CORRUPTING THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
Copyright © 1998 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE. © Copyright, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
“The just shall live by faith.” What does this mean? Has this expression caused us to totally misunderstand the salvation that is in Jesus Christ? Has our emphasis on “faith alone” produced the moral desolation that is destroying America?
Is it actually true that Christians can keep on sinning and never lose their salvation? We do not think so. We believe “the just shall live by faith” means precisely this, that righteous people live each day in humble dependence on the Lord Jesus, not in the sins of the flesh.
See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4—NIV)
“The just shall live by faith” is the battle cry of the Protestant Reformation. This expression means those who are accepted of God live each day in humble dependence on the Lord, looking to Him constantly for every decision of life.
Today the definition appears to be, “Say that you believe Jesus is Lord and you want Him to save you, and from then on wait to die until you go to your mansion in Heaven.” Instead of faith being a way in which we live, it now is a mental assent to theological facts, guaranteeing entrance to Paradise independently of our behavior—just the opposite of the Divine intention.
Two steamrollers are approaching each other. One is scriptural. The other is not. The first is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The second is the current teaching of salvation by faith alone. The two plans of salvation are fatally different. They have been kept compartmentalized in our minds, but this is no longer possible. One or the other must give way.
God is calling for repentance today, for righteous behavior. People who are hearing the call of the Spirit are responding. The few preachers who are hearing from God and serving Him are teaching the need for repentance, for turning away from the ungodliness present in America. The Spirit is warning God’s people that if we do not start keeping God’s commandments, our nation will be destroyed.
As soon as the preachers stress the need for a change in behavior, however, the perturbed theorists rise up: “We must remember we are saved by grace, by faith alone.” The theorists of the sovereign grace doctrine recognize that the preaching of repentance, of actual righteousness of behavior, is inconsistent with their beliefs. “It is nice to teach repentance and godly behavior, but we must remember God’s love and that He has saved us by His grace.”
Such unscriptural blather, such intellectually corrupt inconsistency, will not be accepted by intelligent people who mean business with God. “Are we saved by a sovereign grace alone or are we required to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles?”
Well, which is it? Let’s make a clear and strong decision! How long will we waffle between two opinions, fudging, willing to continue in this confusing, dishonest, debilitating mental state?
Are we willing to say a Christian can fornicate, lie, steal, covet, refuse to forgive people, be a drunkard and violent, and still hear Christ say “Well done, good and faithful servant; your behavior makes My grace shine all the brighter”?
Can we actually damage our salvation by such conduct? Yes or no?
What does the New Testament say?
If it is true we can “make a decision for Christ (an unscriptural phrase) and proceed to live in the mouth of Satan without losing our soul, then numerous passages of the New Testament, the commandments and teachings of Christ and His Apostles, are vain, useless, superfluous.
If this is true, if being saved by grace means moral change is desirable but not required for salvation, then Christianity is the most destructive force in the world today because it destroys the human conscience. It doesn’t create good people who can serve as a moral guide for mankind. Rather it brings bad people to Paradise.
It is commonly taught that we are saved by “faith” alone, by forgiveness alone, and that moral transformation is advisable but not essential. This teaching ought to be condemned! It is the ancient heresy of antinomianism. It is the enemy of God and man. In fact, it is the natural ally of humanism and man-centered government and, I think, will support such in the closing days of the Church Age. It is the spirit of Antichrist and the False Prophet described in Revelation chapter 13.
Salvation that does not require moral transformation does not prepare us for life in the present world, life in Paradise above, or life in the new world of righteousness that soon is to come.
There are many commandments concerning righteous behavior in the Law of Moses and the New Testament. It is taught today that the goal of these commandments is to bring us to Christ. It is assumed that we will not actually keep them. To bring us to Christ for what purpose? To be forgiven alone so we can continue through life hopelessly bound with the chains of lust and self-will?
Does Jesus Christ teach us how to live and enable us to keep His Word, or does He merely forgive us, tell us He loves us, and then advise us to do good knowing we cannot and must run to Him for perpetual forgiveness? Is this how grace is to abound?
