46 - Live Your Life in Fear [b]
Live Your Life in Fear
1 Peter 1:17–19
1 Peter Lesson #046
April 14, 2016
“Our Father, we’re thankful we can come together this evening to fellowship around Your Word and to focus on Your Word so we can be strengthened through the study of what You have revealed to us. We pray we will think about it profoundly, think about it deeply, and reflect upon the significance of what You have revealed to us.
Father, we pray that we might be responsive to the challenge that Peter is laying before us in the second half of the first chapter. We pray we might be responsive to that so we might continue to grow and to press on to spiritual maturity. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Let’s open our Bibles to 1 Peter 1. We’re going to press on into the next couple of verses. Whenever we get started in any Bible study, in any epistle, we always have to make certain we understand context. Context is important for understanding things like word usage.
As we’ve gone through 1 Peter many times, what we have realized is that Peter is not talking about how to be justified. He’s talking about how to be delivered from the midst of trials today. When we look at it from that perspective, it helps us understand what he is saying and why he is saying it.
As we get into this section we’re reminded just briefly that we have Phase One, justification; Phase Two, the spiritual life; and Phase Three, glorification. “Saved” is used in each of those senses. Some people think saved is used as many times related to the spiritual life as it relates to justification.
That just runs so counter to how all of us were sort of trained as Christians. That’s what we hear in evangelical verbiage a lot. “How many people were saved?” “When were you saved?” “How do you know when you’re saved?” Those are always talking about Phase one.
Earl Radmacher used to say, “I was saved yesterday. I’m being saved today. I’m going to be saved tomorrow, and I’ll be saved the next day.” He was emphasizing that on-going Phase Two aspect of sanctification.
The first twelve verses of 1 Peter focus on the introduction which introduces several critical ideas which get picked up and repeated as we go through 1 Peter. One is this focus on the future, the hope. We have seen that repeated again in 1 Peter 1:13. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope …” That’s the first command we have in this section.
I pointed out last time that as we go through Peter we have indicative moods in the first twelve verses but we start getting imperative mood verbs starting in verse 13. That tells us what our action plan is. That’s what we are supposed to do in light of what’s been described in the introduction.
The introduction focuses on hope, which is our conviction, the certainty of what will take place. It’s a certain expectation of the future.
It also focuses on rewards. It talks about inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled that is reserved in Heaven for us. So this is the focal point.
Now when we get into this next section when we look at these verses, verses 13 down through 21 represent one paragraph. We went through the first couple of sentences, actually it’s one sentence, verses 13–16, last time. I put this up on the screen so we can just review this quickly because what’s important is to note these imperative mood verbs.
The section begins with “therefore” to show that its drawing a conclusion based on an inference based upon what’s already been said. The main verb isn’t “gird up the loins of your mind” as I pointed out last time. That’s a participle. It’s confusing in the English because of the way they translate it.
The main verb is an imperative verb, “rest your hope fully” or “hope fully”. It’s not just rest your hope. It’s the verb that means to hope and it means to fully hope on the grace of God that is brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Again this is focusing on the future, focusing on Phase Three and what will take place immediately after that. For the believer it is going to be the Judgment Seat of Christ as we’ll see in this section.
Then we have a second command in 1 Peter 1:15 that we’re to be holy in all of our conduct. Now the word that is used there for conduct is the noun ANASTROPHE and the verb is used in the very next verse, which is the verse we’re looking at this evening, which is translated “conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
It’s definitely connected together. The idea of this verb is that it describes a person’s way of life, their behavior, and their life style. It is an all-inclusive term. It’s important because as this term is used in 1 Peter 1:15 and then in verse 17 there is something that is sandwiched in the middle.
This helps us to understand a term that is sometimes a little ambiguous and sometimes just downright misunderstood by Christians. That’s the word “work”. We’ll have to take some time to look at that and see what that means. The word “work”, “each one’s work” is sandwiched by these two words, the noun ANASTROPHE and the verb ANASTREPHO meaning the conduct of one’s life.
By “works” there it’s not distinguishing between that which is done in the power of the Holy Spirit and that which is not done in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s just talking about the product of one’s life. So often we have heard people say that we have to focus and split the hairs. Every time we see the word “work” we have to define it in terms of either human good or divine good. Sometimes it’s a broad term and it just means everything that is part of a person’s life.
