Recently, I have heard Christians describe righteous living as “dead works” or “living under the law”. I have heard that we should disregard the very words of Jesus because they were spoken “before He went to the cross”. I have heard that the New Testament contains only grace and no law. I have heard that when we sin, it does not affect our relationship with God because when God looks at us, all He sees is Jesus. Some say we no longer need to ask for forgiveness when we sin because Christ has forgiven past, present and future sins. Others say we CANNOT sin because Christ’s death abolished sin. These teachings and several others are currently spreading like wildfire among many churches. Are they biblical or have we bought a lie? Are we buying into 30 or 45 minute sermons with carefully selected bible verses without going home to study extensively on issues that have to do with our souls? All teaching must stand the test of lining up with God’s word, no matter how right sounding and how eloquent or anointed the lips that proclaim it.
First off, I must say that as Christians, we may differ on certain doctrinal issues like how often we should take communion for instance. However, there are some doctrines that have eternal significance and on which the bible is emphatic. On those, we must not compromise.
The bible is accurate and even though it sometimes appears to contradict itself, it does not. It is important in studying any verse of scripture, to always find out what the entire book and chapter are about. It is necessary to read preceding and following verses, and identify who the verse is addressing in order not to take the scripture out of context. It is also very important to compare seemingly contradictory verses of scripture with each other and sometimes other translations, in order to appreciate the full import of what is being said. It also helps to look at sub- headings and footnotes in bibles that have them.
In this four part series, I will be examining some doctrines that have become popular in recent years. I know that not everyone will agree with what I have written here but I ask in all humility that before you comment on this, kindly ensure that you read all four parts, go back to the Word and prayerfully study the verses I have provided here; not with the aim of proving me wrong, but with the aim of ensuring that what you know is the truth.
SALVATION; PAID IN FULL
There are some things the bible is very clear about. Salvation is completely by Gods grace, through faith. No amount of good works could ever substitute for Christ’s death on the cross. This means that if we did all the good works in the world without FIRST accepting Christ, we would still go to hell. This is why the bible makes us understand that it is not our works that save us (Eph 2:8-9). Upon accepting Christ, it is this same saving grace which will help us lead godly lives. If we tried on our own to do good works, we would fail every single time. It is grace that empowers us, giving us both the desire and the means to please God (Phil 2:13).
IS THE NEW TESTAMENT ALL GRACE AND NO LAW?
I have heard it taught that the New Testament contains only grace and no law and that the 10 commandments have no place in a believer’s life. Is this completely true? There were over 600 laws in the Old Testament. These included civil, ceremonial and moral laws; the most popular being the 10 moral laws. Contrary to what most teach, the New Testament itself contains more commands than the old and includes most of its moral laws! Jesus even personally endorsed some of them! (Matt 19:16-19). So while the Old Testament laws are not binding on Christians today, the New Testament commands are! Some say that Jesus brought a new law which nullifies the 10 commandments; the law of love (John 13:34, Matt 22:37-39). In actual fact, this new law does not nullify, but fulfils and encompasses all the others (Rom 13:10, Gal 5:14). Does all this talk about law negate the grace of God? No! We are no longer under the law and the punishment, condemnation and bondage of sin (Rom 7:6). We are under grace and grace demands that we love God and keep his commandments (2John: 6, James 1:22, Matt 28:20). It’s just that simple.
WE ARE SAVED TO “DO”
I have heard some preachers say that after you accept Jesus into your life, you must cease from works. They say any deliberate move to live right shows that you are saved by your works and you are saying Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient to save you. But is this true if it is Christ Himself that gives you the grace to live right and if it is Him that is at work within you? The truth is that salvation produces good works. (Titus 2:11-12). In fact, God is glorified when we obey His commands and live righteously (Matt 5:16, 2Tim 1:9, 1John 2:3-5, Phil 1:11). The bible is very clear that works do not save us but it is also clear that we are saved FOR good works (Eph 2:8-10). We are then subsequently enjoined to be zealous (passionate) for good works! (Titus 2:14). Good works are the products of our salvation (Eph 2:10, Gal 5:25, 1John 2:3).
Those who preach that any work after salvation is bad usually quote Galatians 5:4 where believers are instructed not to become entangled with the law again. However, this verse was speaking of the Old Testament laws which some of the early Christians were still bent on observing. That’s why circumcision was mentioned (Gal 5:3). Further down in Galatians 6:2 and indeed across the entire New Testament, believers are instructed to keep Christ’s (New Testament) laws! It is important to note here that “the works of the law which Paul mentions in Gal 2:16 and Gal 3:10 is different from the works mentioned in James 2:17. We must be able to differentiate between the “works of the law” and “good works” which God ordained for New Testament believers to do.
The bible records in different verses that we are to REJECT ungodliness, HOLD FAST our confidence, FLEE youthful lusts, RESIST the devil, FIGHT the good fight, STRIP OFF every weight, RUN the race that is set, PRESENT our bodies, WALK IN the spirit, REMAIN IN fellowship, CARRY our crosses, THROW OFF our old nature, TURN FROM sinful pleasures, ENDURE so as to reign with Him, FOLLOW peace and holiness, CRUCIFY the flesh, etc. Those are all instructions to believers; good actions which we will have to carry out ourselves AFTER salvation. Matt 6:33, 7:21 and many other verses of scripture give direct instructions to “do” His will and actively pursue a righteous lifestyle. So the teaching that nothing is expected of us after salvation is totally wrong.
I will continue the series next time with the sub- topic “Can a believer sin?”