Say NO

Many commentaries view this passage as Paul’s theological reasons for his call to Christian living to the various groups in the preceding verses.

He starts this section off by stating that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared.” What a statement! The Greek verb is in the past tense, indicating something that has already happened. Of course, he is speaking of Christ’s appearance to mankind, God’s ultimate revelation of himself.

Be careful to note that Paul does not say “the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all men.” Rather, he states that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” meaning Christ. Our salvation is found in Christ alone, and God’s actions in sending his Son demonstrate his grace.

Briefly Paul applies two negative, followed by three positive reactions to that Grace, and to Christ himself.

Saying “No” to ungodliness

Very obviously, this is the opposite of godliness. Paul stresses godly living throughout the letters of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. This description is the exact opposite of what he calls Timothy and Titus, and us, to live.

Saying “No” to worldly passions

Again, worldly desires go directly against the desire God has for our lives. Personal pleasure, power, worldly possessions and more are to be avoided because through Christ, we have so much more!

After these two negatives, Paul moves to the positives.

Live self-controlled lives

The idea of self-control is a prominent theme in many of Paul’s letters. Living in such a way to control ourselves, and our passions, displays that we have mastered ourselves, and submitted to God’s lordship in our lives. The self-controlled person has learned restraint and prudence.

Live upright lives

Other translations render this as living “righteously.” The idea here is to live with right conduct towards our fellow men. Fairness, honesty and integrity are hallmarks of the upright life. This emphasizes the fact that Christ is in control of our lives instead of us.

Live godly lives

In direct contrast to the ungodliness we are to avoid, Paul encourages us to live godly lives. In order to do this, we give to God what is clearly due him: our very lives and everything about us.

When are we to be doing these things? In this present age. This is not something simply to look forward to, something that God will work in us in times to come. God’s word gives us instruction on how to live for him in the now. But God’s grace also teaches us that this present age is not the most important one. This, paired with what is to come in verse 13, helps us to understand that this world, this age, is temporary. But how we live in this age prepares us for the age to come.

So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: How are we living? Are we striving to accomplish such things as the reasons Paul lists here? Or are we saying “Yes” to the things we are to be saying “No” to?

Let us strive to live lives that bring honor to Christ!

Tested Stone

 Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. (NLT) ( Isaiah 28:16 )

Where do you find your security? Does it lie in your success? What about your finances? Or are you counting on family? When one of these crumbles, our sense of security is shaken. There is a stronger rock to stand on that will withstand any quake. That firm and tested stone is Jesus. If you get down or depressed because of bad news, your foundation may depend on something other than the hope found in Jesus.

The Ultimate Valentine

There really isn’t any other day on earth like it.  If you just look at Valentine’s Day by the numbers, it boggles the brain a bit:

♥  $130.97 – The average estimated amount an individual will spend on Valentine’s Day.

♥  $224 million – The estimated number of roses grown for Valentine’s Day.

♥  $18.6 billion – The projected total amount Americans will spend for Valentine’s Day.

♥  $1.6 billion – The amount people will spend on candy

♥  $1.9 billion – The amount people will spend on flowers

♥  $4.4 billion – The amount people will spend on diamonds, gold, and silver

Not only that, but over 6 million folks will propose on February 14th, and if you are a member of the club that sees Valentine’s Day as S.A.D. (i.e., Single Awareness Day), you can actually pick up a Valentine’s card and/or treat for your pet!

Picture yourself as God’s living Valentine to a world that needs His love.

But then after the hundreds of pounds of chocolate have been gobbled, and the millions of cards have been exchanged, and the billions of dollars spent, their comes the inevitable follow up—

February 15

That’s the day when we go back to our daily grind, and all that focus on love typically gets thrown out with the wrappers and cards.  This probably happens because we put so much emphasis on the temporary and emotionally-driven feeling called love, which is why it is so important to remember that God sends us a very different message:

For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
says the Lord, who has mercy on you
(Isaiah 54:10).

Isn’t this amazing?  Long after our flowers have faded and the feelings have waned, God’s love endures beyond even the foundations of the earth!  That’s because His love for us isn’t centered in our beauty, behavior or even our love for Him.  God’s love flows from the unconditional affection and commitment of the perfect Father’s heart.

The gospel is the ultimate Valentine that should not be kept a secret!

