What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.(ESV)
| || |
He Has Done It All
Patrick, Missionary to Ireland
17 March 2014
God created us to be responsible persons. Therefore, we must bear our own burdens (Gal 6:5). Everybody has to take care of his own sin and guilt, right? Well, not quite. Go to Calvary. What do you see there? Someone who is claiming to take care of your sin and guilt. Either He did or you do. You can't have it both ways. How do you sort through this dilemma: either Christ has done enough to take care of your sin and your guilt on the cross or you still have to take care of your own sin and guilt. Which is more likely? We act as though it is more likely that we could take care of sins ourselves, than that Christ could take care of them for us. How often are we living as though we need to make our payment for sins, or as though there are sins that admit of no forgiveness. We live as though Christ has not been a very competent God at all. He was perhaps able to do something for our salvation on the cross. Maybe He was able to set a better example for us, or to show us perseverance in the course of suffering, but He couldn't possibly have taken care of all our sin and every one of them. We are deluded into thinking that especially the worst sins are outside His ability to bleed and die for them. But what sins could He not take care of? What sins must be in your own hands and for which you must earn forgiveness?
What kind of Christ does this thinking leave us? It leaves us a Christ who is not God. For if He is God, why should we presume Him unable to do what He says He wants to do? Why does He suffer and die, if not to make a sufficient payment for the world's sins? What has He failed to do right? What has He not done to forgive us through His suffering and death? Is He an incompetent or failed God? Many unbelievers presume God has failed because there is sin in the world. But it is a far worse blasphemy perpetrated by believers when they act as though God has failed to cover all sins with His mercy for Christ's sake. For if we begin to doubt that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1Jn 1:7), then we will truly be hopeless in the world and without hope for the world to come.
This is why we must live by faith, for if all this is a gift from the work of Christ, it cannot be received by our own works or efforts. It must be received by faith alone. There is nothing to boast of there. All is a gift, not by works (Eph 2:8-10). To go about things by works is to deny Christ and His work. It is a simple either/or: Either Christ has done everything necessary for your salvation, or you are doing some of it. Which is it? For my money, the clear winner there is Christ. He has done it all. He promises.
Augustine of Hippo
"Let no one boast of what he seems to possess, as if he had not received it (1Cor 4:7); nor let him think that he has received it merely because the external letter of the law has been either exhibited to him to read, or sounded in his ear for him to hear. 'For if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.' (Gal 2:21). Seeing, however, that if He has not died in vain, He has ascended up on high, and has led captivity captive, and has given gifts to men (Eph 4:8), it follows that whoever has, has from this source. But whoever denies that he has from Him, either has not, or is in great danger of being deprived of what he has (Lk 8:18; 19:26). 'Since God is one, He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith' (Rm 3:30).
"For the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith (Rm 9:30), by obtaining it from God, not by assuming it of themselves. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. And why? Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by works (Rm 9:31-32). In other words, they were working it out, as it were, by themselves, not believing that it is God who works within them. 'For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure' (Phil 2:13). And through this 'they have stumbled over the stumbling stone' (Rm 9:32). For what he said, 'They did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.' (Rm 9:32), he most clearly explained in the following words: 'being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.' (Rm 10:3-4)."
Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 1.50
Lord Jesus Christ, You are our righteousness. Help us not to fall into the trap of believing our own holiness to be greater than Yours. Send us Your mercy although we have not deserved it. Keep us steadfast in believing Your work for us against all the onslaughts of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Grant us Your peace. Amen.
For Irene Schroeder and Pearl White, that the Lord Jesus would be with them in the twilight of their days, that in His light they may see light
For all those struggling to believe God's mercy, that the Holy Spirit would give them hope beyond all hope
For Rebecca Parsons, who will undergo surgery, that the Lord Jesus would grant her a full recovery of health in accordance with His good and gracious will
For all police officers, that the Lord would keep them safe as they serve the public good
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014