Sunday, December 30, 2012

Do Believers Need Christ To Obey On Their Behalf?

Do We Need Christ to Obey On Our Behalf?

By Albert Kang

Some people claim that once they are saved and justified, they are also simultaneously sanctified. They do not see the difference between Justification and Sanctification. In fact, in their belief, they can do away with Sanctification all together.

They believe that it is purely the one-sided work of God without the need for man to respond or be accountable. This is because of the misunderstanding that if man is made responsible then it means ‘work’is involved. "Work" is a bad word in spite of what James stated, "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. (James 2:18).

There is confusion between the "works of the flesh" and the "works of faith". The first one depicts that we have to work for our salvation. The second means that because we have been saved by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior through faith, then the result of this redeemed life is receiving the empowerment to obey God and unto good works. These 'works' mentioned here have nothing to do with our salvation. In our justification, it was Jesus plus nothing. No amount of human efforts or works can bring forth our salvation. 

James was very clear when he said that 'HE' will show 'HIS' faith by HIS “works". He was declaring that he was fully responsible for how he serve God. So whatever works that James did, it was his own works and not that of Christ. Christ did not do for what James was supposed to do. Christ did His works so that we now can do our works. That was why Paul said that a workman needed not be ashamed. Of course, he was being empowered and helped by the Holy Spirit but those works were still his own.

There is a personal responsibility and personal obedience involved here. Our good works are the result of God's power working in and through us. We cannot blame God if we do not obey and do good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). In Ephesians 6:8, Paul added, “… because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” Here we learn that after our salvation, our good works are important and that God does reward those who are faithful in carrying out His instruction.

The new teaching states that whether we produce good works or not, it does not matter to God. There is no condemnation and there is no reward. Therefore, no matter what man does, God does not care or at least He is not concerned. Why? That, according to them, is because God only looks at the obedience and works of Christ and not that of the believers. This misconception totally absolves all believers of any need for personal obedience and holiness. 

One adherent of such belief told me that because of the 'obedience of Christ' - that is Christ obeying on his behalf, it subsequently resulted in this man being grateful to God and so now he does not live in sin.  That, I said, also happened to all us when we first encountered Christ and believed in Him. We have been 'Born-Again' and are also very grateful and do not live in sin too. A sense of gratitude is great but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who helps and empowers us to overcome all temptations.

We should know that even though during our conversion, God accepted us as who and what we were, but He still wanted to change us by the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Christ. Paul wrote, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Why are the adherents of this belief asked to go back to the cross again and again? Why do they need Christ to obey for them when they can now do so? This understanding has come about because such group teaches indirectly that all believers are totally depraved and have no ability or capacity to obey. Even if they were to obey, their obedience is tarnished and thus cannot be acceptable to God. Ultimately, the under-lying understanding is that since the believers have to be ‘justified by obeying the law’, and they are never able to do so, they then have to perpetually depend upon Christ to obey for them. 

This belief is absolutely against justification by faith which is ‘apart from the law’. Paul said, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law”. (Romans 3:28). Are we, the believers, still under the law so much so that Christ has to keep obeying for us? If not, then why is this group constantly referring back to the finished work of Christ whenever they sin? The finished work of Christ is ‘Gospel’ or ‘Good News’! If you have preach the Gospel to yourself every time you sin, then are you really free from the law?

We believe that by faith we are saved and law got nothing to do with our salvation. Once we are being set free we are ‘free indeed’ (John 8:36). Then after being set free, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to produce good works – just like what is found in James 2:17-18 - it is not possible to have faith without producing good works. God has given us the Holy Spirit who in turn grant us the capacity to obey because He has made us new creatures in Christ, totally Born Again, free from the condemnation of the law, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our emphasis now as redeemed people of God is not to keep running back to the cross but move forward by the Holy Spirit promised by our Lord. Calvary cross is meant for justification but the Holy Spirit is given for the work of sanctification.

Paul emphasized in 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit enables all believers to lead holy lives, dedicated to the service of God and conformed to the likeness of Christ.

We can now personally relate and talk to God because He is our Father in heaven. We can also please God as an individual. We can offer ourselves as ‘living sacrifice” ( Romans 12:1-2). We can love God as a true child of His. And God will reward our obedience and also our efforts to serve Him faithfully (Matthew 19:29). And daily, through the sanctifying process, we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory. Yes, we have Jesus. It is His obedience that saved our souls and now He has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can be like Him, living in the obedience to God.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:2).

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