WORTHY OF THE KINGDOM

by Thomas W. Finley


Chapter 5-2 (contd.)

SALVATION OF THE SPIRIT

Man is a three-part being.[1] "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23).

The spirit of man is the God-conscious part of him, and it is that part that God initially deals with in His salvation. It is man’s spirit that receives new life when man is born again. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’" (Jn.3:6-7). Here we see God’s Spirit giving birth to the human spirit. The eighth chapter of Romans talks of our life in the Holy Spirit and declares: "and if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness" (v.10). Because of the imputed righteousness of Christ received by faith (Rom. 3:28), God is able to give life to our human spirit. Being made alive in our spirits has to do with our salvation by grace through faith. "Even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Eph. 2:5).

SALVATION OF THE SOUL

In addition to the salvation of the spirit, the Scripture also speaks of the salvation of the soul. These are two different matters. The soul has a close kinship to the spirit but is distinct (Heb. 4:12). The soul is where man’s natural life really lies. The soul is the place of man’s personality. The main faculties of man’s soul are his mind, his emotion, and his will. The Greek word for soul is psuche, from which we get the term psychology. The word psuche takes on broad usage in Scripture, as explained by Watchman Nee:

Zoe (one Greek word for life) is the highest life, the life of the spirit. Whenever the Bible speaks of eternal life it uses this word. Psuche refers to the animated life of man, his natural life or life of the soul. The Bible employs this term when it describes the human life. . . . The New Testament consequently employs the Greek word psuche for both "soul" and "soul life". Hence we know "soul" not only is one of the three elements of man but also is man’s life, his natural life. In many places in the Bible, "soul" is translated as "life". . . . "I do not account my life of any value" (Acts 20:24) . . . ."The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn. 10:11,15,17). The word "life" in these verses is "soul" in the original. It is so translated because it would be difficult to understand otherwise. The soul actually is the very life of man.

As we have mentioned, "soul" is one of the three elements of man. "Soul life" is man’s natural life, that which makes him exist and animates him. It is the life whereby man today lives; it is the power whereby man becomes what he is.[2]

The salvation, or preservation, of one’s soul (or life) is a matter related to one’s works or doings, not to grace. We have already discussed Matthew 16:24-27 under the related matter of "reward or prize". The word for "life" in that portion of the Bible is psuche.

If anyone wishes to come after Me; let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life [psuche] shall lose it; but whoever loses his life [psuche] for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds (Matt. 16:24-27).

The soul of the believer will be preserved from loss (and thus experience fulfillment) or suffer loss at Christ’s return, depending upon the believer’s following of Christ now in self-denial. This topic will be covered in more detail in the next chapter.

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

This was the great truth of the Reformation that was discovered by the seeking monk, Martin Luther. We are declared righteous by God through our faith in Christ.

"Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom. 3:28).

This justification is based upon the work of Christ.

". . . through the one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:18-19).

JUSTIFICATION BY WORKS

We have received an imputed righteousness by God through our faith in Christ and His work (Rom. 3:26,28). The principle of reward according to works, however, still remains for the believer, and there is a coming day in which Christ will judge the righteousness of our actual living. In other words, there is a second, future justification that is decided at the Judgment Seat of Christ based upon our works, not Christ’s work. Paul spoke clearly of the justification by faith in Romans Chapters Three and Four. But God used James to unveil the second justification. I can do no better than to quote D. M. Panton concerning the second justification of the believer:

So the Holy Spirit has selected a second apostle through whom to reveal the second justification with startling emphasis. "Was not Abraham our father JUSTIFIED by works, in that he offered up Isaac upon the altar? . . . by works was faith made perfect: . . . by works a man is justified, and not only by faith" (Jas. 2:21). That Abraham’s second justification was a justification before God, not men, is clear, because God alone--apart from Isaac--was present when he was so justified (Gen. 22:16). James is not speaking of works before faith, that is, works of law: for "faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect" : faith was already there. The justification of James, therefore, is not justification unto eternal life.

Scripture strenuously denies that works before faith can ever justify: "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Rom. 3:20). But works done after faith, works done in faith, the ‘work of faith’(1 Thess. 1:3) does justify for reward. "If any [disciple’s] work shall abide, he shall receive a reward. "If any [disciple’s] work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved'" (1 Cor. 3:15)--as already possessed of the justification unto life. "I know nothing against myself; yet am I not hereby justified" --with the second justification: even a conscience void of offense in a regenerate apostle cannot ensure that: nothing can (apart from a special revelation) but the Judge upon the Bema--"but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Wherefore the Spirit bids us,--"So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty" (Jas. 2:12)--the law, not of Moses, but of Christ.

God called Abraham, and he believed; God proved Abraham, and he endured: the two justifications were then complete. For his justification by faith Paul points to the moment of his regeneration; for his justification by works James points to his final act of accomplished obedience. Both justifications are demanded from every human soul. First, justification by blood, then justification by obedience; first, justification by faith, then justification by works; first, justification for life, then justification for reward; first, the escape of Israel out of Egypt, then the escape of Caleb and Joshua out of the wilderness; the one is an adjudication on a transferred righteousness through the obedience of Another; the other is an adjudication on an active righteousness through obedience of our own. For blessed is "the man unto whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works" (Rom. 4:6): blessed also is "the man that endureth temptation [testing]; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive THE CROWN OF LIFE (Jas. 1:12).[3]

If one looks carefully at the context of James Chapter Two, one will see that the justification that James speaks of is in connection with the future judgment.

