The Salvation of Job
by Rich Murphy
Of all the books of the Bible, the book of Job is generally considered by theologians to be the oldest. Although Genesis speaks of creation (a time that obviously predates the events of Job), it was written by Moses at a much later date. It is appropriate that the oldest book of the Bible speaks to us today about salvation.
What? Job speaking of salvation? But, Job was "perfect and upright." God used him as an example. How can you say that Job is the story of salvation?
Most believers, and theologians as well, don't see this book as a story of salvation, because of a misconception of the phrase "perfect and upright" mentioned in verse one of the story. "After all," they think, "if Job was so perfect, he must have been saved." This point of view is backed up by the statement that he "feared God, and eschewed evil."
To put a seal on this point of view, God Himself calls Job "perfect and upright" in his conversation with Satan (Job 1:8). After all, why would God call someone "perfect and upright" if they were unsaved?
Let me start out by saying that fear of God, and avoiding (eschewing) evil are not in themselves signs of salvation. Although people who are saved should fear (have a reverence for) God, and should avoid evil, not all people who do that are saved. Understanding this as a description of his salvation is the same as saying that all "good" people are saved; something the Bible clearly says is untrue. Salvation isn't about our "good works," it's about our relationship with the Lord. Or, to put it another way, without relationship, there's no salvation.
Please note that the word "fear" that is used here in verse one is not the same word that is used in Proverbs, where it speaks of the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov 1:7, 29; 2:5; 3:7 and others). The word in this verse is the Hebrew word yare, which means "to be afraid." The word in Proverbs is the Hebrew word yir'ah, which means "fear, or reverence of something awesome."
Another word that we need to look at in this verse is the word "perfect." The word that is used in this verse is the Hebrew word tam, which means "complete and perfect, without lack; having integrity; being morally and ethically pure." This word tam carries more of a significance of being good in one's self, where salvation comes through receiving the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In other places in the Old Testament, specifically those where God commands His people to "be perfect" (Gen 17:1; Deut 18:13 and others), or talks about someone else that is "perfect" (Gen 6:9 - Noah), this isn't the word used. The word in those cases is the Hebrew word tamiym, which is most often translated in the Bible as "without blemish."
Looking at these two words, the picture that is given of Job isn't that of a person who is in right standing with God, it's the picture of a person who's basking in their self-righteousness. That's a whole other thing. There are lots of self-righteous people in the world, and in the church, who think they are saved, but don't have any relationship with God.
If Job knew God (instead of just knowing about Him), he wouldn't have offered sacrifices for his children, "just in case" they had sinned. He would know that "obedience is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam 15:22), and would have taught that to his children. From his relationship with God, Job would know what God wanted from him, and not be seeking a way to appease His anger.
But, more than this, what shows Job's lack of salvation is his attitude when he is in the midst of his troubles. Instead of seeking God's help, he is constantly requesting that God grant him his "day in court," and is constantly insisting that he is righteous. Had he been truly saved, he wouldn't have had this attitude, he would have understood his own unrighteousness.
In case you aren't sure of these arguments, let me offer one more. The story of Job tells us that Job was "righteous in his own eyes" (Job 32:1). I would say that if the Bible tells us that, we should accept it at face value.
Finally, God's conversations with Satan don't make any sense in any other light than Job being unsaved. Had Job been saved, then God would be using Job solely as an example to us, not being concerned with the suffering that Job went through. This is contrary to the character of God. While He is big enough to hold the whole world in His hand, He is concerned with us as individuals. We see in this story that He took time to deal with Job on a personal level.
If we don't see chapter one in the light of God wanting to bring Job to a point of salvation, all we see is a contest between God and Satan, with Job as the battleground. It looks very much like the battles of the ancient Greek gods, where they manipulated humans as pawns in their constant struggles one against the other. Our God isn't like that.
