When discussing sin earlier, we stated that Jesus is concerned with the sin, and that Satan on the other hand, is concerned in keeping us focused on sins. Sins have to do with our works—our Good and our Evil works. Both of these fall under the category of Good and Evil works, and these are the works that are involved in righteousness by works.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil embodies the principle of righteousness by works. This is a false righteousness. Righteousness by works focuses on behaviour and performance—thus it is works oriented. Righteousness by works incorporates both Good and Evil works. Since it is behaviour/performance-based, it creates all the wrong motives for obeying God. This system is focused on sins.

Most believers would agree that there is no greater reward than spending eternity with God. This greatest of all rewards, in the merit system of arbitrary re- ward and punishment, is often the only motivation for a relationship with God and is based on a very subtle and disguised form of selfishness. And yet, many believers have been trying to earn God’s acceptance through this system because they believe He operates this way. But God is driven by another law altogether, in which our works do not alter His love or His promises.

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs ac- cording to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:3-7, emphasis added).

God “saved” us “according to His mercy,” not according to our works. Our works do not alter His love toward us. As a God of agape, He loves us unconditionally.

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. God is that Father who, looking eagerly down the road, yearns for His son to come home. He isn’t concerned about what His son has or has not done; He only wants to have him back in His arms. He knows His love is more than sufficient to bind the prodigal to His heart. Once the wayward son realizes the extent of His Father’s love he will be at peace, not only with God but also with the rest of humanity. The Father ordered for “best robe and put it on him” (Luke 15:22). This robe is the robe of righteousness we discussed earlier. It is the same robe Adam lost when he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and is the same robe with which God covered Joshua the High Priest.

Most of us begin our spiritual journey thinking that in order to attain heaven, we must jump through many hoops. And our goal is exactly that—to attain heaven. This is the common understanding of salvation. Within this mind-set is also the idea that God puts forth many pre-requisites for us to meet, and once we fulfill them, then He will reward us with eternal life. This is a false picture of God’s salvation. But what could possibly be so wrong with receiving the gift of eternal life after we have met God’s requirements?

First, we are not capable of meeting God’s requirements. Of ourselves, we can never reach His perfection. All good gifts come from Him—we simply choose to accept or reject them. To think that we can be good enough so God can accept us is a great fallacy.

Second, this way of thinking involves a transaction, not a relationship. In this deal, believing and obeying God are simply good deeds we offer in exchange for His benefits—this is self-gratification. The Creator Himself, the God of the gift, is only a means by which we may obtain the end-results we desire. We comply with the requirements and stipulations of this formal contract—we do the works—purely in order to receive the promised gift. We believe and follow the stipulated conditions simply in order to reap His benefits— heaven. In this scenario, there is no agape love relationship between God and us. These are all selfish works stemming from the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

God knows how we think; He understands that the root of our problem is the moral law of Good and Evil. And yet His attitude doesn’t change toward us. Our selfishness does not alter His unconditional love toward us in the least, and that is purely because He is agape love. But does God reward us at all?

The Bible delineates the boundaries of the Path of Blessings. This path contains inherent blessings—they are not rewards for works. The blessings and rewards from God are intrinsic to following His ways. For example, if we love our enemies, we reap the reward of peace. If we follow the laws of health we reap health. If we love others unconditionally we reap a pure heart. If we are honest in all our earthly transactions, we reap a clean conscience.

These blessings are not acts of recompense from a capricious God. And one does not live by His principles in order to receive these rewards and blessings. One lives by His principle after being moved by His love. It is in

response to God’s great love that one embraces His wise counsel for living. God knows that the only thing that will change human behaviour is a change of heart. A change of heart comes only from understanding and experiencing the love of God firsthand. It is this that empowers us to live by His principle of agape love. Then the heart, which had been dead in works, will be imbued with the principle of unconditional love that flows from the heart of God.

By contrast, if we follow a dual-personality, capricious, arbitrary god, we cannot experience such a change of heart. We may strive to conform to his commandments in order to earn a reward, but our hearts will remain as cold as stones. We may promote virtue and all sorts of beneficent works, but be- hind it all will be the selfish motive of attaining a reward. Reward plays the single most important role in such a relationship.

