In the previous post I joined Frances Schaeffer in expressing concern over evangelical failure to take Scripture seriously and consequently building on sand instead of rock. This post provides a sample of this propensity.
One teaching that enjoys popularity among evangelicals asserts that when God looks on believers He does not see our sinful behavior but rather He sees the righteousness of Christ. Consequently, how we live does not affect God’s attitude or actions toward us. This is position is not merely stating that God looks on our position in Christ as a basis for our salvation. It goes beyond that, asserting that how we live as believers, our performance, does not influence God’s attitude or actions toward us in any way. It is as if He does not see it.
The Scripture generally used to support this perspective is Ephesians 1:6, “(T)o the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” Since this verse assures us that we are “accepted in the Beloved,” it is concluded that when God looks on us He must only see Him and not our lifestyle.
This interpretation is problematic on two counts. First, it conflicts with many other passages. Second, it is built on a poor rendering of Ephesians 1:6.
One of the best-known passages in Scripture, probably well-known because all of us need it so often, is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If God does not see the sin of the believer, this verse needs to be rewritten to say, “We don’t need to confess our sins because God really didn’t see them anyway; He only sees the sinlessness of Christ. Therefore, we are just as accepted whether we confess them or not.”
Or consider 2 Corinthians 5:9, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” The erroneous teaching above would have us saying to the apostle Paul, “Paul, you’re stressing yourself unnecessarily. You are already pleasing to Him regardless of how you live. Nothing you can do will change that. When God looks on you he sees Jesus Christ. What could be more pleasing to Him than that? So just relax. Enjoy life.”
Many other passages in the New Testament conflict with this erroneous contemporary evangelical position.
This leads us to ask whether this theory is taught in Ephesians 1:6. The New King James translation used above seems to provide some support for that conclusion. However, it does not require much digging to discover that this translation is faulty. The New American Standard Version more accurately reflects the Greek text in translating: “(T)o the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” To extract from this verse that God doesn’t in any way see and respond to how we live constitutes an unjustifiable stretch, especially in light of the many other verses that teach otherwise.
Think of the implication of this faulty interpretation. If we tell those who have been saved that they can live however they want without influencing God’s attitude or actions toward them, we free them to live in sin with impunity. In effect, we disarm their conscience, assuring them that they need not feel guilty regardless of their thoughts, attitudes, or behavior.
Since so many passages of Scripture clearly show the error of this interpretation, and since the passage used to support it really doesn’t, and since it poses such serious practical problems, we are prompted to ask why many evangelical Christians have bought into such an obvious and serious error. The answer is twofold. First, those teaching and those buying into this interpretation are not taking Scripture seriously. But why not? This leads to the second factor driving this error. This interpretation mirrors a major trend in secular culture (to be discussed at a future date), and secular culture has swayed the thinking of these evangelicals.
In other words, evangelicals embraced this concept because culture trumped Scripture. Consequently, they are building on secular sand rather than scriptural rock. As we will see, this evangelical error represents only a sampling of a larger pattern. As Francis Schaeffer observed, evangelicals are being shaped by secular culture rather than influencing secular culture to reflect Scripture.