This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
In our first study we outlined the theme, which is law and grace, and we gave simple definitions. By law we mean “religious law viewed as a means to achieve righteousness with God.” We’re not talking about secular or civil law viewed as a means of preserving social order. When we talk about “the Law,” we always mean the Law of Moses, unless we say otherwise. However, though Gentiles, for the most part, have not been under the Law of Moses, Paul explains that Gentiles can become a law unto themselves, and he is talking again about religious law. And looking across the whole spectrum of Christendom we see that we have, in fact, had many different forms of religious law; Catholic law, Baptist law, Holiness law, and so on, all of which were fairly different from one another and all of which made requirements which the people in those groups regarded as essential to achieving righteousness. This is the point you’ve got to keep in mind. We’re talking about law as a means of achieving righteousness with God.
On the other hand, grace we defined as “that which is freely given by God, received by faith without being earned or deserved.” The important thing to remember about grace is you can never earn it and you can never deserve it. If you have anything that you have earned, it is not grace.
And then we pointed out, there are in fact, there are only two ways to achieve righteousness known to man. There are only two types of religion in the history of the human race. One is the religion of works, trying to earn it; the other is the religion of faith, receiving it freely by grace. And each of these two religions is portrayed right at the opening of human history in the incident of Cain and Abel. Abel’s religion was a religion of faith, receiving grace. Cain’s religion was a religion of works, denying the need for grace.
Then we looked at the Law of Moses and saw certain basic facts which I’ll read briefly without going into. The Law of Moses was given only through Moses at a given point in human history. It was a single complete perfect system. Those who seek to be justified by the Law of Moses must observe all the Law all the time. It’s all or nothing.
Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses in three ways; by keeping perfectly, by fulfilling all its prophecies, and by paying its final penalty, which was death. “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” His death on the cross terminated once and for all the Law as a means to achieve righteousness. Christians are not under the Law and Christians are warned solemnly against going back to the Law of Moses as a means of achieving righteousness.
Now yesterday we studied two main themes—this is in the second outline. The purposes for which the Law of Moses was given and I listed six purposes. First and foremost, it was not given as a means to achieve righteousness. And the Bible states over and over again that no one will ever achieve righteousness with God by the works of the Law. Secondly, it was given to reveal sin. Thirdly, it was given to reveal man’s carnal nature—the latent rebel that’s in each one of us. Fourthly, it was given also to foreshow Christ, the answer. Fifthly, it was given to bring us to Christ like the senior slave in the wealthy man’s household who taught the man’s little children the basic principles of behavior and then led them to the real school and the real teacher. The Law is just the slave that leads us to the real teacher who is Christ, that we may be justified, not by the Law but by faith. Sixthly, another purpose of the Law was to keep Israel a separate people, shut up unto the purposes of God.
And then we just studied the effects of the Law on those who seek to be justified by the Law and they were amazing and all of them bad without exception. And I’ll just read them quickly. First of all, number one: the Law stirs up sin. Number two: the Law strengthens sin. Number three: the Law produces transgression. And therefore, Number four: also wrath. Number five: the Law causes condemnation. Number six: the Law keeps us under Satan’s dominion. Number seven: the Law brings a curse. Number eight: the Law produces a double enmity between God and those under the Law, and between those under the Law and those not under the Law. Number nine: the Law produces slavery. It makes slaves. And Number ten: the Law produces persecutors. Those who follow that way of achieving righteousness are the persecutors of those who receive righteousness by grace through faith.
We said that the Law was God’s diagnostic. Its purpose was to lay bare for all of us to see our root problem. And I suggested that the root problem is self-dependence. That the inner motivation of sin is not necessarily the desire to do something evil, like murder or adultery, the inner motivation of sin is the desire to be independent of God. And whenever that desire is present, the result is sin. So the root is self- dependence. And we looked at Matthew 3:10 where John the Baptist introduced the gospel dispensation and he said, “Now also the ax is laid to the root of the tree.” And I suggested that we could compare law and grace this way: Law lays bare the root, grace lays the ax to the root. The Law was needed to lay the root bare so that the ax of grace could cut the root off. If you don’t lay the root bare you can’t cut it out.
Now we’re going on to the third study and we now have two major questions that face us. We’ve said that we are not required to keep the Law of Moses. We have also said that we are not made righteous by the keeping of any religious law. So we have two logical questions that confront us. The first is, What are we required to keep? What does God require us to do? The second is, How does God enable us to do what He requires? So the two questions we’ve left to answer are what and how. What does God require and how does God enable us to achieve it? So our specific question this morning is, What does God require us to do?
All right. We don’t have to be circumcised. We don’t have to observe the new moons and the Sabbaths and all these things. We don’t have to have blue borders on our garments and wear certain types of clothing and offer meal and wine and goats and sheep. What does God require us to do? It’s a very, very important question. And though it is so important, I find few Christians have ever really given much serious thought to it. You know what happens? We get involved in a kind of religious routine and we just go on because we’ve always done it that way. We keep doing it that way.
