WHAT DOES GOD'S WORD SAY ABOUT BEING
ACCORDING TO OUR
Jesus said to the rich young man who asked Him what he had to do to inherit eternal life: "If you will enter into life keep the commandments." The apostle Paul was inspired to say: "For it is by grace you are saved through faith… not of works, lest any man should boast." Then near the end of the Bible Jesus is recorded to have said: "And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." How are we saved without works yet rewarded by our works? The answer can be found in the word of God. This article will make the truth plain.
If you work for someone in a secular job, you are paid for the work you do. It could be you are paid a certain sum of money for the entire job you undertake to perform, or you may be paid a number of dollars per hour. Whichever it may be, you are paid for the literal work you perform with your mind, hands, eyes, ears, and abilities. You would say you have EARNED those wages by the things you have done. If the job is going to take a long time to do and if the skill to do it demands very high abilities, much mental and physical effort, you may negotiate for high wages as your reward earned for completing the work.
An employer may advertise for persons to perform certain tasks, it could be cutting out a pattern from cloth, over and over again. The way he will pay his employees is what has become known as "piece work" - for every piece cut out you get such and such money. If one person decides to take his time and only do so many cut-outs in an hour, then they are rewarded for their work accordingly under that system of pay. If the next person works a little harder and does a few more cut-outs in an hour over the first person, they will receive more reward - more money. And if the third employee really rolls up their sleeves, puts more effort, more speed, more concentration, into producing the greater number of cut-outs, they will receive the most amount of money at the end of the day.
I think most of us can understand the above, getting rewarded for the things we do according to how we do them. We are earning our pay. It is not a gift to us, we are not receiving something that was not rightfully ours to receive, we have received rightful wages for something we earned by what we literally did.
Now let's look at the meaning of the word GIFT. We are looking at this word not as an ability or talent that someone may have, such as the gift of singing, or painting, or running the mile in under 4 minutes. We are looking at this word gift as that which is a tangible something that one person gives to another person. When you give something such as a wallet or purse to a friend on their birthday, you have given them a gift. They had not worked for you to earn that purse or wallet, they had not come to you claiming you had to give them that wallet for it was their right to have, as they had painted your fence last week and so had earned the reward of receiving that wallet. Their birthday had arrived and it was within your POWER to give them a tangible gift or not to give them anything. You had and held the authority to GIVE or NOT give.
Perhaps you had in your possession some valuable hand-me-down. It was 150 years old and very rare in its class, it was worth more to you than money could buy. There was nothing, no literal work, your friend could do to earn from you the right to have that treasure. No amount of friendly phone calls to you, no amount of picking you up and taking you to the mall, or cutting your grass, weeding your flower bed, washing your dishes, waxing your car, or anything else, could demand that you had to give over that priceless treasure you had to them. It was yours to give them or not give them, it was nothing they could earn from you but it was yours to give them if you so chose.
One day you do choose to give this priceless article to your friend on their birthday. But you are going to tell them in advance of their birthday you are giving it them, because you are giving it UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS, the conditions being 1) They will respect this gift, remembering it is priceless. They will not treat it casually or with distain as if walking all over it with dirty shoes. 2) They will promise to keep it in their family and not give or sell it to strangers for 50 years.
Now, you laying down those conditions to receiving that gift from you, DOES NOT MEAN THEY HAVE EARNED THAT GIFT! It is still yours to give or not give. They promising to abide by those conditions you gave,in no way takes the authority to give, away from you. They can not demand you give them that gift by way of EARNING it, just because they are willing to comply with the conditions you have stipulated for receiving that gift.
I think most are quite familiar with what I have stated above. Mother and Father may say to their son or daughter: "We are giving to you this bicycle on condition that you never ride it out on the busy highway." Who, as parents, have not said something like that at some time to their child? With what I have said I believe the reader can easily understand the difference between EARNING A WAGE OR REWARD based upon their performance or works, and RECEIVING A GIFT under certain conditions.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE FROM SOCIETY
You are basically a good law abiding citizen. You have never been in trouble with the police for anything. Your record is clean as far as the authorities of this world are concerned.
