Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Church, Toowoomba – Date:

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

 

I want to come back to the following testimony from Bob Jones (1931-2014) who for many decades was a strong prophetic voice across the world: e.g.: Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer in Kansas City), Rick Joyner (Morning Star Church), and Bill Johnson (Bethel Church).

 

Testimony by Bob Jones from a 2006 conference in Albany, Oregon (transcribed by Sandy Warner) and merged with his account to Patricia King:

8 August 1975, a demon appeared to me and said: “If you ever share that prophecy again [about future abortion techniques such as burning foetuses alive with saline solutions, partial abortion where they pull a baby apart, and a pill which would push the baby away from the mother’s wall and starve the baby, and homosexuality becoming more rapid and coming out of the closet], I will kill you.” And so I told him: “I don’t belong to you anymore. I belong to the Lord and I am not afraid of you. You have no place to touch me.”

Well, he did that day. And I went to the Lord in death. And I stood in the line. And as I looked to my left, there were a lot of people like on a roller [conveyor belt] (as in a supermarket when they are rolling past). And there were a huge number of people on that line. And I was on that line where there wasn’t very many. And we were walking. And as I walked (when I went beyond this life), I went into a cave and I looked out of the cave and I saw a man down there at the cave entrance. He was white light but there was a whiter light in that white light. And that white light in that white light was holding hands out to me.

 

[From a webpage: I was in pain on the earth and blood was shooting out of my mouth like a geyser. And all of a sudden I wasn’t in pain anymore. This man, the paraclete stood by my side, the Holy Spirit, we started walking. And as we walked, I saw a Man who was white light. All white light was around Him, but He was the whitest of all white lights. He had His hands out. As I came into that white light, there came a feeling over me like I had never known before. I asked the Man beside me, “What is that?”

The Man (Holy Spirit) said, “It is the love of God.” I said, “It’s just so wonderful, it’s so glorious.” And He said, “That’s what it is, it’s the glory of God.” I said, “How can it be both?” It’s in John 17. The love I had with the Father, the glory I had with the Father. So that was the greatest experience I have ever had. Just enveloped in His glorious love. That’s possible down here. The glory of God is coming and it is going to be in His glorious love.

See John 17:22-26: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”]

 

And my first thoughts was: “Did I die clean? Was my robe spotted?” ‘Cause I just come out of such deep sin and I was concerned to see that I was clean. And there was a man who stood alongside of me. I was never able to see his face. He was the paraclete, the Holy Spirit. And he spoke to me: “Now look you can see.” And I looked and my robe was white.

My thoughts were this: “Bob, you finally got it made. This is the greatest day you ever live. You are going home to the Lord and you are clean. And you did the things he told you to do.”

So, as this line I was in approached him, I keep looking to my left and the people on the left were 98% of the world’s population. And they weren’t going where I was going. They were going to the place where they serve their gods on the earth. I saw men wrapped in dollar bills. That was their god. I saw men inside a whiskey bottle. That was their god. I saw men that looked like ah drugs. That was their god on earth. I saw men that were wrapped in lust. That was their god on earth and in hell you’ll serve the god that you served on earth. [I saw a man wrapped up in his sod or grass; his yard was his god. I saw a man that had no body, he was just one big head. He was an atheist, he worshipped himself; he was his own god and going to hell with it.]

And so I was looking at that and man that was so dreadful, I couldn’t look at it. Then I turned back towards the man that was in white. And I sat really close to him. I keep looking to the line and every person in that other line was looking to him and their eyes grew big and they would say: “It was true.” Every person that was in that line going to hell had a witness who he was. And then mocked it and they laughed at it. But they had their witness. And then they died and as I looked they were like come to the end of the roller and they just slid down into a dark place where there would never be light again. And so I turned back to him.

There was a large black woman. And she was big, heavy-set and she had nearly one hundred angels with her. And I spoke to the faceless man: “Why does this woman have so many angels?” He said: “Because she was a great minister on earth and these angels helped her do it. For she did great things for her people.”

