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The Daily Word of Righteousness
Our Christian Pilgrimage, #10
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:5-8)
Notice the emphasis on "good works," in the above familiar passage.
To whom, then, is the Apostle Paul referring when he proclaims repeatedly that salvation does not come about by works of righteousness that we have done?
Paul is referring to the Jew (or other religionist) who attempts to please God by the Torah while knowingly rejecting Christ and the Divine salvation that comes only through Jesus.
The Jew is taught that life comes by means of keeping the statutes of the Lord.
Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 18:9)
Now that God has instituted His own plan of righteousness and redemption, all efforts to obtain righteousness and redemption apart from God's plan in Christ are dead religious works. This is what Paul meant when he wrote that salvation does not come about by works of righteousness that we have done.
The entering of the Life of Christ into an individual always results in good works. There can be no argument that whether or not a believer lives a godly life he still is saved. This would be to claim that whether or not a sick person recovers he still is healed.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
If Christ is dwelling in an individual a new creation is coming forth. The proof that Christ is in us is that we are changing from sin to godliness. If Christ is not in us we are not entering life; we are not being brought from Satan's kingdom into Christ's kingdom.
There are several reasons why Paul's doctrine of grace has been misinterpreted:
Paul taught that righteous works outside of Christ cannot bring us into eternal life. He also taught that the entering of Christ into us always produces righteous works and these righteous works result in eternal life and are the essential evidence that Christ is in us and we in Him. It is easy to regard these two concepts as contradictory and to select the one we prefer and ignore the other.
We Gentiles do not have the experience or perception to appreciate fully the temptation to pursue life according to the Law and statutes of Moses. To us, when Paul refers to righteous works he is speaking of godly behavior. Paul's actual warning, that of the error of striving to attain life by adhering to the letter of the old covenant, is not in the forefront of our mind; and so we have made receiving Christ an alternative to living righteously. But faith without righteous works is dead.
To be continued.