The time comes when you reach the legal age to drive a car on the public highways. You take driving instruction and you pass the test. You receive your license to drive. Many years go by and again as far as the authorities are concerned your driving record is clean, you were never even caught for speeding(you may never have broken the speed limit or just never caught when you did break it). You have we shall say for our example, been a model driver for many years.
Then one day for whatever reason you are going well over the speed limit. Soon you see the flashing lights behind you, yes it is for YOU they are flashing, telling you to pull over. Your heart sinks, you quickly look down at the speed dial, yes you are speeding.
The kind policeman asks to see your divers license and informs you of the speed you were clocked at. He goes back to his car and does whatever he does to find out your driving record.
You have a clean record as far as their files show, BUT HE DOES NOT HAVE TO TAKE THAT INTO CONSIDERATION! You may have driven within the speed limit thousands of times before this day, the officer DOES NOT HAVE TO ASK ABOUT THAT! The law of the land regarding driving on the roads and highways within the posted speed DOES NOT HAVE TO CONCERN ITSELF WITH ALL YOUR PAST GOOD DEEDS AND WORKS OF OBEDIENCE! It does not have to concern itself with WHO you are, how FAMOUS you are, what great SKILLS you have for the benefit of mankind, how much MONEY you have, or what a wonderful LAW ABIDING citizen you have generally been all your life.
You have broken the speeding law THIS DAY, you have this ONCE done wrong and that is ALL THIS POLICE OFFICER NEEDS TO KNOW!
He does not have to add up all your past good obediences to see if they out number this ONE infraction of the law, so you can somehow earn your way out of the penalty. No, according to the law, you have been disobedient this once and caught on radar to prove it. The officer of the law CAN FINE YOU "X" NUMBER OF DOLLARS for this one infraction AND YOU MUST PAY THE PENALTY IMPOSED - YOU WERE GUILTY AND YOU KNOW IT!
That is all there is to it - cut and dry as they say. The one disobedience to the law brings a punishment you must pay. No past amount of "keeping the law" will cancel this penalty imposed on you for this one error.
The above example does serve to teach us something, but it is relatively a minor infraction of the laws of man when compared say to WILLFUL MURDER!
You may have been a law abiding citizen all your life, never even getting a parking ticket. You may have been a model employee, someone all others could respect and "look up to." You may have been a leading member of your Church, and an outstanding community worker. The record of "good deeds" in all areas of your life (husband, father, mother, brother, sister.etc.) may cover pages and pages BUT ONE DAY you have a run in with your boss, and you think it was completely unwarranted - his fault entirely - and you may be correct in your thinking. The next day he does the same, then a few days later he does it again, and once more a week later.
At this point you have deliberately, with planned cold calculation decided that if he does it one more time, you will go to your locker, take out your loaded 45 pistol and shoot him till he is dead!
He does do it again, and YOU DO SHOOT HIM TILL HE IS DEAD!
The example is a little exaggerated you say. Not at all! If you live in the "good ol' USA" you will know this very thing does take place from time to time.
When the authorities charge this person with first degree murder they charge according to this ONE TIME infraction of the law. The persons past wonderful law keeping is not taken into consideration. WHO he is does not enter the picture, how much money he has is not considered, what great things they may have invented or done for the betterment of society, is not taken into account when the charge of MURDER is pronounced on them.
The person guilty of the act of shooting and killing their boss HAS BROKEN THE LAW - THEY ARE GUILTY OF MURDER - THEY COME UNDER A PENALTY, THE CHARGE AGAINST THEM IS MURDER, either first or second degree murder.
They have never broken this law before, they may never break it again, they have been a model law-abiding citizen, but this one infraction of the law puts them under the laws penalty. A penalty will have to be paid. No amount of past or future obediences to the law will erase the penalty for this one time error and violation of the "you shall not murder" law.