The previous section concluded with the mandate “be holy because I am holy”. I retranslated that at the end because holy is one of those “God” words that people don’t always know what it means. It has the idea of being set apart or being distinct or unique. So I retranslated or paraphrased 1 Peter 1:15 as “But as He who called you is distinct …” That is an emphasis on the uniqueness and the set-apartness of God, the Creator/creature distinction.
God is totally distinct from His creation. “But as He who called you is distinct and set apart from His creation, you also be distinct and set apart in all your conduct.” This is emphasizing that the believer is to live on the basis of grace and on the basis on loving one another and all the other virtues that are present that are developed in a believer’s life by means of the Spirit.
This is repeated again as Peter quotes in verse 16 from several passages in the Old Testament [Leviticus 11:44 and Leviticus 19:2 are two of them] to “Be distinct and set apart for I am distinct and set apart.”
This brings us to what I concluded with last time. We need to ask ourselves how we achieve this holy life, this set-apart life? What do we do? That’s the mechanics or the how-to in the Christian life and that’s part of what this chapter is talking about and we see it through the imperative moods, what we are to do.
We need to think as God thinks. That starts with Romans 12:2 which says we are not to be conformed to this world but we’re to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. 2 Corinthians 10 talks about taking every thought captive for Christ. It is a focus on thought.
We need to quit thinking like Satan and quit thinking like the world thinks. We need to quit trying to problem solve the way the world tells us to problem solve and handle life on the basis of the Word of God. We do that by focusing on the end game.
When things get tough, when things get rugged, when things don’t go the way we think they should and when everything seems to be falling apart we need to focus our attention on that end game that God is walking us through a training course to prepare us for eternity.
Now 1 Peter 1:17. I put this up on the screen because it helps us to focus our attention on this one sentence. In anything the sentence is your basic thought. It can be very simple in terms of the main clause of the sentence but a lot of secondary ideas are attached to it.
1 Peter 1:17, 18, 19 in the New King James version are identified as one sentence, although I think that relates to the main clause. It could be punctuated at the end of verse 19 with a semi-colon and some versions do.
Then 1 Peter 1:20 continues a secondary thought because verses 20 and 21 relate back to what he has mentioned about Christ, the Lamb without blemish and without spot in verse 19.
What we’ll do is just spend some time tonight talking about verses 17–19 and what is going on in this particular set of verses. A couple of things we need to think about as we study this. Whenever I read the Bible I find it very helpful to slow down in reading. It’s good if you have a pen and paper by your hand just to write down questions. What I’ve often found as I study in the original languages, because I’m not as familiar with the vocabulary as I am with English, I really have to slow down. That makes me see things that I don’t see when I’m just reading in the English.
Some of the things we need to look at or questions we need to ask are these. 1 Peter 1:17 begins with a conditional clause, “If you call on the Father,” so the focal point here is on the Father. This seems to be an emphasis in Peter’s vocabulary so far. Look at 1 Peter 1:2, “We are choice according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
He goes on to mention the sanctification of the Spirit and the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, but there’s that emphasis on the Father. Then in 1 Peter 1:3 in the introduction he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He has a focus on the Father.
Why is the Father mentioned? And then what he says about the Father is that He’s the One who without partiality judges according to each one’s work. What are we talking about here? Are we talking about something that is going on today or something that is going on in the future?
I think it’s both. In light of John 5 where Jesus says that the Father delegates to Him all judicial authority, how do we put that together?
The second question we should ask is what the significance here is when he says that He judges according to each one’s works. So you get sort of a part 1 and part 2 right now because in our Sunday morning series in Matthew as I concluded this major section before we get into the Passion week and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the prelude to that which is what happens when He goes through Jericho, as we are at this sort of stopping point, I’m going through a review.
One of the things I’m doing on Sunday is a review of rewards and judgment and just summarizing that because that’s the focal point of Jesus’ training for the disciples. We need to understand that and get that review. I thought, “Wow. I’ve already done all of this.” I just had to rearrange a few slides and I was ready to go again. It’s good review and good repetition.
So, what’s the significance of works in the believer’s life? If you listen to some believers they think that works are important for salvation. You have to be baptized. You have to do good. You have to believe in Jesus but if you don’t have the kind of life that goes along with being a Christian, then you aren’t really saved.