So this morning we’re going try to answer this vital question: What does God require? And I’m going to turn in opening to Romans chapter 8. Romans chapter 8 and I’m going to read verses 3 and 4. I’ll read them and comment on them. Romans 8 verses 3 and 4:
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Now what the Law could not do, God did another way. And Paul is always careful to point out that there was nothing wrong with the Law. It wasn’t that the Law was wrong. The weakness was in our human flesh. We are unable to keep the Law. In fact, when our carnal nature is confronted with the Law, it stirs up rebellion. We become worse when we try to keep the Law than we were when we didn’t bother about keeping the Law. But the fault is not in the Law. The Law, Paul says, is good and holy and perfect. The fault is in the flesh, the carnal nature of man. But anyhow, because of man’s carnal nature the Law couldn’t do it. So God had to find another way. What was the other way? God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned our sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ on the cross and there executed our carnal nature, dealt with sin, dealt with the flesh and opened the way up to a new solution. The old problems had to be dealt with—they were dealt with on the cross, and then the way is opened for God’s alternative, which is not law but grace. And the outworking of the alternative is described in the 4th verse of Romans 8.
“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled us, who walk not after the flesh [we are no longer living in the old carnal nature], but after the Spirit.”
Now the key word there is the righteousness of the law. In the New Testament there are two main Greek words for righteousness. One is dikaiosune, which means “abstract righteousness”—righteousness in the abstract. The other is dikaioma, which is related to it but means “righteousness worked out in action.” It’s important to observe this distinction all through.
Now the word used in Romans 4 is dikaioma—it means the outworked righteousness of the Law. So we are not required to keep the Law but we are expected to produce the outworked righteousness of the Law. I hope that’s clear. I think I’ll say it once more because this is vital. We are not required to keep the Law and all its details, ordinances and commandments. But we are expected and required to produce in our lives the outworked righteousness of the Law.
Now the thousand-dollar question is, What is the outworked righteousness of the Law? What was the righteousness that the Law was intended to accomplish but did not? And the answer is amazingly simple. Let’s turn to Matthew chapter 22. Matthew 22 and we’ll read from verse 35 through 40. Matthew 22 reading verses 35 through 40. This is an incident in the closing week of the ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem.
“Now one of them, which was a lawyer…”
Now when you read the word lawyer in the New Testament don’t think about an attorney. The proper translation really is “a theologian.” He was a student of religious law. God has got nothing against attorneys. God bless them. I think He has got a lot against theologians, myself.
“Then one of them which was a theologian, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Now Jesus did not hedge, He did not reject the question. He gave an immediate, specific final answer.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [That’s the first great supreme commandment. And He went a little further.] This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
The whole Old Testament is hung on two objectives—love for God and love for my neighbor. Now if I’m going to hang my jacket on a peg, one thing is sure, the peg must be there before I hang my jacket on it. And if the law and the prophets are hung on those two commandments, then those two commandments are there before the law and the prophet. They are the basic, eternal, unchanging requirements of God. Very simple: love God, love your neighbor. That is the righteousness of the Law. It’s love for God and love for our neighbor. No one need go out of here the least bit confused this morning as to what God requires of us.
Now this is confirmed again and again throughout the remaining writings of the New Testament. Turn to Romans chapter 13. Romans 13 reading verses 8 through 10. Romans 13 verses 8 through 10:
“Owe no man any thing.”
Now, we’re not preaching on that but observe it’s importance. Christians are not permitted to be in debt.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Again, that’s a completely uncompromising specific statement. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. And then in Galatians chapter 5, Galatians 5:14:
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word [guess what the word is? That’s right.], even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Let me point out to you just in parenthesis just how important it is to love yourself. Because if you don’t love yourself, what is the good of loving your neighbor the way you love yourself? The root problem of many Christians is a failure to love oneself. That’s rejection, inferiority; it has no place in Christian living. And then look on in Galatians 5:22 and 23:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
People that are living in that don’t need to be controlled by a law. They don’t need any law. And there’s no law given by God that will ever prevent a person doing what of the fruit of the Spirit would lead them to do. And then in 1 Timothy chapter 1 beginning at verse 5. First Timothy chapter 1 verse 5 and following:
“Now the end of the commandment is charity [that’s an alternative translation for the word love] the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:”
The word commandment is a little unfortunate. I’m sure all the modern translations are different. “The final objective of our message,” I think would be better—the final purpose of all our preaching is summed up in one word—love. So any kind of religious activity or teaching or preaching that isn’t aimed at producing love is missing the mark. Really it’s a waste of time. That’s the only thing that the whole message is intended to produce is love. Then Paul says:
“From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;”
Or empty talk. Any kind of religious activity—preaching, teaching, whatever it may be—that isn’t aimed at producing love is just empty talk. It’s a waste of time. And he says there are a lot of people who want to be teachers of the law but they don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t understand the nature of the Law, they don’t understand the purpose of the Law, and they don’t understand the problems of the Law. These people desire to be teachers of the Law.
“Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor what they’re talking about.”
