Faith and Works

Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.’ There are many in the Christian world who claim that all that is necessary to salvation is to have faith; works are nothing, faith is the only essential. But God’s word tells us that faith without works is dead, being alone. Many refuse to obey God’s commandments, yet they make a great deal of faith. But faith must have a foundation.

God’s promises are all made upon conditions. If we do His will, if we walk in truth, then we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. While we earnestly endeavor to be obedient, God will hear our petitions; but He will not bless us in disobedience. If we choose to disobey His commandments, we may cry, “Faith, faith, only have faith,” and the response will come back from the sure word of God, “Faith without works is dead.” Such faith will only be as sounding brass and as a tinkling cymbal. In order to have the benefits of God’s grace, we must do our part; we must faithfully work, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.

We are workers together with God. You are not to sit in indolence, waiting for some great occasion, in order to do a great work for the Master. You are not to neglect the duty that lies directly in your pathway; but you are to improve the little opportunities that open around you….

To Wrestle, Labor and Strive

We are to do all that we can do on our part to fight the good fight of faith. We are to wrestle, to labor, to strive, to agonize to enter in at the strait gate. We are to set the Lord ever before us. With clean hands, with pure hearts, we are to seek to honor God in all our ways. Help has been provided for us in Him who is mighty to save. The spirit of truth and light will quicken and renew us by its mysterious workings; for all our spiritual improvement comes from God, not from ourselves. The true worker will have divine power to aid him, but the idler will not be sustained by the Spirit of God.

In one way we are thrown upon our own energies; we are to strive earnestly to be zealous and to repent, to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts from every defilement; we are to reach the highest standard, believing that God will help us in our efforts. We must seek if we would find, and seek in faith; we must knock, that the door may be opened unto us. The Bible teaches that everything regarding our salvation depends upon our own course of action. If we perish, the responsibility will rest wholly upon ourselves. If provision has been made, and if we accept God’s terms, we may lay hold on eternal life. We must come to Christ in faith, we must be diligent to make our calling and election sure.

The forgiveness of sin is promised to him who repents and believes; the crown of life will be the reward of him who is faithful to the end. We may grow in grace by improving through the grace we already have. We are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, if we would be found blameless in the day of God. Faith and works go hand in hand, they act harmoniously in the work of overcoming. Works without faith are dead, and faith without works is dead. Works will never save us; it is the merit of Christ that will avail in our behalf. Through faith in Him, Christ will make all our imperfect efforts acceptable to God. The faith we are required to have is not a do-nothing faith; saving faith is that which works by love, and purifies the soul. He who will lift up holy hands to God without wrath and doubting, will walk intelligently in the way of God’s commandments.

If we are to have pardon for our sins, we must first have a realization of what sin is, that we may repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. We must have a solid foundation for our faith; it must be founded on the word of God, and its results will be seen in obedience to God’s expressed will. Says the apostle, ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’

Faith and works will keep us evenly balanced, and make us successful in the work of perfecting Christian character. Jesus says, “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.” Speaking of temporal food, the apostle said, ‘For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.’ The same rule applies to our spiritual nourishment; if any would have the bread of eternal life, let him make efforts to obtain it.

We are living in an important and interesting period of this earth’s history. We need more faith than we have yet had; we need a firmer hold from above. Satan is working with all power to obtain the victory over us, for he knows that he has but a short time in which to work. Paul had fear and trembling in working out his salvation; and should not we fear lest a promise being left us, we should any of us seem to come short of it, and prove ourselves unworthy of eternal life? We should watch unto prayer, strive with agonizing effort to enter in at the strait gate.

Jesus Makes Up for Our Deficiency

There is no excuse for sin, or for indolence. Jesus has led the way, and He wishes us to follow in His steps. He has suffered, He has sacrificed as none of us can, that He might bring salvation within our reach. We need not be discouraged. Jesus came to our world to bring divine power to man, that through His grace, we might be transformed into His likeness.

When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit. But He will not accept those who claim to have faith in Him, and yet are disloyal to His Father’s commandment. We hear a great deal about faith, but we need to hear a great deal more about works. Many are deceiving their own souls by living an easy-going, accommodating, crossless religion.

But Jesus says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

Taken from the book Faith and Works, by Ellen White, from the chapter with the same title.

Ask the Pastor – Grace and Works


If we are saved by grace, which I am told is a gift from God, and not by our good works, what does it mean in Philippians 2:12 when it says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”?


This is a question that has been asked by many people. At first it seems that these two concepts are contradictive, but they actually harmonize very well.

Ephesians 2:8, 9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” [Emphasis supplied.] Yet the same author, the apostle Paul, writes to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12.

This quotation from Philippians is only part of the text of the verse. Important context and instruction is given just before the part of “working out your own salvation.” Notice what the first part of that text says: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out . . . .” Paul here sets the stage by telling the believers in Philippi that they are obedient Christians doing what is right all the time, not just when someone is watching them. They are being obedient even when he is gone from them.

Paul acknowledges them as doing a good work in the realm of salvation. They have been obedient, but they need to continue on in what they are doing. Anyone who thinks that the Christian life is doing your own thing and not being accountable to anyone is only fooling themselves. We are to be accountable to other Christians who make up the Lord’s body, the church. But more than that, we are to be accountable to the Lord himself. (See 1 Corinthians 4:2–5.)

So what Paul is doing here is urging them to work, not for the sake of approving themselves to their earthly teacher, but to think of their unseen Lord and to realize His presence all the more in Paul’s absence.

When he says, “work out your own salvation,” he is saying, “Complete it;” God has begun the work; carry it out to the end. The Greek word katergazomai translated as “work out” in Philippians 2:12, is, in Ephesians 6:13, translated as “having done all.” Christ’s work of atonement is finished; work from the cross; carry out the great work of sanctification by the help of the Holy Spirit.

The words “your own” are also important here. Please do not pass this by. Each man is to attend to his own work. No friend, no pastor, not even a parent can work it for him. He is the one who must respond to the Holy Spirit by obedience. No one else can do another’s work of bringing to completion the plan of salvation in the life. When the Bible says “with fear and trembling,” it means “with fear and trembling.” Salvation is not a light matter. It is very serious. Those who move through the sanctification process do so soberly and cautiously.

Verse 13 of Philippians 2 tells the conclusion of the whole matter. “For it is God which worketh in you.” If any good is going to come from bringing the work of God to a conclusion, it is because God has His hand in the matter. It is God who works in you.

This then brings us full circle. We are saved by grace, because grace is the unmerited favor of God working in us to bring us through the complete sanctification process. We are commanded by the apostle to move along in the process without any complaining or murmuring until the process is complete.

Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministry. If you have a question you would like Pastor Mike to answer, e-mail it to:, or mail it to: LandMarks, P. O. Box 782828, Wichita, KS 67278.

Bible Study Guides – Fruit of the Spirit; Works of the Flesh

February 28, 2004 – March 5, 2004

Memory Verse

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 5:24.

Suggested Reading: Christ’s Object Lessons, 67–69; Steps to Christ, 57–65.


“When one is fully emptied of self, when every false god is cast out of the soul, the vacuum is filled by the inflowing of the Spirit of Christ. Such a one has the faith that purifies the soul from defilement. He is conformed to the Spirit, and he minds the things of the Spirit. He has no confidence in self. Christ is all and in all. He receives with meekness the truth that is constantly being unfolded, and gives the Lord all the glory, saying, ‘God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.’ ‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.’ [1 Corinthians 2:10, 12.]

“The Spirit that reveals, also works in him the fruits of righteousness. Christ is in him, ‘a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’ [John 4:14.] He is a branch of the True Vine, and bears rich clusters of fruit to the glory of God. What is the character of the fruit borne?—The fruit of the Spirit is ‘love,’ not hatred; ‘joy,’ not discontent and mourning; ‘peace,’ not irritation, anxiety, and manufactured trials.” Gospel Workers, 287.

1 What is the fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22, 23.

note: “ ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’ (11 Corinthians 5:17). Nothing but divine power can regenerate the human heart and imbue souls with the love of Christ, which will ever manifest itself with love for those for whom He died. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. When a man is converted to God, a new moral taste is supplied, a new motive power is given, and he loves the things that God loves; for his life is bound up by the golden chain of the immutable promises to the life of Jesus. Love, joy, peace, and inexpressible gratitude will pervade the soul, and the language of him who is blessed will be, ‘Thy gentleness hath made me great’ (Psalm 18:35).” Selected Messages, Book 1, 336.

2 What spiritual experience constitutes the kingdom of God within the heart? Romans 14:17.

note: “Who are the subjects of the kingdom of God?—all those who do His will. They have righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The members of Christ’s kingdom are the sons of God, partners in His great firm. The elect of God are a chosen generation, a peculiar people, a holy nation, to show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. They are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. They are living stones, a royal priesthood. They are in copartnership with Jesus Christ. These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. . . .” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 422.

3 In contrast to the fruit of the Spirit, what are mentioned as works of the flesh? Galatians 5:19–21.

note: “Paul charged his brethren to beware lest in trying to correct the faults of others they should commit sins equally great themselves. He warns them that hatred, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, and envyings are as truly the works of the flesh as are lasciviousness, adultery, drunkenness, and murder, and will as surely close the gate of heaven against the guilty.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 244.

4 What change is wrought in the life of every true Christian? Galatians 5:24; 6:14.

note: “The lower passions have their seat in the body and work through it. The words ‘flesh’ or ‘fleshly’ or ‘carnal lusts’ embrace the lower, corrupt nature; the flesh of itself cannot act contrary to the will of God. We are commanded to crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts. How shall we do it? Shall we inflict pain on the body? No; but put to death the temptation to sin. The corrupt thought is to be expelled. Every thought is to be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. All animal propensities are to be subjected to the higher powers of the soul. The love of God must reign supreme; Christ must occupy an undivided throne. Our bodies are to be regarded as His purchased possession.” The Adventist Home, 127, 128.

5 How is the daily experience of such set forth? Galatians 2:20.

note: “When the apostle Paul, through the revelation of Christ, was converted from a persecutor to a Christian, he declared that he was as one born out of due time. Henceforward Christ was all and in all to him. ‘For me, to live is Christ,’ he declared. [Philippians 1:21.] This is the most perfect interpretation in a few words, in all the Scriptures, of what it means to be a Christian. This is the whole truth of the gospel. Paul understood what many seem unable to comprehend. How intensely in earnest he was! His words show that his mind was centered in Christ, that his whole life was bound up with his Lord. Christ was the author, the support, and the source of his life.” Review and Herald, October 19, 1897.

