EXCEPT YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL EXCEED . . .

EXCEPT YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL EXCEED... (Trumpet Ministries, Inc. / Words of Righteousness)

EXCEPT YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL EXCEED . . . Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The purpose of the old covenant was that human beings live uprightly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. In many cases the Israelites did not mix faith with the Law of Moses. They strained over the letter of the Law and "swallowed camels" of unrighteousness by ignoring justice, mercy, and faith.

The purpose of the new covenant is that human beings live uprightly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. In many cases Christians do not mix faith with the grace of God. They present the "four steps of salvation" as an escape from Hell and a ticket to Heaven and ignore the importance that God always places on justice, mercy, and faith, viewing righteous behavior as "works" that must not be added to God’s "grace."

Divine grace is being presented as an alternative to righteous behavior instead of what it is in actuality—an alternative to the Law of Moses.

We are in a time of tremendous moral confusion because we Christians do not understand the new covenant.

Table of Contents

Introduction The Scriptural Definition of Righteousness The "Four Steps of Salvation" as an Escape From Hell and a Ticket to Heaven The Means God Has Provided To Develop Righteous Behavior in Human Beings How the New Covenant Operates The Day of Redemption That Is on the Horizon The Divine Salvation Goes Far Beyond a Reformation of Character   The building of the eternal house of God   The several roles and tasks assigned to the royal priesthood Conclusion

EXCEPT YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL EXCEED . . . 

Introduction

Something is off balance in Christian thinking. All people, Christians and non-Christians alike, know that God is righteous and whoever would walk with God must be righteous. Alas! The Christian salvation has become a mental concept, the idea being that a Christian is one who has knowledge of and has assented to the atonement and the lordship of the Lord Jesus. Righteous behavior is held in high regard but is not always viewed as being essential to our salvation.

Numerous Christians of our day are expecting to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant" when they die and face the Lord. But their goodness and their faithfulness are all in the legal state of imputed (ascribed) righteousness. They have not lived as the bondslaves of the Lord Jesus.

The modern theory of salvation maintains that if the believer will profess belief in Christ he is lifted to a legal state of righteousness that can never be affected by his behavior. He is to praise God forever for accepting him as he is.

One edition of the Bible we have read portrays the Christians standing before the throne of God for ten thousand years and praising Him for His grace. This means evidently that each individual gives praise to God for forgiving him even though his personality never was transformed into Christ’s image. This is not really a scriptural teaching.

God, the Farmer, is expecting the righteous behavior of Christ to spring forth in the Church. When Christ has been formed and is dwelling in a believer his personality will reveal the righteousness of the Lord. 

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (James 5:7)

God wants children who tell the truth, who show kindness toward other people, who assist the needy, who shun unclean behavior, who show humility and compassion in their conduct, who can be trusted to keep their commitments.

Contemporary "grace" is certainly not what most passages of the Bible mean by righteousness! The idea of "undeserved favor" is not confined to New Testament "grace." Everything God has done from the creation of the world is an undeserved favor. So the concept of "undeserved grace" must not be carried too far. In fact, several verses of the Bible teach we must be found worthy of the Kingdom of God. 

Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (II Thessalonians :5)

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)

There is no "enduring to the end" in much current preaching. There is little thought of working out our salvation. The fact that "the righteous are saved with difficulty" is not always emphasized. Undefiled, pure religion, spoken of by Pastor James, is not considered essential to salvation. 

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

The new righteous creation, the change into the image of the Lord, the writing of the Law of God in our heart and mind, are not placed in the same realm of importance as "making a decision for Christ."

The above ideas may be discussed and believed but they do not receive nearly the attention that is given to believing in the atonement and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (an area which the demons understand only too well). Salvation is not seen as a change in the individual but a ticket to Heaven when we die, based on our acceptance of orthodox theology.

How often do we hear an emphasis on the "fruit" of righteous behavior. 

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:20)

The Divine redemption often is presented as a mental state that is of little use as a testimony to the world of God’s Person.

In extreme cases our "plan of salvation" can become a kind of schizophrenia—a withdrawal from reality.

Adam has been permitted back into the Garden without being changed.

Christians of today call this concept "grace." It is hardly what the Bible means by grace. 

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: (Hebrews 12:28)

According to the above verse, Divine grace is the ability whereby we are able to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. This means to behave righteously. It is not scriptural to limit the meaning of grace to "forgiveness."

When people go to the altar, as in a Billy Graham meeting, they receive a real experience. They meet the Lord and their sins are washed away. But when they begin to attend church they are not always encouraged to keep on cultivating the Presence of the Lord, to follow the Spirit of God.

Instead they are informed that they have been saved (a one-time experience as it is presented) by "grace," that no one is perfect, that they will sin while they are in the world. However, they are not to worry because their salvation is a sovereign act of God that operates independently of their behavior.

Their main task now is to go out and save others. This is somewhat comparable to telling a baby still in the crib that its main task now is to go out and get more babies.

"We are saved by faith apart from works," it is maintained. The truth is, works are the life of faith. There is no such thing as an abstract faith.

This massive deception (that righteous behavior is not an essential aspect of the Christian redemption) has produced a multitude of Christian churches composed of "believers" who are practicing all kinds of unclean behavior, who still are living in the malice and wickedness of the world, who have no intention of denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following the Lord Jesus wherever He may lead them.

What they are being taught is almost unrelated to their salvation experience at the altar. Their salvation experience is real and of God. But it is supposed to be the entrance into the daily struggle to maintain the eternal life they have been given, not a formula for entrance into Paradise after their death.

Today is a day for repentance. Christian people are beginning to understand that because of the increasing spiritual darkness we must have a visitation of the Lord, and that such a revival of God’s Presence and blessing will come only as we get on our face before God, confessing our sins and renewing our vows to the Lord.

In actuality our theology works against repentance. If God sees us only through the Lord Jesus, if our salvation has nothing to do with works of righteousness, such as praying and repenting, but rests entirely on our identification with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, then of what is there a need to repent? We are adding our "filthy works" to Christ’s perfect righteousness.

We think it is true that in our time God’s people indeed will repent and obey God and that an unprecedented revival will follow their actions. But how much more effective would the call to repentance be if the modern concept of "grace" (which is not Divine grace at all but the major delusion of the last days) were removed from us and we understood that the believer begins to please God only as he or she chooses to be the servant of righteousness.

Speaking to Christians: 

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (Romans 6:12,13)

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Our righteous behavior begins as we strive, with God’s help, to obey the admonitions of the Apostles. As we obey the written Word, Christ is formed in us. As Christ is formed in us we begin to behave righteously. When Christ is in us there is a new creation that practices righteousness. The end of the process is a person in the image of Christ—that to which we have been predestined.

Please keep in mind, as you read further, that God has the power to remove any sin you practice, any bad habit that binds you, any form of disobedience or rebellion against God’s will. God has the power. God made the galaxies of stars. He has the power to change you from the image of Adam to the image of Christ.

God is waiting for you to look to Him so He may begin the program of transforming you into His image. Believe His promises and they shall take place in your personality. 