They have these different places where they put works. Some say that human works which can be done by anyone somehow gains them merit or approval from God. It can be ritual. It can be participation in certain rituals. For example in Roman Catholic theology, if you participate in the sacraments, then each time you do, God sort of doles out the merit of Christ. In Roman Catholic theology Jesus gets this treasury of merit, this sort of unlimited bank account that gets put on deposit because of what He did on the Cross. Then as we do or participate in the various sacraments, then those merits get doled out and you have to have a certain number of merits before you’re justified or go to Heaven.
The question you can ask if you’re witnessing or talking to someone who is Roman Catholic is, “How do you know when you have enough?” Of course, they say, “I don’t know.”
You ask if they’d like for me to show you in the Bible because the Bible says you can know that you have enough. Go to passages like John 20:31, “These are written that you might know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing on Him you have eternal life.”
It’s something you can know. It’s not just something that’s guesswork. That’s one thing. You have others that talk about doing good deeds in terms of service. Acts of kindness toward others. Others emphasize being part of the right group. We’re going to see a couple of examples of that tonight.
If you’re in the right denomination is something many believe. It used to be with Church of Christ that if you weren’t Church of Christ you couldn’t get to Heaven. There are other groups that have done the same kind of thing. That was inherent within Second Temple Judaism. If you were a descendant of Abraham, then you were in. As long as you were a descendant of Abraham, a Jew, then you were automatically going to Heaven.
With others it might be ethnicity. Different religious groups have different things. If you’re part of the right group then you’re in. So there are those who place some kind of emphasis on something we do to get merit or approval from God. Then, on the other hand, there are many believers who say that works are not the basis for salvation at all. You can’t be justified by works. We’re justified by faith. They think works play no part in anything.
I’ve talked about the role of works in the Christian life and I’ve had some people say that’s just legalism. To talk about works at all is legalism. You have a little problem with a lot of the New Testament and you really haven’t understood what legalism is. I find legalism is often defined by some people as someone else who is really trying to obey the Word or trying to apply it to their life consistently.
They’ve chosen not to do certain things, maybe things we have liberty in. Maybe they’re being convicted a little bit because someone else has said, “I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do. I’m just not going to do it.” They get their knickers in a knot over that.
We have to understand the role the Scripture says that works play in the Christian life. How do they play a role in the Christian life? Another question we can ask is whether a believer can produce different kinds of works. Some believers can produce works of the flesh and others produce works of the Spirit. What’s the distinction and what makes that distinction?
That leads to defining the word “works” a little more precisely and a little more Biblically.
Another thing we have to address here is talk about judging. What judgment is being addressed here? There are a variety of different judgments in the Bible. Is this talking about the Great White Throne Judgment? Is this talking about the Judgment Seat of Christ or some other judgment?
Then at the end it says we are conduct ourselves throughout the time of our stay in fear. What does that mean to conduct our lives in fear? I thought that God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, that we were not to be afraid. What does it mean to live on the basis of fear? Another question is what is the significance of the phrase “the time of your stay”? How does that relate to these things?
Let’s begin by just looking at 1 Peter 1:17. It starts off with a conditional clause. “If” and I put a little superscript 1 here because in Greek you can express a condition or a hypothetical several different ways. You can say if and we’re assuming that the protosis, the first part of the statement, the condition that we’re assuming is true. This is what Satan did when he was tempting Jesus. He said, “If you are the Son of God”. He phrased it in a positive basically saying, “Since You are the Son of God.” He recognized that Jesus was the Son of God. He wasn’t saying, “Well, maybe you are and maybe you’re aren’t.”
In other examples the “if” is assuming that the condition is not true. That’s called the 2nd class condition. A 3rd class condition is when you don’t really know one way or another saying, “Maybe you will and maybe you won’t.”
There’s also a 4th class condition used but the first three are the most common one. So this is a 1st class condition and it’s assuming that they do call on the Father and what that means. It could be translated on the lines of “Since you call upon the Father.”
Another question is what does this verb EPIKALEO mean, to call upon, because it is a present middle indicative? What is the significance of that? The active voice is used to address someone, but the middle voice is usually used when someone is addressing God or a deity in prayer, so that’s what it’s emphasizing. You are entreating God. You are interceding or filing a petition with God if you call upon the Father. The 1st class condition emphasizes these are believers.
There’s no doubt in the writer’s mind that they are believers and he’s saying since you call on the Father or since you pray to the Father. Remember, Peter is writing to Jewish-background believers. He’s writing to Hebrew Christians in the 1st century and so in Jewish background the concept of the Father is the word that is loaded in terms of implications.
