Understanding the Gospel
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
A counterfeit is something that looks like the real but it isn’t. When I was in Ethiopia my father wrote to me and said, “There is a coin, a very special coin in Ethiopia which was produced by the Italians during the five years they were there called the Maria Theresa coin.” My father is a coin collector and he said, “Please look for one for me.”
One day I was walking in the streets of Addis Ababa and a young fellow came up with coins and there it was, a Maria Theresa coin! He had three of them and they all looked alike. They looked ancient because it’s an old coin.
I said to the young fellow, “Is this genuine?” And he said, “Of course it’s genuine. We don’t produce counterfeits in Ethiopia.” I said, “How much are they?” I bargained with him, bought them for a fairly reasonable price and sent all three of them to my father. Later he told me one of them was genuine; the other two were counterfeits. I had no idea two of them were counterfeits. I looked very carefully and they all looked the same.
The devil has produced two counterfeits, not for the world but for Christians to trap us into one of the counterfeits. These counterfeits to a large degree resemble the gospel but they are not the gospel. The first counterfeit, which I call the enemy of the gospel, is found in Romans 4, and the second counterfeit is the danger of the gospel which is found in Romans 6.
All pagan religions are legalistic but Romans 4 is dealing with legalism within Christianity. Once the devil gets you in the ditch of legalism, his purpose is to rob you of the peace and joy of salvation and how he has succeeded! A good example in the New Testament is the Christians from Galatia. This has been our greatest problem in the past, so I would recommend that you not only read but study carefully the book of Galatians.
Today we also face the danger of Romans 6, which is antinomianism. Deitrich Bonhoefer, the German martyr, called it cheap grace. Let me explain in a nutshell what it is. I was Ingathering in Uganda with another missionary. We were in a government restaurant which was the cheapest place we could find to stay. We paid $2.50 for a bed. They supplied no food but there was a dining area where we could eat. The typical missionary food is granola which your wife has cooked. Then she mixes the granola with milk powder and all you add is boiled water and you have your breakfast, your lunch, and your supper, with a few bananas thrown in. Uganda has 200 varieties of bananas while there are only one or two here.
We were eating our wonderful supper of granola, which was manna for the missionary field, when an African walked up to me. He ignored my fellow missionary but he walked up to me. He didn’t know who we were. He thought I was a Hindu because my background is from India and he said to me, “Are you saved?” Of course, I recognized immediately the typical approach of a Pentecostal.
So I said to him, “Saved from what?” He said, “Are you saved from sin?” I said, “Can you be a little bit more specific? Are you talking of the guilt and punishment of sin, of the power and slavery to sin, or are you talking of the nature and presence of sin? Which one are you referring to when you ask me the question, ‘Are you saved?’?” He looked at me and said, “You must be a pastor.” When I asked him, “Are you saved?” he said, “Praise the Lord, I was saved three months ago.”
I corrected him saying, “No, you were saved 2,000 years ago. You accepted salvation three months ago. But, if you are saved, how come I smell pombay (which is a Swahili word for beer) on your breath?” He said, “Pastor, you know we are saved by grace, not by what we do.” He was absolutely right, but he had fallen into the ditch of cheap grace so I had to correct him.
I said, “Do you mean that Jesus lived a perfect life for us?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “And He died instead of you?” He said to me, “Now you’ve got it, Pastor.” I said, “No, I’m going to take your theology to its final conclusion.” He said, “What’s that?” I said, “He also went to heaven instead of you, because if you say He died instead of you, He also went to heaven instead of you.” He said, “No, no. I’m going to heaven.” I said, “If you want to go to heaven, then you have to die with Him, too.” I gave him this verse:
2 Timothy 2:11:
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him....
Christianity is not simply a mental assent to truth. Christianity is participating in Jesus Christ and we will see this as we study.
Wherever Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, established churches, and left, a group of Jewish Christians would come to a church. They were not Jews in the sense that they did not accept Christ as the Messiah; they were Jewish believers. For example, they would come to the Galatian church and say, “By the way, we heard Paul was here.” The people would say, “Yes, he gave us a wonderful message of hope.” They would say, “We thank God that he preached Christ, but did you know that he was not a truly appointed apostle; that he was a self-appointed apostle?” And the people said, “Really?” They said, “Did you know that what he preached was not the full gospel; that there was something missing?” And their ears perked up, “What did he leave out? We thought he gave us the full counsel of God.” They said, “Oh, no, no, no. You see, you can’t be saved just as a gift. God expects you to do something. You need to be doing good works. You need to be circumcised and you need to keep the law. Then God will see that you are fit for heaven.”
The Galatians fell for this. The first General Conference was based on this issue. It was held in Jerusalem.
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
These Jewish Christians came from Judea to the Antioch church, which was made up of mainly Gentile believers. Paul and Barnabas were preaching in Antioch at that time.
This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. [This was the first theological controversy in the Christian church.] So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
Then some of the believers [in Jesus Christ] who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The Jews did not make the distinction we make between the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses. When they used the phrase, “the law of Moses,” they meant the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, which includes the Ten Commandments. We cannot project our views on the scriptures.
They had a discussion where Peter stood up and said:
Now then, why do you [Judaizers] try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles [the believers] a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
There is only one way God will save us — whether we are Jew or Gentile — and that is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These Judaizers did not agree with the General Conference decision. They said, “No. Peter has been brainwashed by Paul.” Paul was a theologian. They went to every church where Paul had preached and Paul knew that Rome would not be exempted. He spends all of Romans 4 defending justification by faith against the threefold demands of the Judaizers, which were good works, circumcision, and keeping of the law.
