A Fine Line

Neil Girrard
Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 3:17 π Gen. 4:3-5 π Gen. 4:7 π Job 2:4-10 π Job 40:4 π Mt. 5:20 π Mt. 12:13-14 π Mt. 13:38-42 π Mt. 24:5 π Mt. 24:12 π Lk. 18:10-14 π Lk. 20:47 π Jn. 16:13 π Rom. 3:21-22 π Rom. 12:2 π 1 Cor. 2:16 π 2 Cor. 6:14 π Gal. 2:21 π Gal. 3:21 π Gal. 3:24-25 π Eph. 2:10 π Tit. 2:14 π Jas. 1:27 π 2 Pet. 2:1 π 1 Jn. 5:19 π Jude 11
Greek Words Mentioned in This Article
Lawlessness, “Iniquity” (KJV) anomia – [458]

There is much talk these days about lawlessness – everyone labels the actions of others as “lawless” but few seem to know exactly what that term means. Most people, in large part because the King James Bible most often used the word “iniquity” to translate “anomia” (literally, “no law” [ 458 ]), confuse “lawlessness” with outright wickedness and evil. “Iniquity” is much more closely related linguistically to the word “inequity” (an “injustice” or “wrongdoing”) and this confusion over meanings is quite understandable. However, God is not the author of confusion – someone else is.

Paul wrote, “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?” ( 2 Cor. 6:14 ) When he wrote that, it was an illustration to the Corinthians on how not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. He adds the illustrations of light and darkness, Christ and the devil, faith and unbelief and idolatry and worship of the one true God to make the point of how the Corinthian believers are to be different and spiritually separate and set apart from unbelievers. The point here is that Paul’s readers would apparently understand the words he was using – an understanding that has since been lost, in part, due to a less than accurate linguistic rendering of this word. And wherever we find that confusion has hidden behind the translation of a word or phrase, we almost always find that this is precisely where the devil planted seeds that would become the sons of the devil among the people of Christ, that men slept and did not notice the substitution and that God has chosen to leave the matter undisturbed until the wheat is mature enough to withstand the shock of seeing someone they thought was their brother in Christ forcibly removed by an angelic being and thrown into an eternal fire. (see Mt. 13:38-42; top )

Jesus taught, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” ( Mt. 5:20; top ) The scribes and the Pharisees were the keepers and preservers of the law (in much the same way as the monasteries and scholarly translators of the Bible became the keepers and preservers of the New Testament texts). The Pharisees, especially, were the ones who were required to have a greater than average understanding of the law, what it said and how it was to be applied and obeyed. They were the “pastors” and “church” leaders of their day. If God found their “righteousness” to be inadequate to allow entry into the kingdom of heaven, what was the average person supposed to do? If those men that everyone perceived as being in right standing with God were not gaining entry into the kingdom of heaven, what hope was there for the lowly fishermen, tax collectors and “sinners”?

The only way to possess a greater righteousness than the Pharisees and scribes was to go to a higher source than they were going to. Jesus was telling His followers that the Jews were operating in a righteousness that they themselves had generated. The Jews were seeing the laws and deciding just which ones and to what extent they would personally obey them. Thus, they would obey all the outward religious requirements of the Jewish law but they would rob and steal from others when no one was looking. As Jesus said of them, they would for a pretense make long prayers in the synagogue but would then turn around and devour widows’ houses. ( Lk. 20:47 ) The Jews would plot to kill Jesus on a Sabbath day even as they rejected Him because He used the power of God to heal a man’s crippled arm on a Sabbath day. ( Mt. 12:13-14; top ) The source of the Jews’ righteousness was their own natural ability. As such, it brought glory to the man and not to God.

Jesus brought forth the righteousness of God. ( Rom. 3:21-22; top ) and it is this righteousness which is superior and which is capable of gaining us entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This is the same choice Cain and Abel faced. The Bible records:

“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.” ( Gen. 4:3-5; top )

We must remember that the ground was cursed by God. ( Gen. 3:17 ) Now Cain, instead of simply and obediently bringing what the Lord required of him, brought the works of his own hands. Interestingly, this phrase “the works of his own hands” is used throughout the rest of Scripture as a reference to idolatry and the worship of hand-carved idols. Equally interesting is that the people of the end times are said to have “gone in the way of Cain…” ( Jude 11 ). That is, this portion of the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith, will bring forth the works of their own hands in the name of Christ. The leaders will secretly introduce divisions (most commonly called “denominations” now) that enable them to deny the Lordship of Jesus as they practice whatever “theology” is right in their own eyes. (see 2 Pet. 2:1 ) Many will come claiming to have the anointing of Christ and God and will deceive many. ( Mt. 24:5; top ) These are the “pastors” of the institutionalized “church” (and all of its imitators, including many house “churches”) and they are the most visible manifestation of the great falling away from the faith – all of them bringing the works of their own hands (their studies, their credentials, their positions, their titles, their personal charisma and eloquence – whatever it is that demonstrates their spiritual “superiority”) to the Lord’s table and all of it being done in the name of Christ and God. This false religion is the way of Cain.