And as she drew close to him, he looked out and he said: “Did you learn to love?” And she said: “Yes, Lord.” She threw her arms up. And he just put his arms around her and kissed her right on the lips. And just pulled her in. It was like his heart was double-doors. Her and the whole of angels went in. And I asked: “Why are the angels going home?” And the faceless man said: “They helped her do it. They now have a testimony in heaven.” They are born without testimonies and when they have somebody on earth to do something they become part of that testimony. That’s what you are judging for – as the fruits. He’s tell me: These angels desire more to help us than we desire for them to. For they desire our testimony. They don’t understand us. But they desire to be part of what we do to share in the testimony.

The next one that I saw in the line was a little girl. She was eleven years old. And the Holy Spirit told me: “She was crippled most of her life. And the last three years she was bed-fast and all she did was lay in bed and pray for people.” And I asked him: “If she is coming home, why is she crippled?” And he said: “She’ll appear like this at times in heaven. It’s her testimony.” Appearing that way is part of her testimony. How she changed lives. And he asked her: “Did you learn to love.” She said: “Yes, Lord.” And so he kissed her and in she went.

And then there was a woman about ninety-three years old and her hands were just big knots on her. The whole body was in great pain from arthritis, and other things. And she lived a long life. And he asked her: “Did you learn to love?” She said: “I only learned to love you. I was widowed really young and I got bitter and most of my life I spent biting saints.” And he told her: “But you loved me and you embraced me. Therefore, you are saved but you have no works.” And he kissed her and in she went. [Cf. 1 Corinthians 3.]

And I was next. And I was thinking. Man, I am puckered up: “This is it. No more pain. No more this trial. No more nothing. I am going home. And I am going home in obedience.” And he put his hand up in front of me and he said: “Stop. The enemy killed you before your time. And I want you to go back.” And I said: “I am not doing any good. Nobody is listening to me.” He said: “You are a liar. For you spoke what I told you to. If you spoke on your own, you wouldn’t be but you spoke what I told you and what I say, will happen. My words will not return to me void but they will take place.” And I said: “But it is so painful down there – the rejection, the persecution.” And he said: “Yeah, you’re sort of got a cowardly streak in you but I work that out.” And he said: “When you were a Baptist, you got a love for souls. And if you still want to come in, I will take you in after you look again at this line.”

I looked again. All those people was going to hell. And they weren’t going to hell for a hundred thousand years. They were going to hell for all eternity. And they’ll serve their god in hell for all eternity. And I looked back at him and said: “I would go back for one soul. I would actually go back to the cross for one soul.” He said: “I am not sending you back for one soul. I am sending you back to touch a few of the leaders of the church so that they can oversee and protect, get behind what I am going to do. I am going to bring one billion youth to myself in one of the greatest awakenings of all time. I am going to glorify myself beyond anything that has ever happened… I am going to repeat it thousands and thousands of times. And I want you to go back and prepare and tell them that this is what I will do in one great wave.”

So throughout the years I stayed alive because I am going to see it. I was told I would see the first of it. I will see it. I was also told that I would see the glory. I saw it recently. The glory is here to stay. He’ll never leave again. And that glory is a preparation for a harvest beyond imagination – one billion youth. Over half the population of the earth is under eighteen. One billion it was. I am not saying that will be all because there will be those already saved. But one great harvest. One great increase of over a billion. I believe that it will probably begin around the year 2020.

 

I came back. I thought that when I come back into my body I would be healed. As I came back I saw two of the biggest angels I have ever seen. I know who they are. They are the resurrection angels. And I saw the death spirit and he left when I came back in. And when I went back into the body I wasn’t healed. The pain was there and I couldn’t understand why. And I was gone probably for about three hours. The pain was there and I said, “What’s going on Lord?” And then I heard a phone ring. And I saw people answering the phone and they were saying, “Bob Jones needs prayer.” And they would start praying and I felt better. And it was a Friday.

People kept praying and it kept increasing and increasing. And then people came over and prayed for me Friday night ‘till the pain wasn’t hardly there. And then Friday night, Saturday morning at three o’clock the last person quit praying for me. I could see who was praying for me. The pain was coming back and I thought, “Boy it’s going to be a long time.” And then I saw an old sister who wasn’t thought highly of in the church because she didn’t take too many baths. She always sat in the last seat in back. And she cleaned offices for a living. She got up early in the morning and cleaned offices. And her phone rang and she answered it. She got up at three o’clock in the morning and started praying for me and I went to sleep. And then she had to go to work at five, and others began to pray for me, so Saturday was pretty good. It went pretty well. People came over Saturday and I thought, “Well I know He sent me back down here to live.” And prayer and intercession sure made the difference.

