Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 11
Let’s face it, most of us do not like the concept of what has been termed “easy believism” or “easy grace” leading to salvation. It rubs us the wrong way for any number of reasons. Satan has instilled within people the false notion that God’s salvation is actually not truly free, that it comes with strings attached. My study of the Bible tells me otherwise. I understand that salvation is a completely free gift and one that God Himself maintains (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 8, etc.). We do not necessarily partner with God for salvation. We simply believe and then receive salvation from Him.
Salvation itself is God’s department. He procures it for us and grants it to those who exercise faith in Him. All are welcome, but not all come to Him for salvation.
However, there are all kinds of word juggling and noodling going on in some who, while agreeing that salvation is a “technically” completely free gift, something that no one can earn, they argue that it becomes a work for us after we receive it. In other words, in the maintenance of our salvation, work on our part is required and without this work or effort, we are in constant danger of losing salvation.
I would vehemently disagree with this assessment and would go so far as to say that this is not a supported Scriptural position. While I do understand how people arrive to this conclusion, I fully believe the position itself is not sustained by God’s Word. For anyone who is interested, I’ve written a book called Finishing the Race! where I detail these very things. This set of articles – Christ, Our Righteousness – is similar to that book and I think when we get done here, it will be more inclusive and (hopefully), clearer as well.
It is my opinion that those who believe salvation can be lost do so because they confuse a very important issue. They see salvation and fellowship with God as being essentially the same thing. They reason that if a person actually has salvation, then the desire to be in constant fellowship with God would be present. That’s like saying having a set of weights in my house is all I need to create within me the desire to work out.
If the desire for fellowship is not there, allowing a person to “walk away” from God, then to them, it becomes clear that they never had salvation the first place. I’ve believed a modified view of that myself. While salvation includes a number of things (like the ability to fellowship with God), the truth of the matter is that salvation itself is the very foundation upon which the other things are added on top of it. You can actually have salvation without having fellowship, but you cannot have true fellowship with God unless you have salvation.
Throughout the New Testament, Paul tells us things like, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” (1 Corinthians 6:9; emphasis added).
The reason Paul makes the above statement is because he is offering a very solemn warning to those within the Corinthian church that since they are no longer considered “unrighteous,” they most definitely should not do the things that the unrighteous do. They should close themselves off to that part of their lives and not turn back to it. How many times have you read that passage and failed to notice that word “unrighteous” or saw the statement in a different light? Paul is reiterating the truth that the unrighteous live by being fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, etc.? That’s what the unrighteous do as a matter of course. It is how they live. By contrast, Christians should not be imitators of unrighteous living, but of righteous living. We should look to Jesus, not to our old lives, or to those who still live that way.
Paul is actually highlighting the difference between the saved and the unsaved with that word, unrighteous. He reminds the Corinthians that they used to be labeled by God as unrighteous before they had salvation. Now, they are righteous in God’s sight, labeled such because of their faith in Christ’s redemptive work on their behalf. Since that is the case, why would they even possibly want to continue living like the unrighteous? It makes absolutely no sense!
It is a form of a rhetorical question. Paul is speaking like a lawyer, helping them to understand that the way they used to live before they became Christians. In essence, they should be dead to that life.
The natural question then becomes this: “Well, but Christians can make mistakes, right? Christians can be adulterers, fornicators, idolaters, etc., right?”
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding YES! Tragic, isn’t it? But how can that be? Even up to recently, I thought, “But wait! Christians who live as unrighteous are only professing Christians, right?” Absolutely wrong. If a person has actually received God’s salvation, God has declared them to be righteous. Nothing can change that legal standing. Free will, colluding with the sin nature can still create major problems for believers, causing them to not understand their true life in Christ and the ramifications of it. In their confusion (or even rebellion), they can fall and fall hard and continually. (By the way, as an aside, we will also take up the problem of Christians who appear to permanently walk away from Jesus in a future installment of this series).
Guess what, folks? I cannot see inside a person where God has labeled them righteous in their innermost being. I cannot even see their actual intentions. I can only see a person’s actions or hear their words.
