Righteousness, victory over sin, and every other aspect of grace are all received through faith alone in the cross alone. We receive grace through what we believe, and only through what we believe, not through what we do.
A common response I get to such a message is the question in the title of this article. Those who ask that question usually aren’t understanding a couple very important points about what I’m trying to say. To be fair to them, I’ve done a bad job in the past of articulating or emphasizing these points.
Let me be very clear, I am not denying the fact that the Bible is FULL of commands, which contain things that even New Covenant believers ought to be DOING. What I AM saying, is that if we do these things FOR THE WRONG PURPOSE or attempt to do them THE WRONG WAY (through our own power), we are not operating according to the terms of the New Covenant, meaning we’re mixing law and works with grace.
Let me give you two examples of what I’m talking about. The first pertains to righteousness, which is our position of being justified, not guilty, and perfectly obedient to the law in the eyes of God.
As a quick side note, this doesn’t mean God winks at or ignores our sin, but it does mean our sins are not imputed to us and therefore cannot condemn us eternally or separate us from God eternally. Much more to that conversation, but I’ll leave it at that.
The point I want to make, though, is this: the ONLY requirement to receive the free gift of righteousness is to place our faith in Christ and what He did at the cross (Romans 4). The Galatians believed a message that said they also had to be circumcised (and possibly keep other aspects of the law) if they wanted to be righteous in the eyes of God (Gal 5:1-7, 6:13). Paul told them that believing such a message would be removing themselves from Him that called them into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which he referred to in another place as falling from grace, making Christ of none effect unto those one who believed such a message (Gal 1:6, 5:1-4).
Circumcision was the specific issue for the Galatians, but it could have been ANY work added to the cross. It could even be something that we’re commanded to do under the New Covenant, like water baptism or communion. If someone comes along and says, “You can’t be righteous in the eyes of God just by placing your faith in Christ and the Cross. You also have to be water baptized,” they’re preaching a false gospel just as perverted as the message the Judaizers gave the Galatians.
The Spirit of God, through Paul, didn’t forbid us from adding the works of the Old Testament Law to the cross but give us permission to add other kinds of works to the cross. Instead, He forbade us from adding any works that might give man cause to for boasting/glorying (same Greek word). Pay attention to what is being said in the following verses:
“But God forbid that I should glory (boast), save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Galatians 6:14 (parentheses added)
“If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory (boast), but not before God.” Romans 4:2 (parentheses added)
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not works, lest any man should boast (glory).” Ephesians 2:8-9 (parentheses added)
“Where is boasting (glorying) then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” Romans 3:27 (parentheses added)
I could go on showing verses that forbid man from boasting/glorying in anything man has done to save himself. The Scripture is clear: God forbids us from glorying/boasting in anything other than the cross.
Does he forbid glorying in works because we’re saved by faith in the cross + works, but God just doesn’t want us bragging about having contributed to our Salvation, even though we did contribute to it? Of course not. The reason God forbids us from glorying/boasting in any works of our own is because we’re not saved by any works of our own. We’re saved by grace alone through faith alone in the cross alone, lest any man should boast in having been saved any other way.
Take something even more obvious. What if I told you, “Faith in Christ isn’t enough to save you. Instead, you also have to read your Bible for 30 minutes every day.” You’d denounce me as a heretic wouldn’t you? I hope you would because that’s NOT the Gospel. Well say you denounced me, and I responded by saying, “Well, if we don’t have to read our Bible, why does 2 Timothy 2:15 command us to study our Bibles? See, faith isn’t enough. You also have to study the Bible.”? I hope you’d explain to me that you’re not saying we don’t need to study our Bible at all, but that we don’t need to study our Bible FOR THE PURPOSE OF BEING MADE RIGHTEOUS in the eyes of God.
You see, it’s all about THE PURPOSE for which we do things. If I read my Bible to be righteous, I’m adding to faith in Christ and the Cross, which is the only requirement for me to receive righteousness. If I read my Bible, and command others to read the Bible, for the purpose of learning the Gospel and maintaining/strengthening their faith in the Gospel, I’m not adding to the cross.
