The Way to Salvation
in the Christian Gospel
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1989
In this research study we wish to present the essential fundamentals of what the Gospel of Christ is all about. Surprisingly, the simplicity of the subject is forcefully shown by the apostles in the New Testament, but the understanding of it has become one of the most complicated and even contradictory topics in the whole of the Bible. Theologians and laity alike have such diverse views on the means to obtain salvation and what salvation entails in the first place. But with this study, we wish to show how utterly plain and common sense the subject of salvation really is. We think that by the time one finishes reading this booklet, the matter of our salvation that we have in Christ will be comprehended in the clearest possible way.
The Gospel of Christ is the message that can lead one to salvation. It shows the essential steps that one must take to secure the goal that God wishes all to attain. That objective is not merely for us to be saved from something, God wishes us to be saved to something. The human race, with an acceptance of Christ, is destined to inherit a condition and quality of life that is beyond the imaginations of man. That life has nothing to do with being in a "church" atmosphere for all eternity. Only a minority of people would desire such an existence. Godís salvation involves far more. He is planning to make his children productive, creative, useful, and supremely happy, within an environment of spiritual perfection, health, peace, and love. To secure such a salvation requires work. It is not an easy task. The ultimate utopia can only be accomplished through effort, and this is what the Gospel is all about. It shows us the manner (the necessary work to be done) by which salvation can be achieved. Since mankind is the central factor in the plan of salvation, the Gospel must be taught, understood and accepted by him, in order that man may begin the process which leads to the salvation which God wills all to attain.
What is the method by which a human can be saved? There is a certain and definite way to salvation. We all need to be aware of it. The way is found in the Gospel. Indeed, the early Christians called the Gospel of Christ by the simple term "the way" (Acts 9:2; 18:26; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22). In this booklet we wish to show the method by which the salvation of God can be obtained. It is a way far more magnificent and wonderful than many have imagined. It is sensible, beautiful and awe-inspiring. The central truth of it concerns Jesus Christ. It involves the reason for his life, his death, his resurrection and his present existence. We need to know why Jesus Christ came into this earth to live a righteous life and to die on the tree of crucifixion. Through the teaching about his life and his death we will be able to understand the way to salvation.
The major teaching of the Bible which is a key in understanding the way by which a person obtains salvation is that of Imputation. It is a most important doctrine which shows the legal position that man now has with God as it relates to sin and death. It also shows the legal way that God provides to place a man into a right relationship with him. It establishes the method by which a man can obtain salvation. Any major dictionary of theology will explain the basic teaching of this biblical doctrine. It represents the bedrock principle that reveals the method that God uses to bring men to salvation.
The Bible speaks of Imputation both in the Old and New Testaments, but the doctrine is given full discussion in the writings of Paul. What a beautiful and satisfying doctrine it is. One could say that all the reasons surrounding Christís coming to this earth and his dying on the tree of crucifixion are found in this one teaching alone. It is not simply a staid and stuffy theological doctrine. No, it is far more splendid. It is no less than the foundational teaching of New Testament Christianity and the central truths of the Bible could not be sustained without it. This is why the teaching of this doctrine is vitally important. Of all doctrines in the Bible, the one of Imputation is most necessary for the Christian to understand.
We must first recognize what the word "imputation" signifies. It is the noun form of the verb "to impute." The dictionary will give both the ordinary secular and biblical usage of the word, which means "to attribute, to ascribe, or to lay to the charge of." We must be concerned with the biblical usage, because that shows Godís meaning of the word. Any major dictionary defines the biblical meaning as "attribution of one personís righteousness or guilt to another." In simple language, it means to place the merits or demerits of one person to the account of another.
Two everyday examples can be helpful in comprehending the biblical teaching. Let us say a father is the custodian of an office building which he cleans each evening. He becomes sick and is unable to do his job, but his grown son becomes a substitute for his father and takes over his responsibility until the fatherís health is regained. At the end of the month the employer pays the father his full and normal wages. Why? Because the work which the son performed was imputed (or ascribed) to the father. The father still reaped the reward, though he did not do the work. Another example can be given, this time on the negative side, If a younger son who is under the age of responsibility borrowed his neighborís bicycle and rode it into a tree, any damages for the act could be imputed to the father. In this case, the responsibility for the demerits of his son become the fatherís.
These examples give some idea of what Imputation in the Bible means. The righteousness of the older son in doing his fatherís work was imputed to the father. In the latter case, however, it was the demerits of the younger son which were imputed to him. These examples are common ones which could happen to anyone in todayís society. From this point of view, the doctrine of Imputation is really not too foreign to any of us. In fact we deal with such matters in many of our normal affairs of life.
But in all sections of the Bible, it is the prime doctrine around which all teachings involving salvation find their meaning. The doctrine of Imputation is well-known in the Old Testament. The use of animal sacrifices in the forgiveness of sins or the offering of them in praise and thanksgiving to God is a cardinal example of Imputation. In the sacrificial system of ancient Israel, the animal being sacrificed took the place of the human offerer in matters dealing with sin and/or praise to God.
And in the New Testament the doctrine takes on even more significance because Christ Jesus takes the place of mankind in paying the penalty for sins as well as showing his obedience and praise to God. With Christ taking the place of mankind in matters dealing with sin and praise, we find the greatest example of Imputation in action. Indeed, in the Bible Imputation is the bedrock of Christian doctrine. The legal basis of salvation rests upon it - thatís how significant it is as a doctrine of the Holy Scriptures!
While the doctrine of Imputation is found in all areas of the Old Testament, it is the New Testament teaching that we need to evaluate if the doctrine of Christian salvation is to be understood. Strangely, there are so many people (including even preachers) who donít even realize that such a teaching is a paramount one of the Bible.
There are three major usages of Imputation mentioned in the New Testament. All three are similar in overall intent, but they are distinct as to their functions. The first usage is very familiar to all Christians; the second is recognized by most; while the third is sometimes not understood at all. But it is the first and third usages which are of vital importance in knowing what the Christianís present legal standing is with God. Let us begin our study with that part of Imputation which is most understood by Christians.
When Christ died on the tree of crucifixion, he was performing something for others. The sins of the whole world were imputed to him and he died on the tree of crucifixion in the place of mankind. "The love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Corinthians 5:14). "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3). "When we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). Or, to put it another way, God the Father "made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ became the bearer of our sins (they were imputed to him). We can now be reckoned as "sinless" in a legal sense because of Christís substitutionary role for us.
If one will look closely at the biblical teaching, it will be seen that the bearing of the worldís sins by Christ Jesus was something accomplished in him from birth - from the time he began to grow up as a tender plant and as a shoot out of the dry ground (Isaiah 53:2). Indeed, in a legal sense, his bearing of our sins went back even further than from his birth. It went back even to his conception in the womb of Mary. Christ (like David his human counterpart) was "made to be sin" at his conception as is typically shown in Psalm 51:5. (To understand the biblical reasons that show that Christ was bearing the sins of the world throughout his life, see my book Secrets of Golgotha, pages 203 to 220.)
There is one point that must be clearly understood about the conception of Christ. When the Father caused his conception to occur in the womb of Mary (John 1:14), it was not Maryís physical ovum that was engendered that caused Christ to become "flesh" (else Christ would have inherited Adamís "sin" as shown by the apostle Paul in Romans chapter five). Christ actually became the seed of Mary (the woman of prophecy) by the means of an heavenly-created ovum being placed in Maryís womb which was then impregnated by the Spirit. Everything about Christís conception was spiritual and had nothing to do with the uniting of a human sperm with a human ovum. The ovum that was impregnated by the Spirit was not Maryís ovum. Mary was actually a surrogate mother to Christ Jesus and it was not her ovum or Josephís sperm that created him. The fact that Christ was considered Joseph and Maryís child (or being Davidís progeny) was only a legal recognition by God.
Indeed, both the genealogical tables of Christ as given in the New Testament are those of Joseph, the husband of Mary. One should be careful on this matter because it is usually assumed (without the slightest proof) that Lukeís genealogy is that of Mary. In no way is this so. The New Testament states in no uncertain terms that both genealogies are those of Joseph and that is how they should be accepted. But how can this be? Can Joseph have had two fathers. Yes, indeed. Since the genealogy given by Matthew was only a legal genealogy in the first place (simply because Jechonias of verses 11 and 12 died childless and was cursed from having any children to sit on the throne of David - see Jeremiah 22:24-30 and Jeremiah 36:30), it can be seen that Matthewís genealogy is maintained only by the rule of adoptionónot by actual birth. The truth is, Salathiel of Matthew 1:12 was the adopted son of Jechonias. So likewise, Joseph must have been the adopted son of the Jacob mentioned in Matthew 1:16. On the other hand, Lukeís genealogy is the actual physical descent of Joseph. In no way does Mary figure in either of the two genealogical lists. Mary is portrayed in the New Testament as having a Levitical blood line (even that from Aaron) because Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (who was clearly a priest) was a kinsperson to Mary (Luke 1:36). In spite of this Levitical connection, Christ Jesus was reckoned legally to be from Judah (Hebrews 7:14) through his legal father Joseph. Of course, all these matters are legal ones. Nonetheless, God looks on them as extremely important and they represent spiritual factors in the salvation plan of God and they cannot be taken lightly.
Let us now look once more at the conception of Christ that took place in Maryís womb. When that conception occurred, he at that very moment began to bear the sins of the world for mankind as Davidís typical "sinfullness" was attributed to him at his conception (Psalm 51:5). Of course, neither Christ nor David was actually a literal sinner (from having committed sins) at the moment of conception. It has to be reckoned as being only for legal purposes that Christ was "made to be sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21) for all mankind at that early time and throughout his life. The culmination of his role as our legal sin-bearer was performed when he died on the tree of crucifixion. As it says in Isaiah 53, Christ was sent to "bear their iniquities" (verse 11); that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him" (verse 5); and "the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (verse 6). His role as sin-bearer lasted from his conception to his death. Christ was the one "who gave himself for our sins" (Galatians 1:4). Or, as Peter put it, Christ "bear our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).
