||ship > An Impossible Standard?
An Impossible Standard?
by Tom Stewart
July 20, 1999
Recently, we received the following email from
However, this following point you make at the top of your homepage bugged me a little...
The test of knowing if your "love"
for Him is self-deceived or REAL, can be conclusively proved by Scripture. If you
LOVE Him-- you will OBEY Him. If you will not obey Him-- you do not love Him.
"If ye love Me, keep My Commandments" (John 14:15).
"And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments"
(1 John 2:3).
"But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby
know we that we are in Him" (1 John 2:5).
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My Words"
"If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My love" (John 15:10).
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments
are not grievous" [literally, not burdensome] (1 John 5:3).
"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our LORD Jesus
Christ unto Eternal Life" (Jude 1:21).
My point is that, IF, as you state, "If
you LOVE Him-- you will OBEY Him," then, shouldn't the
bible use that same word, "obey"? Why do all the verses you quote use the
word, "keep"?. I keep the commandments close to my heart, mind, and actions,
but I find my flesh not obeying my own commands, as Paul struggled with.
I am not saying we don't need to worry about the commandments, and that we don't
need to obey. We do need to, but I know that it is impossible to do so in the sinful
flesh we all inhabit.
"He who says he is without sin is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Please don't push a standard of "worthiness" on people that they cannot
Our response to this reader...
We appreciate that you have invested time into reading a website that is premised
upon "What Saith the Scripture" (Romans 4:3). You are certainly aware of
the necessity of the Body of Christ to live "by
every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew
4:4). Over the years, Katie and I have been helped in our study of the Scriptures
by a simple verse that demonstrates that only those who are willing to do the will
of God can truly understand the Scriptures.
"If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of
God, or whether I speak of Myself" (John 7:17).
Concerning your difficulty with equating "keep" with
"obey", the Greek word "tereo" (Strong's
# 5083) is translated by the KJV as "keep" in our LORD's last instructions before His betrayal in John 14:15-- "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments"-- and "observe" in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:20-- "Teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you". Certainly, the LORD Jesus intended by His Words to convey the necessity
of loving obedience to all who would claim Him as LORD and Saviour. "And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things
which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Even the Old Testament clearly
demonstrated that to "keep" is to "obey". "And
the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep My Commandments and My Laws?" (Exodus 16:28).
It would be helpful for you to consider that faith always works by love. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth
any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). And, faith always obeys. "But now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets,
according to the Commandment of the Everlasting God, made known to all nations for
the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26).
Your distress about pushing a "standard of 'worthiness' on people that they
cannot fulfill" seems to be based upon your similarity to the Apostle Paul's
"law experience" of Romans 7, i.e., "19 For the good that I would I do
not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the
body of this death?" (Romans 7:19, 24). But, Paul's purpose
was not to show Romans 7 as a normal, expected experience, but to demonstrate in
Romans 8, the necessity-- and possibility-- of walking in the Spirit to accomplish
the required obedience. "4 That the righteousness
of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell
in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Romans 8:4, 9). Remember, the Spirit only dwells with those who walk
in obedience. "And we are His witnesses
of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that
obey Him" (Acts 5:32).
Your contention that "it is impossible to [obey while] in the sinful flesh
we all inhabit" is a mistake founded upon the erroneous Doctrine of the
Sinful Nature of Man. In response, please read "Back to the Basics: The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ" ---New Window , which is a
portion of an article, "An
Urgent Call to Christian Perfection"
Window -- "With
men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible"
(Matthew 19:26)-- that attempts to show that man is not born a sinner; but, all men
have become sinners through their own personal choice. Therefore, it is not
accurate that we blame "sinful flesh" for our lack of obedience. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth
no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good
I find not" (Romans 7:18).
How then are we to be delivered "from
the body of this death" (Romans 7:24)? Again, our deliverance
is through walking by faith in the Spirit. "There
is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who WALK not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"
(Romans 8:1). And, again, the Spirit will always cause us to keep His Commandments.
"And he that keepeth His Commandments
dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the
Spirit which He hath given us" (1John 3:24). And, the
Promises of God have been especially designed by the LORD to accomplish the ongoing
sanctification of His people, who are trusting Him. "Whereby
are given unto us Exceeding Great And Precious Promises: that by These ye might be
partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world
through lust" (2Peter 1:4).
Your citing of the Scripture that "he
who says he is without sin is a liar, and the truth is not in him" [1John 1] is also a mistake in your understanding of the First Epistle
of John. In response, please read the "Christian Perfection: 'Almost Thou Persuadest Me'?" ---New Window section of the aforementioned article,
"An Urgent Call to
Christian Perfection" ---New Window , for an exposition of both Romans 7 and 1 John 1. "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath
not seen Him, neither known Him" (1John 3:6). This concept
of the Assurance of Salvation is also covered in our article, "That Ye May Know That Ye Have Eternal Life" ---New Window . You can find additional articles
on this subject in our "Topical Links: On Sound Doctrine" ---New Window section.
