Thursday, December 25, 2003

I posted Covenant Privilege on my regular blog last month, but I think it fits better here so I am moving it here.


Covenant Privilege

Children born to Christian parents are born to great privilege. This was true of Israelites in the Old Covenant and it is true of Christians in the New Covenant.

Paul, in his letter to the church at Rome writes, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:1-4).

The Bible doesn’t speak only of heaven. In the Scriptures Heaven and earth are, important. Who, what, how, when, and where we are born and live are important to us and impact eternity. We are not philosophical Gnostics who see the world of spirit as good, and this physical world as evil. God created both. He said of all His creation it is “very good.” Yes, the creation is fallen and marred by sin. But man alone, in the physical creation, is a moral creature. God’s creation is still a wonder and bears witness that He is creator.

If one is born in the covenant (i.e. to Christian parents), he is born into great advantage. An Israelite was at birth a part of the people of God. He is warned time and again not to take this outward benefit for granted and assume that he had a ticket to heaven. This is because he had to have true faith, as did his father Abraham. An Israelite was born into a privileged position, because he was born among God’s people who had God’s Word and were the only people in all the earth that worshipped the true God.

That is sure a benefit in this life, if it is used properly and not misused, and perverted. If the individual misuses the privilege that he receives by birth, and is condemned for it, that does not take away from the fact that he was still born into an advantaged situation.

This is what Paul is speaking of in the verses quoted above. Covenant (Christian) children today have greater benefits than that of the ancient Israelites. They are far better off than are the children born in Arabia, where the Bible and the Christian faith are outlawed. Does this fortunate birth guarantee heaven? No. The covenant child, like the ancient Israelite, must have true faith in Jesus Christ. If he denies Christ then this very benefit will be a witness against him on the day of Judgement.

Does that last fact mean that the person born in a Christian home was not born in an advantageous place and time? No, he was born in a privileged position and he is responsible for that.

With this in mind, look at all the warnings that some of our brethren use to prove that salvation can be lost. Those verses, I believe, only make sense covenantally. Can you loose salvation? No, but you can be a covenant member and go straight to hell. That is why covenant people are told to workout your salvation with fear and trembling. That is why James could write to his fellow Christians (whom he called “the twelve tribes”) and say the things he does. This is why John could write to the churches and say “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3,4). John tells Christians how they can objectively examine their lives to know that they are truly saved.

There are thirty some odd verses used to prove salvation can be lost. I believe all of those verses are rightly understood only from a covenant perspective, because, as in the Old, you can be a covenant member, born to privilege and loose your soul, if you don’t make your salvation sure through repentance, faith and new obedience to Jesus Christ.

All my children were baptised as infants. Every time I have prayed with them I pray “remember your baptism, because you are marked as belonging to the Lord,” and I inform them that they must make their salvation sure and not take it for granted.

Question: Does the fact that some people born in the privileged position by being covenant children, but don't take advantage of their position by believing on Christ mean that their position was not really an advantageous one?
Answer: No; their position was one of great privilege and benefit (in this world), but if they deny Christ this very privilege will bring them greater condemnation. The Scripture make this point in both the Old and New Testaments.

I know that is an alien concept to many of my “credo-baptistism only" brethren, but it is, I believe, very biblical. (credo= believer)

In Christ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Some thoughts on baptism and covenant

Among evangelical Christians there are some radical differences in the understanding of how, and in what manner God’s covenant exists today and who participates in that covenant. If you’re a Baptist or have a view of baptism that is similar to the Baptist position, then your conception of the covenant will be drastically different than someone, like myself, who has a different understanding of what baptism is and who should be baptised.

Most evangelicals today have a baptistic understanding of baptism. They believe in “credo” or “believers” baptism “only.” To reject paedobaptism for a credobaptist position requires a very different understanding of some important biblical/theological matters.

Historically the great majority of evangelicals have held to the paedobaptism position. Christians who hold to “paedo” or “infant” baptism believe that new converts and the children of believers are both proper recipients of baptism. And, unlike our baptistic brethren, most of us also believe that baptism is not just an ordinance from God, but it is also a sacrament. We also believe it ceremonially places us in a covenantal relationship with God.

The view mentioned above is quite alien to the Baptist way of thinking. But is not alien to most historic evangelical Christian thinking. Below are the first two questions and answers from the catechism, which John Calvin wrote to instruct children in the faith.

