For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. - 2Cointhians 5: 21 (ESV)
Theologians throughout the centuries have built entire denominations on the concept of imputed righteousness. This teaching says that the work of the cross transfers the righteousness of Jesus Christ upon those who receive Him. That we in effect become the righteousness of Christ here on earth. The result of which is called justification, which means we become "just as if" we had never sinned. I want us to hold these thoughts in our minds as we first examine another teaching that has reemerged lately and that is known as the antinomian heresy. This heresy is believes the moral laws of God do not have to be observed by Christians. I once read a good summary that says it takes a correct biblical teaching to an incorrect unbiblical conclusion. The correct teaching is that obeying the law is not required for salvation. The incorrect conclusion however is that there are no moral laws for Christians to observe. This is a frequent pattern in false teachings circles. Rarely is there a false teaching that does not base itself on something that is squarely found in Scripture. The application however, is where we get into trouble. The new version of antinomianism is known as hyper-grace or greasy-grace teaching. It is the grace of God placed on unbiblical steroids. I like to think of it as greasy grace because it tastes so good going down that we know in our heart it can't be good for us. Who would not want to base their belief system on thinking that they cannot do wrong? That God cannot be mad at them. That sin doesn't matter anymore. That you don't have to change your behavior; just your mind. Who would not want to strut around town as the imputed righteousness of Christ! The problem of course is these are all unbiblical conclusions drawn from a biblical truth. Here is a recent sermon quote that sums up all that is wrong with this heresy:
Repentance is not a change of behavior...a change of behavior is the fruit of repentance. Real repentance is not changed behavior, real repentance is a change of mind about what you believe! Transformation starts with believing! You are the righteousness of God! "- Creflo Dollar
Now, the undisputed king of hyper-grace is Joseph Prince but Creflo Dollar has clearly been hit upside the head with the grace stick lately. This one little quote however highlights so much wrong with antinomianism. First of all, Creflo plays one side of the card here. Yes it is true that repentance starts with changing what we believe but not regarding whether we are or are not the righteousness of God. That is absurd. It is a change in how we view God, sin, and the work of Jesus Christ. People talk all the time about "putting their faith in Jesus" but what does that really mean? What it means is this. We are helpless sinners in a fallen world, living in complete rebellion to God. The things of God are utter foolishness to us. The notion that God would sacrifice His only Son is foreign to us because we think we are OK. Not perfect but certainly not hell-bound; if such a place actually existed.
To repent means to change all of that thinking. To literally turn it all around. To now understand that we are sinners. To understand and believe that our sin offends and ultimately separates us from a holy God. To believe that Jesus Christ was His only begotten Son, sacrificed for our sins to reconcile us back to Him. The fruit of repentance therefore is to change what we used to do that was so offensive to God. It most certainly does involve a change in behavior. If we were living in a sinful relationship outside of marriage for example, we know see how that sin offends God and we change our behavior accordingly. What preachers like Prince and Dollar do is a clever sleight of hand spiritually. They want to use the chicken and the egg argument to dismiss the need for one of them altogether. Which came first - repentance or a change in behavior? Well technically, the change in how we view what needs to be changed must come first but that does not eliminate the need to change! If you claim to believe in Christ and refuse to change the behavior of adultery in your life, then the argument can be made that you never truly repented. To pretend that changing our sinful behavior is irrelevant to repentance is simply wrong and unbiblical. Just like it is equally wrong and unbiblical to think you can change your behavior and thus earn salvation. That would be akin to trying to keep the law. As with everything there is a balance. We could not keep the law so Christ came to take our place on the cross. Once we truly understand and accept that we will turn from the things of this world and sin and towards the things of God and righteousness. The real sleight of hand from Dollar is not merely to say that we do not have to worry about changing our behavior, but in that repentance actually starts with believing you are the righteousness of God. This thinking comes from our key verse, which is used by all who support the imputed righteousness of Christ. As a standalone verse it would certainly appear to support such teaching but the first rule of interpreting the Bible is always - context. We also must remember that the Bible was not written with these chapter delineations and verse numbers. The Book of Second Corinthians was an actual letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth. In this particular case it is important to see the broader context to see what Paul was actually talking about so forgive me here but this is the entire chapter of the key verse:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened--not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconcilingthe world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. - 2Corinthians 5: 1-21 (ESV)
In many of my writings preaching against greasy grace, one of my primary arguments is that it confuses things that are eternal and applies them temporally. For example, if we are covered by the blood of Jesus that means when we stand for judgment God will not hold our sins against us. Greasy grace flips this on its head and applies it temporally to say that God is never displeased with us now. Beloved, think of it this way. We have our eternal position - which is found in Jesus Christ. This means when we stand before God we will be found justified. Just as if I had never sinned. It is why we have eternal life now. We also however have our temporal condition. This condition is that of a sinner. We are still housed in sinful flesh and living in a fallen world. Our new creation is in how we view sin. We should see it now for what it is. Forbidden by God and what keeps us separated from Him. Think for a second how silly the argument is that as humans on this earth we are the righteousness of Christ! That righteousness never sinned! The Bible says if we claim to not sin we make a liar out of God! I guarantee you this - whoever is saved today will sin tomorrow and the day after until Jesus takes them home. How in the world is that the righteousness of Christ? It is not until that day when we are bare before our Creator and we must answer for our lives. THEN, we will have the righteousness of Christ because He took all of those sins of ours and nailed them to His cross! Hallelujah!
