This article, Part 4, continues where Part 3 ended.
Now I'll quote part of what Joseph says on pages 27-29 in his chapter 3. (As is typical, I frequently make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]]. Unless otherwise noted I will always quote from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 editioin.) "Today, conventional theology teaches you that not only is there such a thing as 'positional righteousness,' there is also something known as 'practical righteousness.' [[As I have discussed to a significant extent already, what "conventional theology" calls "practical righteousness" and I sometimes call "actual righteousness" is by far the more basic meaning of the word righteousness throughout the New Testament than "positional righteousness." ((I had a footnote, This is also true for the meaning of the Greek word translated righteousness as it would have been used by those speaking Greek in a non-biblical setting. And it is true for the Hebrew word translated righteousness. Essentially all the uses of that word in the Old Testament refer to an actual righteousness. The same thing is true for the word "righteous" in the New Testament, in the Old Testament, and in the Greek speaking world of Paul's day. And the same thing is true for the early Christian writers. I have read many of the writings of those writers up until about AD450.)) We don't have to apologize for seeing actual righteousness in the Bible. That is the more basic meaning of the word.]] They are saying that even though you were made righteous by grace [[Joseph means made righteous by grace in a positional sense. It is biblical to speak of our positional righteousness, starting at the time we become Christians. The primary reason why it is reasonable to speak of our positional righteousness, which is straining the meaning of the word righteousness, is because at the same time God, the Judge, forgives us and declares us righteous in a legal, positional sense, He also declares that spiritual death has no more authority over us (and we are born again) and He declares that sin and Satan have no more authority over us and He calls, enables, and requires us to walk by His Spirit and manifest His righteousness in our daily lives, since we have entered into new-covenant salvation through the blood of Christ by faith.]], you now have to do right and keep the law to continue being righteous. They call this having 'practical righteousness.'
My friend, this is something that Apostle Paul never taught! [[As I have demonstrated to a significant extent already in these articles, this is exactly what the apostle Paul (and the apostle Peter, and the apostle John, etc.) did teach. See the apostle Paul's five uses of the word righteousness in Romans chapter 6, for example; see the apostle Peter's use of the word in 1 Pet. 2:24, for example; and see the apostle John's use of the word in 1 John 2:29; 3:7, 10, for example. This teaching permeates the New Testament, as my book and other writings demonstrate.]] There is only one righteousness in Christ Jesus. [Joseph means positional righteousness. He is wrong.] Let's see what Paul says about those who are ignorant of this righteousness. He said, 'For they being ignorant of God's righteousness [that's what some people term 'positional righteousness' (This bracket and the following bracket were written by Joseph.)], and seeking to establish their own righteousness [now that would be what they call 'practical righteousness'], have not submitted to the righteousness of God)' (Rom. 10:3). So it is clear that Paul is against any teaching that says that you have to earn and merit your own righteousness. You are either righteous or you are not. There is no such thing as first having 'positional righteousness' and then having to maintain that through 'practical righteousness.' You are the righteousness of God in Christ, period!"
One problem here is that Joseph has misunderstood Rom. 10:3. As Rom. 10:1, 2 demonstrate, Paul was speaking here (as he was throughout much of Romans chapters 9-11) about the large number of Jews who had not become Christians. (This was about AD55, some twenty five years after the Day of Pentecost.) When Paul said that they were "ignorant of God's righteousness," he was speaking of the righteousness of God that was provided to those who submit (by faith) to God's new-covenant plan of salvation, which those Jews had not done. As we have discussed, the righteousness that the apostle was speaking about here was not at all limited to a positional righteousness. The gospel that the apostle Paul preached dealt, for the most part, with God's actually making Christians righteous with His righteousness, through the shed blood of His Son and by the outpoured Spirit of righteousness. The old covenant could not begin to do this, but as I have mentioned, God often prophesied through the old covenant prophets that He was going to do this. He did it!