And Saturday night it went on pretty good until about three o’clock and all the other prayer ended. Except hers. She got up and went to praying for me again. She prayed for me until about seven o’clock. She didn’t have to work on a Sunday. At seven o’clock was the worst time that I saw because there was no prayer. People were going to church.

And it was really bad until about 10:05. At ten o’clock, Viola asked me, “How are you doing?” I told her I was worse than I had ever been and I was swelling so bad I couldn’t even get out of bed. At 10:05 I became totally normal, totally delivered. I got up and we went to church and I testified of it.

I found out the value of prayer. And I found out the value of not having an opinion about saints. I found out the value of ministry. That one saint was able to void all of it to where I could sleep.

 

What keeps intriguing me is the question that Jesus was asking: Did you learn to love?” Is this the question that we are being faced with in eternity? Is this the basis for judgement that will determine our eternal fate? This morning, are you expecting that one day Jesus will ask you: “Did you learn to love?”

Two weeks ago, we already listed a few Bible passages that back up Bob Jones’ testimony and Jesus’ question:

 

1 John 4:8: Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

Luke 10:25-28: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. Do this and you will live.”

 

Matthew 6:9-15: This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our sin, as we also have forgiven those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

Revelation 2:1-7: To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

However, this morning, I want to do another Bible check-up. Did the apostle Paul (who wrote more than 25% of the New Testament such as Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, etc.) also makelearning to lovethe goal of human life and the basis for eternal judgement? This will not be easy because the apostle Paul seemingly contradicts himself so much (in his letters) that New Testament academics despair and call Paul’s requirements for salvation theknottiest puzzlein all of the New Testament.

Even Paul’s own colleague, the Apostle Peter wrote in the Bible: “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:14-16).

Therefore, if I lose you in my preaching while I am trying to sort out these complications, don’t feel bad (there is a lot to take in), and if I fail to give a clear presentation and get a little muddled, maybe I am also excused, because very smart people have written thousands of pages on this matter and are still not in agreement with one another.

So, this morning, we will get a little technical in considering concepts and teaching points but – can I encourage you? – I think that it will be worth the effort because we will get to the heart of Paul’s thinking and understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and once we understand the core of his preaching, so much of the New Testament will be opening up to us. Finally, it will be quite practical, not least in determining whether Jesus will ask us on the Day of Judgement: “Did you learn to love?”

I give you a few quotes of the Apostle Paul. Please listen and tell me what is the basis for salvation and (presumably) judgement according to these quotes?

 

Romans 3:22-28: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.  For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Cf. Romans 4:5; 5:1; 9:30; 10:4; 11:6; Galatians 2:16, 21; 3:5-6, 24; Philippians 3:9.

 

According to these verses, we are being saved by faith – apart from works. The Reformation of the church in the 16th century – a world-wide reform movement with key figures such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and then later John Wesley – was ground-breaking in rediscovering the nature of faith for salvation and received its key insights especially from these Bible verses of the apostle Paul. Striving for moral goodness (even with fasting and much self-denial) was exposed as not winning heavenly rewards for anyone (in the sense of attaining peace with God) but faith alone – apart from works – was the key.

 

Martin Luther: The troubled conscience, in view of God’s judgement, has no remedy against desperation and eternal death, unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins [and believes in forgiveness which is granted to us] by grace, freely offered in Christ Jesus, which if it can apprehend, it may then be at rest.[1]

 

Martin Luther: … this is perfect righteousness, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing of the law, or of works, but to know and believe this only, that Christ is [forgiving us] gone to the Father, and is not now seen; that he sits in heaven at the right hand of his Father, not as judge, but made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption – briefly, that he is our high priest entreating for us, and reigning over us, and in us, by grace.[2]

 

Question: “What are the four spiritual laws?”

Answer: The Four Spiritual Laws are a way of sharing the good news of the salvation that is available through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a simple way of organizing the important information in the Gospel into four points.

The first of the Four Spiritual Laws is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 10:10 gives us the reason that Jesus came, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” What is blocking us from God’s love? What is preventing us from having an abundant life?

