Justification By Faith: A Miracle
of the New Birth
A Rock of Offence Commentary
Looking At Some Uncomfortable Bible Facts
I recently heard a popular evangelist (the reader would immediately recognize his name) attempt to address the question, “Is God done with America”. He proceeded to cover aspects of U.S. History that proved America, from its very beginning, was founded as “A Christian Nation”. He used this evidence to defend the idea that God wasn’t finished with America and its best days were still ahead.
No one wants to believe this message more than me. I love this country and I think there are many that live here who love God. However, the Biblical facts say something different. Let me explain. FIRST OF ALL, the Bible defines the term “Christian” -- and it also defines what “a Christian is not”. Just because someone believes in God or the teachings of the Bible (and calls themselves “a Bible believer”) DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MAKE THAT PERSON “A CHRISTIAN” ACCORDING TO THE DEFINITION FOUND IN GOD’S WORD. Simply understood, the New Testament teaches that authentic Christianity could not start until Christ shed his blood at the cross, which initiated what He called “The New Covenant”. Contrary to popular teaching, everything before that sacrificial event was not “Christianity”. Technically, it was part of “Judaism”, or the religion of the nation of Israel. It’s true that the roots of Christianity are found in the Old Testament teachings of Judaism, because the two share the same history.
A majority of Christian believers are programmed to believe that this “shared heritage”, or something they call “Judeo-Christianity” means that these two religions are essentially the same and should be mixed together. However, in Paul’s epistles to the Church, this common belief (or theology) was condemned as false teaching that “perverts the Gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-8). Why? Old Testament Judaism was founded on a covenant of Law (the Bible calls it “The Old Covenant”). New Testament Christianity is established on something radically different. Jesus called it “The New Covenant in My blood” (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 12:24). The book of Hebrews refers to it as, “A NEW AND LIVING WAY” (Hebrews 10:19-23). God warned that these two Bible covenants ARE NEVER TO BE MIXED TOGETHER. It’s the reason Paul sternly warned his disciple Timothy to “rightly (or correctly) divide the Word of Truth” if he wanted to be approved of God and properly teach The Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Authentic Christianity is based on the NEW spiritual principles of Christ’s NEW Covenant -- AND NOT ON THE PREVIOUS PRINCIPLES OF OLD COVENANT LAW.
One thing this preacher failed to do was warn his audience about these important differences. He didn’t bother to examine if what certain educational and religious institutions and preachers in early America were calling “the Gospel of Christ” was, in fact, THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AS DEFINED BY SCRIPTURE. Instead, he mixed everything together and called it “Christianity”, if it acknowledged God or the Bible in any way. Unfortunately, this is a popular, yet disastrous theology found in many mainline Christian denominations today and can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation that started approximately 200 years before America became a nation. More importantly, it can also be traced all the way back to the early first century church were the apostles officially gathered in Jerusalem and condemned this popular Bible teaching in Acts chapter 15. Yet, it remains alive and well under countless expressions and different names in today’s modern church.
Beware of an Old Heresy with a Deceptive New Name
I constantly hear people say, “America just needs to get back to the Bible -- that would solve many of our problems.” Obviously, I’m not against seeing my country renew its interest in the Bible. Yet, this “good sounding” statement contains a dangerous spiritual trap. Paul was warning Timothy that there was a “contextual line” that divides God’s Word into two parts. When you “divide something” you separate it into two halves. The Bible contains two spiritual programs: The administration of the Law for the nation of Israel and the administration of Grace for the Church. Paul was warning Timothy to never combine these programs and treat them the same, but to rightly (or correctly) divide between them.
"Be diligent to PRESENT YOURSELF APPROVED OF GOD, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, RIGHTLY (OR CORRECTLY) DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH." (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
When we violate this line that God placed in His Word by ignoring Paul’s warning, you change from “preaching truth” to “preaching false doctrine” THAT STILL LOOKS LIKE TRUTH, because it is now using Scripture “out-of-context” and few believers will notice the change. In our commentaries, we repeatedly warn about the dangerous heresy of legalism to the point of being redundant. Legalism is simply understood as a popular practice that interprets God’s Word as if this dividing line that Paul warns about -- DOESN’T EXIST. As a result, it is free to illegally mix Old Testament works and religious performance with the New Testament Grace of Christ. What is commonly called “Reformed Theology” and its numerous expressions, indoctrinates their congregations to ignore Paul’s warning. For that reason, legalists freely take principles from the Old Testament and apply them to Christ’s salvation in the New Testament. Here’s another way to look at it. They take the tenants of Judaism (the Old Testament Law given to Israel) and mix it into Christ’s New Covenant Gospel. They then claim that their new “modified gospel” is what God originally intended. Once again, this misguided theology nearly destroyed the Galatian Church. In the first century, these false teachers were called “Judaizers”. They were the early forerunners of a new theology that we see today called “Biblical Christianity”. Yet, it’s not new at all. It’s just a new name for an old heresy. Through this practice, the New Covenant principle of “Free justification by Faith” is either rejected or redefined because it doesn’t fit their theology. This is the practice that Paul said “perverted the gospel”.
