The “Filthy Rags” Delusion (The Real Meaning of Isaiah 64:6)
For anyone who doesn’t know, Isaiah 64:6 is a favorite verse in many circles of professing Christianity. Isaiah 64:6 reads: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Not only is this usually quoted horribly out of context when it is quoted, it is also not even usually quoted in totality, with the second half of the verse omitted. Yet, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” is very well known. This partial verse is typically used to try to say that all men, even the righteous, live in sin constantly and will never cease doing so in this life. This twisting of Scripture is a great lie from the pit of hell which justifies all manner of sin and uncleanness as allegedly being compatible with genuine Christianity. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This will be proved from Scripture in this message. Those who take heed will wonder, within a very short time, whether those who twist Isaiah 64:6 have ever actually even read through the Book of Isaiah.
Those who actually read through the Book of Isaiah will know from the very opening verses that the entire message of the book is a rebuke to Israel for having corrupted itself. God testifies right at the beginning of the book that Israel was at one time a righteous nation which He regarded as pure and faithful. This was not so by Isaiah’s time. God states from the beginning of the book, right through to the end, that He will go to extreme measures to purify Jerusalem and the remnant of Israel in order to bring them back to being a nation where righteousness and purity prevail. You will also notice in Isaiah chapter one that Israel was yet a ceremonially religious people in spite of the fact that they were morally wicked. They valued ceremonial adherence over actual righteous, godly living. They lived wickedly and did not walk in God’s ways, yet they were still trying to offer sacrifices, incense, and keep religious feasts and religious holidays! In that context, all their righteousnesses were indeed as filthy rags. The wicked were the ones justifying sin and overall ungodly living, thinking their ceremonial adherence compensated for this somehow. God states His verdict about this wicked foolishness right off the bat in the Book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 1:10-28: “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed.”
To be ceremonially zealous while committed to moral uncleanness is a mockery of God.
Proverbs 21:3: “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
The rich man in Luke chapter 16 who went to hell found this out the hard way.
Proverbs 15:8-9: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.”
Jesus Christ’s enemies in the Gospels were of the spiritual ilk who justify all manner of sin and uncleanness while practicing an outwardly scrupulous religion. Such is often a convenient mixture of Biblically prescribed ceremony, superstition, and shallow morality which allows its adherents to continue in carnality and remain alienated from God in their hearts. Jesus’ severe rebukes to His opposition were given precisely because they were committed to sin in their hearts yet blessed God with their lips. Such rebukes would be unnecessary, and have no authority nor power, if all men had no choice but to remain unclean and could not possibly do anything that was pleasing to God.
Matthew 15:7-9: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias (Isaiah) prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Isaiah 64:6 is likewise a verse directed at religious hypocrites. It is not directed at righteous men. The righteous are not as an unclean thing in God’s eyes and their righteousnesses are not as filthy rags.
Isaiah 64:6 is in itself a lamentation of the wicked state of Israel. It is spoken in regard to how there were virtually no righteous people in Israel at the time. That did not have to be the case. It is a similar situation to when Elijah lamented before God that he was left alone of the faithful. God told Elijah that there were 7,000 in Israel who had not worshiped Baal.
Look at another of God’s rebukes to Israel in Isaiah’s time. This rebuke is in the continuation of the same train of thought which flows from Isaiah 64:6.
Isaiah 65:11-14: “But ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number. Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spoke, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.”
God’s faithful servants are not the ones being described in Isaiah 64:6 then. No, the wicked are contrasted to those. And the rebuke of the wicked would mean nothing if the wicked were not expected to repent and no longer be unclean, wicked people. Look at this statement also which shortly preceded Isaiah 64:6, being part of the same train of thought which shortly afterwards flowed into Isaiah 64:6.
Isaiah 63:7-10: “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”
And that brings up the most horrid irony when it comes to how people twist Isaiah 64:6: Those who quote it to describe themselves are bearing witness against themselves that they are rebellious to God and that He is their enemy. And though they say that they could never possibly be anything other than unclean things who can never do anything acceptable to God, God’s Word says otherwise. Here are just a handful of a multitude of examples to prove that.