There have been instances in America where mothers have deliberately kept their children sick so the mother would feel needed. The Lord Jesus Christ does not leave us in frustrating circumstances so He will feel needed. He delivers us from every bondage that our joy may be full.
When we emphasize our wretched condition and then keep remarking how wonderful the Lord is, “I am not worthy but He is worthy,” His response is, “Why do you call me Lord! Lord! and not do what I command? I am disgusted with this attitude! If you are not found worthy, you will not walk with Me in the white robes of the royal priesthood. Awake to righteousness and quit your sinning. Your nation is wallowing in moral filth because of your sinful behavior!”
Does Jesus Christ forgive the sins of the devil or destroy the works of the devil? Does Jesus Christ make actually new creatures or forgiven old creatures?
Is the Lord joyously anticipating receiving a worldly, lustful, self-centered, rebellious bride?
Does the power of Christ stop with our forgiveness or does it drive the world, self-seeking, and lust from our personality? What does the New Testament teach?
More to the point, if we do not cooperate with Christ as He attempts to drive sin and spiritual death from us, such that we remain the old Adam, are we still “saved”?
Here is the big question. I think most teachers and pastors would agree that we ought to become new creations in Christ and not just forgiven old creations. But they would draw the line when it came to the true issue: “If we do not cooperate with Christ in the work of moral transformation, are we still saved?”
“If we are saved by sovereign grace,” they would maintain, “then we are saved whether or not we proceed to sanctification and consecration.” This is an absolute in their theology. Yet these same teachers and pastors might preach numerous sermons on righteous living; in fact, they might bar sinning Christians from taking Communion. So fantastically complex is this inconsistency, this compartmentalized thinking!
I realize Paul spoke things that are hard to understand as he withstood the Judaizers, and that believers can and do wrest his writings to their own destruction. Perhaps God permitted such potential ambiguity (He knows and controls all things) to test our hearts. If we desire to believe that God accepts our moral filthiness and rebellion because we name the name of Jesus, and that righteous people who never heard the Gospel will be in the Lake of Fire forever while we recline on the ivory beds of Paradise, then we can cut and paste support from the New Testament writings.
God wants to find out what kind of person we are, what we truly want. He speaks in parables so only His chosen can understand. Isn’t it so?
By “saved” the evangelists mean we go to Heaven when we die.
But what if going to Heaven when we die is not the scriptural goal of salvation? What if it is the moral transformation that itself is the salvation and is not referenced to a location, such as Heaven? What if salvation is salvation from sin rather than salvation from the earth? What direction does the argument take in this case?
Obviously we must once again read the New Testament and see if it makes righteous behavior an essential aspect of entrance into the Kingdom of God. When reading we must abandon the current models of interpretation that discard all passages dealing with righteous behavior as being addressed to the Jews. This is what is done, you know, and it renders the New Testament incoherent.
Perhaps it is true rather that all the “heavenly” passages we have assigned to Gentiles actually are addressed to the Jews, and those concerning the necessity of righteous behavior are for the Gentiles. What then? If we are to trust someone to tell us what part is addressed to Jews and what part is addressed to Gentiles, we have a private interpretation of the Scriptures. This will lead only to divisions in the one Body of Christ.
If we are saved by Divine grace alone, and God sees us only through the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ, then there is no fundamental basis for genuine repentance. In fact, efforts to live righteously can be viewed as an affront to the perfect righteousness of Christ, the righteousness, it is claimed, through which God sees our behavior.
“We ought to try to do good in order to please Jesus.” This marshmallow kind of determination is unable to resist the lusts of demons, and many people are going to fall away from the faith this year (1998). This I think the Lord has told me clearly. Perhaps it is because they have not been taught the fear of God.
The terror of the Lord is missing from many Christian churches, and so we have become fools. Every religion in the world, every person with an operating conscience, knows what righteousness is—everyone except the Christian people.
How long will it be before the Christian leaders of our nation recognize that the New Testament is filled with commandments to righteous, holy living that must be obeyed if we are to enter the Kingdom of God? We must obey them with the help of God’s Spirit. But if we lazily lay back in Christ, Christ in us is not going make us to obey His own commandments with no effort on our part. This concept is a popular delusion.
