His Achievement Are We
THE MESSAGE of Christ crucified was a snare to the Jews (1 Cor.1: 23). It by no means met their approval that God’s Anointed should fail to remove the Roman yoke of bondage which lay so heavily upon the people. And that He should suffer and die, stumbled them altogether (1 Peter 2:8). To the Greeks, in their perpetual quest for “wisdom” and fondness of intellectual splendor, the heralding of Christ crucified was extremely stupid (1 Cor.1:23). For to them our Lord was merely a dead man hanging on a cross. He was not what men expected the Christ to be. Such a One as He was not acceptable to them, for He did not meet their preconceived standards.
Similarly, that our present salvation in Christ and resultant eonian life and glory should be entirely a gracious gift, and therefore a blessing which is only given to those of God’s own choosing, is an altogether unacceptable concept to the great majority of those who are naming the name of the Lord. It is not what they expected the gospel to be, and, in their conceit, many consider it very significant insofar as truth is concerned that they should disapprove of it.
Nonetheless, the evangel of our salvation is that Christ died for our sins, was entombed and roused the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor.15:3,4); that, in God’s reckoning, we were crucified together with Christ and died together with Him (Rom.6:3,8). The evangel reveals to us that before the disruption of the world, in accord with His will, for the laud of the glory of His grace, God had already chosen us in Christ, to be holy and flawless in His sight, and designated us beforehand for the place of a Son for Him through Christ Jesus (Eph.1:3-6).
A HOLY CALLING
How wonderful it is to know that God saves us and calls us with a holy calling, a calling which is to be distinguished from others in which requirements are a factor, for we are saved and called not in accord with our acts, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before times eonian (2 Tim.1:9). What good news this is!
We are called according to the purpose that, those whom God foreknew, He designated beforehand also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren. Now the truth is, those whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also, and whom He calls, these He justifies also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also (Rom.8:29,30). This is God’s message of grace to us, we who are His chosen ones, according to Paul’s evangel (Rom.8:32,33; 16:25).
Therefore, evangelization is not to be conceived as an offer of how one may qualify for glory and escape wrath, for it is not an offer at all. Instead, it is simply an announcement, a heralding of these great truths which constitute the evangel of our salvation. They are all fully true entirely apart from our faith in them and acceptance of them.
ABRAHAM, FATHER OF US ALL
Abraham is the father of us all in this very respect: God had already chosen Abraham before He made Himself known to him, and had already decided as well just what He would do for him and through him. He informed him of His plans: “A father of many nations have I appointed you” (Rom.4:17; Gen.17:5); “Thus shall be your seed” (Rom.4:18; Gen.15:5); “At this season I shall come ‘and there will be for Sarah a son’” (Rom.9:9; Gen. 18:10).
When Abraham believed God’s declarations concerning himself, he did not make them true, nor did he thus qualify himself to be the object of His promises (Rom.4:16-22). He faced the truth, and believed it of the God Who is vivifying the dead and calling what is not as if it were (Rom.4:17). For the word of God was already sure. Therefore, it was impossible for Abraham either to qualify or disqualify himself for those things which God had already decided to give him.
Abraham’s faith gave him conviction and expectation; it afforded him assurance. For God had already determined what He would bring to pass with regard to Abraham and his seed prior to the time in which He revealed this to Abraham, and quite apart from any of his own opinions in the matter. Indeed, if he had failed to believe God’s word to him, while it is true that he thereby would have lost all the power and joy of faith, nevertheless, he would not have nullified God’s promises: “For what if some disbelieve? Will not their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? May it not be coming to that!” (Rom.3:3,4). The same would be true in our case, were we to disbelieve. In fact, beyond the message that Christ died for their sins, most believers seem to be full of unbelief concerning the evangel of their salvation. Yet its glorious message remains true on their behalf nonetheless.
