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The Daily Word of Righteousness
A Fatal Interpretation, continued
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, (Titus 2:11,12—NIV)
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:4,5—NIV)
The first passage (above) informs us that Divine grace teaches us to live an upright, godly life. The second passage tells us that God has not saved us according to the righteous things we have done but by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
The battle is joined right here. Our understanding of salvation is defined right here.
Which of these passages is the more important?
You might say, "Neither, because they are both the inspired Word of God."
Are they reconciled in that we are saved apart from righteous behavior but we ought to try to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions? We ought to try to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age?
What do you think?
If one were to visit Evangelical churches he might hear the second passage repeated again and again. He might never hear the first passage. If he did it would be accompanied by repeated assurances that we stand in grace, and while we ought to try to do better we have our ticket to Heaven because God has not saved us "because of righteous things we have done."
Anyone with experience among evangelical believers knows the attempt to "try to do good" is often an utter failure. The believers are walking in the sins of the flesh, counting on God to save them apart from righteous behavior.
But what if righteous behavior, rather than eternal residence in Paradise, is the goal of salvation? Does this change the equation?
The reader is invited at this point to reread the New Testament and count the passages that tell us our goal is to live forever in Paradise, and then count the passages that tell us our goal is to live righteous lives in this present world and that if we do not we are in very serious trouble.
You will find no passage that declares the goal of salvation to be eternal residence in Paradise, or Heaven. You will find numerous passages that portray righteous behavior as the goal of salvation and stipulate the fearful consequences of not obeying the injunction of Titus to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:14—NIV)
Why did Christ give Himself for us? The answer is, "to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
If the goal of our redemption is that we might be a purified people, eager to do what is good, delivered from all wickedness, then our equation is changed. It no longer appears true that we are saved apart from righteous behavior. Righteous behavior is seen to be the result and proof of salvation.
To be continued.