The second of the Four Spiritual Laws is, “Humanity is tainted by sin and is therefore separated from God. As a result, we cannot know God’s wonderful plan for our lives.” Romans 3:23 affirms this information, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 gives us the consequences of sin, “the wages of sin is death.” God created us to have fellowship with Him. However, humanity brought sin into the world, and is therefore separated from God. We have ruined the relationship with Him that God intended us to have. What is the solution?

The third of the Four Spiritual Laws is, “Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. Through Jesus Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and restore a right relationship with God.” Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 informs us of what we need to know and believe in order to be saved, “...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...” Jesus Himself declares that He is the only way of salvation in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” How can I receive this wonderful gift of salvation?

The Fourth of the Four Spiritual Laws is, “We must place our faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour in order to receive the gift of salvation and know God’s wonderful plan for our lives.” John 1:12 describes this for us, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Acts 16:31 says it very clearly, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved!” We can be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you want to trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour, say the following words to God. Saying these words will not save you, but trusting in Christ will! This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

 

Therefore – as people who have been shaped and appreciate the Reformation of the church in the 16th century (and people who have taken in Paul’s Bible verses which we have quoted before) – what kind of question would we expect Jesus to ask us on the Day of Judgement? (In my view,) it is notDid you learn to lovebecause this question seems to take us back to workinghardfor our salvation. This question seems to imply that our whole lives consist of a learning process which aims to make us more and more loving with the result that we end up behaving like loving people and produce works of love.

This is a big ask and a little intimidating because (even as long-term Christians) we are still much better at loving ourselves (me, me, me) than loving God or others, including some of our own family members. How would you go if Jesus asked you today: “Did you learn to love?”

As people of the Reformation, we prefer and expect another question. (In our view,) Jesus would do better asking us: “Did you learn to have faith in me?” And then we can answer in a more relaxed and confident fashion: “Yes, Jesus! I believe in you for my salvation, apart from any works that I may (or may not) do.” We are more comfortable with the catch-phrasesaved by faiththansaved by learning to loveand it sounds more familiar.

For support of our emphasis on faith (apart from works), I remind us of just one quote of the Apostle Paul:

 

Romans 3:22-28: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.  For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Cf. Romans 4:5; 5:1; 9:30; 10:4; 11:6; Galatians 2:16, 21; 3:5-6, 24; Philippians 3:9.

 

The Apostle Paul is a good ally in the Bible except that he seems to contradict himself in other passages. Instead of being consistent in his emphasis on faith apart from works (salvation – being regarded as justified and righteous – apart from works), there are large segments of his writings where he absolutely elevates works and obedience to God that produces good works as the goal of his ministry and the basis of future judgement by Jesus. Many a time, works and obedience are at the heart of his understanding of the Christian faith.

 

Romans 1:4-5: … Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

 

Romans 15:17-19: Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

 

Romans 16:25-27: Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

 

Romans 8:13: For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

 

Galatians 6:8: Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

 

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

 

Romans 6:15-23: What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 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? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 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. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (See Galatians 5:5.)

 

2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

 

Cf. Romans 8:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 9:4-8; Galatians 5:5, 19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7; Hebrews 12:14.

 

How can Paul say (on the one hand) that we are being saved through faith as a free gift from God – that we are being made righteous through faith, apart from any works – but then (on the other hand), before the judgement seat of Jesus Christ, he no longer mentions the value of faith but insists that we are accountable for our works (and Jesus may even ask us whether we have learned to love) and we are being judged according to our works – our good or bad deeds? How are we to understand this? Are we being saved by faith in Jesus Christ or by what we do in obedience to him? (The answer is “both”. But I will explain this later.)

[What the Apostle Paul wrote in the Bible about faith, works, righteousness, obedience and salvation absolutely confounds and has confounded church academics for centuries.

 

Brian Rosner: Paul and the Law, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2013, p207: The subject of Paul and the law is rightly regarded as one of the knottiest puzzles in the study of the New Testament. Paul affirms that “the law is holy, just and good”, insists that “we uphold the law” and asks rhetorically, “Does the law not speak entirely for our sake?” Yet the same Paul also holds that believers in Christ “are not under the law”, believes that “the law brings death and works wrath” and maintains that “Christ is the end of the law”.