We shall suppose for the purpose of our example, that the penalty for murder in the country or state where our example took place, is DEATH. The model citizen is charged with first degree murder. They planned it and coldly carried it out in front of many witnesses. They admit to it. The case is open and shut.
But in-between the time when the crime was committed and the time the judge was to hand down the sentence of death, our guilty party genuinely came to deep remorse and repentance, they were truly broken up over the whole sin they had done.
Unfortunately our guilty person is living in a land that such crimes can not just be winked at even if repentance is genuine. Unfortunately for them (because the laws of the land were so set and established) all the breaking of laws that were a capital offence carried the death sentence that could not be changed, someone had to die for this murder.
An unheard of event is about to take place in this land. Our guilty party is standing before the judge, the sentence of death is about to be imposed upon them. The judge and all around can see the law-breaker is truly sorry and repentant, crying out for mercy and grace. But the law of the land claims the death penalty must be enforced, such is the law, such can not be changed.
When all seems to be lost for our repentant murderer, a person in the court room stands and says they will die in the place of the guilty.
The judge presiding agrees to the request, someone must die for this crime - the guilty should die, but the judge will grant an innocent person to die in the place of the guilty so the guilty can have this error erased from his record, and walk away as if he never committed the crime.
But the judge makes it very clear to the guilty party the CONDITIONS that all this is done under.
He says something like this: "You have come to see that what you did was wrong, that it was in violation of the law. You knew that such acts would pronounce death upon you. You knew that the law of our land is such that the death sentence must be paid. You have come to genuine repentance over the act you did. You say you never want to do such things again. You desire mercy and grace to be shown to you. Someone has come forward that loves you more than their own life, they will die for you in your place. This court will grant this motion upon certain conditions, namely, that you will stay in a humble, thankful, repentant attitude, loving the laws of this land and wanting to obey them and not break them again. Under those conditions this court will show grace and mercy. You must also remember that haying this error forgiven and removed from your record in this way, does not mean you are free to murder someone, for you are being shown mercy on condition that you will not, nor do you want to ever commit murder again."
Do you see from the above invented story of mine, that "good works" or "righteous deeds" do not have a part in the guilty being saved by grace or mercy through faith in the stranger's sacrifice of himself in place of the offender.
No amount of past or future "obedient works" can earn us automatic forgiveness for any error or law-breaking, be it many infractions or just ONE infraction.
Yet as our example showed, MERCY AND GRACE can be demonstrated towards the guilty person UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS, if the guilty party will be willing to meet those conditions of a "mind set" - a "heart attitude" and a basic life-style of repentant obedience to the law.
Such is all of this and MUCH MORE love and mercy shown by the heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ to those who will repent of their sins and humbly serve the will and commandments the Father and Son proclaim.
SAVED NOT BY WORKS!
"For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: Not of WORKS, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:8-10).
With the examples I have previously given we should be able to clearly understand what Paul was saying here to the church at Ephesus.
Yet I will spend some more time to elucidate on this from the word of the Lord, so the reader will fully see the plain truth.
The true God is God alone, there is none else (Isa.45:5-6). He it is who is the one and only lawgiver, able to save or destroy (James 4:12). It was He who gave the law of liberty (James 2:11,12; Ex.20; Deut.5). That law defines what sin is (James 2:10; 1 John 3:4; Rom.7:7). The law of God is holy, just, good, spiritual,and stands fast forever (Ps.111:7,8; Rom.7:12, 14).
How many have broken that law at some point in their lives? God answers that ALL have - Romans 3:9-19,23. All but Jesus have been guilty of sin (1 Peter 2:21,22).
Do we EARN anything by sinning? Yes indeed - DEATH! (Rom.6:23).
We have come to see that God's law defines what is sin, we then realize we have sinned and have come under the death penalty. Now if we start to obey the law will that erase our death sentence? Let Paul answer: "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom.3:20).
The word justified means to be declared righteous, to be forgiven, to have the record of sin erased and be as if you had never sinned. Take a few minutes and look up the word "justify" in a dictionary.