It’s a word that emphasizes authority. It’s a word that emphasizes prominence. It’s a word that indicates the ultimate determiner of things so it emphasizes God’s role as Father and as the impartial judge. Peter is relating this to His role in terms of authority and judicial authority.
So if you entreat the Father and then the Father is further defined in this relative clause “who without partiality judges according to each one’s work”. The word there indicates there is true objectivity on the part of the Father. He has true objectivity because He’s omniscient.
He knows all the knowable. He knows our motives. He knows what we do. He knows what our rationalizations and justifications are. He perfectly understands everything there is to understand about every decision that we have made in life.
He judges according to each one’s work. I think there are two things that are going here. I think there is a recognition that the Father is the One who is the judge at any particular time. It is in the future that the Father will delegate that judicial authority to the Son.
This is seen in John 5:21 and following. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.”
This is the judgment that gets delegated to the Son once He comes as the Son of Man, not prior to that. That delegation to the Son of judgeship is the foundation for a principle we have in our judiciary. That is the idea of being tried by peers. God, the Father is all Deity, but the Son is also humanity.
When the Son tries us, the one who was tested in points as we are, yet without sin, we are being evaluated not by God who has no personal comprehension or understanding of what we’ve gone through, but we’re being evaluated by the Son of Man, emphasizing His humanity. We get down to John 5:25, “Most assuredly [Jesus said] I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.”
That throws it into the future resurrection. He’s not making a distinction here between the Rapture and the Second Coming. John 5:26, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” This emphasis is upon His humanity and this is what comes into play.
Now let’s just have a little review here on the different judgments and resurrections that occur in the future. We have the “first fruits” of resurrection that took place after the Cross on Easter. That’s the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we have the Rapture that occurs at the end of the Church Age. All believers living and dead meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. This is 1Thessalonians 4:13–18. “The dead in Christ will rise first and we who are alive and remain will be caught up with Him in the clouds and thus, we shall all be with the Lord.” That is the Rapture of the Church. All Church Age believers. It doesn’t involve Old Testament saints because Old Testament saints are not part of the Church. They’re not going to be part of the Bride of Christ.
The Church began on the day of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At the time of the Rapture there will be an evaluation which will be the Bema Seat, the Judgment Seat of Christ. We’ll talk more about that in a little bit.
This takes place before the beginning of the Tribulation. The reason we know that is that the twenty-four elders who are in Heaven surrounding the throne of God in Revelation 4 and 5 are representatives of the Church. They have their crowns, STEPHANOS crowns, which indicate they are rewards. They cast those before the throne of Heaven.
Because of what they sing about being redeemed, praising the Lamb for having redeemed them, we know that can’t apply to angels. So the twenty-four elders are talking about humans. The only ones who have been possibly rewarded at that time are going to be the Church Age believers.
People say that’s going to take a lot of time. We’re in Heaven then and that’s timeless. It’s going to have progression. It’s going to take a period of time but in terms of earth time, it’s just going to take a day or two and everything is moving on on the earth. It’s not like it’s going to take a lot of earth time.
There’s the Judgment Seat of Christ. Then the next judgment that comes is when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the 2nd Coming. To understand this distinction between the Rapture and the 2nd Coming is to help us understand a phrase that’s used in the Scripture that refers to all of these as the first resurrection.
The resurrection of Christ is the first fruits [1 Corinthians 15]. Then we have the Rapture of the Church. Then at the mid-point of the Tribulation period there will be a rapture of the two witnesses that are taken to Heaven and then there’s the resurrection of Old Testament saints and tribulational saints at the end of the Tribulation period [four purple arrows pointing up on slide].
It’s not really spelled out but it’s implied in Revelation. Those who are dead from the Old Testament, the Old Testament saints, in order to participate in the promises of God have to be resurrected. For example, Abraham. He never owned the land. God said He was going to give this land to Abraham and his descendants but Abraham never owned anything except the cave of Machpelah down in Hebron where he and Sarah were buried.
For Abraham to own the land, he’s going to have to be resurrected and have ownership in the land. It’s the same thing with Isaac and Jacob and the other patriarchs. The Old Testament saints are resurrected, along with Tribulation saints (who are Old Testament saints) are also resurrected at that particular time. That is after the defeat of the Antichrist.
There’s going to be a judgment of the nations and that’s the Gentiles. There’s a separation of Gentiles between the sheep and the goats. The sheep represent believers and the goats represent unbelievers. The sheep are on the right and the goats on the left. [It’s always interesting how many times in the Scripture God says that the good guys go to the right and the others to the left. Just think about that.]