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Righteousness, that is, righteous behavior, may very well be the main topic of the entire Bible—Old and New Testaments.

Isaiah tells us that the nations are waiting to see a righteous Church so they can glorify God. 

For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)

And the Gentiles [nations] shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. (Isaiah 62:2)

The clearest testimony a Christian can give concerning His Lord is righteous behavior. It seems that no true Christian would argue with this. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

The tree that does not bear the fruit of righteous conduct will be cut down eventually. 

Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:7-9)

The Lord Jesus warned us clearly that if we do not bear the fruit of righteous character we will be cut out of the Vine—out of Christ. 

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)

If an experienced Christian does not begin to live righteously he is facing Divine judgment. 

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7,8)

A certain Christian during his daily devotions was reading in Second Chronicles. The subject was the dedication of the Temple. Solomon’s constant reference to himself seemed out of character for a man of God. 

But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever. (II Chronicles 6:2)

. . . how much less this house which I have built! (II Chronicles 6:18)

. . . this house which I have built is called by thy name. (II Chronicles 6:33)

. . . the house which I have built for thy name; (II Chronicles 6:34)

. . . the house which I have built for thy name: (II Chronicles 6:38)

The interjection of Solomon’s personality into the building of the Temple of God, a matter so important to God and His will for man, is repulsive. One wonders if people are repelled when we interject our personality as we are presenting the Lord Jesus!

The Christian contemplating this passage had been taught for many years that glory belongs to God alone. No matter how God may use us we always are to give the glory to God and not talk about what we have done. So this passage with the frequent "I have built" did not appear to be in keeping with the ideal of always giving glory to God alone.

We know that Solomon had many excellent qualities. We understand also that he multiplied horses to himself, which is forbidden to a king of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:16). He married numerous heathen wives and they turned his heart away from God so that he burned incense to demons. The result of Solomon’s wickedness was the permanent division of the twelve tribes of Israel into the competing nations of Israel and Judah. 

Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. (I Kings 11:11)

Solomon was righteous in some areas of his personality and behavior and unrighteous in others.

During his devotions the person asked the Lord why Solomon kept referring to his own glory ("the house which I have built for thy name").

The Lord’s response was, "He didn’t know any better."

Solomon was rebuked by the Lord for burning incense to heathen gods because he surely had learned from His Father, David, and from the priests of the Lord that to do so is against the Law of Moses. But there is nothing in the Law about giving yourself the glory when you build the Temple of God. Therefore God did not rebuke him for this but rather filled the Temple with His Divine Glory. 

Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. (II Chronicles 7:1)

God’s answer ("he didn’t know any better") set in motion a train of thought which finally arrived at the following verse: 

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

The Christian over a period of fifty-one years had read that verse many times. However, the meaning of it was not clear because of his early training in "grace." He had a general idea we were supposed to have a better heart toward God than the scribes and Pharisees, but there was also the lingering concept that the righteousness that has been imputed (ascribed) to us through the Lord Jesus is infinitely superior to that of the Pharisee who was striving to keep the Law of Moses and that this is what the Lord meant by "your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees."

There is no question that we are to have a better heart toward God than was true of many of the scribes and Pharisees, and also that the righteousness ascribed to us when we receive the Lord Jesus is infinitely superior to that of the Pharisee who was striving to keep the Law of Moses.

Then the simplicity of the verse struck him: "If we do not behave more righteously than was true of the scribes and Pharisees we will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

Unless Solomon stops taking glory to himself and burning incense to demons he will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Unless Gideon stops making ephods and worshiping them he will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Unless the scribes and Pharisees forsake their covetousness and envy they will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of God.

Unless we who believe in the Lord Jesus abandon our worldly, sinful, self-seeking practices we will in no manner enter the Kingdom of God.

This is the simple, clear meaning of Matthew 5:20.

The purpose of the old covenant was that human beings live uprightly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. In many cases the Israelites did not mix faith with the Law of Moses. They strained over the letter of the Law and ignored justice, mercy, and faith.

The purpose of the new covenant is that human beings live uprightly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. In many instances Christians do not mix faith with the grace of God. They present the "four steps of salvation" as an escape from Hell and a ticket to Heaven and ignore the importance that God always places on justice, mercy, and faith. The believers of today often view righteous behavior as "works" that must not be "added to God’s grace."

Divine grace is being presented as an alternative to righteous behavior instead of what it is in actuality—an alternative to the Law of Moses.

The hand of Satan is evident in this frustrating of God’s desire to produce righteous people.

We all understand that the Pharisees strained over the tithing of herbs, vaunted themselves, robbed widows, and performed other acts of wickedness culminating in the crucifixion of Christ.

We exclaim, "How terrible!"

But we of the new covenant are doing the same thing, with some differences. We have made the Divine salvation a release from Hell and entrance into Paradise by means of "grace" instead of what God means it to be—the instrument to create righteous people.

In many instances (perhaps the majority of cases) the Christian people of today are ignorant of the relationship of God’s salvation to righteous behavior. While all sincere believers in the Lord Jesus would claim that Christians ought to behave righteously, the concept is emphasized again and again that basically we are saved by "grace" and not by our righteous behavior.

Whereas the Apostle Paul presented Divine grace as an alternative to the Law of Moses, we of today are viewing Divine grace as an alternative to righteous behavior. In so doing we have totally misunderstood the Apostle Paul and have created moral shipwreck.

Constructed on this unscriptural foundation has been the excessive emphasis on the love of God, the pre-tribulation "rapture" of the believers, the "faith" and "prosperity" messages, and now the doctrine of "reconstructionism"—the notion that Christians are to establish the Kingdom of God on earth before the Lord returns (but the world will not be changed to righteous behavior until the Christians are changed to righteous behavior!).

The current error, that the Christian salvation is a set of beliefs and confessions that provide release from Hell and entrance into Paradise after one’s death has one objective, as seen from the standpoint of Satan: to prevent the believers from understanding that when we truly are abiding in Christ we will bear the fruit of righteous behavior. Also, that if we do not bear the fruit of righteous behavior we will be cut out of Christ, out of the Vine of God.

Salvation is our change from an old man to a new man, a new creature. The old man was Adam. The new man is the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from this transformation there is no salvation. In fact, salvation is the change from unrighteousness to righteousness.

To question whether we can keep on sinning and still "go to Heaven by grace" is to reveal that the one asking the question is ignorant of the goal and program of salvation.

The issue is not whether or not we will go to Paradise when we die. The issue is whether we will or will not be a part of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we do not abide in Christ now, in this life, and bring forth the righteous fruit of the new creation, we will be removed from the Vine by the Father. 

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)

John 15:2 alone destroys the basis of the current teaching of grace. For this reason some teachers of today are insisting we are not bound by the Words of the Lord in the four Gospels because they were spoken before His crucifixion and resurrection and that the teachings of the Apostle Paul supersede the teachings of the Son of God.

It could never be true that the words of a human apostle would supersede the words of the Lord Jesus. The truth is, Paul’s teaching and the teaching of the Lord Jesus are identical. There is no difference between them. How could there be when the Lord Jesus was living in Paul? It is just that we have misunderstood Paul.