Isaiah 1:21 (quoted earlier, but given again for emphasis): “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.”
Proverbs 12:22: “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.”
Proverbs 11:6: “The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.”
Proverbs 11:18-19: “The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.”
2 Corinthians 7:1: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
James 1:21-27: “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
It is no surprise that those who want an excuse for their sin would be drawn to Isaiah 64:6 in the way it is typically applied out of context. On the other hand, some who look to justify their sin also have enough Bible understanding and intellectual honesty to know that applying Isaiah 64:6 is only strengthening the case that they are God’s enemy and that they need to repent. They thus look for a stronger justification of their sin (even though continuing in attachment to sin can never be truly justified and God is never mocked).
Such a citing of Isaiah 64:6 is no different than how many go to the carnal man in Romans chapter seven to try to say that all people are hopelessly condemned to slavery to sin in this life since (they claim) that was even the Apostle’s Paul’s own experience as a born-again Christian. Again, such bear witness against themselves. By reading Romans chapter seven in its context, it is clear that Paul is speaking in the first person from the viewpoint of a carnal man who is attached to his flesh as he is describing the bondage to sin which one who is alienated from Christ, and not a partaker of His true grace, experiences to some extent when they are confronted with the righteous demands of God’s Law. Paul makes clear, in the surrounding verses and chapters of this experience which he describes, that one who is a partaker of Christ and walks in obedience to Him is delivered from the power of sin and brings forth righteous fruit to God. He even makes it clear over and over in the Book of Romans that being carnal (i.e. attached to one’s fleshly desires) results in spiritual death (Romans 1:18-32, Romans 6:15-23, Romans 8:13, etc). God’s grace in Christ does not change that one bit. God’s grace in Christ instead gives power over sin to those who obey Christ’s Gospel and yield their bodies to do righteousness, in identification with His death to sin and His resurrection life unto God. Reading through the Book of Romans, especially in following the train of thought which runs through Romans chapters five to eight, makes this as clear as day.
And these things also make one who actually studies the Bible in its context to wonder if those who quote Isaiah 64:6 and Romans chapter seven to justify their claim that even the righteous constantly live in sin have ever actually read the Bible or whether they are just plain bold face liars (and you can’t rule that out, and they can’t defend themselves well here, since they are the ones arguing in favor of continual, inevitable sin).
It is one thing to be a fool who justifies one’s own sin with passages like Isaiah 64:6 and Romans chapter seven. It is another thing to mislead others and persuade them that they should not expect anything else besides to live in continual sin. This opposes other people finding true life in Christ, it leads the righteous away from Christ, and overall it opposes the true grace of God in Christ which delivers from the power of sin. There is no way to effectively call people to repent, give God glory, and bow to Jesus Christ to obtain salvation from the guilt and power of sin (as the true Gospel actually calls people to) when you are also telling people that they must sin all of the time, that constant sinning was inevitable until now, and that constant sinning will be inevitable even if they turn to Jesus Christ. Talk about an attempt to absolve man of responsibility! And talk about a way to produce hypocrites who are twofold more the children of hell in their profession of Christ than they were before!
Imagine if these false grace preachers had been in Nineveh when Jonah preached of the city’s imminent overthrow. Had they been in Nineveh, and people had given heed to them, the Ninevites would have never wholeheartedly turned to God and forsook their sins. And God would have indeed destroyed them! It is a good thing that the openly heathen Ninevites (as of when Jonah when came to them) didn’t get infected by the subtle, allegedly Christianized heathenism of these false grace preachers. That would have surely prevented them from turning from their heathen ways to the true God, from properly responding to God’s warning in a living faith that brought forth works in keeping with repentance.
