Myths About Eternal Life And Justification

 

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MYTHS ABOUT ETERNAL LIFE AND JUSTIFICATION.pdf

 

Here are some other unbiblical myths put forward by some churchgoers about receiving eternal life and justification from God:

 

MYTH 1:[1]

“Evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals teach God’s grace through Christ only involves justification before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge.”

This is a false charge. Evangelical Protestant and Pentecostal teaching says God’s grace in Christ involves propitiation, redemption, reconciliation, justification, regeneration, sanctification, adoption, being transformed by the Holy Spirit and other wonderful gifts which are different from each other but are included in the “one package”.

It is true atonement includes elements of propitiation, redemption and reconciliation and righteousness includes legal justification and a righteous imparted nature in Christ. But it is wrong to say God-declared justification is the same as regeneration and/or sanctification. For example in Titus 3:5-7, Paul reveals regeneration and God-declared justification are received together but are distinct elements.

 

MYTH 2:

“Matthew 7:22-23 and 25:31-36 condemn Protestant Evangelicals and Pentecostals who believe they are justified by God’s grace alone through faith.”

This is a poor understanding of these passages. These Biblical verses teach that the reason some people who refer to Jesus as “Lord” will not be received into heaven is they did not have a living justifying faith which evidenced itself in the fruit of good works. Instead they had a dead non-justifying faith in God like James 2:14-20 condemns.

The good works spoken of in Matthew 7:22-23 and 25:31-36 are not a condition of going to heaven. Instead they are a fruit or outward subjective evidence of the type of faith which saves us eternally.

 

MYTH 3:

“We are saved by works done by God’s grace and His Spirit’s power.”

But note in Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 3:5, Paul stresses we are not saved by any type of good or righteous work. Ephesians 2:8-9 states: “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.” Titus 3:5 declares: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” The types of “works” that Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 3:5 refer to, include those done by God’s grace and His Spirit’s power.

 

MYTH 4:

“Titus 2:1-14 teaches us that God’s grace empowers us to merit eternal life.”

But observe verse 11 says grace brings salvation. It does not say grace plus good works bring salvation. Verse 12 reveals God’s grace produces the fruit of our living right, sober and godly lives in this present age. Verse 14 shows God has redeemed and purified us and one result of this is we will be zealous for good works.

 

MYTH 5:

“Matthew 7:21-23 teaches we can merit eternal life through grace-empowered good works.”

This is wrong. Refer to my comments on this passage in the section “Jesus’ teaching on fruit” in Chapter        “The normal fruits or signs of regeneration” for more details on Matthew 7:21-23.

 

MYTH 6:

“Galatians 5:6 shows we receive eternal life through faith and love when it refers to ‘faith working through love.’

But note Paul’s latter expression means true saving faith shows itself in the fruit of love for God and others. Also note this verse refers to those who are already “in Christ Jesus”. Those who are in Christ Jesus have already received eternal life through His Spirit. They are not trying to earn it at the end of their lives through grace-empowered acts of love or good works. Refer to Chapter        “Regeneration” and “Eternal life is not merited as a reward for God-empowered works” in Chapter       “The meriting type of legalism” for details on when and on what basis we receive eternal life.

Galatians 5:6 teaches similarly to 1 John 3:14 and 4:7 which show we love others because we have already received eternal life.

 

MYTH 7:

“1 Corinthians 13:2 teaches that it is possible to have strong faith in God but no love for Him and for others. Such people are unsaved.”

But note those with strong faith in God will evidence love for Him and others. John 3:14-16, 3:36, 5:24, 6:27-29, 20:21, 1 Timothy 1:16 and Titus 1:2 show we are born of God through faith. But note 1 John 4:7 shows a sign someone is born again is they will love: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

Loving God and others is a fruit of faith in Him and is not a condition of receiving eternal life.

1 John 3:14 reveals believers have passed from a state of spiritual death to eternal life and the sign of this is they are loving others: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” In Greek, the expression “we have passed” is perfect tense and “loves” is present tense. The perfect tense nearly always refers to a completed action with continuing results or the results or state produced by a completed action. The present tense in Greek means the action of loving is ongoing. So the ongoing loving of others by believers is a result of them having already passed from a state of spiritual death to eternal life. Believers do not receive eternal life at the end of their lives as a merited reward for loving God and others.

In Galatians 3:9, Paul stresses that those with real faith in God are blessed and not cursed: “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul reveals that anyone who does not love Christ – God the Son – will be cursed. Therefore, it is nonsense to suggest anyone can have a saving faith in God which does not have love for Christ as one of its fruits. Otherwise Galatians 3:9 and 1 Corinthians 16:22 would mean believers are going to both heaven and hell after they die.

 

MYTH 8:

“1 Timothy 4:8 proves we can merit eternal life by living a godly life.”

1 Timothy 4:8 says: “… but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” Note Paul here uses “now” in relation to the eternal life which the godly presently possesses. He also refers to the fullest aspect of eternal life which believers will receive after their deaths. His expression “of the life…of that which is to come” relates to the latter.

Also, note the expression “is to come” is a present participle. In Greek, present participles refer to continuous or repeated actions in most contexts and do not necessarily relate to the present time. The expression “is to come” is a futuristic present tense. In other words, it is saying the future fuller expression of eternal life after our deaths is already in the process of coming. Similar futuristic presents are “is coming” in John 4:21 and Colossians 3:6 and “comes” in Ephesians 5:6. [2]

The word “having” in 1 Timothy 4:8 is also a present participle. This signifies godliness is continuously a promise of the eternal life believers now have already in a continuous sense and which is also in the ongoing state of coming in its future after-death aspect.

In Greek, the expression “profitable” used in 1 Timothy 4:8 twice is “ophelimos”. “Ophelimos” means “a benefit to be derived from some object, event or state”. [3] “Ophelimos” is also used in 2 Timothy 3:16 about how profitable are the Scriptures and in Titus 3:8 in relation to how profitable are good works to those who have already believed in God, been saved, been regenerated and been justified (see Titus 3:5-6).

1 Timothy 4:8 is not saying godliness merits us eternal life. Instead it is teaching godliness is beneficial or useful for believers because godliness is an ongoing promise to them of their born-again state and their future in heaven. The Word of God objectively promises eternal life by God’s grace and mercy (see 1 Peter 3:7 and Jude 21) through faith (see John 3:14-16, 3:36 and 6:47). But our godliness is a promise to us in a different sense.

Note Paul refers to the reception of this eternal life in the context of faith. Refer to 1 Timothy 4:6, 10 and 12.

 

MYTH 9:

“Romans 6:22 proves we merit eternal life by living a holy life.”

Romans 6:22 says: “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” This verse does not teach that living a holy life merits eternal life for us. Instead it teaches:

 

·         the fruit of having been set free from sin and having become slaves of God at conversion is holiness and

·         the end of having been set free from sin and having become God’s slave is eternal life.

 

In Romans 6:23, Paul summarizes what he said in Romans 6:21-22. He says that those who are slaves to sin receive the wage or reward of death. He also declares that those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord, have become His slave and receive the gift of eternal life. A wage is merited. Death is the merited punishment of sin. But a free gift cannot be earned or merited.

 

MYTH 10:

“Romans 8:13 teaches we can merit eternal life.”

Romans 8:13 says: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” This verse is not teaching that if by the power of the Holy Spirit we continue to put to death the sinful deeds of our bodies, we will merit eternal life. Instead it is stating the fact that in future we will have eternal life as an unmerited consequence of fulfilling the above condition. Also as shown in the section “Eternal life is not merited as a reward for God-empowered works” in my Chapter “The meriting type of legalism”, believers have eternal life now.

 

MYTH 11:

“John 5:29 refers to being sent by God to heaven or hell on the basis of good works or lack of them.”