Let us be clear that Paul is not against good works. He is not even against circumcision. We can read Philippians 3:3 or Colossians 2:11 onwards to see that.
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh....
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ....
He definitely is not against the law. The issue here is not good works, circumcision, and the law; the issue is when this is used as a requirement for salvation. What God does in me does not have a single iota of merit. It is the fruits of salvation. It is the evidence of salvation but it doesn’t contribute one iota towards my salvation, nor does it contribute towards my retaining the ticket to heaven. We are saved by grace alone.
We should heed the warning that was given to the Galatians. If anyone perverts this gospel that Paul preached, even if it is an angel from heaven that preaches any other gospel than the one the apostles have preached, let him be anathema; let him be cursed by God. That is how strongly God feels with anyone who perverts the gospel.
How does Paul deal with this? Remember, the Judaizers were Jews. The father of the Jews was Abraham. To Americans, “father” means somebody who was the source of a nation — Abraham was the father of the Jews — but to the Jews, the word “father” had more than that meaning. It also meant “a prototype.” Now, this is true of our people in the olden days. If the father was a blacksmith, the child became a blacksmith. If the father was a baker, the children became bakers. It was passed on. Today we are living in a different world. If a father is a baker, the child wants to be anything else but a baker. We have completely changed society and that is because of the concept of individual rights. We are individuals. That is the problem.
To the Jews, Abraham was not only their father but he was their prototype, their model, their pattern of salvation. So the question that Paul will raise:
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?
That is how it is in the original. The modern translations change it a bit but that is absolutely correct according to the Greek text. “According to the flesh.” By the flesh, Paul did not mean the soft part of the body.
Philippians gives an example of what Paul means by the “flesh.” Paul mentions circumcision in a very positive way.
For it is we [talking to the believers] who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh....
He explains what he means by the flesh:
...Though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more...
Paul says, if there is anyone of you in Philippi who can boast about the flesh, I have reason to boast more than any of you. He is writing here primarily to Gentiles. Verse 5 tells us what he can boast about.
...circumcised on the eighth day [The law of Moses did not only require circumcision of the Jews, but it required circumcision on a specific day, eight days after your birth.], of the people of Israel [I am a pure blooded Jew, my pedigree has no mixture.], of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee....
We have given the word Pharisee a negative meaning but, in the days of Paul, the word “Pharisee” itself meant somebody who was very zealous, very meticulous about keeping the law. A definition of a Pharisee is somebody who is very meticulous about every little detail that his church requires, who takes great pains doing it and gives great pains to everybody else while he is doing it.
The Jews took the law of Moses and made human rules that they could keep. If they kept all the rules of Judaism, it would take twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all their lives. Every Jew didn’t have time for that but the Pharisees specialized in those rules.
The interesting thing about Pharisees is that they never compare themselves with somebody better than they are but with somebody inferior, less successful in the Christian life. A Pharisee is always elevating himself, “O God, I thank you I am not a sinner like that publican at the back.”
Archeology has discovered some of the prayers of the Pharisee. He would get up in the morning and pray to the Lord saying, “God, I thank you I was not born an animal; I thank you I was not born a Gentile or a dog; I thank you I was not born a woman,” and then he would end up, “I thank you God, I am a Pharisee, praise the Lord.” Then he would go about his business. Some of these prayers were actually recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other manuscripts.
...as for zeal [zeal for God], persecuting the church [When Paul was persecuting the church, he thought he was serving God; that’s why God met him on the Damascus road. His actions were wrong but his heart was right and God knew that; God reads the heart.]; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
So the word “flesh” to Paul means anything that is true of you. It can be your birth, your inheritance, your performance, anything that is true of you on which you are depending wholly or partly for your ticket to heaven.
If someone is a fourth generation Christian, it means nothing. You are either a child of God or you are not. Our father’s faith doesn’t make us Christians and there is nothing that gives us any special privilege before God. It doesn’t matter what our background, our education, or our culture is, when it comes to our vertical standing before God we are all one hundred percent sinners saved by grace.
We are one hundred percent sinners not in performance but in equipment, so when I see somebody in the ditch because of drugs or alcohol I do not say to him, “Why are you there? Look at me.” No, I say, “There go I but for the grace of God.” When we all recognize that we are one hundred percent sinners saved by grace, all the disagreements and imperfections in the church will go because we are all on the same level. There is no male, no female, no Jew, no Gentile, no slave, no master. We are all one in Christ.
When Paul says:
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?
The question is, Did Abraham do anything that qualified him for heaven? The answer is:
If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about [to glory in] — but not before God.
Verse 2 is saying that, if he was justified by works, he would not give God the credit but he would take credit to himself.
What does Scripture say? [What are the facts from the Word of God?] “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” [Here is the conclusion.] Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.
If you go to your boss at the end of the month to collect your check and he says, “By the way, this is my gift to you,” I can imagine what you will say, “Look, I worked for this. Don’t give me that nonsense; there is no gift in this. I earned it.”
I have a little card in my office taken from a very famous advertisement. This cartoon shows Pharisees talking to Jesus saying, “We don’t like what You are saying. We prefer to get our salvation the good old fashioned way. We earn it.” Romans says:
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.
In other words, if you have earned your salvation, then God owes you a ticket to heaven.
This is our sin problem. We do not like to admit to God that we are sinners. We want to meet Him eyeball to eyeball and say to Him, “You give us the rules and we will keep them.” The rules of God not only demand a perfect performance but perfect motives and even a perfect nature and none of us can do that. So we pervert the rules, turning them into rules that we can keep and then we say, “God we earned it and You owe it to us.”