And when Paul spoke of them "seeking to establish their own righteousness," he was speaking of those Jews who were rejecting the gospel and seeking to establish their own righteousness by trying to keep God's commandments apart from the grace of God in Christ. When Paul said that those Jews "have not submitted to the righteousness of God" he meant that they have not submitted (by faith) to new-covenant salvation in Christ. To submit to the righteousness of God in Christ, you have to give up trying to keep the Law apart from the sanctifying grace of God in Christ. When you live in God's righteousness, keeping His moral law, through the grace of God in Christ, God gets all the glory. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
As I have demonstrated, Paul's bottom line of Christianity is that our lives manifest the actual righteousness of God as we walk in faith and in the Holy Spirit by grace, which is required of all Christians. It's true, as Joseph says here, "Paul is against any teaching that says that you have to earn and merit your own righteousness." But we must understand that when Christians manifest the actual righteousness of God in their daily lives by the saving grace of God in Christ, this has nothing whatsoever to do with "earning" or "meriting your own righteousness." This is God's righteousness that we receive and walk in by grace through faith. This actual, imparted righteousness comes as a gift by God's grace just a much a His imputed, positional righteousness comes as a gift by His grace. It is totally unearned, and it is not "your own self-righteousness," which Joseph mentions on page 28.
Although the apostle Paul wasn't dealing with this problem in Rom. 10:3, Christians must understand, that to the extent they walk in the flesh and strive in the flesh to keep God's moral law, they will not find the authority or power to live in the righteousness of God. Furthermore, they will not be giving God the glory for any victories they might achieve on their own. If we could be righteous while walking in the flesh, that would be self-righteousness; but as we have discussed, we never will find the authority or power to overcome sin in the flesh. That's why we need more than the old covenant. We are totally dependent on the saving grace of God in Christ.
I'll quote a few sentences from page 29 and make a few comments. "Your righteous standing or right standing before Him can be received only as a gift. Today, your right to be righteous is a blood-bought right! [Joseph is speaking, of course, of positional righteousness.] There is nothing you can do that will make God love you more, and there is nothing that you can do that will make Him love you less. He loves you perfectly and He sees you clothed with Jesus' righteousness. So begin to see yourself clothed with Jesus' righteousness."
Teaching like this, which is very common in our day, can and is being abused by many Christians. And, in my opinion, much of the blame must be laid at the feet of many of those in the ministry. For one thing, God never sent any apostles (or anyone else) to offer people forgiveness and positional righteousness or right standing with God by itself. They would only be preaching about ten percent of God's gospel. We are obligated to submit (in faith) to all the terms of God's covenant that are spelled out in the gospel. We are required to humble ourselves before God, to repent, to make Him our Savior and our God. This includes our agreeing to make it a top priority to walk by His Spirit on a continuous basis in His righteousness and holiness, all by His sufficient enabling grace that cost Him greatly. This isn't an optional matter! It is required of us by covenant! But this is good news! Who wants to stay in bondage to sin? God doesn't give us the option to take the part of the gospel that we like while rejecting the rest of the gospel. But, again, once we really understand the rest of the gospel, we find that it is very good news, very good news indeed! And God's grace is sufficient for us to be, and to do, what He requires of us. He certainly gives us the grace to do what He requires of us!
It is true that we didn't deserve, and we can't earn, God's love. But God, by His grace, has imputed and imparted His righteousness to us. That's the heartbeat of the gospel. I'm totally sure that if we are living in sin, God sees it, and it is big deal. (I'm not speaking of our past sins, including any past sins we may have committed as Christians that have been forgiven when we repented of those sins.) We must make it a top priority to repent and to do everything we can do to walk in victory in every area, by God's sufficient grace in Christ.
Let me ask a question. If the Christians at ancient Ephesus did not repent when Jesus told them that He would remove their lampstand (their lampstand which showed that they were part of the worldwide Body of Christ) if they did not repent; and if the majority of the Christians at ancient Sardis did not wake up and repent when Jesus warned them that He would come after them like a thief in judgment, and indirectly stated that He would erase their names from the book of life, if they did not repent; and if the Christians at ancient Laodicea did not repent when Jesus told them that He would spit them out of His mouth if they did not repent, do you think that God would continue to love those "Christians" forever the same as He did before if they did not repent? (See Revelation chapters 2, 3. The New Testament is filled with similar warnings, and many of them came directly from the Lord Jesus.) Love, for the most part, is an action word. God's removing unrepentant rebels from His presence forever into an eternal lake of fire isn't a manifestation of love. God and His love and wrath aren't on trial! Rebels are on trial! God greatly manifested His love in the sacrifice of His Son and in offering us salvation, but what will be the outcome if we don't submit (in faith) to His salvation on His terms and continue in faith on His terms?