 

John M. G. Barclay, “Paul and the law: observations on some recent debates,” Themelios 12 (1986), 5: If one gathers together Paul’s chief statements on the law and related issues they present a bewildering appearance. Sometimes the Greek term nomos clearly refers to the Mosaic Torah (e.g. Rom 2:17; 1 Cor 9:9; Gal 3:17), but sometimes it seems to have the generalized sense of ‘rule’ or ‘principle’ (e.g. Rom 3:27?; 7:21; 8:2?). On many occasions Paul declares categorically that Christians have died to the law and are free from it (e.g. Rom 6:14; 7:1-6; Gal 2:19; 5:1), while in some instances he is confident that they uphold and fulfill it (Rom 3:31; 8:4; 13:8-10; Gal 5:14). In several extended passages he contrasts the law with faith or with Christ (Rom 2-4; 2 Cor 3; Gal 3-4), but on one occasion he refers to a nomos of faith (Rom 3:27) and on two occasions alludes to a nomos of Christ (1 Cor 9:21; Gal 6:2). Moreover, in what seems to be intended as a summary statement about the relationship between Christ and the law (Rom 10:4) it is unclear whether the crucial Greek noun telos is to be understood as ‘end/termination’ or ‘goal/fulfillment.’ How can Paul insist that there is no justification by works of the law (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16; 5:4) and yet talk of judgment by works (Rom 2:1-16; 2 Cor 5:10; Gal 6:4-8)? When circumcision is one of the commands of God in the Old Testament, how can Paul tell the Corinthians that it does not matter if they are not circumcised so long as they keep the commands of God (1 Cor 7:19)? Did Paul think that it was impossible to be justified by works of the law because no-one can keep the law (Rom 3:9-23; 7:7-25; Gal 3:10), or because even keeping the law would not be the proper path to justification (Gal 3:11-12, 21; Phil 3:2-11)? And, most fundamentally of all, if the law is the holy law of God (Rom

7:10-14; 9:4) how could Paul regard it as responsible for sin, curse and death (Rom 7:5; 2 Cor 3:6-9; Gal 3:10-13), and how could he play down its significance because it was ‘ordained by angels through an intermediary’ (Gal 3:19)?

 

I give you a sample of Paul’s own writing. He is not easy to follow.

 

Romans 6:12-21: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

All of these words may sound familiar but unpacking them is not always easy. For instance, what does it mean precisely that thelaw increases the trespassand thatgrace might reign through righteousness”?]

 

Even church academics struggle with Paul’s seeming contradictions – (seemingly complicated thoughts and concepts, and (in turn) they themselves write complicated books) – but Paul was not an ivory tower academic (removed from real life). He was actually addressing a real-life problem which was practical and crucial for the future of the church in his day. He was most exercised by the question: How do you begin a life with God?” “What is the way in?” Is it faith alone or a mixture of faith and works? The book of Acts (in the Bible) sheds light on what happened.

 

Acts 15:1-5: 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.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. 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. The church sent them on their way, and as they travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

Then some of the believers 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 battle lines were drawn sharply. On the one side, a good number of believers said: “Unless you are circumcised and keep the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.On the other side, Paul and his supporters said: “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again, I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 2:2-4). / “As for those agitators [for circumcision], I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12).

What is going on here? In Paul’s estimate – as happened many times throughout church history – the church was in danger of losing the knowledge of salvation. We know about misguided trust in good works (cf. Martin Luther) or institutional Christians that go to church (and are comfortable in their traditions) but have never beenborn againbut, in Paul’s time, there was a unique problem. God himself had commanded and decreed that his people would practice circumcision and keep the law of Moses – the code of law and regulations which he himself had given his people. This had always been the way to live with God and why should it change now because of Jesus? When Jesus was born, he was circumcised himself and he kept the law of Moses. (And Jesus was the anointed Saviour that the law of Moses promised and announced.) Why would he not just make the old way of life better? Why should be there something completely new?

These were not easy questions and the arguments from the old segments of the Bible were not straight forward. In the end, the church of Paul’s time was led by the Spirit and also listened to practical experience. The Christians observed how the Holy Spirit saved and filled Gentile people (non-Jewish people) with his presence and power even though they had not been circumcised and had not been keeping the law of Moses. (See Acts 10 and Peter’s vision and visit to Cornelius.)

 

Acts 15:6-12: The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles 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.”

The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.