"I MARVEL THAT YOU ARE TURNING AWAY SO SOON FROM HIM WHO CALLED YOU IN THE GRACE OF CHRIST, TO A DIFFERENT GOSPEL, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. BUT EVEN IF WE, OR AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, PREACH ANY OTHER GOSPEL TO YOU THAN WHAT WE HAVE PREACHED TO YOU, LET HIM BE ACCURSED." (Galatians 1:6-8 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
Nearly all forms of legalism operate in this way, regardless of its name. As we said, one of the newest expressions to appear over the last several years is called “Biblical Christianity” and is taught in various "flavors" of Calvinism, which dominate most Protestant denominations. At first glance, this causes us to ask the question, “Who would want 'a Christianity' that wasn’t Biblical?” YET, THAT ISN’T THE ONLY QUESTION THAT READERS MUST ASK. The real issue is whether the type of “Christianity” this theology represents is the same one Jesus calls, “The New Covenant” found in the New Testament part of the Bible. Christ’s New Covenant did not operate in the Old Testament before the cross. Yet, a very influential majority of the Christian Church attempts to define “Christianity” using Old Testament principles -- and not according to the radically different rules that govern Christ’s New Covenant. Some within this group call their theology “Biblical Christianity”, which allows them to merge Old Testament and New Testament principles of salvation in violation of the Bible’s rules of context. They insist and falsely teach that Christ's New Covenant is just a continuation of the religious system of the Old Testament. A dominant doctrine found within this group that empowers this dangerous and misguided teaching is called "Replacement Theology". For more information you can click HERE. Through this popular, yet misleading doctrine they can redefine the principles of Christianity by claiming that their theology conforms to “the whole Bible”, WHICH IS WHY THE WORD "BIBLICAL" IS USED IN ITS NAME. However, their entire theology violates the context of Scripture in a way that most church members are "programmed" to ignore. Teachings such as these angered the apostle Paul, which is why he called them “perversions of the gospel” that carries a curse AND DOES NOT COME FROM GOD (Galatians 1:6-8). The very name of this theology can deceive many of God’s people into placing their faith in “another Jesus and a different gospel”.
Can a Country be called “Christian”
America could be more accurately called “a religious nation that believes in the God of the Bible”. Yet, according to the definition found in the New Testament, it is not and has never been "a pure Christian nation" as some try to teach -- even though authentic Christians have always lived within its borders and influenced the Constitutional law of its government. Also, the inscription found on our money, “In God We Trust” can be misleading because God’s name is not mentioned. THE GENERIC TERM “GOD” -- IS NOT GOD’S REAL NAME. Under these conditions, the term "God" can fit a number of different definitions. Under the religion of Islam, Allah is called god. Yet, contrary to some popular beliefs, Allah and the God of the Bible are not the same. Other world religions are commonly known as “poly-theistic”, meaning that they worship many gods and not just one. The Greek and Roman culture of Paul’s day is a good example. In Acts 17:16-34 Paul tries to bring the Gospel of Christ into this environment where he draws attention to their statue of “The Unknown God”. Readers may find it helpful to reveiw this interesting section of Scripture.
Because it Believes in God?
A simple belief in God, His values and His existence does not make anyone “a true Christian”. If this were the case, the nation of Israel in the Old Testament would be called "a Christian nation". However, the religion of Israel is Judaism, which is established on Old Testament Law. Tragically, what a vast majority of the church thinks is "Christianity" is actually a modified form of Judaism (with Christ added to the mix), which grants a "conditional" salvation based on obedience to its laws and commandments. This misleading theology has been around since the first century. It continues to dominate a number of mainline denominational churches and is also foundational within Roman Catholicism. The term, "Christian" didn't come into existence until Christ's New Covenant began after the cross.
"Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. AND THE DISCIPLES WERE FIRST CALLED CHRISTIANS IN ANTIOCH." (Acts 11:25-26 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine. Note: The term, "Christian" was first used more than 10 years after the cross.)
Without going into great detail, this should provide some warning flags about America’s historical roots that are strongly influenced by something called Freemasonry. Many of America’s early Presidents (Incuding George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) and various leaders of its government were Masons, which continues to exist as a powerful international religious/humanistic organization that embraces "a belief in God”, BUT NOT NECESSARILY THE SAME ONE CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN. In a recent visit to Mount Vernon, I was shocked at George Washington's deep commitment to this organization. Some concerned students of the Bible correctly warn that the Freemasons are a "secret society" that has deep ancient roots in the occult. They also warn that most of the membership, who are good and upstanding members of society, are unaware of the organization's true nature. It is not the goal of this commentary to study this complex and emotional topic that could change your perception of history. Also, we are not saying that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were not Christians. Only our Heavenly Father knows the real facts. Here's the point: Contrary to popular belief, not every person, organization or country that claims to "believe in God" and His Biblical value system can automatically be considered “Christian”.
The Apostle John cuts through a lot of this confusion when he associates a name with the term "God"...
