The Christian confession of faith. 10:4-13
Paul's fellow Jews used law-obedience to restrain sin for the advancement of holiness and thus the appropriation of God's promised blessings. This very heresy was now infecting the Christian church. Yet, the riches of God's promised blessings are wholly ours through faith. Only our reliance on the faithfulness of Christ on our behalf, and not works of the law, can gain God's favor. The amazing truth about the way of faith is that it is both easy and uncomplicated.
v4. Our passage for study expands on the idea presented in this verse. Israel thought that the purpose of the law was sanctification, to which end they were zealous, but the purpose of the law is to expose sin and so drive the sinner to God for mercy, which mercy is found in Christ. The end-purpose of the law is a personal relationship with Christ rather than self-improvement. The law points us away from ourselves toward the one who is the source of God's saving mercy, which salvation is for everyone who believes.
v5. Using Leviticus 18:5, Paul makes a negative observation. The person who seeks holiness and thus blessing in the sight of God by means of obedience to the law, is bound to perfectly live-out the commandments of the law. Of course, here lies the problem, none of us can live right by the law.
v6-8. In the next three verses, Paul draws out a truth from Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Standing within God's grace doesn't require a superhuman effort. We don't have to climb to heaven, or descend into the abyss. God's gracious gift of his eternal approval is contained in a message that is ever before us. All we have to do is rest on the "message that calls for faith." To head down the law-obedience path (works of supererogation) is to imply that Jesus hasn't fully finished his work on our behalf.
v9-10. Paul now explains why the "word is near" us, ie. why it is not difficult to grasp hold of it. "Because" (better than the NIV "that") the content of "the message that calls for faith" is itself simple. The message summarizes the person and work of Christ; he is God with us, and because he lives, we can live also. All we have to do is put our trust in Jesus.
v11-13. Finally, Paul affirms the equality of all humanity before God, either Jew or Gentile. First, he quotes from Isaiah 28:16. Clearly, to "not be put to shame" means the same as to be "justified", or "saved". Full participation in God's promised blessings is a gift available to all humanity for the asking; it is simply a matter of faith.
The bounty of God's goodness
Our Lord gives us so much; a beautiful world; an abundance of good things; the fullness of the harvest; the riches of the earth. All around us we see his hand of mercy and kindness. It is a wonderful world, a gift of a loving God. Thus, we praise him and thank him.
Yet, he gives us more than just the riches of creation. God gives us the riches of his own person - of goodness and love; he gives us the gift of holiness as he is holy. And when God does this, he gives us eternity, he gives us life eternal. This gift, like the abundance of the earth, is ours for the taking. This rich blessing is for "all who call on him".
When the people of Israel came through their desert wanderings to the edge of the promised land, Moses gave them a word from God to carry into their new home. This word is recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, a book of life. Deuteronomy spoke of how God was Israel's God and how they were his people. God had brought them out of slavery with a mighty and outstretched arm. He had gathered them to himself as a bird gathers its chicks.
Deuteronomy spoke of the shape of righteousness, of the law, and how that righteousness should be imaged in the life of the people of Israel. It warned them - it spoke of blessings and cursings. Of the law, in particular, it said it is not "too difficult for you or beyond your reach". "No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it". The moral goodness which the law spoke of was something that came from within. As such, it was like the goodness of creation, the gift of a merciful God.
Of course, the problem was that most of the people of Israel saw goodness as something that could be achieved by obeying the law. They assumed that God's promised blessings were awarded on the basis of merit - by obedience to the law. This nomism blinded Israel to Christ and so they ended up rejecting the source of moral goodness itself, namely, the perfection of Christ.
The danger we face as believers is that, like Israel, we can forget that all we are, and all we will be, is the gift of a gracious God. It is so easy to believe that our standing in the sight of God has something to do with Christian ethics, that we advance our Christian lives by obedience to the law. Yet, only God can give us goodness - the goodness of Christ. With this gift we are perfect in the sight of God, and day by day, little by little, we become what we are in Christ. Such is God's gift to us.
So, let us remember "God is gracious to all who call on him."
1. What does it mean to have the law of God written on our heart? How can this happen and what are the results?
2. How should we approach the written law, the law on stone?
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