Notice also: 

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Hebrews 3:14)

The issue is not Paradise, it is being made a partaker of Christ. Being made a partaker of Christ depends on whether or not we place our trust in the Lord Jesus and then walk every day in Him until the end of our discipleship on earth.

How could anything be clearer? Yet today’s teaching is presenting a legal state of ascribed righteousness that makes salvation primarily a mental adherence to doctrinal principles instead of a transformation of the human being from unrighteous behavior to righteous behavior.

The doctrine that we are saved by faith apart from righteous behavior is unscriptural and totally destructive of all God intends for man. 

The Scriptural Definition of Righteousness

Let us now define righteousness as the Scriptures define the term. Imputed righteousness and righteous behavior often become confused in our mind when we say righteousness. The confusion and the bias regarding imputed righteousness and righteous behavior are so pronounced we have the Amplified Bible inserting the word "imputed" when there is no basis in the inspired text for such an alteration.

Two excerpts from The Amplified Bible follow, regarding Isaiah 62:1,2:

". . . until her imputed righteousness and vindication go forth as

brightness, . . . ."

"And the nations shall see your righteousness and vindication—your righteousness and justice [not your own, but His ascribed to you] . . . ."

(The Amplified Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965).

Notice the original text: 

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. (Isaiah 62:1,2)

No modern translation we have seen indicates that the Hebrew term for "righteousness" implies it is an imputed, ascribed righteousness.

Also, an imputed righteousness is a legal state and not something that can go forth or be seen by the nations.

If we are correct, then we have confusion and a destructive bias here. It is an outrageous alteration of God's Word even though the translator's intentions may have been pure!

The difference between imputed righteousness and righteous behavior is very great. In the one instance God sees us as righteous while we are yet sinning. In the second instance we are actually righteous in personality and behavior.

Can you imagine the Lord Jesus saying, "Let your light so shine that men may see your imputed good works (not your own but His ascribed to you) and glorify God"?

Can’t you just imagine people seeing us act violently, lie, and fornicate, and then glorify God because He has imputed righteousness to us?

If the world will not glorify God until they see us behave in a godly manner, and we are being taught that the only good works we have are those ascribed to us by the Lord, that is, we are still behaving sinfully but God calls us righteous because of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, then the bias indeed is destructive and deadly! The world will never glorify God until we start revealing in our behavior the righteous Nature of the Lord Jesus.

It is a fact that we cannot save ourselves by attempting to live a righteous life apart from Christ. It is a fact also that when we first receive the Lord His righteousness is ascribed to us. This is so we can forget the past and get a fresh start. God is willing, because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, to wink at our sins of the past. God does this so He can change us into His moral image.

We now have been born again and each new day should bring growth in Christ to us. Growth in Christ always works out in growth in righteous behavior. If it does not we are not abiding in Christ.

That growth in Christ means growth in godly behavior can be seen in the following passage: 

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)

The mark of spiritual maturity is the skillful application of the "word of righteousness." The mature Christian, the one in whom Christ has been formed, is able to discern what is good and what is evil, and then is able to choose the good and reject the evil. This is what it means to grow in Christ.

The Lord Jesus advised us that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees we will not enter the Kingdom of God. We do not believe that the Lord meant ascribed righteousness, or only a righteousness of the heart, or a mixture of righteous behavior and ascribed righteousness. We think, from the context, that the Lord Jesus was referring to actual righteousness of behavior both in heart and in action.

The Lord had just finished talking about keeping God’s commandments. 

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

Let us keep in mind that the new covenant does not do away with the righteous commandments of the Law of Moses. Rather, the Divine enablements given to us in the new covenant make it possible for us to obey the principles of righteousness embodied in the commandments of Moses (not all the ceremonial regulations).

The following kinds of behavior are what the Scriptures mean by righteousness. Perhaps most Jews and Christians (and possibly the followers of other religions) would agree with many of these actions and attitudes as being marks of genuine righteousness:

Receiving the salvation that God has provided on the cross of Calvary rather than avoiding the cross and trying to save ourselves by our own works of righteousness.

Trusting in God in all things, living by His strength and wisdom knowing that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him each day.

Refusing to permit any relationship, thing, condition, or ambition to come before God, always being willing to surrender all to the Lord at a moment’s notice; always praying "Thy will be done."

Obeying God instantly, totally, and sternly in all He requests of us.

Delighting to do God’s will and taking pleasure in righteousness and holiness.

Resting in Jesus and abiding in Him rather than striving to create our own destiny.

Always honoring God and the Lord Jesus Christ, being careful to uplift their Name.

Speaking words that will strengthen the hearers, shunning profanity and foolishness.

Being obedient to authority, turning away from all forms of lawlessness.

Pressing forward with God courageously in spite of the threatenings of the enemy.

Expressing love, peace, gentleness, and kindness in what we think, say, and do, avoiding anger and resentment.

Keeping our commitments faithfully.

Speaking well of others, refusing to participate in gossip and slander.

Keeping ourselves morally pure, shunning adultery, fornication, and all forms of lust and perversion.

Dealing honestly, truthfully, and with absolute integrity with people.

Maintaining an attitude of humility toward God and other people.

Avoiding all methods of attempting to manage the spirit realm by means other than prayer in Jesus’ name, such as attempting to speak creative or "positive" words, imaging, calling on spirit guides, and all forms of sorcery and soul power.

Showing mercy when it is in our power to hold others in judgment or to exact revenge.

Being a peacemaker in the midst of strife and contention.

Maintaining a meek, teachable spirit.

Using self-control in working, playing, eating, studying—in all that we do.

Working hard that we may have the means to help those in need.

Being ready to assist those who are poor and needy.

Maintaining a kindly, generous attitude.

Exercising absolute faithfulness in our family relationships.

Faithfully attending and serving in the assembly of saints.

Being a steady, dependable person whom people can trust.

Seeking the good of others rather than being personally ambitious.

Shunning all forms of covetousness and jealousy.

Exercising patience rather than insisting on immediate gratification.

Giving place to others rather than insisting on having our own way.

Bringing every thought, word, and action into obedience to God through Christ.

Presenting our body a living sacrifice that God’s will may be done.

Avoiding the philosophies of the world, having our mind renewed in Christ.

Giving thanks to God for all things, in Jesus’ name.

When we think about the Lord Jesus, the Apostles Paul, Peter, James, and the others, we can see that they were men of actual righteousness of behavior, not untransformed believers who were counting on "grace" to make them acceptable to God.

Such behaviors are the image of Christ. Satan hates them. They are the opposite of his image. He will do everything in his power to confuse Christian thinking so we do not properly associate righteous behavior with the Divine salvation in Christ. The truth is, righteous behavior is the primary fruit of true salvation.

When the Lord Jesus says that except our righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees he is referring to the above behaviors. The verse means simply and directly that if we do not cultivate these behaviors, availing ourselves of the virtue of Christ given us through the Holy Spirit until we are behaving more righteously than did the scribes and Pharisees, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It means just that! 

The "Four Steps of Salvation" as an Escape From Hell and a Ticket to Heaven

God has proclaimed that the soul that sins shall die.