It is as though an iron curtain has dropped over the New Testament such that intelligent, devout Christian scholars cannot comprehend what the text states. We are blind! It is a spiritual phenomenon; it cannot be accounted for by the ordinary processes of perception.
This spiritual blindness dates back to the Protestant Reformation.
It is difficult for us Protestants of today to really understand the viewpoint of Martin Luther. Here was a man wrestling with his own unworthiness, trying to make an atonement for his sins. In contrast, many of us Gentiles had to be told we were sinners in order to make us see our need of Christ’s atonement.
There have been numerous people of history, both Jewish and Gentile and perhaps of other races and religions, who have been distraught because of their sinful nature. Even today in the Philippines, for example, during the Easter celebration the believers perform painful acts they hope will grant them favor in the eyes of God.
The light flashed in Martin Luther’s mind and heart: “The just shall live by faith.” This verse, appearing for the first time in Habakkuk and repeated three times in the New Testament, tells us how the righteous of all ages have lived. We notice that Hebrews chapter 11, which is a commentary on the just shall live by faith, employs outstanding people from the beginning, such as Abel, to explain what it means to live by faith. The early Christians studied and received guidance and comfort from the Old Testament. We ought to do the same.
Therefore the concept the just shall live by faith is not peculiar to the new covenant; it has always been true. The advent of the Law of Moses did not change the fact that God cannot be pleased except by faith, whether it is faith under the Law of Moses or faith under the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Notice the declaration made under the reign of the Law of Moses:
Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4—NASB)
This is the first appearance of the famous sentence. Can you see that the contrast is not between belief and unbelief (as it is presented today), but between pride and faith? The individual, especially the religionist, who attempts to please God in the pride of his own wisdom and strength is unrighteous. The person who humbly trusts in God and obeys God is regarded as righteous, whether he or she is under the Law or under the Gospel.
The argument is that people do not find approval with God by lifting up themselves, by walking in their own wisdom and strength, especially in religious matters. Instead, they are to look in faith toward God for approval, resting in Him and seeking His will in all matters. The righteous look to God rather than themselves. True faith is a continual interaction with the living Lord Jesus. This seems to be close to the center of the concept. Humility enters in, and also trust in the goodness of God. Probably some wholesome fear is included, as we notice in the case of Noah.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17—NASB)
Paul is preparing to present the Gospel to the Jews, showing that righteousness does not come by a slavish adherence to the Law, but only as we follow God in faith. When God requires that we keep the Law of Moses, then we are found righteous when we faithfully obey God. When God requires that we leave the Law of Moses and look to Jesus Christ for salvation, then we are found righteous when we faithfully obey God.
Heartless, blind obedience to the Law of Moses does not bring righteousness. A shallow, heartless subscription to that theological statement, the “four steps of salvation” does not of itself bring righteousness and salvation. The four steps sometimes are presented as a formula by which we can gain the approval of God without living a subsequent life of trust and humble dependence on the Lord. Rather, it is obedience to the living God, a heart of trust and humility that pursues God each day, that brings righteousness and fellowship with God.
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11—NASB)
Paul was resisting pressure from the Judaizers who were insisting the converts to Christianity keep the Law of Moses. Paul was stating that the Law itself does not bring right standing with God; it is faith that God accepts.
Martin Luther was resisting pressure from the Catholic scholars who emphasized penances, fasting, whipping one’s self, and other forms of self-denial and pain as the means of obtaining right standing with God. Luther’s revelation was that it is faith in God that brings righteousness in God’s sight, not our own efforts to punish ourselves.
But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38—NASB)
Hebrews chapter 11, the “faith” chapter, is one long definition of what it means to live by faith in God. You may notice that nowhere in this chapter is faith viewed as belief in the facts of God. Rather, faith is humble obedience and trust in God rather than in one’s own prideful wisdom and strength.
Of interest is the expression in Hebrews 10:38: “And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” This tells us living by faith is a continual, courageous pressing forward against numerous obstacles and pressures. It is not a static belief in facts of theology. It is the same idea as, “He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom.”
Sometimes we are tempted to slack off, to retreat from the battle. If we do, God will take no pleasure in us. We must keep pressing on, fighting the good fight of faith.