And here is the best part. When we decide to share the love that God has for us with others, it will have an eternal impact. In fact, loving others the way that God loves us is the only meaningful thing that will last forever:

What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a crashing cymbal.  What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so, I am nothing.  I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts. Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love;it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs  or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight!  Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what.

Love will never become obsolete (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

This Valentine’s Day, remember that love is so much more than flowers and candy and cards.  It is even more than the deepest feelings you experience, because real love is expressed by unconditional commitment and unwavering dedication to our loved ones—which should be everyone!

That’s why God didn’t spend billions of dollars on us, He sacrificed His priceless Child.

He didn’t send us flowers, but He allowed a crown of thorns to be put on Jesus’ brow.

He didn’t send us a card, but He demonstrated the ultimate Valentine:

John 3:16 - The Ultimate Valentine

Let’s make every day a “Valentine’s Day” for THE Cause in the sense that since God so loved the world, so should we.  Picture yourself as God’s living Valentine to a world that desperately needs to know what love is truly all about

4 Ways to Know if It’s God’s Voice

How can you tell God is speaking to you?  How do you know it’s His voice and not the enemy’s?

Is It Biblical?

I have often heard people say that God “spoke to them,” but it was contrary to what the Scriptures say. God will never ask us to do something that is contrary to biblical doctrine, speaking to us by His Spirit.  For example, a man I was counseling once told me that God told him that he is to divorce his wife.  I asked him if his wife was committing adultery.  He said no.   I told him that God hates divorce and that, except for adultery, there should be no divorce because he didn’t have biblical grounds for it.  Why would God “speak” to him and tell him that He wanted him to divorce his wife when the Bible clearly teaches that this would be sin?  If you feel that God is speaking to you–and I don’t mean in an audible voice you can hear–and that He is telling you to do something the Bible is against, don’t believe it!  That’s a lie.  It’s likely from the enemy or your own selfish desires.

It Glorifies God

We know it is always God’s will that His name be glorified.  If you believe God is telling you to do something and it will result in His being glorified, it could well be that God is speaking to you.  A good example is found in Psalm 145:11-12, where it says, “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men God’s mighty deeds and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.”  If you are endeavoring to do something for God’s glory, then it is very likely God’s trying to speak to you.

God Does Speak to Us

One of the most overlooked things believers do when seeking the will of God is want Him to speak to them, but what they don’t realize is that God has already spoken to them, which is in His Word, the Bible.  God’s Word is alive, active, and living.  It penetrates the stony human heart and makes the simple wise.  Why do we seek to hear God in a quiet, still voice when he boldly and plainly speaks to us in His Word?  If you’re not reading the Bible regularly, then don’t expect God to speak to you in a voice because you are not even hearing Him speak to you in the Scriptures.

Seek Godly Counsel

Sometimes you need another set of ears from a close and trusted Christian friend, counselor, or pastor to see if what you believe God is speaking to you is the enemy or God Himself.  The Bible says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety”(Proverbs 11:14).  The Christian life is not intended to be a solo act but one in which we are connected to other believers and to be in community and fellowship so that we can gain wisdom through their experiences.  If you really want to know if it’s God’s voice or not, bounce it off a couple of Christians and see what they think.  It surely can’t hurt.

Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors

Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your father who is in heaven will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive you your trespasses.

Mark 11:25-26 “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your father who is in heaven forgive.”

Matthew 18:34-35 “And the master was angry and he handed him over to the jailers until he pay back all he owed. So will my father who is in heaven also do to you if each one of you does not forgive his brother from your hearts.”

There are no unforgiving people in the kingdom of God. But then who can be saved? With men it is impossible, but not with God (Mark 10:27). But then does God make us perfect in this life so that we never fail to forgive? Does he bring us to the point immediately where our response to every personal insult or injury is never, not for a moment, resentment, anger, vengeance or self-pity?

Getting to the Heart of Unforgiveness


To answer this let us ask: Is forgiveness a unique virtue among all the qualities Jesus demanded in his disciples? That is, is it alone the quality on which the father’s forgiveness depends? No! All of Jesus’ commands must be met lest we perish. It is not just an unforgiving spirit which cuts a person off from God; it is sin. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, or your father will not forgive you your trespasses (Matthew 5:29). If you call your brother a fool, your father will not forgive your trespasses (Matthew 5:22). If you do not love your enemy, your father in heaven will not forgive your trespasses (Matthew 5:44). Whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble will not be forgiven by my father (Matthew 18:6). Over every command of Jesus stands the saying, “If you do not do this, you will not enter the kingdom,” which is the same as saying the father will not forgive you (Matthew 7:21-23).