All these scriptures are exemplifying the doctrine of Imputation. Just as the ancient Israelite took a goat, laid his hands on its head and transferred (or imputed) his sins to the goat, then killed it in place of himself, so Christ accepted on his head all the sins of the world and died for you, me, and all. This is an essential doctrine of the New Testament, and as one can see, it is the foundational teaching of Christianity.
One thing, however, must be made clear at this point. The positioning of the worldís sins on the head of Christ was only a legal placement. Let me explain. Christ was of himself born into this world sinless. He lived a sinless life on earth (1 Peter 2:22). In fact, it has not been understood by many but since Christ Jesus was indeed "God" and he was the "Logos" (who was "God"), it was impossible for Jesus to actually sin no matter what he did or did not do. This is true because it is God who sets all the rules and he can do exactly what he pleases in heaven or earth without anyone calling him to the bar of judgment. Let us understand this point carefully: Jesus was reckoned sinless by the apostles not because of what he did or did not do in the flesh, but because of who he was! And because he was indeed "God in the flesh," it was impossible for humans to ever reckon the slightest sin in him. Of course, Christ was morally and ethically upright in all the things that he did, but his sinlessness must always be evaluated by who he was, NOT because of what he did or did not do!
Because the apostles recognized Christ Jesus to be "God with us," they also recognized (as a consequence of this) that he had to be reckoned as being "sinless." While Jesus was bearing the sins of the world and while he was hanging on the tree of crucifixion, he was, of himself, quite sinless. No personal sins of his own could actually be attributed to him; however, God did place upon his Son our sins. This placement in no way changed the basic nature of Christ. His actual character did not become that of a murderer, a thief, or a blasphemer. His perfect attitude toward God was not altered. While he was dying on the tree of crucifixion, he was being punished as an innocent lamb. Nevertheless, he was bearing the sins of the whole world. This imputation of sins to the head of Christ was only a legal placement. But so thorough was Christ reckoned as bearing the worldís sins that the apostle Paul said that he was actually "made" to be sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This means that Christ Jesus became the personification of sin (total and absolute sin) and until his death on the tree, this "sinfullness" included his flesh, his bones and his blood. Everything about Christ was reckoned as sin. Only after Christís resurrection was his blood purified to be without spot (Hebrews 9:14) in order for him to sprinkle his own blood within the holy place in heaven to cleanse even heaven itself from pollution (Hebrews 9:11-14). All of these things, though, are legal placements and they do not actually show a literal contamination of Christ or a literal purification around the throne of God in heaven. They are legal requirements that God demands and the importance of them must not be taken frivolously. Christ paid a supreme price to fulfill these legal necessities. Had he not done so for you, for me and for all mankind, then we would have to fulfill the punishments for sins ourselves. But God the Father took out his vengeance for sin (the penalties for it) on his firstborn Son, Jesus Christ. He has imputed our sins and the punishments for those sins to the head of Christ. This is what the doctrine of Imputation is all about. Realizing this will help us to comprehend the second act of Imputation as taught in the Bible.
The Apostle Paul had some very basic teaching regarding the sin of Adam, our first parent. Paul said: "By one man sin entered into the world" (Romans 5:12). The penalty for that sin was death (Romans 6:23). "And so death passed upon all men" (Romans 5:12). Though it is quite evident that all of Adamís posterity have committed their own personal sins, there was to Paul a great legal significance attached to the sin which Adam himself committed. Paul shows that Adamís sin relates to all his descendants. Every human who descends from Adam has the sin of Adam imputed to him or her. This even included Joseph and Mary (the legal parents of Jesus). Both of them were children of Adam and from Paulís point of view (as we will see) this made both of them sinners and this would have included all children born from them. But, as explained in the previous section, the ovum that was impregnated in Mary through spiritual engenderment was itself of spiritual origin. That heavenly ovum was placed in Maryís womb and then it was conceived through non-human means. This fact, as stated before, made Mary a surrogate mother of Jesus and not his actual "flesh and blood" mother who descended from the first Adam.
This procedure shows that Christ was not descended from Adam and Eve, but he came directly by special engenderment from the Father in heaven. Christ was another Adamóthe second or last Adam that the apostle Paul talked about in First Corinthians 15. And though Christ was "made flesh" (a human as we are), he was not descended from our earthly father, Adam. Mary was simply a surrogate mother who supplied the physical nutriments within her womb to develop the "last Adam." Had this not been the case, then Christ would have to be reckoned a sinner (with Adamís sin imputed to him) like all of us are. Christ did not inherit the sin of Adam from Joseph and Mary because Joseph and Mary were not his actual parents. Christ was created a fleshly being directly from God the Father in heaven.
Let us see how the apostle Paul makes a major case out of this matter concerning Adam and his sin being passed on (in a legal sense) to all his children. Sin started out by Adam committing a single transgression. This made him a sinner and he was now subject to death. But Paul does not leave the death penalty on Adam alone. Adamís offence resulted in the death of many. Paul said: "Through the offence of one, many be dead" (Romans 5:15). It was not the personal offences of men that result in their deaths, but the offence of the one person, Adam, that "the many be dead" (Romans 5:15). Paul made a legal case out of Adamís offence. He imputes judgment for Adamís sinful act to all men who came after him. "By the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation" (Romans 5:18). As clear as Paul can make it, he said that through the guilt of Adam, our first father, we all partake in a judgment to condemnation. That judgment is death. "By one manís [Adamís] offence death reigned by one" (Romans 5:17). The judgment of death because of Adamís sin was imputed to all the human race. "For by one manís disobedience [Adamís sin] many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19). It was not their own disobedience that made the many to be reckoned as sinners. Paul said it was Adamís sin.
In the Greek, Paul spoke of "the many." The definite article "the" is there. This term is parallel with "all men" in verse 18. In that verse the term "all men" was used by Paul because the condemnation of Adam did in fact come upon all menóincluding even Christófor he was condemned to die (Matthew 20:18). Paul, however, made a distinction when he finally mentioned "the many." Had he said "all men" were reckoned sinners, that would have legally included Christ as a sinner. Christ certainly inherited a "condemnation" as other humans which resulted in his death, but he did not inherit "sin," or else he could not have been the sinless Son of God. Christís actual father was God the Father, and no sin can be attributed to him. Thus, Paul said only "the many" were reckoned sinners. He manifestly left out Christ from "the many." However, all the rest of mankind who have Adam as their literal father (as you and I) are reckoned sinners by Adamís disobedience (Romans 5:19). [The foregoing may be a technical and complicated point to understand, but these precise distinctions made by the apostle Paul were important in his teaching and he was very careful to write with utter precision about these significant matters.]
This teaching of Paul in the Book of Romans satisfactorily explains all important matters relating to the subject of sin and death. Suppose we humans had never sinned a day in our lives. Paul shows we would still be classified as sinners. Take a newborn baby as an example. When immediately born into the world, it could hardly be said to have been a participant in sin; but even David said, "In sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5). David was not saying his conception was a result of an adulterous union. Not at all. David simply meant that he was conceived as a fleshly human being. And what is the spiritual condition of human flesh? Paul spoke of it as "sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3). He shows that they who "are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:8) because in flesh "dwells no good thing" (Romans 7:18). Even though babies just born into the world (or for several months thereafter) have not committed any actual sins of themselves, they still reap the consequences of sin. But whose sin? Their own? No, for it is obvious that they have not consciously transgressed any law (Romans 5:13-14). But the judgment of death has been imputed to the generality of the race because of Adamís sinóand this means all humans no matter what age they are. Paul taught that all of us have become sinful because we have inherited sinful flesh from our first father, Adam.
Though Paul said we have all become sinners through Adamís sin, has our personal character been tarnished by this imputation? To answer this, let us recall the example of Christ in relation to our sins being imputed to him. When the sins of the world were placed on the head of Christ, and he became, in a legal sense, the greatest sinner the world has ever seen, was Christís righteous character tainted in any way by the experience of bearing the sins of mankind? No, not in the least. He was as sinless as any lamb would have been sinless when a humanís sins were confessed over it just before its sacrifice. The doctrine of Imputation shows that Christ was bearing all the sins of the world only in a legal sense. Likewise, the sin that has been imputed to us from Adam doesnít blemish our actual character (we mar our characters ourselves when we participate personally in sin). After all, a newborn baby could have no actual sin of its own; yet, Paul said it is still accounted as being sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). It received that sinful flesh from Adam. This is what Paul meant when he said Adamís transgression has been imputed to the whole of the human race. We are all legally reckoned as sinners no matter if we have never sinned a day in our lives. This is because we are constituted as "sinful flesh." This means that if a newborn child dies (or any human in the world), he still needs the blood of Jesus Christ to cover his sin in respect to salvation. When one understands Paulís teaching of Imputation as it relates to Adamís sin, all matters concerning sin and death can be satisfactorily answered in a legal sense.
We now come to one of the most important aspects of the biblical doctrine of Imputation. When we realize that the Bible states that Christ Jesus paid the penalty for our sins when he died on the tree of crucifixion, this fact provides us with clue of the clearest understandings of what the future judgment of mankind involves. Let us notice how significant this whole matter is.
Suppose you would ask normal Christian authorities (theologians and preachers) what the consequences of sin would be for unrepentant sinners? The majority would say it means that all sinners would have to go to hell-fire and in that cauldron of fire they would endure a punishing without any amelioration or release from such torment throughout the remotest times of eternity. In other words, according to most Christian preachers today, the punishment for sins (as far as they believe God wills it) is to place the sinner in an everlasting torment in a hell-fire.