 

Acts 15:28-29: It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

 

Peter reminded them of his own experience (when preaching to Gentiles) and pointed out that God had given the Holy Spirit equally also to Gentiles who believed and, through the Holy Spirit, they also experienced the purification of their hearts (there was a cleansing from sin). Then Peter acknowledged that the way of the law of Moses had been a yoke for them and their ancestors – a yoke which they had not been able to bear. If the Gentiles could be spared of this yoke, why not follow the Spirit’s lead and set it aside.

Paul argued similarly.

 

Galatians 5:1-2: …do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

 

And he acknowledged that God’s intentions for the Gentiles were a mystery which was revealed to him by the Spirit of God.

 

Ephesians 3:2-13: Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

 

Romans 16:25-26: “Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” See also Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 2:8.

 

In Paul’s view, the people that hung on to the old way of living with God (holy and right at the time) were in danger of becoming alienated from Christ and falling from grace, and they made for a hostile church experience (an impossible situation for Paul) because they kept judging a Gentile life-style – their food and practices – as unclean to God (when it no longer was unclean).

 

Galatians 2:11-16: When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that 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.

 

Ephesians 2:11-22: Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

 

Acts 10:9-16: About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

 

According to Paul, with the coming of Jesus Christ, there were now two incompatible ways of living with God. On the one side was the law of Moses – the whole package of the old law code, including circumcision, food laws, sacrifices and moral commandments – and the hope that keeping the law of Moses would lead to a living relationship with God.

 

Galatians 3:12: The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”

 

Romans 10:5: Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”

 

But, on the other side, was a rejection of the law of Moses and seeking a living relationship with God by faith.

 

Galatians 3:21-22: … if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

 

Romans 1:17: For in the gospel [good news about Jesus Christ] the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

 

Galatians 3:11: Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”

 

Galatians 2:21:  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

 

Romans 10:4: For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified.

 

Galatians 2:15-16: We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that 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.

 

Romans 9:30-33: What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written:

“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

 

It is amazing how radically Paul rejected and replaced the law of Moses (which had served his people as the holy law of God for so long).

 

Romans 7:1-6: Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 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.

 

Romans 6:14: …you are not under the law, but under grace.

 

Galatians 3:23-25: Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith was revealed. Therefore, the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.

 

1 Corinthians 9:20: To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.

 

Paul argued comprehensively and passionately that the life with God – a living relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ – came through faith and not by placing ourselves under the law.

 

Romans 3:22-28: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.  For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Paul could even say thatwhere sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20) andChrist died for the ungodlyGod demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…” (Romans 5:6-8).

This kind of rejection of the law of Moses (which includes the ten commandments) solved the problem of accepting Gentiles into the church (they never had the law of Moses and would not be required to keep the old legal package as Christians) but Paul’s radical dismissal of the law of Moses could easily be misunderstood and it was and still is being misunderstood.

 

Romans 3:8: Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say – “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

 

Romans 6:1-2: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means…

 

Galatians 2:17: But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!

 

If we come into a living relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from works (and doing the law of Moses), does this mean that works are not important? Do Christians have no law? On the day of judgement, will Jesus just ask us about whether we believed in him or will he want to know more? Could he possibly ask us: “Did you learn to love?”

We already looked at some passages which demonstrated Paul’s emphasis on obedience, doing good works and living as slaves to righteousness”.

 

Romans 1:4-5: … Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

 

Romans 15:17-19: Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

 

Romans 16:25-27: Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

 

Romans 8:13: For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

 

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

 

Romans 6:15-23: What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 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? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 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. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (See Galatians 5:5.)

 

2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

 

Cf. Romans 8:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 9:4-8; Galatians 5:5, 19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7; Hebrews 12:14.

 

There are more passages from Paul which highlight the value of obeying some sort of law and commandments from God.

 

1 Corinthians 9:20-21:  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

 

(See also Romans 8:2: …through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. / Galatians 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. / Romans 3:27: Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.)

 

1 Corinthians 7:19: Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. [The law of Moses as the old legal code is nothing.] Keeping God’s [present-day] commands is what counts.

 

(See also Galatians 5:6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. / Galatians 6:15: Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. / Romans 14:17: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.)

 

Are we confused – like plenty of others, including church academics? If we come into a living relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from works (and doing the law of Moses), how can works retain such high importance? Is faith what counts, or iskeeping God’s commandswhat counts?

