Monday, August 14, 2017
Most Bible believers understand that one is not made righteous by birth. One is not made righteous because his parents or grandparents are Christians. One is not righteous because his friends are Christians. One is not righteous because he attends church every time the doors open. One is not righteous, even if he drops more into the collection plate than any other person. So, what make a person righteous?
Soon after I put on Jesus, a preacher spoke on the judgment. He painted a verbal picture of one standing before the Lord. However, he had us informing the Savior about our accomplishments to prove we had a right to receive heaven as our reward. Things like teaching, visiting, baptizing, preaching, gospel meetings, VBS, and the lot were given to prove our case and that we deserved eternal life. I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. After all, doesn’t scripture tell us, “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20 KJV)? The more we do, the more righteousness we gain! It almost like another slogan, “Your good deeds must outweigh your bad ones if you want to go to heaven!”
With time, questions arose. “How much must I do to accumulate the right amount of righteousness? What if I come up short?” The answer given was, “We must depend upon God’s grace!” If that is true, how much grace will I need if my righteousness comes up short? How much grace will I need to supplement my lack of “faithfulness”?
If you have ever asked those questions you probably received this kind of answer. “To be faithful, you must achieve what the Bible says is faithfulness.” Yes, but what passages specifically outlines the things to be achieved? Another question! If one does not achieve that goal of reaching faithfulness, will he be lost? If the answer is, “No, that person will not be lost,” then it infers that one does not have to reach faithfulness or soundness to go to heaven! If the reply is, “Yes, one must reach biblical faithfulness to be saved,” then were the Jerusalem, Corinthian, Ephesian, and Sardis assemblies lost since they were in error? The usual reply is, “They were being corrected. So, each had to depend upon the grace of God while they were in the process of repenting!” Yes, but while in that process, were they lost? They weren’t “faithful” since they needed divine correction! How much grace must be supplied until that “process” is completed? May one person receive 55% while another must have 99%? Where does scripture assure us that 1) we will receive this gap assurance and 2) that we will receive whatever percentage we need? Will one who needs 99% receive it? If not, where does scripture give us the specific “cutting off” mark? Must one wait until the judgment to see what side of that unknown mark he is on? If so, what joy is produced by such uncertainty? It almost seems that Mark 16:16 should be, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved into uncertainty.”
If one, whose heart is right, offered to put $10,000 a week in the contribution plate, could he expect that good deed to guarantee him heaven? What if he wrote the Gospel Advocate each week, announcing each time that he had taught and immersed 40 folks, could he expect his good deeds to guarantee him heaven? What if he visited the hospital every day and made no less than 20 calls each time, would that help? What if he counseled and saved hundreds of marriages, would that be his ticket? What if he memorized the entire New Testament and had half the Old Testament committed to memory, would that help? Wouldn’t all that be equal to 50%, matching Jesus’ blood shed upon the cross? If not, how much more would he have to possess to make his righteousness equal to Jesus’ sacrifice?
We know we cannot buy our salvation with silver or gold. But, somehow man believes he can help purchase it with his righteousness. That righteousness is gained by his obedience to law. Not just any law, but the law of Christ! Through his works of obedience, he believes he is justified by law. Therefore, all that he does must count for something! This “gospel” equals a believer’s righteousness + Jesus’ righteousness = his deserved salvation. This view rejects the biblical teaching that Jesus purchased us and he is our sin sacrifice (Acts 20:28). Dying on the cross, he took ALL our sins upon himself, and in return, he poured out his righteousness upon us (2 Corinthians 5:21). That purchase is a 100% paid gift from God! Only God can save (Acts 2:41, 47). Man needs it. He does not help supply it. Believing that we are co-partners with Jesus in purchasing a percentage of our salvation is ludicrous. If we substituted “gold” for “our works of obedience” one would declare that belief to be false. Yet, some believe “our works of obedience” will do what “gold” cannot accomplish! Satan still deceives!
This “justification by a ‘lawful works’ gospel” is clothed in the thought, “we are just as righteous as we do”! If that is so, how much righteousness must “we do” to have enough so we can know we have “made it”? It goes back to how well we must keep law to be “lawful.” Eighty-six years ago, the question was asked in The Gospel Advocate, “Can we be faithful in our imperfections?” This goes back to the question I proposed earlier. “Were the Jerusalem, Corinthian, Ephesian, and Sardis assemblies faithful despite their error?” How perfect must one be, or the congregation he is part of, to be faithful? Law, regardless of which one, demands perfection. No error. No sin. No shortcoming. No disobedience! What is the penalty if one does not reach that perfection (Romans 6:23a)? Who can boast of having reached it, much less maintaining it? When one commits one law breaking act, what is he guilty of (James 2:10)?
The Good News is that despite our inability to live perfectly under law, God sent His Son to do it for us! He became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. On the cross, he took away all sins. We receive that gift by believing Jesus is the only one who can save us. He paid it all! We paid nothing. We are saved by grace through faith, not justified by keeping law. Those who believe they are justified by keeping law, are saying they have matched Jesus’ perfection. Perfection is the only way one can be saved by that system of salvation.
So, whose righteousness will you be wearing when you stand before Jesus in the judgment? Yours, or his?