But wait a moment! The apostle Paul taught that the wages of sin (the punishment for sins) was death and not some kind of "eternal life" (Romans 6:23). Everlasting life is a gift from God (Romans 6:23), and nowhere is it automatically (or naturally) reckoned as a punishment for sins. The wages of sin happens to be death, not life! And this is precisely the type of punishment that was placed on Jesus when he paid the penalty for our sins. This means that every sin ever devised or perpetrated by mankind (from the time of Adam to the period in the future known as the dispensation of the fullness of times) was placed on the person of Christ Jesus. He bore the punishment for everyone of those sins that has been committed on the earth. God the Father imputed them to Christ, and not to mankind. This is the central teaching of the Gospel and the apostle Paul homed in on it with precision. Note Paulís teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:19. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
The sins that were positioned on the shoulders of Christ were all the physical (bodily) sins of mankind as well as all the spiritual sins of the human race (sins of the soul or spirit). Recall that humanity has committed spiritual sins that need forgiving as well as physical (fleshly) sins. Paul said: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (2 Corinthians 7:1). Because mankind has fleshly and spiritual sins that have plagued our lives, Christ Jesus had to take upon him the punishment for both fleshly and spiritual sins. But what was the punishment for such sins? Is it to go into hell-fire and burn forever without the hope of any release from torment? If that is what the punishment of sin really is, then for Christ to undergo that penalty instead of us, he would have had to go into that hell-fire and burn forever! This is the plain and simple teaching of the New Testament that any sensible person should be able to realize and appreciate.
But in no way did Christ undergo such punishment to pay the penalty for all the sins of mankind (whether fleshly or spiritual)! The Bible teaches that Christ died for our sins, not that he had to go to some hell-fire and burn forever! (The torment of fire without release day and night for the ages of the ages is for the Devil and his angels, not for mankind. See my research study The Lake of Fire ó Where Is it Located? at http://askelm.com/doctrine/d810201.htm, where this is clearly shown.)
But how can this be? Does not Christ himself teach that sinful man will have to burn in hades [translated "hell" in the King Jamesí Version]? In no way is this literally true! The illustration that Christ gave about Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16 (with the Rich Man after death being in a fire of torment) is a parable. This parable of Christ is not describing literal situations. After all, Matthew said that Christ never gave any teaching to the general public that was not in the form of parables (Matt. 13:34-35). This figurative teaching is much like that referred to by the apostle Paul when he said that if you help your enemy when he is in trouble, this would be like "heaping coals of fire on his head" (Romans 12:20). Paul did not mean that literal coals of fire would be placed on the head of your enemy. He simply meant that the personís conscience would burn with compassion for the act of kindness which you would show to him. We need to be careful to separate the figurative teachings of Christ given in parables in the Gospels and by the apostle John in the Book of Revelation from the literal teachings of the Bible which are shown by adopting the standard of doctrine found in the personage of Jesus Christ. The example of Christís life and the judgments meeted out by God upon him represent the standard for the ultimate Christian punishment for sin.
It is important to recognize that Christ Jesus is the standard for the appraisal of all doctrines. This is especially true in matters dealing with the forgiveness of sins and the punishments for sins. The standard as provided by Christ Jesus shows that he died for our sins. He did not go into a hell-fire to live for the rest of eternity in a fiery torment. When we recognize Christ Jesus as the standard for doctrinal belief to fulfill all the requirements God the Father places on mankind, then we are freed from the nonsense that modern theologians and preachers foist off on humanity. Modern preachers have normally abandoned Christ Jesus as the standard for doctrinal beliefs and they have taken over figurative teachings in the Bible as being literal. Their erroneous positions represent the absorption of the teachings of classical paganism right into the marrow of Christian doctrine. In actual fact, their false concepts have as their origin Satan the Devil.
When one adopts Christ Jesus (his life and example) as the standard for all doctrinal matters, then one can see that the teaching found in Luke 16 about Lazarus and the Rich Man was simply a parable. The Rich Man was not literally in the pangs of fire after his death as a punishment for his sins. After all, if such a torment was the actual punishment for sins, then Christ Jesus would have had to endure that very punishment to pay the penalty for the sins of the world. This means that Jesus would have to be in the torment of hell-fire for the rest of eternity. But Christ did not pay such a penalty. The truth is, Christ is the standard for the interpretation of all doctrinal teachings ó not only in setting the standard of righteousness for all of us, but also in carrying out the punishment of sins on our behalf. What Christ did to pay the penalty for sins was to die for us, not to go to an endless torment in some kind of everlasting hell-fire. Again, we need to be careful to separate figurative teaching from the standard of teaching that has been established by the example of Christ Jesus.
Dr. E.W. Bullinger wrote a massive book titled Figures of Speech in the Bible to show the frequent use of figurative language in the teachings of the Scripture. Indeed, even our English language is filled with such figures and foreigners just learning the language often make silly and humorous mistakes when they take some English expressions literally. Dr. Bullinger repeatedly warned all readers of the Bible to be careful and not make a figurative illustration to be literal or a literal statement to be figurative. In actual fact, the prime abuse of scriptural teaching today (and over the centuries) is for people to misinterpret the figurative for the literal. It is time this practice stops! Christ and his example is the only canon (or rule) for interpreting scriptural teachings. We will avoid great errors if we let Christ and the example of his perfect standard of life and death set the rules for the interpretation of doctrines. This certainly is the case when it comes to reckoning what the biblical teaching represents regarding the punishment for sins.
With the standard of Christ in mind, any first year law student in college should be able to understand what the punishment for sins really is as defined in the biblical revelation, if the wages of sins is everlasting life in hell-fire then for Christ to have paid the full penalty for our sins, he would have to be in that "hell-fire" right now and continue to be there in torment for the rest of eternity. But this common teaching of preachers and theologians is utter foolishness! The Bible shows that Christ Jesus did not undergo such "everlasting punishment" but he was resurrected from the dead within three days of his death and is now at the right hand of God in heaven. He didnít go into any "eternal hellfire." But again I must emphasize, as plain as the Bible can make it, if everlasting hell-fire is the penalty for sins, then Christ (to pay that penalty for us) would have to be in that fiery cauldron right now (and for the rest of eternity suffering unrelentless torment). Of course, Christ underwent no such thing to pay for the sins of the world and it is time that preachers and theologians give up that horrendous (and erroneous) doctrine that comes directly from hellenistic paganism.
While it is easy to show that the punishment for sins is not to endure an everlasting hell-fire without any release from torment, some preachers maintain that the Bible teaches that everlasting represents the penalty for sins. But that is not the punishment for sins that Christ Jesus underwent. If everlasting death is the penalty for sins then Christ Jesus would have had to remain in the grave for the rest of eternity to undergo that particular punishment. But again, the simple truth is, Christ was resurrected from the dead a short three days after his death and he has paid the full penalty for the sins of mankind.
Isnít it better to believe the apostle Paul on these matters when he said that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that Christ Jesus paid the complete penalty for sins when he died on the tree of crucifixion (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)? From my point of view, I would rather accept Paulís teaching any day than the modem theologians and preachers who totally misunderstand what the punishment for sins really is. It is time to begin believing the teachings of the Bible than the erroneous doctrines of mankind concocted through the agency of Satan the Devil that have been deceptively palmed off on people as the teaching of Christ and the apostles. The traditional interpretation of an everlasting hell-fire for sinners is as wrong and as senseless as believing that a three dollar bill is legal tender.
The simple truth is, God the Father imputed the punishment (the penalty) for our sins and the sins of the world to the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. And those sins have been fully paid by Christ over 1900 years ago when he died on the tree of crucifixion. This is the teaching of real Christianity rather than the nonsense the world is commonly being taught today by so-called Christian "authorities."
There is also one other point that needs to be cleared up in regard to Christís atoning life and death for us. What Christ secured for us is a legal standing with God the Father regarding the payment of our sins. But this legal standing is only brought into play at the judgment that all of us must undergo when we stand before God (2 Corinthians 5:10). It is God the Father reckoning to us a perfect sinlessness in his sight as it relates to the judgment. At that time, when we come before the bar of judgment, God the Father will open up the books to the demerit side of our ledger and he will find it completely free of any censure ó even the slightest sins will have been taken care of for us by Christ on the tree of crucifixion. But that does not mean that we are actually free of the consequences of sin while we are in the flesh.
The apostle Paul states that we are actually sinners and we many times have to suffer at the present time for those sins. If, for example, you would eat a green apple (which could be reckoned a sin to your body), you would probably develop a stomachache. The application of Christís atonement to get rid of that stomachache which you foolishly caused is not covered by the atonement of Christ that he worked out for us during his life and at the time of his death on the tree. Indeed, we are told in the Holy Scriptures that it is appointed for man once to die and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Christís atonement does not free us from the pains, sufferings and physical death in this life. If Christís atonement were fully applied now, we would never have to suffer or die, because Christ already died for us (2 Corinthians 5:14). Letís face it, if you get a speeding ticket from a traffic officer and you plead the atonement of Christ on your behalf now, the judge will still toss you into jail if you fail to pay the fine. Christís atonement is actually awarded to us at the judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10), not during this life. As for sins that you may commit in the flesh, Paul taught clearly: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
Such people who teach that Christís atonement for all our sins can presently apply in our human existence while in the flesh are totally wrong in their appraisal of what the teaching of Imputation is all about. Christís total atonement for our sins (our pains, sicknesses, follies and demerits) applies only at the final judgment when we appear before the bar of God to answer for our sins in the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:10). This judgment scene occurs just after the second advent of Christ and our resurrections from the dead. Since Christ, as the king of kings and lord of lords, is the only one with a present immortality (1 Timothy 6:16), all Christian saints will put on immortality when the trumpet blasts at Christís return and we are resurrected (or changed) into an immortal existence at that time (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). That is when we will be resurrected from the dead to be judged (rewarded), and that is when we will be healed of all our sicknesses and the full atonement of Christ will be applied to our account.