Jesus talks about knowing “them” (false prophets) by their “fruit” (Matthew 7:16). We also need to understand exactly what that means (and we’ll get to it either in the next installment or right afterwards). Just as importantly, we need to understand more about this fruit – both good and bad – and whether or not that fruit (Galatians 5) stems from our salvation or our fellowship with God because of our salvation.
Before we get there though, take Moses. When he struck the rock in the second recorded instance (Numbers 22), he sinned. We look at it and go, “Oh, gee Moses made a mistake.” No, it wasn’t just a mistake! His sin was so grievous to God that God said, “You will NOT enter into the Promised Land and stop asking me about it!” Did Moses lose his salvation? No! Of course not. Would he have lost his salvation had he not beseeched God to forgive Him? No, of course not. But Moses did lose something that day and it was huge.
Moses’ fellowship with God changed that day. Instead of continuing to grow in the Lord, rising on the wings of eagles, going from strength to strength and victory to victory, Moses fell backwards. He lost something. His fellowship with God became marred. Moreover, the consequences of his sin (and he should have known better because of how long he had walked with God and communed with Him face-to-face!), were put in place carried out. God refused to set the consequences of Moses’ sin aside. Moses would not be allowed into the Promised Land. It was huge!
Do you think Moses would excuse himself now if we could ask him? Hardly! We might excuse him, but he would not excuse himself. Moses has accepted full and total responsibility for his actions that day. He fully understands now the major setback his sin caused.
What about King David? Here was a guy who was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22; see also Psalm 119, etc.), yet how he fell! Wow. He served and chased after God for many years, going from strength to strength. He dealt with King Saul in the most respectable manner because of his own love for God’s Law, even though King Saul tried to kill David.
Yet, in one swell swoop, King David went from honor to misery, created by his own sin. He lusted. Then, he committed adultery with another man’s wife! The wife – Bathsheba – became pregnant with David’s own son. Then, to top things off, King David had Uriah murdered in battle. Does that not put a huge lump in your throat? That is so tragic! Uriah, the Hittite – whom David had killed – had more honor than David! Oh, but we argue that David did not have the Holy Spirit within him! Lets give him a break. But he knew the beauty of the Spirit’s presence when he cried out “Take not your Holy Spirit from me!” (Psalm 51:11). He had been buoyed up by God’s Presence. He cannot use that as an excuse and he wouldn’t. Today, King David understands that he had no excuse for what he did and this, long after he had become and remained a “believer.”
How could David do what he did? How could he allow himself to become that? Though saved by God’s grace, he remained a sinner! His sin nature remained with him, just like ours remains with us until we leave this life.
(AN ASIDE: Speaking of leaving this life, a good friend of ours passed into eternity last night. He was someone who knew and served the Lord for many years. He died of a brain tumor. Please pray for his wife and their children. He is with the Lord and his pain is gone. But the pain remains for those left here. Please pray. Thank you.)
Did King David lose his salvation? No. There is nothing in Scripture that indicates he did. We know he lost the joy associated with salvation, but not salvation itself (Psalm 51:12).
So, you mean to tell me that David, Moses, and others did completely reprehensible things after they received God’s salvation and they did not lose their salvation? That’s exactly what I’m telling you. Their salvation remained intact, though their fellowship with God was seriously marred and stunted from that point onward.
Oh, how great God’s love is for such UNworthy people as us. He actually finds worth in each of us, something we have such a difficult time finding in other people or ourselves. His love compelled Him to find a way to gain salvation for us, to bring us into His Kingdom as sons/daughters and joint heirs of salvation and He did so in such a way that nothing – nothing – would ever be able to remove us from His Kingdom (His hand) once we gained that very salvation.
How can you read this – how can you comprehend this – and not be brought to tears because of God’s goodness, graciousness, and love? What more proof do we need that in spite of how horrible, reprehensible, and sin-laden we are, God has provided a way of salvation that guarantees He will never abandon us, forsake us, or throw us out of His Kingdom? This should bring us to the end of ourselves and our desire to serve SELF. It should throw us toward Him with an unrelenting desire for continued fellowship. Instead, we often become licentious, lackadaisical, irreverent to God and disrespectful to one another.