6 How does the change in the life of a Christian occur? Romans 8:11–13; John 3:3–8.

note: “The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest—the grace of Christ, the joy of holiness. Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him. To all these souls, who are vainly seeking to drink from the broken cisterns of this world, the divine message is addressed, ‘Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ Revelation 22:17.” Steps to Christ, 28.

7 How is man’s wretched state by nature described? Romans 7:14, 23.

note: “Wrongs cannot be righted, nor can reformations in conduct be made by a few feeble, intermittent efforts. Character building is the work, not of a day, nor of a year, but of a lifetime. The struggle for conquest over self, for holiness and heaven, is a lifelong struggle. Without continual effort and constant activity, there can be no advancement in the divine life, no attainment of the victor’s crown.” The Ministry of Healing, 452.

8 How is the sinner delivered? Romans 8:1, 2.

note: “With what care should Christians regulate their habits, that they may preserve the full vigor of every faculty to give to the service of Christ. If we would be sanctified in soul, body, and spirit, we must live in conformity to the divine law. The heart cannot preserve consecration to God while the appetites and passions are indulged at the expense of health and life. . . .

“Paul’s inspired warnings against self-indulgence are sounding along the line down to our time. . . . He presents for our encouragement the freedom enjoyed by the truly sanctified. [Romans 8:1 quoted.] He charges the Galatians to ‘walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.’ Galatians 5:16, 17.” Counsels on Health, 69.

9 By what is a tree known? Matthew 7:17–20. What application is made of this principle to our Christian experience? Luke 6:43–45. Compare James 3:10–12.

note: “A good tree will not produce corrupt fruit. Good conversation will accompany a good conscience, as surely as good fruit will be produced by a good tree. If a man is unkind and churlish in his family and to others connected with him, no one need to inquire how he will manage in the church. He will exhibit the same petulant, overbearing disposition which he shows at home. No man can have the spirit and the mind of Christ without being rendered better by it in all the relations and duties of life. Murmuring, complaining, and fretful passion are not the fruit of good principles. You will need to be instant in prayer, because you have not strengthened the high, noble, moral traits of character. This is to be done now by you. The work will be difficult, but it is positively essential.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 347.

10 What disposition is finally made of trees that do not yield good fruit? Matthew 3:10; 7:19; Luke 13:7, 9. Compare John 15:6.

note: “Not by its name, but by its fruit, is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God’s law, they were not His people.” The Desire of Ages, 107.

“We must present the principles of truth, and let them work upon the hearts of the people. We may pick the leaves from a tree as often as we please, but this will not cause the tree to die; the next season the leaves will come out again as thick as before. But strike the ax at the root of the tree, and not only will the leaves fall off of themselves, but the tree will die. Those who accept the truth, in the love of it, will die to the world, and will become meek and lowly in heart like their divine Lord. Just as soon as the heart is right, the dress, the conversation, the life, will be in harmony with the Word of God. We all need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. May He help us to plant our feet firmly upon the platform of eternal truth.” My Life Today, 265.

11 How only can we bear good fruit? John 15:4, 5.

note: “O that all might realize that without Christ they can do nothing! Those who do not gather with Him scatter abroad. Their thoughts and actions will not bear the right character, and their influence will be destructive of good. Our actions have a twofold influence; for they affect others as well as ourselves. This influence will either be a blessing or a curse to those with whom we associate. How little we appreciate this fact. Actions make habits, and habits, character, and if we do not guard our habits, we shall not be qualified to unite with heavenly agencies in the work of salvation, nor be prepared to enter the heavenly mansions that Jesus has gone to prepare; for no one will be there except those who have surrendered their will and way to God’s will and way. He whose character is proved, who has stood the test of trial, who is a partaker of the divine nature, will be among those whom Christ pronounces blessed.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 194.

12 What is the blessed result of truly abiding in Christ? John 15:7, 8.

note: “The Lord Jesus is dishonored by low ideas or designs on our part. He who does not feel the binding claims of God’s law, and neglects to keep every requirement, violates the whole law. He who is content to partially meet the standard of righteousness, and who does not triumph over every spiritual foe, will not meet the designs of Christ. He cheapens the whole plan of his religious life, and weakens his religious character, and under the force of temptation his defects of character gain the supremacy, and evil triumphs. We need to be persevering and determined, to meet the highest standard possible. Pre-established habits and ideas must be overcome in many cases, before we can make advancement in religious life. The faithful Christian will bear much fruit; he is a worker; he will not lazily drift, but will put on the whole armor to fight the battles of the Lord. The essential work is to conform the tastes, the appetite, the passions, the motives, the desires, to the great moral standard of righteousness. The work must begin at the heart. That must be pure, wholly conformed to Christ’s will, else some master passion, or some habit or defect, will become a power to destroy. God will accept of nothing short of the whole heart.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 118, 119.

Good News for Pharisees and Sadducees

Have you ever played the game called follow-the-leader? Boys and girls have played it for years. I can remember leading the other children in the neighborhood through the swimming pool with their clothes on, through the mud, off the highest steps of the porch, and in, through, or off any other ridiculous place I could think of. They came right along behind, because we were playing follow-the-leader.

Even though follow-the-leader is considered a childhood game, most of us continue to play it in one way or another. The entire advertising industry is built on this tendency of human beings to follow the leader, to do what they see someone else, some leader, doing.

Sheep are notorious for following the leader. At a slaughterhouse in New York City, New York, a goat was trained to jump into the chute as soon as the gate opened. The sheep always followed. Just before the slaughtering section, there was a little side door. When the goat reached that point, he jumped out, the side door slammed shut behind him, and the sheep kept going to their death. The goat went back for another group of followers. The people at the slaughterhouse had come up with an appropriate name for the goat—Judas! The game of follow-the-leader repeatedly ended up tragically, at least for the sheep.

Following Religious Leaders

At the time of Christ, people followed religious leaders. There were two main groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The leaders were off course, and the people followed. Both leaders and people went astray. Jesus told a parable about this follow-the-leader syndrome, perhaps one of the shortest parables He ever told. It is found in Luke 6:39, 40. “He also told them this parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.’ ” Perhaps we could paraphrase it this way: “The followers will invariably be like their leaders, and rarely will a follower rise above his leader.”

We could mention one name—Hitler—to give a classic example of the danger of people blindly following the leading of other people. And the German people are no more gullible than the rest of us. All of us are prone to follow leaders. Sometimes the most self-centered leader is the one who attracts the most self-centered followers.

The tragedy in the days of Christ was that a whole nation perished because they went blindly following their religious leaders instead of studying Scripture for themselves. The great danger we face as a church today is that we will depend upon other people. This is one of the primary reasons for disunity. We are not in the habit of studying Scripture for ourselves. Many study a lot of the teachings of various leaders, but not so many study the Scripture for themselves.

I would like to assure you that this is not an attack on organized church leadership. People often choose for leaders those who have no official leading position in an organized church structure. This is rather a warning against following anyone, regardless of his occupation. We are to be followers of Christ. No leader is to be followed blindly, even though most people who do so would not admit to blindness. The proper function of a leader is to help people to see for themselves.

We need leaders. God believes in leadership. According to Scripture, even heaven has its system of leadership. But the function of the leader is to lead the people to know Jesus for themselves. The purpose of leadership is not to hand truth to people for them to accept without any further investigation. There is an old adage that says, “You can give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day. You can teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.”

Paul was a mighty leader in the early church. He was not blind, and he taught the truth he received from God. But the Bereans checked it out for themselves. They had the perfect combination. Their lesson to us is this: If we are in the habit of checking truth for ourselves, we will not be misled.

Who They Were

The Pharisees and Sadducees at the time of Christ were only representatives of the entire nation. The people who followed the Sadducees became like their leaders. The people who followed the Pharisees became pharisaical. We are not just having a history lesson when we look at these religious leaders from the time of Christ. Their characteristics are still present in the church today, both in leaders and followers, for those on every level of the church who are spiritually blind.

In terms of behavior, the Pharisees were the conservatives and the Sadducees were the liberals. The Pharisees observed many more rites and ceremonies and traditions than did the Sadducees. But both groups were legalists, because both had their attention on their performance instead of upon God.

The Pharisees were traditionalists, according to Mark 7 and Matthew 15, and were very loyal in their support of that which had been handed down from the fathers. The Sadducees were the intellectuals who loved to discuss hard questions, such as the status of marriage in heaven. The Pharisees were perfectionists. The Sadducees were imperfectionists.

The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection from the dead, physically or spiritually. They did not believe in the power of God worked out in the life. They did not accept the judgment and believed that only the first five books of the Scriptures were inspired. Among the Sadducees were some of Jesus’ worst enemies.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were violently opposed to each other. The Jewish nation at the time of Christ had much theological discord. The people lined up behind the leaders, some following Pharisees, some following Sadducees.

Neither the Pharisees nor Sadducees were converted to the teachings of Jesus. Neither group could offer a realistic hope of salvation to the weak person. Neither group had time for the harlots and thieves and publicans. Both groups misinterpreted Scripture, misinterpreted the law, misinterpreted prophecy, and misinterpreted the kingdom of heaven that Jesus taught. The principle that man can save himself by his own righteousness was the principle of both groups, even though they had a great theory of justification, and the blood of the lambs flowed freely at their sacrificial services.

Jesus called both groups hypocrites because of their external religion. The essence of Jesus’ teaching, which was self-surrender, found no acceptance in their thinking or experience. Neither group had experienced the supernatural work of the Spirit upon the heart. They had never experienced the new capacity for knowing God, which is not even present in the unconverted heart. That is why there was so little meaningful Scripture study, so little truly private prayer, so little relationship with God. The capacity was not even there. While these hypocrites were meticulous Sabbath keepers and tithe payers and health reformers, there was so little on the inside that responded to the truths of God’s Word, that they ended up tying the Scriptures to their wrists and foreheads in an attempt to substitute for what they lacked on the inside. There was no room for God’s Word in their hearts. Self was the center of their focus. Nobody is more selfish than a Pharisee. And the new birth, which would have brought about the death of the Pharisee, because it changes the heart, was threatening to those who were interested only in changing the outside.

