Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 10, 1960
NUMBER 27, PAGE 8-9a

"Righteous And Wicked"

Herschel E. Patton, Shelbyville, Tenn.

We have been reviewing the nineteen articles of faith revealed in the standard manual for those embracing these beliefs in an effort to see if the Bible truly teaches what is affirmed in these articles of faith. The New Testament scriptures repeatedly warn against deception by false teachers, who with "good words and fair speeches" deceive many. Because of this possibility, we are exhorted to "search the scriptures" and "try the spirits" lest we be deceived. There is nothing wrong therefore, with carefully examining those things presented for our consideration by men. According to the scriptures, it would be wrong and dangerous for us not to make examination.

Today we study the eighteenth article of faith which bears the title, "Righteous and Wicked." As pointed out before, there are two acceptable manuals among people of this religious persuasion, one edited by Hiscox and another by Pendleton. Pendleton combines Baptism and the Lord's Supper into one article while Hiscox lists them separately. Because of this, Pendleton's manual only lists eighteen articles while Hiscox's lists nineteen. I have been using Hiscox's manual largely in this review; hence we have nineteen articles to consider.

Article No. XVIII.

"We believe the scriptures teach that there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked; that such only as are regenerate, being justified through faith in Jesus Christ and sanctified by the Spirit of God, are truly righteous in his esteem; while all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are, in his sight, wicked and under the curse; and this distinction holds among men, both in and after death."

A Difference Between The Righteous And Wicked

This article first affirms a belief that "there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked." This statement would not be denied even by those who do not believe the Bible. This is a truth that is not only taught in the scriptures but which is obvious to all who observe. Some scriptures listed, indicating this difference, are as follows: Malachi 3:18, "Ye shall discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not;" Isaiah 5:20, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter;" Proverbs 12:26, "The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor: but the way of the wicked seduceth them;" Genesis 18:23, "And Abraham drew near, and said, wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" Acts 10:34-35, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him;" and Romans 6:16, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Other references are cited, and many others could be, showing there is a difference between the righteous and the wicked; but it is not necessary to read more here. In fact, just one passage stating this difference would be sufficient. The Holy Spirit does not have to say a thing many times to make it so; just one plain passage is sufficient.

The Righteous

The righteous are described in this article as the "regenerate, being justified through faith in Jesus Christ and sanctified by the Spirit of God." In order for us to determine just who the righteous are, according to professors of these articles, we must take into consideration their definition of regeneration, justification, and sanctification. Justification was defined in article number five as "the great gospel blessing which Christ secures to such as believe in him.... bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in Christ; by means of which faith his perfect righteousness is freely imputed to us by God." Regeneration was defined in article number seven as "giving a holy disposition to the mind.... effected in a manner above our comprehension by the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth." Sanctification was defined in article number ten as "the process by which....we are made partakers of his holiness.... begun in regeneration.... and carried on" continuously.

According to these definitions, the righteous as described in this article, are those who have obtained a holy disposition of mind in a manner above comprehension and have had imputed to them the great gospel blessing, salvation from sin and gift of eternal life, not by works of righteousness on their part, but solely by faith and who are continually partaking of his holiness by various means. The error in these definitions has been pointed out in previous studies; so without reviewing that matter we turn our attention to the verses cited as proof that such as described above are the righteous.

We are cited to Romans 1:17, "The just shall live by faith," which tells how the just live and not what makes them just. In other words, the man who has been justified by faith, lives: without faith, he dies. Professors of these articles say, if he has been justified, he can't die. Another reference cited is 1 John 2:29, "If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him." This verse describes the action of a born-again person, but says nothing about how he was born again. The same thing is true concerning 1 John 3:7, the next reference cited. Our attention is next called to Romans 6:18-22 where Paul said, "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness," then goes ahead in the following verses to contrast their former condition with the present. If we want to know how these became righteous — free from sin, just back up one verse (vs. 17) "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." The righteous here described were those who had "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine" delivered them. The doctrine delivered was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4), and the form of it was baptism. (Rom. 6:3-4) To fit the theory of these articles Paul should have said, "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obtained a holy disposition of mind, effected in a manner above our comprehension and have had imputed to you salvation from sin and eternal life, not by what you have obeyed, but solely by your faith." Not one verse to which we are cited by this article says anything at all about the righteous being as described.

The Wicked

As to who are wicked, this eighteenth article says "all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are, in his sight, wicked and under the curse." Certainly it will be admitted that the impenitent unbeliever is wicked and therefore under condemnation. Jesus said, "He that believeth not shall be damned," (Mark 16:16) and "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3) Both this article and the scriptures teach that man is obligated to believe and repent if he expects to pass from a wicked to a righteous state. Just here we observe another contradiction in these articles of faith. We have been informed that passing from a wicked to a righteous state is not by any works which we might do (article number five) yet both faith and repentance is something required on man's part. To escape from making obedience on man's part essential to salvation, it was contended in article number eight that repentance and faith were graces wrought in the soul by the regenerating Spirit of God. Now, if these are graces wrought in the soul miraculously by God, why censure, in this article, one for continuing in impenitence and unbelief? Since God grants these miraculously, it would be he, and not man who is responsible for impenitence and unbelief.

But, are aliens, those unregenerated, the only ones spoken of in the scriptures as being wicked? In Ezekiel 18:21 God says through the prophet, "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die;" and in verse 24 he says, "But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die." One of the outstanding errors of those professing the faith of these articles is that a child of God can never become wicked. Oh, they admit that one can do wicked things, but he can never be classed as wicked in the sight of God. In the passage read we have God's own statement that if one turns from righteousness to wickedness he will be held accountable as a wicked person.

To impress his disciples with the need for readiness at his coming, Jesus gave this parable, "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 24:45-51) This parable presents a servant, one recognized as a servant of his lord, whom the lord had made ruler over his household, but who turned bad and did that which is evil and his doom was to be where there shall be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." This is a warning to all who might turn from their righteousness to wickedness.

Matthew 25:14-30 relates the parable of the talents, where the one representing God calls unto him his OWN SERVANTS, and delivers unto them his goods. Let us observe that no one obtained talents in this parable except the lord's OWN servants. The servants receiving five and two respectively, were commended and rewarded for their faithfulness. The one who failed to use the one talent which he received heard his lord say "THOU WICKED and slothful servant." The lord then commanded "cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

It cannot be denied that the servants of these two parables were the Lord's servants. They were not the Devils' servants who had deceived the Lord and thereby obtained blessings from him. These servants belonged to the Lord, but they did wickedly, and were classed as wicked. The wicked, therefore, not only includes the impenitent unbeliever, but also those who were once righteous but became wicked.

Friends, it is not denied that the regenerated, justified, sanctified person is righteous; but we must have a clear understanding of these terms, as they are used in the scriptures, to know just who is such a person. The wicked not only embraces the impenitent unbeliever, but also the righteous who have turned away from their righteousness and whose righteousness is no longer remembered. (Ezek. 19:24)

That the distinction between the righteous and wicked holds true both in this life and after death is not denied. This distinction will be more clear on the other side than ever before because of the separation that will have taken place.