Most born-again believers wouldn’t disagree with anything I’ve said so far. Where people start arguing with me is when we start talking about victory over sin. Many people think victory over sin is attained or achieved by faith in the cross + maintaining a consistent routine of Bible reading (or some other work added to the cross).
Again, it’s all about THE PURPOSE. If the cross already finished something, and I do something for the purpose of finishing what the cross already finished, I’m adding to the cross.
At the cross, Jesus finished all that needed to be finished for me to receive righteousness through faith alone. So if I say Bible reading is also required to be made righteous, I’m adding to the cross.
Same goes for victory over sin. At the cross, Jesus finished all that needed to be finished for me to be made free from sin through faith alone. So if I say Bible reading is also required to be made free from sin, I’m adding to the cross.
So the question is, did Jesus, at the cross, do all the work that’s necessary for us to have victory over sin through faith alone? If so, a consistent routine of Bible reading need not be added to what Christ has done. That’s the statement that makes people angry, but please allow me to explain.
What many haven’t considered is the implications of the following passage:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin . . . . For in that He (Jesus) died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:6-7, 10-11 (emphasis and parentheses added)
This passage tells us how freedom is from sin given, when freedom from sin was given, who gave it to us, and how we ought to respond in light in light of these facts. In short, we were set free from sin through our crucifixion with Christ, at the moment we were crucified with Christ, all of this being done through Christ. In light of these facts, we ought to reckon our death to sin through our crucifixion with Christ as having made us truly free from sin.
Let’s break it down.
The Bible says, “he that is dead is freed from sin.”
That means death = freedom.
The Bible also says, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:2). That means you could re-phrase this and say, “How shall we, that are free from sin, live any longer therein?”.
Let’s dig even deeper though. We’re not just free from sin. We’re to reckon ourselves to be free indeed. That’s why the Bible says, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin….”. Let’s re-phrase this one too. It could also say, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be free indeed from sin.”
He that is dead is free.
We’re dead indeed.
That means we’re free indeed.
As such, we know Jesus has already done for us what He said He would do in the following verse:
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
So, the work of making us free is already DONE. Who did it? The Son. How did He do it? Through His death on the cross. When did we receive it? When we were united with Him in His death. Or, you could say He did it by dying, representatively, as the old man. Or you could just say, as I often do and as Paul did, He did it through “the cross.”
Let me re-state that. The work of making us free indeed from sin was finished at THE CROSS, referring Christ’s representative death, in which He died to sin once, which God counts as me, you, and all born-again believers as having died unto sin once.
Here’s how it went:
Christ died on the cross.
I placed my faith in Christ and what He did on the cross.
The Holy Spirit united me with (or immersed me into) Christ and what He did on the cross (1 Cor 12:13, Rom 6:3).
At the moment of being immersed into (or united with) Christ in His death, I became dead to sin, and he that is dead is free from sin (Rom 6:2, 6-7,11).
So, the moment I was united with Christ in His death, I became free from sin. My only part in this was faith in Christ and what He did at the cross (Rom 6:6-7, Eph 2:8-9). The rest was a work of the Holy Spirit, as He is the One who immersed me into Christ and into His death (1 Cor 12:13, Rom 6:3). In short, my freedom from sin was FINISHED at the cross, as that is where I died to sin (Rom 6:6-7, 11).
This means that JUST as we were made righteous the moment we were immersed into Christ, we were also made FREE INDEED from sin the moment we were immersed into Christ.
In come the modern-day Judaizers: “You can’t be free from sin just by trusting in the cross. You also have to read your Bible 30 minutes a day. If we don’t have to do anything, why does the Bible give us so many things to do?”
Well, just as I don’t study my Bible for the purpose of being made righteous, I also don’t study my Bible FOR THE PURPOSE OF of being made free from sin. Why? Because it’s already done and it was done through CHRIST.
