Many people do not understand the doctrine of Justification by Faith or Righteousness by Faith. Many understand the theory, and some may even know their Bible inside out but have not known or experienced the power of godliness in their hearts and lives. They have not experienced the needed change in their characters to emulate the character of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In other words, they have not experienced the life-changing power of the Gospel.
In this document, I would like to relate the story of Christian author Margaret Davis as relating to Righteousness by Faith. Her story is sadly typical of many Christians today. They spend time reading their Bibles, praying, witnessing, doing their best, etc., but for some reasons or other righteous living eludes them. They have not gained victory over sin; the peace that passeth all understanding and the inward joy that accompanies knowing the Lord have not been truly experienced.
One Sabbath afternoon Margaret Davis was visiting her parents and several of her brothers and sisters were discussing the subject Righteousness by Faith. In discussing it with her father they had expressed some ideas that seemed different from his understanding of salvation.
Margaret says: "With me there, he hoped to get to the bottom of the matter. I was a minister's wife! I had been a missionary! I would have the answer, father thought."
"So, as my brothers and sisters described their new insights, father would ask me, Margaret, are they right? And each time all I could do was answer, helplessly, "Father, I don't know."
"As the discussion continued, I could see that father was becoming more and more concerned. Was his hope of Heaven settled on quicksand?
"His belief was, simply put, accept Jesus and do your best to obey God and gradually you will overcome your sins; sanctification is the work of a lifetime. So, much of his life, he had tried to overcome his sins of temper, resentment, irritation, impatience, strife, and lust, while believing he was in a saving relationship covered by imputed righteousness. Now he was hearing a heart-cleansing and the power of God to keep him from sinning.
"As the discussion went on, my father was not the only one who became trouble. I did also, because I had to admit I knew virtually nothing of Righteousness by Faith. My religion was much like my father's. Do your best!
"The next day, father called me aside and unburdened his heart to me. With deep concern he told me about the sins of his youth that still weighted heavily on him. He confessed to ways he had sinned against his family through the years. All the guilt of those sins loomed like a great mountain over him, poised to fall and crush him. And the propensities that had caused him to commit those sins were still ruling him. That which he did not want to do, he did. He was unable to control his spirit under stress. He could have said, "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
"He was 78 years old, with a heart condition that could bring death at any moment, and he knew that only the overcomer would be in Heaven. Then it was that, as we sat in dad's living room, he appealed to me, in desperation, "Margaret, help me!"
"Looking into my father's pleading face, it suddenly dawned on me that I had nothing to offer a sinner. The only thought that came to my mind was Try a little harder, father! But the idea mocked me. He had been trying all his life. Trying was nothing but defeat. I went back to my home in Takoma Park, Maryland, determined to do something to help my father. I would study Righteousness by Faith until I could tell him how to have victory.
"At first I read a number of books by various men on the subject, but I only became more confused. Finally, putting them all aside, I decided to use nothing but the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings (writings by Ellen G. White). Then I began to make progress."
Let's look at some of the things Margaret discovered in her quest to understand Righteousness by Faith in Jesus Christ.
"Many are sensible of their great deficiency, and they read, and pray and resolve, and yet make no progress. They seem to be powerless to resist temptation. The reason is, they do not go deep enough. They do not seek for a thorough conversion of the soul, that the streams which issue from it may be pure, and the deportment may testify that Christ reigns within. All defects of character originate in the heart. Pride, vanity, evil temper, and covetousness proceed from the carnal heart unrenewed by the grace of Christ." --Our High Calling, Page 336.
According to this text, people do not experience victory in their lives because they have not sought God deep enough. They have not been thorough and earnest in their search for God. They have not searched Him with all their hearts. Jeremiah 29:13 says: "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
"There must be earnest study and close investigation of Scriptures. Sharp, clear perception of truth will never be the reward of indolence. No earthly blessing can be obtained without earnest, patient, persevering effort...And we cannot expect to gain spiritual knowledge without earnest toil...No halfhearted, indifferent work will avail. It is essential for old and young, not only to read God's word, but to study it with wholehearted earnestness, praying and searching for truth as for hidden treasure. Those who do this will be rewarded, for Christ will quicken the understanding." --Christ's Object Lessons, Page 111.
Our salvation depends on a knowledge of the truth contained in the Scriptures. What happens as we continue to study the Bible? Something imperceptible is happening in the heart. The process of conversion is taking place. The heart is being rejuvenated; the character is being transformed.
"By an agency as unseen as the wind, Christ is constantly working upon the heart. Little by little, perhaps unconsciously to the receiver, impressions are made that tend to draw the soul to Christ. These may be received through meditating upon Him, through reading the Scriptures, or through hearing the word from the living preacher. Suddenly, as the Spirit comes with more direct appeal, the soul gladly surrenders itself to Jesus. By many this is called sudden conversion; but it is the result of long wooing by the Spirit of God--a patient, protracted process." --Desire of Ages, Page 172.
"New thoughts, new feelings, new motives, are implanted. A new standard of character is set up - the life of Christ. The mind is changed; the faculties are roused to action in new lines. The conscience is awakened." --Christ's Object Lessons, Pages 98 and 99.
From these quotations, we know that we need to exert all the powers of our mind to understand and comprehend the deep things of God. At first we may find the Bible uninteresting and hard to understand. But perseverance will change all of that. As we permit the Holy Spirit to work, truths will begin to fall into place; the seemingly dull will become interesting, even fascinating.
