Just thinking…

While reading Romans this last week I’ve had some thoughts about grace, the Law and righteousness by faith.
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Really, this all began a few months back when I wrote a post about God allowing us free will. In my conclusions I asked the question: “If God allows us free will does that make Him pro-choice?”
Then and now, that statement gives me pause. Then I supposed that if God allows us the free will to choose for or against HIM then is it really His will that I go around forcefully, by advocating laws, dictating the morality of others? It’s still a question I ask myself daily.
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All of that comes back to today. I was reading Romans Chapters Two through Five when I had this realization. Throughout these chapters Paul contrasts between the Jewish Rite of Law and the Universal Rite of Grace, or Righteousness by Faith.
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He begins by contrasting the righteousness of works, the Law with grace. As I read these passages a critical truth began to creep into my being. I think it began somewhere in the roots of my soul and began to work its way out to not only my mind and understanding, but my heart and my spirit as well. Why did God administer the Law on Mt. Sinai?
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First of all, He was taking a large group of people born into original sin and with a generational bent toward sinfulness to a new place. God recognized structure and boundaries make for good community. He gave a list of simple “DO’s and DON’T’s” in the twelve commandments that Moses administered to an orgasmic and idolatrous crowd. They had lived in hedonism so long in Egypt, those ways had become engrained in the very fiber of their being. They had become accustomed to a culture void of Jehovah.
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Jesus summed up all the Law and the Prophets in this way:
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“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 5:36-39 (NIV)
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So, again, why did God administer the Law as Moses presented it in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? As I asked God this question over and over again one thing resonated clearly in my mind: “Because apart from God there is no righteousness, and apart from the Law there is no recognition of the guilt of original sin. There is none perfect but God.”
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You see, in my morning reading I began to realize that the righteousness of God – the righteousness that He requires comes only through atonement for the transgressions against His holiness. All the Law and the Prophets record one resounding fact – there is none righteous, no not one. Something Paul states so well in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All includes, all – Jew or Gentile, slave or free… We all sin. Save One. Jesus, who was tempted in every way known to man and yet, in His flesh, did not bear up one sin. He alone was the One who could make perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of every man ever created and born to earth. Christ paid it all, even “while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5)
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The Law existed to convict God’s people of their sinful nature. It was not lost on God that the sum total of the Law could not possibly be kept by any man born into original sin. The effort of the Biblical nation of Israel as recorded in the Old and New Testament to not only keep but to practice and interpret the Law did just what God intended for it to do – proved that apart from God there is no righteousness.
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Righteousness by God’s standard is an absolute. It is not based on the number of good versus bad things one does. There is no grand scale in God’s economy where He places your good works against your bad works and sums it up according to where the most weight lies. Our works, whether good or bad, done out of our own strength, merit and heart magnify our desperate need of redemption. Because the only “good” works that come to any fruit are those works that are done by a heart surrendered to God and lie beyond our own strength that ultimately give all merit and glory to God for the evidence of His righteousness at work in us.
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The righteousness of God does not come to us by the fruit of our works, but by the faith of our hearts. Our belief starts in our hearts, and unless our faith begins in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior – we miss the righteousness afforded by faith and left to us by Abraham through the testimony of Isaac, Jacob and their descendants after them. In Hebrews 11 there is a record of the faithful of God who attained such righteousness by faith. Their faith bore them witness of the truth – there is none but God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, who saves.
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The Law’s necessity is to convict us of our utter depravity and the absolute need of salvation and redemption through faith in the redeeming power of God expressed through His Son’s death and ressurection. When we exercise our faith we attain the righteousness of Christ, and when we attain the righteousness of Christ and begin to grow in our relationship with Him we become like Him. And in so doing, we ultimately fulfill the Law – as spoken by Christ. We Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and we love our neighbor as ourselves. Not by our own design or power, but by the grace and strength that has been administered to us by His Holy Spirit. Christ came not to replace the Law but to fulfill it. We are the evidence of that truth.
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