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

The Lord Jesus shed His blood as an atonement for our sins.

If we will confess the Lord Jesus with our mouth and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead we will be saved from Hell and enter Heaven when we die.

These are the "four steps of salvation." The custom today is to inform the unbeliever that there is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain. He will go to Hell when he dies unless he accepts the four steps of salvation presented above. If he confesses the Lord with his mouth and believes that God has raised Him from the dead he will escape Hell and go to Heaven when he dies.

One would look in vain in the Book of Acts for such a presentation of salvation. The Book of Acts always emphasizes repentance, that is, a change of behavior from sin to righteousness.

What is the nature of the problem?

First, the salvation that is in the Lord Jesus is never presented in the New Testament as a means of escaping Hell.

Hell is God’s prison where He incarcerates wicked people. Wicked people always belong in Hell until they are delivered from their wickedness. The Lord Jesus is not the Divine means of evading the fact that wicked people will always be cast into Hell.

The scriptural issue is life and death. The soul that sins shall die. The soul that embraces the Lord Jesus shall live.

Second, Heaven is never presented in the New Testament as the goal of salvation.

Third, the four steps of salvation ignore the basic role of transformation of personality in the Christian salvation. The all-important role of righteous and holy behavior is ignored as being of little or no consequence. The truth is, the purpose of receiving Christ is not so we will go to Heaven but so we will stop sinning. The purpose of stopping sinning is so we may have fellowship with God, not so we may go to Paradise. Salvation is release from the power of Satan to fellowship with God, not from Hell to Heaven. 

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (I John 1:3)

What good is Paradise until we are changed? After all, mankind at one time did enjoy Paradise on the earth. But living in Paradise includes having fellowship with God, and we can neither enjoy nor maintain fellowship with God until we have been transformed through Christ. 

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:17)

God will not receive us until we come out from the uncleannesses of the world spirit.

Since the New Testament never presents the Lord Jesus as being the means of escaping Hell and entering Heaven, then we should not be presenting the Lord Jesus as being the Divinely ordained means of escaping Hell and entering Heaven.

Since the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation emphasizes again and again the necessity for righteous living if we would enter or inherit the Kingdom of God, then this is what we should be emphasizing.

No one can see or enter the Kingdom of God until he or she has been born again. Being born again is not the same as having our sins forgiven through the blood of the Lord Jesus. The Apostles in the Book of Acts never associated being born again with being saved from wrath. If they did not, why do we?

Being born again means just that—being born of God. That which is born of God does not sin. Being born again means we have been transformed from the image of Adam to the image of Christ. We have become a new creation in Christ. Old things have passed away. All things have become new and all things of our personality are of God. This is what salvation is—transformation! 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18)

Think about the following passage: 

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (I John 3:6-9)

Read carefully the entire book of First John and you will notice that we really did not have to write the present booklet. The Apostle John already wrote it for us!

The Lord Jesus was not revealed in order to forgive the works of the devil but to destroy the works of the devil—in us.

The reason Satan has changed the Gospel to mean that the wicked can escape Hell and enter Paradise by some means other than personal transformation is that this is what he desires. Satan has no desire to change but he certainly desires to escape the Lake of Fire! He is hoping that somehow the amnesty will apply to himself! 

The Means God Has Provided To Develop Righteous Behavior in Human Beings

If both the old covenant and the new covenant require righteous behavior if an individual is to please God, what then is the difference between the two covenants.

The difference is twofold. The new covenant requires a much higher quality of righteous behavior than is true of the old, and the new covenant provides much more Divine enablement (grace) than was true of the old.

As to the higher quality of behavior, the old covenant commanded the worshiper to slay his bull of fellowship offering at the bronze Altar of Burnt Offering.

The new covenant commands the worshiper to present his body a living sacrifice on the altar of God.

The commandment is infinitely more demanding. The available Divine grace is infinitely more authoritative and powerful.

The worshiper under the old covenant had only his human personality, the Law of Moses, and the blood of animals to help him serve God in righteousness.

The worshiper under the new covenant has many Divine graces and virtues to enable him to respond to the demands of the new covenant:

Forgiveness through the blood atonement made on the cross of Calvary.

Access to the Holy of Holies in order to obtain help in our time of need.

The protection from judgment by the covering of the blood of the Passover Lamb, Christ.

Union with God through eating the flesh and drinking the blood of God’s Passover Lamb.

The daily impartation of Divine Life through eating the flesh and drinking the blood of God’s Passover Lamb. This includes nourishment for the Life of Christ who is being formed in us and also the moral strength that comes from the Virtue contained in the body and blood of Christ.

The birth of the Divine Seed in us.

The eternal dwelling of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in our personality.

The gifts and ministries given by the Holy Spirit.

The illustrations of how God works with people found in the history of the people of Israel.

The oracles of the Hebrew Prophets.

The testimony and admonition of the Lord Jesus given in the four Gospel accounts.

The testimony and admonitions of the Apostles of the Lamb.

The fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they assist us in our personal spiritual growth, in the judgments and decisions we make including our ability to discern good and evil and to choose the good and reject the evil, and in our ministry.

The new covenant makes infinitely greater demands on the worshiper in the area of righteous behavior. The new covenant provides infinitely greater grace through which the human personality can be transformed from Adam to the image of Christ. 

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)

And also be brought into complete union with God through Christ. 

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)

No human being could ever in his or her own strength meet the requirements for righteous behavior that God has established. But the Lord Jesus can meet those requirements and therefore God is filling us with Christ. He is being formed in us.

The grace of God under the new covenant in its purest sense is Christ.

We cannot please God. The Lord Jesus can and shall please God in and through our personality if we will give attention each day to the development of the Life of Christ, the Divine Seed that has been planted in us.

There is abundant power contained in the riches of God’s Glory in Christ to deliver each one of us from every sin of spirit, soul, and body. 

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)

How do we cleanse ourselves? What do we do? We call upon the Lord! He reaches down and changes our personality by His unlimited power.

It does not matter whether the bondage is inherited, acquired, demonic in origin, how deeply entrenched, or how long we have been bound. God has the power through Christ to deliver us! Furthermore God is willing to deliver us.

Our task is to believe, ask God for deliverance, and obey Him. It is not a case of our will power and moral strength but of believing, asking, and obeying the Lord. God shall deliver every person who comes to Him from any and every form of physical, mental, moral, or emotional bondage. He shall deliver you! Ask and you shall receive.

Your deliverance may or may not take place immediately. Time is not the issue. But be aware and confident that the moment you ask, the Divine machinery will go into operation. The Scripture cannot be broken! The promises of God are an anchor within the veil! 

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24)

How the New Covenant Operates

Every Divine covenant from the time of Adam has had precisely the same goal—that people be in the image of God, that is, that they act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Two aspects change from covenant to covenant. The demands on the human personality to behave righteously are increased and the availability of God’s Glory and assistance are increased. The goal, however, never changes for it is the moral image of the unchanging God.

The new covenant has the same goal as the old but the demands on the human personality have been vastly increased and the availability of God’s Glory and assistance (grace) have been vastly increased.