"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. THIS IS THE TRUE GOD AND ETERNAL LIFE." (1 John 5:19-20 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
The apostle John gives us a reason to closely examine any movement, church, denomination or other expression of Christianity that fails to attach a name to God. Why is this important? Many forms of aberrant Christian theology omits God's real name as a way to cloak their teachings from the scrutiny of Berean-style students of the Bible -- and to avoid offending their audience. Many of the modern heretical teachings that are impacting the institutional Christian church like a tsunami are successful because they use this generic strategy. The apostle James agrees with John when he said:
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19 NKJV)
James is generally saying that believing in God is good. Yet, if the devils believe in God and it doesn’t save them -- if the devils believe in God and it doesn’t make them “Christian”, what does that say about you?
If you’ve ever started to read the epistle to the Galatians and encountered terms like, “a different gospel” and “another Jesus” -- and wondered what they meant, you’re about to hear an uncomfortable and commonly ignored truth. Paul is warning believers that there is a “true Jesus Christ” and “a counterfeit (or “look-alike’) Jesus Christ” being preached in the Church. This has been going on for nearly 2000 years. Both are always presented as “the real Jesus”, BUT ONLY ONE FITS THE NEW TESTAMENT DEFINITION. The counterfeit Jesus is one defined by tenants of Old Covenant Law, which is documented in the Old Testament part of our Bible. The true Jesus is the one defined by The New Covenant, which outlines “the new and living way of Christ” established upon God’s unmerited favor called “Grace” (Hebrews 8:6-13, Hebrews 10:19-23). During the Protestant Reformation, the “Old Covenant type of Jesus” was, with a few exceptions, the one usually preached to the people. This “Jesus” provides a “conditional salvation” dependent upon how well you conformed to and obeyed the requirements of the Law and the Commandments found within Old Testament religion. For the most part, it is this “other Jesus” and his conditional salvation on which America was established. Under this “Old Testament” Jesus, salvation (or eternal life) was not unconditionally offered as “the unmerited gift of God” as taught in the New Testament (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:24-26 and Romans 5:18-21). Rather, it was a conditional salvation earned in some way by good works, holy living and religious performance. The New Covenant salvation of Christ is declared to be “unconditional”, which is why it’s offered as “God’s unmerited gift” (some call it “the free gift of God") without any dependency upon works or merit. The apostle Paul repeatedly warned throughout his epistles to the church that the Old Testament type of “Jesus” and his gospel of conditional salvation (that requires works and personal merit) DOES NOT COME FROM GOD. Yet, this is the “Jesus” that a majority of the Christian Church has chosen to represent its beliefs.
You might wonder where we’re going with all of this. The type of Jesus defined by Old Testament religion cannot operate under God’s unmerited favor (also called Grace) and rejects the New Covenant principle of “Free Justification by Faith” (Romans 3:24-26). However, this rejection usually goes unnoticed by the average church member. Any teaching claiming to be the Gospel of Christ, yet rejects Justification by Faith will send you dangerously astray in your faith, while masquerading as fundamental Bible teaching that honors Christ. Because of its out-of-context characteristics, it should be avoided regardless of the good intentions of those preaching it.
An Often Ignored Truth
Occasionally, we find it necessary to include an additional commentary that provides an important warning flag for those trying to gain more insight into the many skewed and misleading distortions of the Gospel of Christ. For various reasons, a majority of churches and denominations deny, through the doctrine they teach, that the sacrifice of Christ radically changed the way God deals with the sin of the human race. THE CROSS OF CHRIST CHANGED THE PREVIOUS OLD RELIGIOUS SYSTEM BY ESTABLISHING A NEW COVENANT. The New Covenant, is also called "the new and living way of Christ" established on His blood (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23, Heb. 12:24). Certain theologians who understand the importance of the “Pauline Revelation” of the New Testament tells us about the core principle of the New Covenant Gospel of Christ, which is, “Free Justification by faith in Christ”. This unique New Testament belief system utilizes “a faith that does not require works” (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:24-26, Romans 11:6, Romans 4:4-8, Titus 3:5-7). IT DEFINES AND GOVERNS HOW GOD TREATS AND VIEWS THE HUMAN SIN PROBLEM FOLLOWING THE CROSS. Except for the one isolated instance where Abraham was “justified by faith and not works” in the book of Genesis BEFORE THE LAW WAS IN FORCE, this kind of faith could not operate UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE LAW THAT IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED. “Justification by faith” resurfaces again only after the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ paid the price to make it accessible and spiritually legal at the cross. It is one of the central truths that empower Christ’s great salvation.
Here’s the Problem. Your church or denomination can claim to be “Bible-believing” and preach a “Christ-centered” message. The Bible can be honored and taught as “The Word of God”. The minister can teach about the crucifixion and how Jesus died for our sins. Church members can enthusiastically claim to love and believe in Jesus with all their heart and actively evangelize their communities. At the end of the service an alter call can be given to invite visitors to “receive Christ” or to get “born again”. ALL THESE THINGS CAN BE OCCURRING IN YOUR CHURCH -- YET, THE NEW TESTAMENT TRUTH OF “FREE JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH IN CHRIST” CAN BE QUIETLY DENIED AND REJECTED BY THE CONGREGATION AND ITS LEADERSHIP. Once I learned how easy it is to distort the Gospel with this common omission (and rejection), I began to notice that lots of popular Bible preachers fall into this category. I was also surprised to learn that some of the well-known historical Christian Bible preachers, who are recognized as “pillars of the Church” and “anointed teachers of the Christian faith” quietly reject the Gospel’s core truth of “Justification by faith in Christ"....and few Christians notice. Many of these historical figures were active during the Protestant Reformation and the revival in early America known as “The Great Awakening”. They were participants in what is known as the teachings of “Historical Christianity” that many churches wrongly place on an almost equal level with Scripture. Also, time will not allow us to examine the traditional doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, which also rejects and distorts “Justification by faith in Christ”. Overall, it’s a disastrous mainstream problem within the world-wide Christian Church that carries serious eternal consequences.