God is merciful, and He wants His children to repent where repentance is required. We must repent and do things His way, by His grace. There is no reasonable alternative. God knows our hearts. He knows if we love Him and want to be His people on His terms. He knows if we truly want to come into, and stay in, divine order and to live for Him in His righteousness and holiness, and He knows how to help those who humble themselves before Him and begin to cooperate with His saving grace in Christ by faith. God knows how to forgive and restore those who humbly yield to Him and His Word in faith. But how can He restore unrepentant rebels who are not interested in living in His divine order? God cannot allow rebels into heaven. They wouldn't want to be there on God's terms (not that they will want the alternative) and they would bring chaos to heaven.
We must not listen to the lying accusations of the devil and his evil, lying hosts (which, as Joseph knows) are very active in accusing God's people. When God forgives us we are forgiven, and His grace is sufficient to bring us into, and keep us in, the victory over sin. We certainly must be aiming at the right target!
Joseph's chapter 10 is titled, "The Ministry of Death." In this chapter Joseph rightly shows the powerlessness of the old-covenant Mosaic Law to save us from spiritual death and sin and why we need the new covenant to save us. But he significantly misses the balanced truth of what the apostle Paul was saying and confuses the issue by communicating the idea that since we are not under the old covenant, we are not required to preach, or to keep, God's (moral) law. This doesn't mean that Joseph thinks Christians are free to sin whenever they feel like it, but he certainly confuses the issue.
It is true that the New Testament shows that we are not under the Mosaic Law in most senses, but significantly, I have already demonstrated in this paper that (according to the New Testament) CHRISTIANS ARE ENABLED, AND REQUIRED, TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD'S MORAL LAW. See Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27; Rom. 2:26-29; 8:1-4; 1 Cor. 7:19, and John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-6; 5:2-4 (all these passages are quoted above, or quoted and discussed). These passages (and there are more such passages) demonstrate that we have the requirement, and privilege, to live in line with God's moral law in His righteousness. What true Christian wants to live outside of the will of God? Keeping God's commandments and living in His righteousness and holiness, by the saving grace of God in Christ, which includes all the work of the Holy Spirit, is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about.
This is so important I'll quote some more verses from the New Testament to show that we are required to keep the commandments of God's moral law. This isn't bad news! This is good news! God is enabling us to come into divine order. I am not saying that God's moral law can save us, but His law, which comes from His very nature, cannot change. His commandments give us His definition of what is right and wrong, and His definition lines up with reality and defines divine order.
I'll read what the apostle Paul said in 1 Thess. 4:2-8, "For you know what COMMANDMENTS we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. [The apostle goes on to show that keeping God's commandments equals living in a state of holiness, by God's sanctifying grace in Christ.] (3) For this is the will of God, your sanctification [I prefer the translation, "your holiness."], that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality [Paul undoubtedly dealt with the sin of immorality here because he knew that immorality was a problem in the newly founded church at Thessalonica (see 1 Thess. 3:6-10), but all sin, by definition, is incompatible with living in a state of holiness.]; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel [his own body] in sanctification [in holiness] and honor, (5) not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; (6) and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. [A man would transgress and defraud his brother by getting involved with his daughter, or his wife, for example.] (7) For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity but in sanctification ["in (a state of) holiness"]. (8) So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you." The apostle was exhorting, and requiring, the Christians who were living in sin to repent, by the sanctifying grace of God in Christ, which included all the work of the Holy Spirit who had been given to them. There was no other satisfactory answer for the Christians at ancient Thessalonica, or any other Christians! And the apostle certainly wasn't exhorting those Christians to gradually decrease their sexual immorality, or any other sin.