According to His will, God graciously grants at least a small measure of faith concerning the work of Christ and His victory over death to all who are His (cf 1 Cor.15: 10,11; 1 Thess.4: 14; Rom.12:3). But whatever faith each one may have as a result, does not make the evangel of his salvation become applicable to him, for it was already applicable to him long before he was born, and certainly long before he first believed. One may possess great riches of which he is ignorant. As with the slaves during the American civil war who heard and believed the news of their emancipation, we do not make the gospel of our salvation true by believing it. When we believe, we only enter into a realization and appreciation of what is already true.
THE EVANGEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION
In the evangel of the Circumcision (Gal.2:7), in itself, the privilege of life in the terrestrial kingdom in the coming eon is a reward for obedience, and God is a Rewarder therein. It is not a gracious gift or an unmerited provision. While it is quite true that the obedience of the elect in Christ under the evangel of the Circumcision is due solely to the grace of God, that is another matter.
Those who are worthy to happen upon that eon and the resurrection from among the dead (Luke 20:35), will be requited, or repaid, with the consummation of their faith, the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1:9). On the other hand, the lawless will be requited with the wages of injustice (2 Peter 2:13). Even those who once fled from the defilements of the world by a recognition of Christ, would find their last state worse than the first if they should again be involved in these. It were better for them not to have recognized the way of righteousness, than, recognizing it, to go back to what was behind, from the holy precept given over to them (2 Peter 2:20,21). In all such cases, due to one’s having disqualified himself for eonian life, such a course can only lead to eonian death (Heb.6:4-8).
Personal righteousness is a prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom of the heavens (Matt.5:17-20); the workers of lawlessness will be told to depart; only the one who does God’s will may enter into life in the coming eon (Matt.7:21-23; 1 John 2:17). In that calling, the Lord’s counsel, even to the disciples, was, “If your hand should ever be snaring you, strike it off. It is ideal for you to be entering into life maimed, rather than, having two hands, to come away into Gehenna, into the unextinguished fire” (Mark 9:43).
The “wreath of life” is given to the Circumcision believers who endure trial and become qualified (James 1:1,12). In essence, the Lord informs them, “Become faithful unto death, and I shall be giving you the wreath of life” (Rev.2:10). There is an abundance of testimony, all to this same end, throughout all of the Greek scriptures—except within the epistles of Paul in his presentation of the evangel which is for the members of Christ’s body.
In Paul’s evangel, with respect to one’s being in Christ and receiving eonian life, personal righteousness has no place at all, and is to be deemed as refuse (Phil.3:7-9). In his evangel of grace, insofar as life eonian is concerned, “where sin increases, grace superexceeds” (Rom.5:20,21). This is not true under the evangel of the Circumcision. But it is true according to Paul’s evangel for the nations, the evangel of the Uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7).
REQUIREMENT, REQUITAL AND REWARD
We need to understand just what it is that constitutes a merchant, employer, or rewarder. Then, if we should find that God exhibits these characteristics with respect to our salvation in Christ, we should freely acknowledge that He is such a one and not a dispenser of gracious gratuities.
It is a deception to reject or deny terminology which describes one’s true position in an accurate way and to claim to believe the scriptural words of the evangel, when, in fact, this is not the case. We do not change the nature of our position by giving it a name which describes something else.
Men will be rewarded, or compensated, for their work, for the deeds that they do (Heb.10:35; Col.3:24). The same is true concerning one’s pay or wages: “Lo! I am coming swiftly, and My wage is with Me, to pay each one as his work is” (Rev.22:12). Wages are given to the worker; they are a debt owed to him, not a gracious gift or favor (Rom.4:4). For ourselves, our own practices, both good and bad, will “fetch” (komizõ, FETCH) their own “requital,” or repayment (2 Cor.5:10; Eph.6:8).
An employer requires that his employee do certain work in order to receive his pay. A rewarder only grants his reward to one who qualifies himself for it by meeting the conditions of the offer. The idea is that of an exchange: this for that. One who meets the conditions or stipulations attending such an agreement obligates the one making the offer to give it to him in return. By definition, such a relationship between two parties is that of a contract or covenant. The essential element in all such relationships is that the first party requires the second party to do or furnish to him something which upon receipt, obligates the first party to reciprocate, and thus “meet his part of the bargain.”
