TEXT FOR PRAYER
Measure not God’s Work With Man’s Yardstick
I shall read from Christ’s Object Lessons, page 79, paragraph one:
“The great leaders of religious thought in this generation sound the praises and build the monuments of those who planted the seed of truth centuries ago. Do not many turn from this work to trample down the growth springing from the same seed today? The old cry is repeated, ‘We know that God spake unto Moses; as for this fellow [Christ in the messenger He sends], we know not from whence he is.’ As in earlier ages, the special truths for this time are found, not with the ecclesiastical authorities, but with men and women who are not too learned or too wise to believe the word of God. ‘For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.’”
This reading commands to pray for those who are considered wise, for today as in times past the so-called great leaders of religion are on the one hand sounding praises, building, as it were, monuments to God’s servants of centuries before, while on the other hand trampling down God’s messengers of their own day! They, too, in effect say “We know that God spoke unto Moses; as for this fellow we know not from whence He is.” We should pray that they realize their mistake of measuring the work of God by the yardstick of man. And pray, too, that we ourselves not fall unto such a practice.
RIGHTEOUSNESS BY GRACE, RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH, AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST
There is much talk among us about “righteousness by grace” and “righteousness by faith,” also about “the righteousness of Christ.” But of what profit will all this talk be to us unless we do something to find out what these really are, and how to make them our own. We should therefore not fail in this, and we cannot fail if we seek the Lord wholeheartedly as we study through the concrete examples which the Spirit of Truth has placed at my hand.
To begin the study I shall read two verses of scripture, first from Romans, then from Hebrews:
Rom. 11:6 — “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
We are called into the election of God, says the scripture, not because of any good works of our own, but through God’s grace. We are, therefore, invited to become Christians, the children of God, not because we deserve to be adopted by Him, but because of His favor toward us. Indeed, there is no other way by which we can be saved, for we all have sinned and, therefore, how can we be saved except He, through His grace, forgive us our sins and start us out anew? This is what is called a new birth, the sum of which is that we deserve no credit for coming into the household of God. The credit is His.
By our natural birth we are born sinners, but by our spiritual birth we are born righteous. As born sinners we serve sin, but as born righteous we serve righteousness. Hence it is not by works, but by “grace” that we are what we are.
Heb. 11:1 — “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
By faith, not by sight, we know that we are the sons of God, citizens of His government. And as such we submit ourselves to His rules and laws. As such we honor and revere Him as our Saviour and King.
Let us now for example go back to Noah’s day. Noah lived in an exceedingly wicked world, as you know. It was so wicked that, as merciful as God is, He could no longer contain Himself while the wickedness went on. At long last He commanded Noah to build an ark, and promised that all, whether righteous or wicked, who would go into the ark would find deliverance from the awful flood. Since they did not merit such a favor, they were, therefore, offered deliverance from the flood only through “righteousness of grace” — they were to be credited with righteousness and be given life which they did not merit. Thus we see “grace” taking occasion to save sinners even back in Noah’s day. And so, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Rom. 5:20.
In Abraham’s time, too, only about 400 years after the flood the world had sunk deep in idol worship, and God commanded Abraham to get out of his father’s house, out of his idolatrous country, and to go to another land, a land that was to be for his own and for God’s people only. And as any, good or bad, who joined Abraham and his God were as freely permitted to enter into the Promised Land as were the antediluvians permitted to enter the ark, they too, therefore, were given “righteousness by grace”; that is, they were privileged to take their stand for God with Abraham, and to share the blessings, but not because of any good works of theirs. Having endured to the end, Abraham, whose faith failed not, became the father of all who through “righteousness by grace” attain “righteousness by faith.” Hence you see that “righteousness by grace” starts us out into “righteousness by faith,” the reward of which is, “the righteousness of Christ.”
Later in history came the time that whosoever, good and bad alike, joined the Exodus out of Egypt, found deliverance from Pharaoh’s taskmasters and from his pursuing army. This deliverance they obtained not because they deserved deliverance, but because of the “grace” of God toward them. (See Ezekiel 20:1-8.) Thus they “all…were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:1-4. Yes, through “righteousness by grace” none were excluded from participating in the blessings then offered.
