I recently started a discussion on Facebook with a statement about the extravagance of God’s Grace and the futility of good deeds without faith.
Moments of righteousness for unbelievers are as insignificant in God’s sight as moments of sinfulness are for His children, believers.
What a stir that caused! Here is an excerpt of the discussion that ensued.Chris replied, “I dont believe this one bit. God delights in righteousness of any kind.”
John contributed, “Righteousness can only be inspired and empowered by Holy Spirit. Any activity of a person who is unsaved can never be righteous anyway because it will be corrupted by sin.”
Chris continued, “On one hand I agree, and on the other I disagree whole-heartedly. I think the righteous act by someone who is unsaved, breaks God’s heart even more, and is even more significant because it is one of his creations that has such potential, and reflects his nature will ultimately be lost.”
Joshua joined in with, “The state of sin and sins are as different as the state of righteousness and righteous acts. I agree 100% with Dave. Because we stand perfect before God through Christ Jesus, moments of sinfulness become insignificant which is why the law was fulfilled through Jesus. His blood is the only is the only righteousness God is interested in and the only sacrifice that permanately satisfies the law.”
It was here I feared more had been read into my initial statement than had been written, so I clarified, “Chris, it’s not a callous comment on the poor, lost person trying to do good. This is a comment delighting in Grace, not self. Only read the words being said. It’s a comment on the uselessness of “MOMENTS” of either type, compared to the power of belonging to either kingdom. For Believers, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by faith in Him. For unbelievers, no righteousness makes the grade (Rom3:23). Moments are not what matter. I’d like to see the Scriptures where moments of righteousness from faithless unbelievers are delightful to God, though. 😉
Spot on, Joshua. The Word says, fairly repeatedly,
Isaiah 64:6 “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
Ephesians 2:9 “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Philippians 8:9 “I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.”
Matthew 5:20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”
Galations 3:10-11 “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
Romans 5:20-6:2 “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! …”
In other words, I was affirming that the Word says no matter how hard we try, OUR own efforts at righteousness will never amount to changing how He must regard us, or Christ’s death was in vain – it cannot be added to and is by no means anything but completely essential. Equally radically, no matter how bent and twisted we were before loving Him; He extravagantly *graciously* accepts us, forgives us, erases our sin and sees Christ’s righteousness in us when we believe in the risen Jesus Christ and make Him our Lord, and praise God forever for that!”
At this point Chris offered to not disagree any more, to which I sincerely entreated, “Bring it. Make me clarify & prove it (Pr 27:17). It’s good for all to dig into the Word. I wouldn’t have looked up those verses and someone probably needed them.”
Lyn agreed. “No Chris, please comment. It makes Dave explain things and clarify things – and he does that so well!! And your comment, as Dave said, probably opened up the Scriptures for someone who needed to read them.”
Chris, now late in the night, thankfully rejoined saying, “My angle is this. In the first 5 chapters of Romans Paul makes his case for why Jesus is the fulfilment of the Jewish religion. He shows man’s helpless state, he shows Jesus as the only way that the price can be paid. Then in Romans 6 he asks the question “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?“. And he goes on to explain that the sins of the saved person ARE significant. They matter.
Just as the sins of the saved matter, the righteousness of the unsaved matter. They are an expression of the image of God that still exists in EVERY human. Modern theology (Since Luther and Calvin) has centred (and rightly as a reaction to the corruption in the church at the time) on Grace alone. No-one can save themselves. But James, the brother of Jesus also says that faith without works is dead. Wrong matters, and right matters, no matter where it comes from.
Jesus commends the “unsaved” Samaritain in his parable for being more of a true neighbour, and showing true love than the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus recognises and values right things done by “wrong” people. Somehow the lines are not as black and white as we like to think. I think there will be many people in heaven that we do not expect, and many left out that we dont.
I think in modern theology we have underestimated how much God hates sin, and conversely how much he loves good. The more he hates sin, the more remarkable the grace. The more he loves the more remarkable the grace.
Regarding the significance of sin. I think there is a paradox, we are approaching from different ends.
