The Two Different Types of Righteousness
in the Bible

A Special Rock of Offence Commentary

The following New Testament Scripture quotes
provide some life-changing insights into one
of the most important – yet misunderstood
truths of Christ's great salvation.

"...AND BE FOUND IN HIM (JESUS CHRIST), NOT HAVING MINE OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, WHICH IS OF THE LAW, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith..."(Philippians 3:9 KJV -- Emphasis Added)

"But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are FALSE APOSTLES, DECEITFUL WORKERS, TRANSFORMING THEMSELVES INTO APOSTLES OF CHRIST. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. THEREFORE IT IS NO GREAT THING IF HIS MINISTERS ALSO TRANSFORM THEMSELVES INTO MINISTERS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, whose end will be according to their works." (2 Corinthians 11:12-15 -- Emphasis Added)

Paul's warning to the Church about false apostles and ministers from 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 should cause us to ask some important questions. He refers to these individuals (paraphrased) as "the devil's ministers who masquerade as ministers of righteousness". It's one of the most shocking, yet informative statements in the New Testament. How can a person be a "minister of righteousness" and, at the same time, work for the enemy? Isn't ministering (or preaching) righteousness a good thing?

The answers are found in an often ignored New Testament truth about the changes that take place after the cross. The book of Hebrews calls it "the new and living way of Christ" (Hebrews 10:19-23) . It's called "a new way" because it isn't the same as "the Old Testament way" that previously existed. It's called "the new and living way of Christ" because it didn't officially start until after Christ's crucifixion. The prophet Isaiah gives us a preview about this future change initiated by God;

Behold, I WILL DO A NEW THING, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

It's amazing that so many people who regularly read the Bible assume that God relates to people the same way after the cross - as He did in the Old Testament before the cross. They fail to understand that this mindset effectively denies the "new way" Jesus initiated through His sacrificial death. As a young believer, I fell into this same trap until God supernaturally made some painful, but important adjustments. Failing to recognize these revolutionary changes (Paul called it "rightly dividing God's Word" - 2 Timothy 2:15) creates a dangerous misconception where it is believed that the New Covenant of Christ (His "new and living way"), which started after the cross, is just an extension or continuation of the Old Testament program. Yet, this popular brand of theology, in all its countless and varied expressions, is spiritually lethal. It operates on both the Roman Catholic and Protestant sides of the Church. For many ministers and preachers, merging (or intermingling) the Old and the New Testament together is a way to simplify the Bible for the spiritually inexperienced laity. Unfortunately, this is the way most professing Christians are taught to handle the Scriptures. However, when we study the New Testament teachings and warnings of Paul, we discover that this is also the way the "false apostles and deceitful workers" (Corinthians 11:12-15) teach the Bible. It redefines the principles of Christ's salvation and sends us dangerously astray in our faith. When Biblical context is ignored or rejected by mixing the old and new testament programs together, we can think that God says things - that He does not actually say.

What does this have to do with our topic?

The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ changed the way an individual is made righteous (or worthy). Before the cross, righteousness came through performing various good works and obedience to the commandments of Old Testament Law. After the cross, God considers (reckons) the obedience requirements of the Law to be fully satisfied by Christ (Matthew 5:17). Since Jesus fulfilled the demands of the Law for us, God can now freely impute (assign) righteousness based only on our faith in Christ – with no dependency on personal merit.

“For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, MUCH MORE THOSE WHO RECEIVE ABUNDANCE OF GRACE AND OF THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so THROUGH ONE MAN'S (JESUS’) RIGHTEOUS ACT THE FREE GIFT CAME TO ALL MEN, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, SO ALSO BY ONE MAN'S OBEDIENCE MANY WILL BE MADE RIGHTEOUS." (Romans 5:17-19 – Emphasis Added Note: Also Read Romans 4:4-8, and Romans 4:16-25)

“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. BUT TO HIM WHO DOES NOT WORK BUT BELIEVES ON HIM WHO JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY, HIS FAITH IS ACCOUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man TO WHOM GOD IMPUTES RIGHTEOUSNESS APART FROM WORKS: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN." (Romans 4:4-8 - Emphasis Added)

In 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, the false “ministers of righteousness” - the ones Paul warned were sent from the devil, continued to preach a “righteousness through the works of the Law” AND REJECTED the freely imputed righteousness (or gift of righteousness) that comes through the cross of Christ. To emphasize this truth, Paul made the following statement to the Philippian Church ;

"...AND BE FOUND IN HIM, NOT HAVING MINE OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, WHICH IS OF THE LAW, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith..."(Philippians 3:9 KJV -- Emphasis Added)

Paul also draws our attention to this danger in his epistle to the Romans.

"Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, AND SEEKING TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, HAVE NOT SUBMITTED TO (OR OBEYED) THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD (WHICH OPERATES AFTER THE CROSS). For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:1-4 – Emphasis and Comments Added)

The incorrect way the Israelites tried to obtain righteousness AFTER THE CROSS, is exactly the same way a vast majority of the professing Christian Church tries to obtain righteousness today. Notice that God considers the practice of “establishing our own righteousness” (through good works, behavior and Christian service) AS DISOBEDIENCE. It results in a failure to obtain the righteousness they seek, many times without their knowledge. All readers should think long and hard about what this failure actually means. It is not about some “difference of opinion”, where those that disagree continue to be “right with God”. Paul warned that such individuals are not right with God, regardless of how Biblical or godly their behavior appears to be.

Contrary to the accusations of the critics, PAUL NEVER TEACHES that good works and godly behavior are to be disregarded or "thrown out". Instead, He emphasizes that these attributes should be applied to the believer's life FOR REASONS OTHER THAN TRYING TO EARN OR ACHIEVE SALVATION (ETERNAL LIFE). All believers should possess these character qualities as Christ's representatives on earth. Yet, attempting to achieve or keep salvation through good works and godly behavior is forbidden under the authority of the New Covenant that began after the cross.

When studying the Bible, it is crucial to understand that two different kinds of righteousness are found within its pages;

  • FIRST: A conditional Mosaic Covenant type of righteousness (or worthiness) based on a person’s behavior and obedience (keeping Old Testament Law/The Ten Commandments)

  • SECOND: An unconditional and unmerited type of righteousness, which God freely bestows (or imputes) through Christ upon His believing people as a prepaid blood-bought benefit (or gift).

Imputed righteousness operated only once in the book of Genesis in the life of Abraham BEFORE the initial stages of Old Covenant Law officially went into operation. He was considered the Father (or forerunner) of the faith we now enjoy under the New Covenant”. Paul reminds us that; “Abraham believed God and it was accounted (or reckoned/imputed) unto him for righteousness - without any works or merit requirements”. (Read Romans chapter 4) This window of imputed righteousness closed right after God introduced the practice of circumcision in Genesis chapter 17, which later becomes a requirement of Old Testament Law. The window didn’t open again until after the crucifixion of Christ thousands of years later. The reason Paul called Abraham “the Father of our faith” (or the faith of the New Covenant) is because Abraham was the only person who became righteous through “a faith without works” until after the sacrificial death of Jesus at the cross.

Each type of righteousness is linked to its own unique spiritual program (or set of covenant rules). The first type of righteousness is found in the Old Testament. The second type of righteousness is found in the New Testament. Rules governing Biblical context forbid the mixing these covenant programs together into one confusing “unified theology” - as practiced by most of the modern institutional church. When a Christian believer attempts to relate with their Heavenly Father using the conditional righteousness of the Old Covenant program of the Law (or Judaism) - they unknowingly become subject to many unexpected (and undesirable) negative consequences. Paul warns that these consequences are part of a curse (Galatians 3:10-12 and Galatians 5:4). Since recent studies reveal that more than 8 out of 10 professing Christians and their leaders operate in this spiritually illegal “grey zone”, we can better understand why so many good-sounding excuses are offered as to why God’s promised blessings don’t operate as expected - and bad things happen instead.

Few things are more damaging to the spiritual life of the Christian believer than being misled about how their righteousness (or “right standing before God”) is obtained AFTER THE CROSS. It is not our desire to be mean-spirited - but, a lot of Bible teaching on this subject, especially within some fundamentalist circles, borderline on being spiritually criminal. These things are always taught with the best of intentions. Yet, to quote an old proverb; "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Why A Correct Understanding of
Righteousness is Important

The faith of the Christian believer is powerfully influenced by how they view their personal "righteous standing" (also called worthiness) before God. For example ;

  • If we believe that our life is deficient in righteousness because of some sin or moral weaknesses - it becomes impossible to approach God with any kind of confidence, which is a primary component of strong faith. As a result, when calamity and adversity strikes, we lack the ability to withstand the assault; since the believer lives, stands and walks by faith (Romans 11:20, Romans 1:17, 2 Corinthians 5:7).