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly [another word for “ungodly” here is the wicked, the sinner], their faith is credited as righteousness.
You may ask, “How can God justify the ungodly, the sinner?” We will cover that in the “In Christ” motif. Yes, He can justify the ungodly and still be just by His own rules.
Now there is a problem that we need to be aware of:
Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
James is saying Abraham was justified by works.
Then, in verse 23, he quotes the very same text that Paul quotes. Both are quoting from Genesis.
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
Now look at James’ interpretation of the text in the next verse in James:
You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
James is not contradicting Paul. They are talking about two different things. James is condemning cheap grace. He is condemning people who say they have faith in Jesus Christ but their lives are a contradiction to what they say.
Abraham was justified by works when he offered up Isaac. He was approximately 117-120 years old when he offered up Isaac. When God declared him righteous in Genesis 15:6 [above], which is quoted by James and Paul, He was approximately 83 years old. That was not the first time he was justified by faith. He was justified by faith in Genesis 12:1-4 when he was 75 years old, so the offering up of Isaac did not justify him.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
Notice I omitted one verse purposely because we don’t want to use the proof text method. We should read every verse, otherwise we could come to the wrong conclusion. Verse 22, which I ignored, explains where James is coming from.
You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
It was not his righteousness that was proven to be perfect or complete, but his faith. If you read verse 14 to the end of the chapter of James 2, the context of this passage is that faith without works is dead.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Genuine justification by faith will always produce works. The works don’t save us. The works are simply the evidence of our justification by faith. You may not know all those works in your life because when Christ meets you and says to you, “I was hungry and you fed Me; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was in prison and you visited Me” you will not say, “Yes, I reported this in church.” You will say, “When did we do these things?” We will not be conscious of these good works so stop looking at yourself for assurance. Always keep your eyes on Jesus for your assurance of salvation. The purpose of legalism is to turn your eyes from Christ to self and how the devil has succeeded!
I was handed a question that was asked to the students of an academy. One of the questions was, “What do you look forward to in the new earth? The answers are typical. “I expect heaven to be a beautiful place for those who get in.” “I can’t say that if I die today I will go to heaven.” Here are youth who have no assurance of salvation. “But if I do make it I could have a chance to meet the Creator Himself. What a glorious sight it will be with streets paved of gold and nobody getting old.” The greatest purpose now is to get there.
When he gets out of academy his eyes will be opened, he will discover that his parents are struggling; he’ll discover his pastor is struggling; he’ll discover his Sabbath School teachers are struggling and he’ll say to himself, “If these old people are still struggling and haven’t made it as yet, what hope is there for me? I might as well give up my struggle” and so he leaves the church. Then we old people look at these young people and say, “When I was young I never did those things. I don’t know what’s wrong with them today. Who has driven them out of our church?” One survey says it is the home, the church, and the school.
Before we point our fingers at our young people, we must ask ourselves, “What is causing our young people to leave the church?” Between 55% to 75% of our young people are leaving the church either physically or psychologically. Some of them still come to church to please their Mom and Dad hoping that they will inherit their wealth after they die or for whatever reason.
But let’s stop fooling ourselves. We are responsible for those young people leaving our church because we ourselves have fallen into a ditch that has robbed us of peace and which robs our young people.
I took a week of prayer in 1981. The situation in that country was terrible. The Christians and the Muslims were fighting and we could see the shells and tracer bullets going over our building, especially at night. There was a missionary lady there who came to me crying and I asked her what was the matter. She said, “Both my children have left the church. One is deep into drugs and all the time I blamed the teacher; I blamed the church; I blamed everybody else and this week my eyes were suddenly opened that during their growing up years I was saying, “If you don’t do this or that you will not go to heaven.”
“Now I realize that it wasn’t the school; it wasn’t the church; it was me.” I said to her, “When you go home on furlough, tell them that. It isn’t too late.” Six years later I was at Andrews University and somebody called out to me. I turned around and there she was home on furlough. She said, “My daughter is back in the church.” Let’s be honest with our children and tell them what we have done wrong even though we did not do it deliberately because we were victims ourselves. Let’s give them the good news.
James is talking about genuine faith that always produces works. Paul is dealing with, “Do those good works contribute towards my salvation?” Even James says that the works did not prove his righteousness. It proved his faith. Faith does not save you. It is only an instrument, a channel by which you receive the righteousness of Christ. We are saved by faith or through faith never because of faith. You won’t find that in the New Testament except maybe in the Living Bible which is a paraphrase, not a translation.
Paul adds another name in Romans 4:6:
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
He quotes from Psalm 32:1-2; the word blessed means happy.
Blessed [happy] is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Looking at that statement in the original, David uses three words — iniquity, sin, and transgression. Primarily, “iniquity” in the Bible does not refer to our acts but to our condition. The word “iniquity” in the Hebrew means “bent.” So when David says, “I was shapen in iniquity from my mother’s womb” he is not referring to his mother’s sin but to his condition since birth. “Sin” is missing the mark and “transgression” is willful disobedience. David was guilty of all three but he found mercy and for that he is praising the Lord.
In Romans 4:9-10 Paul deals with circumcision:
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!
Remember, the Judaizers insisted that the Gentiles be circumcised before they could be saved. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised. When the statement we read from Genesis 15:6 about Abraham...
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
...was made, Abraham was 83, so he was justified by faith in terms of writing by the Word of God, declared by the Word of God before he was circumcised. Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
But Paul knew that this would raise up a major question. If circumcision did not contribute towards the salvation of Abraham, why did God give it to him? Many of the Judaizers said: “Yes, he was justified by faith when he was 83 and then at 99 God said, “Abraham when I justified you I forgot circumcision so I’m going to add it to your salvation.”