So the command, “Forgive that you might be forgiven,” is just one instance of the whole ethical demand of Jesus. It is not the exception; it is the rule. As Jesus says in John 8:34ff, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. The slave does not continue in the house forever.” Or as John says in his first letter, “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins. No one who sins has either seen him or known him… Everyone who is born of God does not sin because his seed remains in him, and he is not able to sin because he is born of God” (1 John 3:6, 9; cf 3:14, 16; 4:7, 8, 12, 16). Or as Paul says, “The works of the flesh are plain…enmity, strife, jealousy, anger…those who do such things shall not enter the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10; Romans 8:13). Or as the writer to the Hebrews says, “Pursue peace with all men and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14cf. 10:26ff; 6:4ff). Therefore, when Jesus says, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive you,” he is saying nothing different from what the whole New Testament affirms.

Isn’t There a Contradiction?


Is it a demand for sinless perfection without which we will not be saved? If it were, then what sense would the petition, “Forgive us our debts,” have? Or what sense would the admonition to confess our sins have (1 John 1:9)? If a disciple were by definition one who never committed sin, then why would Jesus instruct him to pray, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4)?

What “debts” or “sins” did Jesus imply that we would keep on committing? Did he mean all kinds of sins except the failure to forgive? No, he does not classify sins like that. But then one of the “debts” for which we should ask forgiveness is our unforgiving spirit, i.e., our failure to forgive. But notice what happens if we substitute “our failure to forgive” for “debts” in the Lord’s prayer. It would go like this: “Forgive us our failure to forgive (a specific debt) as we forgive our debtors.” But this seems to be a contradiction: “as we forgive our debtors” implies that we do forgive; but our petition, “Forgive us our failure to forgive” implies that we do not forgive. The solution to this apparent contradiction is to recognize that the clause, “as we forgive our debtors,” does not mean that the disciple never has moments when an unforgiving spirit has the ascendancy. If Jesus said that we should pray that our debts be forgiven, and if one of those debts is a failure to forgive, then the phrase “as we forgive our debtors” cannot be absolutized to imply that only a perfectly forgiving spirit can receive forgiveness from God.

When Jesus told his disciples to pray for forgiveness as they forgive others did he not, then, mean that I should pray something like this: “Father, forgive me for my failure today to forgive Tom. I was irritable and wrapped up in myself and when he said what he said I flew off the handle at him and held a grudge all day, savoring in my mind how I might show him up, and keeping count of all the times he wronged me. My conscience smote me this afternoon when you reminded me of your constant mercy toward me. So I went to him and apologized (Mark 11:25). I do not desire to hold the grudge any longer. You have rid me of my selfish indignation and so I pray you will forgive my failure to forgive Tom today and let me not fall into that temptation again.”

In other words, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” does not mean that we are lost if the old unforgiving spirit raises its head just once. It means: No one who cherishes a grudge against someone dare approach God in search of mercy. God treats us in accordance with the belief of our heart: if we believe it is good and beautiful to harbor resentments and tabulate wrongs done against us, then God will recognize that our plea for forgiveness is sheer hypocrisy—for we will be asking him to do what we believe to be bad. It is a dreadful thing to try to make God your patsy by asking him to act in a way that you, as your action shows, esteem very lowly.

Grace-Enabled Forgiveness


Forgiveness is not a work by which we earn God’s forgiveness. It flows from a heart satisfied with the mercy of God and rejoicing in the cancellation of our own ten million dollar debt (Matthew 18:24). With man it is impossible, but not with God. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19). But the plant which endures does so because it is planted by God (Matthew 15:13). No one can boast in his self-wrought merit before God (Luke 17:10); and it is not the rigorous following of rules but a poor spirit and a total reliance on God’s mercy which attains a standing before God (Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 5:3).

But one thing is certain: the person who has, through mercy, been born from above cannot be the same any more. He cannot go on sinning as before since “the seed of God” is in him (1 John 3:9). He walks not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4), for he is led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18). God is at work in him to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). When we “forgive from the heart,” it is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 5:20). We are a new creation (Galatians 6:15); and the mark of our newness is not yet perfection, but a persistent inclination to forgive, a hasty repair of our failure to do so and a steady petition for God to disregard the sin that we are abandoning.