Jonah 3:5-10: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
It is possible that many who heard John the Baptist refused to repent and went to hell, citing verses like Isaiah 64:6 to attempt to tell themselves and others that John was a deceiver who should not be listened to. It would have been typical of the carnal Jews, like it is for carnal professing Christians, to use the very passages which condemn them, prove them in the wrong, and testify of their need to repent and walk uprightly to rather use such passages to try to justify themselves and try to claim that their wicked state is actually acceptable.
Luke 3:7-14: “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man (this is talking about extortion, not defending the Roman Empire), neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.”
Can you not just hear religious hypocrites in John’s audience calling John a preacher of “filthy rags” and saying that he was an enemy to their Jewish heritage? But John was in truth telling the people that they needed to break off from their sins and live uprightly before God so their works would not be filthy rags in His eyes and so that they would indeed walk in the same righteous faith of their godly Jewish ancestors. The Old Testament itself ended with a prophecy about John the Baptist (who came in the spirit and the power of Elijah- Luke 1:17).
Malachi 4:4-6: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb (Sinai) for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (that’s a reference to turning to walk in a righteous before God like their godly ancestors did), lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Many seemingly read another Bible though and would rather have the final words in the Old Testament to be a reminder to not pay that close attention to God’s Law since all our righteousnesses are supposedly filthy rags, even when we diligently seek God with our whole hearts and take heed to all of the instructions of His Word.
Not even the thief on the cross coming to repentance and finding salvation in Christ can be used to justify the common twisting of Isaiah 64:6. The thief on the cross’ acknowledgement of the justice of his condemnation was an acknowledgement that he should have, and could have, turned to God much sooner and never have even been a potential tool for Satan to use to perpetrate crime and cause unrighteous chaos. And in repenting and turning to Jesus like He did, this man worked a work of genuine faith that Jesus did find acceptable and did not consider a filthy rag. And every person who will ever enter God’s eternal kingdom and be spared from the condemnation of the eternal lake of fire, will have departed from all moral uncleanness and walked in a righteous faith before God which worked that which is well pleasing in His sight.
Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Right from the Book of Isaiah we also read the following things.
Isaiah 55:6-7: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Isaiah 56:4-5: “For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”
Man cannot please God in living independent of Him and man cannot do the things commanded in Scripture to earn salvation as a debt which God owes Him. Yet man can and must seek the true God with His whole heart. Doing so will point him to the testimony of God’s Word and the truth that is in Jesus Christ. And man must cooperate with the grace which God offers in Jesus Christ and walk in the light of God’s Word as a condition of receiving that grace. Doing so necessarily involves renouncing all sin and doing the things which His Word commands.
Jesus did not say the following things in vain.
Luke 8:21: “And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.”
John 8:51: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”
This goes utterly contrary to something else which those who twist Isaiah 64:6 and Romans chapter seven virtually always also believe in- the imputed righteousness of Christ doctrine.
Imputed righteousness of Christ doctrine basically states that God credits Jesus’ own righteousness to the one who allegedly believes in Him. This necessarily would mean that one could believe in Christ to salvation, even though they do not what He says (even if they do nothing of what He says) since God allegedly looks at Jesus when He looks at the believer. This is a deception which sounds very clever, and it is extremely popular. However, it is refuted all over the Bible. Anyone who has followed these studies much has heard this concept refuted over and over and over by the multitude of verses and examples cited from the Bible which speak of how authentic, saving faith in Christ submits to His authority and follows Him as His disciple in walking in His narrow path to eternal life. There is a Christian fight of faith and a Christian course to run which are not optional for those who want to inherit God’s kingdom and be spared from His eternal wrath. The doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ lies and says that this narrow way in Christ is impossible to walk in or is optional to walk in. It is a subtle open door for the dissemination of the ancient lie of the serpent of “ye shall not surely die” in the context of not heeding God’s authority and in partaking of that which He has forbidden.