With these matters in mind, we must now consider one more important point on the doctrine of Imputation as taught in the Holy Scriptures. It is the third usage of Imputation found in the Bible.
There is even more biblical teaching about the doctrine of Imputation. Not only have the sins and the punishment for sins been imputed to Christ on our behalf, something else has been imputed to us through the efforts and example of Christ Jesus. The fact is, even the righteousness that Christ had while he was here on earth throughout his life can be imputed to you, to me and to all in the world through our acceptance of Christ Jesus and his substitutionary role on our behalf.
Let us recall the illustration which was given at the beginning of this booklet regarding the custodian who was sick and could not perform his duties. What did he do? He asked his elder son to carry out his responsibilities for him. The son performed the duty for his father, and the deeds of the son were then imputed by the employer to the father who had done no work while he was sick. In a word, the father received the wages though he himself did not work.
Paul had some similar things to say about Christ and what he did for us while on this earth for some thirty odd years. It is the most glorious and wonderful teaching found anywhere in the Bible. We find that Christ not only came to die for us, he also came to live for us. While on this earth he lived a sinless life. He obeyed the Father precisely. He performed all that God ever demanded of any human, and in his perfect performance he was totally accepted by God.
Now, note this point. Not only are our sins taken away from us, and the punishment for those sins has now been endured by Christ, but the important third usage of Imputation involves the placement of Christís perfect righteousness on the head of every Christian. This is one of the most important subjects to be found anywhere in the Bible. Why is it important? Because a man must demonstrate perfect righteousness and holiness in his life or he will never see the Eternal God or attain to the glory of God. Perfection in holiness is necessary for salvation. This truth is a recurring one in the Bible.
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully."
Throughout the Bible, God informs all people that his commandments must be obeyed for righteousnessí sake ó and obeyed precisely (Deuteronomy 32:46; Matthew 5:19). No one can enter into the resurrected life of the spirit unless he shows an active righteousness by keeping all the commandments. Christ himself explicitly taught: "If thou will enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
While it is good and proper to endeavor to keep the commandments, this presents a problem to us humans. Though the rich ruler said he had kept the commandments from youth, he refused to sell his goods and follow Christ. The man actually coveted his possessions and this was a disobedience of the very commandments he claimed to observe. And sadly, we are all in the same boat. All of us have failed to walk perfectly in the ways of God. No man has ever kept the commandments of God and shown an absolute righteousness in his daily life, whether he be a person of the Old Testament or the New. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Yet, a strict performance of Godís commandments is necessary for salvation.
Now, let me tell you a fact. The Bible in no uncertain terms states that you and I must keep Godís commandments perfectly (without the slightest taint of disobedience) if we ever hope to be saved and to one day be in the paradise of God. All of Godís just requirements must be met in the life of a human or he will never stand in the presence of God. In a word, there must be an active and perfect holiness in every humanís life. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
In this strict requirement, humanity has a problem. The Bible shows quite clearly that no human is righteous in Godís eyes. No matter how many good deeds one has performed, all of us have come short of practicing righteousness (Romans 3:20). "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). This means that no person, no matter how righteous he may think himself to be, can stand in the presence of God. This is a serious situation in which to be. In fact, we are in a very precarious position. Without absolute and perfect righteousness, holiness and purity, one cannot obtain salvation. In no way will a person on earth be saved unless he or she is perfectly righteous and in utter and absolute purity and obedience to God. In truth, the Bible demands that there cannot be the slightest tinge of sin or imperfection in a person. God the Father will save only perfect individuals and those who practice righteousness continually. The Holy Scriptures are plain on this matter. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
Now notice this carefully: while the death of Christ on the tree of crucifixion cleanses us from sin, it does not of itself constitute us as being actively righteous. It does get rid of our sins and because of this God no longer recognizes us (in a legal sense) as now being sinners. This means that Christís death on the tree of crucifixion makes us to be in the spiritual condition of Adam and Eve before they sinned. At that time they were perfectly sinless. We can also be reckoned sinless through the death of Christ. But something was lacking in Adam and Eve. Though at first they were certainly sinless, they still had done nothing of righteousness whatever. And similarly, through Christís death we are reckoned as being legally sinless, but we have shown no righteous performance in actively fulfilling the commandments which are a necessary requirement of humans in the plan of salvation. Even an animal, such as a lamb, is sinless throughout its entire life; but it cannot be given salvation because of its sinlessness. But why not? This is because such an animal is not capable of showing righteousness. Simply being regarded as sinless is not the only requirement for salvation. One must also consciously practice a perfect righteousness before God ó an obedience to the commandments of God. Only humans (not animals) are consciously aware of Godís spiritual commandments, and we are the ones who should walk in them. It is humans who must demonstrate an absolute obedience to God.
This teaching is found in the Old Testament. Moses wrote of righteousness being ascribed to a person who would show perfect obedience to the law (Romans 10:5), but it is also made clear in other scriptures that all people have broken Godís law through sinning (Romans 5:12). If a person broke only one commandment of God, he would be guilty of breaking all (James 2:10). Even if a person tried to substitute his normal law-breaking with a heavy emphasis on good works, his efforts are unacceptable towards salvation because he still remains a sinner. No one can keep the law perfectly, no matter how hard he tries.
Even though good works are essential for the Christian, they canít be used to secure the righteousness which God requires. The Christianís salvation comes "not by works of righteousness which we have done" (Titus 3:5), nor does it come even by trying to obey the law on our own (Galatians 2:21). Indeed, Paul shows that the righteousness of God is manifested "without the law" (Romans 3:21), and it comes "to him that works not" (Romans 4:5). The apostle Paul talked about a "righteousness without works" (Romans 4:6). A man could be a constant performer of good works (and this would be commendable) but such actions would not secure for the man the righteousness which one must have to stand in the presence of God. The remedy to the problem, as the apostle Paul saw it, was for mankind to have righteousness imputed to him by God. And this is exactly what God does for us through the righteous acts of Jesus Christ being imputed to us. This procedure is one of the most important aspects of the biblical doctrine of Imputation.
Since righteousness is demanded of God, we need to know how to receive it. Paul tells us plainly how righteousness is obtained. It is received through faith (belief). It is having faith in God. "Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3). He received righteousness by exercising belief. Paul called belief in Christ a "righteousness of faith" (Romans 10:6). But whose faith is it that really counts in granting us salvation? Is it our faith? In actual fact, the apostle Paul said it is not our own faith that gives salvation to us. It is the faith of Christ himself. Only the faith of Christ has the power to save you, me and all mankind. And while we are told to express faith on numerous occasions in the New Testament (and it is important that we do so), it is not our own faith that is efficacious in Godís granting of salvation to us. Let us look at our personal faith for a moment.
Personal faith is important, but it has a problem. Though human faith is a precious possession, and though it can produce a measure of righteousness that God will accept (Matthew 9:29; Luke 17:19; Romans 1:8; 4:5,12; 12:3,6; 2 Corinthians 10:15; Ephesians 1:15), it still cannot produce a perfect righteousness! It cannot be perfect because our own faiths are not perfect. The righteousness that personal faith produces is not the faultless "righteousness of God." To obtain salvation, however, it is the "righteousness of God" that we must possess. It is the same type of righteousness that God has. This means we must have spotless purity, perfect holiness and absolute righteousness. Can our own faith, no matter how strong it is, produce these virtues? How can it when we are constantly saying to God, as did the apostles, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). We must look elsewhere for the faith that will grant us "the righteousness of God."
But what is the "righteousness of God"? Note this. The phrase "righteousness of God" (or its equivalent) is found in Paulís writings nine different times: Romans 1:17; 3:5, 21, 22, 25, 26; 10:3 (twice); 2 Corinthians 5:21. The apostle Paul shows that the right living that secures salvation for us represents nothing less than the "righteousness of God." Through our own faith, we can gain a certain justification in Godís eyes, but it is not possible to procure the perfect and spotless "righteousness of God" through our faith. What kind of faith is necessary? The answer is made clear in the Bible: it is the faith of Christ! It is the faith that belongs to Christ.
"Knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Jesus Christ, and not by the works of the law."
Note carefully this important statement made by Paul. It is not our own faith that really makes us perfectly righteous in Godís eyes. It is Christís faith! His faith was and is a spotless faith. And while our faiths may waver from time to time, Christís faith has never diminished. He has constant faith to the point of perfection. And the apostle Paul taught that Christ has the faith to get you, me and the rest of mankind saved. We may not have the proper faith, but he does! The faith that Christ extends to God the Father on our behalf is powerful enough and perfect enough to get us saved. This is because his faith was, and is, impeccable. If we wish to possess the righteousness which is of God, and not of ourselves, it is Christís faith and his righteousness that will secure it for us. Notice what Paul said:
"I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but which is through the faith of Christ the righteousness which is of God by faith [by Christís faith]."
The righteousness which is of God comes through Christís faith, not our own. It is this "righteousness of God" which we must have to obtain salvation and to stand before God as his children. And Christís faith is the faith that procures it.
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness ofí God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe [that have faith]."