One sin brings the death sentence upon us. We could have obeyed many times in the past, but one error earns for us a penalty, in this case, any sin earns us death. Going out and keeping the law perfectly from this point on will not cancel the debt we owe for sinning - not even for just one sin, let alone for many sins.
Just as the one speeding offence and penalty imposed in our first example can not be erased by pointing out to the police officer all our law abiding works, of the past, or future we shall do, so it is with our spiritual standing in God's court.
Only one sin will bring death upon us, and all the good works in the world both past and present and future can not justify or erase that penalty. So is all lost? Have we no hope at all? No! God has in His great love made a way for us to be justified - forgiven - be declared sinless.
God so loved us that He sent His Son into the world, the Son was willing to come, and to die for us in our stead. To take our place on the gallows or in the electric chair. To fulfill the penalty of death that must be enacted and could not be put to one side. Jesus came to die for sinners and carry the death sentence for them, so that through Him they could have life (John 3:16; Phil.2:5-11; Rom.3:23-28).
Doing the deeds of the law could not possibly justify you, just as our murderer in the example previously given, could not erase their death penalty by now obeying the law and not murdering again. It was only someone dying for that sin that could erase it. Jesus was our someone who died for us.
We could not boast! It was not our doing that justified us, our doing had led us to the death sentence. It was no work on our part - no deed we did to justify us from guilt. But it did take something, not a law of works, it was the law of FAITH!
We were cleansed from sin, saved from death, by the supreme judge of heaven having MERCY or GRACE upon us, through the death of His Son, and our FAITH in that sacrifice.
The murderer in our example before given, must have faith that the person willing to die for his error and sin, does erase his law-breaking and penalty so that the court of the land can not come along say 10 years later and enforce the sentence upon him. He must have faith he is justified and set free to live.
Does this faith we show towards God and Christ mean we can go out and willfully sin as we please? Does this faith ABOLISH the law that condemned us? Paul answers that question: "Do we then make VOID the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we ESTABLISH THE LAW" (Rom.3:31).
As the murderer in our example, we can not go out after we have been saved from death by grace through faith, and murder again at our leisure, sin as, and when we please, with willful arrogance.
The judge in our previous example was willing to show GRACE and mercy to the guilty upon certain CONDITIONS being met by the offender. Does God have the authority to impose conditions on us to receive His grace?
As He is God and not us, yes, He does have the right and authority to lay down conditions. Has He done so?
Concerning His mercy(grace) He has written: "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting UPON THEM that fear Him , to such as KEEP HIS COVENANT, and to those that REMEMBER HIS COMMANDMENTS TO DO THEM" (Ps.103:17,18).
Then notice what is written within the very Ten Commandments of God, it is found in the second commandment: "And showing MERCY(grace) unto thousands of them that LOVE me, and KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS" (Ex.20:6).
John was inspired to write that those who loved God would keep His commandments (1 John 2:3-6; 3:22,24; 4:7,8,16; 5:2,3; 2 John 6).
Jesus said to the young rich man who asked Him what he had to do, what conditions did he have to meet, in order to inherit eternal life: "If you will enter into life, keep the commandments." Jesus went on to quote some of the commandments, the ten commandments (Mat.19).
Paul was inspired to say: "Not the hearers of the law are just(justified) before God, but THE DOERS OF THE LAW shall be justified" (Rom.2:13).
These verse do not contradict any other verses in the word of God. They merely teach us that like the judge of our earthly example, God the judge of the whole universe, the one who has power to save or destroy, does have the right and authority to lay down CONDITIONS to receive His GRACE and forgiveness of sins.
He expects people will be deeply broken up and sorry for their errors and sins they have committed. He expects people to love Him with all their heart and mind and soul for His great love and mercy He has shown them through the sacrifice of His Son Christ Jesus. He expects them to love His character that is manifested to us through His laws, commandments, statutes, and precepts. He wants to see His forgiven children having a new mind set, a mind that is willing and desiring to OBEY Him, to delight in His law as Paul did and David did (Ps.l; 119; Rom.7:22; 1 Cor.7:19).
