The Practical Transferal of God’s Righteousness
By John Thiel, mp3
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
God’s constraining power. It is my desire to launch out this year with a message of practical godliness.
Remember that great care is to be exercised in regard to the presentation of truth. Carry the minds along guardedly. Dwell upon practical godliness, weaving the same into doctrinal discourses. The teachings and love of Christ will soften and subdue the soil of the heart for the good seed of truth.—Letter 14, 1887. Ev 142.3
What was that; carry the minds along? Why are the ministers to dwell on practical godliness? It is not just the doctrinal side of things.
Some who labor in word and doctrine have not a practical understanding of the law of God and its holy claims, or of the atonement of Christ. They themselves need to be converted before they can convert sinners. 2T 512.1
It is harder to reach the hearts of men today than it was twenty years ago. The most convincing arguments may be presented, and yet sinners seem as far from salvation as ever. Ministers should not preach sermon after sermon on doctrinal subjects alone. Practical Godliness should find a place in every discourse. Ev 178.4
Practical godliness, not merely doctrinal subjects.
After the theory of truth has been presented, then comes the laborious part of the work. The people should not be left without instruction in the practical truths which relate to their everyday life. They must see and feel that they are sinners and need to be converted to God. What Christ said, what He did, and what He taught should be brought before them in the most impressive manner. 4T 395.1
Christ and Him crucified as the foundation of the gospel, making a practical application of the truths set forth, and impressing upon the people the fact that the doctrine of Christ is not Yea and Nay, but Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus. 4T 394.3
The gospel of Christ is to be made practical in its application. I have read these quotes for many years and I have responded to the Lord that I must do this. It has been the principle of my ministry and for this hour, and for the future, this counsel of God is to intensify. The doctrinal aspect of our salvation is often presented in the ranks of the churches and some of the doctrines are concentrating on a few Bible texts and as a consequence some of the doctrines are not pure doctrines anymore. They are man’s supposition as to what is written. I will read some scriptures by the Apostle Paul where these quotes are taught as doctrines.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 2:9 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Titus 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
This has been talking about the gift of God, our salvation without any works of our own.
Philippians 3: 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
No doubt we are familiar with the words that come to us through the different denominations of today; it’s nothing to do with works, just rely on the mercy of God. If people promote the keeping of the commandments, you are told you are trying to earn your salvation by works. It has nothing to do with works – these are the scriptures that tend to suggest this.
I want that to bring the point home, that it has nothing to do with our own works of righteousness.
It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God’s law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. SC 62.2
Is that true? It’s exactly what inspiration tells us. As we continue to examine this, the word of God expands of the impartation of God’s saving work of this very subject. Let us see how the word of God is wanting to expand on this subject. It is not our works. We have no capability of doing the works.
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Very clearly the bible is expanding for our understanding that there is nothing in us by which we could, by any of our works, achieve salvation. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but after the kindness and love of God our Saviour, there is something that needs to be understood.
Ephesians 2: 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
No righteousness of our own, it is by Christ. This is the important focus that we may come to understand. Our works can’t save us. Only the goodness and mercy of God can save us.
But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned. SC 62.2
This is righteousness by faith. Without your works, not of any works of our own, Jesus has come to save us from this impasse in our life that we cannot do any good works. He has come to save us from that. This is the doctrine that I have just cited. How can we ascertain the practical activity of these words? How can this be conveyed to us practically? We need to understand the practical realities of these words. What is the practical impact contained in these words?
Job 26:1 But Job answered and said, 2 How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?
We have no strength. We cannot keep the commandments of God. How has thou helped him? Feeble knees, incapable of doing what God is telling us to do? How has thou helped him? What help comes to us in this incapacity of man by his works to get anywhere? Not by works that we have done.
The answer to Jobs question has been given by a powerful lead from Moses. Moses’ expression in Numbers is a leading forceful understanding in answer to this question.
Numbers 16:28 And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind.
Not of any works that we have done. What did Moses just say? I’ve done all these works, but they were not done of my own mind. It will be demonstrated to you; Korah, Dathan and Abiram. How was it demonstrated? The earth swallowed them up. They challenged Moses. He was a man like them. He had to tell them, you will now know that the works I have been doing, were not my works. They were the works not done from my own mind.
All our works that we generate from our own mind, even in the reading of the scriptures which the pharisees did, all our works that are generated from our own mind, amount to nothing if derived from our own mind and strength. The grace of God is required – his strength. The arm of flesh can do nothing. Nothing except to believe. It must come from the mighty arm of God.
To do the works that Moses did, was not from his own mind.
1 Chronicles 29:11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
It is to have the strength and the power to keep the works of God acceptably before him. That must come from him. There is the answer to Job, the question he posed. For those who do not have any strength, how can you save them? How can you help them? We cannot keep the commandments of God but Jesus came. What is now important to exercise our mind in?
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
What is the gospel? The power of God. He gives the power. He’s got the strength. The gospel is the power of God.
Romans 16;25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
The power of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, is the power of God unto salvation. How are we going to do any of the works? The power is not in us, it is the power of God. It is the power of the gospel. This is all doctrinal truth. What is the power that is operative in the work of righteousness for you and me? What is the power? Our scripture reading has the answer.
2 Corinthians 5: 14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
We have no strength, we are dead. If you follow those words, we have been examining it is no works of our own. We cannot. We will fail miserably. It can’t come from us. Like Moses said, it wasn’t from his own mind. The ability to do righteousness and keep the commandments is impossible for us who are weak. We are too weak.