Sins of belivers matter, otherwise God would not discipline us. He would not correct us. There is much in Jesus words, and Pauls letters that say the sins of the saved matter. Our sins matter to our ability to walk in step with Him, and I believe our sins will determine some of our circumstances in heaven. The sin is forgiven but the consequences remain.
But then there is also the side where God’s grace covers all. He forgives completely. With regards to salvation …. the sins of a righteous person dont count because Jesus has paid the price. It is a bit like Jesus taking the rap for a murder charge. The price has been paid, but the consequences still go on, especially for the family of the victim of the crime.”
The next morning, bright and early, Joshua responded, “I thank God He has not only forgiven my sins but forgotten them as they are irrelevant to Him, I also thank God that as an ex smoker, Jesus has removed the natural consequence of my sin and divine health is still my inheritance regardless of my actions. A ticket to heaven and an early departure time due to my own sin is not God’s plan for salvation.
Because grace is available doesn’t mean I sin even more, true, but the more I find out about Gods grace and mercy the more I’m inspired to not sin, not the other way around. That was Paul’s message in Romans and throughout the NT. Most times Jesus told a person “salvation has come” it was just after he healed them or set them free from what ever was keeping them in bondage. Salvation is for this life just much as it is for the next even if we need saving from the mess we ourselves created.
I concur totally that we will be more surprised who is in heaven than who’s not as God’s love knows no end. However equally I think in heaven we will be surprised what else he saved us from that we just put up with on earth.
This surprise may come because we are reticent to see ourselves as beloved children of God standing perfect before Him at ALL times, with full access to the same inheritance of Jesus.”
I was loving this as I kept tabs on it, but Chris beat me to it, replying, “I agree with all you have said Joshua, except that God does not always remove the earthly consequences of our sin. Take King David. He sinned in a big way. God forgave him. But the consequences of his sin were there for the rest of his life, and way beyond. He was not allowed to build the temple of God, his family was a mess because of the adultary, and the resultant sibling rivalries, and this ultimately led to the split of Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.”
Joshua then explained, “OT, we are under a new contract. Jesus said himself what he came to do:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord .” (Luke 4:18, 19 NKJV)
There is no qualification in there that if you are poor, broken hearted, in captivity, blind or oppressed by anything you caused yourself through sin than the ministry of Jesus doesn’t apply to you.
“Shalom,” which Jesus said “I give to you, my shalom I leave with you“, is nothing missing nothing broken. Once again no qualification about whether or not you deserve something missing or something broken.
Abraham lied to Pharaoh about his wife, (sin), and God blessed him in spite of it. Then later on he committed the same sin again with the same outcome??? Abraham’s covenant is closer to our deal now than what David operated under. Furthermore David by no means received the full consequences of his actions.
You can take this too far, granted and of course there are natural consequences to sin, however, Romans 5 deals with this very well.
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. (Romans 5:17 NKJV)
Whatever the consequence of sin, much more grace is available to us through Christ.
No circumstance or situation, even caused by ourselves, Is too big, bad and ugly for the blood of Jesus to turn around into – nothing missing, nothing broken.”
Now I was ready and available to dig into the Word and get back into the conversation!
I began by explaining, “Romans 1-5 “Grace is extravagant, and the logical completion of the law”; then in Romans 6 “Grace is not license to sin”; but Romans 8 then begins re-emphasising the inescapable centrality of Grace to the Gospel beginning with, “So now there is NO condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death…God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be FULLY satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” This follows Paul’s discussion that he still wrestles with his sinful nature, but is the conclusion to the progression: grace is unlimited but not an excuse so don’t sin even though it’s not easy but if you did grace is unlimited. 🙂
Yes this is a reduction of the complex & mysterious, but faith like a child dictates there are depths for everyone, and this is how simple we must be able to make it for the vast number of believers literally still burdened with Pharisaical religion and condemnation not appropriate to the Gospel of Grace. If the Church was burdened with lascivious permissiveness, let’s emphasise correction. But in my observation, the average believer still struggles with perceiving just how God sees us.
Jesus took our punishment, ALL of it, on the cross. God judged Him there, and it was finished. I don’t get judged again, or punished further – Christ has satisfied the Law on my behalf, so now there is NO condemnation for me: I belong to Christ Jesus! Can somebody give me a “Hallelujah”?!