We must learn in the school of Christ. Nothing but His righteousness can entitle us to one of the blessings of the covenant of grace. We have long desired and tried to obtain these blessings but have not received them because we have cherished the idea that we could do something to make ourselves worthy of them. We have not looked away from ourselves, believing that Jesus is a living Saviour. We must not think that our own grace and merits will save us; the grace of Christ is our only hope of salvation. Through His prophet the Lord promises, “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 55:7. We must believe the naked promise, and not accept feeling for faith. When we trust God fully, when we rely upon the merits of Jesus as a sin-pardoning Saviour, we shall receive all the help that we can desire {CCh 47.4, emphasis added}.

When this reward/punishment system is the foundation of our relationship with God, we are left with a gaping chasm in our hearts and lives. If the reward of eternal life is the foundational and ultimate reason for a relationship with God, such a relationship will be empty of agape love. Thus we will miss out on the most amazing experience in the universe, the experience Jesus prayed we would have with Himself and the Father:


I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father , are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me (John 17:20-26, emphasis added).

The bond God wants to have with us is the same one He has with His Son. God wants us to know that He loves us just as much as He loves His Son, “that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” Can we possibly fathom such a thing? Can we comprehend such closeness to infinite love, the same love the Father and Son shared from eternity, from before the foundation of the world? Eternity with God is not a reward, but a return to true love. It is a return to the pre-fall state—a face-to-face loving relationship with God.

The story of the rich young ruler is a perfect example of how we can end up worshipping God with a reward and punishment mentality. When offered a close relationship with the Son of God, the rich young ruler sadly turned away. He was not interested in re-connecting with his Creator; rather, he was motivated by the fear of eternal death, and hoped to do all he could in his own power in order to please God so that he could earn eternal life.

The other and much more damaging reason for obeying God under Satan’s law of works is “fear”—fear that an angry God will punish the offender if he doesn’t perform well. This is what legalism is. Sadly, often this is what the Christian world calls agape love. This is another selfish reason to comply with God’s requirements, and yet it is accepted as truth.

Many of us are paralyzed by the fear that if we act contrary to God’s ways He will inflict terrible punishment upon us. We even go as far as to believe that He will unleash disasters upon us and consign us to an eternal hell. Thus it is the fear of retributive punishment that prompts us to “faith”—if it could be called that. And so we strive to obey His commands. But we obey Him in abject fear, caged in a master/slave relationship. This is not the way God desires to be followed!

God desires from all His creatures the service of love—service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service {EP 9.5, emphasis added}.

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

God “takes no pleasure in a forced obedience.” He desires “the service of love” out of an “appreciation of His character.” This is what it means to “worship in spirit and truth.” When fear is the foundational reason for compliance, agape love is nonexistent.

The apostle Paul identified the system of salvation by works as belong- ing to Baal, the ancient Canaanite heathen god.

Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? [But what does the divine response say to him?] “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work (Romans 11:2-6, emphasis added).

Paul calls those who trust in God’s grace “the remnant.” The law of Good and Evil—works—is no longer driving them. They have not bowed the knee to Baal—Satan, the god of works. Paul again nullified Satan’s system of salvation by works through the following words:

… knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified (Galatians 2:16).

“The works of the law” are works from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The works of this Tree justify “no flesh.” “Works” do not remove our sense of guilt and condemnation, which we are born with, and which is imposed on us by Satan’s fatal Knowledge. Only the belief in what Christ has revealed to us about the true God brings us peace and relief from the weight and oppression of Satan’s system. Notice how the system of works has been connected with a tree:

The good tree will produce good fruit. If the fruit is unpalatable and worthless, the tree is evil. So the fruit borne in the life testifies as to the condition of the heart and the excellence of the character. Good works can never purchase salvation, but they are an evidence of the faith that acts by love and purifies the soul. And though the eternal reward is not bestowed because of our merit, yet it will be in proportion to the work that has been done through the grace of Christ {DA 314.2, emphasis added}.

No one who follows the law to receive an arbitrary reward will be justified. Justification comes only by faith in the everlasting love of God toward us. Satan’s principle of doing Good in order to receive an arbitrary reward has no place in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we keep God’s law by the spirit of the principle of Good and Evil, our obedience will have no meaning—it will be dead works.

God’s law can be properly obeyed only if it is obeyed by love. Only when we freely obey the law, from a heart that responds willingly to the all-encompassing love of God, will our obedience have any true meaning. The law has to be kept in the spirit of the law—through love. The law cannot be kept from any external pressures such as a carrot stick dangling before our eyes, or fear of punishment.

