“Give Me That Old Time Religion”
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“If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” Deuteronomy 28:1, NIV

Many people like to speak of “the good old days” as an idyllic time of innocence that was free of the stresses and controversies of modern life.  If asked, most would willingly paint a verbal picture of a time when simple virtues were paramount and vices were not tolerated. They would speak of hard work, respect for authority, and faithfulness to one’s family, community and nation. In contrast, they would explain, all of these virtues were sadly lacking today.

Christians are not exempt from this nostalgic impulse. They also are known to speak of a past that is somehow purer than the present. They urge a return to that past, a restoring of the old foundations and repairing of what has been weakened. When asked how we ever got off that noble path, the answer is ever the same: obedience. If we would only return to a state of obedience, all would be well. We are told we must do this. We are told that we must reproduce the character of Christ in His people before He comes as though that were the key to His return. Some go so far as to say that we hasten or delay His return by our obedience or disobedience.

This is a strange assertion for even though we are told that no one, not even Jesus or the angels know when He will return (See Mark 13:32), somehow man is in control of when it happens? This belief is foundational to a misunderstanding of great significance. Just as the Platonic concept of an eternally existent “essence” or soul has played havoc with the Christian concept of what happens when we die, this belief that our obedient works somehow control the future actions of deity has greatly weakened our understanding of our relationship to God and the nature of grace.

We see this misunderstanding in the terms used to describe the relationship. We use terms like “covenant,” as in “Old Covenant,” “New Covenant,” or “Covenant of Circumcision.” The problem with this terminology is that it implies that God’s grace is only His fulfillment of a contract. We have been obedient to our portion of the contract, so God must be obedient to His. But by definition, a contract can only be a contract if each party is able to exert accountability over the other party’s performance liability. In short, can we hold God accountable by our obedience?

Paul refuted the idea of our being able to hold God accountable in any way. He wrote, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” Romans 9:20-21, NIV

God claims the rights of creation. He, as our Creator, is above accountability to His creation. Therefore, man cannot enter into a contract with his Creator for he has no ability to compel performance. It is only because of man’s failure to understand this unique nature of God that we have spoken so much of contracts or covenants both in the Bible and extra Biblically. We have in the “good old days” been blind to God’s loving nature, and we continue to want to negotiate our salvation with God, even though He has freely given it to us.

Just as the Judaizers who confronted Paul wanted to establish a contractual relationship between the new believers and God, we continue to do this today. They taught that if the new believers were circumcised then God would save them. Fulfill your part of the contract, and God will fulfill His. This is very close to shamanism. It imparts a magical element to practice that teaches that perfect performance of ritual will bind the supernatural in obligation to the one performing the ritual.

We teach either directly or through innuendo that this is possible in several ways. For example, we teach that sexual purity is an avenue to salvation. But in doing so, we stumble at the examples of Tamar (See Genesis 38), Rahab (See Joshua 2), and even King David who committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband in the process (See 2 Samuel 11). Salvation cannot in any way be based on obedience, for if God allowed these individuals into heaven but not others who may not have committed these errors, He will be unfair. But God is eminently fair.

If this applies to sexual purity, it also applies to every other virtue we may hold in high regard. It does not matter whether we are talking about the adultery of the seventh commandment or the Sabbath keeping of the fourth, God is not bound to save us by our obedience to any of it. We must not think that we can wave 80 years of Sabbath keeping in His face and say, “You have to take me into heaven. Look what I did.” Even King David understood this. Perhaps that is why God called him a man after His own heart. (See Acts 13:22) You see when David committed adultery and murder, he did not presume on any contractual obligation on God’s part. He simply said, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (See 2 Samuel 12:13)

He knew he could not point to the things he had done for God to negotiate his salvation. He had done many things, not the least of which was standing up to the giant Goliath in the name of the Lord. But this could not save him. God was not bound by David’s past obedience. David could be saved by only one thing: the merciful and loving character of God. David knew this. He even wrote of it. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious,   slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8, NIV With this knowledge, he could admit his mistakes and trust in the Lord’s character to bring about redemption in a situation that had nothing redeeming about it. It is this golden thread of God’s loving character that runs from Tamar, through Rahab and David and all the way to Jesus and makes possible our own salvation.