  • If we believe that our life is deficient in righteousness - answers to prayer and needed physical healing may become impossible to obtain, since strong faith (empowered by our confidence before God) is a primary requirement to receive these benefits.

  • If we are "watching for Christ's return" as stated in Hebrews 9:28, but have doubts that our righteousness or worthiness is good enough to meet God's approval - we will always be fearful that Jesus will "leave us behind" when He comes to remove the Church at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Doubts about whether our righteousness (or worthiness) is adequate to meet God’s approval remain a source of unspeakable torment and bondage for millions of Christian believers today. Unfortunately, certain churches and their leaders skillfully use this mental torment (and the fear it creates) as a way to coerce their congregations into some regiment of sinless living or obedience (commonly called “holiness”). It’s an effective, yet misleading ministry practice that’s been around for thousands of years (Galatians 2:4-5). This “coerced obedience” is always said to be done for the believers own spiritual benefit and is therefore provided with the best of intentions. Yet, manipulating the Church in this manner is not a method used by our Heavenly Father.

The source of this torment comes from an erroneous theology that remains popular, especially among Protestant fundamentalists and Roman Catholics. A majority of Christians (thought to be more than 8 out of 10) are taught that this doctrine represents the truth of God’s Word. As a young believer, I was involved in a fellowship that embraced this belief and personally experienced the torment. This ordeal provided first-hand knowledge about the damage inflicted on a believer’s faith. Many denominations, churches, movements and evangelistic ministries are governed by this same theology. It generally teaches that the Bible has only “one message”, and then mixes everything in Scripture together into one confusing system of faith (or theology). It can mislead believers into thinking that “righteousness” as defined and provided through Old Testament Law - is obtained the same way and carries the same definition as "righteousness" provided by the New Covenant of Christ. This is a disastrous misconception - because the cross of Christ changed the characteristics of righteousness and the principles by which it operates - as illustrated through the following Scriptures :

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

"Therefore, brethren, HAVING BOLDNESS TO ENTER THE HOLIEST BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS (THE NEW COVENANT), BY A NEW AND LIVING WAY WHICH HE (JESUS) CONSECRATED FOR US, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, LET US DRAW NEAR WITH A TRUE HEART IN FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, FOR HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL." (Hebrews 10:19-23 -- Emphasis Added)

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, THAT YOU MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. NOW THIS IS THE CONFIDENCE THAT WE HAVE IN HIM, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:13-15 - Emphasis Added)

"Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened THROUGH THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. . ." (Hebrews 3:12-14 -- Emphasis Added)

No one can "come boldly" before God's throne by trying to live according to the performance-based conditional righteousness of Old Testament Law. This kind boldness only comes through the New Covenant imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, which God freely gives through faith - apart from personal merit and works. Since this righteousness depends entirely on Jesus Christ - and not on us - we can have CONFIDENCE AND BOLDNESS that God will accept us - because we know that He accepts His Son.

"For He made Him who knew no sin TO BE SIN FOR US, THAT WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." (2 Corinthians 5:21 -- Emphasis Added)

"But God, who is rich in mercy, BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US, EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN TRESPASSES, MADE US ALIVE TOGETHER WITH CHRIST (BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, THAT IN THE AGES TO COME HE MIGHT SHOW THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE IN HIS KINDNESS TOWARD US IN CHRIST JESUS. FOR BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED THROUGH FAITH, and that not of yourselves; IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:4-9 - Emphasis Added)

God called the apostle Paul to write nearly half of the New Testament Scriptures. In His epistles to the Church, Paul warned his disciple Timothy that God’s Word (the Bible) IS A DIVIDED BOOK CONSISTING OF TWO DIFFERENT COVENANT PROGRAMS. As a result of this truth, if your goal is to teach the Bible correctly as His workman, you must rightly (or correctly) divide the Word (2 Timothy 2:15).

So, what exactly does that mean?