This is a typical example of what is called eisegesis – imposing man-made religious theories or traditions on the Biblical text. John 5:29 says: “and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Jesus’ words here are a part of what He said in John 5:19-47.

Note in John 5:24, Christ declared: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but has passed from death into life.” In John 5:24, Jesus states that those who have His Word and believe in God in an ongoing sense, have eternal life already in an ongoing sense. In Greek, the words “believes” and “has” (first usage) are present tense. The present tense in Greek usually means the action is ongoing.

In Greek, the expression “has passed” in John 5:24 is in the perfect tense, indicating the action is completed and has continuing effects or involves a state resulting from a previous action. So those who receive Christ's Word and have trusting faith in God, have received eternal life as a completed action or are in a state of eternal life. They are not trying to earn or merit it by grace-empowered good works.

When John 5:29 refers to “those who have done good”, it is referring to those who have kept their faith in God and in Jesus Christ. Note a little later in John 6:28, many Jews asked Christ “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” John 6:29 records Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Also note the expression “the resurrection of life” in John 5:29 is not referring to the initial receiving of eternal life but instead relates to the resurrection of believers’ bodies. The context shows this. In the previous verse, Christ refers to physical bodies in the graves or tombs being resurrected at His Second Coming.

 

MYTH 12:

“Titus 3:8 refers to good works being ‘profitable’. This means good works merit salvation and eternal life.”

The word “profitable” here refers to the rewards believers receive for their post-conversion service to God and not to meriting salvation and eternal life. This is obvious from the context. Earlier in Titus 3:5 Paul says we are saved “not to works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy.” “Works of righteousness” are good works of all types, including grace-empowered ones. Also, as stated earlier, in Greek the word “profitable” here is “ophelimos” which relates to being useful, beneficial or advantageous but not meritorious.

 

MYTH 13:

“Galatians 6:8-10 proves good works are one condition of receiving eternal life.”

But this is false. Instead these verses figuratively teach that if we continuously let the Holy Spirit rule us, we will reap eternal life. In Greek, the word “sows” used twice in verse 8 is in the present tense. The present tense in Greek indicates the ongoing nature of the action of sowing.

As seen in the section “Eternal life is not merited as a reward for God-empowered works” in my Chapter “The meriting type of legalism”, eternal life is received by believers at the point of conversion. But in Galatians 6:8-10, Paul is referring to maintaining our possession of God-given eternal life up until the time of our physical death.

In verse 9, Paul says we as believers should continue to set our hearts on doing good works. Our faith is in our hearts. So Paul insists on the importance of our heart manifesting outwardly the good works which are normal for a heart of faith. Paul does not here teach good works are a condition of receiving eternal life. Instead he teaches what he does elsewhere. He reveals good works are a normal fruit of a person who in faith has surrendered to the Lordship of the Spirit of Christ. A person who is figuratively sowing to the Spirit will evidence this by the fruit of good works or good actions.

Because of the symbolic language found in Galatians 6:8-10, it is easily used by clever legalists of various types who believe we can earn eternal life and/or earthly rewards from God by our grace-empowered good works.

 

MYTH 14    

“1 Timothy 6:17-19 teaches we can merit eternal life by giving to the poor and doing other grace-empowered good works”.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul stated: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” In these verses, Paul is not saying believers merit eternal life through the good works they do through God’s grace.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul refers to laying hold on eternal life. But note earlier in 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul links the receiving or laying hold on eternal life with faith: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” In Greek, the word “Fight” here is present tense, referring to fighting the good fight of faith in an ongoing sense. Also in Greek, the expression “lay hold on” in 1 Timothy 6:12 is a form of the same word used in 1 Timothy 6:19. 1 Timothy 6:12 and 6:19 are closely linked. It is only those who remain believers in Christ in an ongoing sense who have taken hold of eternal life as a real continuous possession.

In Greek, the expression “that they may lay hold on eternal life” has no relation to merit. Proof of this is the fact Paul used the word “that” which in Greek is “iva” and means “in order that”. [4] Note that the word “iva” is “a marker of result”. [5] By using “iva”, Paul reveals that laying hold on eternal life is an unmerited result or consequence of continuing to trust in God and that the fruit of such faith is good works or good actions. Paul does not here say that eternal life is a merited reward for good works. Also note the faith implied in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 is mentioned in surrounding verses 12 and 21.

Note in Greek that the expression “they may lay hold on” in 1 Timothy 6:19 is in the aorist and not the future tense. In Greek, the aorist tense in itself does not relate to any specific time period. [6] But the surrounding context in which an aorist is found will often give hints as to what time period, if any, is relevant to the action. In the New Testament, aorists usually relate to the past or present, but rarely to the future. In Greek, the word “justified” in Luke 7:35 is an aorist which relates to all time periods – past, present and future. Also in Greek, the phrase “have gained” in Matthew 18:15 is an aorist related solely to the future. But these examples are extremely rare in the New Testament. The aorist “they may lay hold on” in 1 Timothy 6:19 can more easily be taken to refer to both the present and future. Believers lay hold on eternal life both now and in the future.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul is warning rich believers that if they trust in their riches, refuse to do good, are not generous and focus on storing material riches away for themselves, they can lose their hold on eternal life. Paul’s earlier words in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 about people straying from the faith because of loving money relates to this. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Paul said: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

As believers, we were saved (see Ephesians 2:5 and 2:8), are being saved (see 1 Corinthians 1:18, 15:2 and 2 Corinthians 2:15) and will be saved in future (see Romans 5:9 and 1 Corinthians 3:15). Similarly, we have received eternal life in the past (see John 5:24 and 1 John 3:14), have eternal life at present (see John 3:15, 3:16, 3:36, 1 John 5:12 and 5:13) and will continue to lay hold on it in future. Also, our good works are a living expression or result of the faith by which we have received, at present have and in future will have eternal life.

 

MYTH 15

“When Jesus taught in Matthew 6:20, 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33 and 18:22 that believers will receive ‘treasures in heaven’ for their giving to the needy, He was teaching they merit eternal life as a heavenly reward through their giving. In Matthew 13:44, Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure’. One aspect of the kingdom of heaven is having eternal life. Also, Matthew 13:44 teaches we can buy membership in God’s Kingdom by giving money to Him.”

But this is a false view. We cannot interpret these verses in isolation from their contexts. In their broader contexts of Matthew 6:19-34 and Luke 6:13-34, Matthew 6:20 and Luke 12:33 are teaching that if money is our first love, we will not be able to seek God’s Kingdom properly.

In their surrounding contexts of Matthew 19:16-29, Mark 10:17-30 and Luke 18:18-30, Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21 and Luke 18:22 teach that:

 

·         if we wish to merit eternal life, we must perfectly love others every moment of every day. Such love includes being willing to give all our possessions to the poor in the world. Jesus’ words in Luke 10:25 indicate that we must perfectly love both God and others all the time in order to merit eternal life. In Matthew 19:17-19 and Mark 10:19, Jesus reveals such perfect love will express itself in continuous obedience to God’s other commandments all the time. In Greek, the words “keep” in Matthew 19:17 and “do” in Luke 10:28 are present tense. In Greek, the present tense usually relates to a continuous or repeated doing of the action. So in Matthew 19:16 and Luke 10:28, Christ was saying that only a continuous loving of God, loving of others and keeping His commandments merits eternal life. But only Jesus Christ has ever obeyed like this. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul teaches that if we give all of our possessions to the poor but do not obey the love commandments, this will profit us nothing. Also note Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Timothy 1:9 insist it is impossible for humans to be saved by any type of good works. Sinful fallen humans could not merit eternal life and salvation by their good works of giving to the poor. Their sins would be enough to eternally separate them from God (see Romans 6:23).

·         part of turning to Jesus Christ is surrendering all of our possessions to His Lordship to be used as He leads.

