Judaizers! Part Five
The Judaizers' Teaching and the Big "Faith-Only" Lie
To begin, please consider the following passages:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthian 6:9-10
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling - Philippians 2:12
7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. – 1 John 3:7-10
The truths presented in these passages are very clear. The unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The one who practices sin is of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin. The difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is obvious. The children of God practice righteousness. The children of the devil do not. Without personal righteousness we aren't God's children now and won't be in Heaven later.
It is necessary now to consider one additional passage of scripture. It is one that receives far more attention than those quoted above.
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law - Rom 3:28
This verse is generally understood to say "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith alone." But that is not what it says.
Christendom's Big Lie
The following remarks are taken from various protestant commentaries, attempting to explain the meaning of Romans 3:28:
Albert Barnes, noted Presbyterian commentator, says "apart from works of the law" means, "No righteousness of their own" and goes on to say, "God has devised a plan by which they may be pardoned and saved; and that is by faith alone."
According to John Gill's Expositor, "apart from works of the law" means, "all this is done without works of any sort…" and "…by faith without works joined to it."
W. B. Godbey states that the phrase "apart from works of the law" means: "…justification is by faith alone without any works of any law… ...without deeds of law; i. e., water baptism or anything else on the line of legal obedience."
Robert Haldane, a Congregationalist who has written a famous commentary on Romans, says: "It signifies that no degree of obedience to law is necessary" and "Good works… are not in any respect necessary to justification. They have nothing to do with it." He also states that "Men are justified by faith … without any obedience of their own."
According to these teachings there is an entire list of things that are completely unnecessary to our salvation: law (any kind of law), personal righteousness, water baptism, obedience, and good works.
But if these interpretations of the meaning of Romans 3:28 are correct, scripture contradicts itself, which is unacceptable. All scripture is God-breathed and – being from a single infallible source – is in complete harmony.
Is it biblically true that:
- There is no kind of law involved in our salvation? The Son of man will send forth his angels to gather up those who practice lawlessness and will cast them into the furnace of fire – Matthew 13:41-42. Paul stated that he was not without law but was under the "law of Christ" – 1 Corinthians 9:21.
- Personal righteousness is unnecessary to be saved? The unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
- No works or good deeds are involved in salvation? We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling – Philippians 2:12. Notice also that both the sheep and goats of the Matthew 25:31-45 judgment scene are assigned to their eternal dwellings on the basis of deeds. Some - as a result of their deeds - gained Heaven, while others - lacking good deeds - are cast into the eternal fires.
- Water baptism has no connection to salvation? Baptism is for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:38. It brings us into Christ, which is where the grace is – Romans – 6:3; Galatians 3:27. From it we are raised to a new life – Romans 6:4. Baptism now saves us – 1 Peter 3:21.
- No obedience is necessary? Jesus will come one day in flaming fire to deal out retribution on those who do not obey His gospel – 2Thessalonians 1:7-8.
As you can see, none of these "faith-only" assertions – supposedly based in Romans 3:28 – is biblically true. Every one of them is in direct contradiction to clear teachings found in the New Testament.
Are we saved by faith? Of course we are. And we are also saved by a lot of other things. The New Testament makes some very strong statements about faith. But it makes the same kinds of statements concerning other things, such as repentance, obedience, personal righteousness, our testimony of faith in Christ and baptism, among others.
Am I teaching that our salvation is earned? Absolutely not! God has offered me a deal that I did not and could not deserve – and if I am saved, it must therefore be by God's grace. I do not teach or believe that salvation is earned or that it could ever be deserved.
What I am teaching is that the Bible does not teach salvation by faith alone. The doctrine of salvation by faith alone is in direct contradiction to the overall teaching of the New Testament. As a matter of fact, the only time the Bible ever uses these words – "faith alone" – is in James 2:24.
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. - James 2:24
The doctrine of salvation by faith alone has dominated compromised Christendom for generations but it is not found in the Bible. Not only this, it directly contradicts what is said in the Bible.
A Correct view of Romans 3:28
Romans 3:28 is popularly understood as referring to the principle or idea of law rather than any specific body of law. Godbey's comment above summarizes the mindset; we are justified without: "any works of any law".