Love is the fruit that is borne on the Christian tree, the fruit that is as the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations {2SM 187.1, emphasis added}.

“Love is the fruit” of the Tree of Life—and its leaves are for “the healing of the nations.” This is agape love, the love that is the underlying principle of God’s eternal law.

So how do we deal with the Ten Commandments, God’s moral law? How do we keep the law? It depends on who teaches us how God’s moral law should be viewed. Satan takes the law and uses it to magnify his principles of reward and punishment. He prompts us to keep the law so that we may receive rewards, and makes us believe that if we fail, we will be punished. He uses the law as an accusatory tool and prescribes punishments that meet the crime for those who cannot comply with the requirements of the law.

For instance, the law of God categorically commands, “you shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:16). Satan’s principle of Good and Evil takes the law and calls for the severest punishment for those who transgress it—death, as stated in the Old Testament:

The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death (Leviticus 20:10).

Jesus comes and nullifies this—He voids this punishment system. In the case of adultery, the punishment was stoning. When the Scribes and Pharisees brought the adulterous woman before Him, Jesus didn’t sanction their demand to stone her. Instead He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).

Jesus denied the murderous desires of the adulterous woman’s accusers without engaging in controversy with them; and one by one they all left. Using the principle of agape love, Jesus did not impute this sin to the woman. Neither did He impute to the accusers their sin of accusing her. Paul reveals the principle behind Jesus’ action:

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin (Romans 4:7-8).


Jesus was not being permissive by not imputing sin to the adulterous woman. Not punishing her did not mean He condoned her sins; but He knew that she would be cleansed from her sins only when she learned that she was loved unconditionally. He did want her to change—but He didn’t want her to change out of fear. He wanted her to be transformed out of her own understanding of His love. Jesus was giving her a new vision of what her life could be, and He respected her freedom to either accept or reject that vision. She recognized that Jesus was drastically different from every man she had ever encountered. She saw the vision, she accepted it, and she fell in love with the Saviour, the only Man that treated her with respect.

Nor was Jesus condoning accusation by not accusing her accusers. On the contrary—by not condemning them, He condemned condemnation itself. God hates all sins because they cause harm and pain to all involved. But God deals with our sins in a very different way than Satan. God does not want to program us to be good citizens. He is not interested in making drones out of us. He gave us free will, and He wants a relationship with intelligent beings, not creatures that are conditioned by positive and negative stimuli.

It was Christ’s mercy that changed the adulterous woman’s heart. She was filled with gratitude, love, and admiration for Him whose wisdom was so different from human wisdom. She became His most fervent follower and she happily left her life of sin and became a new creature. And Jesus said of her, who later anointed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair:

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:9).

God has forgiven all our “lawless deeds.” He has “covered” all our sins. He does not “impute” anything to us. This is a universal truth that applies to all of us. And this includes all sins—past, present, and future. We are blessed when we believe this, and such grace envelopes and sanctifies all those who perceive this love of God. This is what “purifies” us in the truest sense of the word.

“Righteousness by works” then, is actually “unrighteousness” because it is not the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is explained in Romans 3:21-26:

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26, emphasis added).

God’s righteousness justifies all—freely! His righteousness “passed over our sins” and forgave all the works we had done, are doing, and will still do under the law of Good and Evil. When we believe and accept Jesus’ love for us as demonstrated by His life and death, then we will reap the benefits of this knowledge and will be fully reconciled to God. Such great love is transforming. This is the God who created the heavens and the earth; this is the God we will praise also into eternity.

How do we apply this wonderful knowledge to our lives? Children learn from observing their parents; we learn from the example Jesus gave us. The apostle John explains how we can apply God’s righteousness in our lives:

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:10, 11).

We are to be imitators of God; we are to do to others what He has done for us. Righteousness is unconditional agape love toward one another. Righteousness means to forgive—forgive up to “seventy times seven”—“seven” being a Biblical number indicating perfection and used by Jesus to symbolize unconditional forgiveness (Matthew 18:22). Righteousness forgives completely and infinitely.

Most Christians realize that righteousness by works is of Satan and not of God. But they inadvertently fall into Satan’s trap by believing that God arbitrarily rewards Good”works and arbitrarily punishes Evil deeds. By believing this, they unwittingly believe righteousness by works is of God.

Satan incessantly advocates and coercively promotes the law of Good and Evil to each of us; the ultimate purpose of his system of righteous- ness by works is to teach us to be Good. But his reward/punishment mechanism abysmally fails in achieving this purpose.

