Friday, August 26, 2011

Salvation is of the Lord, Part 2 of 9

Jesus clarifies this indictment when confronted with the rich young ruler who believed his good works would make him acceptable before God. This young man felt that he followed the law from birth without error, and was merely looking to Jesus to confirm and see if he lacked anything apart from his rigid law-keeping. He did not approach Jesus in His native capacity of Savior; the ruler was not looking to be saved: he was looking to ensure that he had done a sufficient job of saving himself. He wanted a famous Rabbi’s opinion about it, and that prompted him to visit Jesus.

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God,” Mark 10:17-18.

Jehovah’s Witnesses quote this passage to “prove” that Christ disclaimed being God, but they utterly miss the point. Jesus never said, “I am not God;” He asked the ruler a qualifying question that determined the youth’s inner motives for coming to Him. “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked, testing him. He reminded the ruler that according to God there was only one being who qualified to be addressed with that adjective: God Himself. If the ruler only saw a human Rabbi standing there Jesus was no more capable of helping the ruler than He would have been in helping Himself. Paul weaves a series of verses from the Old Testament into an outstanding legal charge against mankind, leveled by God; that as far as native righteousness is concerned, we have none. If we seek a holiness that will coerce God to throw open the gates of Heaven and welcome us in apart from His grace and based on our continued efforts it will never happen. To continue to work for our salvation ignores the real problem that we are alienated from God and need reconciliation. Good works do not and cannot nullify a former misdeed; it must be dealt with before reconciliation can occur.

Picture a vast gulf, an endless black chasm separating us from a holy God, put there on account of our sin. If our good works were bricks that we’re attempting to lay down in order to build a bridge over to God we would find that there is no foundation to lay them on. They fall into the abyss between us and God. Again, here is where human religion is typified. Call it Mormonism, Hinduism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. They are all attempting to build a bridge to span the infinite gulf between God and man. This is an impossible work for two reasons. First, we have no bedrock to lay anything down upon. Second, we are attempting to build with the wrong material. Man’s wisdom is not conducive to understanding God. A religion built on the ruminations of men (aka all of the world’s religions) reveal a singular intelligence behind them. This intelligence can be traced back to Eden when the serpent offered Eve godhood by defying God. Instead of listening to the Lord she was enticed by the serpent’s offer of increased wisdom, apparently god-like wisdom. In today’s terms the serpent offered Eve Christ-consciousness. Through her effort (eating the forbidden fruit) she could elevate herself to a position greater than simple innocence. She could be equal to God. The commonality of this message is alive and well today, even within the Christian church, and subtly reveals how clever and persistent our adversary the Devil truly is.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3:19-20.

We learn from Romans chapter two that while the Jews were under the Mosaic Law, the Gentiles had the law of God written in their conscience and were judged by this inner moral law. Chapter three reveals clearly that neither Gentile nor Jew managed to live up to this perfect moral law; in fact none of us even live up to our own moral standards all of the time, so it is spurious to believe that we could possibly hope to live according to God’s perfect moral law daily. This is the answer for the rich young ruler and Christian legalists: the law exists to bring in a guilty world before God. The law identifies sin for what it is, but gives no provision for it. The law cannot kill sin in me; it can only serve to kill me to remove the sin.

Some argue here that this simply refers to the Mosaic Law which has been set aside. The new laws which are established in the New Testament, and many more man-made rules created by the Catholic church and other cults, must be followed. Paul merely meant that Moses’ law was not followed by Christians. This is an odd point of view since Paul wrote Galatians, which contrasted grace verses works in an epistle inspired to contend with legalism within the church. Is the law presently being addressed merely the Mosaic Law? I don’t believe so; otherwise Paul erred when he mentioned the Gentiles, who never came under the dominion of Moses’ Law, Psalm 147:19-20. His language suggests Gentile and Jew alike since he contrasted them in chapter two of Romans, and uses the phrase “all the world” when defining who has been brought guilty before God. The Gentiles and the works they did to appease their conscience could not reconcile them to God any more than a stringent adherence to the Law of Moses. Legal justification had to be sought elsewhere because the law only made one guilty by revealing to mankind their sinfulness and God’s abhorrence of it.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:21-24.

This passage reveals that there is a righteousness that is revealed in God’s justice and law; and there is a righteousness revealed in God’s mercy and grace. The two are conjoined; you must satisfy the former before you can have the latter. How does one do so? Fortunately for us God is not remiss in telling us. The law and prophets (aka the Old Testament) witnessed to the righteousness God would impute on men through faith in Jesus Christ. This passage tells us that it is #1) unto all, that is, God sends the good news of the gospel far and wide to the whole world. As all the world was brought guilty before God, this was solely so that God may have mercy on all. The gospel is for all to hear, therefore it is unto all. #2) it is furthermore upon all who believe. This may be a reference to the Holy Spirit who is abundantly poured out on those who place their faith in Jesus Christ by believing His gospel, Titus 3:6.

Paul is inspired to remind his readers (and us) that it makes no difference to God who believes—Jew or Gentile—for all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. This is the definition of sin: falling short of the mark, like an archer shooting for his target. Only striking the target counts, but an archer who can’t ever make his arrow reach that coveted goal is doomed to perpetual failure. This is us. The good news quickly follows, and the bad news was given primarily to humble our proud hearts and make us reliant on God. Christ’s redemption—that is, His work on the cross when He paid for the sin of the world, John 1:29—permits God to freely justify (declare not guilty without any payment on our behalf) anyone who believes. In other words Paul is telling us that God does not want our works in an effort to attain or maintain eternal life; Christ paid an infinite price and it was satisfactory.

Read Part One?

1 comment:

  1. What an insult to God that people insist on building their own bridge right next to what he has built because they don't think his is good enough.


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