But that is not the reason God gave circumcision. In Romans 4:11, we are told why God gave circumcision. Keep in mind that, one day, the Sabbath will have the same significance.
And he received circumcision as a sign [notice that circumcision is a sign], a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.
To explain this, we need to get the context. Remember, in those days, the only Bible was the Old Testament. The Christians knew the Old Testament fairly well. Most Christians today are not familiar with all the details, so let me give you the background.
God comes to Abraham at the age of 75 and says:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Abraham is packing his camels, which were the moving vans in those days. His neighbors come to him and say, “Where are you going, Abraham? He says, “I don’t know.” The people must have said to themselves, “This man has gone crazy.” They say, “You don’t know?” He says, “No. God has told me to go and I’m going.” We read in Hebrews 11 that he had no idea where he was going. By faith he packed his camels and took off. He had no children but he believed that God was going to give him a son because God had promised him a son.
Eight years later, no child had come. He had told all his new neighbors, “I’m going to have a son.” Every year, “I’m going to have a son.” Eight years later the people said, “Poor fellow, he’s getting senile.” He becomes discouraged and his faith begins to dwindle. God comes to him (Genesis 15) and says, “Abraham, why are you discouraged, why are you doubtful, why is your faith dwindling?” Abraham says, “God, I think You know. Human beings take nine months to produce a child. How long does it take You? I’m questioning whether You created the world in six days. It’s eight years; how long, God? Am I to take the son of Eliezer my slave and make him the promised son?”
And God said, “No. The son that I promised you will come out from your own loins. Let’s go for a walk and count the stars.” Abraham said, “Impossible.” God said, “That is how many children you will have.” And there you have that famous statement, “Abraham believed God and it was counted for righteousness.” Two years later (Genesis 16) Sarah comes to Abraham. “God said your loins but he mentioned nothing about me. I have a feeling that God is incapable of producing a child through me.”
Remember, it’s ten years since the promise of a child. “I have a suggestion. You go to my slave woman Hagar, produce a child and help God.” And Abraham like a good husband said, “That’s an excellent idea.” So he went to Hagar, produced a child and he said, “God, here it is at last. You promised a child; I helped You to produce it.” That is Galatianism. Read Galatians 4:21 and on where Paul uses the two sons of Abraham to show the distinction between justification by faith alone and justification by keeping the law or by works.
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”
Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Then God waited thirteen or fourteen more years. He waited until it was medically, scientifically, humanly impossible for Sarah to have a child. She had passed the age of child-bearing. Abraham is the prototype of all who believe and God wanted to make sure that there would be no doubt in the human race, who believed as Abraham did, that Abraham had in any way contributed towards that promised son.
So God waited until it was impossible. He waited until Abraham and Sarah were exhausted. Then He came to Abraham and said, “Abraham, do you believe I can give you a son?” And against hope Abraham said, “Yes. You can do the impossible.” God said to Abraham, “I want you to remove that unbelief you have been carrying on your shoulder.” The sign of that removal was circumcision. Circumcision had no value in itself. It was the removal of every ounce of unbelief.
That is why Moses would say to the Jews, “You stiff-necked, uncircumcised.” They were only circumcised in the flesh. That is why Paul says in Philippians 3:3 that the genuine person has lost all confidence in the flesh and is rejoicing in Christ.
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh....
Paul says in Colossians 2:11-12 that circumcision is synonymous with baptism, putting off the old man and putting on the new man.
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
For the Sabbath to be known as the seal of righteousness by faith, we must preach the Sabbath in the light of the gospel; otherwise, we have missed the point.
And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
So works did not contribute towards Abraham’s justification; circumcision did not contribute to his justification. But what about the law?
It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless....
Paul is saying here that salvation through keeping the law and salvation through grace are mutually exclusive. They can’t be mixed. It is either one or the other. If you turn to the law as a means of your salvation, even a little bit of the law, you have fallen from grace and Christ has become of no effect to you.
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Remember and I repeat what I said in the beginning, Paul is not against the law. He is against human beings using the law as a requirement of salvation. God never gave the law as a requirement of salvation. Never! He gave the law to expose our sin problem.
He brings it out again here:
...Because the law brings wrath.
It doesn’t bring peace; it doesn’t bring hope; it brings about wrath. A text to prove that the law brings wrath is Galatians:
For all who rely on the works of the law [anyone who is trying to go to heaven by keeping the law] are under a curse [which is another word for wrath], as it is written [this is a quotation from the book of the law]: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
The Jew would stand up and say, “I believe in all the law of God,” just as many would stand up and say, “I believe in all the Ten Commandments.” The law doesn’t save you by faith. The law will say to you, “I don’t care whether you believe in ten or nine. The question is, “Are you keeping it?” “Oh, yes, I’m keeping part of it.” The law will say, “I don’t care if you are keeping part of it. If you break on one point, you’re finished.” That is what Paul is saying in Romans 4:15, because the law brings wrath.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
That’s the gospel, the good news.
Paul has argued from all conceivable angles about the threefold requirements of the Judaizers and Romans 4:16 is the conclusion.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law [Jews] but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all [Jews and Gentile believers].
Paul means that your salvation is guaranteed because it is based not on man’s promise but on God’s promise which He fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and this promise is sure.
...For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Paul, in Romans 4:17-25, quotes from the Old Testament where God says to Abraham:
As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not [He calls sinners righteous].
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness — for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
God made Abraham a father not of the Jews, but “of many nations.” God made Abraham our father in this sense.