 

Matthew 13:44 says: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” We must interpret this verse with exceptional care. This is because if we took this verse totally literally, it would mean that with money we can buy membership in the Kingdom of heaven. But note Deuteronomy 10:17 shows God never accepts gifts from humans as bribes which buy His blessings: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.”

Also in Psalm 49:6-9, God reveals we can never pay for the atonement of our sins with money: “Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him – for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever – that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit.”

Acts 8:18-20 records the Apostle Peter strongly rebuked Simon the Sorcerer for trying to buy God’s free gift of the Holy Spirit with money.

Similarly, in Matthew 13:44, Christ was not teaching the Kingdom of heaven is a type of treasure which can be earned or merited by our giving to Him, giving to the needy or other good works. Instead, He was teaching symbolically that we should commit all of ourselves and our possessions to God and as an unmerited consequence of this, we will become a member of the Kingdom of heaven.

The same applies to Jesus’ Words in Matthew 13:45-46 about the Kingdom of heaven being like a pearl of great price which we should “buy”. Once again, Christ was not teaching us to try to buy membership in God’s Kingdom by giving Him all our money and possessions. Instead, He was teaching that membership in the Kingdom of God is unmerited consequence of giving or surrendering ourselves in faith to the King of kings.

 

MYTH 16:

“Romans 8:16-17 teaches we merit our inheritance in Christ through our suffering for Him.”

Romans 8:16-17 says: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” These verses do not teach we merit becoming God’s heirs through suffering for Christ. Note Galatians 3:18, Acts 20:32, Titus 3:7, 1 Peter 1:3-4 and 3:7 reveal our inheritance in Christ is based on pure unmerited undeserved grace and mercy and not deserved rewards. Refer to the section “A recompense to slaves and undergirded by grace” in Chapter “Hebrew and Greek Words For Rewards” for more details on these latter verses and also on Colossians 3:22-24 – another often misinterpreted passage.

Romans 8:16-17 is similar to Acts 14:22 in that they both teach that suffering is a part of our pilgrimage here on Earth as believers. It is impossible to remain faithful to Jesus Christ without suffering persecution and difficulties in this earthly life.

Romans 8:16-17 has similarities to Hebrews 12:5-11. The latter passage emphasises that as God’s sons, we will endure suffering and chastening by Him in our earthly lives so we can share in His holiness. Romans 8:17 refers to suffering so we can share in His glory.

 

MYTH 17:

“Isaiah 40:2 says: ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.’ This verse means we can merit the pardon of our sins by suffering God’s earthly punishments or by punishing ourselves.”

This is a false view because Isaiah 40:2 teaches one of the three following alternatives:

·         both that the Jews had suffered a satisfactory punishment for their sins and also many of them had fulfilled the conditions stated in the Old Covenant for obtaining pardon for their sins. The expression “for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” relates to the satisfactory punishment. The phrase “that her iniquity is pardoned” refers to the obtaining of pardon for their sins. In Hebrew, the word “pardoned” here is “rasah”. The word “rasah” is used in connection with Hebrew words for atonement for sins in Leviticus 1:4 and 7:18 and in relation to God accepting animal sacrifices in Leviticus 22:21, 22:23, 22:27 and Malachi 1:13.

·         or solely that the Jews had suffered a satisfactory earthly punishment for their sins. In Hebrew, the word “iniquity” is a form of the word “awon”. The word “awon” can mean “punishment for iniquity” [7] or “punishment of iniquity” [8] or “punishment for guilt”.[9] Examples of the usages of “awon” in the sense of punishment for iniquity or for guilt are found in Genesis 4:13, 1 Samuel 28:10 and 2 Kings 7:9. Genesis 4:13 records: “And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear!’”

In their Hebrew lexicon, Brown, Driver and Briggs say “rasah” means “is accepted (as satisfactory)” in Isaiah 40:2. [10] Brown, Driver and Briggs say the expression “her iniquity is pardoned” in Isaiah 40:2 can be translated “her punishment is accepted”. In other words, God regarded the punishment of exile which the Jews experienced as being a satisfactory earthly punishment for their sins. The expression “for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” seems to be a form of Hebrew parallelism – a repeating in similar words what the previous phrase meant. The previous phrase would be “her punishment is accepted”.

·         or both that God in His mercy had accepted that the Jews had received suitable earthly punishments for their sins through the Exile and that Jesus Christ's future death was the satisfactory punishment for their iniquities. [11] Note Isaiah 40:2 is the same context of prophecies about John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus Christ. Compare Isaiah 40:3-5 to Luke 3:4-6. Also, it was Isaiah who later in Isaiah 53:4-12 prophesied that Christ was to take the satisfactory punishment owing by Jews and others due to their iniquities. In Isaiah 53:6, 11 and 12, Isaiah used the Hebrew word “awon” in relation to Christ carrying our iniquities or the punishment for our iniquities. So it is possible Isaiah’s words “that her iniquity is pardoned” in Isaiah 40:2 is a prophecy of the effects of Jesus’ future death.

Isaiah 40:1-2 can possibly be taken as a summary of the following chapters in Isaiah – Isaiah 40:3-66:24. This is because the latter chapters have many prophecies about God’s comfort for the Jews, God’s Servant – Jesus Christ, His work and God’s salvation and redemption of the Jews.

 

MYTH 18

“In Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 3:5, 3:12 and 3:21, John teaches that those who overcome will merit God’s gracious eternal gifts.”

But note in 1 John 5:4-5, John reveals we overcome by faith in Jesus Christ: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is He who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.” John does not here mention anything about meriting by overcoming. Faith receives God’s gracious gifts but does not merit them. We must continue in faith to continue in eternal life and salvation (see Colossians 1:22-23 and Hebrews 3:12-15). If we continue in real faith, we will continue in the fruits of faith – love, holiness, self-control, good Biblical doctrine and godly living (see 1 Timothy 2:15, 4:16 and 2 Timothy 3:14).

In Revelation 2:26, John records Christ said: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” The expression “keeps My works” refers to having trusting faith in Christ. Remember in John 6:28-29, John wrote: “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’”

As James 2:14-20 reveals, true faith in God will have good works as its fruit or results.

 

MYTH 19:

“In Matthew 10:22, 24:13 and Mark 13:13, Jesus Christ says it is only those who endure to the end who will be finally saved. By enduring through God’s grace, they merit salvation.”

But observe 2 Thessalonians 1:4, Hebrews 11:27 and 12:2 reveal we endure by faith in God. We do not merit salvation by our endurance. Instead we are saved by unmerited grace through enduring faith.

 

MYTH 20:

“In Romans 11:6, Paul does not reject grace-empowered good works as a condition of meriting eternal life. This is because in context Paul refers to 7,000 saved Israelites who merited eternal life through their grace-empowered good works.”

The Israelite remnant whom Paul refers to in Romans 11:2-6 are those who had both saving faith and the fruits of such faith. They were not hypocrites like the other Israelites in Elijah’s time who had a non-saving faith in the Lord accompanied by a faith in the pagan god Baal and few, if any, good works. But neither did the 7,000 believers’ good works which were done through God’s grace, merit them eternal life.

 

MYTH 21:

“Most or all Protestant Evangelicals believe that Romans 11:6 teaches that all Israelites in the Old Testament who were diligent in doing good works were condemned by God to hell.”

It is only some of those Protestants who teach the easy believism heresy, who would teach a dreadful view of good works. Most Protestant Evangelicals believe(d) that diligence in doing good works is a fruit of saving faith. Romans 11:6 does not condemn good works as fruits or results of God’s grace and faith.

In the Old Testament, those who had received God’s grace and had saving faith, aimed to obey the Law of Moses. Examples of these people were David, Josiah, Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah (see 1 Kings 5:5, 2 Kings 23:24-25, 2 Chronicles 17:3-4 and 31:20-21). Such obedience was a fruit of God’s grace. God desires all our good works to be empowered by His grace (see 1 Corinthians 15:10, Ephesians 2:10 and Hebrews 12:28).