Note the closing words in the verse above. We must ourselves have a personal belief. But our faith must lead us to accept the truth that "the faith of Jesus Christ" is the only faith that will allow us to have "the righteousness of God." We cannot work up the righteousness of God into our lives through our own human faith. We have to be "made the righteousness of God" through the miracle of Christ working in our lives. This being made righteous comes from efforts done by God and it does not come from our own works of faith. This is the cardinal teaching of the apostle Paul in regard to reaching the perfect righteousness of God. Paul said: "For he has made him [Christ] to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God IN HIM [in Christ Jesus]" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The truth is, God the Father imputes the righteousness and faith of Jesus Christ to each of us. It is not our own faith (or even our own righteousness) that counts in Godís appraisal of us. If we are in Christ and he is in us, then God the Father reckons that each of us is in the exact condition spiritually that Jesus Christ is in at the present time. We humans can be accounted righteous when Christís obedient life is imputed to us. This is made so clear by the apostle Paul. "By the obedience of one [Christ] shall the many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). We have to be "made righteous," because we certainly have no righteousness of ourselves.
Paul makes it plain. It is possible for people to be reckoned as righteous, but only through the obedience of Christ ó not through our own works. This is why Paul said that righteousness comes to man as a gift. It is "the gift of righteousness" (Romans 5:17). All gifts, by the very nature of things, are free. And thatís what Paul insists the procurement of righteousness is. "The free gift of many offences unto justification" (Romans 5:16). Even the faith that we have to be saved is a free gift. "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Even the justification we have in Christ is a free gift.
But what is justification? Many people have missed the proper teaching of the apostle Paul on this subject almost wholesale. Paul said we have been freely justified in Christ, but many Christian people today are unaware what the term "justification" actually means. If there is one teaching that needs understanding it is this one. The biblical doctrine of Imputation is readily reflected in Paulís teaching regarding our justification in Christ. Let us see what the apostle Paul really taught on this subject.
Though all people are naturally sinners, through our Lord all can be justified. The King James Version mentions justification or to be justified in a number of verses. But what does "justification" mean? Let us now make it clear. The word "to justify" means in the literal Greek, "to make righteous." See Kittel, Theological Dictionary, vol.11, p.211. But in Paul, the usage is a legal one. It really means "to declare righteous" (Lenskiís Commentary, Romans, p.269). If one would substitute this clearer meaning for the words "to justify" in all King James references, the meaning would become much more understandable. Justification shows that Christians are being declared righteous by God ó but not by their own works. Our justification comes as a free gift from God. Let us now substitute the true meaning of Paul by rendering "to justify" by "to declare righteous." Note what Paul said:
"Being declared righteous freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).
"Therefore we conclude that a man is declared righteous by faith without deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28).
"Seeing it is one God, which shall declare righteous the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith" (Romans 3:30).
"Therefore being declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
"Knowing that man is not declared righteous by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ ... not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no person be declared righteous" (Galatians 2:16).
Let us consider our standing in a precise way. Just as Christís righteous character was not marred when our sins were placed on him throughout his life, it is important to realize that the actual righteousness of Christ is not really infused into our natures by the imputation of his righteousness to us. Being justified (that is, being declared righteous) is only a forensic righteousness that we possess before the Father. But the legal standing we are given is real. Even though we are sinners by nature, Christ has nevertheless reconciled us to him "in the body of his flesh through death, to present you HOLY and UNBLAMEABLE and UNREPROVABLE in his sight" (Colossians 1:22). Yes, in the Fatherís sight, though we are sinners, we are still declared righteous [that is, justified]. It is God who "justifieth [declares righteous] the ungodly" (Romans 4:5). He is not justifying those who are already righteous or those who are already holy, unblameable or unreprovable. The apostle Paul taught that God is justifying (or declaring righteous) the ungodly, the sinners, the blameworthy and those who by nature are evil. This means that each of you, and me, and all others in Christ are being declared righteous [righteousness is being imputed to us] even when we are not actually righteous of ourselves.
From clear New Testament teaching it is obvious that no Christian on earth today is righteous of himself. The Christian has to somehow accrue righteousness, and Paul said it was achieved by an exercise of faith. But whose faith? It is the faith of Christ! It is the expression of Christís personal faith being exercised on our behalf that secures a forensic righteousness for us. That is why our righteousness which God recognizes in us is called a gift. Had it been accomplished through our own faith, then we would be earning salvation by that meritorious faith. But it is not our faith that counts toward salvation. New Testament teaching shows it is Christís faith (his righteousness and his obedience) that God the Father sees as important. And Christís faith, righteousness and obedience has been imputed by God directly to us through the efforts of Jesus Christ performing perfect obedience on our behalf.
This is why the faith that saves cannot be earned. While our own faith is important in believing in Christ, it is still not the faith which brings a person to salvation. Only the faith of Christ can secure a perfect righteousness for us. It is this faith that God imputes to the Christian, This faith is of grace. "For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
Paul speaks a lot about grace. He insisted that salvation comes only by grace. It is impossible for us to obtain a perfect righteousness by our own faith or by our own good works. It is Christís faith and his works that count. This is why God gives us salvation by grace. "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."
The best explanation of grace is disclosed within the writings of Paul himself. The Greek word that Paul used is "charis." It means essentially "a gift" or "favor." In Luke 1:30, charis is translated "favor;" in 1 Corinthians 16:3, "liberality;" in 2 Corinthians 8:4, "gift." It is certainly the opposite of works or wages. Paul makes this quite clear.
"And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Without controversy, grace is a pure gift and it is thoroughly remote from anything connected with deeds, works, wages, or debts. This is made plain by Paul. He shows that debts incurred by works and grace are opposites of one another in meaning. "Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt" (Romans 4:4).
Grace always has to do with something freely given. Note the consistent teaching of Paul on this matter. "Being justified freely by his grace" (Romans 3:24). Grace is associated with "the free gift" in Romans 5:15 and also "the free gift" of Romans 5:16. This gift is called "the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:15). The gift is also called the "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness" (Romans 5:17). Conversely, the law is always associated with works and deeds. The breaking of law results in wages being paid ó the wages of death (Romans 6:23). Sin and death come by law. As Paul said, "the law entered, that the offence [sin] might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20). Grace came to counter the just demands of the law. Though breaking the law caused death to come to mankind, still the free "gift of righteousness" is now granted to redeem mankind. And while sin reigns unto death for all humans, "even so might grace reign through righteousness unto age-lasting life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21).
The New Testament shows that the righteousness of God now comes as a gift to mankind. Some might wonder if it really is a gift. There is Philippians 2:12 which says "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Does that not prove that some "work" is necessary after all? Yes, but whose work? The next verse says, "for it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (verse 13). Though Christians have something to perform to be proper and law-abiding citizens in our communities, and we are told that we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), the works that we should always be performing are not a means to secure salvation. We do good works because we know we are saved not as a means to obtain salvation. The only works that are essential in regard to redemption and salvation were those performed by Christ Jesus on our behalf ó not our own works!
In the early years of my professional training in the field of theology, the chancellor of the college I attended was in the habit of explaining what grace meant in the epistles of Paul. He used the illustration of his watch. He would call attention to the Rolex watch he had on his wrist and then bring into the story a beggar who came to him asking for a handout. The chancellorís explanation of grace was this: He would take off his Rolex watch and place it on a table in front of the beggar. Then he told the beggar that the watch was his if he would walk over to the table and pick up the watch. If the beggar did what the chancellor required, then the watch would be his ó freely and without cost. At least, this is what the chancellor explained was a free gift to the beggar. He then went on to say that salvation in Christ is secured by humans in a similar fashion. Christ offers salvation to us by "putting it on the table in front of us," but it is necessary for us to do our part. According to the chancellor, we had to "walk over to the table" and accept the "free gift" by repenting of our sins, expressing a belief and faith in Christ, confessing him before men and trying with all our hearts to obey the commandments of God. He believed that salvation would "freely" be ours if we "walked over to the table on which salvation was placed, and picked it up."
The truth is, however, that illustration of the watch and the beggar is not the teaching of the apostle Paul on the matter of grace. Why? Because "worksí were involved in the transaction! The works may have been very minor ones that the beggar had to perform, but they were still works and this is precisely what the apostle Paul said grace was not. For a true explanation of grace by using the illustration of the chancellor and the beggar, the rich man would place his Rolex watch on the table and tell the beggar it was his whether he walked over and picked it up or not! This is the true explanation of grace. With grace, the beggar was given full possession over that watch without the slightest requirements being demanded by the chancellor.
The truth is, the chancellor never did understand what Paul meant by grace. He always felt that mankind had to participate with God in obtaining salvation. He believed that humanity had to do at least a little work on their own to be saved, and probably 95% of preachers and Christian laity today accept the same erroneous teaching. They find it difficult to believe that "Christ did it all." But the truth is, that is exactly what Christ did do ó he did it all!
To Paul, it was not our own works of faith, righteousness, holiness and commandment-keeping that gets us saved. It was Christís perfect obedience to God that does it. But should not mankind repent of their ways? Yes, indeed (and all men will one day repent when God inspires them to do so), but salvation is not accomplished by what man does or does not do. Salvation is solely from grace. Remember, Christ died with all the worldís sins on his back (and even he died unrepentant before his death of those sins he was carrying for us), yet Christ was still saved through Godís grace. Paul taught that grace is a free gift without the slightest works (whether good or bad) coming into the picture.
And look at what mankind receives by this Imputation of Christís obedient life to us. Paul summed it up well by teaching:
"But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made UNTO US wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption."
1 Corinthians 1:30
By our acceptance of Christ and our being in him, God has reckoned unto us (or imputed unto us) a perfect wisdom, a perfect righteousness, a perfect sanctification [holiness] and a perfect redemption. These virtuous qualities are made over to our account even though we, of ourselves, do not deserve them. What God the Father does is to take away all the sins off our records (through the death of Christ on the tree of crucifixion) and then he imputes a perfect righteousness to our account. When we come before the bar of judgment, our demerit side of the ledger is wiped completely clean of any defilement, and our credit side is filled with all the righteous deeds accomplished by Jesus Christ while he was on earth. What a glorious thing Jesus Christ and God the Father have done for us through the agency of their grace.