Reasons They Disliked Jesus

The religious leaders did not like Jesus because He received sinners, the open sinners whom they despised.

They did not like Jesus because He was more interested in the true meaning of the Sabbath than in the external regulations they had invented.

They did not like Jesus because He did not observe their traditions, fasts, washings, and ceremonies.

They did not like Jesus because He was not impressed with their external goodness.

They did not like Jesus because of His teaching of self-surrender, the very thing they feared more than anything else.

They did not like Jesus because He did not live up to their expectations as the Messiah.

They did not like Jesus because He did not treat them with the respect they craved.

And, most of all, they did not like Jesus because of the condemnation they felt in His presence.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were victims of salvation by works, and, in spite of the meticulous appearance they tried to maintain before the crowds, they all had their hidden problems. This made them uneasy in the presence of Jesus, whose purity was a rebuke to their sins. They did not like Jesus because they did not want to give up on the idea of saving themselves.

Another reason why they did not like Jesus was the manner of His coming. They had expected that the religious leaders would be the first to herald the coming of the Messiah. To be passed by, to be informed of His birth by ignorant shepherds and heathens from another country was more than their pride could take. They refused to accept that God could be trying to communicate to them through these channels. Once they had made their position public, they were too proud to retract it and continued to the end to deny the testimony of their own senses.

Their motivation for being religious was an attempt to gain the temporal blessings that came as a result of moral living. They liked to see the grasshoppers stopped at the fence line when they had paid their tithe. They liked the respect of the people. And although they were at swords’ points with one another, they finally united in the end at the crucifixion of Jesus. Both groups were legalists; both groups were against Jesus, and both groups were wrong.

It is true that they had a limited acceptance of Jesus. They did not reject Him altogether, in spite of the fact that they did not like Him. They believed Him to be a prophet. They accepted Him as a miracle-worker and healer. They accepted Him as a great teacher. But they did not accept Jesus as Saviour, Lord, and God. Lordship is where they drew the line. And their limited acceptance led to total rejection in the end. The people, who were following blindly along, also ended up rejecting Jesus, in spite of the tremendous evidence that He was exactly whom He claimed to be. The people were sometimes astonished at the lack of acceptance Jesus found with their leaders, but they continued in the end to follow the leaders they had chosen.

Could it be possible to be in the camp of the Pharisees or Sadducees today? Is it still possible to be a conservative legalist, who hopes to get into heaven by his own works? Is it possible to be a great defender of the traditions that have been handed down from the fathers and still to miss recognizing and accepting the living Christ? Or is it possible to be a Sadducee today, who finds his security in a liberal standard of conduct, who does not believe in the resurrection from being spiritually dead, and who does not accept that God has power for him to overcome sin? Is it possible today to join those who discard their belief in the judgment and who are selective as to which of the inspired writings they will accept? Is it possible to hold a theory of righteousness by faith in Jesus when it comes to justification, but to reject the righteousness by faith that is worked out in the life, in favor of trying hard in your own strength?

Whether you find yourself a Pharisee or Sadducee today, the picture looks pretty black. It looks like bad news right down the line. But there is good news for the Pharisees and Sadducees of today, just as there was good news for the Pharisees and Sadducees in the days of Jesus.

Jesus Loves Pharisees Too!

The good news for Pharisees and Sadducees is that they are loved by Jesus just as much as every other sinner in this world is loved. “While Jesus ministered to all who came to Him, He yearned to bless those who came not. While He drew the publicans, the heathen, and the Samaritans, He longed to reach the priests and teachers who were shut in by prejudice and tradition. He left untried no means by which they might be reached.” The Desire of Ages, 265. Christ is able to save Pharisees and Sadducees and all of the people who have been followers of these leaders and have partaken of their spirit. Jesus is still seeking to bring each one to know Him personally, to come to Him personally, and to accept personally His gift of salvation.

What is the good news for the Pharisees? The good news is that being a Pharisee is not the unpardonable sin. The disease of hypocrisy is not incurable. Jesus has the power available to change even the Pharisee and Sadducee so that they are righteous inwardly as well as outwardly. You can join the exceptions to the rule. You might join one of the leading Pharisees who came for a nighttime visit with Jesus to discuss the subject of religion, but who went away to experience the new birth of which Jesus told him in their interview. He found the vital relationship with God and gave of his riches to support the early church after the crucifixion of Jesus.

You might join a man named Simon, who held a feast to pay Jesus back for healing him of his leprosy. But he ended up accepting Jesus at his own feast and became a follower of Jesus.

You can join the friendly scribe who came to Jesus for the purpose of trapping Him and humiliating Him before the people, but who saw in Jesus’ words a wisdom beyond his own. And Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34.

At the end of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, when the Pharisees and Sadducees had finally united in their enmity against Him, the Sanhedrin was gathered together to determine how to rid themselves of this Jesus. After the discussions had continued for some time, Caiaphas rose to his feet. With a sneer on his face, he said to the leaders who were assembled there, “ ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation, but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.” John 11:49–52.

That is the good news for Pharisees in one sentence: It is better for you that one man die for the people. Listen, friendly scribe who comes to ply Jesus with questions, It is better for you that one Man die for the people. Listen, Nicodemus, who comes under cover of darkness, It is better for you that one Man die for the people. Listen, Simon, the leper, It is better for you that one Man die for the people.

Listen, Pharisee and Sadducee, wherever you are today. You can give up on the double life, give up your external performance covering your inner emptiness, and come to Jesus for the free gift of salvation. It is expedient for you, it is good news for you, that one Man should die for the people.

And one Man did die. Ever since that time, it has been good news. If you are playing follow-the-leader, you will miss the good news. But you can be an exception and follow Jesus today.

Domingo Nunez is Director of Outreach Ministry for Steps to Life. He may be contacted by telephone at: 316-788-5559, or by e-mail at:

The Problem in Galatia – Works of the Flesh

It was on Paul’s second missionary journey that he and Silas visited the churches in Galatia. Only slight mention is made of it in the book of Acts: “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). Note that this is only a passing reference, with no details of the work they did there.

The next mention of Galatia in Acts is in 18:23: “After he [Paul] had spent some time there [in Antioch], he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” Again, we have only passing reference to Galatia.

Interestingly, these are the only two mentions in the book of Acts of the work Paul did in Galatia. Nevertheless, the work that he did there was significant enough that it merited the preservation by divine providence of a letter of rebuke he wrote “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2).

Why termed “a letter of rebuke”? After Paul’s customary greeting, which is almost identical in all of his epistles, the very first thing he wrote is, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel …” (Galatians 1:6).

Paul devotes most of the first and second chapters of Galatians to a justification of his whole body of work and to an account of his efforts to correct errors of the early church as it made the transition from the sacrificial services of the Jewish economy to the Christ-based fellowship of the Christian church. (Of course, the Jewish economy had also been Christ-based, although the Pharisees and the Sadducees had made the sacrificial service an end unto itself, failing to understand that these services pointed to the ultimate Sacrifice.)

Then he closes the second chapter with an exquisite exposition of justification by faith, exclaiming, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Paul begins the third chapter with a second rebuke: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified” (Galatians 3:1)?

From what follows in his letter, it is clear that the Galatians had either maintained or returned to their erroneous beliefs of justification by works: “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh” (Galatians 3:2, 3)?

As Paul continues to explain how justification is by faith and faith alone, he reminds the Galatians of how Abraham was justified, then segues into a brief explanation of righteousness by faith, explaining, “… that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH’ ” (Galatians 3:11). [Emphasis supplied.]

As he continues his explanation of justification by faith, he provides a between-the-lines allusion to the difference between the moral law and the sacrificial law, stating, “Why, then, was the Law added? Because of transgressions, until the descendant came to whom the promise pertained. It was put into effect through angels by means of a mediator” (Galatians 3:19, ISV).

That mediator, of course, was Moses, who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wrote the details of the sacrificial law and placed it beside the ark: “So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: ‘Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you’ ” (Deuteronomy 31:24–26).

The remainder of chapter three and the beginning of chapter four give a clear explanation of those who constitute modern Israel, following the rejection of Christ by ancient Israel—the Jewish nation: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27–29).

Following his explanation of the very basics of justification and sanctification being by faith and faith alone, and an explanation of who the recipients of the promise given to Abraham are, Paul returns to his concerns for the Galatians, asking, “… how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (Galatians 4:9–11).

By relating the story of Hagar and Sarah, Paul expands on the difference between justification by works and justification by faith, noting that “we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. …  So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:28, 31).

In essence, Paul is again asserting that justification is by faith (Sarah) and not by works (Hagar).

In chapter five, Paul begins by exhorting the Galatians, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

Seeking to ensure that the Galatians understand his concerns for them, Paul once again points out the error that they have fallen into, writing, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:4–7)?

After having established the critical importance of faith as the sole basis for justification and righteousness/sanctification, Paul endeavors to confirm that the Galatians have a clear understanding of the difference between the works of the flesh (recall that the Galatians were attempting to achieve justification by those works under the dictates of the sacrificial law) and the fruits of the Spirit in verses 19 through 23. (Obviously the Galatians were not attempting to gain justification through the sinful works of the flesh Paul outlines here, but they were, nevertheless, seeking to achieve justification through works.)

Paul closes his epistle by returning to his major theme of the futility of seeking justification through works of the flesh by following the sacrificial law: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:14, 15).

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a perfect example of the treasures hidden in God’s word that can only be found by a thorough mining of that Word. So many different aspects of the plan of salvation are touched on, that many hours could be devoted to a study of this epistle alone. While clearly intended to be an admonition to the Galatians who were “turning away” from the righteousness that faith in Christ establishes, this letter can have a far greater impact for those who seek to understand the gospel that “came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).

“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Galatians 6:18).


John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at:

God our Dependence

“To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, His faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5. This is the only way that anybody in this world can ever become righteous: first admit that he is ungodly; then believe that God justifies, counts righteous, the ungodly, and he is righteous with the very righteousness of God.

Everybody in the world is ungodly. “Ungodly” means “unlike God.” And it is written, “All have sinned and come short of the glory [the goodness, the character] of God.” [Romans 3:23.]