The error exists in many different forms and expressions. Yet, here’s an example of how it’s commonly presented. Recently, I was listening to another pastor speak about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He taught about how God’s Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, helps us avoid sin in our lives and how important it was for us to cooperate with Him. This statement is correct, and something every Christian believer should desire. However, after this great beginning, things quickly went down-hill. The pastor then gave a stern warning -- that if we didn’t repent FROM ALL SIN IN OUR LIVES, we would be soiled or “dirty” and that this condition can diminish or cause us to lose our righteous standing before God. When a preacher claims that a Christian can be “dirtied by sin” -- that’s just another way of saying that our sin can diminish or even cancel Christ’s redemptive work. Looking at this belief from another perspective, it means Christ’s blood is not sufficient to completely take away our sin. Here’s the subtle unspoken suggestion: By failing to repent and turn away from all sin, we could temporarily or permanently lose our salvation -- or be “left behind” to suffer and receive additional “purification” (or the purification that Christ’s blood failed to provide) during the Tribulation at the end of the age.
Although this admonition might sound reasonable to some readers, it represents one of the core teachings of the error of legalism, which both Paul and Peter condemned as SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT COME FROM GOD. I hear preachers make this statement all the time in their sermons and it always leaves the Christian believer in a position of fear and spiritual bondage where they must ask the question: How can I know that I’ve repented and turned away from all sin in my life? How can I know that I’ve done enough to be worthy before God and truly possess eternal life? Under this kind of teaching, these are proper and right questions to ask. No one wants to risk their salvation by failing in this area. Yet, here’s the obvious answer to these questions: YOU CAN’T REALLY KNOW FOR CERTAIN THAT YOU’VE DONE ENOUGH IF YOU FOLLOW THIS KIND OF MISLEADING THEOLOGY. If you’re a Christian who is struggling with fear and doubt, it’s probably because you’ve received what the apostle Paul calls, “another Jesus and a different gospel”. In other words, you’ve unknowingly received a counterfeit Christian message, thinking it was the real thing. THE REAL JESUS AND THE AUTHENTIC GOSPEL WILL ALWAYS PLACE YOU IN THE POSITION OF KNOWING THAT YOU ARE RIGHTEOUS BEFORE GOD AND POSSESS ETERNAL LIFE. WHY? BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE PAID THE PRICE SO YOU CAN FREELY HAVE IT WITHOUT ANY WORRY OR CONCERN.
The apostle John explained our confidence in Christ this way....
"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. THESE THINGS I HAVE WRITTEN TO YOU WHO BELIEVE IN THE NAME OF THE SON OF GOD, THAT YOU MIGHT KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, AND THAT YOU MAY CONTINUE TO BELIEVE IN THE NAME OF THE SON OF GOD." (1 John 5:11-13 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
MANY well-meaning preachers are unknowingly teaching the Church to do something that the apostle Paul told them not to do. Paul’s warning is for us to avoid the same mistake that Israel is currently making about God’s imputed righteousness.
"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 THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:1-4 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
NOTE: THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD SPOKEN OF IN ROMANS 10:1-4 -- IS GOD’S IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNSS DISCUSSED IN ROMANS 4:4-8, ROMANS 5:18-21 AND 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21. THIS PARTICULAR TYPE OF NEW COVEANANT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS DIFFERENT THAN THE ONE GIVEN ACCORDING TO RELIGIOUS OBEDIENCE UNDER OLD TESTAMENT LAW. PAUL IS WARNING THAT WE GO ASTRAY IN OUR FAITH WHEN WE SEEK TO OBTAIN THIS OLD TESTAMENT RIGHTEOUSNESS. LIKE ETERNAL LIFE, GOD'S IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS IS FREELY GIVEN AS AN UNMERITED GIFT AS A RESULT OF OUR FAITH IN CHRIST. READ THE ABOVE SCRIPTURES CAREFULLY.
I have since learned, to my utter astonishment, that preaching a legalistic message that keeps believers in a place of fear and doubt is a common practice that many evangelists, pastors, preachers and Bible teachers use throughout the institutional Christian Church. Why is it so shocking? When you closely examine their words, these ministers are saying that the blood of Christ is insufficient to completely redeem us from all sin. In other words, Christ’s sacrifice was not enough and requires additional work from us. THIS IS CLASSICAL LEGALISM. It‘s a covert denial and rejection of Christ’s blood-bought benefit of “Justification by faith”, which is skillfully designed to look like good, solid fundamental Bible teaching. This is the reason we cannot “know” that we have eternal life under this kind of teaching. Here’s the subtle deception that goes unnoticed: The rejection of Justification by faith in Christ always appears to be established on the teachings of Scripture. HOWEVER, IT’S SCRIPTURE THAT IS SKILLFULLY LIFTED FROM THE CONTEXT WHERE GOD PLACED IT IN THE BIBLE. IT’S A FAILURE TO RESPECT PAUL’S WARNING TO “RIGHTLY DIVIDE” GOD’S WORD. Because it carries the illusion of being a foundational doctrine from the Bible, very few Christians question the teaching.