“Well, look at all these Bible verses that point to the Word of God as giving us freedom from sin,” they say.
Maybe I’ll do it in another post, but I’m not going to examine each one of those verses here. Instead, I will just say the following. The role of God’s Word, the Bible, in giving me freedom from sin is telling me who Jesus is and what’s He’s done for me so that I might put my faith in who He is and what He’s done for me, and thereby receive the bondage-breaking grace of God. I take heed according to God’s Word, receive it, and abide in it by putting my faith in who and what it tells me to put my faith in and keeping it there. The act of reading the Bible has never given anyone freedom. Freedom comes only when you believe and place your faith in what the Bible tells you to believe and place your faith in, that being Christ and Him crucified. Grace only comes through FAITH.
So, back to Romans 6:11, I’m not going to read my Bible for the purpose of being made free from sin because I’m already free from sin. I’m supposed to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin through Christ, not try to make myself dead to sin through Bible reading.
“Well, we’re just saying you won’t have faith in Christ unless you read the Bible every day,” they say.
Ok, now we’re at least getting closer to the Truth. I agree; it is literally impossible to have faith in Christ and what He did at the cross, or maintain your faith in Christ and what He did at the cross, without reading the Bible. I also agree that reading the Bible routinely is a good, beneficial thing to do. That being said, where does the Bible say anything about how long or how often one must read the Bible to keep their faith in Christ and Him crucified? What if I get thrown in a prison overseas and don’t have access to a Bible? I’m going to lose what Christ has done for me just because I can’t read the Bible?
There are some verses that certainly point to daily Bible reading, but do they say your faith will be destroyed, and you won’t be receiving grace (which is what defeats sin) through faith in Christ anymore, if you miss a day or two? I’ve never read that.
In any case, the real issue isn’t how long we can go without reading the Bible before our faith gets moved away from Christ. The real issue is what many of these people DON’T tell you when they recommend daily Bible reading as a means of overcoming sin.
Go ask 100 preachers how to live in freedom from sin. I bet only 1, if that, will tell you what Jesus did for you at the cross and then tell you to reckon your union with Him in His death as sufficient to give you freedom. The rest will give you a list of things to do (showing they don’t know, or don’t believe, that our union with Christ in His death is sufficient), and when they get to the part about Bible reading, many won’t tell you to read your Bible for the purpose of maintaining your faith in Christ and what He did at the cross to make you free. Instead, they will list Bible reading as a necessary and important task without telling you anything about Jesus or His Work on the cross.
The result of such a Christ-less, cross-less message is that many, instead of reckoning themselves dead indeed unto sin through CHRIST, are trying to make themselves dead indeed unto sin by maintaining a routine or accomplishing a list of tasks. When this happens, their faith has been moved from Christ and what He has done to themselves and all the things they are doing. When we disobey Romans 6:11 in this fashion, and accept the message of the modern-day Judaizers, Christ is become of no effect unto us in our struggle with sin, simply because Christ is not the one we’re looking to for freedom (Gal 5:1-4). We wind up trusting in the act of Bible reading instead of trusting in Who the Bible tells us to trust in.
Read the Bible for the purpose of gaining, maintaining, strengthening, and adding to your faith in Christ and what He did at the cross.
Do not read the Bible for the purpose of attaining righteous.
Do not read the Bible for the purpose of being made free from sin.
Do reckon yourself as righteous and free indeed from sin through CHRIST and what He did at the cross to make you free, not through some routine, list of steps, or anything that you do.
Also, I picked on Bible reading in this particular post, but it could be ANYTHING. If ain’t Christ and what He did at the cross, it ain’t what makes you free from sin. Freedom from sin already happened when you were crucified with Christ, and there’s nothing you can do to add to it or make yourself any more free from sin. What Jesus did on the cross for you is sufficient. If you’re not experiencing it, it’s not because it isn’t done; it’s because you’re cutting yourself off from it by trusting in something else.