By Femi Aribisala
Why is it that armed-robbers, pen-robbers, rapists, murderers and all sorts of evil men claim to be Christians?
Have you ever wondered why Christians, supposedly followers of Jesus; the most righteous man that ever lived, are not known for righteousness? On the contrary, Christians organised the Inquisition and burnt thousands of people at the stakes. Christians went on crusades and slaughtered the innocent. Christians killed over six million Jews in Germany. Christians divorce our wives. Priests rape young boys. Pastors devour widows’ houses. Why is it that armed-robbers, pen-robbers, rapists, murderers and all sorts of evil men claim to be Christians?
One man is principally responsible for this anomaly; and that man is Paul. Paul’s message permits us to remain sinners as Christians. He entices us with the fallacy that no one is righteous. (Romans 3:10). He ensnares us with the falsehood that God justifies sinners. (Romans 4:5). He says deceptively: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19). But God can never be reconciled to our trespasses. In short, Paul lulls Christians into erroneously believing we can remain in our trespasses by faith, without losing our salvation.
Jesus’ message, however, is not at all reassuring for Christians who continue in sin. Unlike Paul, Jesus indicates the world will not be reconciled to God. (Matthew 24:3-14/37-44). He maintains categorically a sinner cannot be justified unless he repents: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5).
Paul says those who are in Christ “wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Galatians 5:5). But what does that mean in practical terms? We are not so much waiting for righteousness, which would be pathetic enough; we are waiting for its “hope.” Thereby, Paul puts Christians in a holding pattern, waiting for the righteousness of Jesus to be imparted on us. But when exactly will this righteousness rain down on us? More importantly, what are we while we are waiting? Are we righteous or are we unrighteous?
The fruit is self-evident. In the churches of Paul, “there is none righteous; no not one.” (Romans 3:10).
The righteousness of Paul is a vain hope; a pie in the sky that has not materialised in 2000 years. Paul says: “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19). But are we supposed to be children of God now or shall we be his children at some undisclosed future date? Unlike Paul, John is unequivocal: “Beloved, NOW we are children of God.” (1 John 3:2).
Paul says: “We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” (Romans 8:24-25).
But exactly how can a man be saved by hope? Did God save the Israelites from Egypt by hope, or did he take them out of Egypt? Are we saved from Babylon by hope, or are we to come out of her now? John says: “I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4).
Paul says we should hope for what we don’t see. But Jesus himself says we must be able to see the kingdom now. (John 3:3). Simeon declares to God on seeing Jesus: “My eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:30-32). Furthermore, Jesus teaches that we should not dwell on the future: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.” (Matthew 6:34). Thus, Jesus was at pains to discourage us from thinking like Paul. Jesus does not offer Paul’s “hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). He is a present Saviour and not a future Saviour.
When Lazarus died, Jesus assured Martha her brother would live again. Martha agreed but noted that Lazarus’ resurrection would take place “at the last day.” Jesus then corrected her by insisting he was talking about the present. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
Martha still had difficulty relating to this. She replied: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27). But Martha, he is not to come into the world. He has already come, so he can raise your brother from the dead right now. Lazarus was not given “the hope of resurrection:” he was raised from the dead immediately. Thus, we have this strange but cogent expression of Jesus in scripture: “the hour is coming, and now is.” (John 4:23; 5:25). It means the future is now.
Paul’s faith without works is dead. (James 2:20). He maintains erroneously that God imputes righteousness to men apart from their works: “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). This gives the ungodly a license to sin. If good works do not promote salvation, then bad works cannot promote condemnation. But Jesus says different: “Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:29).
God’s ways are never imputed. Isaiah observes: “When your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9). God’s ways are taught and learnt. Ezekiel says: “The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” (Ezekiel 18:20). This means the righteousness of Jesus will not be ascribed to Christians.
The notion that if we believe in Jesus we automatically become new creatures is naïve. Two thousand years of Pauline Christianity has shown this to be illusory. Christians are by-and-large unrighteous and we have remained so in spite of our lip-service faith in Jesus. Jeremiah warns: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!” (Jeremiah 8:20).
Jesus came to save us from our sins. (Matthew 1:21). Those sins are not in the future, but in the present. Therefore, we must repent now. When Zacchaeus declared a readiness to offer restitution for his ill-gotten gains, Jesus declared: “Today salvation has come to this house.” (Luke 19:9). Zacchaeus did not have to wait foolishly for Paul’s “hope of righteousness.” He took immediate steps and righteousness came to him that very instant.
Jesus did not come to save what will be lost. On the contrary, he declares: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). We are already lost. We need to be found immediately. We must walk in righteousness today.