When we step outside of God’s law of love we automatically default to Satan’s law of Good and Evil. When we decide against God we automatically decide in favour of Satan. Without agape love we are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked,” Revelation 3:17.

Since Good and Evil has become the human default, it is no surprise then that we attribute Satan’s character traits to God:

You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God (Psalm 50:21-23, emphasis added).


God is altogether NOT like us. We are to order our lives aright—in agape love. The second to the last sentence of this Psalm can be especially frighten- ing if we don’t comprehend God’s principles of non-violence. Only when we understand that God is not a destroyer can we read this with a spiritual mind—with agape love. This Psalm will then come to mean exactly the opposite of what it appears to mean. Paraphrased, it will mean something like this:

Mark this, you who forget that God has unconditional love for all, lest you think that He will destroy you and then there will be no one that can help and deliver you because, if you think God is against you, who will be for you? Get to know God’s true character, so that you may offer only thanksgiving and praise to Him instead of the penance of killing animals thinking that this will appease an angry God. It is the one who knows that there is no reason to be afraid of God honours Him.The one who corrects His understanding about God will also correct his behaviour toward his fellow man. To such a one God will show how much He loves him, and what a great salvation He has for him and for the whole human race!

The phrase “to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” cannot mean salvation by works, for by the works of the law no one will be saved. The only other possible interpretation is the one offered above.

God’s ways are higher than ours because His ways are agape love:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We must be very careful not to make God into a God that is like ourselves, having the duality of Good and Evil.

Ultimately, righteousness by works negates what God, in Christ, demonstrated on the cross when Jesus died for the sins of the human race. Righteousness by works promotes the deceptions from the Knowledge of Good and Evil—that God arbitrarily rewards Good works with salvation and arbitrarily punishes Evil with death and even eternal torment, according to some. This is iniquity, lawlessness, and is the opposite of God’s righteousness as demonstrated on the cross. On the cross, God did not impute our sins to us—He took them upon Himself.

True righteousness means that neither the positive nor the negative works of the law impact God’s attitude and behaviour towards us, because righteousness is unconditional love.

Salvation by faith versus salvation by works was typified from the very beginning of human history—in the lives of Cain and Abel.


Cain came before God with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised sacrifice and the necessity of the sacrificial offerings. His gift expressed no penitence for sin. He felt, as many now feel, that it would be an acknowledgment of weakness to follow the exact plan marked out by God, of trusting his salvation wholly to the atonement of the promised Saviour. He chose the course of self-dependence. He would come in his own merits. He would not bring the lamb, and mingle its blood with his offering, but would present his fruits, the products of his labor. He presented his offering as a favour done to God, through which he expected to secure the divine approval. Cain obeyed in building an altar, obeyed in bringing a sacrifice; but he rendered only a partial obedience. The essential part, the recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out {PP 72.1, emphasis added}.

Cain and Abel represent two classes that will exist in the world till the close of time. One class avail themselves of the appointed sacrifice for sin; the other venture to depend upon their own merits; theirs is a sacrifice without the virtue of divine mediation, and thus it is not able to bring man into favour with God. It is only through the merits of Jesus that our transgressions can be pardoned. Those who feel no need of the blood of Christ, who feel that without divine grace they can by their own works secure the approval of God, are making the same mis- take as did Cain. If they do not accept the cleansing blood, they are under condemnation. There is no other provision made whereby they can be released from the thralldom of sin {PP 72.5, emphasis added}.

The class of worshipers who follow the example of Cain includes by far the greater portion of the world; for nearly every false religion has been based on the same principle—that man can depend upon his own efforts for salvation. It is claimed by some that the human race is in need, not of redemption, but of development—that it can refine, elevate, and regenerate itself. As Cain thought to secure the divine favour by an offering that lacked the blood of a sacrifice, so do these expect to exalt humanity to the divine standard, independent of the atonement. The history of Cain shows what must be the results. It shows what man will become apart from Christ. Humanity has no power to regenerate itself. It does not tend upward, toward the divine, but downward, toward the satanic. Christ is our only hope. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” “Neither is there salvation in any other.” Acts 4:12 {PP 73.1, emphasis added}.

“Humanity has no power to regenerate itself.” Christ is indeed “our only hope,” for only He reveals to us a God of agape love.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3, emphasis added).