The question is whether we have the faith of Abraham which is taking God at His word. It has nothing to do with our feelings; it has nothing to do with the human experience; it has nothing to do with the scientific method which denies any supernatural thing. It is taking God at His Word. God’s Word may contradict science, human experience, and human rationale. When God says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh,” don’t say, “Show me somebody else who’s doing it.” The question is “Do you believe God’s Word?”
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
The question is whether you believe it and whether you are a child of Abraham. Would you believe God if you were in Abraham’s shoes when your wife was past the age of child-bearing and God said, “Next year your wife will have a child.”?
Would you believe God if you were in Noah’s shoes when it had never rained in your experience or in the experience of the world and God says, “There’s going to be a flood.”? Faith is taking God at His word irrespective of your feelings, your reasoning, your rationale, the scientific method. That is what it means to be a child of Abraham. Paul continues to expound on that:
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness — for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
The purpose of legalism is to destroy the peace and assurance of salvation of believers but the danger of antinomianism or cheap grace is to bring disrepute to the gospel. People are not interested in the fact that you are saved. You can raise your arms a thousand times and say, “Praise the Lord, I’m saved.” They couldn’t care less. They care even less when you tell them Jesus saves or when you put a bumper sticker on your car. What they are looking for is your life style. They will judge you by your performance. One reason the devil will bring cheap grace into the church is because he wants to bring disrepute to the gospel which is the power of God to save us, not only from the guilt and punishment of sin but from sin itself.
A legalist wants to live the Christian life in order to be saved. A Christian wants to live the Christian life to bring the glory to Christ. Listen to Joseph when he was tempted. He didn’t say, “I cannot do this thing and be lost.” He said, “How can I do this thing and sin against my God?” A legalist is not against sinning. He is against being punished for sin so every time he sins he goes down on his knees and says, “God, please forgive me because I want to go to heaven.” He doesn’t say those actual words but he means that. A Christian says, “God, forgive me for hurting You or disgracing You.” It is not because you might be lost.
The following experience illustrates what we are facing in the church today. A young girl, a third-generation church member, about 22 years old, went to listen to a minister preaching about grace. All her life she was doing the right thing for the wrong reason. For the first time she discovered that salvation is a free gift made effective by faith alone. She said, “I’ve been doing all these things for nothing.” So to celebrate her new-found joy she went to a restaurant where she had eaten steak before and bought the juiciest, bloodiest steak and ate it for the first time in her life without feeling guilty. That is cheap grace. She is using the gift of salvation and making it a license to sin. The gospel gives us no such license.
An example of how the gospel is dangerous is in Romans 5:20, last part.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
Paul meant that it doesn’t matter how sin or the principle of sin in you has dragged you down to the bottom of the pit, as low as Hitler or Idi Amin or the greatest murderers and criminals of the world, grace can save the worst of criminals.
But I can take the same statement and say, “Paul is saying that every time I sin, grace covers my sin. Praise the Lord, let us keep on sinning that grace may abound.” In fact, the Judaizers accused Paul of that very thing. It is impossible for us to preach the message of grace alone without somebody accusing us of cheap grace. If we are accused of either legalism or cheap grace or both, we’ll know we are on the right track.
Now look at what Paul says in Romans 6:1:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
“Is this what I am teaching?” His answer is, “God forbid.” “Certainly not!” The Greek actually means, “This is unthinkable. Any Christian who thinks this way hasn’t understood my message.” He gives the reason in Romans 6:2.
By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Paul does not say, “How shall we who promised God to be good keep on sinning?” He does say, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
That phrase “dead to sin” appears three times in Romans 6. The first time is in verse 2 [above] where Paul applies it to the believer who has been baptized into Christ. Verse 3 onwards explains the baptism. Verse 10 is the second time and it is applied, not to the believer, but to Jesus Christ.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Paul is saying that, when Jesus died to sin, He brought sin to an end once and for all. Sin separated the Father from Christ. Jesus cried on the cross, “Father, Father, why have You forsaken Me?”
But since He has destroyed sin, left sin in the grave, there will never, ever be a separation of the Father and the Son. Now that He lives, He lives unto God. No barrier will take place.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
A Christian should consider himself dead to sin and alive unto God because a Christian has participated by faith in the holy history of Christ. That is what baptism is all about which is described in Romans 6:3-8 [above].
Now let me explain something here. When Paul is talking here about baptism, he is not talking about the act of baptism but about the truth of baptism. How can we tell the difference? When the Bible talks about the act of baptism, it is always in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When it talks about the truth of baptism, it is always into Christ. Look at verse 3:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
So baptism as an experience is into Christ. There are many who have misunderstood Mark 16:15-16 where Jesus said,
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Jesus was not referring to the act. There are many who have gone through the act who are unconverted.
When I first came to this country, I pastored a church where a lady came to me who was not a member of the church but had been attending for the last four years. She was not baptized. She said to me, “Pastor, I attended an evangelistic effort four years ago, but they will not baptize me because I have not been able to break my cigarette habit.
She was a business woman and, at that time, the State was going through an economic depression so she was struggling to keep her business above water. She found relief in smoking. She said, “I have tried the “Five Day Stop Smoking” program; I’ve tried “Banfrom”; I’ve tried everything and I failed. Please will you ask Jesus to help me overcome smoking? I’ve prayed to Him and He hasn’t answered my prayer.”
I asked her, “Why do you want to overcome smoking?” She said, “Because I want to be saved.” She had the idea that unless she went through the act of baptism she could not be saved. I said, “You don’t need my prayers. You need the gospel.” So I spent three months teaching her about the gospel. She was asking God to answer a prayer that would bypass the gospel and God doesn’t do that. God doesn’t give us victory in order to give us assurance. He gives us victory because we want to glorify Christ. So she needed to be re-educated and I spent three months studying with her, going step-by-step with her, showing her that we are saved by grace alone.
