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Query for the Month
Next up-date: November 1st 2011 (God willing).
Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.
Some perpetual questions ....
Do you know the difference between the "love"
that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world? Click here to find out!
Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends. It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read!
(when you get to the site just click "cancel" and it will let you in. Then click "order" to obtain a copy. )
In the meantime, try this site. And here's one where you can read it online.
Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.
In this reply the old-fashioned words of the KJV have been modernised, and in some instances, the man-made punctuation has been altered for greater understanding. Some of the comments are adapted from books in my library. No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly. All the ideas expressed in this article, right or wrong, are my own.
In this text we are told that no one is justified, or made right with God, by their actions:
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law [the Ten Commandments] there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. [1 John 3:4.] 21 But now the righteousness of God without the [deeds of the] law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God . . . 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
But before that we were told that anyone, Jew or Gentile, who did the deeds of the law shall be judged by those deeds!
11 For there is no respect of persons with God. 12 For as many as have sinned without [knowledge of the] law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the [knowledge of the] law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the [outward] law, are a law to themselves: 15 which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
There appears to be a contradiction between these two scriptures. How can we harmonise them?
First of all, we must understand that we are reading about two different things here, but which are called by the same name. There is a “justification” [just as if we had not sinned] which is a gift from our Saviour at the beginning of our Christian walk, and there is a “justification” (also known as a “reward”, Revelation 22:12) which is bestowed in the judgment at the end of time when sins are “blotted out”. “Repent you therefore, and be converted [become a Christian], that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the LORD; and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached to you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began”. Acts 3:19-21.
The first justification covers all of our past life up to the moment of conversion, for that life is considered by God to be “dead” and a new life started – through the NEW birth. It is only the actions of the “new” life which are considered in the judgment – the old life does not come into it.
So Paul wrote:
15 We who are [spiritual] Jews by nature [re-birth], and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ [when we are reborn], even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners [still choosing to commit sins], is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I [eventually] make myself a [total] transgressor [not born as one now, but chosen to be one].
19 For I [as a Christian] through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God.
20 [Therefore] I am crucified with Christ [dead to the old life]: nevertheless I live [resurrected]; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
The new birth is like being in a square (which represents the righteousness of Christ our Saviour), and in which we move from the lower left corner towards the upper right hand one. While we are IN the square we are covered by the whole imputed righteousness of the Son of God, and therefore are legally and spiritually completely righteous in the merits of Christ. We have the “title” to heaven, but not necessarily the “fitness” for it. (Remember the thief on the cross who died soon after being saved? He couldn’t “grow”.) However, because we are “alive in Him” we can grow, for that is how righteousness works, and so we should imagine ourselves ever progressing upwards and onwards towards our goal of fitness.
As we do so, some of the righteousness which has been “imputed” to us becomes “imparted” into our lives. Thus it is written; “He [Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it [his faith] was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our LORD from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”. Romans 4:20-25.
After that, we are told; “Sow to yourselves in righteousness [right doing], reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till He come and rain righteousness upon you”. Hosea 10:12.
“But you are not [just] in the flesh [after rebirth], but [also] in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His [he is a sinner]. And [but] if Christ be in you, the body is dead [and needs changing] because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [resurrect] your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you”. Romans 8:9-11.
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous”. 1 John 3:7.
Every time we (as Christians) are tempted to an action of sin (the temptation is NOT the sin, only a strong drawing towards it), and while knowing that we can choose to do it, we resist “in His strength” then we are accepting a portion of His righteousness into our life. “. . . let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me”. Isaiah 27:5.
As we call on Him to be our present Saviour (not from the old life, but in the new one), He answers with the power and we overcome “in His name [character]”. However, His power is given not only to overcome temptation, but also to enable us to do right things under His direction. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”. Philippians 4:13.
8 . . . I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my LORD: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung [rubbish], that I may win Christ, 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection [in my life], and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death; 11 if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect [totally complete]: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend [reach] that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers [and sisters], I count not myself to have apprehended [completed the course]: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus [it is worth striving for].
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect [in this race], be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
A problem arises only if we “choose” to respond to the temptation!
If we do that (as a Christian) we have refused the gift of God at that moment and we become a “sinning Christian”. It is important to realise that we don’t “fall” but “jump”, for we cannot be tempted with a temptation stronger than we can bear, depending on our understanding of God’s power. “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it”. 1 Corinthians 10:13. However, He doesn’t say that it will be easy! The Son of man sweated blood when faced with His greatest temptation as the representative Christian. “And He was withdrawn from them [His disciples] about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if You be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done’. And there appeared an angel to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground”. Luke 22:41-44.
On the other hand, “sinners” (as a group) are physically born that way and remain in that condition (whether inside or outside the church makes no difference) unless they repent and are reborn. What sinning Christians do is simply step into that category temporarily, for they can call on the LORD AT ANY TIME and receive the power of Christ’s righteousness to overcome their “sinning” condition. He is their “Master” and sin is not. This gift of overcoming is given with the “wedding garment” and can be used at any time.
But such a one has lost ground in their upward march depending on how long they choose to remain in that state. If they do this too often or for too long, then they are shortening their opportunity to reach the top right hand corner of the square, and their ability to step off with Christ into heaven, because the “wages” of sin is death. (We can also affect our chances of reaching the top before death by dallying along the way.) To fall short of this ultimate end is to “choose” to enter a temporary state of separation from the God of life and to come under the power of death. For the Christian this is described as a “sleep” from which we can awake in the resurrection. We may not recognise that we have “chosen” (it is not one large choice but an accumulation of many small ones), but this is the legal “fact”, and the Son of God must wait for certain conditions before He can call us from our dusty beds.
The patriarch Job recognised this, and saw it as a result of his behaviour.
“The righteous [he who is in Christ] also shall hold on his way, and he that has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger [Psalm 24:3-5] . . . My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart [for I have made many wrong choices]. They change the night into day: the light is short because of darkness.
If I wait [linger], the grave is my house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, ‘You are my father’: to the worm, ‘You are my mother, and my sister’. And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit [the grave], when our rest together is in the dust”. Job 17:9-16.
Later he said, “Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin [physically] worms destroy this body, yet in my [new] flesh shall I see God [at the second coming]: whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins [life forces] be consumed within me”. Job 19:23-28.
There is no conflict between being “justified” without the deeds of the law when we become Christians (for that life is “dead”), and being “justified” again at the end of our Christian walk, for in normal circumstances we will then be physically dead and awaiting the resurrection. They are the same word with two similar but different connotations.
Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated,
but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Next query. To be discussed from November 1st 2011,
Jeremiah 1:4 -5
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.
Was this a special occurrence and only for Jeremiah? Does the LORD ordain some for His work before they are even conceived?
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