The Holy Scriptures (God’s Word) always has two components. The first component is the Scripture verse itself. The second component is the original context where God placed it. The context of a Scripture is something that defines the way God wants it to be used. If anyone lifts a Scripture from its original Divine context and reinserts it into a context of their own design, what originally was God’s Word subtly becomes a man-made false doctrine that continues to “sound like” God’s Word. Using Scripture out of context is one of the basic building blocks for all expressions of aberrant forms of Christianity, abusive church governments and false religious cults (2 Peter 2:1-3, Gal. 5:4-8, Gal. 1:6-8, Rom. 16:17-18, Matt. 23:13-15, Col. 2:8).
At Rock of Offence, we interpret the Bible literally, unless a specific section of Scripture tells us that it is to be viewed figuratively (allegorically). When the Bible teaches something in a certain context, WE BELIEVE IT MEANS EXACTLY WHAT IT SAYS WHEN INTERPRETED WITHIN THAT CONTEXT.
For additional information on this important topic click HERE.
How God Deals With Sin in the Christian Life
The New Covenant truth of "Free justification by faith in Christ" is the way God now deals with and views sin AFTER THE CROSS, which is why the book of Hebrews calls it, “the new and living way of Christ” (Hebrews 10:19-23). It did not operate in Old Testament times. It’s a totally new system of faith established on the New Covenant that couldn’t begin until after Christ’s sacrifice at the cross. On the subject of sin there are two spheres or aspects THAT CAN NEVER BE MIXED TOGETHER. THE FIRST SPHERE involves our effort to avoid sin in our lives. The apostle John referred to it as “purifying ourselves” (1 John 3:1-3). Some theologians call it the “experiential sphere” of our salvation, WHICH IS NOT INVOLVED IN SECURING GOD’S GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE. We should attempt to avoid sin for four primary reasons:
- Living in sin dishonors Christ and discredits His sacrifice at the cross to take away our sin.
- Living in sin is contrary to our new life in Christ.
- It sends the wrong message to a watching world that Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross to take away sin was “unimportant”.
- Sin is destructive to a believer’s life. It destroys marriages, families and can even lead to premature death.
THE SECOND SPHERE TOTALLY OVER-RIDES THE FIRST. Some call it the “legal sphere” of our redemption that allows God to relate with us according to Grace (unmerited and undeserved favor). Unlike the experiential sphere, the legal sphere or aspect of our redemption IS DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN SECURING THE BELIEVER’S SALVATION. It is where THE SACRIFICIAL BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST COMPLETELY AND LEGALLY CLEANSES THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER OF ALL SIN IN ORDER TO GAIN THE FAVOR AND ACCEPTANCE OF GOD.
This is how it works. There are sins of commission (the ones we willingly and knowingly commit in disobedience). Then, there are sins of omission (the ones we do unknowingly and in ignorance -- and promptly forget). If failing to repent and avoid all sin makes us “dirty” before God (as those who reject “Justification by faith” claim), then we are in a hopeless situation from the start and can never really know for certain that we possess eternal life.
THANK GOD THAT’S NOT THE WAY OUR GREAT SALVATION WORKS.
Under “Justificaiton by faith in Christ”, ONLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS CLEANSES (FREELY JUSTIFIES) US FROM ALL SIN -- WHICH INCLUDES THE ONES WE COMMIT WILLINGLY -- AND THE ONES WE UNKNOWINGLY COMMIT IN IGNORANCE. THE CLEANSING AND TOTALLY SUFFICIENT POWER OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS GUARANTEES THAT THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER WILL ALWAYS BE WORTHY (RIGHTEOUS) BEFORE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER REGARDLESS OF HOW SUCCESSFUL (OR UNSUCCESSFUL) THEY ARE AT REPENTING AND AVOIDING ALL SIN -- OR HOW DEFICIENT THEY ARE IN GOOD WORKS OR CHRISTIAN SERVICE. THIS IS WHY ETERNAL LIFE IS CALLED “THE GIFT OF GOD”. IT’S A GIFT BECAUSE IT OMITS THE MERIT REQUIREMENTS OF THE PERSON RECEIVING THE GIFT -- OTHERWISE GOD’S GIFT BECOMES NONSENSICAL AND MEANINGLESS.