Suddenly it dawned on her that she had salvation as a gift. Once she had the peace of assurance I said to her, “I would love to baptize you but, if I do, my church will turn against me because we have a policy in our church that you can’t be baptized until you have given up smoking. But please remember if you die today heaven is yours because in your heart you have already given up smoking. You’re struggling with a habit that has a grip on you. It’s a compulsion that you can’t overcome yourself.”
After she had the peace of assurance of salvation I said, “Now, let us work on your smoking. Forget “Banfrom”; forget the “Five Day Smoking” program. Let’s spend a whole weekend in fasting and prayer and we did. Monday she called me. She said, “The desire is gone.” I said, “One moment, it is may be too soon.” Three months later she had not smoked even one cigarette. I baptized her and she became a very active person in the church.
Paul is not discussing the act of baptism. The thief on the cross was baptized by the Spirit. He was not baptized by the act. There are too many who are buried alive. They have gone through the act but they haven’t died with Christ; therefore, they have not risen to newness of life in Christ.
So let’s look at the meaning of baptism.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Baptism as an experience is always into Christ. But that into Christ is not in any vague manner. Baptism into Christ means that His death is accepted by you as your death.
We were therefore buried with him...
Remember, it is illegal in this country to bury somebody who has not died so in the same way we should be sure that the person who has asked for baptism has surrendered to the cross. We can’t read their hearts but if they say, “Yes” and they are lying, God will take care of them. I’m talking from experience.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death [but Christ did not remain in the grave] in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
What is Paul saying here? First, what is death? In the Bible, death is not the separation of the soul and the body. That is the Greek concept, not the Biblical concept. Death is good-bye to life.
Faith is more than a mental assent to truth; faith is obeying the gospel. The gospel and the law are not the same thing. The gospel is the truth as it is in Christ. The gospel comes to you and God says, “When Christ died, you died; when He lived, you lived; when He was buried, you were buried, when He rose from the dead, you were raised. I did this without your permission but since I created you with a free will I am asking you to accept your history in My Son.” And you say, “Yes, I accept His death as my death.”
When a person dies, you bury him. That’s what they did with Christ. Christ rose up from the dead not with the same life. He gave the human race another life and you will find this in 1 John 5:11.
1 John 5:11:
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
In the Greek there are two words for life, bios, from which we have biography, and zoe, which is the life that Christ gives us. Bios primarily refers to what you do. You get up at six in the morning; you have your shower; then you listen to the news; you have your breakfast; you go to work; you stop at 11 o’clock and have a coffee break; then you keep on working till 12 o’clock; you have your lunch break; you have your hamburger then you go to 4 o’clock; then you finish your work and you come home, and you let the wife, who has also been working, wash the dishes and you look at the newspaper because you are the head of the house and you need to keep in touch with the world and the TV. Then 11 o’clock comes and you go to sleep.
Then you become a Christian and you change your bios. Instead of getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning and listening to the TV you get up at 5:30 and spend one half hour studying your Bible. You have changed your bios but it is the same old life now modifying itself. Then when you go to the coffee break, you now have Postum or juice. When you come home, instead of having a hamburger, you have a vegeburger.
What have you done? You have only changed the outside. The life is the same and you are fooling yourself. Christianity is not a modification of the old life. We got that from Judaism, not from the Bible. Christianity is accepting the life of Christ in exchange for my life. Let me put it in a nutshell:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever and the life He lived 2,000 years ago He will reproduce in you — not to give you assurance of salvation; not to save you, but to show to the world that this is the gospel, the power of salvation.
When the world sees Christ in you, the hope of glory, they won’t give you or your denomination the glory. They will give God the glory, for I read in Matthew 5:14 that we Christians are “the light of the world.” The word “light” is in the singular in the Greek and the word “you” is in the plural.
When we hold candles and sing This Little Light of Mine, it is a contradiction of this text. We are not many lights; we are only one light, the Light that lights every man. We are many people but one Light. Jesus said, “Let your light shine and men see your good works and glorify God.” That is Christianity in practice.
For if we have been united [the Greek word is “grafted”] with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with [a true translation is “that the body of sin might be deprived of its power”], that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Let’s say you are going in a bus on a long trip too far for one driver so you need two drivers. The first driver is very reckless and he takes corners on two wheels. Your heart is beating fast; you can’t sing; you can’t relax because he’s reckless. Halfway through the trip he gets off and the new driver takes over; it’s the same bus, the same people in it but a new driver and he’s very careful. You sit back and sing. The difference is not the bus. The difference is the driver. Christianity is exchanging the old driver for the new driver. “Not I, but Christ.” The new driver will use the same body, the same hands, the same legs that went about doing everything for itself but now doing everything to glorify the Father in heaven. That is Christianity; that is what Paul is saying.
But now look:
...Because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
“Freed” is not the word Paul used. The word “freed” here in all the translations I have come across in the Greek is dikaios, which means “justified.” Acts 13:39 uses the same word in the KJV but is translated “justified.”
Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
Suppose I rob a bank of $10,000 and I am caught. I am brought before the judge and sentenced to five years imprisonment. I am now a condemned criminal for robbing a bank. I go to the penitentiary and spend five years. After spending five years in the penitentiary, I come out. Can the policeman arrest me for that crime? Do I still come out a condemned criminal as far as the law is concerned? No. I come out justified. The word “justified” can apply two ways. If you are innocent, if you are guiltless, the law will justify you. But none of us are innocent or guiltless. But, if you have paid the price for sin, the law will also justify you. If you died to sin and the law says, “The soul that sins, it will die,” remember that you have already died in Christ 2,000 years ago. In your baptism you are confessing publicly that you are accepting that death as your death. No longer will the law condemn you.
