Righteousness by Faith

Righteousness by Faith: Concluded

The Master's pronouncements are all master statements, infinitely profound, yet marvelously simple. His meaning is clear: I am your spiritual life. Attached to Me, your life is clean and your witness faithful. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.

I AM the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). Severed from the vine, the branch is worthless, powerless, and will wither and die. What better illustration have we of the total dependency of the soul upon Christ for life. This text is un­cluttered with high theological terminol­ogy that might confuse rather than clarify. It states the case clearly without the usual Biblical labels such as imputed, imparted, justification, and sanctification, though this simple comparison embraces them all. The Master's pronouncements are all master statements, infinitely profound, yet marvelously simple. His meaning is clear: I am your spiritual life. Attached to Me, your life is clean and your witness faithful. Apart from Me, you can do nothing. The implica­tions of this sweeping statement are many. We can only deal with three of them.

1. Attachment to the Vine

Our first concern is the relationship be­tween the vine and the branch. All else hinges here. The life of the vine is the life of the branch. The branch has no life of it­self. Its growth and service is determined by the strength of its attachment to the vine. Where the branch meets the vine, the strength or weakness of the branch is determined. The more perfect that attach­ment, the stronger the branch and the more perfect the fruit. The first work of the Christian is to guard that point of attach­ment with the Vine, his Lord. He must maintain a clear inner channel so that the flow of grace will not be hindered—in the language of Scripture, that the branch may partake "of the root and fatness of the olive tree" (Rom. 11:17). This relationship is guarded through repentant faith, prayer, and the daily study of the Word of God.

2. Spiritual Dividends

Attachment to the vine does for the branch what nothing else can. It must be remembered that the sinner is described as a "wild olive tree" (Rom. 11:17). It is this "alien" who becomes a son through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. He needs his past atoned for, and new status in the household of faith; not to mention free­dom from guilt for past transgression, or how else can he have peace of mind? All of this the Vine provides His dependent branches according to Romans 5:9: "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." Christ became man's sub­stitute at Calvary, and is his surety now. Christ is man's righteousness before God the Father. Man's sinful nature precludes any possibility of self-representation. Man has status with God through Christ alone! Man's very approach to God in prayer must therefore be through Christ.

No less is man in need of spiritual strength to meet temptation, present and future. This too, the Vine provides. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dis­mayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteous­ness" (Isa. 41:10). This text takes into ac­count the weakness of man, "Be not dis­mayed." How often we disappoint our­selves and our Lord in the exercise of faith. There is imperfection in all of human ex­perience and not all of it without premedi-tation. It is premeditated sin that we must overcome. Our lives must be spent in "prac­tice-yielding." This art must be perfected before the close of world probation or our own. This under God is attainable, though not in a day. Paul's "daily dying" was pro­gressive, and ours must be also. Motive and effort weigh heavily in God's evaluation of our rate of growth.

Back to Isaiah 41:10: "I am thy God." Occasional misdeeds do not destroy son-ship if they are repented of sincerely. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Fortu­nate provision! And who among the readers of this article has not grasped this life line often, in desperate hope of full and com­plete deliverance? Our wise heavenly Fa­ther knew that the clash of good and evil within man would not always end in Heav­en's favor, and that the experience of the best of His children would not be one end­less string of victories. Hence this merciful provision, and the additional assurance, "I am thy God." His compassion fails not in the face of transgression (repented of) on the part of His children. It is just this fact that makes His love unsearchable. For hun­dreds of years God Himself owned the house of Israel as His chosen. To be sure, one wonders in amazement at the long-suf­fering of God toward this backsliding na­tion. But when one in deep humility con­siders his own experience, he understands, for human nature is ever the same.

However, we must not take advantage of God's long-suffering. No man knows just when the Holy Spirit will silently steal away. There is no known number of delib­erate sins that one can safely commit and be sure that he can thereafter find grace. Of this we may be sure: "Mv spirit shall not al­ways strive with man, for that he also is flesh" (Gen. 6:3). Any transgression could become the mortal wound of the soul. Add to this the danger that man by repeated, deliberate transgression may harden his own will, and this fearful risk constitutes its own warning. This fact alone should lead us to trust more fully in the power of Christ, and in His strength fight the good fight of faith.

3. The Fruit of the Branch

One of the great mysteries of our time is the imaginary conflict between the grace of God and the law of God. This has con­tributed greatly to the moral laxity of our times. The law of God is the verbal ex­pression of the righteousness of God in terms of human behavior. "My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy com­mandments are righteousness" (Ps. 119: 172). God's commandments teach man the righteous way to live. The law of God guides the son of God in righteous paths. Power to walk in right paths must be within as the law has no power to restrain or en­courage. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. The grace of God does not nullify the office of the law, rather it complements it. Inner grace is not contrary to the re­vealed will of God. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31). It is in­deed by faith in Christ that the law is obeyed. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sin­ful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8: 3,4).