That’s “the Prince version,” but I think you’ll find it’s in agreement with the modern ones. Now listen to this. This is terrific. If you can get this, it will do you good the rest of the week.
“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully [the way it was meant to be used]; knowing this [listen], that the law is not made for a righteous man…”
Okay. Now you have to ask yourself, “Have I been made righteous by faith in Christ? If I haven’t, my faith in Christ has done me no good. And if I have, then the law isn’t made for me.” And you cannot have it both ways. The problem with most Christians is they really don’t know whether they’re righteous or not. The Bible says, Romans 5:1:
“Being justified by faith [being made righteous by faith], we have peace with God…”
All right. If you’ve been made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, the Law is not for you. The Law is not made for a righteous man. You say, “Well, I think I’m safer under the Law. I feel I can understand that.” Well, let me just show you for whom the Law is made before you make that decision. I’m going on in verse 9:
“…the law is made for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murders of fathers and murders of mothers, for man slayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind [in modern English homosexuals], for men stealers [that’s kidnappers], for liars, for perjured persons…”
Do you want to be in that category? You’ve got to choose. There are no other options. Where do you want to belong—with the righteous or with the murders of fathers and mothers, the homosexuals, the kidnappers? God hasn’t given us a third category. The issue is very clear, made righteous by faith or not. If you believe you’ve been righteous by faith then the Law is not for you.
All right. We take the next statement now in the outline. I can’t improve on what I’ve written there so I’ll just read it out. The person motivated purely by love is always free to do exactly what he wants and thus lives like a king. Now you would say to me, “Well, Brother Prince, you’ve been quoting from Paul. What about James? Didn’t James believe in the Law?” Well, let’s look at what James says. James chapter 1 and verse 25. We won’t go into the background.
“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty [or freedom], and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his doing.”
The gospel presents to us the perfect law of liberty. And then in James chapter 2, he says in verse 8:
“If ye fulfill the royal law [the kingly law] according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:”
Notice he calls it two things: “the law of liberty [or freedom]” and “the royal [or kingly] law.” Why? Because when you are only motivated by pure love, you can always do exactly what you want to do. There are no restrictions on what you do. And a man who can always do exactly what he wants to do is free, and he lives like a king. And that’s what the gospel is presenting—freedom and kingship through love.
Now, I’m going to read the next statement in my outline. God’s primary requirements of righteousness have never varied from age to age or from race to race. Most Christians present an impression to the world that somewhere in the middle of human history God suddenly totally changed His mind about what He expected of man. Up to a certain point He expected man to fight and destroy cities and put people to death and be pretty warlike. And then suddenly in the middle of human history God changed His mind and said, “No, I think the real thing I want is love and peace.” Well, this is a caricature of Scripture’s revelations. No wonder we don’t convince people if we’re so illogical in what we suggest. Let’s look in 1 John chapter 2, 1 John chapter 2 beginning at verse 7 and reading through verse 11. First John 2:7 through 11. Now in John’s writings where he talks about “the beginning,” he’s always referring to one thing—the opening chapters of Genesis. You may or not be aware, but the Hebrew title for Genesis is bereshith, which means in the beginning. It’s the first word of the book. So at the opening of John’s gospel he says “in the beginning,” he’s referring to Genesis chapter 1 verse 1. And here again in this passage in his first epistle he uses the word “the beginning,” and he’s referring to the same. So he says:
“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning [from Genesis 1:1]. The old commandment is the word [of God] which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him [Jesus Christ] and in you.”
Now it’s not a new commandment. It’s an old commandment, and yet it’s new not because of what it requires, but because of how it’s achieved. What was not possible before has been made possible for us through Jesus Christ. God’s requirements haven’t changed. The means of fulfilling have. So he says, going back to verse 8:
“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him [Jesus Christ] and in you: because the darkness is passing [it’s a present tense], and the true light is now shining.”
And then he makes very clear what he is saying in the next verses:
“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even unto now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”
Now this is the word which we’ve had from the beginning, which is what? If you love your brother you’re in the light. If you hate your brother, you’re in the darkness. That’s the message all the way through. But what could not be accomplished by the Law has been accomplished through the death of Jesus Christ by grace. So it’s an old commandment but it’s a new commandment. Not new in its substance, but new in the way by which it is made possible. And to confirm this we look also in the third chapter verses 11 through 14. And here we have a confirmation that John has in his mind the opening chapters of Genesis when he talks about the beginning. First John 3:11:
“For this is the message [or commandment] that ye heard from the beginning [that’s Genesis], that we should love one another. [Now the evidence is in the next verse because he goes back to Genesis chapter 4.] Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. [That’s the evidence.] He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
And you see the reference is to Cain and Abel. There’s the two kinds of religion right at the source of human history. Abel loved; Cain hated. Abel was in the light; Cane was in the dark. This is the message which we’ve had from the beginning. It was never intended to change. All that’s changed is the way by which we can carry it out.