Romans 6:8-9 tells us what happens:
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
If you have obeyed the gospel, death — the second death — no longer has dominion over you. Do you believe that?
We have already covered verses 11 and 12. Verse 12:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Stop condoning sin. You have said good-bye to it through the cross of Christ.
Yes, you still have a sinful nature; you will struggle; you will fall many times. But if you have actually obeyed the gospel, you can say with Paul, “It is no longer I (the converted mind) but it is sin that dwells in my body.” And you will have to cry out, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of sin?” The answer is, “I thank God through Jesus Christ.” God does not give us too much victory not because He can’t give it to us but because we are not safe for victory as long as we are depending on victory for assurance.
We cannot produce a people who are safe for victory by pushing legalism, by pushing people and saying, “Unless you overcome sin you will not be able to meet the Lord.” That is the devil’s way. The way to produce a people who will reflect Christ is to anchor them on the doctrine of genuine justification by faith. The fruits will take care of themselves.
In the second half of Romans 6, Paul is dealing with the same issue. In the first half, Paul is not talking about falling into sin. He says that we can’t condone sinning because we have died to it.
We will spend a whole study in Romans 7 because it is expounding on the second half of Romans 6. We should analyze the text Romans 6:14:
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Paul is saying many things in this text but one of them is that sin cannot destroy you; sin cannot kill you because you are not under law but under grace.
Let me explain. If you read 1 Corinthians 15:56, Paul tells us some very important facts.
1 Corinthians 15:56-57:
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sin gets its authority to destroy you from the law but if you are not under the law then the law cannot give sin the authority to destroy you because you are under grace.
That is good news. Here is an example. The speed limit had changed in America to 55 m.p.h. In the good old days it was 75 m.p.h. In those days, when we came to America, the cheapest cars were the big cars with V-8 engines so I got a V-8 Chevy. In Africa, the roads are terrible but, in America, there are beautiful freeways but there is a 55 m.p.h. speed limit. You can imagine the struggle I had. But I had a back seat driver, our three-year old daughter, and every time that needle went above 55 she told me in no uncertain terms, “Slow down. You’re breaking the law.”
We went to visit my wife’s sister in Toronto, Canada, and we crossed the border. To my joy, I discovered that the sign on the road said 65 m.p.h. My daughter did not see it but I did. I stepped on the pedal; she was horrified because I moved from 55 to 60 to 65 and she yelled at me and yelled at me and finally she turned around and a police car was coming with red flashing lights.
She pleaded with me and I said to her, “Jenny, don’t worry; all they can do is put me in prison.” She said, “If you are in prison, who will drive?” I was the only driver in the family so she panicked. Then the police car passed us and she said, “Oh, you’re lucky he didn’t catch you.” She was judging me by the law of America. The law of America could not accuse me for breaking the law of America when I was driving in Canada. I was no longer under the law of America. Then I showed her the speed limit as we passed one of the signs and she boxed my ears for teasing her.
When you are under grace, the devil, after knocking you down, says, “You are condemned” and you tell the devil, “Go find somebody else. I am under grace.” That is good news. It is also dangerous news.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!
The answer is, “God forbid” or “That is unthinkable.”
Now he gives another reason.
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
A Christian is a person who from the heart has obeyed the gospel and by obeying the gospel has become obedient to righteousness. Adam and Christ represent two different systems. Adam represents sin; Christ represents righteousness. The moment you accept Christ, you are choosing righteousness, not only as your ticket to heaven but as your lifestyle. Paul says in Romans:
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart [faith is a heart obedience] the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin [through the cross of Christ] and have become slaves to righteousness.
A Christian is dead to sin and alive to God and a Christian by his own choice has chosen to be a slave of righteousness of whom Christ is the Author.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
A Christian, on the one hand, must not use the law, good works, or Christian living as a method of salvation. On the other hand, we must not condone sin. For me to live is Christ and I will live the Christian life. I will take all the old rules but they are no longer rules to me. They have become an inward desire.
I took a Week of Prayer at a college where they “followed the blueprint.” At the end of the Week of Prayer, the doctor who was in charge of a Newstart program came up to me and asked, “How do we practice righteousness by faith in an institution like this?” I said, “You must make a distinction between the rules of this college and Christianity because students look at the rules as Christianity. Tell them, ‘These are the rules of the college. Every college has rules.’ Then give them Christ.”
I gave him an example. I said, “I have been sitting in the dining room at lunch and supper time with the students. There are two groups of students in this college. Ninety percent of the students who come here come because they want to grow spiritually. Your rules are unnecessary. You don’t have to make a rule such as, “Please don’t go out and eat at McDonald’s.” They won’t go in any case. You don’t have to make a rule about lights out. These young people are obeying the rules from the heart. They are not rules to them. It is the lifestyle that they have chosen. But there are some of the students here, about ten percent, who have been sent by their parents to be reformed.”
I gave him one example. A girl came up to me who was sent to this college by her parents who came from the same area I was pastoring, so she knew that I knew her mother. She said, “Pastor please, don’t you ever tell my mother that this is a good college.” I asked, “Why?” She said, “Because I do not want three more years of hell.” That was her evaluation of this college. To the other ninety percent it was heaven on earth. They didn’t need the rules. The rules were already written on their hearts.