Belief that works out in obedience has a lot to do with the way the righteous live.
So the issue is, is God leading us in paths of righteousness, or are we blindly attempting to gain favor with the Lord in our own wisdom and strength? This is the idea of “the righteous shall live by faith.”
Perhaps no one would disagree with our concept of how the righteous are to live.
However, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong with our interpretation of the battle cry of the Reformation. We are interpreting “the just shall live by faith” to mean we as believers, having put our trust in the atonement made by the Lord Jesus, have nothing further to do. “Believe in Jesus and you will go to Heaven. Any effort you make to live righteously is filthy rags, legalism, pharisaism.”
No intelligent reading of the New Testament would reveal anything close to such an idea in the writings of the Apostles. Just the opposite is true. We are exhorted to give our body on the altar of God in order to prove the will of God in our life. We are advised to lay aside all of our hopes and dreams and concentrate on seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, to give our life for the Gospel, to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
We Christians have been greatly deceived and the moral condition of America reveals this fact.
Recently we watched a video portraying missionary work among a primitive tribe. Hundreds were brought to Christ by the dedicated labors of two families of missionaries over a period of several years. Having brought the tribal members to the knowledge of salvation the missionaries then baptized them in water. One of the natives, emerging from the water, asked: “Is there anything more we are to do?”
The answer of the missionary was, “Absolutely nothing.”
Absolutely nothing? There is nothing we are to do after we are baptized in water? What about the several hundred commandments issued by Christ and His Apostles? What about, “Take up your cross and follow me”? How about, “Present your body a living sacrifice”? Are these “nothing”? What about “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”? Is this “nothing”?
These two missionary families (may God bless them richly!) and their converts represent at once the highest point and the lowest point of the Christian posture in the twentieth century. As selfless and dedicated as the missionaries are, they are by no means fulfilling the Great Commission. The Great Commission is to make disciples from the nations and to teach them to keep Christ’s commandments, not to tell them there is nothing they are to do.
Let us examine the prevailing concept that the purpose of the Law of Moses and the commandments of Christ and His Apostles are primarily to make us see our need of a Savior.
The Law and the commandments make us aware we are sinners. Since we are absolutely unable to forgive ourselves or save ourselves from the bondage of sin, we come to Him, the only Name under Heaven given whereby we must be saved.
Now we have been brought to the Savior. He has forgiven us. His righteousness, gained as He kept the Law of Moses perfectly, perceiving the heart of God in the Law and responding in faith, is now freely ascribed to us. The Law and the commandments of the Apostles have brought us to the living Jesus. So far so good, and absolutely true and scriptural. Is there anything after this? Is there indeed anything of substance after this?
There surely is, and thank God for that.
The purpose of most of the New Testament is to tell us what we must do after we receive Christ as our Savior!
Our receiving Christ is the entrance into the Kingdom, the Kingdom in which God makes all things new, beginning with His Church.
We are in pursuit of Christ that we may gain Christ, that we may win Christ. The end of our fight of faith is to be in the moral image of Christ (and finally, at His coming, in His bodily image also) and dwelling in untroubled rest in the perfect will of God.
After we are born again of the Spirit of God, Christ begins to be formed in us through the working of the many parts of the Body of Christ.
In order for the program of forming Christ in us and filling us with all the fullness of God to take place, we absolutely must keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles found in the New Testament. If we do not make the required effort to follow Christ, taking up our cross each day and following Him earnestly and conscientiously, the process of spiritual growth comes to a halt. God reprimands us. If we do not respond to the reprimands of the Lord, no longer bearing the fruit of the moral nature of Christ, we stand in clear scriptural danger of being cut off from the Vine, that is, from Christ. Would anyone like to speculate whether we can be cut off from the Vine and still be “saved”?
We learn from the parables of the ten virgins and the Lord’s servants’ use of their talents the terrorizing meaning of “How shall we Christians escape if we neglect our great salvation?”
Hebrews further warns us we are made a partaker of Christ on the condition we hold fast our confidence to the end of our pilgrimage. He who endures to the end is the one who shall be saved—at least this is what God said!