Job posed the question, how we can be strengthened? It comes from the might of God? Where is the might contained? In the gospel. It is to do with the love of Christ that constraineth us. What does the word constrain mean? There is something in the love of God in Jesus Christ that is going to give power. It is of such a power that the word constraint is trying to describe to us. The love of Christ constraineth us.
The apostle Paul said, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” It was this that impelled him to his arduous labors and burden-bearing in the cause of Christ. Thus he was constrained to carry the light of truth to those that were in darkness. And there is just as much necessity for us to bear burdens, and to feel that we are constrained. The same love that impelled Paul should impel us. GCDB March 20, 1891, par. 21
When something impels you, is that you? It is the power of God. It is the love of Christ. Is love a power? God is love. What is that? God is power. No power of our own will suffice. That’s what it’s about. It is a practical understanding that the bible is putting across to us. The Spirit of Prophecy embellishes this understanding. It has to be the practical power that comes from God that we must be able to attach to.
Some who labor in word and doctrine have not a practical understanding of the law of God and its holy claims, or of the atonement of Christ. 2T 512.1
Do we comprehend the law of God in practise? We need to know in practise the atonement of Jesus. It is in the atonement of Christ; when we have that clear in our mind, then we have power. We understand the doctrine of the atonement of Christ as a company very well. The atonement of Christ means what? That He God so loved the human race, that he came down in His Son to feel with us our condemnation and suffer the consequences of our sins. By contemplating the practicality, something happens to us as we now become at one through this amazing atonement activity.
God has implanted upon us the story of the atonement in practical terms and we become at one with God as Jesus is one with us. That atonement with God is experimental knowledge. When we comprehend and study the amazing atonement in it’s practical impact; we read it in Psalm 22, 69 and 40, the practical reality of God suffering with us in our sin, the practical reality of Him dying and rising again, this love constraineth us. It gives us power as we see the power of God’s love and anything we do is generated and impelled by that love. We must have a practical understanding of the law.
But it was not merely to accomplish the redemption of man that Christ came to the earth to suffer and to die. He came to “magnify the law” and to “make it honorable.” Not alone that the inhabitants of this world might regard the law as it should be regarded; but it was to demonstrate to all the worlds of the universe that God’s law is unchangeable. Could its claims have been set aside, then the Son of God need not have yielded up His life to atone for its transgression. The death of Christ proves it immutable. GC 503.1
There is the practical understanding. It must be kept.
And the sacrifice to which infinite love impelled the Father and the Son, that sinners might be redeemed, demonstrates to all the universe—what nothing less than this plan of atonement could have sufficed to do—that justice and mercy are the foundation of the law and government of God. GC 503.1
Justice and mercy laid out in practical terms. We must study it and it must become part of us. Not from our own mind, but from the mind of God. The power to do, because we are constrained by the love of Christ, they which live, what are they going to do because they are constrained? Should not henceforth live unto themselves but for Him who died and rose again. We are not to live according to my own thinking but to the power of God. The love to receive by beholding Him. All the works of righteousness that the redeemed will perform to be able to have a place in the new Jerusalem, to have a place and partake of the tree of life, blessed are they that do the commandments. The works the redeemed will perform, was not from their own power but the strength of God. The impelling power of His love that produced such works in them.
Sister White is writing a letter to her husband:
We are, dear husband, building for eternity. God is rich in strength and power, and we may have His shining countenance beaming upon us and we reflecting the light to others…. God will not excuse us in sin who have had so great light. We have not one atom of righteousness of our own to stand upon. All we have ever done is because Jesus has given us His strength and His power, not because there was any inherent goodness or wisdom or righteousness in us. We are sinful and weak and imperfect, and we must feel this strongly enough to reach up for a stronger help and holier power than we possess. Ul 127.5
What must we do? We have no strength. We are not capable of the righteousness of God. We are imperfect and we must feel this strongly enough to do what? Why must I feel this strongly enough?
Jesus’ life is a perfect model. We must not build upon the sand. If we do, there will be a terrible down-tumbling by and by of our house. Ye are God’s building. Let us show this in a harmonious character.—Letter 25, April 23, 1880, to James White. UL 127.5
Sister White plainly summarises everything we have been studying; righteousness not of our own works. We can’t do it, but because we are weak and sinful, righteousness must be gained; how? Reaching out to a stronger help, a holier power than we possess. It must come from the power of God and we must receive the power. The power is God’s love, the power that generates and impels us.
Our Effort in God’s Strength
The work of gaining salvation is one of copartnership, a joint operation. There is to be co-operation between God and the repentant sinner. This is necessary for the formation of right principles in the character. Man is to make earnest efforts to overcome that which hinders him from attaining to perfection. But he is wholly dependent upon God for success. Human effort of itself is not sufficient. Without the aid of divine power it avails nothing. God works and man works. Resistance of temptation must come from man, who must draw his power from God. AA 482.2
The hand is to reach to a power that we don’t have. What is the power? We need to contemplate the powerful love of God. That is what is going to impel me. That is where the strength is going to come to do the works of righteousness to overcome temptation. God works and man works.
On the one side there is infinite wisdom, compassion, and power; on the other, weakness, sinfulness, absolute helplessness. AA 482.2
Are we understanding the practicality of righteousness by faith? Doctrine is not sufficient. We need to know the practise of this. We need to know the power of God that I must exercise in my efforts. I must make an effort and I must exercise the power of God which is the power of love which generates in me so I can do exactly what Apostle Paul wrote; that we henceforth not live unto ourselves but unto him which died for us and rose again.
This is the practical transferal of God’s righteousness to me and obedience to His commandments so that we will have the right for salvation and eternal life in the earth made new. As we comprehend this, the word of God becomes more and more alive.
May God grant us to let the constraining power of love to give me the power to reach perfection to all God’s righteousness.