Teacher: My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?
Child: Yes, my father.
Teacher: How is this known to you?
Child: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

You must remember several things when you read the questions and answers above. Calvin certainly did not believe in baptismal regeneration, nor did he believe that all baptised children of believers would persevere in the faith, yet he did understand that all these baptised children could rightly say that they were Christians, because they were baptised as infants.

John Calvin was truly a Calvinist. He believed in the doctrinal teachings that now bear his name. He believed that all baptised children of Christian parents were in covenant with God. Jonathan Edwards believed the same thing. I know that these things very likely don’t make much sense to most, if not all, of my Baptist/Baptistic brethren. That is because they have a radically different understanding of the meanings of both baptism and covenant than did Calvin, Edwards, the Puritans, etc... All of who were certainly very evangelical.

In a little more than 100 years after John Calvin wrote his catechism for children, the Puritans of England and the Presbyterians of Scotland produced the Westminster Confession of Faith and the accompanying Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The authors of these documents were all Calvinists and staunchly evangelical. I would like to quote from questions 94 and 95 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Q. 94. What is baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our engrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q. 95. To whom is Baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptised.

Notice that these men said that baptism signified and sealed “our engrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace.” Notice also that converts and the children of believers are to proper recipients of baptism. Like Calvin in the previous century these men did not believe that the waters of baptism literally washed away original sin, but they, like Calvin, saw it as a covenant sign.

Children of believers, from the Reformed understanding, are, as were Israelites of old, born into the covenant and receive the New Covenant sign and seal, which is baptism. Does this give them an automatic ticket to heaven? No. They must, like the Israelites of old, trust and believe in the Messiah in order to inherit eternal life. Yet at the very same time they are, in this life, greatly privileged to be born in covenant with God. This too was true of the Old Covenant Israelite. Even though he could be (and often was) spiritually lost, he was still born with covenant privilege.

It is sort of like being born an American citizen. No one born here does anything to gain the privilege of such a citizenship. We have it because of our parents. Does being born an American citizen guarantee that you will prove worthy of that blessing? No it doesn’t. We can squander our citizenship in this country in many ways. In this world being born an American citizen means we are born with privileges that much of the world envies, and we can squander and loose those privileges if we live a life that is unbefitting our citizenship.

Like all analogies this one is not perfect, but I do hope it makes the point. Israelites had great privilege because they were born into God’s covenant people. Many if not most, because of sin and unbelief, squander that great privilege, but that does not mean that the privileges were not then and are not now very real. They certainly were and still are. Look at what Paul says in Romans on this very subject. He writes:

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
(Rom 2:28-3:3)

In the above text Paul makes the point that the true Jew, the one who was saved, is a true Jew not because of outward inheritance or circumcision, but because of inward circumcision. Yet he still drives home the point that the ethnic Jew, even if he should loose his covenantal blessings because of unbelief, was still born with real privileges because he was born a Jew and a member of God’s covenant people (i.e. outward circumcision).

My children were born into a covenant relationship with God. They were born and are now, according to Paul in 1 Cor. 7, “holy.” Paul also makes the point that if neither of the parents of certain children is a believer, than those children are “unclean.” Here are his words “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” This is covenantal language. Notice that even the unbelieving spouse is declared “sanctified” (i.e. holy [Gk: hagiazo]). Paul also tells the church members at Corinth that if neither parent is a believer the children are than “unclean” (Gk: akathartos). How can this be? I believe it only makes sense when viewed covenantally.

The children of believers in the New Covenant, like the children of believers in the Old Covenant, are born to privileges that others outside the covenant don’t possess (unless grafted into it upon conversion). But they can and often do lose those privileges because of unbelief.

Does this mean the covenantal blessings were not real? Certainly not. They are very real, but just like privileges we possess by our own U.S. citizenship, which we have by being born in America, they can be wasted and lost by sin and unbelief.

Dominus vobiscum,

Sunday, December 14, 2003


I have been thinking about several things these days and one of those things has to do with the relationship between the people of God in the Old Testament (OT) and the people of God in the New Testament (NT). I hope you will find what follows to be of interest. It is an attempt to look at the continuity between the church age and the ages that came before.

Question: Are Christians a totally separate people of God than those under the Old Covenant?

Answer: No. We are part of the one covenant people of God. There is only one people of God from the time of Adam until the Second coming of Jesus Christ.

We know this because Paul tells us that we gentiles have been grafted into the one olive tree, which represents God's covenant people (i.e. Israel). We are not a new tree (a new people) we are but branches grafted in with those that were already there (the ethnically Jews Christians) and were not cut off for unbelief.