Baptized into Christ

The word “baptized” is not the translation of the Greek work in Romans 6:3-4, but a transliteration spelling it out in English letters. The word in the original language means to dip. The figurative use of the word means to take on a new identification. After I dip a white shirt into red dye I no longer refer to it as the “white shirt,” but the red shirt. It has a new identification.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (v. 3).

The word Baptizo in Romans six means “the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition.”

Paul is referring to the act of God when He introduces a believing sinner into a vital union with Jesus Christ. In this vital relationship the power of his sinful nature is broken and the divine nature implanted through his identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. The believer’s relation to his previous state and environment is changed and he now has a new environment which is defined as being “in Christ.”

God placed us in Christ when He died so that we might share His death and thus come into the benefits of that identification with Him. We were placed in a new environment, Christ. We have a vital union with Christ. Paul declares we are “in Christ.” In our new environment in Christ we have righteousness and life. Our condition is changed from that of a sinner to that of a saint.

The Holy Spirit baptized us into Christ. He placed us in Christ in order that we might share His death and be separated from the evil nature. He also placed us in Christ in order that we might share His resurrection and have His divine life imparted to us. The Spirit of the resurrected Christ imparts to us a new quality of life. It is a new source of life that God imparts to us. It is only through this new source of life that we have the ethical and spiritual energy to live the Christian life.

Why did God do this for us? We share Christ’s resurrection in order that we may order our behavior in the power of this new life. With the power of this new power we can consistently say no to sin and yes to the indwelling Christ. We do not have to sustain the same relationship to sin that we were in the habit of before we became Christians.

“Therefore we have been buried with Him, through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (v. 4).

Water baptism symbolizes the power of the sinful nature being broken, because we are dead in Christ, and the divine power that we have in our identification with His resurrection. We have now been permanently delivered from the power of sin. God has imparted to us a divine nature, new life, spiritual birth and we can now respond to it rather than sin.

The apostle Paul commands us to live “as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13). We do not do this in our strength, but in His power of the resurrection.

It is a resurrection that restores the lost image of God, in which we were created by making us to awake in the likeness of Christ. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus.

One day when Christ returns we will stand with Him with resurrected bodies in glory. Our whole nature, body, soul and spirit” will be “made alive in Christ.” And if we are in our Lord, our physical restitution is assumed to us with equal certainty with our spiritual.

We enjoy the righteousness of Christ now and on the great day of the resurrection we will be clad in the incorruptible glory of redeemed bodies (Rom. 6:9; Rev. 20:6).

We share in the resurrection power today (Cot 3:1, 3). The believer cannot deliberately live in sin because we have this new relationship and identification with Christ. We have died to the old life, and have been raised up to enjoy a new life in Christ. Because we are alive in Christ we are admonished to “walk in newness of life by abiding in Christ.”

Dead in Christ—risen from the dead—alive in Christ and free to walk in the newness of His life.

Whose Slave Are You?

Free to serve God sounds like a paradox.

Only God is totally free. There is no such thing as absolute freedom for anyone other than God. No human being is absolutely free to do anything and everything he may want to do. Every individual is limited by or enslaved by someone or something. No one is autonomous.

We are either slaves in bondage to sin or servants of Jesus Christ. However, to be a slave of Jesus Christ is to enjoy true freedom.

This is why the apostle Paul argues in Romans 6:15-18 that it is impossible for true Christians to continue in sin (6:1, 15). We have been set free from the power and bondage of sin to become the instruments of righteousness. “We are no longer slaves to sin” (vv. 6-7).

Salvation by grace does not lead to a life of sin (6:1-2). It does exactly the opposite. Our identification with Christ gives us the goal to live a life that will please Him and glorify His life. We are saved by grace that we “might walk in newness of life” (v. 4). The implication of the verb is that we will “walk about, meaning our habitual character will be pleasing to God. We will live with Him in our daily life (v. 8). The life of grace leads to righteousness (6:11-14).

Since salvation by grace does not lead to sin, but freedom to live in the power of Christ, Paul goes on to argue that the Law as a means to righteousness is not possible. Freedom from the Law does not lead to sin either. The Christian who is saved by grace has been freed from the Law.