I quoted 1 John 2:3-6 earlier in this paper, but I'll quote these super-relevant verses again here with a little more comment. "BY THIS WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE COME TO KNOW HIM, IF WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. (4) THE ONE WHO SAYS, 'I HAVE COME TO KNOW HIM,' AND DOES NOT KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS IS A LIAR, AND THE TRUTH IS NOT IN HIM; (5) but whoever keeps His word [which includes keeping His commandments], in him the love of God has truly been perfected. [[1 John 4:12 says, "No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." God's love is perfected in us when we walk in His love (being enabled by the indwelling Spirit; love is a fruit of the Spirit [Gal. 5:22]). John is not speaking of some way-out unattainable level of love, but of the love Christians will manifest as they walk by the Holy Spirit, instead of walking in the flesh.]] (6) the one who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same manner as He walked." I trust we can all agree that Jesus walked with the victory over all sin.
1 John 3:21-23. (I had a footnote, 1 John 3:16-23 are discussed in my "Paper on Faith.") "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us ["condemn us" in the sense that it knows something against us; or we could translate, "does not convict us." The Greek verb used here is made up of two words: a verb meaning "know" and a word meaning "against"], we have confidence before God [If we (in our heart) know that we are living in sin, our heart will condemn (or, convict) us, and we should thank God for this. We have a conscience, and the Holy Spirit will be convicting us in His concern for the glory of God, and for our well being.] (22) and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS AND DO THE THINGS THAT ARE PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT. [[It is very important to see that we don't earn/merit the answer to our prayers by keeping God's commandments. Our prayers are answered because of the grace of God in Christ. But we must keep His commandments, which is a privilege, not a burden, and our living in sin will block the flow of God's blessings to one degree or another. For one thing, God, in His love for us, is greatly concerned with our need to repent if we are living in sin. If we are living in any sin, God knows it, and He hates sin. It won't suffice for us to meditate on the supposed fact that God sees us as righteous and holy and we are pleasing to Him. We must repent! We have the privilege to repent and to be fully restored by the saving grace of God in Christ.]] (23) This is His COMMANDMENT, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He COMMANDED us." These verses, and this entire epistle (not to mention a very large number of verses throughout the New Testament) make it clear that WE ARE REQUIRED TO KEEP ALL THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD'S MORAL LAW BY HIS GRACE THROUGH FAITH. It all starts with repenting and believing (having faith) "in the name of His Son Jesus Christ." To believe in His name includes believing all that the Bible reveals about Him. The requirement to "love one another" doesn't leave any room to sin against one another in any way. Also, the requirement to love God, which is more foundational and important, doesn't leave any room to sin against Him.
1 John 5:2, 3. (I quoted 1 John 5:2-4 earlier in this article, but I'll quote verses 2 and 3 again here because they are so relevant to the requirement, and privilege, for us to keep God's commandments.) "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and OBSERVE HIS COMMANDMENTS. (3) For this is the love of God, that we KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS; and His COMMANDMENTS are not burdensome." If we see things right, we will see that God's commandments are a blessing for Christians. We need them for direction and correction (see 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, for example).
Revelation 12:17; 14:12. "So the dragon [Satan] was enraged against the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children [The rest of her (true Israel's) children (or, offspring) refers to the Christians that Satan will attack throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week.], who KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and hold to the testimony of Jesus [They testify that Jesus is their Savior and their Lord, etc.]. ... Here is the perseverance of the saints who KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and their faith in Jesus." All Christians are required, and privileged, to keep God's commandments by His sufficient grace through faith.
Keeping God's moral law from our hearts is what righteousness is all about. This is the dominant use of the word righteousness in the New Testament (and in the Old Testament). If we are not keeping God's moral law, we are, by definition, sinning. I suppose the primary reason Joseph is against the need to preach the commandments of God's moral law is that doesn't fit with the positional righteousness that he emphasizes so strongly. If we preach the commandments of God's moral law and go beyond positional righteousness, someone might get convicted of their sin and the devil might get them feeling condemned. From Joseph's point of view, Christians feeling condemned must be avoided at all costs.