That men who claim the righteousness of Christ should shy away from His righteous law is an experimental impossibility. It is so remote from logic as to constitute a monstrous attack on God's own consistency. How can man be just before a just God and willfully reject the law called "holy, and just, and good" (Rom. 7:12)? There seems to be a fear that a command destroys liberty in the spirit. But is not the new covenant a covenant of grace, and under its terms is not the law written in the heart (Jer. 31: 33; Heb. 8:10)? It is then clear that obedi­ence to the law that springs from a con­verted heart, is itself an outward expression of inner grace. The law says, Stop. Grace halts the soul. The law requires, grace obeys. What the law condemns, grace reforms. The law is the signpost, grace the guiding light. Grace is the great power of God that disciplines the soul. The law of God challenges the soul to new standards of spiritual achievement. The law is not a cold, legal document imposed upon un­willing subjects. The soul, saved by the grace of God, is in joyful compliance with its broad provisions. The Christian who loves his Lord has no more right to resent God's law than a child has to resist the righteous commands of parents.

E. E. C.


Advertisement - Digital Discipleship (300x250)

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

April 1962

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Pointers for Preachers

Machinery or Mission, Shepherding the Flock, "The Old Ring"

Candles in the Night -- No. 6

God has always reserved for Himself men and women who would minister to every need of His children. The history of the Christian church abounds in lov­ing humanitarian service. No need has been overlooked and no area excluded. This was true when Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), a Quaker minister, became burdened for the inmates of Newgate Prison in London.

Freedom from Fear

A Bible study.

How to Work for Jehovah's Witnesses

It is just six years since I had the joy of seeing my first Jehovah's Witnesses family step out and accept the Advent mes­sage. Although this family had been connected to the Witnesses for more than eighteen years, and have relatives still in that organization, they are loyal Seventh-day Adventists today, actively working to spread the message for these days.

Ten Times to Call the Minister or an Elder

At our recent elders' coun­cil, we spent much time discussing ways in which we as ministers and local elders can be of greater help to our people.

Evangelism, 1962!

A new day is dawning for public evangelism! The idea that the day of the public meeting is past is being for­gotten and the vision of true evangelism is dawning again. Thank God for it!

The Message of the Empty Tomb

Christianity is founded upon an empty tomb." So said Thomas Payne in derision. But that scornful remark is a tremendous truth. Were there no empty tomb there would be no Christian church.

An Indispensable Element in Worship

Music has proved to be an indispensable element in religious services, as an adjunct to worship as well as evangelism. It has proved to be a great source of contro­versy, probably because it is a property that belongs to everyone, not just a few. Music has been called the "handmaiden of religion," and is used as a vehicle for the expression of man's religious spirit.

The Breaking of Bread in Acts 20:7-11

In meeting the argument that Acts 20:7-11 proves that Christians observed Sunday as a sacred day in apostolic times, a few of our ministers have denied, sometimes even in print, that Paul and the believers at Troas partook of the Communion, or Lord's Supper, on that occasion. However sincere they may have been in using this counter argument, it is a mistaken one in so far as Seventh-day Adventist teaching is concerned. Hence we deem it fitting to caution our workers that such a position is not only untenable, but it may also result in embarrassment both to him who uses it and to the cause that he represents.

"Unto the High Place"

What are the conditions in our day that will cause our wayward and confused young people to come to us for help? There must be a way to span the barrier that too often exists between the pastor and the youthful members of his flock.

Some Books I Can Recommend

Book recommendations from Lyndon K. McDowell.

Great Words of the Bible—No. 9: Atonement (c)-"Kopher" and "Lutron"

The thought of covering, which the previous article showed to be a valid meaning of the word so often translated "to make an atonement," is continued in the words related to kaphar.

We Don't Make the Rules

The modern disposition to soften the judgments of God by trying to change the rules may prove to be an extremely costly experiment in morals. And in view of the desperate struggle in which we are en­gaged, it ill behooves us to make mistakes.

Conservative or Contemporary Church Style?

There are various views on church architecture. Some­times we present viewpoints that are regarded as modern­istic, sometimes the conservative angle is presented. The author of this article gives his views as a contribution to the important subject of church architecture, so vital to many of our readers.

Are You Satisfied With Your Life?

A sermon given in the Temple City church, Glendale, California.

The New Being

To have a complete idea of Pauline doc­trine, the new creation and its implications must be understood.

The Man Who Lived Again

The resurrection, mentioned 104 times in the New Testament, became the central doctrine of the early church—a cornerstone of Christianity. May the same great power be upon Christ's ministers today as they bear wit­ness of the resurrection.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated


Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - NAD Stewardship (160x600)