We desire for you-- and ourselves-- that you "may
know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being made conformable unto His death" (Philippians 3:10).
And, we also seek "14 That we henceforth be no
more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
speaking the Truth in Love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the
head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by
that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure
of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in Love" (Ephesians 4:14-16).
Tom and Katie Stewart
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always,
that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come
to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36).
Email from a reader...
Are you saying that you do not ever sin? Or are you saying that your sins have been
forgiven by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and that when you sin, you can confess
your sin to the Father through the Son?
Greetings. I'll try to respond to your question, "Are
you saying that you do not ever sin?" No, not only have
I sinned, but I do on occasion foolishly sin and bring reproach upon the LORD. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of
God" (Romans 3:23). But, even as "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse
us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1:9), we ought to
respond to His love and forgiveness by abiding in Christ. "Whosoever
abideth in Him sinneth not [present tense, sins not]" (3:6). I am not basing any
doctrine of holiness, sanctification, or perfection upon my attaining or lack of
attaining any particular condition of sinlessness. Instead, I am only concerned with "what saith the Scripture?"
(Romans 4:3). If you would like to investigate further this subject, I would invite
you to read "An Urgent Call to Christian
Perfection" ---New Window , which was an attempt to answer another's inquiry on the subject of Christian
sanctification. "Be ye therefore perfect,
even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew
I have written other articles on this subject, found in "Topical
Links On Sound Doctrine"
Window on our website. I hope that you find the information
for which you were seeking. "I am a companion
of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy Precepts" (Psalm 119:63).
"He will turn again, He will have compassion
upon us; He will subdue our iniquities" (Micah 7:19).
Laodicea's most cherished doctrine is one's necessity to sin, i.e., no one's
perfect. Regardless of our past failures, neither you nor I should put that lack
of success above the plain Word of God, which says, "whosoever
is born of God doth not commit sin" (1John 3:9).
Our experience cannot disprove His Word. If we did NOT have access to the plain statements
of Scripture, we would have to wholeheartedly admit that it is impossible to ever
stop sinning for even the smallest moment of time. However, we are held to a Higher
Standard by the LORD Jesus Christ Himself. "Be
ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Perfect Love is the Demand of the Moral Law, which the
LORD Jesus Christ never set aside. "37 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. 38 This is the First And Great Commandment. 39 And the Second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself" (22:37-39).
From past experience, we have failed in our love to Him through the willful act of
sinning. "To him that knoweth to do good,
and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). Even
though we ought to obey, and have been given a free will to obey-- we just didn't
obey. And that makes sin "exceeding sinful" (Romans 7:13). The LORD Jesus overcame sin while in human form, "leaving us an example, that
[we] should follow His steps" (1Peter 2:21). He destroyed the power that sin had over us by destroying
"the works of the Devil" (1John 3:8). But, what makes sin even more grievous is, that we neglect
His Ability to keep us from sinning. "Whosoever
abideth in Him sinneth not" (1John 3:6). As a dog returns
to its vomit, we return to our sin. "For
if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the
LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the
latter end is worse with them than the beginning" (2Peter
2:20). There is no excuse for sin! We have no excuse for doing it! Because "His Divine Power hath given unto us all things that
pertain unto life and Godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us
to glory and virtue" (2Peter 1:3).
If we believe what God says, then "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin;
for His Seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God"
(1John 3:9). "The
Seed is the Word of God" (Luke 8:11).
And, "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart,
that I might not sin against Thee" (Psalm
119:11). It becomes very clear that a child of God "commits" righteousness,
and a child of the Devil commits sin. "In
this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil [this is the way you tell them apart]:
whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not
his brother" (1John 3:10). I tell you this in all sincerity,
"in this the children of God are
manifest" because a wrong attitude concerning sin will
cause death. "For the wages of sin is
death" (Romans 6:23). Sin will deceive you, then slay
you. And, you won't even notice that you've been hardened. "But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest
any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews
Your only hope is to trust God to keep you from sinning. "He will turn again,
He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities" (Micah 7:19). A Christian cannot
sin while he is trusting God to not sin. "For it is GOD which worketh in you both to will and
to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
Personal success at holiness demands that we trust Him to work it in us. "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly
above all that we ask or think, according to the Power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20). May the LORD discover to you the help of His Promises
to keep you from sin and sinning. "Whereby
are given unto us Exceeding Great And Precious Promises: that by These ye might be
partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that
is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:4).
Trust His Ability:
- "Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also
will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
- "Whereunto I also labour, striving according
to His Working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29).
- "According to the gift of the grace of God
given unto me by the Effectual Working of His Power"
- "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD,
and in the Power of His Might" (Ephesians 6:10).
- "And what is the exceeding greatness of His
Power to us-ward who believe, according to the Working of His Mighty
Power" (Ephesians 1:19).
- "Now the God of peace, that brought again
from the dead our LORD Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the Blood
of the Everlasting Covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His Will,
working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to
Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).
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