The Jews sometimes have changed the goal of the old covenant from justice, mercy, and faith to slavish, blind adherence to the letter of human interpretations of the Law of Moses. They strain out the gnats of minuscule ceremonial observances and swallow camels of unrighteousness. When they do this God does not regard them favorably.

The Christians sometimes have changed the goal of the new covenant from justice, mercy, and faith to eternal residence in a mansion in Heaven. They too swallow camels of unrighteousness while proclaiming that their pass out of Hell into Heaven depends on "faith alone." When they do this God does not regard the Christians favorably either! 

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 8:7-12)

Let us examine carefully the above passage for it is the definitive statement concerning what the new covenant is. There are several facts we can consider.

If the first covenant had been successful there would have been no need for the new covenant. Success in any given enterprise can be measured only in terms of the goal of the activity. The goal of the first covenant (as is true of all Divine covenants) was people who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves.

The goal of all of God’s covenants is righteous behavior—righteous behavior as defined by the words of the covenant.

The first covenant was unsuccessful because God found fault with "them"; not with the covenant, but with the people.

"Because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not." Since the first covenant depended on the fallen nature of man to obey the commandments given by the Lord, there had to be a new covenant.

The new covenant can be made only with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. The new covenant, the Christian covenant, cannot be made with a Gentile. Until we are willing to become part of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Israel in the purest sense, we cannot participate in the new covenant. We must become part of the holy olive tree of which Abraham and Sarah were the root.

The new covenant occurs as God writes His laws in our mind and heart. The new covenant is not primarily forgiveness, as it is presented today, but moral change. The writing of God’s laws in our mind and heart results in righteous behavior on our part. The Divine Law is designed to be expressed in behavior rather than merely in knowledge.

It is not enough to know that the Word of God teaches we should behave justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. There is no benefit until we begin to practice upright behavior, delight in showing mercy, and humbly look to the Lord for every detail of life.

It is not enough to know that if any person is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. There is no salvation in knowing this fact. The covenant operates as our old fallen nature is crucified with Christ and the resurrection Life of Christ takes its place.

The new covenant will find fulfillment when every member of God’s elect, God’s Israel, needs no further teaching but knows God for himself.

The new covenant includes forgiveness ("For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more"). The promise of forgiveness comes at the end of the passage. This is because in God’s mind the goal of the new covenant is not forgiveness but the transformation of people into the righteous moral image of Christ.

When the Apostles preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, as in the Book of Acts, their primary emphasis was on repentance and forgiveness of sin. Initial repentance and forgiveness are necessary because there is no way in which the righteous Nature of Christ can be developed in a human being until first he has been forgiven through the atonement made by the Lord on the cross.

God can wink at his past sins because of the blood atonement. This forgiveness is not to be regarded as complete salvation. It is rather the authorization to begin and continue in the program of salvation. If our salvation consisted primarily of forgiveness the Kingdom of God would exist in word only. There would be no strength in it.

The purpose of forgiveness is to make it possible for us to approach God with a clear conscience so we, through the virtue Christ supplies and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, can begin to be saved.

What do we mean "begin to be saved?" We mean that salvation is the changing of us from the likeness of the old fallen nature to the likeness of the righteous Christ. Meanwhile the blood of God’s Lamb keeps on covering and forgiving us so that we may remain without condemnation.

Forgiveness is not the only or even the primary aspect of the new covenant. Contemporary thinking is that the new covenant is better, not because it enables people to keep the righteous laws of God but because it no longer demands righteous behavior of us but receives us without the "wedding garment."

We are in a time of grave apostasy. But there is hope. The Lord Jesus has come in the Spirit to invite us to repentance based on a true understanding of the new covenant.

We will set forth in four aspects the way the new covenant operates.

First is the goal. The goal of the new covenant is to change us into the moral image of Christ (and finally into the outer, physical image with a glorified body) and also to bring us into total, untroubled union with the Father through Jesus.

Second is the means to the goal. There is no way of attaining the goal of the new covenant other than by having Christ formed in us and dwelling in us. The salvation of the Lord cannot possibly proceed from the fallen nature of man. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

Third is the willingness of our fallen nature to lay hold on the grace of God in order that we may obey the commandments given to us by the Lord and His Apostles.

The fourth aspect of the manner in which the new covenant operates has to do with the grace of God. Just what is the grace of God?

We will start with the goal. The writing of the Law of God in our mind and heart is the same as Christ being formed in us. Christ is the Word of God, the Law of God, made flesh. Our transformed inner man is destined to become the eternal habitation of the Father through the Son.

When we are in the complete image of Christ and in union with the Person and will of the Father we shall behave righteously by nature and shall be eligible and competent for all the relationships, privileges, and responsibilities God has planned for us from the beginning of the world.

When we are baptized in water our adamic nature is assigned to the cross with Christ. We are born again, meaning Christ is born in us as a firstfruits of the salvation of our entire personality—spirit, soul, and, at the Lord’s coming, our body.

There are two aspects of the dwelling of Christ in us. The first aspect is that of the actual conception and development of the Divine Nature of Christ in us. 

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)

The second aspect is the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in that which has been formed in us. 

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)

The forming of Christ in us is the construction of the eternal Temple of God, especially the throne of God. As that temple is formed in us the Father and the Son come and inhabit Their temple.

The mystery of the Gospel is Christ is in us. 

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:27)

All of the above aspects of the Divine intervention constitute the grace of God under the new covenant, beginning with our calling out from the world. We have earned none of this by attempting to obey the Law of Moses or by our striving to be righteous in any other terms. However, the grace of God must be appropriated by us, and this requires the most diligent attention and industry of which we are capable.

In the days of the seventh angel, the period of time in which we are living, this mystery will be finished, or accomplished. 

But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. (Revelation 10:7)

In the next chapter (Chapter Eleven) of the Book of Revelation we find the two lampstands and the two olive trees. The reference is to the fourth chapter of the Book of Zechariah. The prophecy in Zechariah refers to the completing of the restored Temple in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. 

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. (Zechariah 4:6,7)

Putting Zechariah and Revelation together we understand that the building of the Temple of God, which is Christ—Head and Body, will be finished in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound.

We notice also that the work of completing Christ will be accomplished by God’s Spirit, not by human effort.

We notice further that as the Headstone (the Lord Jesus Christ) is brought forth there shall be great Divine grace given from the Hand of the Father.

Therefore we can expect in the present hour a wonderful amplification of the experience of having Christ dwelling in us and performing His righteous acts and His works of power.

The Prophet Isaiah indicates that the bringing forth of Christ in His people will occur suddenly.

In the following verse the Prophet speaks of the first coming of Christ: 

Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. (Isaiah 66:7)

Then the Prophet announces the bringing forth of God’s children when Zion travails. This means that in the last days a nation will be born at once. The holy nation spoken of is Christ in His Body. 

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; (I Peter 2:9)

Compare: 

Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. (Micah 5:3)

The travail of the Church to bring forth the Son in the sons is described as follows: 

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. (Revelation 12:5)

We see then that we can expect in our day a tremendous emphasis on Christ in us, producing righteousness in us and bearing witness of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God. We are in the time of the latter rain. The Lord Jesus will come to us as the harvest rain upon the earth. 