God understood that Job was serving Him and said so (Job 1:8). But, God also understood that the service Job was offering to Him wasn't the best service that Job could possibly offer. It was service out of fear, instead of service out of love. This is a great difference between the God of the Bible and the gods of any other religion in the world. We see in the Bible a God of love, and we "love Him because He first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). All other religious belief systems in the world try and appease their gods so that their gods will do good things for them, instead of evil things to them.
God's first concern with any of us is always the condition of our hearts, not the condition of our bank accounts. Even God's material blessings are linked to His spiritual ones. He is seeking first that we are in good spiritual condition, then out of that, will bless us in other ways.
Because God wants our souls to prosper, He is willing to see us suffer in the natural realm, if that is what will bring us to the place where our souls prosper.
Notice that Satan didn't ask God about Job, God asked Satan about Job (Job 1:8). Since Satan's goal is to create a larger kingdom that God's, all God has to do is mention the name of someone who is serving Him, in whatever capacity, and Satan would instantly hate that person. That hate would naturally be manifested in some sort of attack against that person. Looking at this verse, it appears as if that God is bragging to Satan about Job, in order to get Satan's attention focused upon him.
Satan, of course, rose to the bait and asked permission to attack Job. I find it interesting that Satan had to ask permission from God before he could do anything. We must remember that God created Satan (not as the devil, but as an angel) and therefore, no matter how much he would wish otherwise, Satan will always be subject to God.
Why did God allow Satan to attack Job? Because God wanted to deal with something in Job's heart. How? In the same manner that Paul wrote about to the Corinthians:
When someone is living in sin, the worst thing we can do for them is to pamper them in their sin. When we feed them, clothe them, and give them someplace to stay, we are enabling them to continue in their sin. In legal jargon, we become an accessory to their crime, "aiding and abetting a fugitive from the law."
Yet, many, many times, believers help out family members who are running from God and living in sin. Why? Because of "love." Or, at least because of a misconception of what love is.
Love isn't just a nice, worm, fuzzy feeling we have for someone. Love is also a dedication to do what is the best for that person. Many times, the best thing for them isn't what they want. True love is willing to make hard decisions, if that will accrue to the loved one's ultimate benefit. The Bible has a lot to say about this type of love, especially in the book of Proverbs.
God loves us so much that He is willing to make those hard decisions for our benefit. He made the decision to send His only Son, Jesus, because of that type of love. If He was willing to sacrifice Jesus, what makes us think that He won't allow us to go through hard times, if that's what is necessary to bring us to the foot of the cross, or to bring us to perfection?
As believers, when we have a loved one who is living in sin, we need to pray for them. But, if we're going to do it, we need to do it like God would. That means that we need to pray that they have a "Job experience" if that's what's necessary to bring them to salvation.
We must remember, all that matters is their salvation. This life is only a test. Whether we are rich, or poor here on this earth really doesn't matter. True riches are in the life to come.
So, if Job was unsaved at the beginning of the story, was he saved at the end? Most emphatically, yes! How do I know he was saved? By what he said to God at the end of the story:
Look at what Job says to God. "I have uttered what I didn't understand," "I repent," and most importantly: "I have heard of thee, but now I know thee." These are incredible statements, considering he was a self-righteous, prideful person before God spoke.
Repentance is the first step in the salvation process. One who doesn't truly repent from the heart doesn't receive salvation, only goes through the motions. A "prayer of salvation," where the person is repeating the words of a preacher doesn't get someone saved. What gets someone saved is repenting and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as God the Father's payment for our sins.
The word repentance doesn't mean "to ask forgiveness." It means "to turn around, and change direction." The picture here is of one who is walking away from God. They reach a point where they realize what they are doing, and make a true heart-felt decision to change, and return to God. This prepares them for salvation.