All right. Now we’ve got to establish one further important point in this study this morning. When I talk about love, many people picture a kind of sweet, emotional attitude. You know the Greek word for love that we’re talking about (there are various kinds) is agape. This is a word that is somewhat overused today. Somebody coined the phrase “sloppy agape.” Have you ever heard that? Well, I am not talking about “sloppy agape,” you understand. There’s a lot of sloppy, emotional, insincere, frothy, self- expression which hasn’t any reality in it at all. The Bible says, “Let us not love in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
It’s a solemn thought, but Judas betrayed Jesus with the outward mark of love, which was a kiss. And I go back in my mind to the story of Ruth. Naomi had two daughters-in-law. Orpah kissed her, but Ruth stood by her. And I say, if I’ve got to choose, I’ll have the one that stands by me rather than the one that kisses me. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceit.” I’d rather have a friend who tells me the truth even when it hurts, than an enemy who flatters me to my own downfall.
So, now then. You understand we’re not talking about sloppy agape. So we’ve got to try and explain what we are talking about. All right. We’re in Section I. Love is (a) expressed and (b) developed by obedience. You have no right to talk of love unless you are willing to obey. The acid test of love is obedience. It’s the way that love is expressed, and furthermore it’s the way that love is developed. The more we obey, the greater becomes our love. Now, let’s look at some examples. I’ll read what I’ve written there, obeying God’s Word is the test of our love, but it is also the means by which His love is developed within us. Let us look in John—John chapter 14—John the 14th chapter, just reading a few verses there—John 14 verse 15, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, He says:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. [It’s that simple, and then He says—verses 21 through 24:] He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”
Now please notice, in order to keep His commandments, you have to have them. That sounds simple but it’s important. You have an obligation to find out His commandments, all right? And when you’ve found them out to keep them. The fact that you do not keep His commandments through ignorance is no excuse, because you have an obligation to find out what His commandments are. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”
You know the story about the little girl? You probably don’t, but she was in a Christian family where they had daily devotions. So they called her to devotions and she said, “I’m not coming today.” They said, “Why not.” “Well,” she said, “I already know more than I do.” In other words, if you tell me more I’ll just be worse off. Some of us are like that. We know more than we do. All right, going back to John 14 verse 21:
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot [but the other Judas], Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?”
That’s an important question. Jesus had just told His disciples He was going to leave. The world would not see Him again, but then He said, “You will see me again.” So Judas is puzzling over this question, he says, “Lord, how is it that when you leave You’re going to reveal Yourself to us but not to the world. What will be the difference? How will You do it?” And the next verse answers that question:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words.”
What’s the difference between the world and the disciple? The world does not keep the words of Jesus; the disciple does keep the words of Jesus. It’s through His word, kept by the disciples, that Jesus will reveal Himself to the disciple but not to the world.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.”
What a precious promise! Father and Son will come and live with the one who keeps the words of Jesus. And then the next verse sums it up:
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”
I don’t think we need to comment on that further. The issue is absolutely clear. Let’s turn on to 1 John chapter 2 verses 3 through 5, 1 John chapter 2 verses 3 through 5:
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”
One of the tests of whether I know God is, Am I obeying Him?
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.”
Now this is one of those two-edged statements of the Bible. You know, “The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.” It has two edges. And that statement, “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected,” is two-edged. First of all, it means that perfect love is perfect obedience. But it also means that as we go on keeping His word, His love is made perfect in us. You want to be more loving? I question whether the right thing to do is to sit in a church pew and pray. You know what I think you ought to do? Be more obedient. The way to love is obedience. It’s not emotionalism. I wouldn’t even suggest that you fast and pray to be loving. I think there are things to fast and pray for, but when you want to be loving, just concentrate on obedience. Because as you keep His word, His love is made perfect in you. Don’t become introspective. Don’t analyze yourself and point out all your faults. The longer you look into yourself the worse you’ll feel at the end. Self-criticism is not a Christian discipline. It’s a communist discipline. That’s all the difference in the world. You’re not spiritual because you feel condemned. You’re unbelieving. And let me say to any preachers here, it isn’t spiritual to make people feel guilty.
For a period in my ministry I thought the more I’ve made people feel guilty the more powerful my messages were. And I worked at it. And I tell you, I achieved results. I roasted people. They writhed, they squirmed. The unfortunate thing was that at the end of the message they’d come up and say, “Wonderful message, Brother Prince! Wonderful.” They never changed. Just the same Sunday after Sunday. I thought to myself, Something’s wrong. I’m wasting my time.
And then you know what the Lord showed me? You know who makes people feel guilty? It’s not God, it’s the devil. Right from the beginning if we go round making people feel guilty we’re doing the devil’s work for him, and he doesn’t even pay us. Don’t do it. You know what’s difficult? It’s to make people feel righteous. That’s what we’ve got to aim at. Then we’ve succeeded.
All right. So, now we’ve come to this point. Love is both expressed and developed by obedience. Now we’ve got one more nitty-gritty question to answer this morning. What do we have to obey? It isn’t the Law of Moses, what is it? Let me read you my answer: All that the New Testament teaches. And that isn’t enough because when you study the New Testament you’ll find you have to read the Old Testament to understand the New.