But what about the sin in our lives that still plagues us from time to time? Since we now are declared righteous (justified) and reckoned to be holy by the Father, should we then let down on good works and let sin run rampant in our lives? In no way! The apostle Paul answered this matter very forcefully.
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness."
Those who continue in the deliberate practice of sin and unrighteousness can suffer serious consequences in this life for their departure from the right way of living. Paul was very adamant in condemning Christians who took the matter of grace lightly and used it as an excuse for wrong living.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting [age-lasting life]."
And though our salvation in Christ is secure because it has been given to us by grace and not by our works (whether good or bad), we can suffer much tribulation and anquish in this life if one shunts aside the practice of good works and begins to revel in sinful acts. The apostle Paul described the wretched condition of a man in Corinth who was practicing immorality (and doing so openly). Paul had some severe admonitions to give that man. He said: "Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit [of the man] may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Indeed, the rewards of a good life in this present era of time can be forfeited if a person abandons the principle of practicing good works ó to show forth a righteousness in this life. And while such people will eventually be saved through the grace of Christ (because salvation of itself is not based on our works ó whether the works are good or bad), they are in for some serious judgments while in this flesh if they cast aside the principles of right living. Note what Paul taught:
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every manís work shall be made manifest: for the day [of reckoning whether now or in the future] shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is. If any manís work abide which he hath built upon [upon the foundation, Jesus Christ], he shall receive a reward. If any manís work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself SHALL BE SAVED yet so as by fire."
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
A person who continues deliberately in the practice of sinful acts (which he or she knows to be wrong) may even be chastised to the point of not making the first resurrection. The first resurrection (which the apostle Paul called in Greek "the out-resurrection" in Philippians 3:11) is a reward that Christ gives to those who are diligent in the practice of good works and a reasonable conduct of life. Those who are brought forth from the dead at Christís second advent, will be able to see the thousand year reign of Christ on earth known as the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-5). But those who persist in sinfullness and unrighteousness will not be granted the privilege of witnessing that glorious reign of Christ on earth (known as the Kingdom of God). They will have to wait much later until the dispensation of the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10) before they will be resurrected to attain the salvation that God has granted to us through his grace. Paul even warned that some Christians who persist in sinfullness (in a deliberate way) will not witness that Kingdom of God which begins at the second advent of Christ and lasts for a thousand years on earth.
"Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but you are sanctified, but you are justified [declared righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
"For this you know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolator, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."
The time for the Kingdom of Christ and of God is the Millennium period ó the one thousand year rule of Christ on this earth. The apostle Paul said that the rule of the Kingdom will last even beyond the period of the Great White Throne and will finally conclude at the end of the dispensation of the fullness of time when Christ finally conquers the last enemy "death." This is when the final resurrection of the dead takes place and there are no more individuals remaining in the "death-state." This is the resurrection at the end [in Greek: the telos] when even death itself is destroyed. At that time Christ will hand all rule back to the Father. This is when the Kingdom of Christ (which he rules on Godís behalf) will end. "Then comes the end [the last resurrection at the end], when he [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" (1 Corinthians 15:24).
It would be a sad thing if any Christian missed out on experiencing the Kingdom of Christ and God which will occur on earth and in other areas of the heavens. But only those who are resurrected in the first resurrection (which takes place at Christís second advent) will witness that glorious period of time throughout its full span. This is the reward that each Christian receives who does not reckon grace as an opportunity to keep on doing sinful acts. This is the reward for those who reckon grace as the glorious doctrine that allows a person always to walk in a thankfullness to God for his mercy and faithfullness in saving all of us who make up the human race.
This is the reward that Paul wanted to attain. He said he was striving if it might be possible for him to make Ďthe out-resurrectioní ó the resurrection which takes place "out from among" the rest of dead. Those who do not make the "out-resurrectioní (the earlier resurrection at Christís second advent) will have to wait until the Kingdom of Christ and God is concluded (when the last enemy "death" is destroyed) to enjoy the salvation that we have all been promised through grace.
The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that those who repudiate the doctrine of Godís grace by treating it with disdain or in a frivolous manner will miss out experiencing one of the most majestic periods of time that mankind will ever be allowed to witness. This would be a great calamity to each person who misses the Kingdom of God. In fact, if a person sins willingly after having come to the knowledge of the truth on what grace really means and begins to treat it with disrespect and dishonor, sore consequences can come to the person in this life and he or she in the future will not experience the Kingdom of God!
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditious, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkeness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Mankind is warned to practice the principles of right living, which after all is only a reasonable requirement for the happiness and well-being of civilized man. But for those who persist in wrong living, the writer of the Book of Hebrews had some strong words to say to them.
"For we know him that has said, Vengeance belongs unto me, I will recompense, says the Lord. And again, the Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
God tries to rescue his people from falling into a life-style of wrong living. We read further in the Book of Hebrews: "For whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and scourges, every son whom he receives" (Hebrews 12:6). And he can chastise severely.
"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off."
Without actively trying to practice right living principles, people can miss out on witnessing the Kingdom of God. They can be "cut off" from such rewards. This does not mean, however, that the grace of God will be thwarted and that people will not eventually be saved. Before these dire warnings were given in the Book of Hebrews, the author was still aware that God "has perfected FOR EVER them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Ultimate salvation is something that has been secured by Christ for mankind without the works of man (either good or bad) being involved in the issue. Everyone will finally be saved and brought to a full knowledge of the truth of God.
"Who [God] will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
1 Timothy 2:4
All humans will finally be forgiven their sins and they will become reconciled to God
"For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.... And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world UNTO HIMSELF, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
2 Corinthians 5:14,18-19
"That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him."
"And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."
"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2: 10-11
This verse shows a voluntary and willing submission and confession to Jesus Christ to the glory of God. This is true because the apostle Paul showed that such confession is inspired by the actions of the Holy Spirit on such individuals (1 Corinthians 12:3). If one will check every occasion in the Old or New Testaments where the word "to confess" or its cognates are used, it will be seen that it is always placed in a context of persons using their "free will" and with heartfelt contrition. This scripture thus shows that all things in heaven, on earth and under the earth (the angels who are kept in chains in the bowels of the earth) will one day proclaim the Lordship of Christ to the glory of God the Father.
And though every person will eventually find salvation in the dispensation of the fullness of times, those who persist in sinful acts can miss out on the glorious period known as the Kingdom of Christ and God. Those who "sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). This applies to those who count "the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:29). This is the type of sin called "the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" that Christ talked about (Matthew 12:31) and referred to by the other apostles (James 5:20; 2 Peter 2:20ó21; 1 John 5:16). Yet this sin is not unpardonable in the ultimate sense. It is only "unpardonable" during this present age (up to the second advent of Christ) and in the next age to come (when the Kingdom of Christ appears on earth and lasts for the Millennium). That is what Christ taught. Notice it carefully.
"All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world [Greek: age] neither in the world [age] to come [the Millennium]."
This sin is different from ordinary sins because in this case the person who knows better actively and deliberately turns against what he recognizes to be the truth. Such people are doing "despite unto the Spirit of grace." Unlike we who can have our sins forgiven in this age and when Christ returns to have all our sins forgiven at the final scene of the judgment when the Kingdom of Christ appears on earth (at the start of the Millennium), these abject sinners who do despite unto the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this age nor will they be allowed forgiveness during the Millennium. The truth is, these people will not be living during the Millennium to gain forgiveness of sins.
Christ did not mean, however, that these vile sinners would never and in all circumstances not be forgiven sins. They simply have to miss out on the blessings of forgiveness now in this present age and also to miss out on seeing the rule of Christ on this earth during the Millennium and the judgment of the Great White Throne. But when they are finally resurrected at the beginning of the dispensation of the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10) and are able to look back on what has happened and to see what they missed out on as a reward, they and even spiritual powers in the heavens who have done sins (and caused mankind to sin abundantly) will submit to Christ and confess his Lordship to the glory of God. Recall once again the teaching of the apostle Paul on the ultimate harmony that will finally emerge between God and man and between God and all the spiritual powers in the heavens, on earth and under the earth.
"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God."
The proper way, however, is to remain faithful to Christ. But Paul taught that if people blatantly persist in the practice of sin and abandon all conscience toward sin (and feel no guilt for wrongdoing nor willing to repent of it), such people will suffer great losses. Not only can such people be handed over to Satan the Devil for punishment now, but they will miss out on experiencing "the world to come" (the age of the great Millennium when Christ will rule on earth in his Kingdom). This is why the apostle Paul was severe in his strictures toward such outrageous sinners who persist in their sins and break off any attempt to repent of them. He said: "Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:5). And also: "If any manís work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved yet so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15).
It would be a sad thing to miss out on witnessing and experiencing the wonderful Kingdom of God and Christ which will last during the Millennium and the period of the Great White Throne. But this is what will happen to those Christians who do despite against the Holy Spirit and do not repent of their sins when they know better. But, eventually, even they will much later in the dispensation of the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10) finally be reconciled to God and be saved.
At this point it is essential to remind ourselves of one major doctrinal fact. The important phrase "Kingdom of God and Christ" is not to be equated solely with the teaching of "salvation." The "Kingdom of God" is a part of salvation (in the sense of a reward to those who are brought up from the dead at the first resurrection), but it does not represent the totality of salvation itself. The fullness of salvation is to experience being born into the very family of God and this will happen to all in the dispensation of the fullness of times. But to be in the first resurrection means that we will witness and experience the Kingdom of God as well. This is the "icing on the cake" so to speak. It is an extra reward that all of us in Christ will receive if we remain faithful and thankful to God for what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is what Paul was endeavoring to experience by being in the "out-resurrection" (the first resurrection that occurs at Christís second advent) and this is what he wanted for all the Christians to whom he wrote. In effect, those of us who remain faithful in this age will inherit not only salvation but also the Kingdom of God (the reward) at Christís advent. And while all will eventually gain salvation, all will not experience the reward ó the Kingdom of God and Christ. It is just that simple!