Anybody, therefore, who will admit that he ever came short of being like God in anything, in that confesses that he is ungodly.

But the truth is that everybody, in everything, has come short of being like God. For “they are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Romans 3:9–18.

Then, as there is not one on earth who is not ungodly, and as God justifies the ungodly, this on God’s part makes justification—righteousness, salvation—full, free, and sure to every soul on earth.

And all that anybody needs to do to make it all sure to himself on his own part is to accept it—to believe that God does justify, personally and individually, him who is ungodly.

Thus, strange as it may sound to many, the only qualification, and the only preparation, for justification is for a person to acknowledge that he is ungodly.

Then, having such qualifications, having made such preparations, all that is required of him to obtain justification, full, free, and sure, is to believe that God justifies him, the ungodly one.

It is quite easy for many to believe that they are ungodly, and even to acknowledge it; but for them to believe that God justifies them—that is too much.

And the sole reason why they can not believe that God justifies them is that they are ungodly, so ungodly.

If only they could find some good in themselves, or if only they could straighten up and do better, they might have some courage to hope that God would justify them. Yes, they would justify themselves by works, and then profess to believe in justification by faith!

But that would be only to take away all ground for justification; for if a man can find good in himself, he has it already, and does not need it from anywhere else. If he can straighten up and do better himself, he does not need any justification from anywhere else.

It is, therefore, a contradiction in terms to say that I am so ungodly that I do not see how the Lord can justify me. For if I am not ungodly, I do not need to be made righteous; I am righteous. There is no half-way ground between godliness and ungodliness.

But when a person sees himself so ungodly as to find there is no possible ground of hope for justification, it is just there that faith comes in; indeed, it is only there that faith can possibly come in.

For faith is dependence on the word of God only. So long as there is any dependence on himself, so long as there is any conceivable ground of hope for any dependence upon anything in or about himself, there can be no faith; so long as there is no place for faith, since faith is dependence on “the word only.”

But when every conceivable ground of hope of any dependence on anything in or about himself, is gone, and is acknowledged to be gone; when everything that can be seen is against any hope of justification, then it is that, throwing himself on the promise of God, upon the word only, hoping against hope, faith enters: and by faith he finds justification full and free, all ungodly though he be.

For forever it stands written, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ.” “Whom God hath set forth … to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” [Romans 4:5; 3:22, 25.]

This is what it is to exercise faith. Are you exercising faith? For “understanding how to exercise faith: this is the science of the gospel.”

“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1.

Since faith is the depending upon the work of God only, for what that word says, being justified by faith is simply being accounted righteous by depending upon the word only.

And since the word is the word of God, dependence upon the word only is dependence upon God only, in the word. Justification by faith, then, is justification—being accounted righteous by dependence upon God only; and upon him only because he has promised.

We are all together sinners,— sinful, and ungodly. We are, therefore, all subject to the judgment of God. Romans 3:9–19. Yet for all of us there is escape from the judgment of God, But the only way of escape from the judgment of God is to trust in God.

When David had sinned in numbering the people, and so had incurred the exemplary judgment of God, the Lord gave him his choice as to whether there should be seven years of famine, or he should flee three months before his enemies, or there should be three days’ pestilence. But David would not choose at all; he deferred it all to the Lord, for him to choose: saying, “Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great.” II Samuel 24:11–14.

When depending upon God alone, in his word, for righteousness, we have peace with God; because thus we really obtain righteousness, and “the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” Isaiah 32:17.

When depending upon God alone in his word, for righteousness we have peace through our Lord Jesus Christ, because “He is our peace, who hath both” God and man “one,” “having abolished in his flesh the enmity” “for to make in himself of twain”—of God and man—“one new man, so making peace.” Ephesians 2:14,15.

Further, when depending upon God alone, in his word, for righteousness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, because God has “made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; … whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproachable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith”—if you continue to depend only upon God alone in his word. Colossians 1:20–23.

When he has made the way so plain, the justification so complete, and the peace so sure to all, and asks all people only to receive it all by simply accepting it from him, and depending upon him for it, why should not every soul on earth be thus justified, and have the peace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ?

This is “what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of exercising faith.” Are you exercising faith? Are you justified by faith? Have you righteousness by faith? Have you peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?

“Have faith in God.” Mark 11:22.

Faith is complete dependence upon the word of God only, for the accomplishment of what that word says.

This being so, it must never for a moment be forgotten that where there is no word of God, there cannot be any faith.

This is shown also in the truth that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. Since faith thus comes indeed by the very word of God itself, it is perfectly plain that where there is no word of God, there can be no faith.

This is beautifully illustrated by an instance in the life of David: because David had it in his heart to build a house unto the Lord, the Lord spoke to him by the prophet Nathan, saying, “The Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. … And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.”
[I Chronicles 17:14.]

Then David prayed and said, “Now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it forever, and do as thou hast said, And let thy name be magnified forever saying, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.

“For thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.
[I Chronicles 17:23–25.]

“And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: that it may continue forever before thee: for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed forever.” II Samuel 7:11–29.

His prayer was altogether of faith, because it was altogether the word of God: the word of God was the cause of it; the word of God was all the hope of David that the prayer would ever be answered.

He asked according to the will of God, because the will of God was expressed in the word of God. Having asked according to the plainly stated will of God, David knew that his prayer was heard. And knowing that his prayer was heard, David knew that he had the petition which he desired of him. I John 5:14. Therefore he said, So let it be. And therefore also the answer to that prayer was, and is, and forevermore shall be, sure unto David.

And this was written for our learning; that we might know how to pray in faith, and how in prayer to cultivate faith. Therefore, Go and do thou likewise. Because “the knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired.”

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Therefore the word of God is the only means of faith.

Therefore, where there is no word of God, there can not be any faith.

And where the word of God is, faith is the entire dependence upon that word for the accomplishment of what that word says.

From all this, which is the truth, it is perfectly plain that in order for any one to ask in faith, he must first of all be sure that he has the word of God for what he asks.

Having the word of God for what he asks, he, like David, can find it in his heart to pray with perfect confidence, which is only in perfect faith.

He who thus prays knows that he is asking according to the will of God: for he knows that he has the plain word of God for it.

Therefore he knows that God hears him; and knowing that God hears him, he knows that he has the thing for which he has asked; because the sole basis of his hope for it is the word which has spoken it, and which is the sole basis of his asking.

The Lord tells us thus to pray; and thus he has made provision for the steady, strong, and continuous growth of faith.

Many people pray, but do not have what they pray for, and so do not know whether they can certainly claim it; and not knowing whether they can claim it, they are all at sea as to whether their prayers are answered or not.

The Lord does not want anybody to move uncertainly. Therefore he has given his word, which thoroughly furnishes every one unto all good works, and by which are given all things that pertain unto life and godliness.

And any one who seeks in the word of God the things which God has there provided for all, and upon that specific word prays for that thing, thus asking according to the plainly expressed will of God, knows that his prayer is heard, and that he has the thing for which he prayed.

So doing, the prayers will be always certain, the life will be filled with the direct gifts of God, and the faith will be sure and strong, and will be ever increasing in strength.

Many pray the prayer of the disciples, “Lord, increase our faith.” This is well. Yet along with this, it must never be forgotten that faith comes only by the word of God. Therefore, as certainly as your faith shall be increased and it can be only by there being in you an increase of the word of God, is by harkening to that word, praying to the Lord for the thing which that word says, depending wholly upon that word for that thing, and thanking him that you have received it. Then and thus that word is received by you, and lives in you.

Thus while we can pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” at the same time we must remember that we are to build up ourselves on our most holy faith. Jude 20.

This is how to exercise faith. Faith can be exercised only on the word of God; for where there is no word of God, there can not be any faith.

And “understanding how to exercise faith, this is the science of the gospel.”

“The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17.

Who are the just?—They are only those who are of faith; because men are justified only by faith.

For though we all “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” yet we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:23, 24.]

For “to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” [Romans 4:4, 5.]

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Romans 5:1.] Those who are of faith, and those alone, are the just in the earth.

Now faith is entire dependence on the word of God, that that word shall accomplish what that word says. “It shall accomplish that which I please.” Isaiah 55:11.

To be justified, then, is to be justified by entire dependence upon the word of God. The just are those who are of the word of God. This is how men become just.

Men must not only become just by faith,—by dependence upon the word of God,—but being just, we must live by faith. The just man lives in precisely the same way, and by precisely the same thing, that he becomes just.

We become just by faith; faith is entire dependence on the word of God. We, being just, must live by precisely the same thing by which we become just; that is, by entire dependence upon the word of God.

And this is exactly what Jesus said: Man shall live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4.] When Jesus said that, it is perfectly plain that he simply said, in other words, Man shall live by faith.

There is no other way truly to live than by faith, which is simply living by the word of God. Without faith, without the word of God, men only die.

Indeed, without the word of God, everything only dies; for in the beginning everything came by the word of God. The word of God is the origin and life of everything; for, “He spake, and it was.”

All things animate and inanimate,—sun, moon, and stars, animals and men,—all are entirely dependent upon the word of God for existence. Only in the case of men, God has bestowed upon them the wondrous gift of choice as to whether they will do so or not. This gift opens the door of faith. And when a man does choose to live by the word of God, which is the only means of life, faith—entire dependence upon the word of God—is the means by which he lays hold on the means of life.

Thus “the just shall live by faith,” and thus “whatsoever is not of faith is sin”; which is simply to say, The just must live by the word of God; and whatsoever is not the word of God is sin.

“We can not have a healthy Christian experience, we can not obey the gospel unto salvation, until the science of faith is better understood; and until more faith is exercised.”

“Hast thou faith?” Have the faith of God. Here are they that keep “the faith of Jesus.”

“The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Romans 1:17.

Faith is complete dependence upon the word of God, expecting that word to do what the word itself says. Is there, then, righteousness spoken by the word of God, so that people can depend completely upon that word, that the word shall accomplish what the word says?

There it is. Indeed, that is the very object of the gift of Christ. For him “God hath set forth … to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Romans 3:25.

Seeing then that God hath set forth Christ expressly to declare, to speak, the righteousness of God, it is certain that the word of God has spoken, upon which there can be complete dependence, expecting that word to do what that word says. In other words, there is righteousness that can be received by faith.