Then there’s the judgment of the Antichrist and the False Prophet as they are thrown into the Lake of Fire. They don’t have benefit of resurrection. They just get sent directly to the Lake of Fire. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.00. The only thing that happens on the way is logically deduced from Scripture. They’re in a mortal body which would just be incinerated instantly in the Lake of Fire. Somewhere in that very brief transition they pick up a body that will survive and be tormented throughout all of eternity.
In the Sheep and the Goat Judgment the surviving Gentiles and Jews are going to be evaluated. The Old Testament saints are going to be evaluated at that particular time, as well as Tribulation saints.
Then we go into the Millennial Kingdom and at the end of that there is the Second Resurrection. This involves all of the unsaved from all of human history. I want you to turn with me to Revelation 20. We’re going to talk through this just a minute to make sure we all understand what happens at the Great White Throne Judgment.
In Revelation 20 Satan has been bound for a thousand years. He is in the Abyss for a thousand years and then we’re told in Revelation 20:7 that “When the thousand years have expired Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are throughout the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them into battle whose number is as the sand of the sea.”
Revelation 20:9, “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.” Fire comes down from Heaven and He just incinerates them. They’re just vaporized instantly. Then the devil is cast into the Lake of Fire finally where the Beast and False Prophet have been having their own little private party for a thousand years. Then we’re told, “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
There’s sort of a redundancy in that terminology. It doesn’t just say they will be tormented forever. There is a conceivable use for the word “forever” in both the Old Testament and the New Testament which can mean just a long time and some people camp out on that. But here you have a repetition of forever and ever and you also have the emphasis of being tormented day and night. It’s that repetition of these time terms that emphasizes the fact that God isn’t just saying that it’s going to be a long time and then they’re annihilated. That’s a view that’s become popular today because people think that somehow this violates the love of God to torment His creatures forever and ever and ever throughout all of eternity.
That’s the whole point of the Angelic Conflict, to show that those who have rejected God are responsible for all of the horrors and all of the torments and all of the sufferings, the famines, the earthquakes, the wars, and the tortures. It’s a result of Satan who ultimately disobeyed God and everyone else who remained a rebel against God.
God is showing that the punishment fits the crime because of all the evil that they have done.
Then we come to the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20:11. John says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.” That is showing how severe this judgment is.
Then he says, “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God [the throne is the best reading of the text here].” This is only the unsaved. All of the unsaved are there and they will be cast into the Lake of Fire following Satan.
I’m going to shift to this slide. Here we have the Great White Throne Judgment. What’s in existence in the past has been Sheol. Sheol or Hades is going to give up the dead. John says He saw “the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books are opened”.
We’re going to have multiple books. “And another book was opened which was the book of life.” This is mentioned here and in verse 15. “And the dead were judged according to their works according to the things which are written in the books.”
We have this accounting of the works. This term “works” isn’t a term that is defined by either good or evil. It doesn’t say they are judged by their evil works. The reason is because all sin was paid for at the Cross. It doesn’t say they are judged by their good works. What we have to understand is what we see in 1 Peter. The word “works” there is sandwiched between the verb ANASTREPHO and the noun ANASTROPHE.
It’s sandwiched between those two words indicating that what works relates to is the totality of whatever a person produces in life. Some things are good and some things are not good. The issue here isn’t focusing on what’s good or what’s bad. The issue is that all the works are piled up and there’s a standard here of God’s righteousness, like up at the ceiling. The issue is whether their works get them that high. The conclusion is that no, they don’t.
It’s not just looking at one kind of work. It’s looking at the totality of their life. Did they get there? Did they achieve perfect righteousness to have fellowship with God on their own? Some people are going to have a miniscule pile. Other people are going to have a pile that is going to be five or six inches high, none of which is even going to come close to what God requires. It lacks the quality.
It’s very, very simple. Since they don’t have the righteousness of Christ, the only thing left is whatever they produced in life and is it going to be enough? There is an evaluation from the Books of Man’s Works and the Lamb’s Book of Life is going to determine if their name is there. All of these are those who have not been resurrected.
So we’re told in Revelation 20:13, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged each one according to His works.” We’re going to see that phrase “according to his works” many times in the Scripture.
“Then Death and Hades were cast in the lake of fire. This is the second death.” This tells us that they have no recourse. This is all of the unsaved dead who show up at the Great White Throne Judgment.