How so? Just as God is not contractually obligated to save us because of our obedience, He is also not contractually obligated to destroy us because of our errors. He is God and He is not bound by what we wish to bind Him to. He, Himself, has said “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:19, NIV  Do we naively believe that we can bind such a Being to our ideas of right and wrong by what we perceive to be obedience? In the end we can only repent in Job’s ashes for our naiveté. This is what David did. This is what we must do.

There is no glorious past of obedience to return to. No human edifice of near perfect works is worth restoring. All we are left with is an abiding trust in the character of God and a willingness to walk entirely by faith in that compassionate character. This is what Abram did when He left Ur of the Chaldeans. This is what David did generations later. This is all we can do. Yet, it is everything.

God does not produce salvation through a perfect church. He does not produce it through perfect people. That perfection does not exist anyway. (See Romans 3:23) However, He does produce salvation through His perfect love. When He does, that love arises in our hearts like the sun and far from producing a judgmental confidence in our own understanding, it will produce a humble knowledge of our own lack of compassion. Like David, we will see it in how we have treated others. (See Matthew 25:31-46) Then in that knowledge we will utter along with David, “I have sinned against the Lord.” When we do that, God’s love will then have its way with His creation.

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“Give Me That Old Time Religion” — 29 Comments

  1. Thank you Terry.
    Your comments blessed me and widen my understanding of Salvation or rather Justification by faith.

    God Bless!

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  2. Thank you so much Brother Terry, your comment has deepened my understanding of God's love to us.

    God bless you!

    Julianne

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  3. > "Some go so far as to say that we hasten or delay His return by our obedience or disobedience."

    Ellen White is one of those "some":

    "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Gal. 5:22, 23. This fruit can never perish, but will produce after its kind a harvest unto eternal life. {COL 68.1}
    "When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. {COL 69.1}
    It is the privilege of every Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 3:12, margin). Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel. Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain. {COL 69.2}"
    (Christ's Object Lessons, pg. 68-69)

    See also Matthew 24:14.

    Salvation is by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). We have been freely given by our Lord everything: repentance, faith, grace to overcome sin. We are a new creature in Christ, created unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Let no man deceive you, willful disobedience is rebellion and no rebel will be admitted into the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:5-7).

    Good works can never be a means of salvation (only Christ's blood can save us), but their lack is proof that one is not saved.

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    • There is much that could be said here but maybe just one verse should be enough to raise a few questions.

      "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes" (Mat 10:23 NKJV).

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    • Not necessarily. Christians all over the world are at different stages of the sanctification process. We are saved when our hearts respond to God's grace, and thankfully God can read our hearts. I love to read Ellen White, and she illuminates the Bible for me. But I'm afraid if we are waiting until all of God's people reproduce the character of Christ perfectly to see Him come, we shall have a long wait indeed.

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    • I thank you very much for your clarity and it has truly blessed me.The Lord requires obedience to His words that is how we show that we love Him. He loves me and so I respond to this love by being obedient.

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    • Thank you, Cristian, for your comment. Perhaps you could explain how the perfection of character Ellen White referred to equates to perfection of obedience in the passage you referred to in my article. I don't see the connection.

      I agree with Mrs White regarding the imputed character of Christ that makes possible our salvation. However, the Bible makes clear that this is a gift and not based on our obedient works but upon God's never failing love. Although most Christians are familiar with the passage, the epitome of this love is contained in John 3:16-17.

      Regarding Matthew 24:14, I think we are reading too much into the text if we read this as some kind of contract regarding we preach the gospel and that makes Jesus come. I think instead this is like the rest of Matthew 24 and simply a description of prophetic events that will unfold. The events do not produce the second coming, they simply show it is getting near. In the same way, the increasing spread of the message of salvation is simply a sign that Jesus is coming. It is not what makes it happen.

      Also, juxtaposing the "fruit" in COL 68:1 with the "fruit" from the Bible quoted in COL 69:1 does not make them equivalent. This is the problem with proof texting. We can make something appear to say something the text may not actually be saying. Too many want to excuse their judgment of others by considering themselves "fruit inspectors" rather than judges. Ellen White says much about this in the book "Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings."

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      • First let me apologize for the way I said things. I never meant it to be a personal attack. I repented of my judgmental way of saying it and asked God's forgiveness.

        Perhaps you could explain how the perfection of character Ellen White referred to equates to perfection of obedience

        The way I see it, character perfection includes obedience, though it encompasses a lot more.