In my view, the key to the riddle is understanding the role of the Holy Spirit. I give you one verse that spells it out crystal-clear:

 

Galatians 5:18: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 

See also Romans 8:3-4: For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

The Christian who is in possession of the Holy Spirit does not need an old written code of law but receives living instructions from the Spirit of God and lives by the Spirit of God.

 

Romans 8:1-2: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

 

Romans 2:28-29:  For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

 

Romans 7:6:  But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

 

2 Corinthians 3:4-18: And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

 

Romans 5:1-26: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery [that is the law of Moses] ...

…For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love…

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

 

Romans 6:14: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Philippians 2:12-13:  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

 

When Paul celebrates that we are being justified by faith (being made righteous by faith), entering into a relationship with God apart from works, he celebrates nothing but the Holy Spirit – the promise of ages past – who is the one that is received by faith and works salvation as a gift of righteousness and justification and empowers Christians to live out their salvation in practical righteousness.

 

Galatians 3:8-14: Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 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.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 3:6: He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

 

Galatians 4:28-29: 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.

 

1 Corinthians 6:11: But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 

Romans 8:9-11: … And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

 

The new covenant – the new relationship with God through Jesus Christ – is (from beginning to end) “of the Spirit”. TheSpirit gives lifewhich includes being made righteous before God as a gift and calling. As righteous people we becomeslaves of righteousnessand, living a new existence as people belonging to God (new creations), we allow the Holy Spirit to do a radical work in us. We are learning to love.

 

Romans 6:14-23: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace [through the Holy Spirit].

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 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? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 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. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (See Galatians 5:5.)

 

Galatians 5:5-6: For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. [Through the Spirit] the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 

Galatians 2:19-21: For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me [through the Holy Spirit]. 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. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

 

When Paul in the Bible and Christians throughout church history (especially from the time of the Reformation) talk about living by faith, being justified by faith, being made righteous by faith, and overcoming challenges and doing good works by faith, they always talk shorthand. (And we sometimes forget.) They always mean that by faith we receive the Holy Spirit who is the one that grants us the power to live the Christian life and overcome obstacles.

Martin Luther often talked shorthand but here is his longer and more complete explanation that includes the clear and central reference to the Holy Spirit.

 

However, fulfilling the Law means to do its works with delight and from love, and to lead a godly and good life freely, without the Law’s constraint, just as if there were no Law and no punishment. Such a delight of unconstrained love, however, is instilled in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says, Romans 5:5. But, as he says in his introductory remarks, the Spirit is not given except in, with, and by faith in Jesus Christ. Hence there is no faith except by the Word of God, or the Gospel, which proclaims Christ, namely, that He is the Son of God and man, that He died and rose again for our sakes, as he states, Romans 3:25; 4:25; 10:9. 10. That is the reason why faith alone justifies and fulfils the Law, for it fetches the Spirit from Christ’s merit. The Spirit, however, creates a willing and unconstrained heart, such as the Law requires; and then good works spring directly from faith.[3]

 

Shorthand quote: Because you have laid holds of Christ by faith, through whom you are made righteous, begin now to work well. Love God and your neighbours, call upon God, give thanks unto him, praise him, confess him. These are good works indeed, which flow out of this faith, and this cheerfulness conceived in the heart, for that we have remission of sins freely by Christ.[4]

 

I summarize what we have said so far. According to Paul, with the coming of Jesus Christ, there were now two incompatible ways of living with God. On the one side was the law of Moses – the whole package of the old law code, including circumcision, food laws, sacrifices and moral commandments – and the hope that keeping the law of Moses would lead to a living relationship with God. But, on the other side, was a rejection of the law of Moses and seeking a living relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ which would bring the Holy Spirit and righteousness as a gift and calling. There would be a new covenant of the Spirit. As we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, we would come into possession of the Holy Spirit who would give us life and determine and dominate everything in the Christian life.

According to Paul, the church had to resist those that advocated a mixing of these two ways and demanded the keeping of the law (for coming into a relationship with God) on top of exercising faith in Jesus. The knowledge of salvation was at stake.

 

Acts 15:1-5: 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.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. 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. The church sent them on their way, and as they travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

Then some of the believers 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.”

 

Paul went on the attack and gave the conflict the highest priority.