The salvation part comes from our sins being remitted (paid for). God would be wasting His time remitting the sins of those who didn't repent. They would only continue in their sin, having received a momentary forgiveness of the sins they had committed. Sinners aren't sinners because they sin, they sin because they are sinners. Paying the price for their sin would only make them feel better, removing the guilt that could bring them to realize their need for salvation. Jesus, and the apostles as well, only baptized those who repented. Why? Because, they were the ones who were coming to salvation.
Job wasn't saved by the words of his friends, nor was he saved by their prayers, he was saved by the awesomeness presence of God. I have said for a long time, "There are only two things that function in evangelism. A demonstration of the power of God, or a demonstration of His love. Whatever form our evangelism takes, it must contain one, or preferably both of these elements to function."
Actually the wisest thing that Job's three friends did when they came to see him was the first thing they did. Instead of trying to explain Job's problem, or come up with a bunch of platitudes to say to him, they just shared with him in his grief.
All too often, when someone is in pain, or grief, we feel that we have to say something about it. Why? What good does it do? The greatest measure of friendship is to be with someone in their difficult times. Not to explain their problem, but to share in it. Job's friends started out to do just that. But, like many of us, they couldn't keep their mouths shut. They had to fix Job's problem for him.
Unfortunately for them, and even more so for Job, they didn't have the ability to help Job in his problem. They thought, as did most people of their day, that material success was a sign of someone's righteousness before God, and God's blessing on their lives. One who was rich, was obviously serving God, and one who was poor, was obviously not serving Him.
While there is some validity in this point of view, in the fact that God does "delight in the prosperity of his servants" (Ps 35:27); this doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination that all who prosper are God's servants. Nor does it mean that those who don't prosper (materially) aren't God's servants. The word prosperity in this verse, and in the Bible in general doesn't speak of financial prosperity, it speaks more of "a good road." The word used in this verse is much more often translated as "peace."
The problem with the counsel of Job's friends is that they, like us, were making the assumption that Job was saved. While it is correct to help a brother in the Lord seek out why he is suffering, and help him to repent, it is a waste of time in the case of an unbeliever. While there are a multitude of things that can be called sin for the believer; there is truly only one sin for an unbeliever, that is his unbelief.
Unfortunately, a righteous person has a very hard time seeing his own need for salvation; likewise for a wealthy person. We see this same attitude with the Pharisees in the time of Christ. They couldn't understand His message, because He spoke to them as if they were unrighteous. Like Job, they were seeking to please God by their righteous living and their offerings, not realizing that God was much more interested in their relationship with Him, and the condition of their hearts. They "knew" they were righteous, therefore were quick to misunderstand what Jesus said to them.
Evangelism, counseling, and any other Christian labor require the leading of the Holy
Spirit. If we don't depend on the Spirit of God to work through us, we are only working from our own mind and understanding. This will never minister to anyone as effectively as allowing the Holy Spirit to minister through us. The most effective ministries, throughout the history of the church, have been those who allowed the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and flow through them.
How was Job saved? It wasn't by the words of his friends, nor was it by their prayers. As far as I know, from reading scripture, Job's friends didn't take even one moment to pray for him. All that time they spent sitting with Job, sharing in his grief would have been well spent in prayer.
While I won't go as far as saying we can't do anything without prayer, I will say that whatever we do can be better done with prayer. In the case of Job, prayer would have helped him with his suffering. They could have prayed for his healing, or even more important that he received God's peace. It would have also helped to prepare his heart for the message that his friends were trying to bring him. Thirdly, it would have helped the friends receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their labors. Finally, prayer would have brought God personally into the situation.
By leaving God out of the situation, the friends acted more like unbelievers that Job did. There were a number of instances in which Job was defending God to the three "believing" friends. That should never happen.
It wasn't until the three friends gave up that Elihu spoke. He was not counted as one of the three friends, but he was obviously there with them. We really don't know who he is, other than that he is younger, and wiser, than any of the three. Perhaps he was a friend of one of the others, or could have been someone who had heard of Job's plight and wanted to help.