We know therefore that the Law of Moses and the commandments of Christ and His Apostles indeed do bring us to Christ for forgiveness, but also for moral transformation. The grace of God is not an alternative to moral transformation; it indeed is the Divine Glory and judgment in action to produce moral transformation.
The transformation itself is salvation. It is not referenced to Heaven or to any other place.
Perhaps the reader does not understand all we have written in this brief article. Total understanding is not necessary. Our common sense ought to tell us if God gave us a new covenant because He was not pleased with the behavior of His people under the old covenant, then the purpose of the new covenant is to produce the godly behavior God looked for but did not find under the Law of Moses.
We don’t need to understand everything. All we must do is obey what Christ and His Apostles have written. If we will do this, looking always to the Lord for the Divine assistance always so freely given under new-covenant grace, Christ will be formed in us. We are deemed righteous, through the blood of Jesus, while the personality transformation is taking place, because we are walking in humble dependence on the Lord. We are living by faith.
As John says, this is the true God and eternal life.
The misunderstanding of the cry of the Reformation is producing a bitter harvest in our day. Let God’s spokesmen now arise and warn the Lord’s people in America that God is insisting we keep His commandments.
As I said, I think the Lord told me recently that 1998 will be a time of distress, a period of intense spiritual activity, that Satan is setting traps to catch the unwary, that God’s people are to keep His commandments, and if they do not, our nation will be crushed under the Divine judgment that always falls on immorality.
Our land will be healed only if the Christians will turn away from sin — absolutely nothing else will avail!
If it is the Lord speaking to me, it will come to pass. Let each one of us remind himself and his family to seek the Lord with a whole heart, laying aside the economic bondages of America. We need—all of us—to seek for gifts and ministries, giving ourselves without reservation to the work of the Gospel, that we may build up the members of the Body until we all stand in victory before the Lord Jesus throughout this year.
If you read this after 1998 has passed, it will be interesting for you to note whether, in your experience, what we have stated in this article actually took place.
It can’t hurt to be prepared. After all, this is what the Bible teaches.
“Will I be saved anyway even though I don’t prepare myself to stand in the day of evil?; even though I don’t present my body a living sacrifice?; even though I don’t deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus?; even though I lay up treasures on the earth rather than in Heaven?; even though I do not carry extra oil with my lamp?; even though I bury my talent?; even though I do not bring forth the fruit of godliness in my personality?; even though I neglect my salvation and do not take heed to what the Christ and His Apostles have commanded?”
I don’t think so.
“I have been told I will be saved by grace even if I don’t serve the Lord as I should.”
I suggest you read the Bible and find out for yourself! The following is what you will discover.
If you don’t prepare yourself to stand in the evil day, the age of moral horrors that is at hand, you may be deceived and fall away from Christ. If you do not die in Christ, you will not be raised in the Day of the Lord; you will not be ever with the Lord. It is the dead in Christ who will be raised from the dead and caught up to meet the Lord at His coming. To be in Christ means you are living each day in intense interaction with the living Lord. The expression in Christ is not referring to a profession of faith you made in past time. The Day of Salvation is always today. To point to an experience in the past and refer to it as when you were “saved” is not scriptural. Salvation is always right now!
- If you are not presenting your body a living sacrifice, you will not be able to prove the will of God for your life.
- If you are not denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following the Lord Jesus, you will lose your life. You will not participate in the resurrection to eternal life.
- If you are not laying up treasures in Heaven, you will be naked in the Day of the Lord, having no inheritance.
- If you are not carrying extra oil with your lamp, the door to the Kingdom will be shut in your face.
- If you are not bringing forth the fruit of godliness in your life, you will be cut from the Vine, from Christ.
- If you are neglecting your salvation, you will not escape punishment.
- If you are not obeying the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, you will be treated as a disobedient servant.
- If you do not die in Christ, you will not be resurrected from the dead and caught up to meet Him when He appears. It is as straightforward as this!
God never meant for His grace in Christ to be used as an alternative to obeying His Word. There are penalties for not obeying God and we will pay them with grace or without grace.
It is time for a new reformation in order to reform the excesses and errors produced by the first Reformation.
(“Corrupting the Protestant Reformation”, 3699-1, proofed 20230722)