 

MYTH 22:

“When Romans 3:20, 3:28, 4:2 and Galatians 2:16 (three times) say we are not justified by works of Law, they are referring only to not being justified by circumcision.”

The errors in the above are:

 

A.     The New Testament expression “works of Law” includes circumcision under the Mosaic Covenant but is much broader than that. “Works of Law” include every one of the laws, commands and statutes which God gave through the Mosaic Law. To claim that “works of Law” only involves circumcision is to express gross ignorance of the Law of Moses and the usages of the phrase by Paul. For example, in Romans 3:19-20, Paul relates the expression the “works of the Law” to all the Mosaic Law.

In Galatians 3:10-11, Paul shows the expression “the works of Law” relates to doing all the commands of the Law of Moses: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident for ‘The just shall live by faith.’” Galatians 3:10 is a quote from Deuteronomy 27:26 which is a part of the Mosaic Law. Deuteronomy 27:26 relates to the whole Law and not just circumcision: “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law. And the people shall say ‘Amen.’”

Acts 15:5-29 shows the Council of Jerusalem discussed whether God required non-Jewish believers to be circumcised and keep all the commands of the Mosaic Law. It did not just focus on circumcision.

Romans 4:2 says Abraham was not “justified by works”. When Abraham was circumcised, this was not a work of Law. Under the covenant God made with Abraham, circumcision was a sign of this covenant (see Genesis 17:10-14). The Abrahamic Covenant was not based on works of Law (see Galatians 3:17-18). The Mosaic Law was not given till hundreds of years after God made His covenant with Abraham.

It is true circumcision later became one of the works of the Mosaic Covenant and Law (see Leviticus 12:3). After God gave the Mosaic Covenant to the people of Israel, the latter were circumcised both as a sign of them being under the Abrahamic Covenant and as a work of the Mosaic Covenant and Law. But note Abraham was not circumcised under the Mosaic Law.

B.     When in Romans 4:2, Paul reveals Abraham was not “justified by works”, note in Greek that the word “works” is the plural noun “ergon”. The plural refers to more than one work or action. Abraham was only circumcised once. If Paul was referring to this single work of circumcision, he would have used the Greek singular noun “ergou” and not the plural “ergon”. Later in Romans 4:9-12, Paul teaches that Abraham was not justified by the single work of circumcision. But in Romans 4:1-8, Paul is not referring to a single work.

The same applies to Romans 3:28. In Greek, the word “works” in the phrase “works of the Law” is also the plural noun “ergon”. So it also is not referring to the single work of circumcision.

The word “works” used three times in the expression “works of Law” in Galatians 2:16 is also the plural noun “ergon”. So this verse is not referring to the single work of circumcision either.

C.     Romans 4:2-4 refers to Abraham. He was not under the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law. These were not even given when he was alive. So when Paul refers to Abraham not being justified by good works, he means any good work which Abraham could have possibly done. Romans 4:6-8 relates to David who was under the Mosaic Covenant and Law. So it is possible that in Romans 4:6-8, Paul narrows the type of works which he means, to works done in obedience to the Mosaic Law. But Romans 4:2-4 is broader in meaning than this.

D.     Those who hold this false view of “works of Law” being only circumcision, then contradict themselves by claiming Romans 2:6-13 teaches it is possible for all fallen humans to be justified and receive eternal life through grace-empowered good works. Note the context of Romans 2:6-13 relates to the Law of Moses also. Refer to Romans 2:13 and 2:17-29. So if we say works of Law are only circumcision, then we reach the ridiculous conclusion that Romans 2:6-13 teaches we can be justified and receive eternal life by just being circumcised. Romans 2:6 says God “…will render to each one according to his deeds.” In Greek, the word “deeds” is “erga” which is a plural noun. So this latter verse is referring to more than the single deed of circumcision.

E.      The heretic Pelagius (360-420 A.D.) taught that the “works of Law” in Romans 3:28 only referred to obedience to all the ceremonial aspects of the Law. [12] These ceremonial aspects are the animal sacrifices, feasts, tithes, other offerings, cleansing rites and circumcision. Pelagius taught that “works of Law” did not relate to the Ten Commandments, other moral laws and the civil commands of the Mosaic Law. The view that “works of Law” refers only to circumcision is more heretical than Pelagius’ view.

 

MYTH 23:

“Romans 4:5-8 does not refer to being declared or imputed as righteous by God’s grace through faith but to having God’s righteous nature imparted by grace through faith and good works. Proof of this is the fact the Old Testament passage Paul refers to – Psalm 32:1-2 – in context relates to receiving God’s righteous nature by grace through a combination of faith and good works.”

The above is wrong for the following reasons:

 

A.     Psalm 32:10 reveals it is those who trust in the Lord who will experience the fullness of God’s mercy: “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.” This verse does not say God’s mercy is received on the basis of a combination of trust or faith and good works. In Hebrew, the word “trusts” in the above verse is “batah”. “Batah” means “feel safe, trust, be full of confidence” [13] or “trust in, trust or rely upon”. [14]

B.     The mention in Psalm 32:6 of forgiven believers being “godly” does not refer to them meriting more of His grace. Instead being godly is a fruit or result of God’s unmerited grace and of human faith response. People with true justifying faith show outward evidence of their faith through their godly characters, words and actions. Read Titus 2:11-12 and both 2 Peter 1:3 and 6-7 taken together.

In Hebrew, the word “godly” in Psalm 32:6 is “hasid” which means “pious, godly, either as exhibition of ‘duteous love’ toward God or because kindness, as prominent in the godly comes…to be a designation of the godly character”. [15] The above definition relates to two of the fruit of faith – love for God, which is expressed in fulfilling our duties to Him, and kindness. Harris, Archer and Waltke agree that “hasid” probably refers to those who manifest kindness or lovingkindness in their daily living. [16] But they also say “hasid” means “holy one, saint” and state that God’s people in the Old Testament were called “hasid” possibly because “they were objects of God’s ‘hesed’”. [17] The Hebrew word “hesed” means “loving kindness, steadfast love, grace, mercy” [18] and is derived from the same word “hasid” is. Psalm 32:10 refers to God’s “hesed” or mercy on those who trust Him. Also Psalm 86:2 translates “hasid” as “holy” in relation to those who trust in God.

The understanding of many Roman Catholic theologians of the Old Testament word “hasid” (singular) or “hasidim” (plural), which are translated as “godly”, is coloured by their wrong acceptance of apocryphal books like 1 and 2 Maccabees as part of the Scriptures. For in 1 Maccabees 2:42, 7:13 and 2 Maccabees 14:6, a Greek transliteration of the word ‘hasidim” is used. This is the word “Hasidaeans” meaning the supposedly “godly” group who lived before Christ in the time of the Jewish Maccabean rulers.

The legalistic types of meriting ideas advocated by the supposedly “godly” in 1 and 2 Maccabees can be seen in 2 Maccabees 7:9: “And when he was at his last breath, he said, ‘You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of this universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.’” The above Jew suggested he would merit being resurrected to eternal life because he died as a martyr. This is similar in some ways to the Catholic Council of Trent teaching that by God’s grace, we can merit eternal life through good works.

C.     When Psalm 32:11 mentions the “upright in heart”, it is not referring to those who supposedly become upright or righteous through a combination of faith and good works. Instead the expression “upright in heart” refers to those who have received God’s grace of forgiveness and imputed righteousness, have a sincere trusting faith in their hearts in God and as a fruit of this, have had His Holy Spirit graciously make their hearts right. The latter fruit is a result and not a cause of God’s grace operating in their hearts. Psalm 64:10 relates being righteous and upright in heart to having trust or faith in God: “The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory.”