When Peter preached his first sermon on the day of Pentecost, after he had brought them to see their sins and the utter helplessness they were in as far as being saved was concerned, the people cried out....WHAT SHALL WE DO! His reply was: "....REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the REMISSION OF SINS and ye shall receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:28). Later Peter was to say: "REPENT ye therefore and be CONVERTED that your sins may be blotted out " (Acts 3:19).
Here we again see CONDITIONS laid down. You do not EARN the right to have your sins blotted out and receive the Holy Spirit by repenting, being converted, and being baptized. They are CONDITIONS you must meet in order to be given the GIFT of salvation - the forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit. Paul made it very plain that without the Spirit of Christ you were "none of His" (Rom.8:9). To receive the Spirit you have to meet certain conditions, the conditions of repenting and being converted, also the condition of being baptized.
You must CHANGE YOUR MIND, CONVERT to a new way of living, stop going the way of sin and what seems right to you, and be willing to let God teach you His way, His commandments, His laws, let Him and Christ dwell in you, let their mind be united with your mind. You must be willing to be baptized in water, to symbolically die with Christ in the watery grave of death, where the old man with the old way of living and thinking is killed, and where you come up out of that grave to a new life to serve the risen Christ in willing obedience to the will and commandments of God the Father - (Rom.6).
What God the judge is wanting, to see you meet, is the condition of a humble and mould-able, submissive, teach-able "mind-set" that says "not my will but thy will be done." An attitude that will be willing to be corrected and guided into serving Him in "spirit and in truth." An attitude that will be willing to admit and confess sins and faults and errors when seen or shown to you. An attitude that will ask God to forgive sins that you are not even aware of doing, as David did.
As long as this is your mind, your attitude, your desire as a way of life in loving, and serving the true God, you are within and UNDER the grace of God. As long as this humble repentant, teachable, obedient mind is in you, you will have the love and mercy and forgiveness of both the Father and His Son Christ Jesus. You will have met the condition for being saved by grace through faith.
No amount of "works" or "deeds" of various kinds can save you from death, only GRACE through FAITH can save you, but remember grace is given to you as a GIFT with conditions.
A CONDITION MANY FAIL TO SEE
Christ once gave a teaching to His disciples that when put together with another parable and teaching of His, should make any Christian stand up and take note, at least it should make them do some serious meditation on the word of the Lord.
Our first passage is found in Luke 17 beginning in verse 6. Jesus talks about servants hired by a master. They may have put in some hours out in the sun plowing the field, yet when they come in they are still expected to make the evening meal for the master. And the master does not have to thank him for any of that work, as he was hired to perform those tasks, as Christ said: "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not" (verse 9).
I want you to especially notice verse 10. "So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, WE ARE UNPROFITABLE SERVANTS: we have done that which was our duty to do."
Turn back to Ephesians 2:8-10. Read those verses again. Notice one reason Paul says you can not be saved by your works of good deeds - you were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, it was ordained beforehand that you were to obey the law and commandments, that was expected from you anyway. God did not have to thank you for something you were expected and created to do.
Going back to our example of the police officer giving you a penalty for breaking the speeding law. He did not have to praise you for obeying it 1,000 times before he caught you breaking it, nor does he have to praise you for or thank you for all the times you will obey the law in the future.
It is the same with God and His commandments and us. We are expected as a condition laid down by God to receive His grace, that we will as a basic way of life, obey His commandments. He does not have to thank us for so doing. Not only does God not have to thank us, but Jesus went one step further. He told us that when we have done the basics of what was commanded us and have done no more, we are to say to ourselves that we are UNPROFITABLE servants, that we only did what was our duty to do.
Now if that does not get us to start to think a little, well putting this teaching of Jesus with another of His, surely will get our attention.
I am referring to Christ's parable in Matthew 25. The parable of the TALENTS!