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

"He shall come unto us as the rain."

As we have stated previously, there are four aspects included in the way the new covenant operates. First is the goal. The goal is righteous behavior. The goal of the new covenant is to change us into the moral image of Christ (and finally into the outer, physical image with a glorified body) and also to bring us into total, untroubled union with the Father through Jesus. We stated that our transformed inner man is destined to become the eternal habitation of the Father through the Son.

Second is the means to the goal. The means and the only means of attaining the goal of righteous behavior that God has set before us is by having Christ formed in us and dwelling in us. Righteous behavior results from our being changed into the image of Christ and brought into untroubled union with the Father through Christ.

The third aspect of the way the new covenant operates has to do with the willingness of our fallen nature to lay hold on the grace of God in order that we may obey the commandments given to us by the Lord and His Apostles.

It is this third aspect that well may be the area of greatest theological misunderstanding in our day.

The issue that sometimes is raised is as follows: How are the numerous commandments found in the four Gospels and in the Epistles related to Paul’s teaching of grace?

Let us think about the problem of fornication. Paul warned us that the believer who fornicates will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Here is the question. Will a Christian who fornicates inherit the Kingdom of God?

Many contemporary teachers would say yes even though such an answer denies the written Word of God. We are saved by an unconditional sovereign grace that is unaffected by our behavior, it is maintained, and so it is impossible for Galatians 5:19-21 to refer to us. If we applied this kind of biblical interpretation to the remainder of the Scriptures we indeed would be in a theological free-for-all.

Other teachers might hedge a little and say, "If the believer turns his life over to Jesus, the Lord will deliver him from the need to fornicate. The believer is powerless to help himself. If he attempts in his own strength to stop fornicating he would be trying to add the filthy works of his own righteousness to the perfect righteousness of Christ."

When one reads the Book of Galatians it is obvious that neither of these interpretations is in line with the tenor of the entire book.

The solution to this seeming impasse is actually quite simple. We certainly are required to keep all the commandments of the Lord and His Apostles. If we ignore them we will die spiritually. We will destroy our own resurrection unto life.

By far, most of the commandments found in the New Testament can be observed by our fallen nature although we always must look to the Lord for wisdom and strength to keep the commandments of God.

With Christ’s help we can stop fornicating.

We can stop stealing.

We can stop gossiping.

We can stop swearing.

We can awake to righteousness and stop sinning! Until the believers stop their sinning many people will continue to be ignorant of God. 

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34)

We can work with our hands so we may be able to assist the needy.

If the Christian does not cease practicing the works of the flesh he will die spiritually. This is the meaning of the following verse interpreted in context: 

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Now, let us say that because of the type of personality we have (people are not all the same!) we try to stop gossiping and find we are in spiritual bondage to this sin. What are we to do?

We are to come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. We do not ignore or seek to justify a sinful behavior. We confess it as sin. When we do, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Will we get instant deliverance from every sin and bondage we confess? Of course not. We are in a battle against the world, Satan, our bodily lusts, and our self-will and disobedience.

Let us begin to think of our own personality as Canaan. It is filled with the enemies of God. As we look to the Spirit of God He leads us to one city at a time. As we follow the Spirit He shows us how to drive out the enemy found in that city—not the enemies in the entire land but in the behavior under consideration.

As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God. The Spirit leads the sons of God to put to death the deeds of their body that they might inherit eternal life. 

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:13,14)

Please keep in mind that it is our fallen adamic nature that must read the Word and call on God to help us obey the numerous commandments in the Scriptures. The majority of the commandments can be kept by us if we will make up our mind that we are required to obey God if we are to inherit the Kingdom of God. If there is some behavior we are unable to stop practicing, then we have a spiritual bondage and we must seek the Spirit of God for release.

The Scripture commands us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Are we absolutely unable to do this without the power of Divine intervention? The Bible commands us to call for the elders of the church when we are sick. Are we absolutely unable to do this without the power of Divine intervention?

It is true that even in these simple admonitions we will be more successful if we ask the Lord to assist us. In all matters great and small we will be successful if we will call on God for His grace and mercy. God will help us—this is His everlasting promise. 

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Romans 6:17)

We have to obey from the heart the doctrine advanced by Christ and His Apostles. God will enable us to do just that.

But we said we can only meet God’s standard as Christ is formed in us and dwells in us. Now we are saying that it is the fallen nature that must obey the commandments, that must present its body a living sacrifice on the altar of God.

Absolutely! As we seek to keep the commandments of the Lord, Christ is formed in us. As Christ is formed we are able to obey God from our new righteous nature.

But here is the point! If we do not begin to keep the commandments of the Lord, even though we have to depend to some extent on our own efforts, Christ will not dwell in us.

Notice this fact in the following: 

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)

If a man loves Jesus he will obey Jesus’ commandments. If he does not keep the words of the Lord, then the Lord will not come to him and make His abode with him. It is just as simple and straightforward as that.

Are we saving ourselves by our works? Yes, and no. We are saving ourselves by doing (with the help of Divine grace) that which the Lord has commanded. As we, by cooperating with the Spirit of God, do what God has said, Christ is formed in us. In this manner we enter the new covenant, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory.

The new covenant teaches that we are to save ourselves

Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (I Timothy 4:16)

When we, even though we are in our fallen adamic nature, turn to God for help in taking heed to ourselves and to the doctrine of the Apostles, we save ourselves. What does it mean to save ourselves? It means to do the things we can do so that God can act on our behalf.

This is the true relationship between keeping the Lord’s commandments and the Divine salvation.

To not make an effort to study and observe to do the commandments found in the Scriptures is to neglect our salvation and to expect to face severe chastening at the hands of the Lord.

First is the goal. The goal is to serve God in righteousness.

Second is the means to the Goal. The means to the goal is to be filled with Christ.

Third is the willingness of our fallen nature to lay hold on the grace of God in order that we may obey the commandments given to us by the Lord and His Apostles.

The fourth aspect of the manner in which the new covenant operates involves the grace of God. Just what is the grace of God?

A survey of the way the term grace is used in the New Testament is very revealing.

In our day grace is sometimes defined as "unmerited favor." In popular usage, grace is a synonym for forgiveness. As such it is viewed as an alternative to righteous behavior. "We are saved by grace," meaning that if we will confess Jesus as Savior and Lord we will go to Heaven when we die even though we have failed to live righteously.

Actually in many instances in the Scriptures grace is clearly not a synonym of forgiveness but rather of Divine enablement to do God’s will. The body and blood of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit, the Word of Christ and His Apostles are all part of the grace of God under the new covenant.

 

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

Certainly not a synonym of forgiveness but of Divine enablement

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; (Romans 12:6)

Not a synonym of forgiveness but of enablement. 

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (I Corinthians 3:10)

Not a synonym of forgiveness. 

Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. (II Corinthians 8:6)

The "grace" of giving of our material means.

The new covenant operates in the following manner:

The goal of perfect righteousness is set before us.

We attain the goal by having Christ formed and dwelling in us.

Christ is formed and dwells in us as we strive, with the Lord’s help, to obey the Scriptures.