In Hebrew, the word “upright” used in Psalm 32:11 is “yashar”. “Yashar” is used in Psalm 7:10, 11:2, 64:10, 97:11 and 125:4 in relation to being upright in heart. But note in 1 Kings 3:6 we see that such uprightness in heart expresses itself in the fruit of our daily walk or daily good works. This verse says: “And Solomon said: ‘You have shown great mercy to your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You…’”

D.     Psalm 32:1, 2 and 5 refer to God’s decrees as Supreme Ruler and Judge. Verses 1 and 5 mention God’s forgiveness. In Hebrew, the words “is forgiven” in verse 1 and “forgave” in verse 5 are “nasa”. In the Old Testament, “nasa” is used to mean “bearing the guilt or punishment of sin” [19] or “forgiveness or pardon of sin, iniquity and transgression” [20] or “bear guilt for others” [21]. Leviticus 16:22 uses “nasa” to mean the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement bearing the guilt and punishment due to the Israelites because of their sins.

In Psalm 32:2, the expression “does impute” is “hashab” which means “think, account, impute, reckon” [22] or “to impute, actually a specialized sense of ‘to make a judgement’”.[23] “Hashab” is also used in Genesis 15:6 of God accounting or reckoning faith for righteousness and in Leviticus 7:18 of God accounting or crediting the peace offering to the offerer. Leviticus 7:18 also uses the word “nasa” in reference to bearing guilt and/or iniquity and/or punishment for iniquity.

E.      The expression “in whose spirit there is no deceit” in Psalm 32:2 does not refer to being justified by grace-empowered good works nor to being born-again of the Holy Spirit. In Hebrew, the word “deceit” is “mirma” which in the context of Psalm 32:2 means “deception”. [24] Having deception in one’s spirit is the same as being a religious hypocrite. Under the Mosaic Covenant, many religious Jews were hypocrites who mixed with worship of Yahweh with the worship and evil practices of various pagan religions. In Psalm 32:1-2, David teaches that those who have their sins forgiven are not religious hypocrites. Ezekiel 18:19-32 emphasises that God only forgives those who turn from their known sins.

Hosea 7:16 uses “mirma” in relation to those religious hypocrites amongst the Israelites who had not returned to God. It is true Mosaic Covenant believers needed God the Holy Spirit to minister to their spirits to empower them to have right attitudes (see Psalm 51:10) and to incline their hearts to Him (see 1 Kings 8:58 and Psalm 119:36). But note Mosaic Covenant believers were not born-again in a fully New Testament sense (see Colossians 1:27).

F.      Psalm 32 does not mention anything about being born-again of the Holy Spirit in a full New Testament sense.

 

MYTH 24:

“I believe we are justified by faith plus works and not just faith alone. Proof of this can be seen in Psalm 106:30-31, Numbers 25:7-15 and James 2:24. Psalm 106:30-31 records that God accounted Phinehas’ works as righteousness. James 2:24 shows Rahab was justified by works.”

Psalm 106:30-31 says: “Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and so the plague was stopped. And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore.” Numbers 25:7-11 states: “Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal.’” But note:

 

A.     If Psalm 106:30-31 and Numbers 25:7-11 teach we can be justified by faith plus works, this means we can be justified by having faith added to the single so-called “good work” of being zealous in killing those who have brought God’s anger on others. This is the sort of ridiculous nonsense which promoted religious wars like the Crusades. “Christian” and Muslim soldiers were promised complete God-given justification and entrance into heaven if they had faith and died in the cause of killing and defeating God’s so-called “enemies”.

B.     James 2:24-26 teaches similarly to Psalm 106:30-31 and Numbers 25:7-11. James 2:24-26 says: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” These verses show that Rahab’s action or good work of receiving and sending God’s human messengers away in safety showed outwardly before other humans and/or possibly angels the fruit or signs of God’s justifying grace and her faith in Him.

James 2:18 says: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” In Greek, the phrase “will show” above is a form of the word “deiknumi” which in this context means “to show by way of proving” [25] or “to demonstrate, prove”. [26] James here teaches that we give outward evidence or proof we have faith by our God-empowered good works.

C.     Psalm 106:30-31 and Numbers 25:7-11 reveal Phinehas’ justifying faith expressed itself in the fruit of Him slaying two of the sexually immoral idol-worshippers who were bringing God’s anger on the Israelites. Phinehas’ action was one fruit or evidence of his faith in God.

D.     It is debatable whether this incident was the beginning of Phinehas being accounted as righteous by God. Phinehas’ justifying faith may have been operative prior to this time. But the fruit of his faith as recorded in Numbers 25:7-11 was notable enough for the Holy Spirit to inspire His Biblical author to record it. Phinehas’ action was particularly notable because it resulted in God’s anger against the Israelite nation being appeased or pacified.[27]

MYTH 25:

“Romans 8:4 teaches believers are justified by Holy Spirit-empowered good works done in obedience to the Mosaic Law.”

Romans 8:3-4 says: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:4 refers to “the righteous requirement of the law” being fulfilled in us and to us walking “according to the Spirit”. But note:

 

A.     It is impossible to be justified by obeying the Law (see Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16). This is because the Mosaic Law demands continual perfect obedience to its commands in order to be justified by it (see Galatians 3:10-12). James 2:10-11 shows that even just one disobedience to the Mosaic Law makes us guilty of disobeying the equivalent of all the Law. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death”. Even just one sin carries with it the deserved punishment of spiritual and physical death.

In Romans 2:25, Paul says: “…but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” In Greek, the expression “you are” is in the imperfect tense. The imperfect tense in Greek mostly refers to ongoing action in the past which may or may not be continuing at present. So in Romans 2:25, Paul reveals that if circumcised Jews disobeyed or transgressed the Mosaic Law in any way, this resulted in them being deserving of being regarded by God as uncircumcised or cut off from His covenant. In Galatians 5:3-4, Paul emphasises that those who are circumcised for supposedly Biblical covenantal reasons put themselves under an obligation to obey all the Law and not just parts of it.

B.     To say that Romans 8:4 teaches believers are justified by Holy Spirit-empowered good works done in obedience to the Law of Moses is to impose on this verse the preconceived theory that we are justified by a mixture of undeserved grace and merited reward.

C.     In the Greek of Romans 8:3-4, the expression “may be fulfilled” is in the aorist tense and passive voice. The passive voice means the action of the righteous requirement of the Law being fulfilled in us, is done to us by Another – in this case God through His Spirit. By using the passive voice, Paul shows we do not fulfil the righteous requirement of the Law in ourselves.

It is possible the aorist tense of “may be fulfilled” refers to God’s work in declaring us righteous in Christ. In Greek, the aorist tense refers to an action viewed as a whole. If the aorist “may be fulfilled” was meant by Paul to refer to a momentary whole action, then it refers to God forgiving our sin on the basis of Jesus’ death and possibly to God crediting Christ's perfect obedience to the Law to us. Remember the Law demanded death as a penalty for any sin. Jesus’ death fulfilled this righteous requirement of the Law (see Hebrews 9:12-15, 10:1-14 and Galatians 3:13). The reference in verse 3 to God condemning sin in the flesh through Christ's death may relate to this.

 

If, however, the aorist “may be fulfilled” refers to a whole action over time,[28] then it relates at least partly to God by His Spirit empowering believers to fulfil the moral aspects of the Law. These moral aspects include the two love laws (see Matthew 22:37-40) and any command from the Mosaic Law repeated in the New Testament. But note the fulfilling of these righteous moral laws are not a condition of being justified by God’s grace through Jesus Christ but are a fruit or result of the latter. The Holy Spirit empowers believers to do good works as a fruit of them being converted, saved and justified.

A third alternative is the aorist “may be fulfilled” refers both to being forgiven and declared just and to the outward fruit of this in believers’ lives.