A SIMPLE DEFINITION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TERM FOR “JUSTIFICAITON” IS:
JUST -- AS -- IF -- I -- HAD -- NEVER -- SINNED
Because of the sacrificial blood of Christ, which He offered as, “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), God freely justifies us from all sin, PAST -- PRESENT -- AND FUTURE. Otherwise, the taking away of the sin of the world by The Lamb of God has no meaning. The justifying power of the blood of Christ begins the moment we are saved AND CONTINUES UNINTERRUPTED for the rest of our life. Like a powerful umbrella, it protects us from the eternal spiritual consequences (but not necessarily the natural earthly consequences) of all sin 24 hours a day. The believer is never “justified” one day and “unjustified” the next day because some sin was committed. Why? Because some sins of omission are always being committed without our knowledge. A majority of churches preach this kind of “saved today” and “lost tomorrow” form of legalistic heresy that passes as authentic fundamental Christianity. From the moment any one hears and puts their faith in the Gospel of Christ, GOD TREATS THAT PERSON AS “JUSTIFIED” WITH ALL THEIR SIN CLEANSED.
Marin Luther was one of the few leaders of the Protestant Reformation that correctly preached from the perspective of “Justificaiton by Faith”. Here’s how he expressed it:
"Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. NOW IF IT IS LYING ON YOUR BACK, YOU ARE LOST; BUT IF IT IS RESTING ON CHRIST, YOU ARE FREE, AND YOU WILL BE SAVED. Now choose what you want."
If Martin Luther were alive today, he would be appalled and astounded at what most of the Protestant movement has mutated into as a result of the influence of legalism. We’re not talking about some obscure sects, but major leaders and their congregations within Protestant denominations. Some embrace a doctrine called “Protestant Purgatory”, which is a place of torment where authentically saved Christians are sent that fail to live in holiness. In other words, if they don’t successfully repent and turn away from all sin that exists in their life, God assigns them to this special place of "purifying torment". Yet, these unfortunate believers are still considered "authentic Christians". This false, yet popular teaching is specifically designed to create intense fear and can be easily found in certain sectors of "Christian fundamentalism". It’s very similar to the purgatory taught within Catholicism. Ironically, it was one of the foundational doctrines of the Catholic Church that was originally rejected by the early Protestant movement, yet was slowly reintroduced later on. "Partial Rapture Theology" is another one. This is where authentic Christians that fail to achieve an acceptable level of “worthiness” (it’s another way of saying they were “dirtied by sin”) will be left behind when Christ returns at the end of the age to remove the Church. They are "left behind" to have their sins “purged” by the tormenting trials of the Tribulation Period. In other words, these are the sins that the blood of Christ was insufficient to take away. The apostle Peter had a name for all of this spiritual nonsense. He called these kinds of teachings “damnable heresies” because they denied Christ’s freely given redemption. This offensive description was used because these "fundamental-looking" doctrines denied the Scriptural truth of “Free Justification by Faith in Christ”. The apostle Paul just called them “demonically inspired doctrines” -- or “doctrines of demons” (Read Romans 16:18, Galatians 1:6-8, 2 Timothy 4:1) THAT DID NOT COME FROM GOD AND CARRIED A CURSE. We agree with their choice of words.
Once again, it’s right and proper that we try to avoid sin for the following reasons: It dishonors Christ’s sacrifice at the cross, it’s contrary to God’s purpose for His redeemed people, it sends the wrong message to a watching world and is destructive to our life and the lives of those around us. However, regardless of how good our efforts are at avoiding sin -- these efforts will never make us clean enough before God to obtain or keep our salvation. Only the totally sufficient blood of Christ, without any additional help from us, can achieve the necessary kind of “perfect cleanliness” that satisfies God’s high standards. And -- this totally sufficient blood is applied through the principle of “Justification” to every believer’s life FREELY AND WITHOUT CHARGE.
"...BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS, whom God set forth as a propitiation BY HIS BLOOD, THROUGH FAITH, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just AND THE JUSTIFIER OF THE ONE WHO HAS FAITH IN JESUS. (Romans 3:24-26 -- Emphasis Mine)
The “experiential” side of dealing with sin is under our direct control. However, just common sense should tell us that we do not possess the ability, EVEN WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT’S HELP, to avoid and repent OF ALL SIN (both the known and especially the unknown kind). We should try to avoid sin. YET, WE SHOULD ALSO UNDERSTAND THAT OUR EFFORTS WILL ALWAYS FALL SHORT AND CAN NEVER ACHIEVE THE PERFECTION REQUIRED BY GOD TO BE “CLEAN ENOUGH” TO SOMEHOW QUALIFY OR BE WORTHY OF HIS SALVATION. If we depend only on our strength of will and determination to keep ourselves “clean and sinless before God” (like those who reject “Justification by faith” teach), we are going astray in our faith and are headed for serious unintended consequences up the road. Because these legalistic teachings that produce a false faith in Christ exist, Paul warned:
"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)
Because of the dominant influence of legalism, millions of Christians are disqualified from the true faith of Christ and don’t know it.