“For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). We are saved by grace to become slaves to righteousness.

What is the passion of your life? What do you live for? What motivates your daily life? What is the goal you are constantly moving toward? Whose slave are you?

Christians must constantly guard against two extremes. We can easily fall into the error of legalism. The Law cannot produce God’s righteousness in anyone. It can only point its finger and bring condemnation. It can put forth its demands, but it cannot give us power to meet those demands. I have never met a legalist who lived up to all of the demands of the Law, much less their own legalism.

The only means of being empowered to produce God’s kind of righteousness is the freedom in Christ through a vital union with Him. Jesus Christ living within us empowers us to do what the Law requires. Salvation by grace in Christ alone leads to the righteousness God requires.

The other error is antinomianism—against the law. These individuals think that grace gives them freedom from the law to do anything they please. “Now that I am saved I can live anyway I want.” Grace is not a license to “sin it up” (vv. 15-23). Salvation by grace does not give us the freedom to go on sinning as legalists suppose. It does just the opposite; it gives us freedom and power to serve God and please Him in the strength He gives.

Sin enslaves us, but Christ sets us free from sin’s bondage so we can please God. If you submit to sinful passions, you will become a slave to sinful passions, and you will not be able to break the bondage. That is true of all the sins listed in Galatians 5:19-21.

Sin leads to death—spiritually, physically, and eternally. The second death leads to an eternal separation from God in hell.

Thanks be to God who has set us free from sin’s slavery through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (v. 18).

Our true freedom is found in Christ alone (v. 22). The same saving grace that freed us from sin enslaves us to God. This slavery, however, brings freedom—true freedom—to become all that God created us to be.

If we choose sin, the result is a life of bondage. If we choose Christ, we are set free to serve God in righteousness. Anything less than a life of righteousness is a life of slavery to sin which always results in eternal death. If we have been freed from sin by the grace of God, we will serve Him in righteousness.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Chance To Grow

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. (NLT) ( James 1:3 )

Yes, we do endure trials that will test our faith. Yes, we may fail and not behave as honorably as we would like, but use it as a learning experience. The next time you find yourself getting swept away in drama, bitterness, and anger, step away. Regain your composure and consult God to provide you with the attitude and words that will allow you to respond in a loving manner and produce an endurance of faith.

Charge it to My Account

“Charge it.” “Charge it to my account.” Those are words we hear every day in the business world.

But did you know that those words have eternal significance, too?

“Imputation” (logizomai) is a word the apostle Paul used meaning, “to reckon,” “to charge to one’s account.”

In Philemon 18 the apostle asked Philemon to have Onesimus’ debts transferred to Paul. “If he has wronged you,” Paul said, “charge that to my account.” One who has something imputed to him is accountable under the law.

In the New Testament the believer in Christ receives the “alien righteousness” of God as a “free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:15). God reckoned Abraham as righteousness on the basis of Abraham’s faith alone (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3). Similarly, God does not impute the iniquity of the believer who trusts in Christ’s death (Rom 4:7-8). This act of God is based, not on our human merit, but on God’s love and saving grace (Rom. 5:6-8). We stand in the need of God’s grace (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).

In Adam, God judged the entire human race guilty, but only in Jesus is this fact fully understood (Isa. 53:4-6). But not only has humanity been declared guilty; it has acted out its personal guilt.

Jesus said charge it to My account. The apostle Paul wrote, “He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” God took all of our sins and “imputed” them to His Son, put them on Him, i.e., put them to His account. He charged them to Jesus’ account. That is the meaning of “imputation.”

When you charge to someone’s account you take something that belongs to one person and you put it to the account of another. If someone owes you a debt you take it out of his page in your ledger and put it to the page belonging to another person in the ledger. Therefore, you have “imputed” the debt to another. That is what God has done with our sins. He has imputed our sins to His Son, and He has punished them in His substitutionary death on the cross (Rom. 5:6, 8).

Moreover, that is not all God does. We need something else. Just to take away my sins is not enough because before I can stand in the presence of God I must be positively holy. I need to be positively righteous. The Bible teaches us that God is righteous, just and holy. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5). Now anything less that His standard of righteousness cannot stand in His presence. I need to be positively righteous. God does something marvelous out of His grace. The moment you and I believe on God’s Son and His work for us He “imputes” His righteousness to us, He imputes that perfect observance of the law to us. We stand guilty before God because we have not kept the law. However, Christ has kept it perfectly and He is righteous before the law. God “put to my account,” i.e. “imputes to me” righteousness of His own Son.

