Psalms: 31 & 35
OT: Jer. 24:1-10
NT: Rom. 9:19-33
Gospel: John 9:1-17
“I’m a good person.”
“How do you know?”
“Because, I follow the rules, I try to do no harm, and I try to help people as best I can. Besides, I’m definitely better than my neighbor.”
This is a conversation that I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands of times over the years with people. We so desperately want to be able to say that we are acceptable to God apart from faith that we find all kinds of ways to ease our consciences. We work hard to please God.
Th reality is that there is no way to be good enough for God. We just can’t get there apart from faith. In the first century the apostle Paul had to answer some serious objections to this idea. The Jewish people had been working hard at following the law as laid out in the Scriptures. Their teachers had even created extra layers of rules to help them avoid transgressing God’s law. Their desire was to be holy and to honor God. They gave it everything they had. Yet, Paul says, that’s not enough.
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.” (Romans 9:30-33, ESV)
The issue at hand is faith. People get lost in what comes before this because Paul takes a deep dive into God’s sovereignty and man’s will. Yet, at the end of the day, the heart of the matter is faith. The righteousness that God demands of people can only come by faith. It is not something that can be attained by working ever harder.
We need to note that Paul doesn’t say Israel was wrong for pursuing the law. He says that the issue comes from the basis from which they pursued it, “as it were based on works.” The followers of God, the followers of Christ, are to pursue the law, but it is to be pursued by faith. We trust in our savior because his pursuit was perfect. Jesus attained the law and so we trust in him by faith. We too pursue the law, but we do it in faith, resting on the Holy Spirit to help us to be like Jesus.
As you seek to pursue the law, are you pursuing it by faith or by works?