For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (Romans 11:16-21)

This shows our continuity with the Old Covenant (OC) people of God. Notice that some of God's covenant people were broken off of the olive tree. These were the Jews who rejected Christ. They were in covenant and yet not saved. We non-Jews in the New Covenant, represented as wild branches, were grafted in to the very same olive tree. This means we have become part of God's one covenant people. Notice also that we too are threatened with the possibility of being cut off just as they were.

I am not an Arminian, so I don't believe a born again individual can loose his or her salvation. If those now in the New Covenant (NC) era can be cut off of the Olive tree in the same way those in the OC were cut off, then it follows that there are some of God's covenant people today who are not born again. They, like those in the OC, can be cut off.

The fact that we are "grafted into the olive tree" and are part of the one people of God is a strong point of continuity that exists under all the separate covenants, from the beginning of history to the end.

I would like you to notice something else from Romans 11. "And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee." (Romans 11:17)

Notice we partake of the root. We partake of the ancient covenants and promises. We are not something brand new. We Christians are united to the ancient root of God's covenant people. Not only that but "thou bearest not the root, but the root thee." It is the ancient root of the one people of God that supports us here in the NC.

We Christians are also (like believing ethnic Jews) "Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal, 3:29). We are fixed here directly to God's covenant with Abraham. We in the church are the heirs of God's promises to Abraham. This again connects us today with the ancient people of God. God's people both then and now, are one people not two or more. We are part of the Covenant people of God, and are therefore sons of the Abraham whom God gave His covenant sign to.

Now let's go to Ephesians. Here we read "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:11-13)

Notice that we "being in time past Gentiles in the flesh" are no longer so. We are no longer Gentiles. Why? Because we are now part of the one covenant people of God. We who were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise" are no longer so. We are no longer aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.

Question: What is a commonwealth?

Answer: The Greek word translated commonwealth here is "politeia", and it can be defined as "a state or commonwealth" and as "citizenship."

So we are no longer aliens to the "state," "commonwealth, or "citizenship" of Israel. We, who were once gentiles, are now citizens of God's covenant people Israel, and are part of the historic covenant people of God.

Notice that we, who were once gentiles, are no longer strangers from the "covenants" (plural) "of promise" (singular).

Question: Who were these "covenants" made with?

Answer: They begin at the beginning. In Genesis 3 is where we find the first of these covenants; next it is with Noah; then Abraham, Moses, David and then the New Covenant with the house of Israel and house of Judah.

We who were once gentiles are now no longer "strangers from the covenants of promise." Why is that? It is because we have been grafted into the one people of God. We have become citizens of the commonwealth of Israel. This is continuity with the old covenants that were all part of the one promise.

The radical discontinuity between OC and NC that some modern Christians perceive is (IMHO) a gross misreading of the Word of God.

We, in the church are today the Israel of God. This is why we in the church are a "holy nation" (1 Pet 2:9) just as our fellow citizens in ancient Israel were a "holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). Israel was the "peculiar people" of God (Deut 14:2; 26:18) and we in the church today are also the "peculiar people" of God (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9).

These examples that are given above are just a few of the Scriptures that show continuity between the people of God in the OC and the People of God in the NC. They can be expanded many times over. We are one with the historic and ancient people of God.

Some Christians today will likely reply something like this "The people in the OC were not all saved, but now in the NC all God's covenant people are saved." They can say what they want to, but I believe the facts are otherwise. Folks have to ignore an awful lot of NT Scripture to make that claim or they must believe that salvation can be lost in the NC.

Question: Can branches grafted into the olive tree be cut off today?

Answer: Yes we see that in Romans 11. "Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee." If we in the NC can be cut off from the olive tree just as those in the OC were cut off, and none who have been born again can become unsaved, then there must be some now grafted into the olive tree who are not born again. This is as it was in the OC.

Now lets look at another matter for just a moment. At the time which Paul and the other Apostles were preaching, there was only one set of Scriptures and those were the writings of what we today call the Old Testament. Some of my Christian brethren today make a gulf between the OT and NT and speak as though they are hermetically sealed from one another. However, that was not the view of the Apostles or the Church before the modern era. (Note: It was the view of a number of cults and heretical movements like Marcionism in the ancient world) That chasm that supposedly exists is not biblical and was never the position of anyone in the Church until recent history.

Let's see what we can learn from the ethnic Jews in Berea. We read:

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:10,11)

Paul and Silas came to the Synagogue at Berea and taught the Jews there about the NT Gospel.

