By Mike Conn
Job asked the question “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2). From the oldest book in the Bible comes a question that is one of the greatest questions that could be asked. The possibility of the justification of mortal man was only a forlorn hope in the days of Job. Perhaps it took a man in the throes of great suffering, a man whose back was to the wall, to dare to ask that question of questions. From this point on a doctrine began that slowly evolved into a great reality. It is a doctrine that few people are able to understand, but for those who do, it is one of the greatest comforts.
Job had gone from riches to rags in one day, but in his affliction he asked life’s greatest question. He experienced the loss of ten children in one catastrophic event, but the answer to his question would make many people live. He experienced the loss of all his earthly goods, but his question and its answer would pave a path that would lead many people to heaven.
The extreme suffering evidently motivated him to feel the necessity to approach the courtroom of heaven and appeal for an explanation concerning his situation. But this approach to the court of heaven would require his justification in order to make such an appeal. He felt that he was not qualified to question this unapproachable God.
Ironically, Eliphaz the Temanite first raised this theological question. In his limited understanding he (along with his two friends) expressed many erroneous conclusions that simply brought more pain and suffering to Job. To them, man was hopelessly unjustifiable and God was unapproachable. Eliphaz attempted to establish his argument with a supposed revelation from God. He claimed to have seen a vision and heard a spirit speaking to him. In his vision he saw the form of a spirit which asked the question, “Can a mortal be just and upright before God? Can a person be pure before the Creator?” (Job 4:12-17 New Living Translation). Eliphaz’s next statement makes it clear that his interpretation to his own oracle was wrong. He believed that man was unredeemable and man’s justification impossible. He said, “If God cannot trust his own angels and has charged some of them with folly, how much less will he trust those of clay!” (Job 4:18 New Living Translation).
This statement indicated that Eliphaz got the wrong interpretation. It seems that he thought that he was supposed to use this vision to persuade Job to repent. However, Job argued that man should be able to approach the tribunal of heaven and plead his case. The “spirit” that Eliphaz saw in his vision simply asked the question, “Can a mortal be just and upright before God?” Eliphaz assumed the answer was no. The fact that this subject was even considered indicates progress was being made for the human race.
After the vision that is presented in chapter four, and after Job’s question concerning the possibility of man’s justification, Eliphaz continued the theme. He seemed to make light of the notion that Job proposed that man could be justified. He said,
“Can a mortal be pure? Can a human be just? Why, God doesn’t even trust the angels! Even the heavens cannot be absolutely pure in his sight. How much less pure is a corrupt and sinful person with a thirst for wickedness!” (Job 15:14-16 New Living Translation).
Eliphaz leaned heavily on the theology of his day, theology which was locked in the box of ignorance.
Satan’s Theology On Works
The words of Satan in chapter one seem to echo an awareness of the sin of legalistic thinking. Satan’s original argument against Job was that Job was serving God for material gain and blessing. From this amazing encounter between God and the devil we can conclude that works-mindedness is a basis for one of Satan’s greatest accusations against the people of God.
“Satan replied to the LORD, “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason! You have always protected him and his home and his property from harm. You have made him prosperous in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 1:9-11, New Living Translation)
This indicates that Satan is aware of God’s disdain for legalism and he used it to accuse Job of bad motives and to drive a wedge between God and Job. He was hoping that Job had not the faith to outlast the storm of suffering and woe, but he was wrong.
This marvelous book is given to much rhetoric and symbolism, yet one question emerges from it all. What do we do with Job? His circumstances make him look guilty. Yet if he was guilty, what could he possibly hope to gain from declaring his innocence and desiring to be justified? This bold concept of justification and the inspiration behind it is probably the greatest theological inquiry that has ever been conceived.
Paul The Apostle Explains Job’s Concept
The understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith finally puts to rest the question of how man is to be justified. The greatest Apostle, who had a continual “thorn in the flesh” because of an “abundance” of revelations (II Corinthians 12:7), gave humanity God’s only plan for the justification of those who believe. The joy of the “remission of sins” is the basis of our justification. It was articulated by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost and is still available today.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Paul said when we live by faith, we enjoy a verdict of not guilty.
“For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not gu ilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. After all, God is not the God of the Jews only, is he? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and there is only one way of being accepted by him. He makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:23-31, New Living Translation).
