KEY TO UNDERSTANDING GOD'S WORD
A STUDY BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME
we understand what makes us righteous in the sight of God, we will
never be able to grasp the intended meaning of His Word. Instead, our
sin darkened mind will read its own twisted ideas of righteousness into
everything that the Bible says (Jeremiah 17:9). For that reason, the
knowledge that we are all sinners in need of God's mercy, and that
righteousness comes to us only through faith in Christ, is of key
importance in understanding God's Word (Romans 3:10-28).
DECEITFULNESS OF THE HUMAN HEART
Since people generally want to think of themselves as good, and most
think in terms of reward and punishment, it is easy for us to assume
that God is pleased with us, or that we can do something to please Him.
However, that is a delusion, for God's verdict is, "There is none
righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10).
When the word "repent" appears in Scripture, those who think that they
are righteous assume that it is others who need to repent. However,
unless they admit their sin and look to Christ for mercy, they will go
into eternity without forgiveness, and thus spend eternity in hell
(Luke 13:3-5). Since "there is none righteous," their own righteousness
will not save them (Romans 3:10-23). On the contrary, we are not saved
by our own goodness, but by the forgiveness that Christ died to obtain
for us (Romans 10:1-4). Therefore, the key factor in repentance is not
works, but the change of heart that leads us to admit our sin and look
to Christ for forgiveness (Ephesians 2:8-9). Any change in behavior
that accompanies that change of heart, is a by-product of repentance
not repentance itself.
Those who are sorry for their sin, as was Judas,
have only taken one step toward repentance, for it is only as we look
to Christ for forgiveness that repentance is complete. For that reason,
true repentance includes conversion, for conversion is the change from
unbelief to faith in Christ.
It is only as we understand that righteousness is a gift, and that it
comes to us only through faith in Christ that we can see the new birth
as a change from being spiritually dead because of sin, to new life in
Christ (Ephesians 2:1, Romans 5:18-19). In other words, because it was
sin that placed us under the sentence of death, it is the removal of
sin (through the blood of Christ) that frees us from the sentence of
death, giving us life (1 John 1:7). That gift of life is the new birth!
Furthermore, since it was sin that separated us from God and placed us
under Satan's dominion, the removal of sin reconciles us to God making
us citizens of heaven (Matthew 6:33).
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
Once we realize that we become citizens of God's heavenly kingdom
through faith in Christ, we can understand that only those who are
forgiven are truly God's people, all others belong to Satan (Acts
26:18). In fact, Paul was saying that very thing when he said, "He is
not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which
is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and
circumcision is that of the heart" (Romans 2:28-29). In other words,
the true kingdom of God (the true Israel) consists of the spiritual
descendants of Abraham, not the physical descendants (Galatians 3:6,7).
Since faith comes by hearing, the gospel message
through which we are brought to faith is more that just words, on the
contrary, "it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth" (Romans 1:16 and 10:17).
FAITH IN GOD'S PROMISE
On the day of Pentecost, when Peter called upon those who had been
convicted of their sins to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ for
the remission of the sins," he was pointing them to Christ as the
source of forgiveness (Acts 2:38). He was telling them that, having
recognized their sin, they needed to look to Christ for forgiveness. In
fact, to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins," is to be baptized believing that there is forgiveness in Christ.
In short, he was using baptism to give his listeners God's promise of
forgiveness in Christ. And the Bible makes it perfectly clear that it
is only through faith in Christ that we receive what is promised
Likewise, when Christ instituted His Supper he was
calling on those who were present to look to Him for forgiveness. His
words, "this is my body which is given for you… this cup is the new
testament in my blood which is shed for you for the remission of sins,"
tell us that we have forgiveness through His death in our stead
(Ephesians 1:7s). Moreover, faith in Christ consists of believing
exactly what those words say. Therefore, all who go to the Lord's
Supper believing those words truly receive the remission of sin, not
because the ceremony has the power to give forgiveness, but because
forgiveness comes to all who trust in Christ (Acts 5:31). In short, the
ceremony gives us God's promise of forgiveness in Christ, faith in
Christ receives what is promised (Galatians 3:22, Romans 5:2).
Furthermore, since righteousness is a gift, those who are worthy to
partake are not those who have made themselves worthy, but those who
acknowledge their own unworthiness while looking to Christ for
forgiveness (Romans 5:17).
WALKING IN THE LIGHT
Because we are cleansed of sin, made righteous, and
saved through faith in Christ: 1- The narrow way spoken of in Matthew
7:13-14, is the way of faith, not the way of works. On the contrary,
the way of works is the broad way that leads to destruction (Galatians
2- When the Bible says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the law, happy is he," faith in Christ is the
vision that brings life. Likewise, those who keep God's law are those
who receive God's gift of righteousness, not those who have never
sinned (Romans 3:10-28 and 4:1-8).
3- When the Bible says "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin"
it is not works that make us sinless, but faith in Christ (1 John 3:9
and 1:7). In other words, we are not sinless because our behavior is
perfect, but because no sin is imputed to those who trust in Christ
4- The "first works" spoken of in Revelation 2:5, are not the
righteousness of the law, but the righteousness that is ours through
faith in Christ. In fact, since trying to earn God's favor brings His
wrath, that passage is calling upon those converts to stop trying to
make themselves righteous and trust in Christ's righteousness
(Galatians 5:4, Romans 10:1-4).
5- When the Bible speaks of being faithful unto death, it is talking
about being full of faith not full of works (workful) (Revelation 2:10).
In the third chapter of his Epistle to the Romans,
Paul explains why the law cannot make us righteous, and why the
righteousness of God comes to us as a free gift, through faith in
Christ (Romans 3:10-28). Nevertheless, most people continue blindly on
in the path that leads to destruction, and the ignorance that sends
them to hell is the same ignorance that keeps them from understanding