Paul was well aware that ultimate salvation is gained through the grace of God (and not of our works -- either good or bad) and because it is of grace, salvation is secure for us all.
"Jesus Christ shall confirm you unto the end, that you may be blameless in the day of the Lord Jesus."
1 Corinthians 1:8
In fact, the apostle Paul expressed perfect confidence that salvation would be granted to all because it is God who started his work of salvation in us.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it [Greek: complete it] UNTIL the day of Jesus Christ."
In fact, the salvation for all mankind was secure in the plan of God even before the foundation of the world. Both God the Father and Christ, back at that remote time, reckoned that grace would be the means to get all mankind to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Paul taught this.
"Who will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
1 Timothy 2:4
"Who has saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN."
2 Timothy 1:9
This fact was the teaching of the apostle Paul and it is impossible to improve on it. We were saved by grace (through the purpose of God in Christ) before the world was ever created and mankind put upon it. Grace, not works, has always been the only means to salvation. The grace we have been given through Christ Jesus is "The Way to Salvation in the Christian Gospel."
Let us remember one essential fact. When Christ came to earth, he came to do something for us ó to do something which we were incapable of performing. He came to live a perfect life for us. And God the Father looks on every action that he did during his thirty odd years of life as imputed to us as though we did all his actions ourselves. At eight days of life, Christ was circumcised. Circumcision was a necessary righteous act which a person had to accomplish in order to have a proper relationship with God (Genesis 17:9-14). Why is physical circumcision no longer necessary for the Christian to perform? Because the Christian has already been physically circumcised in a legal sense when Christ was circumcised. It is Christís circumcision which was done in his flesh that is now imputed to us. We are now all reckoned as perfectly circumcised in a religious sense (male or female) when Christ was circumcised.
"In whom [in Christ] also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ."
The imputation of Christís circumcision to the Christian is very important. It is quite clear in the Bible that physical circumcision must be performed on a male or he would be "cut off from his people" (Genesis 17:14). If a person were not circumcised he could not take the Passover (called the "Lordís Supper" in Christian terminology) or approach the altar in the Temple (Exodus 12:43,49). And though Paul said that Abraham was justified by his faith before circumcision, God still gave him physical circumcision as a sign of that faith. Nothing was more important in the Old Testament to be in fellowship with God (whether one was a Jew or Gentile) than the rite of circumcision. All people had to be circumcised, Thatís why all Christians must be reckoned as circumcised. "For we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). This means that Christians are circumcised (very much so) but not actually in the flesh. Legally, we have all been circumcised "by the circumcision of Christ" (Colossians 2:11). Christís ideal circumcision has now been assigned or imputed to us.
This is not all. When Christ became thirty years of age, he was baptized. It is that flawless baptism which is accounted to us for righteousness. Baptism is necessary as a part of righteousness. When Christ met John the Baptist, John was reluctant to baptize Christ saying he needed to be baptized of him. But Christ answered: "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us [both of them together] to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). As far as Christ was concerned, baptism was necessary for him to experience. Why? Because he personally needed to repent? No! Did he need his personal sins washed away? No, for he had none of himself. But Christ still said it was essential to be baptized for him to "fulfill all righteousness."
This fulfillment of righteousness was not for himself. It was done on our behalf to secure a perfect righteousness for us. It signifies that when John the Baptist was baptizing Christ, he was actually baptizing you, me and everyone who trusts in him for salvation. Just after Paul mentioned in Colossians that Christians are reckoned as circumcised "by the circumcision of Christ" (Colossians 2:11), he then stated that we are also "buried with him in baptism" (Colossians 2:12). We were buried with him in the baptism that John the Baptist performed on him. And it is this baptism that counts for us. This is the "one baptism" that Paul talked about in Ephesians 4:5. This is the true baptism (not a million or so baptisms that Christians undergo or have undergone over the centuries). You may have been baptized one time or twenty times, but the only baptism that counts towards the fulfilling of your righteousness is the one performed on Christ by John the Baptist which is now imputed to you.
Thatís why the thief on the tree of crucifixion with Christ could legally be in paradise with Christ without being physically baptized. God the Father simply imputed the baptism which was performed on Christ to the thief. And that is what he has done for all of us. Our own baptisms that we may undergo in this life really mean nothing in securing a righteousness for ourselves. There is certainly nothing wrong in submitting to them, but they are simply a symbol and have nothing to do with securing a righteousness from God. Christís baptism which was conducted for you and me, and for the whole world (and not for himself), is the only baptism that is necessary for salvation. This is the "one baptism" of Paul (Ephesians 4:5) and all other baptisms that we undergo are superfluous in showing a righteousness to God.
This, however, is not all. We are not only circumcised and baptized in Christ, but when Christ died on the tree of crucifixion, he also died for each of us individually. Paul said: "I am crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20). "We then judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Corinthians 5:14). The death that Christ underwent has also been imputed to us. When Christ paid the penalty for sin through his death, we are reckoned to have paid that penalty.
Really, the whole righteous life of Christ that he lived on earth is now imputed to humans for righteousness. Not only have we been circumcised, baptized, and crucified with Christ (he was our sin offering), but when he was on earth he was living for us in all things. Christ lived a perfect, sinless life. He kept Godís law perfectly. And when he was obedient in all his righteous acts, God reckons that we were legally there performing them and in him. This means that the birth of Christ is now the same birth which the Father presently sees in us. Christís love, his good deeds, his observance of the Sabbath and the annual holydays, his baptism, his perfect obedience to all things, are now legally reckoned to all Christians as being their own. This is why Paul shows that actual circumcision, sacrificing, Sabbath observance, and holyday-keeping are no longer necessary for Christians as a means to salvation because in Christ we have perfectly performed them throughout our lives ó we have performed them to our deaths (because Christís death on the tree of crucifixion is now reckoned by the Father to be the legal death for you, for me and all mankind).
Indeed, there are no longer any ritualistic works for us to do in order to gain any righteousness with God the Father. And while simple Sabbath-keeping may be one thing, to endeavor to observe the Sabbath in order to obtain a righteousness for ourselves in Godís eyes is to deny the righteousness which Christ has fully imputed to us. A person may keep five thousand Sabbaths and perform many other ritualistic works, and still not be one step closer to the righteousness which God requires for salvation. Our redemption comes from one source ó and one source only ó Jesus Christ and his works which he has accomplished for us in our stead. This is the clear and simple teaching of the apostle Paul. It is the Imputation of Christís life and death to us that provides "The Way to Salvation in the Christian Gospel," and it is not any ritualistic act or any other kind of works performed by us personally.
As a matter of fact, anyone who tries to keep the laws of the Old Testament which were given to Israel through Moses and performs them in order (as he conceives it) to be in obedience to Christ, that person is going backwards in his walk with God. Paul said that those Mosaic laws of food, drink, holydays, sabbaths and all other rituals were a "schoolmaster" to lead people to Christ (Galatians 4:1-10). They were mere "shadows" that were pointing forward to Christ and his substitutionary role for us (Colossians 2:16-17). All those laws were excellent ones which were intended to be kept (strictly so) by the early Israelites. But they pointed in a symbolic way to Christ and what he would be doing for mankind. For one to keep them now, according to the apostle Paul, is to return to the "schoolmaster" ó to laws and regulations intended for children (for people who were infants in the faith). Indeed, to observe some of them is to utterly deny the role of Christ as the sin-bearer for us and the fact that we have obtained through Christ a perfect righteousness. Such a law is the Day of Atonement. That was a day ordained at the time of Moses in which Israelites were commanded each year to fast for their sins and to offer two goats and a bullock to atone for their sins accomplished during the previous year. But when Christ died for us on the tree of crucifixion, he paid the penalty for all our sins. We no longer have to fast for them each year, because they have been fully paid for by Christ. Indeed, to return to fasting on the Day of Atonement and to endeavor to keep most of the rituals associated with it is a denial of Christís actions on the tree of crucifixion to forgive us of all our sins!
The truth is, the laws given by Moses, according to the apostle Paul, were given to those who were reckoned by God to be children. They needed such a "schoolmaster" as the law to lead them in a ritualistic sense to a knowledge of what Christ would later do for them in the flesh. And though the laws of Moses were, in many cases, ordained "forever," they were ordained "forever" to those who are children in the faith for infants who are underage in a spiritual sense. The apostle Paul considered that once Christ came on the scene to work out a perfect righteousness for us, we are no longer children, but adults in the faith (Galatians 4:3 and Ephesians 4:14). The laws and rituals which God intended for children no longer apply to Christians. Let us now look at a modern illustration that anyone can understand which shows this principle as shown by the apostle Paul. In most states in the United States there are laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol to those under age ó to those who are considered "children." Even if a young person lacks one day from becoming of legal age, that individual is considered a minor and is not allowed to purchase liquor. In the State of California the legal age to buy alcoholic drinks is 21.
Now let us suppose that a young man who was legally to become 21 at midnight went into a liquor store at five minutes to midnight and asked to buy a can of beer. The store attendant saw that the person appeared young so he asked for proper identification to show he was 21 years of age. The young man handed over his driverís license and it provided conclusive proof that he would become 21 at midnight ó and midnight was now three minutes away. The young man once again asked for the beer, but the store attendant told him the law did not allow a minor to buy liquor, not even a beer. Then the young man said: "But it is only two minutes to midnight and I want a beer," The attendant stood his ground and said: "In no way, sonny, can I sell you a beer. The law demands that you, a minor, cannot buy liquor." But then the young man said: "But it is only one minute to midnight, sell me the beer." The attendant once again replied: "Sonny, I donít care if it is 5 seconds to midnight, you are under the law of the land and in no case can you, a minor and under age, buy a beer or even a soda pop with liquor in it until you are a full 21 years of age."