Job’s “comforters” were more like tormentors than anything else. Their understanding of God was strictly based on very primitive theology and limited understanding. Yet they purported to be masterful theologians. According to Job they were “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) “forgers of lies” and “physicians of no value” (Job 13:4). Job’s comforters tried to comfort him, but they only made things worse, because their revelation of God was limited. Their lack of understanding of God bent them toward salvation by works. God rebuked them for their lack of revelation and asked Job to pray for them (Job 42:7).
They were not very knowledgeable in the unfolding revelation of God. None of them referred to God as Jehovah (JHVH). Eliphaz referred to God as “God” (13 times), “Maker” (1 time), “Almighty” (6 times). Bildad referred to God as “God” (6 times), “Almighty” (2 times). Zophar referred to God as “God” (6 times), “Almighty” (1 time). Elihu referred to God as “God” (25 times), “Almighty” (5 times), “Maker” (1 time).
Job’s understanding of God’s name indicated that he had a deeper revelation of God than the other characters. He referred to God as “Almighty” (13 times – (El Shaddai), “Holy One” (1 time), “God” (38 times – Elohim-Deity), “preserver” (1 time), “Lord” (1 time – Adonai). However, he also refers to God as “Lord” 4 times (Jehovah self-existent one) Job 12:9; 28:28 and “redeemer” (1 time). His reference to the latest revelation of God’s name (Jehovah) indicates that his revelation of God was far ahead of his contemporaries. He said,
“The Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
From Adam to Abraham, God was primarily known as Elohim or “God” (Genesis 1:1). This word is also used of heathen gods as well. From Abraham to Moses, God was primarily known as El Shaddai or “Almighty” (Genesis 17:1). This indicates that He is more powerful than all heathen gods. From Moses to the New Testament, God was primarily known as JHVH, “Jehovah” or the Self-Existent One (Exodus 6:3). This revelation elevates His people, for it allows them to understand some of the greatness of God. From New Testament till the present, God is primarily known as Jesus or “Jehovah Savior” (Matthew 1:21). This knowledge enables God’s people to enjoy the blessing of salvation.
The Patience Of Job
Job stood fast against everything that Satan hurled at him. He experienced such mental anguish that he expressed regret that he had ever been born. Yet in the end his suffering proved valuable for future sufferers. He was vindicated, and the wiles of the devil were exposed for future generations. While in the throws of his suffering, Job dared to ask some pointed questions that were revolutionary for his day.
Every Christian is born unto good works. We are to let our light shine with “good works” so that men would glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). The amazing grace of God enables all believers to abound to “good works” (II Corinthians 9:8). Furthermore, we were “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). There is no doubt that every Christian is supposed to endeavor to produce “fruit” that abounds unto “good works.”
However, good works can become absolutely the most perfect refuge for evil to hide. Good works can be a disguise for the enemy to deceive and destroy. It is the will of God that all “good works” be under the control of the Spirit of God and be produced in the believer as he is led by the Spirit. Good works that are produced by the flesh may appear to be the same as the good works that are produced by the Spirit, but nothing could be further from the truth. The “good works” that God wants to produce in us should be similar to the birth of Jesus. He was “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).
Ishmael was a normal child, but he stands in stark contrast to Isaac. Isaac was “of the spirit” and Ishmael was “of the flesh.” One was the will of God and the other was the fleshly plan of man trying to help God. This portrays the difference between works that God accepts and works that God rejects (Galatians 4:22-28).
When people trust in works that are produced by the flesh, they insult God. This feeble effort is detested by God for it usually produces spiritual pride.
This attitude can be seen in the Jews in the Old Testament. A divine disgust is mentioned in many places in the Old Testament because of their lack of heart felt worship of God. See the next chapter.
From Heavens Point Of View
The story is told that a man died and went to heaven. Sometime after he arrived in heaven, an angel asked him if he wanted to observe a church service that was taking place on earth. He said, “Sure why not”? The angel led him to a certain place overlooking a place on earth and left him to observe. The man was amused to see a church service going on without the people realizing that they were being seen by a heavenly visitor.
