THE DANGER OF TRUSTING IN WORKS

 

A Warning By

Gary Ray Branscome


There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; (Ezekiel 22:25, 1 Peter 5:8).

 Every Christian ought to realize that Satan is constantly at work trying to lead us away from Scripture and from the truth of the gospel. Moreover, because he is subtle and persistent in his efforts he is gradually introducing works-righteousness into Evangelical churches.

Since those who think in terms of works-righteousness generally find the gospel hard to understand, he works to instill a works centered worldview in children by filling the Sunday school literature with moralistic little stories urging them to please God by obedience. At the same time, the very people who should be alarmed by such literature rave over it, as if they cannot see that such stories are teaching a false gospel. While our children need to know what is right and what is wrong, they do not need to be indoctrinated with the myth that they can please God by what they do. Instead, they need to know that their works will never please God, and that Christ loved them so much that He died for their sins, that they might have forgiveness. [James 2:10, Galatians 3:10, Romans 3:20, Hebrews 11:6.]

Satan also hinders the gospel by leading people to think that Christ has not freed them from the entire law, but only from part of it. However, that is not what the Bible says! Not only has God never lowered His standard, but He does not accept halfway obedience (Luke 16:17, James 2:10). Therefore, those who would please God by what they do, must do everything that the law requires, not just part of it (Galatians 5:3). In short, not one jot or tittle of the law has changed (Matthew 5:18). The good news is that Christ has freed us from all that the law requires (Romans 7:1-4, 1 Corinthians 10:23).

What some people have a hard time understanding, is that Christ has freed us from the law so that we can be righteous (Romans 3:21, Philippians 3:9, Romans 10:4). This can only be understood by someone who sees himself as God sees him, for as long as someone thinks that the law is making them righteous, they will think that that freedom from the law is the freedom to be unrighteous, even though the opposite is true. It is the law that makes us unrighteous, and freedom from the law that makes us righteous (Hebrews 10:10, Romans 9:30-32, 1 John 1:7-9, Isaiah 64:6, James 2:10).

While tithing is clearly an institution of the law, some try to make it binding upon Christians by claiming that Abraham was under an unwritten moral obligation to pay a tithe to Melchizedek (the assumption being that we are under the same obligation, Genesis 14:20). However, the Bible does not say anything about an unwritten moral obligation! In fact, if it is unwritten how do they know that it exists? Frankly, they are so eager to place people back under the law that they just make up laws, make the Bible say what they want it to say, and wind up lying in Godís name. Because the Bible does not mention any moral obligation, that idea is manís word, not Godís Word. What Abraham gave he gave of his own free will.

When the advocates of tithing go on to teach that God will bless those who tithe and punish those who do not tithe, they slander God by portraying Him as a ruler whose favors can be bought. What God actually wants is compassion, not money (Hosea 6:6). When tithing was used as a means of supporting the priesthood, God was not simply trying to get money. In fact, the tithe did not even consist of money! Instead he wanted His people to have an attitude of kindness and compassion for the priests and their families. And, when His people did show compassion to others, He repaid them as if they had loaned it to Him (Proverbs 19:17). Therefore, when the Bible talks of people robbing God, it is not saying that ten percent of everything is owed to God. Instead, it is saying that those who robbed Godís priests, by refusing to give them what they were entitled to by law, were, in effect, robbing God (Malachi 3:8). Furthermore, since only the priests were entitled to ten percent, and the priesthood has been abolished, we are not required to tithe.

While it is bad enough that those who are weak in faith think that they have to follow the law of tithing, false teachers make the situation worse by burdening them with the threats of the law. What they really need is to have their faith strengthened by the assurance that the blood of Christ has cleansed them of all sin (Romans 10:4 and 14:2). In fact, Christ has already paid so great a price to cleanse them of sin, that anything more they could offer is paltry in comparison anyway. Furthermore, seeing that Christ has already paid the price, what man has any right to extort something more (tithe or indulgence)? We only give cheerfully when we give as an expression of our love for Jesus, instead of simply trying to escape a punishment or merit a reward (2 Corinthians 9:7).

DEEPER INTO DARKNESS

Because our assurance of salvation rests, in part, on the knowledge that we are "kept by the power of God," Satan tries to undermine that assurance by claiming that our own works are what keep us saved (1 Peter 1:5). Nevertheless, that is just another form of works-righteousness. The question is: What keeps us saved, grace or works? And the Bible answers that question when it tells us that we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:5,8-9, Acts 15:11, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5).

Once believers realize that grace is what keeps them from losing salvation, Satan then presses the attack one step further by claiming that we cannot lose salvation. That trick places believers in opposition to what the Bible says, thus undermining their credibility (1 Samuel 16:14, Luke 8:13, Galatians 5:4, 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Timothy 4:1, 1 Timothy 1:19-20, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Revelation 3:5, Galatians 4:19).

His next step is to claim that someone who has once been saved can live in open sin and unrepentance and still be saved. However, because that doctrine not only encourages sin, but also gives the unrepentant a false assurance of salvation, it is essentially a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Furthermore, the claim that a person can lose Godís blessing but not salvation, is a form of works righteousness. Those who claim that a lack of works will cause us to lose Godís blessing are, in effect, claiming that works bring Godís blessing. Therefore, Satan has led them full circle, so that they wind up teaching the very doctrine that they were trying to oppose.

The Bible plainly tells us that no sin is ever imputed to those who trust in Christ, and that the blood of Christ not only cleanses us of all sin, but makes us righteous in the sight of God (Romans 3:28, 4:1-8, 5:19, 10:4). Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that there is no forgiveness or salvation apart from personal repentance and faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:26-27, Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, just as God brings us to faith by bringing us to repentance, He keeps us in faith by keeping us repentant, not by letting us sin (2 Timothy 2:25). Thus, when God warns the unrepentant that unless they repent they will die without forgiveness, He does so to bring them to repentance (Hebrews 10:26-27). He wants them to acknowledge their sin and look to Christ for forgiveness. For that reason, those who explain away passages like Hebrews 10:26-27 are hindering the salvation of souls.

CONCLUSION

The Bible warns us that we need to be watchful and vigilant for Satan is seeking our destruction (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, we need to constantly keep the good news of forgiveness in Christ before our eyes, while trusting in Him for righteousness (Romans 3:28, 5:19, 10:4). As it is written, those, "which follow not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith." While those, "which followed after the law of righteousness," did "not attain to the law of righteousness." Why? "Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law" (Romans 9:30-32 and 10:4).