 

Galatians 2:2-4: Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again, I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

 

Galatians 5:12: As for those agitators [for circumcision], I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

 

He was not safe-guarding, as some assumed, a life of easy-going living standards – a carefree attitude toward keeping God’s commands. Paul was not advocating unrestrained living.

 

Romans 3:8: Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say – “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

 

Romans 6:1-2: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means…

 

Galatians 2:17: But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!

 

For him, the church was at risk of forgetting the role of faith, apart from works of the law, for attaining the promise of the Holy Spirit. Faith in Jesus Christ – and nothing else – brings the Holy Spirit whom you cannot afford to lose: “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9).

 

Galatians 3:1-6: You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

 

The Holy Spirit has the highest value for any Christian and we get him by faith. He is the key for everything. We are saved by faith, apart from works, because faith alone makes a beginning with the Holy Spirit but then the Holy Spirit makes usslaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18) in his power. We begin to serve in thenewness of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6) andthrough the Spiritthe only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:5-6).

 

Romans 5:5: …God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

 

Galatians 5:5-6: For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. [Through the Spirit] the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 

Can you see now how Paul can say (on the one hand) that we are being saved by faith, apart from works, but (on the other hand) then still maintains that his job as an apostle was to bring the Gentiles to theobedience of faithand that we will be judged according tothings done in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:12)? We are saved by faith, apart from works, because faith alone makes a beginning with the Holy Spirit but then the Holy Spirit makes usslaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18) in his power.

 

Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

 

Romans 8:13: For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

 

Therefore, to bring this sermon to a close, the vision of Bob Jones was accurate. On the day of judgement, Jesus could (very well) ask each one of us the question: “Did you learn to love?” “Were you saved by faith and received the Holy Spirit who made you express love?” What will you answer him? Amen.

 

Additional Thoughts

 

One woman in Bob Jones’ testimony had not done well in learning to love but simply having a relationship with Jesus and loving him was enough for salvation:

 

And then there was a woman about ninety-three years old and her hands were just big knots on her. The whole body was in great pain from arthritis, and other things. And she lived a long life. And he asked her: “Did you learn to love?” She said: “I only learned to love you. I was widowed really young and I got bitter and most of my life I spent biting saints.” And he told her: “But you loved me and you embraced me. Therefore, you are saved but you have no works.” And he kissed her and in she went.

 

The Bible confirms the testimony.

 

1 Corinthians 3:10-15: By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

 

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Since the law of Moses did not come with the Holy Spirit (unlike faith), the righteous requirements of the law could not be fulfilled by mere humans who were operating inthe flesh”. The law even became an instrument that increased temptations and sin and so led to death.

 

Romans 8:3-4: For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

Romans 7:4-25: So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 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.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

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.

 

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According to Paul, Christians have died to the law of Moses but the books of the Old Testament remain useful to them, because they illustrate how God deals with his people and grow believers in the wisdom of salvation which is by faith in Christ Jesus.

 

1 Corinthians 10:1-11: For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

 

2 Timothy 3:14-17: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

 



[1] Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, Paperback (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1998), 18.

[2] Ibid., 20.

[3] Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Coromandel East: New Creation Publications 1995, English translation from the edition produced by Lutheran Publishing House – Adelaide 1966, paragraphs 9-10. See also The Book of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore G. Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1959, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV - Justification, paragraph 125, p124: “Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jeremiah 31:33), ‘I will put my law upon their hearts.’ After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbour because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.”

Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Coromandel East: New Creation Publications 1995, English translation from the edition produced by Lutheran Publishing House – Adelaide 1966, paragraphs 15-17: “Faith is a divine work in us, which transforms us, gives us a new birth out of God, … makes us altogether different men in heart, affections, mind, and all powers, and brings with it the Holy Spirit… It cannot but do good unceasingly. There is no question asked whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked the works have been done, and there is a continuous doing of them…

Faith is a living, daring confidence in the grace of God … This confidence and knowledge of divine grace makes a person happy, bold, and full of gladness in his relation to God and all creatures. The Holy Ghost is doing this in the believer. Hence it is that a person, without constraint, becomes willing and enthusiastic to do good to everybody, to serve everybody, to suffer all manner of afflictions, from love of God and to the praise of Him who has extended such grace to him…”

[4] Ibid., 96.