I remember my first experience reading the Bible from cover to cover. Genesis was great. The creation of the world, the stories of the patriarchs--Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph, sold into slavery, the reunion with his brethren in Egypt all were fascinating and brought tears to my eyes. The story of the Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments, the building of the sanctuary, where God promised to dwell with man, kept me on the edge of my seat. All too soon, the book of Leviticus came up with the slaying of animals, the blood, the burning of flesh, the ashes, and the vegetarian in me was rebelling. It was like coming from a mountain-top experience of Genesis and Exodus to a hot, dry desert of Leviticus.
Needless to say, I was bogged down in Leviticus. I wasn't getting anything out of it, and I couldn't read further. I was on the same chapter for several days, reading it over and over trying to get something out of it, but to no avail. Plain and simple, I was bored. But I knew that this must not be. I knew Leviticus is part of the eternal Word of God. In desperation, I cried to the God of Leviticus to make the book of Leviticus become alive to me.
Then I felt directed to read the book, The Cross and Its Shadow by Stephen N. Haskell. This book helped me to see the importance and spiritual significance of the types and shadows of the Old Testament. Unbelievably my eyes were opened, and for the first time, I saw Jesus Christ as I have never seen Him before in Leviticus. I saw Gethsemane and Calvary, and I saw me, a transgressor of the Law, put the King of Glory and Majesty of Heaven on a crude and rugged cross. The tears flowed. Then, I lifted up my voice in adoration and praise to God for His condescending love for me. The book of Leviticus took on a new and special meaning, and I realized that what appeared like a dead book before, suddenly, through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, became alive in the person of the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.
Here's the author's preface on The Cross and Its Shadow: "Eternity can never fathom the depth of love revealed in the cross of Calvary. It was there that the infinite love of Christ and the unbounded selfishness of Satan stood face to face. The entire system of Judaism, with its types and symbols, was a shadow of the cross, extending from Calvary back to the gate of Eden, and contained a compacted prophecy of the Gospel.
"At the present day the person who comes to the study of the New Testament through the interpreting lights of the types and symbols of the Levitical services, finds a depth and richness in the study that are found in no other way. It is impossible to have exalted views of Christ's atoning work if the New Testament is studied without a previous knowledge of the deep, bloodstained foundations in the Old Testament gospels of Moses and the prophets.
"In every sacrifice, Christ's death was shown. In every cloud of incense His righteousness ascended. By every jubilee trumpet His name was sounded. In the awful mystery of the holy of holies His glory dwelt.
"In the light shining from the sanctuary, the books of Moses, with their detail of offerings and sacrifices, their rites and ceremonies, usually considered so meaningless and void of interest, become radiant with consistency and beauty...
"Every type used in the entire sacrificial system was designed by God to bear resemblance to some spiritual truth. The value of these types consisted in the fact that they were chosen by God Himself to shadow forth the different phases of the complete plan of redemption, made possible by the death of Christ. The likeness between type and antitype is never accidental, but is simply a fulfillment of the great plan of God."
I thought that was a beautiful description of the types and symbols of the Levitical services and what they represented. I just had to share it. It not only helped me to understand Leviticus, but it made me appreciate more what happened at Calvary two thousand years ago.
Continuing with the subject, Righteousness by Faith, more beautiful truths are shared:
"As they (those who hunger for Jesus) feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus." --Desire of Ages, Page 391.
"As you study and seek, entertain a humble expectation that God will help. Remember, He does not mock us; He will not play with us. He is more eager that we find Him than we can ever be. When our hearts are properly prepared, He will come in a direct way. Ibid.
"When He makes the loving invitation, respond immediately. It is safe to let go of self and every worldly support, and take the hand of Him who guides the millions of worlds in His vast universe." Ibid.
"Jesus loves to have us come to Him just as we are, sinful, helpless, dependent. We may come with all our weakness, our folly, our sinfulness, and fall at His feet in penitence. It is His glory to encircle us in the arms of His love, and to bind up our wounds, to cleanse us from all impurity." --Steps to Christ, Page 52.
Not only must the Scriptures be searched to find Christ; they must be habitually searched to retain Him. This is the intent of John 6:54 which says: "Whoever continues to eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life.
John 12:32 -"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
Marjorie Lewis Lloyd in her book, "If It's So Simple, Why Is It So Hard?" described Righteousness by Faith as follows:
"We just look to Him (Jesus). And we are drawn. We are attracted to Him. As we look, we desire to know Him, to give our lives to Him, to be like Him. As we see that we have wounded Him, we repent. We want to confess our sins and make everything right.
"As we keep looking we learn. Like Peter, we learn that we can only perish in the stormy sea if we try to walk without Him. But walking in His strength we cannot fail. That's Righteousness by Faith!
"As we continue to gaze the Bible comes alive for us. It is a new Book. Our motives are changed. Temptation loses its power--because we want nothing that would separate us from Him. We run the race "fixing our eyes on Jesus." And that's how we endure to the end.
"As we gaze intently into His face we begin to reflect His image. He came and looked like us---like humanity--so that we might in character look like Him!
"The longer we look, the more we long for Him to return so that we can see Him face to face. And when salvation is complete we'll go on looking still!"
As Margaret Davis searched deeper into the Word of God to understand Righteousness by Faith, her efforts were rewarded. She started sharing with her family what she had found in Christ. Her children noticed changes in her life and that of her minister husband's life for both of them had started digging deeper into the mines of God's truths. Margaret was able to help both her aged father and mother gain a deeper understanding of the Word of God and to experience for themselves the life-changing power of the Gospel of Christ. This is Righteousness by Faith!
The just shall live by faith, and faith is the victory that overcomes the world! Click on the NEXT Button for Part 2.