Developing Righteous Character

wcg sealI became a member of the Worldwide Church of God (now called, Grace Communion International) when I was 18. That was in 1972. On my own, I decided to leave my family’s religion. And since then for about 23 years, I really believed in my denomination’s teachings and followed diligently and faithfully all of the commandments we were taught to obey believing it was God’s teachings. One thing I can appreciate during those times was the training and discipline I received as a young man.

Character Development for Salvation

For all those over two decades, we were taught and it was drilled strongly into our minds that we should “develop holy, righteous and perfect character.” I’ve heard this phrase pounding in my ears many, many times in 23 years. But why? The reason? So we can “qualify” to enter the Kingdom of God. Along with the previous phrase, the word “qualify” was a word we always heard in sermons and in conversations among us. We were very mindful of good character, of doing “good works”—for a very good reason!—in order to be saved!

Qualifying to be Saved

I was therefore shocked when I read Colossians 1:12 with an open mind this time and read the word “qualified” in the New International Version (also in NAS, NJB & NKJ). I somehow, did not notice it before nor was it a favorite quotation by our pastors who taught us back then. Here’s Colossians 1:12-14 :

“…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

God has “Qualified” You and Me

In this verse, I was shocked to discover that it is God the Father who has “qualified” me! I never read that in the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. I found out that I don’t have to do good works or “develop holy righteous and perfect character” (a phrase frequently used back then) in order to be saved! God has already qualified me—past tense! He has already brought us (and me!—past tense) into Jesus’ kingdom. He has already rescued me, redeemed me and forgave me even before I did anything.  Everything is God’s doing through Christ. I don’t have to “qualify” in order to be saved! He has already “qualified’ me! As our representative and substitute—through his vicarious humanity—Jesus Christ assumed all of me (my humanity, my sins, my faults and weaknesses), living in me and dying in place of me and thereby cleansing me and making me righteous with his righteousness (Gal. 2:20). What a revelation and a shocking surprise!

God Already Did it For Us

And here’s more! Paul says that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). He did not wait for me to “develop holy, righteous and perfect character” first before accepting me—saving me. He died first for me before I could develop holy, righteous and perfect character. That is quite contrary to what I had been taught. In so far as God is concerned, everything needed for salvation has already been done by him. All we have to do is accept it—believe it! We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. It is by grace we have been saved—past tense. This verse in Ephesians also shocked me (Ephesians 2:8)!

No Law Whatsoever can Save

According to the Apostle Paul, there is actually no law whatsoever that can ever save us (Galatians 2:16, 21)–whether it be moral, ceremonial, the ten commandments or any other law for that matter. There is no law that can save, period! No law-keeping can ever save us. Only Jesus saves! This is made clear in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. We are saved by grace through faith not by works (Eph. 2:8-10).

Not Law-breakers

gci logoOf course, we in the Grace Communion International are not law-breakers as we are usually and wrongly accused of. Some think that we are law-breakers because we no longer keep the old covenant, the Law of Moses which has been superseded by the new covenant (Heb. 8:13). Paul said we are no longer under the supervision of the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:24-25). The truth of the matter is, we do keep the law but not in the old way of the written code but in the new way of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6). We do obey God and his laws in the new way of the Spirit (new covenant). We obey and follow the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

As the Apostle Paul explained and asked, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Do we now have a license to sin because we are not under the law? Of course not! This is clearly explained by Paul in Romans 6. Yes, we are not under the Law of Moses but we are under the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2)!

In fact, it is grace that teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12). God’s forgiveness doesn’t mean we are free to sin again. Rather, because we have been given grace (indicative), this moves and encourages us to obey God all the more (imperative)! We have been created to do good works (Eph. 2:10). We do good works because it is the right thing to do. Yes, we do obey God and keep his commandments but we don’t do it in order to be saved. We do it as a grateful response to God’s loving embrace. We do it because it’s the right thing to do!

Freedom in Christ

For 15 years now, since our denomination has changed its doctrines (by God’s grace!) I have felt the freedom from the shackles of legalism. I have experienced the joy of being under God’s grace instead of being under the yoke of the law of Moses (Acts 15:1,5,10; Gal. 5:1). What freedom! What joy it is! I’m writing this to you my brethren (you know who you are) so you may see the light of the true gospel, so you may also enjoy the freedom that we enjoy in Jesus. Our salvation is secure in Jesus Christ. No need to qualify! You have been loved, accepted, included and you have already been qualified! May you find this blog helpful in your own personal journey with Christ. God bless!

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