But then the clock strikes midnight! Suddenly the store attendant adopts an entirely different countenance on his face and with a broad smile says: "You are now an adult man, sir, and I am now happy to sell you every drop of liquor I have in the store if you have the money to pay for it!"
And so it is with the Law of Moses. The apostle Paul said it was ordained for those who were children ó for those who were infants in the faith. And as long as there are infants in the faith the laws intended for infants will be in effect ó they are ordained "forever" (for children). But the very moment one becomes an adult those laws of days, times, seasons and years, eating and drinking and other rituals no longer apply to the adult! Just like the days, times, seasons and years that school officials adopt for younger children in grade or high school no longer apply for all of us who are over 21 and no longer attend school, so Paul shows that the Law of Moses (with its days, times, seasons, years and food laws) no longer applies to adult Christians. The truth is just that simple. And those Christians who have returned to trying to keep the Law of Moses (or parts of it minus the annual sacrifices), have gone right back to the ways of children. As adults, they are keeping "school holidays" once again!
But look at what Christ did for us. He kept all the laws perfectly for the infant stage of spiritual development (circumcision, baptism, sabbaths, holydays, food laws, tithing, etc.) and his fulfillment of those laws has now been imputed to us. This means we have passed the "infant stage" of spiritual development through Christ. To return back to keeping such infant requirements is like each of us in modem times returning to kindergarten or grade school to learn once more the ABCís. And please note this. If we do not have to return to the Mosaic days, times and seasons, it is absurd to adopt pagan customs which have not the slightest biblical approbation associated with them. The traditional church "days" adopted from utter paganism such as Christmas, Easter, Sunday, Valentineís Day, April Foolís Day and any other "Fool" day (because that is what the heathen days really are), are in no way sanctioned by the biblical revelation. Indeed, God said through Jeremiah not to adopt the ways of the heathen (Jeremiah 10:1-5). If we have already gone through the "infant stage" of keeping the Mosaic religious rituals, it is complete nonsense to replace such elementary teachings with abject paganism.
For us who are adult Christians, the keeping of any days has no bearing on establishing a righteousness with God, nor do they ever represent sinfullness to us. The apostle Paul summed it up well in regard to "days" that men may think are holy and sanctified (including the Mosaic "days"): "One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Romans 10:4). Paul even allowed people to set aside "days" if they want (or to set none aside at all), but the observance of such "days" has nothing to do with the establishment of righteousness in a personís life nor in categorizing him or her as a sinner. Christ is the one who has already kept all the ritualistic requirements for our salvation (even the "infant stage" necessities) and God has imputed Christís observance to all of us. This is why it is not necessary for Christians to return to the observance of the Mosaic days, times, seasons and years (Galatians 4:10). How simple the whole thing is if people will only believe the apostle Paul and the central teaching of Christianity which is reflected in the biblical doctrine of Imputation.
Though Christ kept all the law for us, there are still important things that Christ demands that we perform. As adults in Christ we need to continually repent of the sins that we unfortunately still commit from time to time. But even our repentance is now a part of grace, because the New Testament shows that the ability to repent is a gift from God which is supernaturally inspired in us. In Acts 11:18 we are told that it is God who "grants repentance unto life." We also need to confess Christ as our Savior. Yes indeed, but even such a confession, if meant in the heart, is something inspired by Godís Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). We also need to believe in our hearts in Christ Jesus. But even here the apostle Paul said that belief is something that has been "given" to us by God (Philippians 1:29). We also need to express faith in Christ. But even faith is a gift from God that God actively inspires in us in a supernatural way. "For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8Ė9). Indeed, no one can even desire to accept Christ unless God the Father himself actively inspires the person to believe and have faith in Christ. Jesus said: "No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). And though we are told to "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," the very next verse says: "For it is God which works in you, both to will and to do [to perform] of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Yes, even your ability "to WILL" and "to DO" [to PERFORM WORKS] are supernatural works of God who is inspiring you to do those actions.
In a word, all things pertaining to salvation are factors of grace and are gifts of God. There are no works on your part or on my part to be saved. It is Christ Jesus who has done the works (all the works that are necessary) and God the Father has imputed Christís works in a legal sense to you and to me and eventually to all the human race. It is clear in the New Testament that "The Way to Salvation in the Christian Gospel" is not a message of what mankind has to do to GET SAVED. It is actually a message from God on how we GOT SAVED! We were actually saved in Christ in the plan of God "before the world began" (2 Timothy 1:9).
This means that when all of us come before the bar of God in the judgment (that we must all go through ó 2 Corinthians 5:10), the books which record our conduct during our life on earth will be opened and we will then be judged. But since we know that we are all in Christ and he is in us (Ephesians chapter one), when God the Father looks at the demerit side of the ledger he sees a blank page. There will be no sins whatever recorded against us because Christ has taken them from our shoulders and paid the full penalty for them when he was on earth some 1900 years ago. And then when the Father looks at the credit side of our ledger, he will find recorded every single righteous act that Christ performed ACCOUNTED TO US!
What is glorious about this matter is the fact that you can know beforehand what your sentence will be when the final judgment is held. This is because you know what Christ has done for you. Our judgment is really here and now on earth as the apostle Peter said (1 Peter 4:17), but in this present judgment we all learn what Christ has done for us and when it comes to the actual judgment scene to occur after Christís second advent, it will be a mere formality to officially usher people into the Kingdom of God. Christ said:
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
At that time all those who have been resurrected from the dead at Christís second advent will enter into the Kingdom as pure, holy, righteous and unblemished children of God.
The judgment that all of us are destined to go through was accomplished in Christ some 1900 years ago. What God the Father did at that time was to take out his vengeance for sin not upon mankind but upon his Son Jesus Christ when he was here on earth and dying on the tree of crucifixion. This was God venting his anger on the ways of mankind by taking out his vengeance on Jesus. And though Christ was God while he was on earth, he was also a human being. So God looked beyond Christís position of being "God" and he finally reckoned Jesus as a substitute human to die for all mankind. But mankind has also been angry with God, so the Father lets mankind take out his anger on him by taking our vengeance also upon Christ. We have all been upset with God because of the evil that we think God has allowed to happen to us humans. So, from mankindís point of view, Christ was God being judged on the tree of crucifixion. But from the Fatherís point of view, Jesus was a substitute for all humans who were then being judged by the Father. This is what Paul meant when he said that when we were "ungodly," and "sinners" and "enemies" of God, the Father reconciled himself to mankind by Christís death.
"For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life."
"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled."
This means that God the Father made peace with mankind when he vented his anger and punishment (which every human deserved) on the head of his Son. And this was accomplished by God some 1900 years ago while humans were still "ungodly, sinners and enemies of God." God has done his part in the reconciliation by making up with mankind for their ways through the substitutionary role of Jesus taking Godís punishment for mankind upon himself. Christ willingly took our place instead of ourselves.
But to have a proper reconciliation requires that both parties in any dispute "bury the hatchet" so to speak and make up with one another. This is why Paul beckons mankind to quit being "ungodly, sinners and enemies of God" and be reconciled to him as well.
"And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them [the Father imputed them to Christ]; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christís stead, BE YOU RECONCILED TO GOD."
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
A peace has now been established between God and man and also between man and God (if we have the wisdom to see it). It is not a one-sided affair, however, with God being the only one "to give in" and to make peace with us (so that we ó both God and man ó can live in harmony with one another). But when mankind really understands what God the Father and Christ Jesus have done for us on our behalf and that they will finally save us all, mankind will then actively reconcile themselves to God. Man needs to do this now. Or, as Paul told humanity: "Be you reconciled to God."
But it will not only be all humans who are reconciled to God (now that God has reconciled himself to mankind), the reconciliation will reach out to embrace all the hostile powers which have been out of harmony with God over the centuries. There is prophesied, according to Paul, a full reconciliation between all the antagonistic beings throughout the universe. Even they will be reconciled amongst themselves, between themselves and mankind, and between themselves and God the Father. And even this grand reconciliation is thoroughly accomplished through Christís death.
"And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile ALL THINGS unto himself; by him [Christ Jesus], I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."
So, we find that God the Father not only imputes our sins to Christ and Christís righteousness to us, but we are able to impute our grievances against God (and we have all had plenty of them) to Jesus Christ dying on the tree. This means that all grievances (both divine and human) are disposed of through the life and death of Christ our Savior. Peace has been (or will be) established between all hostile parties throughout the universe. Harmony will emerge when everyone in the universe takes out his anger and vengeance against everyone else on Jesus Christ when he died on the tree of crucifixion. The Bible shows that Christ lived and died in the place of everyone ó whether the individual is God the Father, all mankind or all the spiritual powers (hostile and benign) within the universe. One day, all will realize this truth and every individual in the universe will finally be in harmony with one another. The Greek of the New Testament shows that all punishment is "age-lasting," not "forever" as the King James Version renders it. Recall that Christ paid the penalty for all sins, and he did not suffer "forever."
This means that Christ is the "missing link" between mankind and God the Father. Christ is also the "missing link" between God the Father and mankind. And Christ is also the "missing link" between God and all spiritual powers within the remotest parts of the universe. In Christ, God became a human to understand mankind thoroughly, but also through Christ mankind becomes like God to understand God thoroughly. This is why Christ Jesus came into the world. He came to reconcile God to all mankind so that we will eventually become the very children of God. In a word, salvation is God imputing Jesus Christ to man. It is Christ who is "The Way to Salvation in the Christian Gospel."
Ernest L. Martin
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