A merchant will say to a customer, “In return for your money, I will give you my goods”; or, “Except you give me your money, I will not give you my goods.” It is merely incidental that the merchant’s requirement, in this example, is that of money. For it is not the nature of his requirements that makes him a merchant, but the sheer fact that he imposes requirements upon the dispensing of his goods, and will not give them out unless the requirements are met.
There is nothing at all dishonorable as to one’s being a merchant if this should be the case. But if anyone, according to his own policies, is indeed a merchant, neither he nor we, should try to deny this.
It must be understood that in all such instances, as we have illustrated, one does act as a merchant (or, as an employer or rewarder), and not at all as a dispenser of gracious gifts. He by no means gives his goods away gratuitously; for he insists that all who would acquire them meet the established conditions.
FAITH MAKES THE EVANGEL KNOWN
Therefore, it is not at all proper to attempt to represent God in our salvation even as a man who presents a gift (such as a valuable watch) to an associate for his acceptance. In this example, it is only true merely in the nature of the case that if the man would enjoy his benefactor’s gift he must accept it. For the benefactor does not at all require the man to accept it, nor does he promise to kill him if he should fail to do so! And yet it is insisted that God does require our acceptance of His supposed offer and that He will at least kill us for a time, if not torment us in fire for all eternity if we should fail to accept it.
Besides, in this matter of the evangel of our salvation—unlike in the example of the watch—our being endowed with the graces thereof does not even involve our acceptance of the message! For Christ died for our sins whether we think so or not. In God’s sight, we died to sin when He died for our sakes, even if we should deny this to be true. And, the fact is, God long ago had already chosen those of us who are now in Christ, according to His pre-eonian grace and purpose, designating us beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son, having set His hand to call us, justify us and glorify us, all in His time.
This is the evangel of our salvation—whether we think so or not! If we are believers at all, we are included, but not because we believe. Our faith affords us assurance of our salvation in Christ; it makes the truth known to us. Indeed our being saved out of unbelief is in itself a great saving work of God (cf Eph.1:19,20; cp Col.1:13).
The evangel of our salvation (cf Eph.1:13) is fully true in itself, and entirely apart from whether we should believe some of it, all of it, or none of it. Therefore, let us stop all our ill-disguised proud boastings as to how it is that we, unlike other men, have been good enough to “accept Christ,” and thus have saved ourselves from wrath while obligating God to bless us. Such concepts are present, whether expressed or not, whenever salvation is conceived in a conditional way, whenever such “steps” are believed finally to occur because of man’s actions rather than God’s.
Such inner pride—though in most cases, it exhibits itself outwardly as well—may well pass for humility, but only among those of a similar disposition. However pleasantly it may be manifested, it is still a boasting in man, for it adds to the work of Christ. Consequently, the advocates of all such views are following a course that is destructive to faithful service in the Lord, and one’s appreciation of the truth of the evangel. For, however unintentionally, in denying the full significance and purpose of the cross of Christ, they have thus become its enemies (Phil.3:19; cp Gal.5:11b).
“Now I am making known to you, brethren, the evangel which I bring to you, which also you accepted, in which also you stand, through which also you are [being] saved if you are retaining what I said in bringing the evangel to you, outside and except you believe feignedly” (1 Cor.15:1,2). Paul made the evangel known—the evangel that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and that He has now been roused! If we are retaining this evangel in unfeigned faith, being attentive to it, then it is having some measure of practical saving influence upon us, cleansing and keeping us in many ways. Yet if the evangel’s significance has become clouded to us through a mistaken belief that it is finally by our own obedience—the cross of Christ notwithstanding—that we fend off God’s indignation, we will lose much precious truth of great practical value. For, with such an outlook, our life of faith will necessarily become self-centered, instead of Christ-centered. “Yet God is commending this love of His to us, seeing that, while we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes. Much rather, then, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from indignation, through Him” (Rom.5:8,9).
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