Part 5 - Resting by Faith
Faith in the Creator
The believer is called to both a rest in Christ and to love and good works. This may at first seem like a contradiction. How can one rest and work at the same time? This calling however is not only logical and consistent, but the latter depends upon the former. Genuine love and good works depend upon a rest in Christ. Indeed, love and good works spring forth because of a rest in Christ. They are the fruit, and response, of one who through faith has found rest in the Creator.
Rest in Jesus Christ is a rest from trying to duplicate the work of Christ. Christ accomplished the work of redemption. His work establishes the believer in God's kingdom. It brings forgiveness of sin and new life. It establishes the believer as being righteous before God. Christ's finished work includes sanctification where the believer has been separated unto God and consecrated to God's purposes. Christ's finished work includes the giving of the Holy Spirit as the provision for God's purposes to be fulfilled. To rest in Christ is to not try to establish a separate standing before God but to receive the standing that Christ provides. This is received solely through faith.
Love and good works are the fruit of being established in God's kingdom. They are the work of God's Spirit who works through the believer. It is thus not the believer who is working but God who is working through the believer as he rests in the place that Christ has delivered him into.
Because the work is God's part and faith is the believer's part, faith in Christ is the key element in both resting in Christ and producing love and good works. Entering the rest comes only through faith. Entering God's kingdom comes only through faith. Works have no part in it.
Inheriting the Kingdom of God
The Bible shows what does not enter, or inherit, God's kingdom. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Paul makes similar statements in his letters to the Galatians (Gal. 5:19-21) and to the Ephesians (Eph. 5:3-6). The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God.
These verses however are not complete lists of that which does not inherit God's kingdom. They are used as examples as Paul exhorts believers about following that which is expedient toward God's calling. This list is expanded upon in Galatians: "For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (Gal. 3:18). Not only do those who break the law not inherit God's kingdom, those who try to keep the law are not the ones who inherit it either! If the "inheritance is of the law," then it is not through the promise that God made to Abraham. Galatians says, "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed' " (Gal. 3:8). Inheriting God's kingdom comes not through the law but through the promise that God gave to Abraham.
There is a comprehensive list of that which does not inherit God's kingdom in the book of First Corinthians: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:50). This is the complete list: flesh and blood. This is the same as saying corruption does not inherit incorruption. In the fall of Adam and Eve all was corrupted. Mankind's nature was corrupted as was the whole creation. None of this will inherit God's kingdom. If one were to look around, all that one sees, whether the heavens and earth, whether the lost, or even whether God's people, all that one sees will not be seen in God's kingdom. Even God's people on earth are cloaked with unredeemed flesh and blood and an accompanying fallen nature.
Corruption does not inherit incorruption
The reason one cannot inherit the kingdom of God through the law is this: corruption does not inherit incorruption. The Bible says, "Every one of them (the children of men) has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one" (Psalm 53:3). There are none who keep the law to the extent of perfection. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The righteousness of the law is not just to refrain from doing a list of outright and grievous sins - it is perfect love to God and a love to one's neighbor that is as great as love to oneself. It is not just refraining from negative actions, but also perfect love. Sin is not just those sins of commission, but also sins of omission. This is reflected in Jesus' answer to the rich young ruler who thought he had kept the law: Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Matt. 19:21).
Failure to keep the law is also the state of those who become believers and have been born into God's kingdom. None measure up to its perfection. The believer lives solely and only under the mercy and grace of God. The believer does not inherit God's kingdom based on works because only perfection is acceptable to a perfectly just and holy God. To think otherwise is to walk in deception about oneself.
To be able to inherit God's kingdom through works (the law) one would have to keep it perfectly. Galatians says, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.' But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for 'the just shall live by faith.' Yet the law is not of faith, but 'the man who does them shall live by them' " (Gal. 3:10-12). To be blessed under the law requires the keeping of the whole law, for "cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things." James wrote, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). Any sin puts one into the category of "sinner" to whom comes the curse of the law and not its blessing.
The promise of the Spirit
Galatians continues: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13-14). There is another way to inherit God's kingdom, but first sin and the curse of the law had to be dealt with. Jesus did this, having taken the curse upon Himself and dying on the cross. Those in Christ cannot lose their inheritance through the curse of the law because Jesus Christ redeemed them from it.
Galatians continues: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect" (Gal. 3:16-17). The promise is this: through the Messiah, a descendant of Abraham, comes a blessing available to all the world. This promise was made by God before the law of Moses was given. Therefore the promise is not based on the law and it cannot be annulled by the law.
Heirs according to the promise
Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Gal. 3:6). It is through faith that one gains the inheritance: "So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham" (Gal. 3:9). This chapter concludes, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29).
The Apostle Peter exhorts the believers to love one another, "having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Pet. 1:23). The inheritance of God's kingdom is not to that which is of the fallen world, but it is to these: those who have been "born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible." Nothing of the fallen creation inherits the kingdom. One must be born into it as a new creation. A person becomes a new creation through faith in Jesus Christ, and this makes one an heir "according to the promise." Jesus Christ is not only the creator of the heavens and earth; He is the creator of God's people. They are not self-made; they are a creation of God.