There are three important things that Elihu did when he finally took his turn to speak. The first one is that he identified with Job. The others had spoken to Job in a manner which sounds to me like, "We're righteous, and you're not. We have God's favor, and you've lost it. Confess your sin, so you can be like us." There are believers that sound like this today as well. Their method of evangelism is to point out to the unbeliever that they are sinful people who need to "accept the Lord and become holy like us."
Women who have unsaved husbands are especially quick to adopt this method of evangelism. Unfortunately, except in very few cases, where the unbeliever is actually seeking God on their own, this method doesn't work. In fact, it has the opposite effect, driving the sinner away from making a decision for Christ. They don't see their need for the Lord, they see self-righteous hypocritical people who are telling them, "We're better than you."
Remember, evangelism must demonstrate God's love, or God's power. This type of evangelism doesn't include either of these elements. That's why it doesn't work.
On the other hand, Elihu identified with Job. Before anything else, he started building a relationship with Job. Not only did he identify with Job, but he did so from Job's point of view. By doing so, he gave everything that he said, after that point, validity in the eyes of Job.
The second important thing that Elihu did was to wait until he had the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He didn't say anything until he was so full of what he wanted to say, that he couldn't contain it any more.
Anything we do for the Lord must be done under the anointing and guidance of His Holy Spirit. It doesn't matter if we're just cleaning the bathroom, if we do it without his anointing and guidance, we're doing it wrong. We must live, and minister in a manner that glorifies God. Without allowing Him to work through us, nothing we do brings Him glory.
Ministry, whether it is preaching, teaching, counseling, praying, or serving, that is done without the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit comes out of the head, not out of the spirit. As such, it can only touch the mind of man, and cannot touch his heart. More importantly, it can't touch the heart of God. It is dry, stale, moldy bread, which doesn't contain any life.
Finally, Elihu glorified God. In all of the talking that Job's three friends did, they didn't once glorify God. Their focus was over Job and trying to get him to repent, basically ignoring God, with the exception of making it clear that it was to God that Job needed to repent. In fact, Job said much more to glorify God than the others did. Jesus said, "if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (Jn 12:32). Not lifting up ourselves, or our righteousness, or our church, or our denomination, or anything else; just lifting up Jesus.
Notice that it wasn't until Elihu glorified God that God spoke. There wasn't anything in the words of Job's three friends to invoke God's presence, or to invite Him to respond. But, when Elihu glorified God, God's presence was with them, and He spoke.
Job's salvation came about not from what Elihu said to him. In fact, Job never answered Elihu. Job's salvation came about from what God said to him. Elihu was only an instrument that God used to create an opportunity for Job to hear from God. Likewise, when we preach, or testify to someone about the Lord, it isn't us that's getting them saved. It's the Holy Spirit, using us as an instrument so that He can speak to the heart of the person.
When the Holy Spirit speaks to someone's heart, there are always results. If they are unsaved, they are forced to make a decision for, or against God. If they are saved, they are forced to make a decision for, or against whatever change God is working to bring about in their hearts.
God spoke to Job. In this, He dealt with Job's self-righteousness and pride. He showed Job the difference between His knowledge and power, and man's. He dealt with Job's greatest point of sin, and showed him how far from true righteousness that sin made him. The knowledge of his own unrighteousness caused Job to repent.
Without repentance, there's no salvation. Job saw the awesome presence and power of God. His repentance at seeing this brought him to salvation. He also saw that God was interested enough in him personally (a demonstration of His love) to take time out for Job. His repentance brought him to a place where he could know God.
The great difference we see in Job's heart from the beginning to the end of the story is right there in verses five and six of chapter 42. At the beginning of the story, he served God out of fear, seeking to satisfy a God he had heard about. At the end, he knew God.
God desires that we know Him. He created us to be His children. His desire is a personal relationship with each and every one of us. Without relationship, there's no salvation.
This teaching is also available in our book "The Salvation of Job"
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Copyright © 2005 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life. All rights reserved.