Wherein is the word spoken? It is spoken in the word “forgiveness.” “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”; “there is forgiveness with thee.”

Now what is the meaning of “forgive”? The word “forgive” is composed of “for” and “give,” which is otherwise to give for. To forgive, therefore, is simply to give for. For the Lord to forgive sin, is to give for sin. But what does the Lord give for sin?—He declares “his righteousness for the remission of sins.”

Therefore, when the Lord forgives—[He] gives for—sins. He gives righteousness for sin. And as the only righteousness that the Lord has for his own, it follows that the only righteousness that God gives, or can give, for sin is the righteousness of God.

This is the righteousness of God as a gift. All men have only sinned, and, if they are ever clear, must have forgiveness entirely free, as the forgiveness of sin—the righteousness of God as a free gift “upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18.

Every soul, therefore, who ever asks God for forgiveness of sin, in that very thing asks God to give him righteousness for sin. Every soul who asks God for forgiveness, asks it solely upon the word of God, which speaks forgiveness. And faith is entire dependence upon the word for what the word speaks. Thus righteousness is altogether of faith.

“Every one that asketh receiveth.” You have asked the Lord many a time to forgive your sins; that is, you have asked him to give for your sin. But when you ask the Lord to give for your sin, in that you ask him to give the only thing that he does or can give for sin, which is righteousness. That is what it is to ask forgiveness of the Lord.

And he does forgive—he does give for—your sins when you ask him. He says he does, and he does. “He is faithful”—that is, he will never fail—“and just to forgive our sins.” And the only thing he gives for our sins is his righteousness.

Then why not thank him for the righteousness that he freely gives for your sins when you ask him to?

Do you not see that righteousness by faith is just as plain and simple as asking God for forgiveness of sin? Indeed, it is just that.

To believe that righteousness is given to you for your sin, when you ask forgiveness—and thankfully to receive that righteousness as the gift of God,—this is what it is to exercise faith.

Yet how true it is that we suffer much trouble and grief because of our unbelief, and show our ignorance of how to exercise faith.

“Hast thou faith?” Have the faith of God. “Here are they that keep … the faith of Jesus.” [Revelation 14:12.] [Emphasis author’s.]

Taken from the book, Lessons on Faith, A.T. Jones & E.J. Waggoner.

©1995, TEACH Services, Inc.

Used with Permission

Saving Faith

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above); or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach: that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:6–9.

May we accept these words, especially the statement in the last verse, as literally true? Shall we not be in danger if we do? Is not something more than faith in Christ necessary to salvation? To the first of these questions we say, Yes; and to the last two we say, No; and refer to the Scriptures for corroboration. So plain a statement cannot be other than literally true, and one that can be depended on by the trembling sinner.

As an instance in proof, take the case of the jailer at Philippi. Paul and Silas, after having been inhumanely beaten, were placed in his care. Notwithstanding their lacerated backs and their manacled feet, they prayed and sang praises to God at midnight, and suddenly an earthquake shook the prison, and all the doors were opened. It was not alone the natural fear produced by feeling the earth rock beneath him, nor yet the dread of Roman justice if the prisoners in his charge should escape, that caused the jailer to tremble. But he felt in that earthquake shock a premonition of the great Judgment, concerning which the apostles had preached; and, trembling under his load of guilt, he fell down before Paul and Silas, saying, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Mark well the answer; for here was a soul in the sorest extremity, and what was sufficient for him must be the message to all lost ones. To the jailer’s anguished appeal, Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Acts 16:30, 31. This agrees exactly with the words which we quoted from Paul to the Romans.

On one occasion the Jews said unto Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Just the thing that we want to know. Mark the reply: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John 6:28, 29. Would that these words might be written in letters of gold, and kept continually before the eyes of every struggling Christian. The seeming paradox is cleared up. Works are necessary; yet faith is all-sufficient, because faith does the work. Faith comprehends everything, and without faith there is nothing.

The trouble is that people in general have a faulty conception of faith. They imagine that it is mere assent, and that it is only a passive thing, to which active works must be added. But faith is active, and it is not only the most substantial thing, but the only real foundation. The law is the righteousness of God (Isaiah 51:6, 7), for which we are commanded to seek (Matthew 6:33); but it cannot be kept except by faith, for the only righteousness which will stand in the Judgment is “that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Philippians 3:9.

Read the words of Paul in Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.” Making void the law of God by man is not abolishing it; for that is an impossibility. It is as fixed as the throne of God. No matter what men say of the law, nor how much they trample upon it and despise it, it remains the same. The only way that men can make void the law of God is to make it of none effect in their hearts, by their disobedience. Thus in Numbers 30:15, a vow that has been broken is said to have been made void. So when the apostle says that we do not make void the law through faith, he means that faith and disobedience are incompatible. No matter how much the law-breaker professes faith, the fact that he is a law-breaker shows that he has no faith. But the possession of faith is shown by the establishment of the law in the heart, so that the man does not sin against God. Let no one decry faith, as of little moment.

But does not the apostle James say that faith alone cannot save a man, and that faith without works is dead? Let us look at his words a moment. Too many have with honest intent perverted them to a dead legalism. He does say that faith without works is dead, and this agrees most fully with what we have just quoted and written. For if faith without works is dead, the absence of works shows the absence of faith; for that which is dead has no existence. If a man has faith, works will necessarily appear, and the man will not boast of either one; for by faith boasting is excluded. Romans 3:27. Boasting is done only by those who trust wholly in dead works, or whose profession of faith is a hollow mockery.

Then how about James 2:14, which says: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” The answer necessarily implied is, of course, that it cannot. Why not?—Because he hasn’t it. What doth it profit if a man say he has faith, if by his wicked course he shows that he has none? Must we decry the power of faith simply because it does nothing for the man who makes a false profession of it? Paul speaks of some who profess that they know God, but who deny him by their works. Titus 1:16. The man to whom James refers is one of this class. The fact that he has no good works—no fruit of the Spirit—shows that he has no faith, despite his loud profession; and so of course faith cannot save him; for faith has no power to save a man who does not possess it. Bible Echo, August 1, 1890.

From the book, Lessons on Faith.

©1995 by Teach Services, Inc. Used with permission.

In 1888, the Lord brought a message of righteousness to the Church through Elders E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones. This message was identified as the beginning of the loud cry of the third angel whose glory was to fill the whole earth in preparation for the second coming of Jesus.

The Offices of Christ

Our Lord (Christ) has three grand offices assigned Him in the Scriptures in the work of human redemption. When He was upon our earth at His first advent, He was that prophet of whom Moses spake, in Deuteronomy 18:15–19. See also Acts 3:22–26. When He ascended up to heaven, He became a great High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110: Hebrews 8:1–6. But when He comes again, He is in possession of His kingly authority, as promised in the second psalm. It is by virtue of this office of king that He judges mankind. Matthew 25:34–40. The transition from our Lord’s priesthood to His kingly office precedes His Second Advent. Luke 19:11, 12, 15. It takes place when His Father sits in judgment, as described in Daniel 7:9–14.

  1. The nature of the words addressed by the Father to the Son when He crowns Him king, shows that coronation to be at the close of His priestly office.

“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree; the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Psalm 2:6–9.

It is manifest that the giving of the heathen to the Son by the Father is not for their salvation but for their destruction. It could not, therefore, take place at the ascension of Christ, when He entered upon His priesthood, but must be when the work of that priesthood is finished. Daniel has placed the coronation of Christ at the Father’s judgment-seat. And to this fact the words of the second psalm perfectly agree. The priesthood of Christ is closed when the scepter of iron is placed in His hands. The number of His people is made up, the work for their sins is finished, and their salvation rendered certain, when all the rest of mankind are delivered into His hands to be broken by the scepter of His justice. But this cannot be till our Lord, as priest, has blotted out our sins, at the tribunal of His Father; for when the wicked are given into the hands of Christ to be destroyed, it is plain that there is no further salvation for sinners. When our Lord accepts the iron scepter of justice, He can no longer fill the office of priest, to make atonement for sins. His whole priestly office is finished when He is thus crowned by His Father. But this coronation, which is described in Daniel 7:9–14, is simply the transition from the priesthood of Christ to His kingly office. It is plain that our Lord’s priesthood is brought to a conclusion at the time when the Ancient of Days sits in judgment. We need Him as priest to confess our names at that tribunal, and to show from the record of our past lives that we have perfected the work of overcoming, so that our sins may, by the decision of the Father, be blotted out, and our names retained in the book of life. But when the people of God have thus passed the decision of the investigative judgment, their probation is closed forever, and their names being found in the book of life, when all that have failed to overcome are stricken there from, they are prepared for the standing up of Michael to deliver His people and to destroy all others with the scepter of His justice.

  1. The priesthood of Christ continues till His enemies are given Him to be destroyed.

“The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion; rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning; thou hast the dew of thy youth. The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent. Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The LORD at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way; therefore shall he lift up the head.” Psalm 110:1–7.

The words of verse 1, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” and of verse 4, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” are addressed by God the Father of Christ, when He enters upon His priestly office, and are equivalent to saying that in due time He should have His enemies given Him to destroy, viz., at the close of His work of intercession. For this reason it is that Paul represents Him as sitting at the Father’s right hand, in a state of expectancy. Hebrews 10:13. But the words of the second psalm, bidding Him ask for the heathen, to destroy them, cannot be uttered till He finished His work of intercession. It appears that our Lord announces the close of His intercession by saying, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” Revelation 22:11. In response to His declaration of the Intercessor, announcing to His Father the close of His work, the Father bids the Son ask of Him the heathen that He may devote them to utter destruction. And in fulfillment of the Son’s request, the Father crowns Him king, as described in Daniel 7:9–14, as He sits in judgment, and commits the judgment into His hands.


Christ’s Position Invariable


  1. Christ, as our high priest, or intercessor, sits at the right hand of the Father’s throne, i.e., He occupies the place of honor in the presence of one greater, till He is Himself crowned king, when He takes His own throne.

The position of the Saviour as high priest cannot be one invariable, fixed posture of sitting. Indeed, although Mark says (Chapter 16:19) concerning our Lord that “he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God,” yet it is said of Stephen that “he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55, 56. Some time after this, Saul of Tarsus had an actual interview with Christ, that, like the other apostles, he might be a witness in person to the fact of his resurrection. 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Acts 9:3–15, 17, 27; 22:6–8, 14; 26:15, 16.