Having been given “righteousness by grace” sufficient to cross the sea, and having come into the desert, they were then given the finest chance to exercise “righteousness by faith.” But only those who did exercise “righteousness by faith” lived on and entered the Promised Land. Those, though, who made no more use of “faith” in the desert than they did in Egypt perished in the wilderness.
Finally, came the time for the faithful to possess the land. And so it was that only those whose “righteousness by faith” sustained them, crossed the River Jordan. None others did. And for our benefit the Apostle has left this counsel: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Heb. 4:1, 2.
So far in our study we have seen that God is impartial, that He has endeavored to save all peoples at all times in the same way as He is endeavoring to save us; that He is not experimenting with Himself — not saving us one way and others another way.
The kingdom was at last set up in the Promised Land and the people were left to continue in “righteousness by faith.” But as in times past “faith” again waned, and the nation became unbearably wicked, — so wicked that God could no longer tolerate it to be called by His name while living in His land. Forthwith both the temple and the palace — the spiritual and the physical — were leveled to the ground, and the people were carried away.
God nevertheless clung to His people as a mother clings to her children, and after seven decades, having once again extended to them righteousness by grace, God gave them the opportunity to return to their homeland where they enjoyed revival and reformation, but only for a little while. Rather than continue in “righteousness by faith,” they fell from “grace” and became seven times worse than their predecessors.
Thus it was that if God was then to save any one member of the nation He could do it only by offering another chance of “grace.” This time He gave the gift of His only Son, Jesus Christ, the Saviour upon Whom the iniquities of us all were laid. And hence, as mean and as wicked as were both Jew and Gentile, they were all invited to the greatest gift of “grace,” the grace which only the life of the Son of God can give. The Apostles themselves were not for any good deed of their own, but through this gift of “righteousness by grace,” privileged to partake of the “righteousness by faith.”
And so the unjust, the violators of the law of God, have always through “righteousness by grace” been invited to come into “righteousness by faith,” the only righteousness that actually receives the reward of “Christ’s righteousness” and of eternal life. “Now,” says Inspiration, “the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Heb. 10:38. The just, you see, live by faith, but the unjust by grace. “Grace,” you note, is not the final touch of salvation.
“Grace” plus “faith,” plus “the righteousness of Christ,” are what earn eternal life.
The law, moreover, does not save. It condemns sin and upholds righteousness. “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. Being already a sinner, man is by the law condemned to death. Only by “grace,” therefore, can he be set free from thecondemnation of the law. The sinner, consequently, is a law-breaker, and the righteous is a law-keeper. “Grace,” therefore, pardons, the sinner, lets him out of prison, so to speak, and gives him another chance to overcome sin; but “faith” keeps him free. The sum of the matter is this: “Righteousness through grace” is righteousness through pardon, while “righteousness through faith” is righteousness through behaving, and it is crowned with “the righteousness of Christ.”
To repeat: “Grace” pardons our sins and sets us free — gives us another chance to make life what it ought to be. Consequently, if you are under “grace” you are not under the law, for “grace” has made you free from the penalty which the law imposes.
Having failed to attain “righteousness by faith,” the Jews again fell from “grace”; and being by the law, condemned to eternal death, they were again given “grace” — a second chance — through the death of the Son of God. Those who availed themselves of the “grace,” came into the Christian church henceforth to remain free, and were to sin no more save through mistake, mishap, or through short-sightedness, sins of which we are forgiven if we do not continue therein.
“My little children,” says Inspiration, “these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.” 1 John 2:1-5.
The Christian church, though, did not long continue in “grace,” but it, too, in time fell even lower than the Jewish church. Necessarily something had to be done for her also if any of her members were to be made free, and if God was still to have a church on earth. Unquestionably, this “something” was none other than the Protestant Reformation. But since we all know that the Reformation has not yet accomplished its Divinely appointed purpose, has not reached the accord and faith which the Church enjoyed on the day of Pentecost, it is obvious that another attempt of revival and reformation is an absolute necessity. But to know all this for a certainty, we must turn to “the more sure word of prophecy,”
Timely Greetings, Vol. 2, No. 39, By V.T. Houteff