Now you thought I was going to give you a list of six things that you could jot down on a piece of paper and say, “That’s what Brother Prince said we have to do.” No sir, I’m not doing your homework for you. You go home and do it. It may seem to you I’ve said nothing, but I’ve said a great deal because I’ve got you, if you’ve followed me into the place where you can read the New Testament and obey it which is what I’ve been aiming at. I’m not here to tell you what the New Testament says.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine who was an architect in Houston. He decided that he would find out whether grace really required us to do anything. You know whether we just sort of lived a sloppy life, and just here and there and went by feelings and felt good and drifted into church if we felt like it and didn’t if we didn’t. So he set out to read the New Testament and see if the New Testament tells us to do specific things. And when I stayed in his home he’d read all the way in the New Testament to one or the other of the epistles of Peter. And he’d already counted more than three hundred things that the New Testament told him to do. Well, I’m not going to list three hundred things. You find them for yourself. That’s your job. It’s not mine.
Now we’ll go on. Our understanding and application of God’s Word will be continually unfolding and increasing. You never know it all. One of the biggest mistakes of most religious groups is God brought them into being to bring out a certain truth, to accomplish a certain purpose and when they’ve done that, the next thing they do is they say, “Now, that’s all there is. There’s no more.” And so the next group that God brings into being to bring further truth, you know their main opponents? The previous group. Almost invariably. The church is like a building going up story by story, and when God wants another story added He moves by the Holy Spirit, calls men and women, reveals truth, imparts power and grace, and says, “Build the next story.” So they build the story and they say, “Now we’ll put the roof on.” But God never told them to do that. The next time the wind of the Holy Spirit blows, you know the first thing it does? Blows the roof off! And then God raises up another group and says, “I want the next story.” Wise and gracious are the group that don’t say, “We’ve got it all—this is it.”
And I want to tell you, incidentally, that that was one of the outstanding features of the Pilgrims who initiated the spiritual life of this nation. They did not claim to know it all. That’s why they called themselves Pilgrims. They said, “We’re on a journey and there’s further truth ahead, be open to it. But be careful when it comes that it really is scriptural truth and not error.” And I personally believe the immense progress, that fantastic development and expansion of this nation in two hundred years or more is basically due to that spirit of openness out of which it was born. I believe the children of God in any nation set the tone for the whole nation. And I believe it was the openness of the Pilgrims to further truth that made this nation probably the most open of any nation in human history to any kind of development, and is the root source of the amazing expansion and development of this nation. And whenever the people of God in this nation put the ceiling on and say, “That’s it!” they’re cutting off the life of the nation. I don’t have time to go into this, but I’ve studied the statements of the Pilgrims. They’re amazing. There are few religious groups that didn’t say, “Now stop here. We’ve got it all.” The Pilgrims deliberately didn’t do that. They challenged one another to go further, always with the qualification that it was scriptural.
Let’s look now in Philippians chapter 1, Philippians 1 verse 9 through 11. Paul is writing to Spirit- baptized Christians:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.”
Notice, he assumes they have love. In fact, he knows because he knows them personally. But he says, “Love is not enough. It’s got to increase more and more in knowledge of God’s will and ways and in judgment.” The Greek word there that the King James translates “judgment” is the word that gives us in English aesthetic. And I think a good translation would be perceptive. “I want you to become better and better instructed and more and more perceptive.” One of the things that I’m learning and I’ve been very slow to learn it is that the key to progress in the Christian life is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Cultivate perceptivity of the Holy Spirit. So Paul says, “It’s good that you have love, but remember that you need more and more knowledge and more and more perceptivity.
“That ye may approve things that are excellent [or the marginal version “that you may try things that differ”]; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.”
You see, one of the problems with Charismatics at the present moment is they have very little spiritual perceptivity. They’ll swallow anything as long as it’s presented with a noise and a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit and the word Hallelujah interspersed from time to time. Charismatics will swallow it. And I’m going to say some things you may object to, but I’m still going to say them anyhow. As a preacher who has really devoted years to studying the Bible and trying to find out what it says, nothing discourages me more than to find that the same people that listened to me and say, “God bless you, Brother Prince. Wonderful message,” will listen to almost any screwy preacher and say the same to him. So I think, What’s the good? Why waste your time?
I have a good friend. I won’t name him. He’s known to most of you. He got so discouraged about the absolute lack of any kind of discernment amongst Charismatics that he almost stopped preaching. And the climax came—I have to tell this very carefully—but there’s one speaker in the Charismatic movement who most of you probably don’t know. I don’t think he comes up to this area very much. I sat in his meeting once and God told me never to sit in his meeting again. And so my friend went to a certain city to preach and he has the same opinion of this other preacher that I do, and at the end of this—he really gave the people all had—at the end a dear lady came up to him and said, “God bless you, Brother So-and-so. You and that other preacher are my two favorite preachers.”
So God’s will for us is that we increase in knowledge and perceptivity so that we may try the things that differ. We may know the difference between the true and the false, the self-exalting and the Christ- exalting, the soulish and the spiritual. And if we don’t we’ll be in trouble quickly.
