New Testament Salvation – The Work of Righteousness CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In our prior broadcast we studied the work of righteousness in Old Testament salvation. Some Bible believers teach that salvation in the Old Testament was based upon faith and works; that is a man had to believe in the Lord and keep the law. Others teach that works could not have been a factor in the salvation of an Old Testament saint because a man is not justified by the works of the law [Gal 2:16]. Many, in this group, also believe that Old Testament saints were looking forward to the cross.
Our understanding of Old Testament salvation is that it was connected to a man’s faith [Hab 2:4], his work of righteousness [Rom 10:5; Deut 6:25; Ps 15:1-5; Ezek 18:21-25] AND the Lord’s MERCY [Mic 6:6-8; Matt 23:23; Matt 9:13; Lk 18:11-13]. Apart from the Lord’s mercy [Ex 20:6; Ex 25:15-17; Ex 34:7] there would have been no salvation under the law. A man’s work of righteousness revealed his need for mercy and directed him to the Lord for that mercy. His work of righteousness did not procure his justification.
The trouble with a man’s work of righteousness in the Old Testament came when he would do the law [or parts of it] and thereby justify himself by his own righteousness [Lk 16:15; Lk 18:11-14; Job 33:8-12] – Job had trouble with this until he repented before the Lord [Job 33:27-28, Job 35:2; Job 42:5-6]. Once he repented, he received mercy.
Likewise, in New Testament salvation, we get saved by the Lord’s mercy [Tit 3:5] when we put our faith in Jesus’ FINISHED work of righteousness [Rom 10:3-4]. Therefore, unlike Old Testament saints, we don’t have to walk in the law to do justly [Mic 6:8] because:
The law has already been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and, since he is in us, the law has already been fulfilled in us [Rom 8:1-4];
The law governs the flesh and the flesh is now declared dead by the death of Jesus Christ [Rom 6:6-11];
Since righteousness is complete in Jesus Christ [Rom 10:4], we don’t work righteousness to receive his mercy, we simply SERVE righteousness – you see, the work of righteousness is on the inside of us [Rom 6:13, 18-19], rather than outside of us as an external standard and guide leading us to just living and mercy.
The trouble with the work of righteousness in the New Testament, then, is three-fold:
The lost man looks at himself and proclaims that he is righteous enough to obtain heaven without Jesus [Tit 3:5; Gal 2:16].
The saved man develops a system of righteousness [standards, he calls them] and as long as he is doing those, he thinks he’s serving righteousness – he’s just keeping man made ordinances like the Pharisees did – the danger is that he may totally ignore the righteousness of Jesus in him – in truth, his righteousness is complete in Jesus – thus, he serves righteousness, not when he makes his flesh obey his rules, but when he recognizes that his flesh is dead and then subjects it to the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is alive in him.
The saved man realizes he has completed righteousness in Jesus and then ignores the work of righteousness in him by going about and doing whatever he wants till he dies. This is a terrible mistake because the Lord will judge him at the judgment seat of Christ for the things done in his body [2 Cor 5:10-11]. The Lord expects works of righteousness FROM him since Christ’s righteousness is IN him.
Conclusion: In the Old Testament, through the work of righteousness, by faith [Hab 2:4] a man availed himself of the mercy of God, conditioned upon his continuance in that righteousness [Ezek 18:21-28]. In the New Testament, by faith [Eph 2:8-9] we obtain the mercy of God when we BECOME the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ [Tit 3:5; 2 Cor 5:21], and thus our righteousness in Christ is secure. Thereafter, we yield to that completed righteousness [Rom 6-8] rather than walk in our own righteousness [Phil 3:9].