Now here is the point: rest in Jesus Christ must be the basis for a walk with God that produces love and good works. Hebrews states, "For we who have believed do enter that rest" (Heb. 4:3). The blessing that comes through Christ includes the "promise of the Spirit." Jesus redeemed His people from the curse of the law, "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:14). One is born again into God's kingdom through the Holy Spirit. It is in the Spirit filled life where rest is found. This is where God Himself is the resource in one's life. This is where love and good works originate.
The guarantee of our inheritance
Paul wrote to the Ephesians who believed in Jesus, "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:13-14) (emphasis added). God's guarantee that one will inherit His kingdom is the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is proof that one has been born into His kingdom.
Romans states, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Rom. 8:16-17). It is the children of God who inherit God's kingdom. Jesus said of the unregenerate, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do" (John 8:44). The natural state of mankind is to not be a child of God but rather a child of the world. Of these the devil is their father. One must be born "again" to be a partaker of the kingdom and a joint heir with Christ.
The evidence of the Spirit
There are several evidences that one is born of God's Spirit into His kingdom. These have to do with the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. One evidence is love. The Apostle John wrote, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7). Love is the fruit of the Spirit and agape love will be manifested if He is present. God's overwhelming characteristic is lovingkindness. The Bible says, "God is love." Those who come into a living relationship with God will be touched and changed by His love.
Another evidence is the writing of God's law upon the mind and heart of the believer. Jeremiah prophesied of the new covenant to Israel, "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jer. 31:31-33).
The believer is not under the law for righteousness, but it is the standard of God's righteousness. An evidence of being born of the Spirit is love for the righteousness of God. A believer's righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, but nevertheless the work of the Spirit is to conform the believer to the image of Christ. The Spirit therefore instills a love for God's law and the righteousness it speaks of. A believer will be grieved by sin, just as the Holy Spirit is, because the Spirit has written God's law in his heart.
Conviction and correction
A third evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is conviction of sin. Jesus is the lord of the believer and He is leading and guiding him. The Spirit will convict the believer when he turns aside from the lordship of Christ. The conviction of the Spirit is that which speaks to the believer that he is going the wrong way and must turn back toward Christ. This is opposed to the condemnation of the devil. The devil's condemnation is that which tries to convince the believer that he cannot approach God because of sin. The Spirit turns one back to God while Satan tries to turn one away from God.
A fourth evidence that one is God's child is the chastisement of God. Chastisement is correction. A father who loves his child will correct him. Chastisement is not punishment. All punishment for sin has been put upon Christ. The believer does not receive punishment but he does receive correction. Hebrews states, " 'For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons" (Heb. 12:6-8). An evidence of not being a child of God is to not receive correction for sin. If one is not grieved by sin, not convicted of sin, and not corrected in sin, then these are evidences that one is not born again of God's Spirit.
Hebrews continues, "Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness" (Heb. 12:9-10).
Apart from punishment for sin, sin in itself is destructive and hurts a person. One may receive the forgiveness of sins and be accounted righteous in God's sight, but one will still reap the destructiveness that sin brings if not delivered from the practice of it. The Bible states, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Gal. 6:7-8). God's laws are not arbitrary but are given to instruct about that which works against the righteousness of God's kingdom. Although the believer is justified by Christ, the Holy Spirit is working to deliver the believer from the destructiveness of sin. Therefore God's children receive correction.
The correction that God's people receive is not so much a response to any particular sin, but rather the building up of character so that godliness will be produced. This oftentimes comes through trials and tribulations, but may come through something as simple as an exhortation or rebuke. Paul wrote of the Corinthians after they had received correction: "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (2 Cor. 7:9-11).
Saved in hope
The presence of the Holy Spirit is a comfort to the believer. He "bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." He is "the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." The believer is still cloaked with an unredeemed body which is a cause of failure and grief. However Paul wrote, "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Rom. 8:22-25).
Peace with God
While waiting for the "redemption of our body," the believer can rest in Christ because He has made peace between God and the redeemed. The born again believer is not perfect in his walk with God. He can nevertheless walk in joy and peace with God because of his standing that is established by Christ. Proverbs says, "But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). This is the walk of the believer, one of walking toward the light of Christ. God is working in the life of the believer to remove darkness by increasing the light. This is a process that lasts a lifetime. It is during this time that one is to exercise faith in the Creator as not only the one who created the heavens and earth, but also as one who is making a new creation, a people for Himself.
The peace of resting in the work of Christ through faith is shown by Paul's statement to the Romans: "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33-34). Present faith is the assurance of salvation. Although good works prove the genuineness of past faith, it is faith that saves and thus a present faith in God's promise that is the believer's assurance.
Because of the believer's unredeemed body, there
will always be a falling short of perfection and thus there will always be a
cause for self-condemnation. But it is God who justifies, not condemns, the
believer. It is the risen Christ who intercedes. The one who is presently
depending upon Christ can rest in assurance by faith, for Jesus said, "All
that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will
by no means cast out" (John 6:37).