“…that ye may be sincere [or pure] and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.”
In order to be sincere and without offense and be filled with the fruits of righteousness, we’ve got to increase in knowledge and perceptivity. It’s an increasing life. And then we could read also in Philippians 3 verses 12 through 16. Now notice this is the apostle Paul who is speaking, and he makes it very clear that he has not finally attained. At this time he’d been in the ministry a good many years, was an apostle, had planted many churches, seen thousands of people converted, many saved and healed and all that, and this is what he says.
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended [to have arrived]: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”
If you notice there, Paul uses the word perfect in two different senses and there’s apparently a conflict. In verse 12 he says, “Not as though I were already perfect,” but in verse 15 he says, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” And I think it’s important to understand that.
I can illustrate it for you I think by the growth of an apple. When an apple starts to grow on a tree it’s a little hard, round, green ball. It’s certainly not a perfect apple—it’s not mature, it’s not complete, it’s not ripe. And yet it can be perfect for its stage of growth. In other words, there’s no worms in it, no rottenness, no disease. So it’s perfect, and yet it’s not perfect. And interestingly enough, if it doesn’t go on growing to perfection, it will lose the perfection that it already has. So whatever stage of growth you’re in, in that stage you can be perfect—no area of unconfessed sin, no rebellion, to refusal to accept and obey God. You’re perfect, but you’re not perfect. But if you don’t go on to be perfect, you’ll lose the perfection that you already have. So, there’s the two senses of perfect.
So Paul says, “I haven’t arrived. I’m still pressing toward the mark. But,” he says, “What I’ve learned and what already works, I don’t give that up.” Verse 16:
“Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”
Don’t give us what you’ve learned. There’s a Scripture, I think it must be in Proverbs, which says, “Buy the truth and sell it not.” You have to pay for the truth and when you’ve bought it, don’t sell it. I don’t sell any truth that I’ve learned out of the Bible and works and experience I hold on to it. But I know it isn’t all. So I walk in the light that I have believing that the light will get brighter day by day.
Let’s look in Colossians 1:9 through 11, Colossians 1:9–11.
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
That’s a beautiful statement isn’t it? Do you realize that we can be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding? That’s not an unattainable goal, because Paul never prayed for anything in the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit couldn’t achieve.
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing…”
And notice you will not walk worthy of the Lord unless you are filled with the knowledge of His will. It’s a basic requirement.
“…being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Notice the knowledge of God must increase. We cannot be static.
“Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”
These opening verses of Colossians are terrific. The first twelve verses of Colossians are the inheritance of the saints in light. I don’t have time to go into them in detail. There is not one negative word or thought in those twelve verses. Everything is totally positive. And in the verses that I’ve read, I’d just like to go back over them and ask you to notice with me how many alls there are. And bear in mind that in the Greek language all and every are the same word. So where we have all or every, it’s all in Greek.
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to this glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”
It would pay you to take a few minutes just to read those few verses over and over until you get the standard to which God desires us to press towards. And then just to look in Colossians 4:12 for a moment. Colossians 4:12. Paul is writing to the Colossian church, he talks about one of their members who had come to him to minister to him name, Epaphras. He says:
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
That’s a challenging concept, isn’t it? And it also points out a real prayer ministry, that you can pray for others, for the body of Christ, for the ministers, that they may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Let’s not stop until we’re perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Proverbs 4:18. I don’t need to turn there. It’s one of my favorite Scriptures.
“The pathway of the righteous is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
If you are walking in the pathway of the righteous, the light gets brighter on your path each day. And any day you’re walking in yesterday’s light, today you’re a backslider. I don’t say that to condemn you. I just point it out. Every day has got more light than the previous day.
“The pathway of the righteous is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
Now, we’ve got one more thing to establish about love, which I will only state briefly. I think it’s tremendously profound. So profound that I question whether I can adequately express it, but I’ll just say it anyhow. I think we have to acknowledge that love comes to us or is developed within us in two ways. There’s the supernatural outpouring of God’s total love which is given to us any time. But then there’s the outworking in character and daily living of that love, which is a totally different kind of thing. Let’s say that again. God dumps the whole of His love into our hearts with the Holy Spirit—just in one swoop it’s all there. And you’ve got it. How many times have you seen a person baptized in the Holy Spirit?
I remember a psychiatrist that got the baptism of the Holy Spirit in an Assembly of God Church where I was associate pastor in Minneapolis long years ago—ten years ago or more. He was a stiff Presbyterian elder, and he was a psychiatrist to boot. And he’d been seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit for a long time and he came forward at the altar at this very noisy Pentecostal church. It must have been agony to the poor man’s soul, but he was so desperate. And people were standing all round him whooping and laying hands on him, and pushing him. And after a little while, they gave up and my wife came forward and quietly laid hands on him and he was baptized in the Holy Spirit and he spoke in tongues. And after awhile he stood up, turned round, and the first person he saw was my wife and he threw his arms her and embraced her. And I said to myself, “When you get a psychiatrist who’s a Presbyterian elder embracing a Pentecostal preacher’s wife in Assembly of God church, something has happened!” But, you see, at that moment he was just filled with total love. There was nothing in him but love. The first person he saw he had to embrace. But it doesn’t follow that he went home and was a perfect husband for the rest of his days. That’s another story, you see.