The only difference between lawlessness and righteousness is a question of whose eyes are being used to determine what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is not. God went on to tell Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” ( Gen. 4:7 ) In whose eyes was Cain supposed to “do well”? Certainly not his own but God’s eyes! Lawlessness is simply doing what is right in one’s own eyes and, at its roots, it is merely another form of idolatry because it brings the product of one’s own resources (which are under the curse of God against all fallen humanity) into the presence of the holy and transcendent God. It brings further insult because it says to God that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was unnecessary, a thing to be spurned and ignored. (see also Gal. 2:21; top )

It is precisely here that the believer has to walk a fine line. The believer only has his own eyes with which to see. While it is true that we do have the mind of Christ ( 1 Cor. 2:16 ), it is also true that if we fail to renew our minds, we cannot know what the acceptable and good will of God is and we will instead be conformed to the likeness of this world. ( Rom. 12:2; top ) A believer must make choices as maturely as possible to obey God – that is, he must do what is right in his own eyes as he seeks to do what is right in God’s eyes. This we must do with fear and trembling because it is so very easy to be deceived into following what is right in our own or someone else’s eyes but is not right in God’s eyes. Only God can tell us what is right in His eyes.

Fortunately for us, we do not rely only on the inner leading of the Holy Spirit - though that is indeed our primary source for the leading of the Spirit. For example, the indwelling Holy Spirit guides us (from that place of His within our spirit and soul) into all truth. ( Jn. 16:13; top ) It is this inward voice of God that enables us to rightly divide the word of truth. Thus when we happen to hear some false leader’s teachings, we are able to discern that which is true and that which is error. We do not just take everything the man says as pure “gospel.” We must submit all that we hear back to the Holy Spirit for confirmation, denial and/or clarification. It is in this light that if we are first getting most of our fresh revelations and insights about spiritual living from some other man, there is something very wrong with our relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit works primarily through the written words of the Bible, the words that God spoke through certain men at a given time. While His inspiration of the original texts was thorough and complete and His protective hand has been upon the work of various translations throughout history, it is also true (as we have seen above) that God is also allowing the work of Satan to make place for his schemes to be enacted and his sons to have their place right alongside the true followers of Christ. This is not for the purpose of allowing Satan’s schemes to succeed but to show that even when God allows the devil to do his utmost, it still fails to produce anything worth following. Even when God allowed Satan everything but Job’s life, Satan did not succeed in causing Job to reject God. ( Job 2:4-10 ) But what was really transpiring was that God used all of Satan’s attacks to bring forth a greater righteousness in Job. Job’s righteousness was tainted by its source: Job. In the end, Job cried out, “I am vile” ( Job 40:4; top ), as he came into a greater realization of how God was even much greater than he had previously believed.

In the New Testament, God gives us ample instruction on how we are to be. Paul wrote that Jesus “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” ( Tit. 2:14 ) Removing lawlessness from the midst of His people was one of the very reasons that Christ died – and it’s why Satan has worked so hard to bring about lawlessness in the name of Christ (primarily by infiltrating the minds and “theologies” of believers with the philosophy of relativism that enables men to embrace whatever moral code they want to and believe it to be right and good). That lawlessness abounds in the last days before Christ’s return ( Mt. 24:12 ) shows how successful the devil’s strategies have been in “Christian” circles. As the “church” (including all those genuine believers ensnared within its clutches) embraces more characteristics of the world, Satan gains more power over those involved. ( 1 Jn. 5:19; top )

This is why James wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” ( Jas. 1:27 ) If we are not zealous for good works toward those people (the orphans, widows and least of Christ’s brothers) whom God has sent us to serve (see Eph. 2:10; top ) and our circle of “fellowship” has more resemblance to the world’s universities and corporations than it does to the New Testament, we can only rightly conclude that our religion is both impure and defiled in the eyes of God. Rather we are enslaved in the deceptive schemes of the devil designed to overthrow the rule of God in our lives.

What we need to understand is that we cannot be right in God’s eyes (righteous) by following either law (even God’s law) or our own ideas of what is right and good (lawlessness). God gave His law to Moses, not to be a means by which men could demonstrate superiority over one another (see Lk. 18:10-14; top ) nor so that some men could manipulate and control others, but rather so that men might know what a holy God required of people who would claim to be His. People who claim to belong to God must actually obey Him. The law is not meant to establish us in a righteousness of our own because obeying the law with our own resources can only be a work of the flesh.

Paul wrote, “If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” ( Gal. 3:21 ) Instead, the law is meant to bring us to Christ, to a place where we see our need for a Savior and Redeemer and we are enabled to place our faith in Jesus that He is just that. ( Gal. 3:24-25; top )

So, now that Christ has historically come into human existence and we have encountered and embraced the historical facts of His sacrifice and resurrection, the law is not in place over us any longer. Believers in Christ are no longer under the law. But does that mean we now have no relationship whatsoever with the law? By no means! The law remains as the codified explanation of what a holy God requires of people who claim to be His. Will His Spirit who now dwells within us lead us to violate His law? Will the Holy Spirit of God lead you to commit adultery or murder? No! A thousand times, No! The law stands, then, as a mirror whereby we can know whether we are truly walking in unity with the Spirit of God (truly producing the results that are right in God’s eyes) or whether we have become ensnared in some other spirit that leads us to do that which is right in our own eyes. The law, in its proper function in a spiritually maturing believer, continues to lead us to Christ, to the mind and Spirit of Christ, and enables us to see anywhere our walk with God is deficient. Those who totally separate themselves from the law of God are as guilty of violating His law (through negligence and choosing what is right in their own eyes) as are those who bring themselves back under subjection to God’s law. The latter are again guilty of violating His law precisely because they are still unable to keep God’s laws by their own resources.

This is the fine line the maturing believer must walk along. This is the way of life in Christ and blessed is he who walks therein.

Let he who has ears hear.

I’d love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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