Many popular forms of theology, which all claim to represent God's Word, exist in the worldwide Christian Church and tend to mix all Scripture together as one “unified” message (or theology). Yet, the Bible warns that this popular way of handling the Scriptures is not only incorrect, but spiritually lethal. In addition to the apostle Paul’s warning to Timothy, we are also confronted with the major divisions of the Bible every time we open this holy book. The Old Testament (or Old Covenant) represents God’s spiritual program for the nation of Israel. Another name for this program is Judaism, which is the religion of the Israelites. JUDAISM IS NOT THE SAME AS CHRISTIANITY. The New Testament, around the middle of the book of Acts, begins to transition into Christ’s New Covenant (or what we call Christianity today) and is explained in detail in Paul’s epistles.

The New Covenant represents God’s spiritual program for the Church and operates according to spiritual rules, which are radically different than those found under Old Testament Law (Judaism). Why are these things important? THE NEW COVENANT OF CHRIST CHANGED ALL THE OLD RULES GOVERNING SALVATION. Therefore, it can never be merged (or unified) with the old covenant system of faith, which the book of Hebrews now describes as “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:6-13). Christ’s New Covenant changed the way eternal life is received. It changed the principles and rules that govern how God’s forgiveness is now obtained. Christ’s New Covenant changed the way God deals with our sin . . .


"Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. FOR THESE ARE THE TWO COVENANTS: THE ONE FROM MOUNT SINAI WHICH GIVES BIRTH TO BONDAGE, which is Hagar -- for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children (speaking of the first covenant) -- BUT THE JERUSALEM ABOVE IS FREE, which is the mother of us all. For it is written:

"Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband."

NOW WE, BRETHREN, AS ISAAC WAS, ARE CHILDREN OF PROMISE. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." SO THEN, BRETHREN, WE ARE NOT CHILDREN OF THE BONDWOMAN BUT OF THE FREE (SPEAKING OF THE SECOND [OR NEW] COVENANT)." (Galatians 4:21-31 NKJV--Emphasis Added)

"Therefore, brethren, HAVING BOLDNESS TO ENTER THE HOLIEST BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS, BY A NEW AND LIVING WAY WHICH HE (JESUS) CONSECRATED FOR US, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:19-23)

You can obtain more information about these
revolutiionary New Covenant changes
in the following studies:

The Righteousness of the Believer

The Spiritual Revolution of Christ

Imputation: The New Covenant Method God Uses To
Transfer His Spiritual Benefits To Us

SOZO: The Three-Fold Salvation of God

The Holy Spirit's Role in Salvation After the Cross

A major problem has plagued the Christian Church since the first century. It operates by stealth and is empowered by various brands of denominational theology that abuse the context of Scripture - but continues to be called God's Word. This is not about some minor disagreement about doctrine restricted to a small group. It is a mainstream problem that will not be resolved until Christ returns to set things straight. For this reason, the only thing truth-seeking Christians can do today is educate themselves and attempt to warn others about the dangers.

"...AND BE FOUND IN HIM, NOT HAVING MINE OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, WHICH IS OF THE LAW, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith..."(Philippians 3:9 KJV -- Emphasis Added)

"For He made Him who knew no sin TO BE SIN FOR US, THAT WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." (2 Corinthians 5:21 -- Emphasis Mine)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW. Now all things are of God, WHO HAS RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES TO THEM, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 -- Emphasis Mine)

Paul’s Warning Concerning the Lord’s Supper

One of the most sacred observances in the Christian Church is Holy Communion or what the Bible refers to as “The Lord’s Supper”. It’s a practice Jesus initiated at the Last Supper, when He took the bread and the wine and proclaimed the beginning of the “The New Covenant in His blood” (Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25). As we repeat throughout this study; Christ’s New Covenant did not and could not operate under Old Testament Law before the cross. It was an entirely new program, established on radically different spiritual principles of faith concerning human sin, repentance and salvation. It replaced (and made obsolete) the previous Old Testament program (Read Hebrews 8:6-13).

The New Covenant, initiated at the cross by Christ's blood represents a crucial “dividing line” in Scripture and tends to separate various types of Bible believers and professing Christians into two distinct camps;

  • THE FIRST CAMP consists of those who insist on illegally mixing both Old and New Testament programs together. This "mixing" creates a theology, WHERE SALVATION IS CONDITIONAL upon an individual's obedience to the law and commandments of the Old Testament. Romans 8:2-4 refers to this theology as "the law of sin and death". Unfortunately, a vast majority of the institutional Christian Church is found in this camp.