The fact that Stephen saw our Lord standing at his Father’s right hand, and that after this Jesus did personally appear to Saul to constitute him a witness of his resurrection, which, in order to be an apostle, he must be, is not inconsistent with the mandate of the Father, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

The Hebrew word yahshav, rendered sit in Psalm 110:1, is used an immense number of times in the Old Testament, and is in a very large proportion of these cases rendered dwell. Thus (Genesis 13:12), “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain.” Again (Genesis 45:10), “And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen.” Also, “David dwelt in the country of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 27:7. These examples could be extended to a great length, and kindred uses of the word are very numerous. But it is to be observed that Abraham, and Lot, and Jacob, and David, the persons spoken of in the texts, who dwelled or, as rendered in Psalm 110:1, who sat in the places named, were not, during the time in which they acted thus, immovably fixed to those several places, but were capable of going and returning during the very time in question. And the Greek word kathizo, used in the New Testament for Christ’s act of sitting at the Father’s right hand, though more generally used in the sense of sitting, is also used precisely like yahshav in the texts above.

When our Lord went away, it was not simply that He should act as intercessor for His people, He also had another work to do. He says: “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2, 3. We cannot doubt that this work is wrought under our Lord’s personal inspection; and it is performed during the period that He is at the Father’s right hand.

The expression, “right hand,” is especially worthy of attention. In defining the Hebrew word yahmeen, i.e. right hand, Gesenius says: “To sit on the right hand of the king, as the highest place of honor, e.g., spoken of the queen (1 Kings 2:19; Psalm 14:9); of one beloved of the king and vicegerent of the kingdom. Psalm 110:1.”

When our Lord spoke of going away to intercede for His people, he said: “I go unto the Father; for my Father is greater than I.” John 14:26–28. In fulfilling His office of intercessor, or high priest, He has assigned to Him the highest place of honor in the presence of a greater; for He sits on the right hand of His Father’s throne. He is not, however, to sustain this relation always. It lasts while He pleads for sinful men. When it ceases, the impenitent are to be made His footstool, and the dominion, and glory, and kingdom being given Him, He sits down upon His own throne. Revelation 3:21. This gift of the heathen to Christ is when the Father sits in judgment, as we have seen from Daniel 7:9–14. We can well understand that at this tribunal the question is determined with His iron scepter. The determination of the cases of the righteous in showing that they have perfected the work of overcoming, and that they are worthy to have their sins blotted out is the final work of our Lord as high priest. When this is accomplished, His priesthood is closed forever, and He assumes His kingly throne to judge His enemies and to deliver and reward His saints.

  1. The Saviour, being crowned king at the close of His priestly office, begins the exercise of His kingly power by delivering His people, and by bringing to trial, and pronouncing judgment upon, and executing, His enemies.

The one hundred and tenth psalm, though it speaks very distinctly of the priesthood of Christ, enters even more largely into the exercise of His kingly office. It very clearly reveals the fact that our Lord acts as judge by virtue of His kingly authority. Thus verse 1 assigns to him, as priest, the place of honor at His Father’s right hand, limiting His priesthood, however, by an event which changes His office from priest to king. Verse 2 states the very act of making Christ king, and makes His enemies His footstool. Thus it says: “The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion; rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” The first clause of this verse is parallel to Psalm 2:6, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” The heavenly Zion (See Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1) is the place of Christ’s coronation. The last clause is the very words of the Father to the Son, when He crowns Him king. This is sufficiently obvious from our common English version. But it is made still more evident from the French translation of Davie Martin, in which the two clauses are connected by the words, “in saying.” Thus: “The Lord shall transmit out of Zion the scepter of thy strength, in saying: Rule in the midst of thy enemies.”


All the Holy Angels Attend Christ


Our Lord being thus inducted into His kingly office, and proceeding to the exercise of His power against His enemies, the next verse states the sympathy of His people with this work: “Thy people shall be willing in the days of thy power; in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth.” Instead of “the day of thy power,” Martin’s French Bible reads, “The day that thou shalt assemble thy army in holy pomp.” This is the time when the Son of man descends in power and great glory, and the armies of Heaven, i.e.; all the holy angels attend and surround Him. Matthew 24:30, 31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18; Revelation 19:11–21. The people of God are to unite with Christ in His rule over the nations of wicked men. Revelation 2:26, 27; Psalm 2:6–9. The morning of this verse must be the morning of the day, which it mentions. One of the earliest events of that day is the resurrection of the just, when, like their Lord, they are born from the dead to life immortal. Revelation 20:4–6; Luke 20:35, 36; Colossians 1:18; Hosea 13:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 15:42–44, 51–54.

The fourth verse of Psalm 110 confirms with an oath the priesthood of Christ. His prophetic office is the subject of solemn promise. Deuteronomy 18:15–18. His priesthood is established by an oath. Psalm 110:4. His kingly office is the subject of a fixed decree. Psalm 2:6, 7. But the forever of His priesthood, as expressed by this verse, is limited by the fact that at a certain point of time He is to cease to plead for sinful men, and they are to be made His footstool.

It is important to observe that there are in this psalm two Lords, the Father and the Son. One in the original is called Jehovah; the other is called Adonai. The word “LORD” in small capitals is used for Jehovah. But the Lord at His right hand (verse 1) is Adonai, the Son. So we read of the Son in verse 5. “The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath.” This will evidently be in the battle of the great day of God Almighty. Revelation 6:15–17; 19:11–21; Isaiah 24:21–23.

Our Lord does not thus destroy His enemies by virtue of His kingly office until He has first judged them, for one of the first acts of His kingly power is to proceed to the judgment of His enemies. He represents Himself as judging by reason of His kingly office. Matthew 25:34, 40. It is in the exercise of this power that He judges His enemies. So Psalm 110:6 reads thus: “He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.” This is the work in the day of His power, and to this work His people shall consent. Verse 3. This is indeed the great day of His wrath, and none shall be able to stand except those whose sins are blotted out. The wicked kings of the earth shall fall before Him when He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Instead of saying, as does our version, “He shall wound the heads over many countries,” Martin’s Bible uses the singular number, and says, “The chief who rules over a great country.” This is a plain allusion to Satan. The Hebrew word rendered wound in this text is by Gesenius defined thus: “To smite through and through; to dash in pieces, to crush.” And such will be the punishment of Satan when the God of peace shall bruise the prince of darkness under the feet of his people. Romans 16:20; Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14.

These passages clearly mark the transition from the priesthood of Christ to His kingly office. Human probation closes with the priesthood of Christ. Those who are found in their sins after our Lord has taken His kingly power, must be destroyed as His enemies. His priesthood terminates when He has obtained the acquittal of His people, and secured the blotting out of their sins at the tribunal of His Father. Then and there He is crowned king; and from that coronation scene He comes as king to our earth to deliver all who at that examination of the books are accounted worthy to have part in the world to come, and in the resurrection of the just. Daniel 7:9, 10; 12:1; Luke 20:35, 35; 21:36.

The righteous dead are “accounted worthy” of a part in the resurrection to immortal life before they are raised from among the dead. Luke 20:35, 36; Philippians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 21:4–6. They awake with the likeness of Christ. Psalm 17:15. We may be certain, therefore, that the investigation and decision of their cases is an accomplished fact prior to their resurrection; for that event is declarative of their final justification in the judgment.

But Luke 21:36 uses the same expression both in Greek and in English respecting those that are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, that Luke 20:35, 36 uses respecting those who are asleep. As the latter, before the resurrection, are “accounted worthy” to be made like the angels, so the former are “accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” The things that shall come to pass before the deliverance of the saints, are the events of the time of trouble such as never was. Daniel 12:1. And those who are accounted worthy to escape these things are also worthy to stand before the Son of man at His appearing.


Accounted Worthy of Salvation


This act of accounting worthy does, therefore, relate to their eternal salvation, and is performed before they enter that great time of trouble at which they are to be delivered; for that does not commence until the standing up of Michael, which is but another term for the coronation of Christ, or the beginning of His reign upon His own throne. But Michael, or Christ, does not take His throne till He has finished His work as priest at the tribunal of His Father. It is at that tribunal that the righteous dead are accounted worthy of the resurrection to immortality, and the righteous living are accounted worthy to escape the anguish of the time of trouble, and to stand before the Son of man. Those only can be accounted worthy of this whose record in the book of God’s remembrance shows them to have been perfect overcomers. The Saviour, while yet high priest, confesses the names of such before His Father and the holy angels, and secures the blotting out of their sins. Those who shall be raised to immortality, and those who shall escape the things coming upon the earth and stand before the Son of man, are severally counted worthy of this before the priesthood of Christ is closed. We cannot therefore doubt that with both these classes the investigation and decision of the judgment is passed before the Saviour takes the throne of His glory and begins the destruction of His enemies. The righteous dead come first in the order of the investigative judgment; and while their cases are being examined and decided, probation continues to the living.

It is certainly most natural that the cases of the righteous dead should be the first to come up in the investigative judgment for their names stand first in the book of God’s remembrance. Reason would therefore teach us that these cases must earliest come into account before God. But we are not left simply to the reasonableness of this order of events. We have direct proof that probation to the living continues after the judgment hour has actually arrived: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them. And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” Revelation 14:6–14.

The first angel ushers in the hour of God’s judgment by a solemn announcement to all the inhabitants of the earth that it has actually commenced. But the second and third angels, who unite with this proclamation, deliver their messages in the judgment hour itself, and they address themselves to men still in probation. We have already learned that God the Father sits in judgment, as described in Daniel 7, before the advent of our Lord to this earth. And in Revelation 14 the fact that the hour of God’s judgment has come is announced to the inhabitants of the earth by a mighty proclamation. The judgment scene of Daniel 7 is closed by the coronation of Christ. And the judgment hour of Revelation 14 is followed by our Lord’s being seen upon the white cloud with a crown upon His head, a proof that His priesthood has then given place to His kingly office. Each of these pertains to the closing events of this dispensation. There can be, therefore, no doubt that the hour of God’s judgment announced in Revelation 14 is the time when God the Father sits in judgment, as described in Daniel 7:9–14.


Bible Study Guides – A Faith That Works

May 20 – 26

Key Text

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar” (James 2:21)?