When the Bible speaks about imputed righteousness, it is not talking about Jesus’ personal righteousness being credited to the Christian. Look at what Jesus says to the Christian churches in Revelation 2:20-23: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”
The imputed righteousness of Christ teachers say that the Christian is wearing Jesus’ own garment which can never be defiled. Yet look at what Jesus told Christians. These things would be vain sayings if the Christian’s garment was Jesus’ own personal righteousness covering them.
Revelation 3:4-6: “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments (the rest had done so); and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Revelation 16:15: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”
When the Bible speaks about God imputing righteousness to someone, it is speaking about Christ’s blood atonement being applied to an individual to forgive and cleanse them of their sins. The atonement being applied is not Jesus’ own personal righteousness. It was Jesus’ own personal righteousness which made Him eligible to be a sin offering to die so that atonement through His blood could be offered to the world. That atonement is only applied though to individuals who exercise a living faith in Him.
Abraham and David, the men whom the Apostle Paul mentions in Romans chapter four as examples of men who were saved by grace and did not have their sins imputed to them through their living faith (as opposed to something which they tried to earn from God on the basis of debt) were men who walked in a living, righteous faith before God. They were only eligible for not having their sins imputed to them by God’s grace as long as they had an obedient heart to God’s authority. And that would mean that they had no attachment to sin. When David wrote Psalm 51, it was a lamentation that he had departed from such a faith and a cry for God to take him back again after he had so grievously gone astray from Him. Without such repentance, David was not walking in a living faith before God and could not partake of God’s mercy. The cry for mercy in the Psalm would be meaningless if David had been covered by Jesus Christ’s own righteousness and could never forfeit his justified status in God’s sight. This means that we need to actually walk by a living faith in Christ, continually submitting to God’s authority through Him and coming unto God through His High Priesthood in order to have our record kept clean before God. We must walk in the steps of that righteous faith of Abraham, the father of faith, in order for our faith to be imputed to us for righteousness and make us partakers of Jesus’ blood atonement (see Romans 4:12). God thus told Israel in Isaiah 51:1-2: “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.”
Imputed righteousness of Christ believers will accuse those who don’t believe in their imputed righteousness of Christ doctrine of denying man’s need for Christ. They’ll likewise accuse those who deny that a believer in Christ’s future sins are already forgiven. Yet they deny man’s need for Christ in a practical way by their doctrine. If we could just believe in Christ at one moment and have all our future sins forgiven because God allegedly sees Jesus’ record when He looks at us, then we could rebel against Christ’s authority for the rest of our lives and even never seek His forgiveness again- and that would not affect our salvation since God saw Jesus’ righteousness when He looked at us. Such a doctrine though is nonsense and is destroyed by how man is commanded in the Bible to turn from his sins in order to obtain an interest in Christ; and Christians are told over and over again that they must hold onto Christ, walk in the light of God’s Word by faith, and do God’s will unto the end in order to inherit salvation through Christ. We’ve already looked at some of those passages, such passages are constantly referenced throughout these studies, and just reading the Bible without blinders on stemming from false doctrines related to the things we’re talking about here will make it clear that such passages abound throughout Scripture. I’ll just reference two such passages quickly below and then we’ll analyze another in more detail.
Jude 3-7: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old (i.e. in the Old Testament) ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” And then a little later in the book we read in Jude 14-15: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
All of the ungodly in word and/or deed will be judged by God in His wrath. Jesus Christ will not be a cloak for anyone’s ungodliness.
Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
This warning was written to a Christian church and the Christians were specifically told that this warning applies to them. Such a warning would not, and could not, apply to them if Jesus’ righteousness was applied to them and God saw Jesus when He looked at them. Yet when you understand that Biblical imputed righteousness is not Jesus’ personal righteousness credited to a person, but an application of the blood of Jesus’ atonement to an individual’s record- applied on the condition that they exercise a living faith in Him which receives Him for all that He is (Lord and Savior; Righteous Ruler and Deliverer) and walks in the light of God’s Word, then these warnings to Christians indeed make sense.