What we’ve got to get is the relationship between that first whoosh of divine love and living it out in the daily life. Now let’s look at it. Romans 5:5, Romans 5:5:
“And the hope putteth us not to shame; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”
The Greek says literally, “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Not some of God’s love, but just the love of God has been poured out. It’s a perfect tense. It’s there. You say, “Lord, I need more love.” The Lord says, “I’ve given it to you all. You can’t need more.”
It’s like a man standing beside Niagara Falls. “Lord, I need water.” God says, “Avail yourself of it.” You’ll never need more than is there. But now to take the power that’s in that water in Niagara Falls and harness it requires a lot of hard work to make it do something for you. That’ s where we’re at. All right the love of God has been poured out.
How about our daily living? Let’s look in 2 Peter. Second Peter chapter 1—I’m going to read 2 Peter chapter 1 beginning at verse 2:
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”
Notice, first of all, that the Christian life is a life of multiplication. Praise God! Grace and peace be multiplied unto you. And it’s all in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Verse 3:
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.”
Notice, as God has already given us all things. There’s nothing He has to give us; it’s all given us in Christ. All right.
“Through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”
It’s all contained in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Everything we’re ever going to need for time and eternity is already ours in Jesus Christ. Verse 4:
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.”
It’s made available to us how? In the exceeding great and precious promises. Our inheritance is in the promises. It’s all there. I’ve said this many times, but it’s a good illustration. Under the old covenant, under a leader named Joshua (which is the same name as Jesus), God brought His people into a promised land. Under the New Covenant, under a leader named Jesus, God brings His people into a land of promises. The inheritance is in the promises and they’re all ours, and in them is all we’ll ever need. But do you remember what God said to Joshua? “You’ve got to put your foot on every place to make it yours.” All right. Verse 4:
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”
Notice, as you appropriate the promises you become partaker of God’s own nature. That’s one of the most astonishing statements in the Bible.
“…having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
In proportion as you receive the nature of God, you are delivered from the corruption that is in the world, because God’s nature and corruption cannot occupy the same place. As you receive the nature of God through appropriating His promises in faith, you are delivered from the corruption that is in this world through lust, through evil, ungoverned, misdirected desire. Then he goes on to say:
“And beside this…”
Besides receiving the nature of God, you’ve got to work out the character of God. You see, it’s one thing to have the divine nature. It’s another thing to display the divine character. This is where Christian growth is at. It’s transforming nature into character. And now we come to the nitty-gritty:
“And beside this, giving all diligence [it’s not an occasion for laziness or sloppiness], add [and now we get the adding process] to your faith, virtue; to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; to temperance patience; to patience godliness; to godliness brotherly kindness; to brotherly kindness charity.”
You will find there are seven stages and I’ve listed them for you in the outline so that you can look at them more easily than in the verses. The first basic stage is faith. We begin by faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that seek Him.” The basis of the whole life is faith in God, in Jesus Christ and in the Scripture. To faith we add virtue. Now the word virtue is not very familiar in modern English. I think the best English translation today is excellent. And that rules out sloppiness, inefficiency, timeserving.
I always think about the Africans that I trained as teachers in Kenya. My primary aim was to lead them to Christ and to bring them into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I discovered that when they professed faith in Christ, somehow they expected me to show them favor. They expected me to judge their lessons more leniently. I said, “You’re quite wrong. If you could be any kind of a teacher without Christ and the Holy Spirit, you should be twice as good a teacher with Christ and the Holy Spirit. I’m not going to judge you more leniently; I’m going to expect more of you.”
And I say that to anybody. No matter what your profession is, whether you’re a teacher or a janitor or an attorney or a bus driver or just a plain housewife, when you’ve got faith the next thing you have to add is excellence. You’ve got to be an excellent housewife. Your home should be cleaner, better organized, your meals better served, your children better clothed and trained than the lady who isn’t a Christian. Add to faith excellence. Okay? It should make you outstanding in your class. Strange silence!
To excellence you add knowledge—the knowledge of God’s will, which is in His word. To knowledge you add temperance. The best English translation today is self-control. You cannot run this race without self-control. If you indulge every mood, every whim, every fancy, every appetite, you’ll never be an overcomer. Paul compares the Christian life to people striving for success in athletic games. And he says every man that strives to success in the games is self-controlled in everything. Have you ever studied an athlete? He’s careful about the hours he sleeps, the food he eats, the company he keeps, the exercise he takes. His whole life is directed towards jumping a little higher or running a little faster or diving a little deeper than somebody else. And Paul says if you’re going to be a successful Christian you have to cultivate self-control just as much as that athlete. Self-control is essential. As a matter of fact, it’s right in the middle of the list. I think it’s the thing around which everything turns—self-discipline.