        I also see that my words can be misunderstood to mean that obedience is something that we do to recommend us to God. The very though is abhorrent to me. To clear things us, let me include the passage just before the one I quoted. Ellen White talks here about character perfection through God's grace and I completely agree with her:

        There can be no growth or fruitfulness in the life that is centered in self. If you have accepted Christ as a personal Saviour, you are to forget yourself, and try to help others. Talk of the love of Christ, tell of His goodness. Do every duty that presents itself. Carry the burden of souls upon your heart, and by every means in your power seek to save the lost. As you receive the Spirit of Christ--the Spirit of unselfish love and labor for others--you will grow and bring forth fruit. The graces of the Spirit will ripen in your character. Your faith will increase, your convictions deepen, your love be made perfect. More and more you will reflect the likeness of Christ in all that is pure, noble, and lovely. {COL 67.3} (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, pg. 67)

        Regarding contracts I agree with you. God is under no obligation to us, regardless of what we do. He can't be, we are just doing our duty as servants (Luke 17:10).

        But that we can delay the Lord's second coming seems true to me from passages such as 2 Peter 3:9:

        The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

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      • Too many want to excuse their judgment of others by considering themselves “fruit inspectors” rather than judges.

        It's something that we all (and I especially) need to guard against.

        At the same time, we are not to close our eyes against sin done by our brothers and sisters. We are to restore them in the spirit of meakness (Galatians 6:1-2, James 5:19-20).
        It's all about attitude. If we love our brothers and sisters, we should do everything we can to bring them back to God. If we have no love though, we should probably stay silent, because we can drive them further from God.

        If we lack love, we need God's grace a lot more than our erring brothers and sisters.

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      • Also, juxtaposing the “fruit” in COL 68:1 with the “fruit” from the Bible quoted in COL 69:1 does not make them equivalent.

        They are like this in the book. There is nothing in between.

        I have an electronic version (from Ellen White Estate) and I never saw the print version. I can only assume that page 68 is so small because there used to be a picture in the print book, or something like that.

        I never intended to pick one paragraph from here and another from there and put them together to make my point when the original context says otherwise. That's dishonesty and thus sin. If I ever did that, it was because I didn't understood the context properly.

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  4. Is it possible we are looking for manifestations of the character of Christ in the wrong places?

    I believe there was a time -- about 50 days after the crucifixion -- when the character of Christ was reproduced in His people. Note that "people" is plural. What I believe God is looking for is the fulfillment of Christ's prayer, "That they all may be one; even as you Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:21 NASB) He is looking for a demonstration of self-sacrificing love in His people, the church on earth -- "so that the world may believe."

    That sort of thing happens only in times of persecution, when the cost of profession of faith in Christ is too high for casual "believers."

    When we put this in the context of the rest of the prophetic great controversy scenario, it is not hard to envision that this is exactly how things will be at the time of Christ's Second Coming.

    Our focus, then, should not be on the perfecting of self (a focus contrary to what Christ modeled), but on a full surrender to Christ, so that His love may flow through us, untainted by thoughts of self.

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    • >Inge Anderson wrote:

      Our focus, then, should not be on the perfecting of self (a focus contrary to what Christ modeled), but on a full surrender to Christ, so that His love may flow through us, untainted by thoughts of self.

      You are absolutely correct. If our relationship with God will be right, all else will follow. And the good news is that God is more than willing to restore that relationship as exemplified in the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
      But full surrender is not possible while continuing to sin willfully, perhaps even enjoying it.
      On the other hand, if we sin because we don't have power to stop, the good news is that Christ has come to free us from the prison and bondage of sin (Romans 7:23-25). I know from personal experience that He freely gives power if we only humbly ask for it, believing (Matthew 7:11)

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  5. I think we have missed the focal point of Paul in his letter to the Galatians. Paul is condemning the ceremonial law as instrumental in salvation, not the moral law.

    Paul states a law that can be added, and then in the future, can be subtracted. This can in no way be the moral law.

    The historical context of Paul's letter is important so we will not convolute nor mis-represent his thought and idea he is presenting.
    Even though the moral law does function as a "schoolmaster", this is not the law Paul is referring to in Galatians.

    Every letter by Paul is a contrast between Christ and the ceremonial law. Why would Galatians be any different? It is not.

    Bill Sorensen

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    • Thanks for your comment, Bill. However, comment without Biblical support is simply opinion. Theologians have not been able to come to universal agreement on this very issue. I doubt that simply making a statement will resolve the matter. Perhaps a few Bible references might help further the discussion.

