serve as a protection while we are undergoing the program of redemption that is bringing us to demonstrable righteousness and holiness.
If we turn away from the program of redemption that is changing us into God’s righteous, holy, image, then the protection of the credited righteousness and holiness is withdrawn and we come under Divine judgment.
It is this last statement of mine that may be vigorously contested by all sorts of reasoning and parallels. Satan to this day is shouting, “You shall not surely die!” Let the reader judge what I have written, remembering it is his or her eternal destiny that is at stake.
(“Credited and Demonstrable Righteousness and Holiness”, 3888-1)