With this in mind, Joseph says that the Holy Spirit never convicts us of sin, he doesn't believe ministers should preach about repentance, he believes it would be a negative thing to preach a series on the Ten Commandments, he doesn't believe we need to confess our sins to be forgiven, etc. However, if we repent and confess our sins, we will be forgiven according to the Word of God. And then we can, and we must, totally reject the condemnation of the devil. (And, of course, if the devil is falsely accusing us of sin when we haven't sinned, we can, and we must, totally reject his lying accusations.) If we really are living in sin, the only satisfactory answer is to repent, to be forgiven, and to make walking in the actual righteousness and holiness of God a top priority by His sufficient grace (which includes dying to sin). That's the heartbeat of the new covenant.
It isn't that Joseph isn't against sin, but he thinks that his radical form of God's grace, which includes a radical emphasis on positional righteousness and holiness, is the biblical way to get the victory over sin. As I am demonstrating throughout this paper, I have to strongly disagree with many of the details in his radical grace, positional righteousness and holiness package.
I'll quote several sentences from pages 117, 118 (still in chapter 10) here. "This book is about the good news of Jesus Christ. He did not come to condemn you. He came to take your condemnation upon Himself, so that you will never be condemned again. [[He took our condemnation, but things aren't going to work right if we don't understand the gospel and submit to the gospel (in faith) on a continuous basis, and work out our salvation day by day. As I have demonstrated, we don't adequately understand the gospel if we are putting all the emphasis on positional righteousness, which is about ten percent of what the gospel is all about. There is no condemnation, as Rom. 8:1-4 show, if we are fulfilling the requirement of God's moral law by the sufficient sanctifying saving grace of God in Christ by faith. That's God's answer to the sin problem.]]
Has Jesus died on the cross for us? Has His blood been shed for our forgiveness? [Yes, for our forgiveness; for our new birth; to enable us to live in His righteousness and holiness by His Spirit; etc.] Then why is it that so many believers are still living in condemnation even though He has already been punished for their sins. Did the cross make a difference or not?" Certainly the cross makes a difference; it makes all the difference; but we must understand the fullness of what was accomplished in the cross and what is required (by covenant) of those who become Christians. He died so we could die to sin and live in His righteousness, as Romans chapter 6 and 1 Pet. 2:24, for example, clearly demonstrate.
Christians should not think that everything is OK, that God is well pleased with them and sees them as being righteous and holy while they go on living in sin. Something is big time wrong with this picture. The only satisfactory answer for Christians living in sin is to repent and receive God's forgiveness and then make it a top priority to begin to cooperate with His sufficient, purifying, sanctifying grace by faith, a faith that is based on the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches. We shouldn't want to make Christians feel good about themselves while they are living in sin, but we should encourage them with the facts that God will forgive them when they repent and that He will enable them to press in to the full victory over sin. He is not trying to get rid of them. Quite the contrary!
It will be helpful for us to consider what we mean by the words "condemn," "condemnation." There is a gigantic difference between God's condemning us to hell (which is the typical meaning of the word in the New Testament) and God's convicting Christians with the need to repent. And there is a gigantic difference between God's condemning us to hell and the devil trying to get us feeling condemned, even if we haven't even sinned.
One primary reason for all the feelings of condemnation among Christians in our day is all of the sin that continues and is even increasing. Even if there is repentance and a confession of sin (and that isn't always the case), the heart of true Christians will never be satisfied with all of the sin taking place among Christians, and especially if it is our sin. We know in our hearts that something is wrong, big time wrong. No generation of God's people gets by with sin; "be sure your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23). And that's true for new-covenant believers too.
It is also true that the devil and his hosts work overtime trying to get Christians feeling condemned; trying to get them to doubt God and His Word, trying to get them to despair and give up even trying to live righteous lives; trying to get them to think that God would not forgive them no matter what they do, etc. When the problem is the devil's false accusations and lying words, we must resist his false accusations. Jesus said Satan is a liar. But the most important things we must do is to rightly divide God's Word, to begin to put a strong emphasis on the fact that Jesus died so we could stop sinning and live in the righteousness and holiness of God, and to begin to live it by His sufficient grace and for His glory. There is no other satisfactory answer. To minimize or deny this good news is to deny 90 percent of what new-covenant salvation is all about. No wonder so many Christians feel guilty and that something is wrong. Something is big time wrong.
We'll continue this important discussion in Part 5.
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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