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    • Stephen, may I kindly stick my big nose in the middle of your discussion with Bill and inject my testimony as to why I believe Paul was not contrasting the two laws? As is usual I am not always right and here I may have to be corrected in a few areas.

      It seems quite clear to me that Paul is contrasting justification through faith as apposed to justification by works of the law. Which law seems to be quite irrelevant to the point he is trying to make. Any time a person attempts to be justified by doing something he is attempting the impossible irregardless of what law is involved since we are condemned by all the laws God has commanded because we have already broken them.

      The cry of the Judaizers at the Jerusalem Council was unless you are circumcised you cannot be saved. Even though it seems as though the whole issue is over the ceremonial law versus the moral law to me it is really about how one is saved. Besides circumcision was really only a sign of the covenant and not the covenant itself (Gen 17:11). But the Judaizers were making it a requirement for salvation rather than by a gift obtained by faith in a gracious God.

      I'm going to start my discussion on the technical side of things, by looking at a few verses and considering the Greek involved in them.

      The first two verses are the two key verses in both Galatians and Romans.

      “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:28 NKJV).

      “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal 2:15-16 NKJV).

      The interesting thing about these two verses, is that the phrase "works of the law" doesn't involve an article. In other words, the word "the" shouldn’t be there. What Paul is looking at here is the quality of law rather than pointing to any particular one. To quote the SDA Commentary, “However, It seems to be quite generally agreed that in the absence of the article the emphasis is being placed upon “law” primarily as an abstract and universal principle. When the article is present, the stress is upon “the law” as a special and concrete code” (6 BC 488). The commentary also points out that this is not always the case and that the best thing to do is to use the context to determine what is really being said.

      This can be further seen in the following quote from Romans.

      “For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are Just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in THE LAW, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of THE LAW written in their hearts” (Rom 2:11-15 NKJV).

      While a person cannot always determine what is being talked about solely by the use of the article the commentary seems to think that in the case of these verses holding to the use of the article is quite valid. What I have done in the verses quoted above (Rom 2) is to underline the words that should not be there because of a lack of the article. Furthermore, I have capitalized the phrase "the law" to indicate the presence of the article in those instances.

      What Paul is evidentially saying in Rom 2 is that the judgment will be based on our relationship to any law that is given by proper authority, especially the moral law of God. I say that because the Gentiles do by nature “THE LAW that is written in their hearts” according to the New Covenant (Heb 8).

      This whole thing is further supported in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8-9 NKJV) where the word “law” doesn’t even appear.
      Paul chastised the churches in Galatia by calling them foolish (mindless). Then he asked those people, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:2-3 NKJV). Once again here in this verse as is the case in the ones above; there is an article with “Spirit” but not with “law.” The problem was that after they were in the church they began to think that the only way they could be saved was by works rather than through the faith they started with. To Paul that whole idea was totally inconsistent, they got in the church through faith and now they thought they were going to stay there through doing something. This idea is also reflected in the letter to the Colossians, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving" (Col 2:6-7 NKJV).

      At least in Paul's letters to the Romans and Galatians the one thing that he consistently talks about is justification by faith rather than by doing something in order to be justified. Furthermore, the phrase, “through faith" is found 12 times in all of Paul's letters in the new King James Version, not including the book of Hebrews which adds another three instances.

      Another way to look at this is Paul’s statement, “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:16-17 NKJV). In other words our salvation depends on the resurrection of Jesus not on doing some law which translates to having faith in what happened 2000 years ago on the cross and the fact that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected in triumphal victory.

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      • Thanks, Tyler. Well said.

        We expressed it mathematically in Sabbath School class today.

        A=Jesus
        B=Works of Obedience
        C=Salvation

        A + B = C

        Means A is not equal to C

        If A = C then B = 0

        In other words, mathematically you cannot say that faith + works = salvation without saying Jesus is not sufficient to save you.

