Proverbs is not a book often referenced in discussions of righteousness by faith. It would appear those who support this truth (RBF) have not sufficiently integrated Proverbs into their thinking. Yet, I believe we do appreciate the call to righteousness that is clearly presented in the book of Proverbs.
We have taken note of the Spirit of Prophecy reference cited in Friday’s lesson:
Although we have not fully integrated Proverbs into our understanding of the gospel, we have an understanding that is at least consistent with Proverbs. Some may understand righteousness by faith to be merely accounting the believer righteous, while the life is unchanged and heart is unrenewed. However, the message of justification by faith that Jones and Waggoner taught involved much more than a mere accounting system. They believed that the justified person was “made righteous.”
The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ’s day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. . . .(DA309).
The picture of righteousness by faith given in the Bible supports the Jones/Waggoner understanding. It presents the idea that one who has genuine faith is actually righteous and this righteousness vitally affects the conduct of the believer, such that the righteousness becomes evident to all who observe. The Bible says:
Consider the meaning of the words presented in Hebrews 11. Abel believed God and his faith led him to offer “to God a more excellent sacrifice” (Heb. 11:3). He did not behave in a manner that contradicted his faith. His faith caused is actions to be consistent with what God could approve. So also with Enoch and Noah and Abraham. Their faith shaped their behavior. It was real, and it was a living faith.
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous. . . By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him". . . By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. . . . By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. . . . By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. . . . By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter . . . . Hebrews 11:3-24
If you were in a building and the fire alarm sounded and you had not seen the fire, yet you believed the alarm was signaling a real fire, your behavior would reveal what you believed. You would get out of the building. That is the nature of genuine faith. It demands action and thus James says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Anything less than this is not genuine faith.
The truth is everyone reveals their faith by their works. It is impossible for it to be otherwise. When we truly believe that Christ died for our sins because He loves us, we then begin to love Him because He first loved us. Then motivated by this love we actually desire to do that which pleases Him. We will not suddenly become sinless. Character development takes time and knowledge. Yet it is absolutely inevitable.
As we begin to understand God’s will, we will overcome our natural sinful habits. If we have genuine faith, we will “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). At the start of this journey, we may not understand some things. We may be like Rahab was when the Bible says, “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.”
Those who know the story of Rahab recorded Joshua 2:4, 5 understand that Rahab lied in order to receive the spies with peace. And we may have wondered how she got listed in the great faith chapter. Yet, we must remember Rahab was not an Israelite. She did not have the privilege of understanding the moral law and the commandment about lying. Therefore, she could not be held to the same standard as you and I. She was living out her faith to the best of her knowledge, and she is commended in the great faith chapter (Heb. 11) right along with those who had a much better knowledge of God’s will than she had.
The important thing to see is that she acted on God’s side of the issues that confronted her country when the Israelite spies came to her. And her feeble act of faith was commended by God in the book of Hebrews. Through faith she did the right thing. Her faith changed her heart and her actions. She is counted among those who through faith “worked righteousness” (Heb. 11:33).
As we grow in grace and the knowledge of our Savior, Proverbs should become a part of our understanding of the Biblical description of righteousness. Through faith the characteristics described in Proverbs become a part of our characters and thus we are made righteous.
Yet, we must remember that this is never our work alone. We are cooperating with divine agencies. It is the work that God does in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, if we consent. As soon as we forget that it is God’s work and that He must do it, we will find ourselves in sin once again. We must walk by faith. That means we must focus on the sacrifice of Christ and let our hearts be filled with love and appreciation for all that He has done for us and what He will do in us.
The cross of Calvary means everything to perishing souls. Through the suffering and death of the Son of man, the salvation of man was made possible. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit God designs that His image shall be restored in humanity, that a new and living principle of life shall be introduced into the minds that have become defiled by sin. The love of God is fully able to restore, rebuild, encourage, and strengthen every believing soul who will accept the truth as it is in Jesus. But in order that this may be accomplished, men must yoke up with Christ. The cross of Christ must be studied. It must rivet the attention and hold the affections. The blood which there was shed for sins will purify and cleanse mind and heart from every species of selfishness (TM 377.4).