It is this very love that God showers on us that should prompt us to endure suffering in this life. It is this very love that should compel us to chase after Him in unending and unbroken fellowship every day. Yet, it doesn’t always do that. Moses and David are merely two examples. I’m another one. You’re another one. How can we see that love from God toward us and not be moved to cast off everything that seeks to enslave us back into a life of constant sin? It could happen!
Instead, it provokes within us this sense of licentiousness that says we can live any way we want to live and it won’t matter because our salvation is secure. This is the wrong way to look at things and it is the very thing that Paul wrote so many epistles arguing against! In his epistles (to the Corinthians, referenced above), Paul was using every persuasive argument at his disposal to help those believers (and they were believers), to understand that God’s love is so great, so wonderful, so all-encompassing, so full and relentless that it should bring us to the point of absolute submission to Him in all things, every day, moment-by-moment.
A true realization of God’s love for us should cause us to run toward Him, desperately wanting to obey Him in all things. Instead, we often take a laissez-faire attitude toward God, accepting the things that God wants us to reject (not people, but aspects of living). Too often, we’re like the lepers that were healed and went on their merry way (and we’ll get to them as well).
Paul says that no unrighteous person will inherit the Kingdom of God. This is what we were before we received salvation from the Master’s hand! We were absolutely and pitiably unrighteous with no ability to help ourselves!! But just like those within the Corinthian church, once we received salvation through Christ, we stopped being seen by God unrighteous and were declared righteous! But guess what? I can still do unrighteous things and so can you! Is it any wonder that Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? (Philippians 2:12)
If this is so, it means that in spite of any unrighteous acts we are still capable of committing, God will never, ever declare us unrighteous again. Remember, our legal standing before God is that we are now righteous.
Yet, we still act reprehensibly, we do things we should not do, and in essence, we act like we don’t even know who Jesus is at times. I’ll remind readers of the article I wrote that really kicked this whole study off – Today, I Was Reminded I Have a Sin Nature. Anyone watching me that day to see any signs of Christ in me would have walked away thinking, “That dude is NOT a Christian!” From all outward appearances, they would have been 100% correct. Yet, as far as God is concerned, I was still 100% righteous in His eyes. I cannot comprehend it.
That realization should continue to undo me. It should cause me to reflect on God’s love, His faithfulness, and His eternal salvation. The huge gap between my living that day and my standing before God was so stark that I really had no business calling myself a Christian. Yet, here I am, still legally declared righteous by God in spite of my sin and ugliness that day.
We do not deserve that kind of love, yet there it is. We do not deserve to be able to be in His presence much less lift our heads before Him. We deserve hell. We deserve an eternal separation from God. Yet, God declares all who come to Him in faith legally righteous. This is something that will never be changed.
Though I sin, He sees me as righteous. Though I fall miserably short and drag His Name through the mud, He sees me as righteous. Though I can make other people’s lives absolutely miserable, He sees me as righteous.
That is so unfair! We deserve God’s wrath, but because of our faith in Christ, He moves us permanently and forever out from under His wrath, never to experience it and places us in the same category as His Son. No, not as God, but as righteous. While we can and do halt, mar, and even destroy fellowship that we have with God because of our sin, our legal standing before God remains righteous. This is exactly why at the Bema Seat of Jesus at least some Christians will watch as everything they ever did in this life will burn up like wood, hay, or stubble. Yet, they themselves will be saved (1 Corinthians 3:12).
Even though this is our 11th installment of this series, I feel as though we are just getting started. There is yet so much to cover, so many Bible passages to look at and unpack. We need to investigate this “righteousness” to the fullest extent of our ability and may God open our minds and hearts where we lack.
I’m going to try to stick with one or two points per future article. Will you join me in asking God to enlighten our hearts and minds so that we can know Him? But we don’t want to know Him solely for the purpose of having additional head knowledge. We want to know Him so that we can live for Him by submitting ourselves to Him.
See you next time.