If we are judged by our works, and if sinless perfection is not the standard, what is? That question is reserved for the Judge of All, but he gives us descriptions that we need to take into account. My next task after Rome’s Audacious Claim is to write a book on this subject, which is worthy of a book. It is mostly written, but in very rough draft form. Here is one of my attempts to gather together Scripture in one place. Feedback welcome.
Paul Pavao So I have already made it clear that I am not talking about perfect obedience. One huge evangelical heresy is that God requires perfection at the judgment. That is based on one verse in James that is not talking about the judgment. Look at the judgment passages in Ezek. 18:20-30 and Matt. 25:31-46. We have to be forgiven regularly, 1 Jn. 1:8-9.
The “line” is not clear, which is why we are commanded to be in fear because of the judgment (1 Pet. 1:17). It is rare that anyone cares to hear that from me, but it is a command, and it is in the Bible. I can give an idea of how to be on the right side of that line.
1 John 1:7 says that if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin. Thus, John has set a standard for us to follow: walk in the light. Paul gives a description of that in Ephesians 5.
1 John 3:7 is even more important: “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one that is living righteously is righteous as he is righteous.” The righteousness of God is a gift, but that gift is given to those who are in the faith. Those who are in the faith are keeping the commandments of Jesus (1 Jn. 2:3-4). They are loving (1 Jn. 4:7-8). As Ps 36:10 says, “Continue your lovingkindness to them that know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart.” It is our job to be upright in heart, and it is God’s job to bestow righteousness upon us when we obey.
Evangelicals love to proclaim “faith only,” but they refuse to pay attention to 1 John. Faith cannot be divorced from obedience. A great definition for faith is allegiance. A loyal follower, even of men, may not be perfect, but you can tell the difference between a follower and one who is not a follower. Both John 3:36 and Hebrews 3:17-18 show us the unbreakable link between faith and obedience. That is why the Scriptures say that the Spirit (Acts 5:32) and eternal salvation (Heb. 5:8-9) are for the obedient.
Paul took the judgment pretty seriously. He said he disciplined his body daily so he would not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).. He said he left everything behind, striving for the goal, so that he might attain to the resurrection of the dead (Php. 3). He warned the church in Ephesus night and day with tears so that they would get to the end (Acts 20). We can find ways to soften that, but Paul said to imitate him (1 Cor. 11:1) and ta have the same mind as he had in Philippians 3 (v. 15).
I am not the one who said that is scary. Peter said it. He said the righteous are “scarcely saved.” We have to consider why Paul was warning the Ephesians with tears every day for 3 years. We have to consider why the only thing recorded about their return trip to the churches in Acts 14 is that they appointed elders and warned them that it is through many tribulations we enter the kingdom of God.
Evangelicals play silly games with the warnings of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; and Eph. 5:3-8. They gloss over Rom. 8:12-13 and Galatians 6:7-9. Walking in the Spirit is not an option; it is the only way to be saved. God is able to save. His Spirit is real and powerful. His mercy is new every morning. He bestows righteousness upon the upright in heart. He gives us great and precious promises that have delivered us from the corruption that is in the world (2 Pet. 1:3-4). His mercy is great, but his mercy is for the upright in heart. Walk by the Spirit. Seek God, and you will find great reward. If you mock him, though, then fear.