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A View from the Altar / At the core of evangelical belief
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At the core of evangelical belief

Israel definitely got the wrong idea about the purpose of the law of Moses.  They thought it was a prescribed method for gaining God’s favor.  Actually, says Paul, it was more like a systematic way to identify all the ways we offend God.

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. (Ro 3:19-20)

The law is a current flowing the right direction, but your boat is already sunk.  The law tells us what to do, but it speaks to people wh0 can’t obey.  It is weak because its commands fall upon mortal flesh (Ro 8:3).  It speaks to the unrighteous (1 Ti 1:9), but what’s it saying if it’s not telling you how to go to heaven?  Only this: We’re convicted before God as sinners in need of redemption.

The Israelite radically misconstrued the message of the law, using it as a tool to seek God’s favor by earning it.  This is what he meant in Romans 10:3 by the phrase, “going about to establish their own righteousness.”  That was an approach Paul learned to despise as a blind alley of the straight and narrow path of life.  He want to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness which is of the law, but rather possessing the righteousness which is of God by faith.

So what God intended by the law was to convince Israel that they weren’t able to earn his favor.  Rather, God’s favor was to be his gift to his beloved, not a payday for religious hirelings.  All he required was for them to submit to his evaluation that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and then to receive the free gift of Christ’s righteousness bestowed by his grace.  He made Christ to become sin in our place in order that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.  What he required, then, is what Paul described in Rom 10:3 as “submitting themselves to the righteousness of God.”

Yes, submitted.  The question that concerns the body of Christ is of the greatest possible proportion: Do we receive the righteousness of Christ complete and finished, or do we receive a new start and finish it ourselves?

At the core of evangelical Christian belief is our confidence that Christ has supplied to us freely all the righteousness he justly demands.  He has not lowered the standard so we could get in.  Neither has he souped up humans into spiritual hot rods so we can do spiritual rock climbing and mount the summit of divine perfection.  Instead, he sent Son to complete the task on our behalf, and it is complete.  By his sinless life and sacrificial death he has paid everything we owe, and all this treasure he gives to us freely, that is, by grace, when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior.  That’s why the prophet called him “mighty to save” (Isa 63:1) and not just really good to help out.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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