Question: Where did these Jews go to see if what Paul was saying about Jesus and everything else was true?

Answer: They searched the Scriptures of the Old Testament because these were the ONLY Scriptures then in existence.

I think this alone shows there must be continuity, but there is no reason to let this stand-alone. Let see what Paul said to young Timothy. Paul wrote "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (II Tim 3:16)

Question: What holy Scriptures had Timothy grown up with that were able to "make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus[?]”

Answer: They were the Scriptures of the Old Testament, because these were the only Scriptures that existed when Timothy was a child. Notice that the OT was able to make young Timothy "wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

Jesus Christ has always been the object of saving faith. There has never been any other object of saving faith since the beginning of the world, and this is the greatest and most important of all the continuities from OC to NC.

There is one people of God from beginning to end. We are part of that one people. There is one Scripture and it is made up of the Old and New Testaments, but these are one single Word of God. There are not two words of God for two peoples; there is but one Word for one people of God. This too is continuity.

There is a dramatic change between Old Testament and New Testament, the difference is the OT looked forward to and anticipates the coming Saviour, and the NT is better because we live in the fulfilment of the Saviours redemptive work and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But even with this the Bible is one book and God’s people are all one people.

Coram Deo,

Friday, December 12, 2003

The Great Commission and Psalms 110:1

When Does Christ's rule begin? The Scriptures tell us when Christ's reign over the earth begins. We read in Matt. 28 beginning with verse eighteen: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Christ now has all authority “in heaven AND in the earth.” He received this from the Father nearly 2,000 years ago. It is not something future to us it is something that took place in the past, still exits in the present and will continue until the Second Coming.

We see this as well in Ps. 110:1 which says "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Psalm 110:1 is fulfilled at Christ Ascension. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father now and he is to remain there UNTIL His enemies are a footstool.

Lets look at I Peter 3:22. Peter affirms what I just said of Christ. "Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father as David prophesied in Ps. 110.

How about Eph. 1:20-23? "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all."

Again here we see Psalm 110:1 alluded to. He NOW has ALL authority including "in this world." Notice again that it is not something that we are waiting for, His authority is now. Christ Church is not only His bride, in another sense; the Church is Christ's body (and members of His Kingdom).

Christ's Church, His body, is extending His kingdom, by doing as He commands and a big part of that command involves preaching the Gospel, baptising the nations, and discipling them to DO all that Christ commands.

I mentioned above how Peter referred to this Psalm in one of his epistles, but he also used it before on Pentecost. In Acts 2 Peter interprets this important verse for us and again notice it is not future. Jesus Christ's rule at the right hand of God is already begun. Let's look at it "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself: The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:29-36)

Peter said that David saw the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and then quotes Ps.110: 1. Christ in accordance with David's prophecy is raised from the dead and IS NOW seated at the right hand of the Father, where He is to remain UNTIL His enemies are made His footstool. In other words He is to remain at the right hand of the Father until his enemies are conquered.

Notice again what Peter says. We said that Jesus is NOW Lord and Christ. Lord is a term for authority and power, and as we have already seen His authority is in heaven and earth. Not will be, but is and He is to remain at the Father’s tight hand until His enemies are conquered.

Let's now look at I Cor. 15. Hear what Paul writes to the Corinthians. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Cor. 15:23-28)

Here again we have an Apostle alluding to Ps. 110:1. Christ has already been given all authority in heaven and earth and He is now reigning conquering His and our enemies. Remember Christ is to remain at the right hand of the Father until all enemies are defeated (death will be the last enemy). Then Jesus turns the Kingdom over to the Father. That is the end of history.

I don't believe that Ps. 110:1 allow for a premillennial view of end times, especially when we see how the Apostles in the New Testament interpret it. Their interpretation of Psalm 110:1 is the correct one.

In Gen. 3:15 (the beginning of the Bible is a good starting point for the study of nearly any doctrine) Here we read what is known as the proto-evangelium. It’s here that we see the first prophecy of the Saviour to come. It is in this verse that we read of the serpent bruising the heel of the woman's seed (Jesus) and that the seed of the women (Jesus) would bruise the serpent’s

We know that this verse is pointing to Christ, who is the seed of the woman, It is Christ who, at the Cross, defeated Satan (bruised his head), but look at what Paul says in Romans 16:19, 20 "For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Here Paul says that it is the Church, remember we are the body of Christ, which will bruise Satan under our feet. Paul applies to the Church what was prophesied and accomplished in and by Jesus Christ.