We have made too many rules for our children — dos and don’ts — and we have equated those rules with Christianity. No. Christianity is Christ coming in you, changing your desires, your ambitions, and suddenly there is a transformation. That is Christianity. When I first took a class at Walla Walla, two of the young boys in front of me had earrings. One of them had shaved his hair all down one side and the other one’s hair was long to his shoulders.
I said to myself, “What do I do? The rule of the college says no earrings for girls, but these are boys. Maybe they are not Christians.” I discovered both of them were third-generation Christians. I had two choices of bringing the rules before them or giving them the gospel. I gave them the gospel and the hair styles changed; the earrings came off in three months.
A year later, I performed the marriage of one of those boys and at the wedding the mother came up to me and said, “I don’t know what you did with my son. He has completely changed. He even pays tithe.” To her it was a miracle that he even paid tithe. “What did you do?” I said, “I gave him Jesus Christ and that changed him.”
We thank God for the gospel that has moved us from condemnation to justification, from death to life. We thank Him for the gospel which guarantees our salvation, not because of anything we have done; it is by grace alone. I pray sincerely that none will be trapped into legalism after they have heard this message and that all will be protected from the evil one who will come as an angel of light. On the other hand, I pray that we will not disgrace Him by turning the gospel of salvation from sin into a license to sin.
I go to church and I ask the first elder, “How has it been this week?” “Oh, fine.” Yet he has been struggling, but doesn’t want to reveal it. So we come to church and everybody says, “I’m fine.” We have a lot of people who are suffering, struggling, all telling each other that life is wonderful. Grace liberates us from all this.
Once I was asked to be involved in an alcoholic program in a hospital. One thing that impressed me with this group was that they were honestly explaining their weakness. These people are more Christian than church members who are only saints outwardly. The church is not for sinless people. It is where sinners who are struggling with the flesh get help. Let us stop fooling ourselves and let us be honest. Remember we are all one hundred percent sinners saved by grace; therefore, we need to help each other, because the church is one body.
When my stomach is hungry it tells the head, “I’m hungry,” and the head tells the legs, “Take this man to the fridge.” Then the legs do not say, “I’m not hungry. If the stomach is hungry it can go himself.” No, the legs take me to the fridge because the legs are in total submission to the head. Now I reach the fridge and the head says to the hands, “Open that door and pull out that lemon meringue pie.” The hands don’t say, “Let the stomach do what it wants,” because the hands are in total obedience to the head.
If all of us were living in subjection to the head, which is Christ, we would have perfect unity in the church and we would help each other. Paul brings this out in Corinthians that if one suffers, all suffer. If one is praised, the others do not get jealous; they rejoice with that person! That is Christianity. But the gospel must set us free. One way the gospel sets us free is through the law. It shows us our exceeding sinfulness, which then drives us to Jesus Christ. This is the solution to our sin problem.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Christian church was being introduced to a doctrine that was new to them. It was not brand new because it first rose up in the third century but was rejected. But now it was accepted and popularized — the doctrine of Dispensationalism.
That doctrine taught:
So they began teaching that the law was done away with through grace. But the truth is that not the law, but we were done away with; we died, not the law.
As a church, we tried to counteract that. So we began to preach the law, the law, and the law, and we forgot grace. A Bible Institute, training ministers to evangelize the world was held. In that Institute, which was recorded, there was not one study on Justification by Faith.
We have faced a problem that is similar to the Jews. We have, therefore, produced a people who are insecure about their salvation, who are always wondering, “Will I make it?” There is no joy, no peace, no hope. In the old days, we used the law as a tool to get works out of our people but today we are dealing with baby boomers who have had enough. Now all our promotional programs and all our incentives are not working, so the church in America is dying. We cannot revive it by rules or by promotional programs. Let us lift up Christ and all men, old and young, will be drawn to Him.
Because of our preaching the law, the law and the law we had a problem. The Dispensationalists came up with texts. One of them was Romans 7:6:
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
We are released from the law. Another one was Galatians 3:23-24:
Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
We solved those problems by saying, “Those texts refer to the ceremonial law.” We produced a very neat theology that contradicted the context. Then a series of articles was published which said that the law of Galatians is the moral law. The problem was that the evangelists were teaching that it was the ceremonial law and others were teaching it was the moral law so it produced a conflict.
It came to a head and we were told that we had preached the law, the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa and that we should not condemn these men who were preaching righteousness by faith unless we could prove from the Word of God that they were wrong.
The reason God gave the law is to drive us to Jesus Christ because sin is a deceiver. Sin does not tell us that we are a one hundred percent sinner. Sin tells us that we are bad but we still have something good in us and all we have to do is use that goodness to counteract the badness.
That is the basis of a new movement that says we have something good in us. But the law of God says that from head to foot there is nothing good in us. Our only hope is Jesus Christ. When the law drives us one hundred percent to Christ it has done its function. Christ will say, “Now let Me take over. Let Me live in you and the life I live in you will be in harmony with what you couldn’t do by yourself. You will bear the fruits of the Spirit; against such there is no law, because it is in harmony with the law.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
So righteousness by faith is not cheap grace. Righteousness by faith does not produce a people who are given license to sin. That is false doctrine. Righteousness by faith produces a people who are falling in love with Christ and who have understood the gospel and who say, “For me to live is Christ and if I have to die it is profit.”
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Romans 7:14-25 is the punch line because Paul is showing here that, even after conversion, even after you have been born again, the sinful nature, which is the flesh, and the law are still incompatible. The devil comes and tells us, “No, no, Paul is not talking about Christians. He is talking about his preconverted experience.”
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
The proof that the devil is lying is:
...As for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.