I want us to look at the man who got one talent, verse 24. He knew his master would want some return on his gift, a little more than the bare amount given. Yet he just kept the minimum, keeping it safe and secure alright, he gave back no less than what he had been given, but he gave no more either. He just did what was commanded of him, what his duty was. Jesus pulled no punches in telling us what the master would say to such a servant, see verses 26-28.
Then notice verse 30 and these chilling words: "And cast you the UNPROFITABLE SERVANT into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Not only does God lay down the condition of having a willing heart to obey His commandments and laws, in order to receive His GRACE and forgiveness through Christ Jesus, BUT ALSO the condition that we will go above and beyond the call of duty.
What does all that mean? Some will say we are back to "works" for salvation. We shall see that is not so!
Now I agree it could be very difficult at this point not to lean towards wanting to set up our list of "good deeds" above the basic heart attitude, so we start to think well if I do just this or that "work" I'll be "in there." I do not say I have all the answers for this, but I believe what I am about to say will be close to the bottom line of the truth of the matter.
There seems that at times within the New Testament Church there were some who only wanted to do "what was their duty to do" and NOT ONE WHIT MORE! It was an attitude of "I'm doing what God has basically commanded me, I'm doing what is my duty to do, but don't you ever ask me to go beyond the call of duty, for I just will not do so."
When James wrote his letter there were individuals within the Church of God that were going through the motions of Christianity, they seemed "to be religious" - outwardly looked like they were keeping the commandments of God as a basic life style. It would have seemed to many looking on that they were following the conditions laid down to receiving grace - a willingness to obey the will and law of God. They did not have other idols they were bowing before, they were not using God's name in profanity, they were keeping the Sabbath day, they were not murdering people, not committing adultery, and obeying the other commandments. They were probably tithing, only eating clean foods, observing the annual festivals of God, and doing many other of the laws of the Lord.
James saw that something was lacking though in their lives. He wrote: "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but DECEIVETH his own heart, this man's religion is VAIN" (James 1:26).
The New Covenant Jesus came to establish goes BEYOND the Old Covenant of "letter of the law" obedience. It was prophesied by Isaiah(42:21) that the Messiah would come and not only make the law honorable, but that He would MAGNIFY it!
The longest section of Jesus magnifying the law is recorded in Matthew 5,6,7. The law was no longer just to be obeyed in the letter, but now under the New Covenant the "spirit" and "intent" of the law was to be observed. Using the tongue was not limited now to "no lying," "no bearing false witness." But the use of the tongue went far beyond mere letter commandment keeping - far beyond mere "duty."
Some people that James was instructing just "hadn't got it" as they say, and were only doing what was their mere duty by the commandments and no more. Oh, they were BLESSING God with the tongue, they were probably not bearing out and out false witness against each other, but they were CURSING men, maybe each other. James had to rebuke them for not realizing they had to go BEYOND the letter of the law with their mouth to really be the true children of God and part of those who worship God in "spirit and in truth." They had other problems also because many could not see the demands of the conditions of being saved by grace under the New Covenant. They could see what the last 6 of the Ten commandments said and they could obey them as written, as was their duty, but they had difficulty in going beyond their duty.
There was nothing in those 6 commandments specifically relating to "the fatherless" and the "widows." Nor was there any specific individual instructions in the books of Moses as to how persons on a one to one basis were to treat the widow and fatherless. Sure the nation under Moses was to have a "poor fund" for the widows and fatherless, but that was administered by the leaders and priests of Israel. Yes, the farmer was to leave the corners of the field unharvested for the widows, fatherless, and poor, but all that was still somewhat impersonal, after all nothing was said that you as an individual had to go out and literally help the widow put the gatherings of the field into her basket and carry it home for her.
So many could not see beyond mere duty of the literal commandments of God. They were a servant of the Lord and were doing the basics that a servant was expected to do without the master giving any thanks, but they had forgotten that Jesus taught under the New Covenant, the master would claim that such servants were UNPROFITABLE and would be cast out into outer darkness.