 

MYTH 26:

“Romans 3:24 and Titus 3:7 use the present tense of the Greek word ‘dikaioo’ when referring to believers being justified. Because the present tense in Greek usually refers to continuous or repeated action, this proves that believers are justified by a progressive process over time involving the Holy Spirit’s work in regenerating and sanctifying us and through our grace-empowered good works.”

I have given a detailed answer to this false claim in the section “Justification – a completed action” in Chapter “Justified by grace through faith and evidenced by”.

 

MYTH 27:

“Romans Chapter 6 mentions nothing about justification in court-of-law terms.”

But this is wrong. In Romans 6:7, Paul teaches that a dead man is no longer answerable for the guilt of his sins. Those who have died with Christ are no longer held accountable for their sins by God the Supreme Ruler and Judge. This truth is a combination of court-of-law justification and believers’ identification with Christ.[29]

Refer to Chapter “Justification”, Chapter “Justification in the Old Testament”, Chapter “Errors about justification” and Chapter “Righteousness through Jesus” for much details on justification and righteousness.

 

MYTH 28:

“Exodus 23:7 and Proverbs 17:15 prove the supposed wrongness of the Protestant Evangelical teaching that God declares wicked people righteous by His grace through their new-found faith. In Exodus 23:7, God says, ‘…I will not justify the wicked’.”

But note:

 

A.     In the Old Testament, the wicked are those who do not have a living saving faith in God and have no fruits of faith such as God-empowered good works. So Exodus 23:7 is not referring to God justifying people with faith by His grace.

B.     In Romans 4:5, Paul refers to God justifying the ungodly by His grace through faith: “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

C.     If we apply the above false arguments to the wrong teaching that God justifies the wicked by His grace through water baptism and through the imparting of His righteous nature, we would conclude Exodus 23:7 shows He would not justify wicked people in this way either.

 

MYTH 29:

“Luke 6:37-38 teaches we can merit forgiveness, being justified and receiving earthly blessings by not judging or condemning others, by forgiving others and giving generously to them”.

Luke 6:37-38 says: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” These verses do not teach us how to merit forgiveness, justification and earthly blessings as deserved rewards. Instead these verses refer to the unmerited consequences which God gives by His grace and mercy to those who meet the conditions He has stated in these verses. Luke 6:37-38 does not use any Greek words which relate to rewards, payments by God or human merit. Refer to the section “The unmerited results of fulfilling conditions under God’s grace” in Chapter      “Grace” for more examples of unmerited grace consequences of our fulfilling God’s stated conditions.

 

MYTH 30:

“It is wrong to teach that Genesis 15:6 shows Abraham was justified by faith alone. This is because Hebrews 11:8 and James 2:21-23 reveal Abraham was justified by good works on two other occasions. Hebrews 11:8 refers to the events recorded in Genesis 12:1-4 – a time before the events mentioned in Genesis 15:6. James 2:21-23 relates to happenings in Genesis 22:1-18 at a time long after Genesis 15:6. In each of these three times of justification, Abraham’s actions of faith merited eternal life for him on the basis of God’s unmerited grace.”

The above comments are laden with errors. Abraham had justifying faith continually from the time he initially accepted God’s call on his life (see Hebrews 11:8-9). But this does not diminish the fact Genesis 15:6 records that Abraham’s belief in the Lord was accounted to him by the Lord as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 relates to just after a crisis period in Abraham’s life. This crisis involved Abraham having to fight a war to rescue his nephew Lot and Lot’s family. The context of Genesis 15:6 also relates to when God confirmed His covenant which He had previously initiated with Abraham. It was at this time of ratification that God passed through the animal sacrifices. These sacrifices symbolised atonement for the sins of Abraham.

The giving of the Abrahamic Covenant occurred over many years:

 

·         God initiated the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12:1-3 when Abraham was living in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abraham responded in faith to God and His Word (see Hebrews 11:8). Abraham was 75 years at the time.

·         Years after this, when Abraham arrived at Canaan, God revealed to him that Canaan was the land God originally promised to him (see Genesis 13:14-17).

·         Years later God confirmed His covenant with Abraham by passing through the animal sacrifices which Abraham laid before Him (see Genesis 15:1-21). Abraham responded in faith and God declared Him justified (see Genesis 15:6).

·         When Abraham was 99 years, God renewed His covenant with Abraham and/or gave more details of it (see Genesis 17:1-27). At this time, God revealed that the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant from that time onwards would be circumcision for Abraham’s male physical descendants.

·         Many years later, God again confirmed His covenant with Abraham. This occurred after Abraham’s obedience about being willing to sacrifice Isaac, was seen as outward fruit of his faith in the Lord (see Genesis 22:1-18).

 

Abraham responded with faith to each of these various stages of God’s giving of His covenant to Abraham. He did not have perfect faith in God as evidenced by his actions in Genesis 12:10-13 and 20:1-13. But God does not require perfect faith in order for Him to justify a person (Romans 14:1-3).

Someone who read Genesis 13:14-17 without reading Genesis 12:1-3 could have imagined the Abrahamic Covenant began at the time referred to in Genesis 13:14-17. The same applies to the confirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 15:1-21 or the renewing of the Covenant in Genesis 17:1-27. If we study these two latter passages in isolation, we could wrongly take them to be the beginning of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Similarly, God’s statement in Genesis 15:6 about Abraham being justified by faith does not negate the fact Abraham was initially justified by God’s grace at the earlier time referred to in Genesis 12:1-4. Genesis 12:1-4 and Hebrews 11:8 mention Abraham’s faith and obedience but do not mention anything about him meriting being justified through grace-empowered good works.

Refer to the section “James 2:14-24” in Chapter “Justified by grace through faith and evidenced by…” to see the significance of what occurred in Genesis 22:1-18. Also read, Chapter “The meriting type of legalism” to see how wrong is the idea we can merit eternal life by grace-empowered good works.

 

MYTH 31

“In an honest analysis of Romans, how can you leave out Romans 2, where verses show good works are essential for salvation?…Humans must do good actions to be rewarded with eternal life in contrast to those who disobey (verse 8) who are sent to hell…”

Romans 2:1-29 is a much debated passage of Scripture. But this passage does not teach we are justified and receive eternal life through a mixture of God’s grace and good works.

There are two better interpretations of Romans 2:1-29:

 

The first alternative view of Romans 2:1-29

The first alternative is that in these verses, Paul is comparing repentant believers, who are already justified with those who are not. Romans 2:6-9 refers to those Jews and non-Jews who will be eternally punished because of their ongoing refusal to obey the truth of the Gospel and their associated continual obedience to all forms of wrong and evil. The phrase “obey the truth” in Romans 2:8 is very similar to the expressions “obeying the truth” in 1 Peter 1:22 and “obey the Gospel” in 1 Peter 4:17. Note in the broader context of 1 Peter 1:23-25, “the truth” refers to the Gospel. Also observe Galatians 2:5, 2:14 and Colossians 1:5 refer to the “truth of the Gospel” and Ephesians 1:13 mentions “the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation”.

In Romans 2:4, Paul refers to those who have repented through God’s goodness. In Greek, the first word usage of the word “goodness” in this verse is a form of the word “chrestotes” which means “to provide something beneficial for someone as an act of kindness”[30] or “kindness of heart or act, goodness expressing itself…in grace and tenderness and compassion”. [31] The second usage of the word “goodness” in Romans 2:4 means “kind…gracious”. [32] Therefore, Romans 2:4 is referring to those who have repented by God’s kindness or unmerited grace.

Matthew 3:7-10 records what John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Saduccees who came to be baptised in water while seeking to escape the future wrath of God at the Final Judgement: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father”. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’”

Note John here spoke similarly to how Paul addressed religious Jews in Romans 2:1-29. John warned them that just being under the privileges of the Abrahamic Covenant did not excuse them for not having “fruits worthy of repentance” in their lives.