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  6. Your comment, “We are told that we must reproduce the character of Christ in His people before He comes as though that were the key to His return” might be seen as a limited acceptance of, if not rejection of E.G. White’s prophetic ministry, as well as the Scriptural teaching of the anti-typical Day of Atonement.
    And the statement referred to was misquoted. It is not “we must reproduce the character of Christ in His people.” It is “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.” COL69 God accepts us as we are as we come to Him in faith. As we see and appreciate God’s amazing love to us, we respond to that love by willing surrender to Him. And as we, day by day, fully surrender to God by faith in Jesus Christ, He is allowed to “work in us both to will and do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). We then choose to “live no longer for [our]selves, but for Him who died for [us] and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15). As the typical Day of Atonement was very serious business, with the lives of God’s people at stake, so today, in the real Day of Atonement, as Jesus is ministering His blood in the Most Holy Place to cleanse it from all the sins that have accumulated down through the millennia, ours included. Those who are content with sin in their lives, are living in great danger. "I have tried in the fear of God to set before His people their danger and their sins, and have endeavored, to the best of my feeble powers, to arouse them. I have stated things startling things, which, if they had believed, would have caused them distress and terror, and led them to zeal in repenting of their sins and iniquities. I have stated before them that, from what was shown me, but a small number of those now prefessing to believe the truth would eventually be saved -- not because they could not be saved, but because they would not be saved in God's appointed way. The way marked out by our divine Lord is too narrow and the gate is too strait to admit them while grasping the world or while cherishing selfishness or sin of any kind. There is no room for these things; and yet there are but few who will consent to part with them, that they may pass the narrow way and enter the strait gate." EGW, 2T445,6 “Christ is cleansing the temple in heaven from the sins of the people, and we must work in harmony with Him upon the earth, cleansing the soul temple from its moral defilement.” (EGW, Review and Herald, February 11, 1890)
    The message of all true prophets of God down through the ages has been, “Repent! Turn from your wicked ways!” God’s wonderful promise is, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon!” (Isaiah 55:7)
    The prophetic call to repentance and reformation was historically given to those who think that they are God’s people – those who are think they are justified. Jesus is found knocking outside the door of the church of Laodicea – the people being judged –God’s end-time people (Revelation 3:20). He says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
    Your concern that repentance hastens Christ’s return being a “strange assertion” is unfounded. It is written, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God …” (2 Peter 3:11,12)

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    • Hi, Don

      I think the key to your comment is at the very beginning when you write about the misquote. It certainly makes a difference who it is that reproduces Christ's character. Philippians 2:13 makes it clear where the responsibility for this is to be found. It is not our work. It is God's.

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  7. Stephen,
    I read your article and felt l should get more clarification because I read where Jesus said we must “..Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. Some say “we can’t be perfect!” I think such saying is teaching something opposite to Jesus’ words which is similar to when the Devil said to Eve, “You will not surely die” which is the spirit of antichrist.

    Again, when Jesus says “If ye love me, keep my commandments”, which commandments? I wonder what does Jesus meant with the word “Keep”! So Jesus gave the answer to these questions when a rich young ruler asked him “How to enter into eternal life?” Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matthew 19:17-19

    The “thou shalt do” shows that we are actively involved in the process of “entering into life” which is to be saved. If that was not so, Jesus who warned us about our “Yes” should be yes and our “No”s should be no, he would not try to give the rich young ruler a sarcastic answer – which would not be the truth. Therefore, to be saved, Jesus said to keep the commandments. He also said “If you love me, keep my commandments”. John 14:15. Also in John 15:10 Jesus said “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” Doing and obeying God’s commandments are important requirements to be saved, and disobeying God’s commandments without repenting will eventually get us to damnation.

    Also, you mentioned about being obedience will not save us? I know that it was the disobedience by Adam and Eve that got us into this situation, and that it was the obedience of Jesus why we are redeemed. “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom 5:18-23

    In summary, there are two processes to be saved: (1) Jesus’ redemptive power, and (2) our obedience to God. These two requirements are necessary for our salvation; one cannot work without the other. When Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “keep the commandment”, he was referring to #2 process. Christians are to have perfect obedience to God! This also means to follow the law of repentance. Luke 17:3

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    • Hi, Carl

      Rather than write another entire article to respond point by point to your comment, I will simply respond to your summary. In essence you seem to be saying that Jesus' power is inadequate to save us without us contributing our works. I do not see how that position can possibly agree with Philippians 2:13 which states "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." KJV This passage indicates that the desire is God's and the doing is God's not ours. This would make the equation not Jesus + works but rather Jesus' works alone.

      Add to this Ephesians 2:8-9, and we see "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." KJV The important point here is "not of yourselves." There is nothing we contribute to salvation. This is reinforced by "Not of works." Our works would appear to have nothing to do with salvation.

      Should you wish further reading on this, I would suggest "The Glad Tidings--Galatians Made Clear" by E. J. Waggoner, and "95 Theses on Righteousness by Faith" by Morris L. Venden.