"So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (Jas. 2:12-13).

These verses regarding the coming judgment are then immediately followed by: "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him" (v.14)?

The Scriptural context of this salvation is the coming judgment upon works. This is a salvation that has its potential realization at Christ’s future judgment of believers! What is this salvation? It is a salvation from loss and ruin in the coming age to the enjoyment of Christ’s Kingdom. In fact, James has already mentioned the Kingdom in this chapter in verse five. "Listen, my beloved brethren; did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" Those who love Him refuse to love the world (Jas. 4:4-10; 1 Jn. 2:15) and they obey Him (Jn. 14:15).

The salvation that James is dealing with is the salvation of the soul, which he mentioned earlier (1:21-22), achieved through obedience (works), not faith. So we see that this justification is tied to the principle of reward according to works. This view solves the age-old problem of Bible students concerning the reconciliation of Ephesians 2:8-9 (salvation by grace, not of works) with James 2:14,24 (salvation by works). These two passages speak of two different salvations.

THE JUDGMENT UPON SIN AND UNBELIEF

God is the judge of all men (Heb. 12:23). He judges, decides judicially, concerning every man. Chapter Five of Romans tells us that sin entered the world through Adam’s disobedience (Rom. 5:12). The result of sin’s entry into the human race was death (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). This death was a spiritual death. W. E. Vine comments:

Death is the opposite of life; it never denotes nonexistence. As spiritual life is "conscious existence in communion with God", so spiritual "death" is "conscious existence in separation from God." "Death in whichever of the above mentioned senses it is used, is always, in Scripture, viewed as the penal consequences of sin,..."[4]

God’s judgment, therefore, is death upon a sinful mankind. Note what Romans teaches us.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. . . . So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men (Rom. 5:15-16,18).

These verses tell us that God has already had a judgment (a judicial decision) resulting in condemnation upon mankind (a judgment against man). Sinful man is under the condemnation of spiritual death. God, however, through Christ’s substitutionary death, has made the way for us to be justified (acquitted and in right standing with God), so that we could have spiritual life. This "justification of life" (Rom. 5:18), bringing us out of spiritual death, is received by faith (it is not of works). It is received by trusting in Christ’s work of redemption (Rom. 3:24-26).

With these thoughts in mind, we can see God’s judgment upon unbelief in the following verses from the Gospel of John:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:14-18).

Also, we can now understand John 5:24 which says:

"Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."

Here we see that our faith in the gospel concerning Christ removes us from the realm of God’s judgment of eternal spiritual death and passes us into the realm of eternal life with God. When this Scripture states that the believer does not come into judgment, it means, in context, the judgment concerning eternal death, the condemnation of God upon all men. Through our faith in Christ, this judgment is passed! We are forever out of the condemnation of eternal death, having trusted in Christ’s redemption from it.

God’s judgment is now upon man’s unbelief in Christ. Why? Because God has done everything in Christ to bring man out from under God’s condemnation of eternal death. Jesus said when the Holy Spirit came He would convict the world of sin--"concerning sin because they do not believe in Me" (Jn. 16:9). Christ also tells us that "he who has disbelieved shall be [future tense] condemned" (Mk. 16:16). Unbelieving man is already under God’s condemnation (Jn. 3:18; Rom. 5:16), yet there will be a future judgment scene when dead unbelievers will be raised to appear before God’s throne (Rev. 20:11-15). There each one will be judged according to his deeds (v. 13), yet they are finally cast into the lake of fire because their names were not found in the book of life (v. 15; note: a sinner receives life through belief in Jesus; Jn. 3:16). So, although sinful man is under God’s condemnation due to sin (Rom. 5:16), he remains under that condemnation due to unbelief (Jn. 3:18).

Perhaps an illustration will help. One time this writer heard a radio preacher telling a true story about a convicted criminal. He was in jail and under the sentence of death. While on death row the governor of the state issued a pardon for him. The condemned man refused the pardon! It is our belief that the matter went to a judge and the judge upheld the man’s right to refuse the pardon. He was put to death as originally sentenced. Why did he die - because of the original death sentence? Yes, but one could also say it was because he refused the pardon! So sinful man is under judgment, not just because of God’s condemnation upon his sin, but eventually because man refuses to accept the forgiveness that God has provided in Jesus Christ.

It should be very easy for us to see how this matter of judgment upon sin and unbelief is related to the principle of salvation by grace through faith. The deliverance, the salvation, is from death to life (Jn. 5:24), and it is achieved by grace (Rom. 5:15) through faith (Jn. 3:15-18).

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)

[1] For a deeper analysis of man’s three parts, see Chapters One and Two of Volume I, Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1968).

[2] Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1968), Vol. I, p. 39.

[3] D. M. Panton, The Judgment Seat of Christ (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 1984), pp. 54-55.

[4] W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. 1939. (Reprint ed., Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1968), p. 149, partially quoting from Notes on Thessalonians by Hogg and Vine, p. 134. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.