James had to tell them about God's complete purity of religion - the servant of God is expected to meet the condition of going beyond the letter, beyond just duty.
Notice verse 27 and James instructions for them: "PURE RELIGION and un-defiled before God and the Father is this, TO VISIT THE FATHERLESS AND WIDOWS in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
It was no longer just a case of doing our duty by "praying for" or "giving some money to the poor fund" or "leaving the corners of the field unharvested for the widow" BUT GOING FURTHER than duty by sometimes taking the time to walk over, get on your horse, climb in your buggy, drive in your car, get on the bus, and literally go and visit and spend some time with that widow or that fatherless child. The New Covenant was a mind set that was much more personal in living actions of the mind, the mouth, and deeds, than was the Old Covenant. One of the conditions of the New Covenant was that you would be willing to go passed just your duty that was expected of you anyway.
John ran into this same problem of people only wanting to do nothing but what was their duty to do. Oh, many knew that they could have no "hate" in their hearts towards their brother and sisters in the Church and claim to be a true child of God. They knew that hating one another in the mind was like being a murderer and that the love of God could not possibly dwell in such a person with that attitude (1 John 3:14,15). Many were somewhat smug in their Christianity - they had passed from death to life because they "love the brethren" (verse 14). They did not have one bit of hatred or anger or animosity or bitterness in their heart towards any person, especially anyone in the Church. They just had "love, sweet love" for all people. Now, John was not saying that was wrong, not at all! A Christian's heart and mind should be so, but what he saw going on was that many did not see BEYOND that, they only saw their basic duty, not to hate anyone in their mind and heart, and could not see where or how they should set their minds to go passed being what Jesus would say was an unprofitable servant. So John got down to the specifics, to the nitty-gritty of it all.
"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and SHUTTETH UP his bowels of compassion from him, HOW DWELLETH THE LOVE OF GOD IN HIM? My little children, let us not love in word(only), neither in tongue (only); but(also) in deed and in TRUTH. And hereby we KNOW that we are of THE TRUTH, and shall assure our hearts before Him" (1 John 3:17-19).
They were loving in the heart, not hating, they were loving in words, talking nice, polite, sweet to each other, but THAT WAS ALL! They were keeping the last 6 of the Ten commandments per se, in the letter, as was their duty to do, but were not seeing that this left them as "unprofitable servants" under the conditions of the New Covenant.
There is a very interesting verse as written in the Greek, in verse 16. The words "laid down" in reference to Jesus is in the AORIST tense, past single action usually. Jesus literally died for us, so we could be saved by grace through faith in His sacrifice. Because of that fact John goes on to say: "and we ought to lay our lives for the brethren." He is not primarily meaning here that each of us are to literally physically die for each other, but as a way of life we ought to be helping and serving each other in whatever ways we can, even giving of physical things to those in need. This is what John is meaning, is brought out in the Greek tense used for the words "to lay" - it is the PRESENT tense - a progressive present action.
The verses following verse 16 also unquestionably prove this is what John had in mind when he said "and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. "
There is contained in all this a teaching from John that upon accepting the DEATH of Jesus for us in our stead, so we could be forgiven - justified - have grace extended towards us, come under the umbrella of God's mercy, and find life, we are to "set our minds" (be converted to a life style), our attitude of thinking, to be ready at all times to not only love our brother and sister in our heart, our words and tongue, but also in tangible literal actions when called upon and when the opportunities arise. This would be going beyond mere duty.
Notice the nature of the last 6 of the Ten commandments as found in Exodus chapter 20.
It is a basic "thou shalt not" do this or that to your neighbor. Do not steal from him, do not murder him, do not bear false witness against him, do not commit adultery with his wife, or covet his material possessions. Nothing here about "thou shalt do this good thing to thy neighbor." Even the fifth command "Honor thy father and thy mother" though more of a "thou shall do" than a "thou shalt not do" command, left much to be meditated on as to how to apply it. You could honor your parents by not cursing at them, or disobeying them, or hitting them, or killing them, but what about actions of positive love towards them? What about helping them harvest the crop without being told to do so, or cleaning the house, washing the dishes, feeding the live-stock, baking the bread, bathing little brother or sister, and many more such things?