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      • Hi Stephen,

        There is something I always wondered (I'm still an child in Christ, having a lot to learn).

        I agree with you that there is nothing we can do to recommend us to God.

        At the same time, we know that persistent willful disobedience will make us lose the salvation the that Jesus already gave us freely.

        If both statements above are true, it seems to me that obedience is a pre-requisite for salvation.

        Could you please help me understand how to look at these things?

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        • Hi, Cristian

          To focus on obedience is like a dentist prescribing pain killers without treating the underlying condition. If the dentist drills and fills the tooth the pain will go away on its own.

          In the same way, the obedience is only a symptom of the real problem. These symptoms can only happen when we have chosen to sever our relationship to Jesus. When we do that, we try to make our own way of righteousness.

          If we try to become obedient, we will only be taking pain meds and not addressing the real problem. However, when we surrender our will and stop trying so God can restore us rather than us restoring ourselves, the symptoms clear up on their own. It is no longer necessary to try to make ourselves better Christians, because Jesus will already be taking care of that.

          Here is a simple self test regarding righteousness by faith. Are we saying to ourselves, "Well I didn't do THAT sin today?" If we are saying this, is our focus on Jesus or on our sin?

          If we focus on Jesus, He is more than willing to take care of the sin in our lives. It is His work and not ours. He never intended for us to carry such a heavy burden. (See Matthew 11:28-30) I like how Moses put it, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14, NIV

          The real question for the Christian is do we trust Jesus to do a complete work in us, or do we feel that what He does is not enough? So it all comes down to surrender and trust. This can be the hardest thing we have ever done and at the same time the easiest. Many never get to this point until they finally give up after years of trying to be obedient. Once they acknowledge they cannot be obedient and surrender, then God can step in. He will do this for anyone that asks. When He does, then peace comes into the heart.

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    • Good evening, Carlfrost.
      There are two points that you seem to raise. The first one has to do with the necessity of works in order to be saved. The second one concerns the rich young ruler and what Jesus was trying to do there.

      No one is going to enter into heaven without being perfect, that is a simple fact. The question however is not whether that will be so, but how it will be so. The answer to this involves a rather deep discussion concerning the covenants which I will not go into in depth here because it will come up in the next lesson. To cut to the chase, one should read the new covenant, which is found in Hebrews 8 which is actually a quote from Jeremiah 31. In it, God does everything. This is consistent with Jesus own statement in the parable of the vine and the branches, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NKJV). There are also other statements in Scripture that speak of God's power working in us (Matt 10:20; 2 Cor 3:5; Gal 2:8; Phil 2:13; Phil 4:13; Col 1:29).

      “What can the minister do without Jesus? Verily, nothing. Then if he is a frivolous, joking man, he is not prepared to perform the duty laid upon him by the Lord. "Without Me," says Christ, "ye can do nothing." The flippant words that fall from his lips, the trifling anecdotes, the words spoken to create a laugh, are all condemned by the Word of God and are entirely out of place in the sacred desk. . . .
      Unless the ministers are converted men, the churches will be sickly and ready to die. God's power alone can change the human heart and imbue it with the love of Christ. God's power alone can correct and subdue the passions and sanctify the affections. All who minister must humble their proud hearts, submit their will to the will of God, and hide their life with Christ in God” (Evangelism 643.2-3).

      Furthermore, Jesus himself relied entirely upon the father which is shown not only by a direct statement he made (John 14:10) but also through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which says that Jesus laid all the prerogatives of divinity aside and became just like we are (Phil 2; see also Heb 2:17).

      “Therefore Jesus was ‘in all points tempted like as we are.’ Hebrews 4:15. He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God” (Desire of Ages, p 24.2).

      “’I am the true Vine,’ He says. Instead of choosing the graceful palm, the lofty cedar, or the strong oak, Jesus takes the vine with its clinging tendrils to represent Himself. The palm tree, the cedar, and the oak stand alone. They require no support. But the vine entwines about the trellis, and thus climbs heavenward. So Christ in His humanity was dependent upon divine power. ‘I can of Mine own self do nothing,’ He declared. John 5:30” (Desire of Ages 674.3).