Is there another judgment? Yes, there is. That’s the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is for believers only. I talked about the fact that we have a judgment or evaluation. It’s not mentioned, per se. There’s a general statement in Daniel 12 but it’s just a vague statement, but we know what happens with the Church and what happens with the unsaved that those who are resurrected, Old Testament saints and Tribulation saints, that there will be an evaluation judgment for them. It’s just not spelled out. God doesn’t spell everything out in the Scriptures.
The phrase we have to focus on, that we need to understand a little more clearly because it’s a phrase that’s often misunderstood, is the phrase that relates to works. God will judge us according to our works. So I’m going to take you through just a few passages and I want you to take some time and make some notes in the margin of your Bible in case you need to use this.
This is just one of many ways you can witness to people. I’ve used this before when I was witnessing to Jews and it’s helpful. Remember, if you’re ever talking to Jews, try to give them the gospel from the Old Testament without ever going to the New Testament. If they accept any authority from Scripture, that’s what they’re going to accept. They’re not going to accept something necessarily from the New Testament.
When you talk about works, the Bible talks about works in the sense of excluding works for justification. We have several key verses for this and I just want to focus on about three of them. Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith …” Paul is using saved here in the sense of Phase One. It’s very clear. It can’t be Phase Two. It can’t be Phase Three. It’s past tense where you have been saved. It’s the perfect tense there where you have been saved through faith.
“And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God …” It’s too bad they put a verse break there because it needs to flow. “It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” That’s the contrast. A work is something you do expecting return from it. Paul will use the term “wage”. It is a return for effort you put forward.
Phase One salvation is not of works lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8–9 is a great passage to memorize but we always stop there. We’ll come back and show how verse 10 relates in just a minute.
Titus 3:5 is a fascinating verse especially when you realize the Pharisaical-trained Paul writes this. This is a classic Pharisaical term, “The works of righteousness.” In Hebrew the term for righteousness is tzedaqah and even today if you’re talking to Jews they use tzedaqah to refer to charitable works. This is that which gets them benefits with God. This is what gets them approval from God and this is what is the basis for determining whether they will spend eternity with God or not.
Paul, the ex-Pharisee, uses this term very precisely. “It’s not by works of righteousness [tzedaqah] which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us [Phase One salvation] through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
Now we go to the third. These ought to be daisy-chained in your thinking. These are really tightly connected thoughts. Separate books but they all say basically the same thing. Galatians 2:16. The context of Galatians 2 is the Judaizers who came along behind Paul and Barnabas in the first missionary journey and said, “It’s all good to believe in Jesus BUT you have to do other things to be justified.”
In the first chapter Paul says anyone who adds to our gospel or changes it to another gospel, let them be accursed [ANATHEMA]. So at the conclusion of that discussion he says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.” This couldn’t be any more strongly stated. A man is not declared righteous. The word for “righteous” or “just” in the Old Testament is that same word, tzedaqah. They all relate together.
“A man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Just a complete contrast there. He says, “Even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law.” In other words, he’s completely excluding ritual.
Here’s a danger that’s going on today just to kind of wake up. There are so many spasms going on today that you just can’t keep up with the heresy. But there is a former bishop in the Anglican Church by the name of N.T. Wright, or Tom Wright. He is quite brilliant and he has written a huge number of books. He is extremely accomplished academically, but that’s sort of the problem with anyone who wants to debate him. He has a prodigious memory. He’s read and studied rabbinics. He’s studied early church history. He’s studied patristics. He can quote from the Greek and Hebrew and he can run circles around lots of people in terms of their thinking.
He fits within a spectrum of several other scholars who started this shift, this movement, in the early 80s and it’s called The New Perspectives of Paul. Basically they’re saying that the Reformation just kind of got it a little wrong. They say that Paul is not being that down on the Jews. When he talks about the works of the Law he’s just talking about the ritual, not their morality. What’s going on here?
Well, like other movements that have come up here and there in the church, you get certain Christians who have really wonderful relationships with unsaved people, in this case, unsaved Jews. And they’re wonderful people. They’re God-fearing people. They go to synagogue every week. They read Torah every day. They are worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
There’s only one problem. They don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah. So, is there another way? Can Jews be saved on a different basis than Christians? One way that’s popular is this idea of two covenants. It says that Jews are saved on the basis of God’s covenant with Israel. Of course, the Abrahamic covenant never talks about individual salvation.