Justification by Faith Imputes All Our Sin to Christ
In order for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as, “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” to properly operate, God set into motion a permanent redemptive “mechanism” to deal with all the past--present--and future sins of the believer. God refers to this New Testament principle by using the word “imputed” to describe it. The word “imputed (or to impute)” means that a benefit or penalty is reassigned to another person, who does not deserve it. Unlike the previous Old Testament religious system, Christ’s New Covenant (also called “The new and living way”) freely imputes both justification and the righteousness of Christ to the believer. Originally, under the previous Old Testament religious system, these powerful salvation benefits were acquired through works, religious service and holy living connected to the Law of Moses and the Commandments. However, God can now impute these benefits to all believers because Jesus paid for them at the cross, in blood -- AND HIS PAYMENT WAS TOTALLY SUFFICIENT. But, there is another form of “imputation”, which is the cornerstone of “Justification by faith”. We can enjoy Christ’s freely imputed justification and righteousness ONLY BECAUSE ALL OUR SIN -- PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE -- IS “IMPUTED” BACK ONTO JESUS CHRIST AS, “THE LAMB OF GOD THAT TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD” (John 1:29). It is an “exchange of life” where we get Christ’s blessings of eternal life, righteousness and justification -- and He gets our sin and the curse that goes with it. Only Christ’s New Covenant, which began after His crucifixion, makes this “Great Exchange” possible. When all our sin is imputed to Christ, it allows God to declare us “justified”, WHERE HE CONSIDERS (OR RECKONS) US TO BE SINLESS -- even though we might still be struggling with, or even allowing some sin in our life. This “free justification” remains in force for both sins of commission (the ones we commit willfully) and sins of omission (the ones we commit in ignorance and forget). Being “freely justified” (where God reckons us to be sinless) IS A DIVINE LEGAL STATUS THAT IS ONLY MADE POSSIBLE BY THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST. IT HAS NO DEPENENCY WHATSOEVER ON OUR PERSONAL MERIT OR WORTHINESS. This is why Paul wrote to Titus and said, "...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…” (Titus 3:5) It’s a benefit that the recipient HAS NOT EARNED AND IS COMPLETELY UNWORTHY OF.
It is this “imputed sin” aspect of the Gospel that a majority of preachers, churches and denominations who reject “Justification by faith in Christ” go to great lengths to deny or discredit. Unfortunately, the rejection of this benefit unknowingly changes the gospel message they preach into what the apostle Paul calls, “a different gospel”. Even worse, it changes the Jesus they preach into what Paul refers to as, “another Jesus” (Read Galatians 1:6-8 and 2 Corinthians 11:4). Their message sounds Biblical. It sounds like good foundational Bible teaching. It sounds like they are teaching about the real Jesus. Yet, it can fool even the most intelligent and highly educated people in the Church because it involves the use of a spiritual counterfeit, or an imitation. Both Paul and Peter warned that it doesn’t come from God because it subtly rejects Christ’s redemption -- by rejecting the New Covenant principle of “Justification by faith” by which His redemption operates. It would probably shock the readers of this commentary to discover the various popular preachers and evangelists (both current and historical) that fall into this category. Just because someone preaches what seems to be a “Christ-centered” Bible sermon, respects the Bible as God’s Word, conducts massive evangelistic meetings and pastors a large congregation does not automatically mean they are preaching “the authentic Christ” of the Bible. Their gospel message could be based on “another Jesus”, which generally goes unnoticed and undetected. Most of us just don’t pay attention to important details.
Here are some Scriptures that speak to this principle of “imputation” and the “exchange of life” under Christ’s New Covenant, which may clear up some of the confusion.
"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)
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, HAVING BECOME A CURSE FOR US (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), THAT THE BLESSING OF ABRAHAM MIGHT COME UPON THE GENTILES IN CHRIST JESUS, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:13-14 NKJV)
"...BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS, whom God set forth as a propitiation BY HIS BLOOD, THROUGH FAITH, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just AND THE JUSTIFIER OF THE ONE WHO HAS FAITH IN JESUS. (Romans 3:24-26 -- Emphasis Mine)
“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 CHRIST) 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 (JESUS CHRIST) OBEDIENCE MANY WILL BE MADE RIGHTEOUS." (Romans 5:17-19 -- 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)
"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)
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN." (1 John 1:7 -- Emphasis Mine)
Understanding the stealth and covert way that some of these popular, yet wrong doctrines operate is the key to avoiding the enemy’s traps and walking in our liberty in Christ.
Some Important Closing Thoughts
One major reason we see the rejection of “Free Justification by Faith in Christ” (Romans 3:24-26) and the resurgence of countless expressions of legalism is the doctrine of Replacement Theology, which is a hidden, yet dominant driving influence behind Reformed Theology. These two popular religious belief systems are considered foundational within what’s called “Protestantism”. They provide the foundation for the faith of literally millions of professing Christians around the world. Since Replacement Theology originally came from the teachings of an influential Catholic theologian named Augustine, we estimate that over 80 percent of what is called “The Christian Church” is unknowingly affected by this toxic doctrine. Augustine (300-400 AD), was responsible for much of the theology that is found within modern-day Catholicism. Most of us fail to realize that some prominent leaders of the Protestant Reformation left the Roman Catholic Church and joined other “like-minded” leaders to “protest” its corrupt teachings during that time. This “protest” movement is where the name “Protestant” came from. Most of us also fail to realize that some of these early Protestant leaders kept a few of Augustine’s teachings and incorporated them into the new movement. Unfortunately, Replacement Theology was one of those teachings, which has become a bedrock doctrine within many Protestant churches. Professing Christians (that number in the millions) within these congregations wrongly place this teaching on an almost equal level with Scripture. Regardless of our comments on these practices, readers should not consider us “anti-Protestant”.