Eventually, the man realized that he was seeing a lot of movement but no sound. People were moving their lips but nothing could be heard. He could see that the people were singing, worshiping, and giving testimonies and other things, but he could not hear a thing. No sound was to be heard no matter how much he strained to listen. Finally, he called the angel over and asked why he could not hear any thing. The angel apologized to the man and said, “I forgot to tell you that people in heaven are unable to hear anything on earth unless it comes from the heart.”
Our actions and deeds that are not from the heart, and are just to be seen of men, have no value or meaning in God’s sight. They are “dead works” that heaven refuses to acknowledge.
An imitation of Christlikeness is described in the church in Colosse. It was a “voluntary humility” that seemed to be a learned behavior and a counterfeit grace that was not of God. It had “vainly puffed up” the “fleshly mind” of the troublemakers in that church (Colossians 2:18). The New Living Translation says “These people claim to be so humble, but their sinful minds have made them proud.” It is obvious that a “voluntary humility” is not a product of the Spirit but it is a product of the flesh and it is not acceptable in God’s sight.
Wisdom That Is Not Of God
Paul wrote to the Colossian church and said that in Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Yet there is a “wisdom of this world” (I Corinthians 1:20) that is not of Christ and therefore is not of God. It is contrasted with the wisdom “that is from above” (James 3:17). One flows from the throne of God and the other from the intellect of man. They look very similar but are very different; one is to be embraced and one is to be shunned.
An example of earthly wisdom is Gamaliel’s council concerning the revival in Jerusalem.
“Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39).
Notice that Gamaliel’s council did not include the fact that they needed to join the followers of Christ when and if they determined that they were right.
Counterfeit Fear Of God
In the Old Testament, God despised the spiritual pride of Israil, even while they were worshipping in the Temple. Their worship was cold and lifeless and was not from the heart.
“Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13).
In the New Testament, God wanted to prevent the church from becoming, like the Jews in the Old Testament. Paul said that if we think that we are saved by “works” we will have a tendency to “boast” (Ephesians 2:8-10). He went on to say no flesh should “glory in his presence” (I Corinthians 1:29).
Paul gave a few details concerning two Old Testament characters who were justified by faith and not by works: Abraham and David.
“For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (Romans 4:2).
“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:6-7).
We understand more fully what Paul meant when he referred to “works” if we continue to read the Book of Romans. The “works” that he was referring to were “works of the law” or “works of the flesh” that happen when we become mechanical. This has nothing to do with following Godly principles and holiness standards that are preached by a sincere pastor. It has nothing to do with rules and regulations that are preached under the power of the Spirit.
“Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone” (Romans 9:32).
Later Paul said in the same book,
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).
Another translation says,
“And if they are saved by God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s wonderful kindness would not be what it really is-free and undeserved” (Romans 11:6, New Living Translation).
One of the greatest stumbling blocks that the Jews had was spiritual pride. They developed a theology that believed that they were holier than anyone else and that God loved them more than other people. This pride created a “wall of separation” between Jews and Gentiles that Jesus came to destroy (Ephesians 2:14-18). This spiritual pride caused many problems for the people of God and was based upon good works. It seems that God wanted to prevent this from reoccurring in the New Testament.
God in His infinite sovereignty made special efforts to prevent New Testament Christians from thinking that they were holy because of anything they had done. It is abundantly clear that God wanted people in the New Testament to understand that salvation was not of themselves but was “wrought in God.”
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).
If what we do is “wrought in God” then it is not something that we can be proud of, but we should stand in awe of the divine sovereignty of God. This is illustrated in the parable of the branches that are connected to the vine in John 15. In that story it is evident that the branches derive life from the vine, as we derive grace from God. As it is impossible for the branches to bear fruit without being connected to the vine, it is also impossible for us to bear fruit without being connected to Jesus Christ. Jesus said,
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Likewise Paul said,
“God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so one of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:8-10 New Living Translation).
This fact is also borne out in other writings of the Apostle Paul. He said,
“But this precious treasure, this light and power that now shine within us, is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies” (II Corinthians 4:7-10 New Living Translation).
Paul went on to say that even our ability to grow is not within us, but we grow as God gives us the ability to do so.
“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2:18-24, New International Version).
We are never to glory in His presence or take credit for out salvation.
“God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom. As the Scriptures say, The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done” (I Corinthians 1:28-31).
Article “Job’s Greatest Question” written by Mike Conn is taken from New Testament Treasures In Job written by Mike Conn.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”