Take a serious look at the chapter in which the key verse is found. The first half of the chapter is clearly speaking of the differences between our temporal situation versus the eternal condition that awaits us. They are not the same. They are radically different. We make it our aim to please Him. How do we do that? By changing our behavior. By seeing sin for what it is and refusing to compromise with it. Not by puffing our chest out and declaring we are the righteousness of Christ. For we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give account for what we did, good and evil, in this mortal frame. Look at what is next! Knowing the fear of the Lord we try to persuade others! For we realize that we are known to God and they are not! Not to commend ourselves to but to lift up the one who so loved the world! For God is reconciling His children unto Him and we know it because we have been reconciled! We are new creations in Christ. So we come to the conclusion of the chapter and the key verse which tries valiantly to sum up these deep concepts:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Him to a fallen world because God wants to reconcile with His children. Now let's deal with some facts. Why is reconciliation necessary? Why is it that we are separated from the God who created us? What caused this separation? We have to go back to Genesis and the fall of man. Sin entered into the world through one man - Adam. The result is that all men are born depraved and with sin in our heart. God however is holy and cannot be with sin. So God sent His only Son to take our human form and live a sinless life - something we could not do. We then essentially switched places with Him. He became our sin and we became His righteousness. Not temporally beloved but eternally. This entire section of Scripture has been dealing with the differences between the eternal and the temporal and the conclusion is no different. Let us close today with a look at how Paul viewed himself in light of this discussion:
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. - 1Timothy 1: 12-17 (ESV)
So there is no need to worry about changing behavior? Really? Paul remembers here who he was and what behaviors he had to change because he repented. He could no longer blaspheme. He could no longer persecute Christians. He could no longer be an insolent opponent of God! What is interesting here is the usage of the phrase "acted ignorantly in unbelief." That is such an accurate picture of life before salvation. Life before repentance. We act in ignorance to God because we do not believe. The converse however must be true if we are to define repentance correctly. We must now ACT in the understanding we have based upon our beliefs. Do we get that today? Sure it is based upon our new beliefs. We now believe in Christ and Calvary. We believe now that sin separates us from God and that it offends Him. As such, this understanding must change our behavior. We must now act accordingly.
There is a saying that is trustworthy and which all should accept. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Not to have people invite Him into their hearts. Not to prosper us materially beyond our wildest dreams of avarice. He did not come to give us our best life now. He did not come to motivate us to a better life or find some underlying purpose. He came to save sinners. Period. Guess what sinners do beloved. They sin. When Paul says save is he talking about a temporal issue or an eternal problem? Salvation is always dealing with an eternal problem. What is so awesome is Paul did not stop there. He admitted "of whom I am the foremost." What tense is that in? That is not the past tense at all. It is the present tense. Paul is not strutting around saying he is the righteousness of Christ! He is saying Christ came to save sinners and of those sinners - I am the foremost!
Beloved; these are not simple matters. I just believe that any teaching that makes us lax regarding sin and prideful about ourselves is probably not a correct teaching. I cannot speak for whether that was Creflo Dollar's intent but I have heard him teach antinomianism to the point where he has said the Ten Commandments should not be hung in the home of any believer. That is simply dangerously poor teaching. There are still temporal prices to pay for sin. Our salvation is still to be worked out with fear and trembling not boasting and thinking repentance has nothing to do with behavior. Beware any teaching that takes the grace of our Lord and slicks it up like this. I know it tastes good going down - sin always does.
Reverend Anthony Wade - December 28, 2014