Reformed Theology and its numerous expressions are based on the false idea that “The New Testament Church” IS A CONTINUATION OF OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL. FOR THIS REASON, THE CHURCH IS COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS “THE NEW ISRAEL OR SPIRITUAL ISRAEL”. Theologians that embrace this misguided belief commonly reject our free Justification by Faith in Christ (Romans 3:24-26) because they believe Christ’s New Covenant didn’t really change anything in this CONTINUATION OF THE PROGRAM OF THE LAW. This also means that His crucifixion that started the New Covenant didn’t change the way God deals with sin from Old Testament times. Why? God’s dealings with the New Testament Church is just a CONTINUATION OF THE SAME WAY HE DEALT WITH ISRAEL UNDER THE LAW BECAUSE THE CHURCH IS NOW THE “NEW ISRAEL”. They believe God has eternally rejected Israel because they crucified Jesus, their Messiah. For this reason, God has PERMANENTLY thrown Israel away as cursed and replaced her with the New Testament Church UNDER HER ORIGINAL OLD TESTAMENT PROGRAM. However, there is one minor problem. GOD DID NOT DO WHAT REFORMED THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS SAID THAT HE DID.
Reformed Theology DESTROYS THE STRUCTURE AND CONTEXT OF GOD’S WORD, which is organized into two separate programs known as Old Covenant Israel (The Old Testament) and Christ’s New Covenant Church (The New Testament). IT THEN REDEFINES THE BIBLE TO BE ONLY ONE CONTINUOUS PROGRAM KNOWN AS “THE CHURCH AS THE NEW ISRAEL”. Under this theology, OLD TESTAMENT LAW CONTINUES TO BE THE WAY GOD DEALS WITH THE SIN OF THE HUMAN RACE -- AND CHRIST’S NEW COVEANANT PRINCIPLE OF “FREE JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH IN CHRIST” MUST BE DISCREDITED AND REJECTED IN A WAY THAT LOOKS LIKE FUNDAMENTAL BIBLE TEACHING. This popular theology, which has countless expressions and names, runs contrary to the plain teaching of the New Testament Scriptures, especially the epistles of Saint Paul that reveal the operational rules of Christ’s New Covenant. I’ve run into adherents of certain extreme expressions of Reformed Theology that told me that Paul’s teachings are a "questionable" part of the inspired text of the Bible because they were just the teachings of a man. The liberty these people take at destroying the structure of the Bible is truly astonishing. This misguided theology disregards Scriptures that warn that THE NEW COVENANT PROGRAM OF THE CHURCH CAN NEVER BE A CONTINUATION OF ISRAEL’S OLD COVENANT PROGRAM, WHICH IS NOW CONSIDERED OBSOLETE (CAREFULLY READ HEBREWS 8:6-13). For this reason, we consider Reformed Theology (also known by its alternate name as “Covenant Theology”) along with traditional Catholicism as two of the most dangerous threats to the truth of the Gospel of Christ that exists in the modern Church. If you’ll do some simple math, it is easy to see just how big this threat is.
We want to repost the following Scriptures as references for this commentary, even though they are used extensively throughout our writings. Because of dangerous religious influences, like Reformed Theology, it never hurts to keep these New Covenant truths constantly before our eyes.
"FOR AS MANY AS ARE OF THE WORKS OF THE LAW ARE UNDER THE CURSE; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” BUT THAT NO ONE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW IN THE SIGHT OF GOD IS EVIDENT, for “the just shall live by faith.” YET THE LAW IS NOT OF FAITH..." (Galatians 3:10-12 -- Emphasis Mine)
"Therefore BY THE DEEDS OF THE LAW NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT". (Romans 3:20 -- Emphasis Mine)
"You have become estranged (separated) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; YOU HAVE FALLEN FROM GRACE." (Galatians 5:4 -- Emphasis Mine)
"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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. I do not frustrate the grace of God: FOR IF RIGHTEOUSNESS COME BY THE LAW, THEN CHRIST IS DEAD IN VAIN (THE WORD "VAIN" MEANS THAT CHRIST'S DEATH BECOMES MEANINGLESS)." (Galatians 2:19-21 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also MEDIATOR OF A BETTER COVENANT, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES. For if that FIRST COVENANT had been faultless, then no place would have been sought FOR A SECOND." (Hebrews 8:6-7 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
"Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I WILL MAKE A NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT (THE OLD COVENANT) THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant (The New Covenant) that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MIND AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS, AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." (Hebrews 8:8-12 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
"IN THAT HE (JESUS CHRIST) SAYS, "A NEW COVENANT," HE HAS MADE THE FIRST OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV -- Emphasis Mine)
Other Helpful Commentaries and Information
We provide separate commentaries that cover this popular teaching that is found on both Roman Catholic and Protestant sides of the Church. Rather than discuss the problems here, you can access additional information at the links below.
Avoiding the Error of Replacement Theology
Other helpful commentaries can be found at:
Our Position on Covenant Theology
(Also Known As Reformed Theology)
The Spiritual Revolution of Christ
Discovering The Life-Changing Power of
New Covenant Repentance
How Legalistic Religion Perverts
God's Gift of Eternal life
The Prime Directive of the
Authentic Gospel of Christ
The Holy Spirit's Role After the Cross