When we stand before a righteous and holy God we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He clothes us with it. He puts it all to our account. Therefore, when the believer stands in the presence of God, God does not see you, He sees the righteousness of His Son covering you, clothing you completely and absolutely. That is grace! That is something only God can do.

This is one of the most important doctrines in the Christian faith. The imputed righteousness is Christ’s perfect righteousness attributed to me. It is imputed to me or put upon me by God. When God looks at me clothed in the righteousness of Christ, God pronounces me to be a just man, a righteous man, and the Law cannot touch me!

No wonder the apostle Paul declared, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ” (Romans 8:1). As a believer in Jesus Christ you are covered by this perfect spotless righteousness of the Son of God Himself, and have on the “breastplate of righteousness.”

Some Assembly Required

Some people joke about the “Bedside Baptists” who attend the “Chapel of the Tube” on Sunday mornings. But it’s more than a joke. Many people refuse to get near a church unless their nephew is playing the role of a sheep in the Christmas pageant! They claim they can get more out of a walk in the woods than from the typical sermon.

Can a Christian survive apart from a church? Some Christians have no choice. They are trapped in a hospital bed, or working in an isolated area where no church exists. And God is certainly sufficient to care for their needs. You can still get to heaven if you can’t go to church.

But even though it’s technically possible to live the Christian life in isolation, it’s certainly not the norm.

When you become a Christian, you are called into a relationship with God (1 Corinthians 1:9). But I John 1:3 makes it clear that we enter a fellowship that goes two ways: with God and with other Christians.

The New Testament never divides Christians into the church members and the non-church members. All the way through, it assumes that everybody participates in their local assembly. It gives no samples of Christians who belong to the “universal church” but have no link with a local church. One scholar has said that “any idea…of enjoying salvation or being a Christian in isolation is foreign to the New Testament writings” (Alan Stibbs, God’s Church, p. 92). Wherever Christians are within range of each other in the New Testament, they meet. Every time the apostle Paul comes to a town in the book of Acts where there are no Christians, he wins a few converts and immediately organizes them into a small group—a little church.

Acts 20:7 reveals the practice of the early church: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them.” For Christians in every location, regular gathering was a part of life.

It’s illogical to say that you are merely part of the worldwide, universal church, yet refuse to gather with the segment of that universal church that exists in your geographical area. It would be like claiming you have a car, when the right fender is in Phoenix, the engine is in Tucson, and the wheels are in Paradise Valley! You don’t have a car; you have the beginning of the inventory for a junkyard. It just won’t function until the pieces are put together.

The church must be together to carry out many of its purposes.

Here are some irreplaceable pieces of the Christian that cannot happen when you live in isolation from the church:

  1. USE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS—I Corinthians 12 makes it clear that God has given spiritual gifts to every Christian. And verse 7 states unmistakably that these abilities are not provided to make you feel good; they are abilities to minister that should be used for the common good! I Peter 4:10 commands us to use spiritual gifts to help each other.

    The same passage makes it clear that we meet with other Christians so they can use their gifts to strengthen us. God’s gift of a preacher or teacher is wasted if no one comes to hear them speak.

  2. MUTUAL MINISTRY—The church is pictured as a body in I Corinthians 12, and Paul explains that each part of the body exists to meet the needs of other body parts. In the same way, God intends each of us to meet the needs of other believers, using our strengths to help in their areas of weakness. I Corinthians 12:21 expresses it this way: “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.” Neither can a Christian claim to be self-sufficient today.

    The New Testament is full of “one another” commands. We are to comfort one another (I Thessalonians 4:18), build up one another (I Thessalonians 5:11), confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), pray for one another (James 5:16), and many more. How can we obey these directives if we stay away from the gathering of believers?

  3. ACCOUNTABILITY—God designed the church as a place where spiritual leaders could watch out for our welfare, as a shepherd guards the sheep (I Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:17). A Christian who answers only to himself can easily rationalize sinful attitudes or actions; regular contact with other Christians can keep us sharp.

    A single verse should actually be sufficient answer for this question: Hebrews 10:25 warns its readers against “forsaking the assembly of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.”