Christians are saved on the basis of Christ’s work on the Cross, they say. That’s called the two-covenant view of salvation. But these guys come along and they say that we’ve misinterpreted all these years “works of the Law”. Works of the Law just refers to ritual, trying to get to Heaven by ritual, as opposed to the works of the Law meaning righteousness or morality.
This has become a huge movement. About six or seven years ago I went to a meeting in Atlanta for the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). That’s the last time, probably, that I’ll go to an ETS conference. N.T. Wright was speaking. There was a big debate. The whole conference, about 1,500 evangelical scholars all there for the theme of debating these issues on the new perspective of Paul.
If you’re not used to it, it’s what’s coming along today. We have people in this congregation who have family members who have been in a couple of different doctrinal churches who have been swayed to the dark side because their pastor was swayed. A church that was dispensational, free grace, and squared away doctrinally, shifted to where it was covenant theology and then it became replacement theology and then it becomes basically a doorstep to anti-Semitism.
Paul is saying in Galatians 2:16 that a man is not justified or made righteous or declared righteous by the works of the law. Obedience to the law, ritual or morality, won’t get you a declaration of righteousness. So how in the world is someone saved in the Old Testament? How were Jews saved in the Old Testament? How were they justified?
Let’s kind of walk through this. You need to put these notes in your Bible. If you’re ever talking to someone who is Jewish, this is a good tool to remember. Isaiah 64:6 says, “But we are all like an unclean thing …” Unclean, remember, you can’t get into the presence of God if you’re unclean. “And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags …” Not our unrighteousnesses but all of our tzedaqah. All of our charitable giving. All of the good things we do. All the things we do for culture and society to try to improve the world. That’s our tzedaqah. Isaiah says “all of our tzedaqah are like filthy rags. We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
That’s it. So how do we get tzedaqah? If we can’t get it by doing good, how can we get it? Then you go back to Genesis 15:6. In Genesis 15:6 you can this conversation, or summary statement, that occurs about Abraham. Verses 1–5 talk about God reaffirming His promise to Abraham that he’s going to have a child and it’s going to come from him, from his own body, and not through his servant. In verse 6 you have this parenthetical statement that’s indicated by the grammar.
It’s a perfect tense use of the verb there and it should be translated as a reminder or to remember. “He had already believed in the Lord, and He [Yahweh] accounted it to him for righteousness.” Remember when I talked about the Catholic view? In the Catholic view Jesus dies on the cross and God puts this huge amount of righteousness in the treasury of merit and it gets doled out for every time you subscribe to some sort of sacrament.
That’s not anything new. Jesus ran into the same thing with the Pharisees.
Jesus is having a little conversation. Flip over to John 8. This is one of the most important interchanges Jesus has with the Pharisees. John 8:33–36. It’s a confrontation. Let’s start in verse 31. Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him. He’s got a big crowd there and it’s made up of two groups. There’s a smaller group in front and these are the Jews who have believed in Him.
Then there’s another group of Jews. They’re these Pharisees who have been in confrontation with Him. So in John 8:31 Jesus says to the Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in my Word you are My disciples indeed and You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” I talked about this on Sunday morning. This was talking about the truth of God’s Word, not just any kind of intellectual truth.
Then they answered Him. The “they” here that comes along in John 8:33 are not the Jews who believed Him because it’s clear from what they say that these are not believers. Okay?
“They [the Pharisees] answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, “You will be made free?” ’ ” There are a couple of problems here because they have been in bondage. They are under bondage to Rome at this particular time. They’ve been in bondage to their sin nature so they are in bondage, not free. So they missed the point. But that’s not what I want to camp out on.
They said they were Abraham’s descendants. What was their thinking? What was the idea of Pharisaical theology? It’s that Abraham had so much righteousness that all of the Jews get into Heaven riding on his righteous coattails. The Catholics didn’t come up with that idea. Satan doesn’t have to come up with new ideas all the time. He just keeps promoting the same thing and just camouflages it a little bit.
That’s what the Pharisees were doing. They’re saying, “Look, Abraham had enough righteousness for all of us. He’s our father.” In John 8:34 Jesus says, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin and a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” He’s saying you have to be adopted into God’s family. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
He goes on to say, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” In other words, you claim to be Abraham’s descendants but if you were really Abraham’s descendants you wouldn’t be trying to kill Me. You really aren’t Abraham’s descendants.