  • THE SECOND CAMP consists of those who align themselves with the principles of Christ's New Covenant, which warns that God no longer operates according to the rules of the previous - and now obsolete Old Testament program (Galatians 3:10-12, Romans 3:20, Galatians 5:4 and 2 Corinthians 3:4-6). As a result, SALVATION IS MADE AVAILABLE TO THE BELIEVER "UNCONDITIONALLY" AS GOD'S GIFT ACCORDING TO THE UNMERITED CHARACTERISTICS OF GRACE. Romans 8:2-4 refers to this theology as "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus."

To properly understand this truth, it's
necessary to, once again, quote the
following Scripture in its entirety.

"FOR THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS HAS MADE ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH. FOR WHAT THE LAW COULD NOT DO IN THAT IT WAS WEAK THROUGH THE FLESH, GOD DID BY SENDING HIS OWN SON in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, THAT THE RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENT OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US (OR IMPUTED TO US) who do not walk according to the flesh (or trying to qualify/earn salvation through works or religious merit) but according to the Spirit (or our faith in the finished work of Christ that does not require our works)." (Romans 8:2-4 – Emphasis and Comments Added)

It's important to notice two things. First of all, both sets of laws and their related groups are found in Scripture. It means that the Bible is clearly divided into two unique parts. Secondly; only one is valid after the cross - and this law (the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus) "sets us free" from the other law of sin and death (a reference to Old Testament Law). According to Scripture, this means that the "in Christ" group is righteous and worthy. However, God considers the other group to be unrighteous and unworthy . . .BECAUSE THEY ARE TRYING TO RELATE WITH HIM THROUGH AN OBSOLETE BIBICAL PROGRAM THAT HE NO LONGER HONORS (Hebrews 8:6-13).

The tension between these two groups is not something new and has existed since the beginning of the first century church. On the surface both groups look nearly identical because each one claims to believe the Bible. However, when it comes to the Lord’s Table, God holds one group guilty of a violation that brings severe consequences as a result of believing and interpreting the Bible wrong. The following words of Paul concerning the abuses of the Lord’s Supper provides more detail.

(v23)For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

(v24)And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. (v25)After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, “This cup is the new testament (or new covenant) in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”

(v26) For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, YE DO SHOW THE LORD'S DEATH TILL HE COMES.

(v27)Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (v28)BUT LET A MAN EXAMINE HIMSELF, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (v29)For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (v30)For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (v31)For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (v32)But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:23-32 -- Emphasis and Comments Added)

Paul’s words are often quoted whenever congregations celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Almost always, church leaders claim that the self-examination Paul is asking us to perform is some deep introspective search for sin in our lives. The evaluation is performed so that we can confess our sins and repent before we partake of the bread and the wine. This is a common interpretation throughout the Christian Church. However there is a problem. This is not the kind of evaluation Paul is asking for in this instance. I would agree that his words tend to be somewhat unclear until you stop and think about what is said. When repentance is required, Paul always made sure his audience understood the specifics. In this situation, he is not asking us to do some heart-wrenching search for sin. Why? Attempting to search for and repent from all sin is an impossible task, simply because we can't remember them all. If we choose this method of making ourselves righteous, only repenting from a few of the ones we can remember is not good enough. Yet, Paul is asking us to examine ourselves and repent FROM ONE SPECIFIC KIND OF SIN that he calls;


Paul warned that this particular sin causes the participant to partake of the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner. The King James Bible also brings out another disturbing point, which is strangely omitted in some modern translations.

“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth
and drinketh damnation to himself. . .”

Many of the modern Bible translations use the word “judgment” instead of the English word “damnation”. By reading the entire account, we know that Paul isn’t saying that all these offenses cause a loss of salvation. However, in some specific and extreme circumstances, the existence of the word “damnation” in the Bible text should cause us to pause and reflect. As we will see, the King James Bible does not use this term by accident.

A very clear warning is sounded in this chapter, because of the fellowship’s abuse of the Lord’s Supper. He pointed out three primary offenses in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, which were considered to be “a failure to discern the body of Christ”.