Now we’ll analyze 1 John 1:5-10. This is a passage which many use to justify continual sinning through their emphasis of verses eight to ten and their disregard of the surrounding verses.
1 John 1:5-7: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
Obviously, those who say that they have fellowship with Christ yet walk in darkness lie and don’t do the truth. And obviously, those who walk in the light have fellowship with Christ (and with true Christians) and they are cleansed from all sin by the blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ. And if you believe that you already have Jesus Christ’s own righteousness imputed to you, then you surely do not walk in the light. Your very own doctrine says that you do not need to.
1 John 1:8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Does this mean that we need to sin continually and must admit that, or we are liars? Those who sin continually walk in darkness and we’ve already seen that the liars whom John is rebuking here are those who say that they have fellowship with Christ yet walk in darkness. John is obviously connecting the proper application of this statement to walking in the light. When the light of God’s Word testifies that you have sinned, you need to not fight that verdict. However, if you sin and you believe that Jesus imputes His righteousness to you, then you are surely deceiving yourself by believing that you have no sin to deal with- and thus the truth is not in you. John’s epistle is in itself a rebuke to Gnostic heresy. Gnostics are known for believing in a distinction between one’s spiritual condition and the deeds of one’s body/one’s deeds in the material realm. And that feature of Gnosticism has crept into modern evangelical Christianity through this imputed righteousness of Christ doctrine which teaches that God sees Jesus’ righteousness, when He looks at an alleged Christian, and imputes that to them no matter how they actually live in their body. The Apostles continually fought this concept and emphasized that we will all be judged for the deeds done in our body. 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
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.”
Walking in the light means then that we don’t deny that we have sinned when the light of God’s Word says that we have indeed sinned. And it was already established in God’s word that proper confession of sins to God means forsaking attachment to them and not regarding the pleasure associated with them in any way. Those who twist Isaiah 64:6 to try to say that we will all inevitably be unclean, and all our righteousness will inevitably be as filthy rags, practically deny that such Biblical confession is even possible (and what a clever way to defend one’s own sins).
Psalm 66:18: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
Proverbs 28:9: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”
Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Moving on then to 1 John 1:10: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Honestly, diligently using His Word as our guide to faith, and as the judge of whether we have sinned or not, is essential to properly relate to Christ in order to partake of His grace. Those who don’t do this do not walk in the light. And if we claim that we have to inevitably, continually live in sin and uncleanness then we are not heeding His Word. Such a belief is however a clever way to justify a hypocritical profession of faith in Christ. Remember that there are no chapter breaks in the original text of Scripture and a chapter break by no means signals that a new train of thought is being introduced. The epistle of 1 John thus continues.
1 John 2:1-6: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation (or, atonement) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
These words do not come from a man who believes that continual sin and uncleanness could possibly be the outcome of actually abiding in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God who inspired this man sure could not have inspired any words which would teach such a thing. If you’re continually sinning and living in uncleanness then yes, you are indeed as an unclean thing and you cannot please God in your sins. But don’t think that this sin and uncleanness is compatible with faith in Jesus Christ and don’t think that you have an interest in His mercy and grace.
1 Timothy 6:3-4a: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing…”
“Wholesome” in the passage above= hygiainō (hoog-ee-ah’-ee-no) in the Greek. That is the source of the English word “hygiene.”
We need to be true disciples of Christ who live by faith in striving to come into line with the Word of God. Abiding in the real Jesus will not lead in any other direction. Choose the highway of holiness in Him and don’t shrink back from this to spare your carnal ways from crucifixion. The way to life in Jesus Christ is narrow and tribulated. God’s authority must prevail in us; and righteousness must prevail in our deeds. There is no discharge in this conflict on earth which won’t result in bitter regret in eternity.
Hebrews 12:7-11: “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Those who claim Isaiah 64:6 to justify their sin and uncleanness, and those who’d try to use any justification for their sin and uncleanness, already have the verdict regarding their claim written on the gates of God’s eternal kingdom.
Revelation 21:27: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]