      The second point that you raise concerns the rich young ruler. That young man's problem was very similar to the problem of the rich man that had barns that couldn't hold his new crop (Luke 12:16-21). Because he chose to horde his wealth in the parable Jesus condemned him. And so likewise the rich young ruler chose to cling to his wealth for his own sake. Jesus was not presenting a theology of how a person is saved. What Jesus was doing was drawing the man out so that he would see that he was actually not as righteous as he thought. If he would come to that point he would have realized that he was condemned by the law he said he kept and that he desperately needed a savior. Then all he would need to do is to ask for help as Peter did when he was sinking in the water, "Lord, save me!" (Mat 14:30 NKJV) or the one who had trouble believing, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24 NKJV). Chapter 57 in the Desire of Ages is good reading on this point (page 518).

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  8. Stephen,

    “I seem to be saying that Jesus’ power is inadequate to save us without us contributing our works. “ On the contrary; I said it needs the two processes: 1) Jesus’ Redemptive Power, and 2) Our Obedience to God.
    The mathematical formula and logic would look like this:

    A = Savoir (Jesus)
    B = Sinners (Repentant)
    C = Salvation (Enter into eternal life)
    A + B => C

    Now, if there was no B (no sinner), there would be no need for an A (savior) , so then, Not A, Not C. Also because there were no other name given other than Jesus Christ to represent A (Acts 4:12); therefore, B cannot imply C, we need A.

    Most time when the Bible is referring to the process of salvation, such as “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 Bible is referring to the process in “A”, and showing that if there is no A, there is no need for C. The statement is still true: B cannot produce C.

    Paul and the other disciples in trying to convince the Jews, emphasized process “A”; he did that because they did not accept Jesus. They knew process “B” and are still waiting for process “A”. But Paul was letting them know that process “A” is the works of Jesus.

    If there were no sinners to redeem, there would be no need for a savior. For the rules of “Free Will” to remains true, God needs the effort of “B”. If not, we would be like robots, and His love (and almighty) would save ALL people (even the disobedient ones). We need a savior and obedient people to have a thing called “Salvation”.

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  9. Well, Stephen, I assume most people have already read the book of Galatians who comment on this thread.

    It says a law has been added, and then states this same law can be subtracted. What particular verses did you want me to quote? The whole book is about this law.

    I don't see any need to go on and on concerning something so obvious.

    Bill

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    • We could futher elaborate this issue of identifying the law in Galatians in this way.

      Suppose Paul would say, "You can get your vitamin C by drinking orange juice."

      Someone adds this comment, "You can also get your vitamin C by taking a vitamin pill."

      Would we consider it accurate to say, "Paul says you can get your vitamin C by taking a vitamin pill?"

      I think not. Neither would we suppose that Paul would deny the reality that you can get vitamin C by taking a pill.

      So, just because the moral law can also function as a "schoolmaster" to lead us to Christ, does not ipso facto conclude this is Paul's point.

      The lesson correctly states that it is very important to know and understand the historical context of the book of Galatians before we can learn and/or apply other possible spiritual meanings that may be relevant. If we consider the old covenant service, we can readily see that a violation of the moral law, led to the ceremonial law, and the ceremonial law typifies Christ and His heavenly ministry.

      So, even in the O.T., the moral law would lead a person to Christ. None the less, this is not Paul's emphasis nor is it the specific problem he is dealing with. And if we go outside the specific issue, we can and will draw a false conclusion of the final point Paul is making.

      Since Paul is dealing with a "law" that is added, and then subtracted, we must maintain the law in Galatians in its historical context is solely and only the ceremonial law. Even if there is the possibility of showing that the moral law can also function as a "schoolmaster".

      Otherwise, we will necessarily conclude the moral law has been done away at the cross. Hopefully, most of us at least, do not subscribe to this conclusion. Even though it is becoming a more and more popular idea, even in the SDA church.

      Bill Sorensen

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      • Some use the fact that we will be saved by grace and not by the keeping of the law as excuse to sin,(we see this more and more, it does not matter what we do we will be saved we will just ask for forgiveness) that makes grace "cheap" we are saved by grace But because we love The One that wants to save us we keep His Law we would strife to live out His character.

        Sorry that I replay to other questions on your post:
        The reason why we should reach perfection in character is not to be saved but to show to the world what person looks if he lets God into his life we can not even get to perfect character without the Grace of God. And trough God's perfect Character in us, others will desire to have the same.
        Hannelie

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  10. Bill,

    Passages such as Rev 20:12-15 such as "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead who were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."

    This calls into question as to how important is "Their Works" in the plan of salvation. It is very important.

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