  • The congregation attended the Lord’s Supper, but were divided into factions because of their acceptance of various doctrines of heresy, which undermined the New Covenant. (Note: Paul said that the factions were caused by these “heresies”, which is a word used in the original King James Version, but omitted in other modern translations. A heresy is a teaching that appears to originate from Scripture, yet changes, modifies and redefines Christ's New Covenant salvation. Read V17-19 in the original KJV)

  • Some in the congregation came to the Lord’s Supper because they were hungry and treated Holy Communion as a way to get a free meal.

  • Some came to the Table of the Lord drunk.

Note: The King James Bible often translates
the word "covenant" as “testament”.

Our Liberty in Christ

The New Covenant declares the believer “freely justified” (Romans 3:24-26), where God considers and treats them as if they had never sinned. When a believer does sin, the offence is not charged to their life or held against them (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). God no longer charges sin because the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as "The Lamb of God" permanently took away all sin - past, present and future - at the cross (John 1:29). Christ’s righteousness” (or worthiness) is “imputed” (assigned) to our lives apart from our works (Romans 4:4-8), which God considers part of our earthly life that is now "crucified with Christ" - and dead (Colossians 3:3, Galatians 2:20-21). As a result, this imputed “righteousness of Christ” remains in force despite our less-than-righteous earthly life. The true nature of this imputed righteousness is invisible to those in the world. This "imputation", or God's assignment of a benefit that is not earned or deserved, is the result of our position “in Christ”.

We don't deserve these blessings.

means the believer possesses all of the
same spiritual benefits and attributes
that Christ possesses, which includes
eternal life and God's very own

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW. Now all things are of God, WHO HAS RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES TO THEM, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 -- Emphasis Mine)

"For He made Him who knew no sin TO BE SIN FOR US, THAT WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." (2 Corinthians 5:21 -- Emphasis Mine)

“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. BUT TO HIM WHO DOES NOT WORK BUT BELIEVES ON HIM WHO JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY, HIS FAITH IS ACCOUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man TO WHOM GOD IMPUTES RIGHTEOUSNESS APART FROM WORKS: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN." (Romans 4:4-8)

Addition information is available
at the following links:

Imputation: The New Covenant Method God Uses
To Transfer His Spiritual Benefits To Us

The New Testament Believer's
Position In Christ

A failure to correctly discern the Lord’s body causes God to consider an individual “unworthy and guilty of the body and blood of the Lord”. Paul mentions three practices connected to this offense. Two of these practices could be easily corrected despite their grievous nature. However, one specific practice (the first one listed in 1 Corinthians 11:17-19) suggests a refusal, usually caused by unbelief, to accept the principles of the New Covenant established on Christ's body and blood. Paul referred to this offense as “heresies that divided the congregation”. After the cross, Christian salvation is only obtainable through the principles of the New Covenant. God considers any rejection or modification (redefining) of the New Covenant as a heresy because it changes the terms of Christ’s Grace-based salvation. According to Scripture, these heresies (the plural form of the word is used because there are many ways to redefine the gospel) can almost always be traced back to the practice of mixing Christ's New Covenant with the Mosaic Covenant (Old Testament Law), which redefines "saving faith". It creates a misleading co-mingled “unified theology”, which produces a counterfeit faith in Christ and a merit-based conditional salvation that God does not respect after the cross.

Peter said it this way;

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Peter 2:1-2)

This time it’s Peter, who uses the word “damnable”. His warning is connected to the doctrine taught by false prophets and teachers (Jesus called them “wolves in sheep’s clothing”), which is contrary to the way New Covenant salvation is obtained after the cross. Today, we might call them "Bible teachers, who teach the Bible wrong". This kind of teaching leads us astray in our faith, possibly with unthinkable eternal consequences, which is one reason Peter uses the word “damnable”.

The Lord’s Table is exclusively a New Covenant observance. When professing Christians, who hold these various contrary religious doctrines and beliefs (Paul calls them heresies in 1 Corinthians chapter 11), partakes of the bread and the wine, God judges them as being “unworthy”, which unleashes the following consequences ;

“For this reason many are weak and
sick among among you, and many
sleep (they died prematurely)”.