Acts 26:20 reveals that whenever Paul preached to unsaved Jews and non-Jews, he told them that they “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Repentance and turning to God relates to the point of conversion. Doing “works befitting repentance” refers to post-conversion God-empowered good works.

These “works befitting repentance” are “fruits worthy of repentance” and are possibly what Paul is referring to in Romans 2:6-7 and 10 when he mentioned “patient continuance in doing good” and “everyone who works what is good”. Note these phrases come after Paul’s mention of repentance in Romans 2:4.

Romans 2:1-16 refers to the fact at the Final Judgement, God will include Holy Spirit-empowered good works as outward proof of the reality of the justifying saving faith of a person. Such good works are not in any way the cause of God saving and justifying a believer (see Romans 4:2-4, 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 3:5). Instead such Spirit-empowered good works are a fruit or result of a person’s justifying saving faith.

While Paul does not mention anything about faith in Romans 2:1-16, we can rightly assume that the truly repentant person of verse 4 has changed from having unbelief to having saving faith.

Matthew 12:37, 1 Timothy 4:8, 6:17-19 and James 2:14-26 are similar verses which refer to our good works as being the fruit or results of our saving faith and the outward subjective evidence we are justified by God’s grace through faith. Matthew 12:37 refers to being justified or condemned at the Final Judgement in relation to the fruit of our words.

Note in context Romans 2:1-16 relates to the Final Judgement Day. Verse 3 refer to the Final Judgement. Verse 5 mentions the “wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God”.

Verse 6 uses the future tense of “will render” – this relating to God’s Final Judgement.[33] When in Romans 2:6, Paul says God “will render to each one according to his deeds”, he is referring in context to being judged at the Final Judgement on the basis of:

·         whether a person has truly repented – having changed heart attitudes to unbelief and saving faith in God, to self being our master, to remaining self-reliant or becoming reliant on God and to abandoning our known sins

·         and whether the person has the fruit of such repentance – good works – in their post-conversion lives.

 

The second alternative

The second alternative is that in Romans 2:1-16, Paul teaches that those who do not fully repent, will be judged by their works or actions and will suffer God’s wrath at the Final Judgement. Paul’s expression “your impenitent heart” refers to this.

This judgement by works relates to Jesus’ Words in Matthew 19:16-21, Mark 10:17-21, Luke 10:25-28 and 18:18-23. In these passages, Jesus teaches that if people could continuously obey the Ten Commandments and God’s two love commandments every day of their lives, they would receive eternal life as a merited reward.

The unsaved will be judged for having rejected Christ (see Luke 12:8-9 and John 3:17-18) and rejecting Jesus’ Words or His Gospel (see Luke 10:10-12 and 12:47-48). But they will also be judged on the basis of their works or actions (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

In Romans 2:10, Paul says: “but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” In Greek, the phrase “works” here is in the present tense. The Greek present tense usually refers to a continuous or repeated doing of an action. In Romans 2:7, Paul refers to people receiving eternal life through “patient continuance in doing good.”

Many legalistic types of churchgoers take Romans 2:7 and 2:10 to mean that if believers continuously or repeatedly do grace-empowered good works, they will merit eternal life, glory and honor from God. But this extremely naïve interpretation of these verses involves taking them in isolation from Paul’s broader arguments in Romans 1:16-4:25. In Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul is proving that no Gentile or Jew can be justified by God through any of their good actions and that justification comes by God’s grace through faith.

In Romans 3:12, Paul stresses: “…There is none who does good, no, not one.” In Greek, the phrase “does good” here is present tense. As stated above, the Greek present tense usually relates to a continuous or repeated doing of an action. In the broader context of Romans 3:9-20, we see that in verse 12, Paul is referring to every Jew and non-Jew throughout history. In verse 12, he teaches “no, not one” does good continuously each day. In this statement, he is including all the most godly people in Old and New Testament times, for example, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, Stephen and so on. Such fine believers did many Spirit-empowered good works by God’s grace. But they did not perfectly continuously do such good works every day of their lives.

When in Romans 3:10, Paul stresses that “there is none righteous”, he is not saying there are none who were right in God’s sight by His grace through faith in Old and New Testament times. Instead, Paul is insisting that there are none who are righteous in God’s judgement through their continuous or repeated doing of good works. This is regardless of whether these good works are grace-empowered or otherwise.

Also note in Romans 4:4, Paul uses exactly the same form of the Greek word “works” as he used earlier in Romans 2:10. In Romans 4:4, Paul insists that the person who works, merits justification as a reward or debt from God. Romans 4:4-5 says: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Note in these verses, Paul strongly contrasts the receiving of justification as a merited reward or debt with receiving it by unmerited grace through faith.

In Galatians 3:21, Paul stresses there is no law – including the Mosaic Law – which in terms of merit can provide eternal life for sinful humans: “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” It is only someone who perfectly obeyed the Mosaic Law or God’s two commands every day who could merit eternal life.

According to this second alternative view of Romans 2:1-29, “obey the truth” in Romans 2:8 refers not to submitting to the Gospel but instead means obeying the Law in either its written Mosaic Covenant form and/or its expression on human conscience. Note in Romans 2:12-15, Paul mentions these two expressions of the Law.

 

Two possible views of Romans 2:25-27

In Romans 2:25-27, Paul taught: “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?”

Circumcision was the outward sign of being under the Mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants (see Genesis 17:10-14 and Leviticus 12:3). The Mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants had many privileges (see Genesis 22:18 and Romans 3:1-2). But in Romans 2:25-27, Paul stressed the great responsibilities of being under the Mosaic Covenant.

There are two possible interpretations of Romans 2:25-27:

 

·         The first is that unless a Jew continuously every day perfectly obeys the Mosaic Law, his circumcision and being under the Mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants will provide him with no spiritual benefit. In fact, God will regard him as uncircumcised – not under God’s covenants. Also if a non-Jew – “an uncircumcised man” is able to perfectly obey the Mosaic Law every day of his life, he will be regarded by God as being circumcised and under the wonderful privileges of the Mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants.

Paul is arguing this in preparation for his later insistence that because of human sin, the privileges of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants could only be obtained by Jews by God’s grace through faith (see Romans 3:9-4:22, 11:1-6 and 11:20).

·         The second is that if a Jew repeatedly carelessly disobeys the Mosaic Law, he should not wrongly imagine that he will receive the marvellous God-given privileges of the Mosaic Covenant. It is only those Jews and non-Jews who repeatedly though imperfectly obey the commands and statutes of the Mosaic Law in written form or on their conscience who will profit from its benefits.

Note obedience to the Mosaic Law included fearing God (see Deuteronomy 4:10, 6:2, 6:24, 8:6, 10:12 and 31:12-13), loving God (see Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, 6:5, 10:12, 11:1, 13:3, 30:6 and 30:20) and having faith in Him (see Deuteronomy 1:32, 9:23, Numbers 12:7, 14:11, 20:12 and Matthew 23:23).

 

Note that the action words “keep” (see Romans 2:25), “keeps” (verse 26) and “fulfills” (verse 27) are all in the present tense in Greek. As stated previously, the Greek present tense usually refers to actions which are continuous or repeated. Continuous actions have no breaks or intervals in between. Repeated actions are very regular but have intervals in them.

If Paul wanted these three action words to be taken as referring to continuous actions, this means he was teaching:

 

A.     being under the Mosaic Covenant is only of benefit if the person perfectly continuously keeps or practices the commands and statutes of the Mosaic Law.

B.     that if it were possible that a non-Jew could continuously perfectly keep all the commands and statutes of the Law of Moses, God would regard him as meriting all the privileges of the Mosaic Covenant. (No such actual person exists, but Paul uses this hypothetical non-Jew to prove a point to Jews who assumed their being under the Mosaic Covenant assured them of great privileges even if they did not perfectly obey the Law all the time.)