To worship God in "spirit and in truth" under the New Covenant was to go passed the mere letter of the law. Oh, the letter was still there, you were still not to literally have sex with your neighbor's wife, but going beyond that duty, you were now not even to lust after her in your heart and mind.
James and John were showing that the Christian - the PROFITABLE Christian could not just stay with the letter of the law, or even just a "none hating" heart, or "pleasant words" towards his brother or sister or neighbor. All of that was good and proper, but it still kept one behind the line that led one over into the field of positive tangible everyday actions towards people in need.
Being a profitable servant, doing more than just what is commanded of you, going beyond mere duty is GOING THE EXTRA MILE, and doing it in the right attitude, not for selfish gain, but out of genuine love, because Jesus loved us fist and gave His life for us while we were yet sinners.
The "good Samaritan" he could have done merely his duty within God's law. He could have stopped as he did, when he saw the man beaten and bleeding on the road, poured wine on his wounds as he did, bandaged him up, said a prayer over him, put him to rest on a soft grassy spot, and walked off to the next town that would come and give the authorities the details of where to find the injured man, and let them look after him.
If he had done that, would anyone say he had not shown some love to his fellow man, why others had gone by without offering any help at all. By just stopping and binding up his wounds he had done his duty as far as the basic law of God was concerned. Yet it was within this man's power to do MORE! He had the means with him of transportation and money. He put the injured on his donkey, or horse or whatever, and brought him to an inn and there paid for him to be taken care of. He went the EXTRA mile so to speak, he did more than just his duty, and he did it all for not one whit of personal fame, or gain. He did it out of shear plain love, the love of God within him.
This was the love of God James and John wanted their readers to manifest in their lives as they reacted to each other on a daily practical living experience.
Jesus expounded this "more than duty" condition a number of times through His ministry. It was something quite radical and new to many of His listeners. Most of them for centuries had heard from the religious leaders of Judah, a teaching that was "only do your duty" and you'll be in the good graces of the Lord. Then add to that a misunderstanding and a perverted interpretation of the word of God(the Old Testament) on loving your brother and how to deal, with the gentiles, and you really had a false religious system deceiving the masses.
When Jesus came along saying things like: "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you....lend, hoping for nothing again...." it turned the head of just about everyone. They had never heard such teaching before, not from the popular religious leaders anyway.
Jesus was teaching a New Covenant, based upon the "spirit and the truth" of the law of God. This was a greater Covenant than the old, based upon a magnification of the law, better promises, spiritual promises, eternal blessings, and so much more was expected from those who would be called to enter that new covenant. More than mere duty was now a condition, more than just being a servant doing what was expected and commanded of you was a required condition. Now the condition of being a PROFITABLE servant was a pillar and a foundation stone of this NEW Covenant.
It was not that that foundation stone had never been there before for the true people of God to agree to and be willing to set their mind to follow, for it really had always been a part of what made a person "a man after God's own heart" as David was said to be. It was just that it had become buried under centuries of false teaching through false ministers and religious leaders.
Jesus had to sweep aside numerous false doctrines of His day as espoused by the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, such as the wrong burden placed on the people concerning how to observe the Sabbath command. Reading the law of God correctly as given through Moses, WOULD HAVE resulted in people realizing they were to do more than the letter of the law, more than just duty, more than just sacrifice, they were also to be circumcised in the heart as well as the flesh, to have one law for the home born Israelite as well as the stranger among them, to have love, mercy, and judgment in all their dealings as well as the letter of the law (Mat.23:23; Ex.12:49; Num.15:13-16; Deut.30:6; Mic.6:8; Hos.l2:6; 6:6; Ps.51; - Ps.1).
Jesus had to RESORE the basic truths of God as it really was and had been intended, before it was covered over with the dung of men's false ideas and doctrines of demons.
TO BE CONTINUED