According to Paul, it’s important to remember that these consequences fall on those who fail to correctly discern the body of Christ FOR ALL THE REASONS HE LISTS. We focus on the most serious offense involving heresies because of the eternal implications.

Is this self examination or “self judgment” spoken of anywhere else in Scripture? Yes, and it’s so important that we repeat it in many of our commentaries.

"EXAMINE YOURSELVES AS TO WHETHER YOU ARE IN THE FAITH. TEST YOURSELVES. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified." (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Notice that this “self-examination” is about judging and discerning the kind of faith we possess. It is directly related to the same self-examination required for The Lord’s Table. If we are found to be “in the faith” (possess authentic New Covenant faith in Christ); we pass the test. However, if a “counterfeit faith in Christ” is discovered (as previously discussed) - we are disqualified unless we make some important and painful changes in the way we believe the Bible. God does not honor all types of “faith” just because it carries the labels of “Christian, fundamentalist or Bible believer”.

According to Paul, this counterfeit faith (or the reprobate faith of Christian religion) operates under a curse, which is why it is said to cause sickness and premature death. It also means that this same wrong way of believing can block or “cut off” the blessings of Christ in your life (Galatians 5:4). Remember that a counterfeit of anything looks almost exactly like the original. But, God warns that He rejects the counterfeit, which carries unthinkable consequences concerning the subject of authentic salvation and your place in heaven. Most of the critics, who attempt to discredit divine healing, often point to a person’s inability to get healed as evidence that God no longer performs these miracles. One pastor lamented; “If I’m healed by the stripes of Jesus Christ, why am I still sick?” The correct answer to this question angers many self-described Bible believers and fundamentalists. The failure this pastor refers to is often the result of being disqualified (cut off) from the blessings of Christ, which is caused by believing some variant of this “counterfeit faith in Christ” (Paul called it a different gospel that teaches an Old Testament merit-based salvation). The failure is also a result of refusing to “examine himself” as the New Covenant commands.

Why do we need to examine ourselves? Principles involving personal righteousness and “saving faith” radically changed after the cross. We need to perform this self-examination to make sure our faith is aligned with “the new and living way of Christ” (Hebrews 10:19-23) and not “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2-4).

"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?" (Galatians 3:1-4 - Emphasis Added)

In this unfortunate, yet common situation, church leaders can make a dangerous assumption; that they have authentic faith in Christ because they’re ordained in the ministry, seminary trained - and for these reasons possess a correct understanding of the Bible. However, it is common to believe and interpret the Bible incorrectly. Many church leaders (but thankfully not all) are taught to handle the Scriptures incorrectly in seminary because their teachers were trained in one of the historic systems of theology that the Apostle Paul (and the New Testament in general) condemns.

More detailed information about the New Covenant and
the Lord's Supper is available at the following links.
It is here we can learn what Jesus meant when He said,
"...This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which
is shed for you."

The Mystery Revealed in the
New Covenant of Christ

The Mystery of the Faith
(Introduction Page)

Return To Home Page


Rock of Offence is a “not-for-profit” Internet-based Biblical research and public educational project of the owner. It is not a church or religious organization and has no paid staff and no building or offices. We are not a commercial business. We do not solicit money or ask for monetary “offerings” from the public. This project is referred to as “a Bible-based ministry”. Yet, it receives no monetary support that traditional religious organizations require. We do not receive any money, revenue or financial benefit from advertisements or products found or displayed on any website hyper-link, which is included on this website or webpage. We receive no compensation of any kind from any groups, individuals or corporations mentioned on this website/webpage or its hyper-links. The information found on this website is offered only as the opinion of the author. Unfortunately, we do not personally know you or have all the required information about your specific situation. For that reason, the comments and opinions offered on this website are never to be substituted for the advice of a licensed professional. All visitors should seek the guidance of a minister or professional counselor familiar with you and your family before making any important personal decisions about your life. All Scripture quotes in our research articles and commentaries are from the King James and the New King James versions of the Bible unless specifically noted. Due to the non-profit research and educational nature of Rock of Offence, we qualify under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of the “fair use” clause for copyrighted materials. For this reason, any copyrighted work on this website is provided under the “fair use” provision without profit or payment for non-profit research, educational and discussion purposes only.

This provision of U.S. Law can be viewed at:

Copyright © 2015 Rock of Offence
Most recent revision October 2015