 

If, however, Paul desired his usages of “keep”, “keeps” and “fulfills” in Romans 2:25-27 to be taken in a repeated sense, this means Paul was teaching:

 

A.     It is only Jews who mostly obeyed the Mosaic Law, despite their falls into known and unknown sin, who would receive the benefits or privileges of the Mosaic Covenant. God would regard those Jews who repeatedly break the Law as being cut off from the privileges of the Mosaic Covenant. When verse 25 uses the present tense action word “are”, it is referring to repeatedly disobeying the Mosaic Law.

B.     God will regard those non-Jews with faith in Him, who mostly obey the Law written on their consciences, despite their falls into sin, as being circumcised and under the Mosaic Covenant and will give them this covenant’s privileges. Part of the Law on conscience involves loving and fearing God and serving no other gods except Him, and loving others.

 

Whatever view is true, note Paul concludes in Romans 2:28-29 that a real Jew is a Jew or non-Jew by birth who has their hearts circumcised or changed by the Holy Spirit.

In Romans 2:25-29, Paul is either saying the Mosaic Covenant and Law:

 

·         could not provide its spiritual and earthly benefits to any Jew or non-Jews on the basis of any type of imperfect obedience to its laws or

·         cannot give its spiritual and earthly privileges to anyone who repeatedly carelessly disobeys its commands and statutes.

 

Two possible views of Romans 2:13

In Romans 2:13, Paul said: “for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified.” This verse can also be interpreted in two ways:

 

·         The first alternative is that those Jews and non-Jews who have repented – changing from unbelief to faith in God (see Romans 2:4) – and who show the fruits of repentance – obeying the written Mosaic Law or the Law on conscience – in a repeated though imperfect sense, will be justified in God’s sight. This means these good works in obedience to the Law outwardly show that the person has justifying faith. Refer to the section “James 2:14-26” in Chapter “Justified by grace through faith and evidenced by” for details of believers being shown outwardly to be right with God through grace-and-faith-empowered good works.

·         The second alternative is that those who perfectly obey the Law every day, will be justified by good works. As the broader context of Romans 2:12-15 shows, this perfect obedience can relate to Jews obeying the Mosaic Law or to non-Jews obeying the Law on their conscience. Obviously only Jesus Christ could ever perfectly obey the Law in these ways.

 

This second view would argue against the first view by saying Romans 3:20, 3:28 and Galatians 2:16 reveal that in practical terms, no fallen human can in any way be declared righteous through works of obedience to the Mosaic Law.

Also, Galatians 5:3 says: “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.” Here Paul teaches that anyone who is under the Mosaic Covenant through the sign of circumcision is continuously or repeatedly required by God to obey the whole Mosaic Law. Note in Greek, the phrase “he is” is in the present tense, this signifying the ongoing nature of the action of having to obey the whole law. But because no human except Christ can perfectly obey the Mosaic Law every day, the only way to be justified is by God’s grace through faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

[1] I am here using the word “myth” to mean a false idea.

[2] Other types of futuristic presents are “you have” in Matthew 6:1, “is” in Matthew 26:2, “I will rise” in Matthew 27:63, “I will come” in John 14:3, “I am going” used twice in John 14:28 and “coming” in John 14:28.

[3] Louw and Nida, page 625.

[4] Walter Bauer, “A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature”, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979, page 376 and Wesley J. Perschbacher (Editor), “The New Analytical Greek Lexicon”, Hendrickson, 1990, page 209.

[5] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida (Editors), “Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains”, Second Edition, United Bible Societies, New York, 1989, page 783.

[6] Some Greek experts like Vaughan and Gideon suggest the aorist tense in the indicative mood always relates to the past (Curtis Vaughan and Virtus E. Gideon, “A Greek Grammar of the New Testament”, Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 1979, page 144). Others like David Black say not all aorists in the indicative relate to the past (David Alan Black, “It’s Still Greek to Me”, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1998, page 104). The indicative mood is used for making statements or asking questions.

[7] W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White Jr, “Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words”, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1985, page 231.

[8] F. Brown, S. Driver and C. Briggs, “The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon”, Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1906, page 730.

[9] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr and Bruce K. Waltke, “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament”, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, page 650.

[10] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 953.

[11] The full punishment owing for sin is death – immediate physical death and eternal separation from God (see Romans 6:23). The Exile in Babylon was not an equivalent punishment to this. But in His mercy and grace, God judged the Exile as a sufficient earthly punishment.

[12] Douglas Moo, “James”, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1985, page 102, footnote 1.

[13] Holladay, page 37.

[14] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 105.

[15] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 339.

[16] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 307.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Vine, page 142.

[19] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 601. Verses using the word “nasa” with this meaning are Leviticus 5:1, 5:17, 7:18, 17:16, 19:8, 20:17, 20:19, 20:20, 24:15, Numbers 5:31, 9:31, 14:34, 15:31, Isaiah 53:12, Ezekiel 14:10 and 44:12.

[20] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 601. Verses using the word “nasa” with this meaning are Exodus 32:32, 34:7, Numbers 14:18, 14:19, 1 Samuel 15:25, 25:28, Job 7:21, Psalm 32:1, 32:5, 99:8, Hosea 14:2 and Micah 7:18.

[21] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 671. Verses using the word “nasa” with this meaning are Leviticus 10:17, 16:22, Numbers 14:33, 30:15, Ezekiel 4:4, 4:5 and 4:6.

[22] Brown, Driver and Briggs, pages 362-363.

[23] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 330.

[24] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 941.

[25] Vine, page 569.

[26] Perschbacher, page 87.

[27] Numbers 25:1-15 reveals that after some of the Israelite men committed sexual immorality and idolatry with pagan Midianite women, Phinehas thrust his javelin through the bodies of an Israelite and a Midianite who were having sex. Note God’s response to Phinehas’ action. Numbers 25:12-13 states: “Therefore say, Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’” God said Phinehas made atonement for the sins of the people of Israel in relation to the Midianites. Phinehas was a son of the high priest (see Numbers 25:7). So his slaying of this human couple was taken as being an atoning sacrifice in relation to his role as priest. Christians today cannot use this above example as a warrant to kill others as a supposed means of atoning for our sins. Jesus Christ has atoned for all our sins. Also, all animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were only symbols of Christ's death (see Hebrews 10:1). Phinehas’ priestly atoning action was only effective because of Christ’s later death. So we have no need for any other means of atonement. Also, Christians are not like Israelite priests who were given authority by God to sentence idolators and adulterers among their own people and foreigners among them to death (see Deuteronomy 17:8-11 and 19:16-21).

[28] As shown by Richard A. Young in his “Intermediate New Testament Greek” (Broadman and Holman, Nashville, 1994), the aorist tense in Greek does not just refer to actions occurring in the past or at single moments of time (pages 121-126). Refer to the section “Important background information about Greek action words” in my Chapter “The normal fruits or signs of regeneration” for examples which prove this.

[29] In Romans 6:7, Paul also teaches that a slave who dies is no longer under the rule or power of his master. Therefore, because believers have died with Christ, they are no longer under the rule of their previous master – sin. This second aspect is a combination of the truths of redemption and believers’ identification with Christ. Refer to Chapter   “Be and live what you already are in Christ” for details on the redemption teachings in Romans 6 and to Chapter “Identification with Christ” for more information on identification.

[30] Louw and Nida, page 750.

[31] Vine, page 274.

[32] Perschbacher, page 440.

[33] Refer to Myths 8 and 14 in this present chapter for more details on 1 Timothy 4:8 and 6:17-19. Read “James 2:14-26” in Chapter                  “Justified by grace through faith and evidenced by” for more details on James 2:14-26.


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