What did Jesus tell Peter in Matthew 16:18-19? Let's see “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

It is amazing how folks get this wrong. Jesus promised that He would build His Church and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." What does this mean? It's military language. The idea is Christ's Church, that He builds will storm the very gates of Hell. The Church is the attacker, and not the one under siege. Because it is Christ's and the Holy Spirit’s work, and not our own, we can be confident that the church is going to be victorious in history. Not because we are great, but because the one in us is GREAT. It is all His doing. The Great Commission will be realised, and the Church will, in time, accomplish what Christ has ordained for it to do (i.e. baptise and disciple the nations).

It is Christ working in His Church, that He built and has filled with His Holy Spirit, which will do this.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Keep His Commandments?

God’s people are saved from their sins by His grace through faith. Paul makes this very clear in his epistle to the Ephesians. He says: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:2-9). I have heard that quote countless times, and I thoroughly agree with my brothers who stress that salvation is all of God’s grace, that is His unmerited favour to us. But many times these same brothers forget what Paul says in the very next verse (10) as he continues his line of thaought. He writes "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10)

We are saved unto good works. Our good works are a vital aspect of our Christian life. They are so vital that James, in his epistle to the universal church, said in chapter two "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."

James makes clear that someone who claims faith in Christ, but has no works (fruit) that are in line with true faith has a dead faith. It is not true faith, because true faith in Jesus will produce good works. James asked a rhetorical question to make this very point. He wrote in verse fourteen of chapter two "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?" The obvious answer is No, because as James stresses true faith will produce good works in the believer.

Many people will respond "but we are under grace not law." These folks are referring to Paul’s statement in his letter to the Church at Rome (6:14), but the context in which I have so often heard this statement made shows a gross misunderstanding of Paul, and the Law/Grace distinctions.

The law of God condemns all who are fallen in Adam, and especially those that know God’s Word, but have rejected Christ. God’s law is a holy reflection of the very character and nature of God himself. (I am not talking of the ceremonial law, which was a shadow that pointed out to the Old Covenant believer his sinfulness and his need for the Saviour to come. That aspect of the Old Covenant economy is clearly done away with in the New Covenant) It is not just a coincidence that the longest chapter in the whole Bible is a song of praise to God and the holiness and goodness of His law that He has graciously given to His people (Ps. 119).

Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, knew that men could and would distort the scriptural teaching on the matter of God’s law and faith. He makes these statements about the law and faith in Roman’s chapter three. "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (28). So far so good, we are not and can not be saved by the law because of sin (Adam’s and our own) the law already condemns us all. But Paul is not yet finished; he goes on to say in verse thirty-one "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

We do not have an either/or, law/grace distinction. The law can not save us. It can only condemn us because we are sinners and sin by its very definition is a transgression of the law of God. We are saved by grace through faith, but the faith of a true believer will cause him to desire to keep God’s law. Let’s look at Christ’s Word’s on this matter.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:23,24)

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:10)

Many years after the Apostle John heard Jesus speak these Word’s on the night before His crucifixion, he wrote similar things in his own short epistles. John wrote "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (1John 2:3,4) These are strong Words! For anyone who professes to know Christ and shows no evidence in his life, these words should scare him to death. Because according to John that individual is likely on the road to hell and that is why Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, tells them (and us also) to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

Now back to John's epistles, because he is not finished. He says:
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1John 3:24)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. (1John 5:2)

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1John 5:3)

John continued this theme in his second epistle. He wrote "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it" (2John 1:6). We find this again in the very last book of the Bible, which is also written by this same John. Lets look at Revelation.

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:17)

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Rev. 14:12)

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Rev. 22:14)

Notice that John ties keeping the commandments very close to salvation itself. They are almost indistinguishable here in John’s writing (just as in James). That is because the Scriptures make clear good works (keeping the Commandments of God) will accompany saving faith.

Jesus makes clear that those that know Him (the regenerate/saved) will love Him and that love will cause them to keep His commandments. Remember what Christ said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled " (Matt. 5:17,18). Don’t forget that a “jot” and “tittle” is the equivalent of our dot over an “i” and cross of a “t”. God’s Law stands until the end of time. It is a reflection of His nature and so God’s law can not cease to be His, and therefore our, standard of righteousness.

The question is "Can we accept Jesus as Saviour and not as Lord?" The answer to that question is a resounding "No," not according to the Whole Council of God, which includes everything from Genesis to Revelation

Sola Deo Gloria,