The grace of God, including forgiveness and all other Divine blessings, is given to us in Jesus’ name so we can press forward each day into the fullness of Christ.

In the purest sense, Christ Himself is the Grace of God. Christ is the Divine Grace that is given to us in order that we may work out our own salvation.

Let us examine now how the Apostle Peter sets forth the relationship between the second and third aspects, that is, between having Christ formed and dwelling in us and our striving with the Lord’s help to obey the Scriptures. 

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (II Peter 1:19)

The "more sure word of prophecy," which at the time Peter was writing consisted of the Old Testament and perhaps Paul’s Epistles, is more certain than the voice of God that was heard on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter commands us to take heed to obey the commandments of the Scriptures. This is the third aspect of the four we have mentioned, the responsibility we have to obey the Apostles of the Lamb.

As we take heed to the Scriptures the day dawns. That day is the Day of the Lord, the period when the Lord alone is exalted. The Day of the Lord will begin in the hearts of those who are obeying the Lord, those in whom the Lord alone is exalted.

The "day star" (the morning star) rises in the heart of each believer who keeps the commandments of the Lord. Physically the day star is the planet Venus. This bright planet announces the coming of the new day.

Spiritually the day star, or morning star, is the Lord Jesus. 

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16)

As we keep the commandments of the Lord the Day of the Lord dawns in our heart and the King, the Lord Jesus, ascends the throne. Only then are we eligible and competent to govern the nations of the earth. 

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. (Revelation 2:26-28)

The goal of every Divine covenant is righteous people who can have fellowship with God and successfully perform all the roles for which man was created.

The method of attaining God’s goal is to have Christ formed and dwelling in us.

Christ is formed in us only as we keep God’s commandments.

Divine grace is given to us so we may keep all of God’s commandments while we yet are overcoming through Christ our fallen adamic nature.

This is the way in which the new covenant operates.

We must follow these four steps if we wish to have fellowship with the fiery God of Israel, to be members of the Bride of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, and to be living stones in the eternal Temple of God.

It is the Lord’s desire that each of us come forth in the day of resurrection to discover that a new creation has been formed in us. If a new creation has been formed in us we will be clothed with a marvelous spiritual body. 

The Day of Redemption That Is on the Horizon

God prepares us for the future. God spoke to the Israelites while they were in the wilderness concerning aspects of their future life in Canaan. They were "sealed," so to speak in view of a future redemption, a future inheritance. 

And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. (Exodus 13:5)

When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession; (Leviticus 14:34)

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land of your habitations, which I give unto you, (Numbers 15:2)

And so on and on.

Life in the wilderness was a preparation for the day when the Israelites would come into the land of promise.

The same is true of us. Godly behavior is required of us in this present world but will be brought to a much fuller state of development in the world to come. 

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (I Timothy 4:8)

What we have now is a sealing, a deposit on the day of redemption that is in the future. The day of redemption in the future will include full release from the bondages of sin and a body that will not be filled with sinful impulses as our present body is. 

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:27,28)

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)

There are several verses in the New Testament that point to a day of redemption, a salvation that is to come in the future. 

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Romans 13:11)

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13,14)

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

Our salvation is to be revealed "in the last time." 

Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5)

Therefore it is our responsibility to be faithful now in the small things of righteousness so that when the day of salvation comes we shall be entrusted with the greater.

According to the Scripture our present body is dead because of the sin that dwells in it. 

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

The day of redemption must include a deliverance from sin if the body is to be made alive. Physical death is the last enemy to be destroyed, implying that every other enemy of God must be destroyed if we are to attain immortality in the body. 

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:26)

To redeem the mortal body is to deliver it from sin and death. Paul, whose goal was to attain righteousness so he might have fellowship with God, groaned for the adoption of his body. 

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

The point is, if we hope for the final removal of sin in the Day of the Lord we must begin to follow the Spirit now in putting to death the deeds of the body. If we are faithful in the portion of righteousness given to us now, then in the day of redemption we will be given a greater portion of righteousness. 

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)

If we hope to be like the Lord when He appears we must purify ourselves as He is pure. 

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (I John 3:3)

Before the Lord returns His Bride will be cleansed from sin. 

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:1-3)

Notice how the promise of the baptism with Divine fire (refiner’s fire above) is carried forward in the New Testament: 

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:7-12)

Compare: 

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4:4)

And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. (Zechariah 13:9)

God is interested in righteous behavior. Imputed righteousness is a legal state that remains in force only as long as the personality of the believer is being changed from worldliness, lust, and self-will into the moral image of Christ. When no progress is being made in actual righteousness the believer comes into condemnation and stands in danger of being destroyed by the fire of God rather than being set free from bondage. 

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7,8)

Notice, in the following passage, that God first will remove offenses from His Kingdom, and then after that those who offend. If we are willing to be separated from that which offends God, then it will not be necessary for God to separate us from His Kingdom. 

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:41)

First, "all things that offend." After that, "them which do iniquity."

The purpose of belief in Jesus is to free us from the things that offend God. If our faith in Jesus does not free us from unrighteous behavior, then we are in clear danger of being gathered out of God’s Kingdom when the Lord returns. Unless our behavior is more righteous than that of the scribes and Pharisees we will not be permitted to remain in the Kingdom of God.

Paul warned the Christians in Galatia that if they did not through the Spirit turn away from the works of the flesh they would not inherit the Kingdom of God. 

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

"Shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

The world is waiting to see the good works of the Christian people. The good works of Christian people are the light of the world. When there are no good works there is no light. The moral strength of the Christian churches has been so weakened that the secular governments, having no light of good works to follow, are descending into a horrible abyss of moral filth and perversion.

The day of redemption from sin was prefigured in the Levitical Day of Atonement (Leviticus, Chapter 16).

Two goats played the major role in the Day of Atonement.

The first goat was slain and its blood was sprinkled upon and before the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place. The slain goat portrays the atonement for sin that was made for us by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary.

The second goat was not slain. The high priest laid his hands on the head of the living goat and confessed over it the sins of Israel. Then the "scapegoat" was led away into the wilderness.

The second goat portrays the salvation that is to be revealed to us in the last time. 

Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5)

We believe that the work of the "second goat" has begun and that it will extend to the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. It is time now for the Lord Jesus to purify His Church. All unrighteousness, whether worldliness, the sins of the flesh, or self-will and rebellion, is to be removed from us in preparation for the return of the Lord to gather us to Himself.

The raising of Lazarus is a type of the removal of the bondages of sin from the believers. 

And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:44)

Jesus called Lazarus forth from the dead. Then Jesus instructed those standing by to "Loose him, and let him go." God sends all kinds of messengers and helps—often other people—to assist in the work of delivering us from sin.

Let us repeat, if we are not faithful in the work of purification that is taking place now, then we are not candidates for the future redemption. If we are not faithful in the lesser we will not be entrusted with the greater. Our goal is a crown of righteousness and the Holy Spirit is preparing us today.