Of course, they don’t like that so in John 8:39 they say, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus told them if they were Abraham’s children, they would do the works of Abraham “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”
Then in John 8:42, Jesus goes on to say, “If God were your Father, you would love Me.” So all of the background for this whole interchange where He ends up saying in verse 44, “You are of your father the devil,” the whole background for this is they think they got righteousness by birth. By virtue of being Jewish they get it from Abraham.
Romans 4:2 is where Paul explains, “If Abraham was justified by works [and he’s not, 2nd class condition], he has something to boast about, but not before God. Now to him who works …” There’s that word again. This is works to get justified, Phase One. [Ephesians 2:8–9, Titus 3:5, Galatians 2:16 all exclude works for Phase One.] “Now to him who works the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” See, when you work, you get paid something. You earn something. You’re earning salvation.
Romans 4:5, “But to him who does not work but believes …” Here belief at Phase One is contrasted to works at Phase One. “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” That’s just going right back to Genesis 15:6.
Then we go to Isaiah 53:10. Remember we started at Isaiah 64:6 in the Old Testament. Then went to Genesis 15:6 and then we went to Romans 4. Now we’re going to look at Isaiah 53:10, the passage on the Suffering Servant, the greatest Old Testament prophecy on the Messiah.
We read, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him [the Servant]; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” The point to make here is that it’s not Israel [which is what modern Judaism thinks since about 1000 with Rashi, David Kimchi, and a few others decide to finally figure a way to reinterpret the servant as Israel. But this doesn’t make sense.
“When you make His soul [the life of the Servant] an offering for sin.” That could only fit with Jesus. Now Isaiah 53:11, “He [God the Father] shall see the labor of His soul [the suffering Servant] and be satisfied.” That’s propitiation. “By His knowledge My righteous Servant …” The Servant is righteous. But what does Isaiah 64:6 say? It says all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. That’s something distinct about this Servant. He has righteousness.
“My righteous [tzaddiq] Servant shall justify [tzadaq] many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”
How did they get righteousness in the Old Testament? Like Abraham. By faith. God imputes righteousness. What’s the ultimate basis for that? It’s the Servant who bears the iniquities of all of us so that we can be justified by faith in Him.
That’s the basis for what Paul is saying in Galatians 2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
In all of these verses we have excluded works. Then when we get to the end of the book, the end of Revelation in chapter 22, verse 12, we read Jesus saying, “And behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” There’s that phrase. “According to his work.”
That’s the phrase used at the Great White Throne Judgment. They’re evaluated according to their work and it’s not enough. This is talking about something different. This is not talking about Phase One justification because that clearly excludes works. This is Jesus coming and the key word here is “reward”.
A reward is something that is earned. A reward is not a gift. This is talking about something not related to Phase One because that’s clearly stated to be a gift. It’s not earned. It’s not on the basis of a wage.
Something is going on here in relation to works. In 2 John 8 it says, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for …” You may not get a full reward. You may lose your reward. Something may happen.
Now in 2 Corinthians 5:10 we have an interesting verse. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” That’s not the Great White Throne Judgment. The “we” here is talking about believers. We’re all going to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, “So that each one may be recompensed for his deeds [works] in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
This is also referred to as the Bema seat. The term “Bema” just refers to a raised platform. We have a Latin word, I think, dais that refers to the raised platform. If we were in a synagogue this would be called the bema. It merely means a raised platform. It is a place where a judge would sit. It merely means a raised platform.
This is in Corinth and is the remains of the bema. Here, this is where the procurator would sit and hear trials. Up here you have the high place at Corinth, the Acrocorinth.
Here’s another picture and there I am with Tommy Ice, Tim LaHaye, and Ed Hindson. You can see the bema sign on the wall behind us.
That gives us some background. We need to develop this a little further. I’ll do that Sunday morning and next Thursday night, as well. God, the Father, judges us according to each man’s work. That’s what takes place at the Bema seat, 2 Corinthians 5:10, whether the work that is done is good or bad. Those words are significant there.
We’ll get into that a little on Sunday morning and more next Thursday night.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things this evening and to be reminded that even though we’re saved by grace and our sin is paid for, nevertheless, there will be accountability. There will be an evaluation of our life and how we’ve served You and how we’ve walked by the Spirit. That will be determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ and the result of that will impact how we spend eternity, how we serve You, where we serve You, and our roles and responsibilities in Heaven.
We pray that You would give us a great understanding of this passage and it would motivate us in our spiritual growth.
We pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”