We acknowledge that we love Him because he first loved us, and our love response is submission to his Lordship: but that doesn’t mean every time we mention the extravagance of his grace we need to say, “Yes, but…” We don’t need practice feeling guilty – that comes naturally. We need practice feeling forgiven, healed, redeemed and restored – and THAT is the Gospel I preach (without excluding the need to live without sin, but to live righteously as an Holy Spirit-inspired response. Let’s preach what we need to practice. Let’s teach what doesn’t come naturally. Let’s share the revelation that not everybody can agree with instinctively & sensibly.”
“?…”Faith without works is dead.”
True! And our faith activates His grace, and together they equate our salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 “God saved you by his GRACE when you BELIEVED. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the GOOD [or righteous] things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.””
“…”Wrong matters, and right matters, no matter where it comes from.”
The simple point of the post and the Truth of the Gospel is this – as far as eternity is concerned, all the good works in the world cannot convince God to award you eternal life – they have no potency for Salvation. And Grace equally states that once you are robed in the Righteousness Jesus gives you, the Law has been satisfied and there is nothing more to do – nothing can be taken away from your righteousness in Christ, and nothing can be added to it.
I know what you’re saying about the Good Samaritan, and faith without works, and the pleasure God takes in His will being done by anyone – you’re absolutely right; but it’s pretty well missing the point and certainly not in debate. I don’t think you for a second think that any good deed by a faithless unbeliever will count towards their salvation, and that unfortunately there’s no points for a good effort. You’re absolutely right that we are obliged to righteousness by the privilege of being robed with his righteousness, and compelled while empowered by His Spirit indwelling us, and we in Him.”
“This bit I struggle a bit with, Chris: “Sins of belivers matter, otherwise God would not discipline us. He would not correct us … I believe our sins will determine some of our circumstances in heaven. The sin is forgiven but the consequences remain.”
We may be agreeing, but perhaps it’s the wording I’m uncomfortable with.
Discipline and correction from God for the Believer is NOT punishment. The Law was *completely* satisfied in the person of Christ Jesus (Ro 8:4). What we may agree on is that discipline and correction is part of coaching to excellence in Godliness, just like an athlete would welcome the discipline and correction to run his race the best that he can.
The consequence of sin is separation from God, therefore it is impossible for the consequences of our sin to remain in Heaven, especially as they have been completely removed and erased. The word ‘justified’ was coined by Bible translators because there was no other word around to properly convey the fundamental doctrine that it was made “Just as if I’d never sinned”. I have to share this theme, sorry, it’s just so excitingly awesome! …
Rom 3:24 “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Rom 3:28 “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”
Rom 5:1 “we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
Rom 5:9 “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (consequences?)
Rom 8:30 “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”
Rom 10:10 “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
1 Cor 6:11 “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Gal 2:16 “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”
Psalm 103:12 best describes being justified, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” He has removed our transgressions from us. Hebrews 10:16-17 also confirms, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” How can He then carry a record of them into Heaven, and not be a liar?
The Bible’s not saying God is Doctor Who and removes the occasion of sin from a believer’s timeline. Yes, a murdered person generally stays murdered when the murderer Believes on Jesus as receives imputed righteousness, and the murderer will probably have to serve His sentence. But God certainly can and is willing to remove the consequences of the murderer’s sinful nature and bring healing to his body, soul and spirit. That is just a simple promise of Shalom, as Josh defined: nothing missing, nothing broken.
You’ve made me research my understanding of the next bit, thank you. My understanding is that unbelievers will be judged for their sins (Rev 20:12-15), and the Believer’s judgement is for rewards, not punishments.
No saints will appear before the Great White Throne, and no sinners will appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10). John 5:24 says, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged”
In Rom 14:10 the Holy Spirit used a distinctly different Greek word for the judgement of saints, “bema”, which speaks of the judge’s seat in an Olympic arena. It wasn’t used to punish, but reward contestants.
PERHAPS the most fitting Scripture to confirm our unity on this topic is Hebrews 12:1, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
The conversation continued for a bit more, although on a slight tangent to the original statement and ensuing discussion.