Study Help: Faith and Works, 47–54, 111–116.


“There are many who fail to understand the relation of faith and works. They say, ‘Only believe in Christ, and you are safe. You have nothing to do with keeping the law.’ But genuine faith will be manifest in obedience.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 153, 154.



  •  How do we know Abraham believed in God’s word? Genesis 22:1–5; James 2:21–24.

Note: “Abraham believed God. How do we know that he believed? His works testified to the character of his faith, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness.” Reflecting Christ, 79.

  • What is the relationship between faith and works? James 2:17, 18; Matthew 7:16–20. What kind of fruit does a Christian bear?

Note: “Good works can never purchase salvation, but they are an evidence of the faith that acts by love and purifies the soul.” The Desire of Ages, 314.

“Just as a good tree will bear good fruit, so will the tree that is actually planted in the Lord’s garden produce good fruit unto eternal life. Besetting sins are overcome; evil thoughts are not allowed in the mind; evil habits are purged from the soul temple. … An entire transformation has taken place.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1080.



  •  How did Abraham show his faith in God? As he acted out his faith, what did Abraham reveal about his faith? James 2:22; Genesis 22:12.

Note: “Faith works by love and purifies the soul. Faith buds and blossoms and bears a harvest of precious fruit. Where faith is, good works appear.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 398.

  • Where do good works come from? Compare Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:12 with Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:13, 14.

Note: “Genuine faith will be manifested in good works; for good works are the fruits of faith. As God works in the heart, and man surrenders his will to God, and cooperates with God, he works out in the life what God works in by the Holy Spirit, and there is harmony between the purpose of the heart and the practice of the life. Every sin must be renounced as the hateful thing that crucified the Lord of life and glory, and the believer must have a progressive experience by continually doing the works of Christ. It is by continual surrender of the will, by continual obedience, that the blessing of justification is retained.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 397.

“If we are faithful in doing our part, in co-operating with Him, God will work through us the good pleasure of His will. But God cannot work through us if we make no effort. If we gain eternal life, we must work, and work earnestly. … We must follow the example Christ has left us, submitting to Him in everything. Our will must be in harmony with His will.” The Review and Herald, June 11, 1901.

  • Before the Christian can bring forth the good works of God, what must first take place? Ephesians 2:1–5; Galatians 2:20; Jeremiah 29:13.

Note: “The only way we can secure the help of God is to put ourselves wholly in His hands, and trust Him to work for us. As we lay hold of Him by faith, He does the work. The believer can only trust. As God works, we can work, trusting in Him and doing His will.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1080.



  •  What is the difference between a living faith and a dead belief? James 2:19, 20; Mark 7:6, 7.

Note: “True faith, which relies wholly upon Christ, will be manifested by obedience to all the requirements of God. … In all ages there have been those who claimed a right to the favor of God even while they were disregarding some of His commands. But the Scriptures declare that by works is ‘faith made perfect’; and that, without the works of obedience, faith ‘is dead’ (James 2:22, 17).” The Faith I Live By, 91.

“Many are content with lip service, and but few have a sincere, earnest, affectionate longing after God.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 534.

  • Can someone with a dead belief produce good works? Matthew 23:27, 28; 7:21–23.

Note: “The good man, from the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things. Why? Because Christ is an abiding presence in the soul. The sanctifying truth is a treasure-house of wisdom to all who practice the truth. As a living spring it is springing up unto everlasting life. The one who has not Christ abiding in his heart will indulge in cheap talk, exaggerated statements, that make mischief. The tongue that utters perverse things, common things, slang phrases, that tongue needs to be treated with the hot coals of juniper.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 577.

“No man can have the spirit and the mind of Christ without being rendered better by it in all the relations and duties of life. Murmuring, complaining, and fretful passion are not the fruit of good principles.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 347.

  • What will always be missing in the works of a dead believer? 1John 4:20, 21; John 8:37–41.

Note: “Obedience to the word produces fruit of the required quality—‘unfeigned love of the brethren’ (1 Peter 1:22). This love is heaven-born and leads to high motives and unselfish actions.” The Acts of the Apostles, 520.



  •  What happens when good works of obedience become the root of the Christian experience instead of the fruit of it? Matthew 23:5.

Note: “The Pharisees sought distinction by their scrupulous ceremonialism and the ostentation of their worship and their charities. They proved their zeal for religion by making it the theme of discussion. Disputes between opposing sects were loud and long, and it was not unusual to hear on the streets the voice of angry controversy from learned doctors of the law. “In marked contrast to all this was the life of Jesus. In that life no noisy disputation, no ostentatious worship, no act to gain applause, was ever witnessed. Christ was hid in God, and God was revealed in the character of His Son.” The Ministry of Healing, 32.

  • What should always be at the root of the Christian’s experience? Galatians 6:14.

Note: “The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. … Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. … All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. …

“If men would contemplate the love of Christ, displayed in the cross, their faith would be strengthened to appropriate the merits of His shed blood, and they would be cleansed and saved from sin.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1132, 1133.

  • How will the true Christian regard his or her own works in light of Christ’s works? Philippians 3:4–9; Isaiah 6:5.

Note: “The more they [God’s followers] see of the character of Christ the more humble they become, and the lower their estimate of themselves. … Self is lost sight of in their consciousness of their own unworthiness and of God’s wonderful glory.” That I May Know Him, 122.



  •  Why does God want to fill the Christian’s life with good works borne from a changed heart? Matthew 5:14–16; 1Peter 2:9.

Note: “It is His [God’s] plan that all who are partakers of the great salvation shall be missionaries for Him. The piety of the Christian constitutes the standard by which worldlings judge the gospel. Trials patiently borne, blessings gratefully received, meekness, kindness, mercy, and love, habitually exhibited, are the lights that shine forth in the character before the world, revealing the contrast with the darkness that comes of the selfishness of the natural heart.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 134.

“When the grace of Christ is expressed in the words and works of the believers, light will shine forth to those who are in darkness; for while the lips are speaking to the praise of God, the hand will be stretched out in beneficence for the help of the perishing.” Sons and Daughters of God, 276.

  • Throughout history, what knowledge does Christ always have regarding His church? Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15. Why is Jesus so interested in the works of His followers? James 2:21, 22, 24; Revelation 22:12.

Note: “The eyes of the world are upon us, and we are observed by many of whom we have no knowledge. There are those who know something of the doctrines we claim to believe, and they are noting the effect of our faith upon our characters.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 386.

“The world today is in crying need of a revelation of Christ Jesus in the person of His saints.” In Heavenly Places, 313.



 1     Why does true faith always work?

2     How can we ensure that our works are always from God?

3     Why can an unconverted heart never produce unselfish love?

4     Explain the difference between the root and the fruit of our experience.

5     What is God and the world waiting to see in the Christian church?

 Copyright © 2017, Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.


Merit or Grace

In the beginning of Acts 16, it says that while Paul and Silas were answering the Macedonian call in Philippi, they were beaten and put in jail without a trial. That night there was an earthquake, and the jailer was also afraid that the prisoners would escape, which would result in him being under the death sentence, so he decided to kill himself. “But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ ” Acts 16:28–30.

That is the most important question that any human being can ask: “What must I do to be saved?” Paul says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (verse 31). That night was a successful one night evangelistic series. No sermons were preached; it consisted only of a song service. Paul and Silas, in chains, sang in the prison praising the Lord. Then, suddenly, there was an earthquake. The jailer realized the prisoners had something that he did not have, and he wanted it; he wanted to be saved. They told him to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

Salvation is not complicated. It is simple enough that a child can understand it. All you have to do is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Believe is often translated faith in the Bible. The Greek word translated believe, means to believe something enough to make a commitment to it. It is not merely an intellectual knowledge; it is a commitment. To believe in Jesus is to make a commitment to Him.

United States citizens are proud that they live in the land of the free and the home of the brave and do not live under the servitude of lords. The Roman Empire did understand the meaning of the word lord, because approximately two-thirds of the population was in slavery, with only one-third free. Those who were unfortunate to be slaves had a lord. Their master was called their lord. And that master, or lord, had absolute authority over their lives. In fact, if the slave did something that the lord did not like, he had authority to kill him without a trial because he was a slave. When Paul said, “Believe in the Lord,” the jailer knew exactly what the word Lord meant.

In Western society today, there are many who say they believe in Jesus as their Lord, but He had something to say to them. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” Luke 6:46. Is Jesus really Lord to those who disobey Him and are they guaranteed salvation? Jesus predicted that in the last generation this very thing would happen.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” Matthew 7:21–23.

Notice, these are people who call Jesus Lord, but they do not do what He says. They break His law. There is no nation in the world that does not have laws. Judges in the courts of all countries consider a person to be a loyal citizen if he keeps the laws. God also has laws, and He decides the loyalty of the citizen of His government by the keeping of His law. In the final judgment, God will ask the same question that worldly judges ask: “Have you kept the law?”

When countries make laws, they are ever changing them and updating them. It is estimated that there have been over 35 million different human laws made; however, in God’s government, He has made only one law that has ten parts. The whole universe can be governed with one law that a child can read and understand. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15.

Ellen White wrote, “Let this point be fully settled in every mind: If we accept Christ as a Redeemer, we must accept Him as a Ruler. We cannot have the assurance and perfect confiding trust in Christ as our Saviour until we acknowledge Him as our King and are obedient to His commandments. Thus we evidence our allegiance to God.” Faith and Works, 16.

Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Many people today in the Western world want Jesus to be the Saviour of their life, but they do not want Him to be the Lord of their life. In essence they are saying, “We won’t have this man reign over us” (Luke 19:14).

  • Paraphrasing John 3:16, it is seen to have seven parts after recognizing God:
  • “God” – brings us to acknowledge an Almighty Authority, Himself, He
  • “so loved the world” – the strongest motive, love
  • “that He gave” – at ultimate cost
  • “His only begotten Son” – that resulted in the greatest gift that has ever been given
  • “that whoever” – this is the widest welcome that has ever been given
  • “believes in Him” – that is the easiest escape that has ever been given
  • “should not perish” – assuring divine deliverance
  • “but have everlasting life” – they will receive a priceless possession

Putting it all together, John 3:16 would read, “The One who has Almighty authority, motivated by the strongest motivation, gave the greatest gift, to give us the widest welcome, and the easiest escape, and divine deliverance, so that we might have a priceless possession.”