There is very good reason, though, to suppose that Paul had one specific kind of Law in mind here; namely the Mosaic Law. Within the book of Romans, Paul actually speaks of "the law" quite extensively. This supplies us with ample opportunity to understand what Paul is speaking of when he speaks of "the law". For example:
- Romans 2:12-27 mentions "the Law" eighteen times (NAS translation) and there is no question that Paul is talking about the Mosaic Law given to the Jews.
- Romans 3:10-18 quotes at length from Psalm 14 and 53. Then as we continue into Romans 3:19-21, we read, "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law" (Romans 3:19)
- Paul then tells us that "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20) and "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets".
All of these references are undeniably speaking of Moses' Law. What good reason is there, then, to suppose that Paul shifts his focus away from Moses' Law at Romans 3:28? There is none. Paul does not tell us in Romans 3:28 that our justification is by "faith alone". He tells us that it is "apart from works of the [Mosaic] Law". It is actually quite interesting to compare Romans 3:28 to Romans 3:21.
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets - Rom 3:21
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law - Rom 3:28
In the 1st of these passages, God's righteousness was manifested "apart from the Law". In the 2nd, man is justified "apart from the Law". One passage speaks of God's righteousness, the other of man's justification. But in each case the goal is achieved "apart from the Law"; that is, apart from Moses' Law.
An Ironic Contradiction
Here is an astounding fact: the same teachers that champion "salvation by faith alone" have traditionally emphasized the "Ten Commandments" as well. I was raised in one of the mainline denominational churches. We were taught to memorize and recite the Ten Commandments at a very young age. We were taught that good children kept these rules and would someday go to heaven. But any time anyone talked to us specifically about "being saved" it was by faith alone.
No one seemed to notice that they were sending us a mixed message. On the one hand we were told that we had to keep these special rules and that if we didn't we would end up going where the bad children went. On the other hand we were told there weren't any rules – aside from belief – connected to salvation. We were quite literally being taught two different ways of salvation.
It would be hard to name two more prominent examples of popular Christian Orthodoxy over the past few centuries than "the Ten Commandments" and "Faith-Only salvation". Questioning the necessity of either among most groups of "believers" will quickly raise eyebrows, if not peoples' ire. No one could have convinced me, as a small child, that you could go to Heaven without obeying the Ten Commandments. But we were also taught – and by the very same teachers – that to be saved "all we had to do" was believe.
How do we account for these contradictory ideas being presented side by side by the very same teachers? And for the fact that those teachers who present these contradictory ideas have no apparent insight into the fact they are sending a mixed message?
The Judaizers' teaching and Romans 3:28
As has been pointed out in previous lessons, one of the Judaizers' main teachings was that the gospel of Christ was not sufficient, by itself, for salvation. They contended that keeping certain parts of Moses' Law was also necessary. It has been said that the devil only has a limited number of cards in his deck but that he plays them very well. He has been playing his "Judaizers' cards" from the very beginning.
The entire Bible is inspired by God and – as a matter of fact – the Law of Moses is a tutor, or schoolmaster, that brings us to Christ – Galatians 3:24-25. Since the entire Bible is inspired by God it is very difficult for believing people to grasp the idea that Christians are no longer bound to live by the rules and regulations of the Old Testament, yet Galatians 3:25 teaches this exact thing. To suppose that there is not a single rule in the Old Testament that Christians must follow simply feels wrong. Surely something from the Old Testament needs to be carried over into the new and Christendom has nominated the Ten Commandments as the thing to be kept.
Unwilling to see Paul's actual meaning – that none of the Old Testament Law – has anything to do with our salvation there was only one thing left. Paul must have been speaking of the principle of law. That was the thing that has no connection to salvation. He must have been teaching that our salvation has nothing to do with our own good works or our personal righteousness. Paul must have meant that our salvation is by faith alone without any kind of obedience to any kind of Law.
Of course while teaching this exact thing, they do continue also to teach that the good little children live by the Ten Commandments and go to Heaven, while the bad little children don't. Or at least they were still teaching it when I was in Sunday-School. Why can't they see the conflict and contradiction between these two teachings?
God, who searches the heart and tests the mind (Jeremiah 17:10) is the only one that can understand this completely. For my part, I suspect that the answer is to be found in contemplation of 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, especially the beginning of verse 4.
I am, by God's Grace,
Rich In Christ