Then we go into patience—the modern English is endurance. It’s not putting up with people. It’s holding out against adversity and opposition, misunderstanding. The first mark of an apostle is patience. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you,” Paul says, “in all patience, endurance, and signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” But the first mark is the character mark. The apostle holds on when everybody else turns back. That’s endurance.
Beyond endurance is brotherly love. Do you really love your fellow-believer? Believe me, that takes some doing. And you say, “I’ve arrived. I love my fellow Christians.” God says, “No. You’ve got one more step.” Charity, agape, divine love—you love the people that don’t love you, your enemy. The love that gives and asks for nothing back, it just gives out. That’s the climax of the development of Christian character. And I want you to see that that kind of love is built on a solid foundation of character laid. It’s not an accident. It isn’t a whim, it isn’t a feeling, it isn’t a spiritual gift. It’s an achievement. If you don’t work at it you won’t achieve it.
All right, let’s look at the last statement and we’re coming near the end. By this process of character building we move from imputed righteousness to outworked righteousness. Now this we need to understand—this is the final thing we need to understand today. When you receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Savior, by divine grace you’re clothed with His righteousness. Isaiah said the Lord had given me a garment of salvation and a robe of righteousness. When you get the garment of salvation, the next thing God gives you is a robe of spotless righteousness—Christ’s righteousness imputed to you. “God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Now that’s imputed. God reckons it to your account on the basis on what Christ has done. But for you to become a mature Christian that imputed righteousness has got to be worked out in your living.
So we move from the imputed to the outworked. Let’s look at the imputed first. Romans 4:22 through 25, Romans 4:22–25. It speaks about the example of Abraham. In Genesis 15:6 it says, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” His faith was imputed to him for righteousness. Imputed righteousness, reckoned righteousness. And Paul goes on to say Abraham is the pattern and it will be imputed to us if we have faith, so he says this:
“And therefore it was imputed to him [Abraham] for righteousness. Now it was not written for his [Abraham’s] sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
If we believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, His righteousness is imputed to us the moment we believe. There’s no more guilt, there’s no more condemnation, the devil hasn’t a single thing to say against us any longer. But now comes the problem. It’s transferring imputed righteousness which I received as a free gift, to outworked righteousness, which is the way I live, and that doesn’t happen in five minutes in most cases.
Now let’s look in Philippians 2, Philippians chapter 2 verses 12 and 13, Philippians 2:12 and 13:
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed [and notice the key is obedience], not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
I don’t think there’s nearly enough fear and trembling in the Charismatic movement today. I think there’s a lot of lightness and superficiality. It’s not true of everybody, but there’s much of it. Verse 13:
“For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
So you see, God works in and we work out. If God didn’t work in, we’d have nothing to work out. And not only does God work in to do, but notice He works in to will. He puts in us the will to do that which is right. Being a Christian is not a continual struggle to do what you don’t want to do. If you’re continually struggling to do what you don’t want to do, you’ve never been born again. Because when you’re born again you get a natural desire to do the will of God. God works in you “to will” and then “to do,” but God works in you only in proportion as you work out. If you stop working out, God can’t work in because there’s a traffic jam. The car behind can’t move into the place you occupy until you move forward. And some Christians have been parked and the meter time has expired a long while ago. And God says, “I’m waiting. I’d like to do a lot more for you, but until you do what you already know how can I tell you anymore.”
Work out what God works in. That is transferring imputed to outworked righteousness. Now look at the glorious conclusion, the last Scripture for the morning. Revelation 19 verse 7 and 8, Revelation 19 verse 7 and 8:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him [to God]: for the marriage of the Lamb is come [the great climax of all ages is the marriage of the Lamb], and his wife [the bride, the church] hath made herself ready.”
And notice, she has to make herself ready. Have you ever been in the preparation for a marriage where the bridegroom came and got the bride ready? Nowhere. The bride works hard at her own dress. If ever there’s a time a young woman is busy, it’s when she’s getting ready for her marriage. And the church needs to be busy.
“…his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted [it’s grace initially] that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: [but the Greek says clean and bright. It’s not just white, it’s shining. Now listen,] for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
You remember I told you there are two words for righteousness? Dikaiosune, “imputed righteousness,” dikaioma, “outworked righteousness.” This is dikaioma, and it’s in the plural. The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. It’s the outworked righteousnesses of the saints. And in a certain sense, all your life long you are spinning your wedding garment. Every act you make is another thread in the garment.
My wife and I had a friend, a fellow missionary in Palestine—this is the last—she became very ill. They thought she was going to die. She thought she was ready for death and being a believer she was prepared to die. But one night the Lord gave her a very vivid dream. And in this dream she was sewing on a beautiful white garment and as she looked closely at the garment she saw there was great deal of the garment still missing. And the Lord showed her that she hadn’t finished her life work. She did not die. He raised her up. And many times I’ve thought about that. All through our life as a Christian we’re working on that garment. The fine linen is the outworked righteousness of the saints. If some of you don’t change, all you’ll have for a wedding garment is a mini skirt, and I don’t believe those are heaven’s fashions.