It is this subject that we are admonished to talk about the most. Ellen White wrote, “There is not a point that needs to be dwelt upon more earnestly, repeated more frequently, or established more firmly in the minds of all, than the impossibility of fallen man meriting anything by his own best good works. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. …

“Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us through creature merit.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, 420.

If we are going to inherit eternal life, we need to understand that there is nothing we can ever do to provide any part of the merit. It is a gift that comes through grace alone, to the person who believes. One of the greatest deceptions of all time, that has permeated all heathen religions and also the Christian world, is the idea that we are saved by faith and works.

Martin Luther fought this idea during the reformation. The belief that a person is saved by faith and works opens the door for believing that not only your own good works, but also those of others and even the saints give merit to salvation.

The book of James says that, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20, 26). True faith produces works; however, those works have no merit and have no saving power.

“Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone, then the Creator is under obligation to the creature. Here is an opportunity for falsehood to be accepted as truth. If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins. Salvation, then, is partly of debt that may be earned as wages. If man cannot, by any of his good works, merit salvation, then it must be wholly of grace, received by man as a sinner because he receives and believes in Jesus. It is wholly a free gift.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, 420.

When you work or have a job, your employer is obligated to give you the appropriate wages. But if a man cannot, by any of his good works, merit salvation, and it is received by him, as a sinner, just because he receives and believes the promise in Jesus, then it is completely by grace—a free gift.

The apostle Paul wrote about this a great deal in the books of Romans, Galatians and Ephesians. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9. “If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imparts righteousness apart from works.” Romans 4:2–6 (Literal translation).

Paul emphasized this point because of the error being taught in Christ’s day that a person was saved by grace, but they needed to do something first; they needed to be circumcised first, and then they would receive the grace.

That same teaching is very popular in churches today, including the Protestant churches, but it is not called circumcision. Some say first you need to repent, and that is true, but there are no merits in repentance. Some say that you need to have faith—belief. There is no merit just because you have faith. Salvation is through grace alone; it is a free gift and does not come because of anything that you do.

“It [salvation] is wholly a free gift. Justification by faith is placed beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled that the merits of fallen man in his good works can never procure eternal life for him.” Faith and Works, 20.

But the devil pulls another trick on those who do understand that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. Hundreds of millions of Christians in the world today believe that the church can save you if you are a member or are baptized. If you are a member of the Catholic Church, you need to be an active participant in the seven sacraments, which, if observed, enable you to receive the grace.

Stated bluntly, the church is unable to save anyone, and there will be billions of people lost who have been baptized. Billions of people who have partaken of the communion supper will not be in the kingdom of heaven. We cannot save ourselves, and the church cannot save us either. This same deception that is popular today was also popular in the days of Christ. The people believed that if they were not connected to Israel, the church, they would not be saved. Even Christ’s disciples believed this.

John records an incident when Jesus gave sight to the man who was born blind. There was a big church trial, and before it was over, because the man confessed Christ, he was disfellowshiped. “The Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.’ ” John 9:18–21.

Everybody in town, including his parents, knew what had happened, because the news had gone all over town, so why did they lie? They must have known it was wrong to lie and that no liars will be in heaven (Revelation 21:8). “His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, because the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed He was the Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.” John 9:22 (Literal translation).

They were under one of the most powerful delusions that can happen to a person. They had been taught that if you were disfellowshiped from the synagogue, you would not have eternal life. Ironically, the very thing they did do, lie, would keep them out of the kingdom of God. They thought that as long as they stayed in and had that connection with the church, they would be saved.

If they really wanted to be saved, they would have had to allow themselves to be disfellowshiped and not lie. This story is important, because this has happened millions of times since then. The very thing that people think will assure them of eternal life is the very thing that guarantees their destruction. Jesus’ own disciples believed this.

“ ‘I am the true Vine’ [John 15:1]. The Jews had always regarded the vine as the most noble of plants, and a type of all that was powerful, excellent, and fruitful. Israel had been represented as a vine which God had planted in the Promised Land. The Jews based their hope of salvation on the fact of their connection with Israel.” The Desire of Ages, 675.

Jesus says, “I am the real vine. Think not that through a connection with Israel you may become partakers of the life of God and inheritors of His promise. Through Me alone is spiritual life received.” Are you connected with the True Vine? Baptism with water is a symbol and important, but if you do not have what it represents, the symbol will not save you.

Peter explains what baptism represents. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ ” Acts 2:37, 38. Baptism by water represents baptism by the Holy Spirit.

Even though church will not save you, it is important to belong to one. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (the church)—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:13. Baptism, water baptism, is the door into the church. But water baptism is a symbol that won’t save you if you don’t have what it represents.

You become a member of the body of Christ when you are baptized by the Holy Spirit. Paul met some people in Acts 19 who had been baptized, and he asked if they had received the Holy Spirit. They said they had been baptized into John’s baptism and were told they needed to be baptized again. This clearly indicates that baptism is not really valid if you have not received the Holy Spirit.

There are many who have attended church all their life and decide to be rebaptized because they did not know before what they were doing or were not prepared. They did not receive the Holy Spirit.

If you have not received the Holy Spirit, the church cannot save you. The big question is, Are you connected with Jesus? Jesus said, “I am the true Vine.” There are two things working to connect the branches to the grape vines. The outer connection, the lignite in the wood, just holds them physically to the vine. The outer connection could be likened to church membership. When a person is baptized with water and makes a profession, they are now a “member” of the church, outwardly. It has an outer connection, but if the life sap does not flow through the inner part of that vine into the branch, it will die. This is described in John 15.

The dead branch is a person who is a member of the church, professing to be a Christian. They profess to be getting ready for Jesus to come, and they look like they are connected, but the only trouble is, there is no life in them.

When working with grape vines, you learn to trim and tie up the vines. Every dead branch is cut off. Jesus said, “That’s what My Father does.” Notice what He says in John 15:2–5: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes [cleanses/purifies], that it may bear more fruit. You are already purified or cleansed, because of the word which I have spoken to you. ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing’ ” (Literal translation).

Is the life of Christ coming into your life and is the Holy Spirit working a transformation in your life, changing the way you think and the way you act? Do others recognize you as a Christian?

There have been many discussions about creature merit. Theologians have been arguing these things for hundreds of years. Ellen White wrote about these discussions. She said,

“Discussions may be entered into by mortals strenuously advocating creature merit, and each man striving for the supremacy, but they simply do not know that all the time, in principle and character, they are misrepresenting the truth as it is in Jesus. They are in a fog of bewilderment. They need the divine love of God which is represented by gold tried in the fire; they need the white raiment of Christ’s pure character; and they need the heavenly eyesalve that they might discern with astonishment the utter worthlessness of creature merit to earn the wages of eternal life.” Faith and Works, 23.

How much is creature merit worth? She calls it utter worthlessness.

“The Lord Jesus imparts all the powers, all the grace, all the penitence, all the inclination, all the pardon of sins, in presenting His righteousness for man to grasp by living faith—which is also the gift of God. If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason.” Ibid., 24. Even the angels would say it was treason against the government of God.

Salvation is not complicated. It is a natural human tendency to want to do something to gain merit, so that we can be saved, but we can never be saved that way. Ellen White says, “He need not wait until he has made a suitable repentance before he may take hold upon Christ’s righteousness. We do not understand the matter of salvation. It is just as simple as ABC. But we don’t understand it.” Ibid., 64.

How can you receive the gift of salvation? Just say, “Lord, I’m choosing to believe in Jesus as the Lord of my life and Saviour from sin.” Jesus stated it in that simple language, over and over again. The apostle John, more than any other apostle, quoted Jesus’ words on that subject. For instance, he said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” John 5:24. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47. That is not complicated. Jesus said, “If you believe in Me, you have eternal life.”

There is much to be thankful for. “The people had not been destroyed by the serpents in their long travels through the wilderness. They had been an ungrateful people.

“We are just so. We do not realize the thousand dangers that our heavenly Father has kept us from. We do not realize the great blessing that He has bestowed upon us in giving us food and raiment, in preserving our lives by sending the guardian angels to watch over us. Every day we should be thankful for this. We ought to have gratitude stirring in our hearts and come to God with a gratitude offering every day. We ought to gather around the family altar every day and praise Him for His watchcare over us. The children of Israel had lost sight that God was protecting them from the venomous beasts. But when He withdrew His hand their sting was upon them.” Ibid., 69.

We ought to have such gratitude that we gather around the family altar every day and praise Him for His watchcare over us. The children of Israel had lost sight that God was protecting them from the venomous beasts, but when He withdrew His hand, their sting was upon them. If we could just comprehend how simple the plan of salvation is. All you have to do is choose to believe. Some may say they cannot. Remember the man who came to Jesus and He said, “If you can believe, everything is possible” (Mark 9:23). The man then said, “Lord, I believe,” but he was struggling with doubt, just the way people are today. It is the devil’s intention to try to destroy all who believe by causing doubt. This man was struggling with doubt, and he said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” [verse 24].

Ellen White says that if you pray that prayer you can never perish. The plan of salvation is that simple. If we really believed it, we would be happy; we would be thankful; we would be rejoicing; we would be praising God every day for what He has done for us.

In the wilderness, the children of Israel were told to look at the brass snake and be saved (Numbers 21:8, 9). The Lord says, “Look unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and none else.” Isaiah 45:22 (Literal translation). This is not complicated. Are you willing to look? A dead snake, a brass snake, cannot save anybody. The Lord says, “If you will look, I will save you.” The problem we have is that we live in a world where the religion of Cain is more popular than the true religion. The religion of Cain says you have to do something for the Lord to save you. That is a deception. Just come to Jesus, just the way you are right now, with all of your sins, with all of your weaknesses. You cannot make yourself better.

Jesus said, “He who comes to Me, I will in no case cast out” (John 6:37). If you will come, He will save you. If you look, He will save you. You don’t have to do something first; just come to Jesus right now, just the way you are, with all of your sins, with all of your guilt, with all of your failings, with all of your past; come with everything that is wrong with you. He just says, “Look to Me. Come to Me, I will save you. You do the coming, I will do the saving.”

We cannot save ourselves; the church cannot save us, and no human being can save us. Only Jesus can save us.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.