Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Jews and the Gospel

Paul continues is discourse on the state of the Jews in his day. Using the Law, he now shows how salvation has always been by faith;

This is essay #6 in this series. To start at the beginning click here.

So Paul writes:

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. 

But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: �Do not say in your heart, �Who will ascend into heaven?� (that is, to bring Christ down), or �Who will descend into the abyss?� (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).� But what does it say? �The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart��that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 

For the Scripture says, �Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.� For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for �Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.� (Romans 10:5-13)

Paul quotes from the Law of Moses:

�For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 

It is not in heaven, that you should say, �Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?� 

Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, �Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?� 

But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

Jesus did not inaugurate righteousness by faith. Hebrews tells us, for example, that by faith Abel offered the better offering. Genesis tells us that "Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness." It is certainly not correct to say that these words in Deuteronomy had no application before Jesus' death and resurrection. Now the Old Covenant saints did not have Jesus and His resurrection as an historical marker to look upon, but they had the Name of Yahweh. As Genesis 4:26 says, "... Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD." With the coming of Jesus, we must now acknowledge that He is the LORD, i.e. Yahweh. With Him, we have the final Word, the incarnate Word. By Him, we also have the Holy Spirit whose fruit instills the righteousness of God from within.

When we focus on the commandments rather than faith as the means by which we become righteous--and surely we must acknowledge that Christians have been no strangers to legalism--, we insist that we can be righteous by obedience. This is a mistake, because the Law really only effectively defines sin, which is not the same as righteousness. The Law can tell me that I have sinned, it cannot pronounce me righteous. It can tell me that I have committed murder, but it cannot tell me when I have loved my neighbor. It will tell me that I have tithed, but does not tell me how much more generous I can be.

Paul continues:

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, �How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!� 

However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, �Lord, who has believed our report?� So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. 

But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; �Their voice has gone out into all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.� 

But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, �I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, By a nation without understanding will I anger you.� And Isaiah is very bold and says, �I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.� 

But as for Israel He says, �All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.� (Romans 10:14-21)

So not all Jews have heeded the good news, but they have heard. But largely, in Paul's day, they did not respond in faith like the Gentiles of Paul's day. But Paul suggests, by the Scriptures that he quotes, that His people through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have always tended to be disobedient and obstinate. He also suggests that the Lord would use the nations, that is the Gentiles, to make the Jews jealous. And with that transition, we will move into Romans 11, wherein we will see how Jews and Gentiles are related.

Thursday: Chapter 11

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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