There is no greater joy than that of following the Lord Jesus as He leads us in the change from unrighteousness to righteousness. We are only dust. We cannot change ourselves except as the Lord leads us to use our will in obeying His directions. The good news is that there is unlimited power and wisdom in the Godhead to change us from our chaotic moral condition to the image of Christ and to union with God through Christ. God has said this change will take place. It shall take place if we believe and obey. 

The Divine Salvation Goes Far Beyond a Reformation of Character

God is intent on creating righteous people. All the inhabitants of the new world will be righteous in behavior. The inhabitants of the new world include the elect, who compose the new Jerusalem, and then the members of the saved nations.

There will be no person in the new world of righteousness who continues to sin against God. 

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (II Peter 3:13,14)

"A new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Think of it! Of course, it will not be a new world of legally assigned (imputed) righteousness but of actual righteousness of behavior performed by transformed people. Christ will be the Center and the Circumference of the new world wherein dwells righteousness.

If we hope to be a citizen of the new earth we must be diligent to always be found in the Lord Jesus "in peace, without spot, and blameless."

But does not "accepting Christ" do away with the requirement of having to "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Christ"? If it does, then God has given us a new covenant that is decidedly inferior to the old covenant; for the old covenant at least required righteous behavior!

The new covenant, rather than making fewer demands on our conduct makes infinitely greater demands on our conduct. God always requires that the people who would have fellowship with Him (and who would want to go to Heaven and not have fellowship with God?) do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. God never has had a different requirement and never shall have a different requirement.

The requirement that those who would have fellowship with God must behave righteously reflects God’s righteous Character. God’s Character is eternal—it never changes. Were God’s Character ever to change it would be far, far better for us that we had never been born!

The building of the eternal House of God. God’s plan of salvation includes our conversion to righteous behavior, our being conformed to the moral image of Christ, our being brought into untroubled union with Himself.

God is building an eternal house for Himself. The Lord Jesus is the chief Cornerstone of the eternal temple of God. We of God’s elect are living stones in that temple.

In order to be a stone in the eternal house of God we must be righteous in behavior and also be in union with God through Christ. Do you understand that an unrighteous person could never remain as a part of the house of God, part of the Body of Christ? This is why at the end of the present age the angels will cast out of the Kingdom of God all who are wicked. 

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, (Matthew 13:47-49)

Notice that the division is between the wicked and the righteous, not between those who believe in the Lord Jesus and those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus.

This passage is applying to Christians, to people who have been drawn up in the net of the Kingdom of Heaven. If we claim that the verses are speaking of people who are not Christians, then we are saying that people can be part of the Kingdom of Heaven who are not part of the Lord Jesus, who have not been born again of Christ. They were righteous apart from the Lord Jesus and so they remained in the Kingdom while the wicked were cast out. Can you see this?

It is true rather that these words are speaking directly to believers.

If a believer continues to practice wickedness after the Lord has attempted to lead him to righteous behavior, then he can expect Divine judgment to come upon him. 

For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:31,32)

Does the above passage sound to you like God is interested primarily in imputed righteousness, or in actual righteousness of behavior?

Compare: 

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26,27)

To those who would claim that the above passage does not apply to Christians, even though the entire Book of Hebrews is written to believers who have grown careless, we have no more to say.

Our being part of God’s eternal temple depends on our change into Christ’s image and our being brought into untroubled union with God through Christ.

The several roles and tasks assigned to the royal priesthood. There are a number of roles and tasks that God will assign to those who are in Christ’s image and in union with God:

To be a member of the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9).

To be a member of the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12).

To be a part of the vehicle for the end-time revival (Isaiah 60:1,2).

To be a restorer of Paradise on earth (Romans 8:21).

To be a member of the royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9).

To be a witness of God (Isaiah 43:10).

To be a son of God (Revelation 21:7).

To be a brother of Christ (Romans 8:29).

To be an overcomer of the accuser (Revelation 12:11).

To be a governor of the nations (Revelation 2:26,27).

To be a judge of men and angels (I Corinthians 6:2,3).

To be a wall of defense around the Glory of God (Revelation 21:14).

To be a part of the revelation of Himself—God in Christ in the saints (Revelation 3:12). 

Conclusion

We have seen that God’s purpose is to make people righteous so He can have fellowship with them. This is the purpose of all of the Divine covenants.

We have seen also that God intends for the members of His royal priesthood to go far beyond any concept we may have had of the authority and the power that is to be issued to the sons of God.

Today the purpose of the Divine salvation is viewed as bringing unchanged people to Paradise—people who never have learned to live by the power of Christ’s resurrection; people who never have shared the sufferings of Christ; people who never have taken up their cross and followed Christ; people who never have put to death the deeds of their body but are certain that through the blood of Jesus they have escaped Hell and are destined to live forever among the saints and the holy angels who do the Father’s will.

Will God in His love bring understanding and repentance to His churches of the twenty-first century? The Spirit seems to be testifying that He will and that it will be in the midst of much suffering and tribulation. Even today we notice a change in the preaching of prominent ministers as they begin to stress a return to godly behavior.

But all efforts to turn people to repentance and godly behavior are hampered by the fact that in their minds is the belief we have been saved and shall go to Heaven when we die on the basis of an "unconditional grace." As long as this error persists, the ability to apply the fierce determination required to overcome the world, sin, and self-will is greatly hindered.

One part of the brain of the ministers of today is saying there is a need for repentance and righteous behavior. The other part of the brain is testifying that "Jesus did it all" and if we believe we will go to Paradise on the basis of "unconditional grace."

Obviously these two concepts are out of harmony enough to prevent, as we have said, the fierce determination necessary to overcome the vast array of demonic forces pressuring every human being, young and old, Christian and non-Christian, to be occupied with immoral practices, money, violence, drugs, drunkenness, and witchcraft.

If we are to overcome the passions of our flesh and soul we must have more of a motivation than "I know God overlooks my behavior because of Christ but I ought to try to do good out of appreciation for God’s kindness to me."

Such motivation has about as much chance to overcome the passions of demon-driven flesh as a fly would have to lift a ton of iron or stop a speeding locomotive.

We must know that our conduct now will govern the kind of resurrection we will have in the Day of the Lord. Only then will we apply the determination to call on the Lord until we through the Holy Spirit drive out of our personality the passions of sin.

Unless our behavior becomes more righteous than that of the scribes and Pharisees we have no chance of entering the Kingdom of God. He who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than the greatest of the Prophets of Israel, including John the Baptist. The demands placed on each member of the Body of Christ are infinitely greater than the demands that were placed on the Prophets. God never required of King David that he turn the other cheek when he was struck or that he leap for joy when he was persecuted.

The grace available to each member of the Body of Christ is inconceivably greater than the grace available to any of the Prophets. King David had not been born again (no individual ever was born again until Christ rose from the dead) and did not have the body and blood of Christ to impart Divine Virtue to his personality.

Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of those who served God according to the Law of Moses (and there were many, such as Ezra the priest, and the father and mother of John the Baptist) or we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

Enormous demands! Enormous grace!

Let us come into the Holy of Holies that we may receive each day the Divine grace necessary to overcome the evil of that day.

Let us turn away from our sins and begin to serve the Lord, understanding that the primary evidence of salvation is our daily transformation into righteous behavior. 

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)