There is no other way to come to God and be accepted by Him except on the grounds of faith. That is the focus of these few scriptures at the end of Romans 9.
In These few words we see the situation both in Jesus Christ and also before He came to the earth when the rule of law was in place.
I doubt anyone would disagree that the way to God in Jesus Christ is by faith, but faith also played a big part in the lives of those who lived under the law prior to Jesus Christ. Consider first all the men and women who lived before the law was given. There were some who were considered righteous, such as Abraham, Lot, Noah, Enoch and yet others were considered sinful and evil.
Why? And what was the change, if there was one, when the law came into being?
Faith is the Key
It was not on the basis of law that one group was considered righteous and the other considered sinful because in those days there was no law for Moses had yet to be born.
The thing that set apart the righteous from the unrighteous was faith. Faith was the key then and faith is the key now.
It is not about the law for works of law will not lead a person to God. This is not to say that a person who follows the law cannot be saved. There is indeed salvation in the law as Jesus showed when He was asked by a pharisee about what a person needed to do to be saved.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it? 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)
Furthermore we see when Jesus was teaching the people, a rich man came to him and also asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Again Jesus told the man to keep the law.
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life? 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:16-21)
But in spite of these messages about the need to keep the law to receive eternal life, keeping the law will not make a person righteous.
The key to righteousness before, under and after the law was, is and always will be through faith.
Just as Abraham was declared righteous by God because he believed the word of God, so too we will be declared righteous by believing in Jesus Christ and the work of victory He achieved through the sacrifice of His life for us.
What about faith and the law
But Paul makes the interesting observation here that the Israelites sought righteousness under the law and failed to achieve it, whereas the Gentiles did receive righteousness. And the reason the Gentiles received righteousness outside of the law but the Israelites failed to achieve righteousness was because the Gentiles approached God through faith in Jesus Christ but the Israelites tried to achieve righteousness by works of law.
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, (Romans 9:30-32)
From this it is evident that even under the law, righteousness required faith.
It was not enough just to do good works, you had to believe that in keeping the law, including all the precepts of the law, you were approaching God and serving Him. It was the desire of the heart and holding faith in God that was important. The desire to please God and believe in Him, not just doing what the law said.
What is the problem?
So when we look at this we see the problem for those who try to find righteousness by doing works of law. When they “do” rather than believe they are seeking self-righteousness. They believe that by “being good” they are righteous.
And that is a manifestation of pride and arrogance. Can an imperfect person like sinful man make himself or herself perfect in the sight of God? No they cannot. Can they proclaim themselves righteous? No they cannot.
Perfection and righteousness can come only from one who is perfect and righteous. Man is NOT perfect or righteous in His own natural state and so righteousness must come from a higher power and a higher authority.
Think of this like a man who has broken a law of the land. They are deemed a criminal because they have broken the law. But the governing authorities (ie. A higher authority) has the power to pardon the criminal and quash their conviction and so declare them no longer a criminal.
So too when it comes to sin, God has the power and authority to pardon a man's sins and declare that man righteous and perfect in His sight. And in doing that God said faith is the key. Faith is the pathway to salvation and to righteousness and to holiness and to perfect and to all of the other gifts of God.
Nothing is achieved in the sight of God except by faith. The law has a place but it does not lead to righteousness except when it is pursued on the basis of faith. When a person who follows the law does so to serve God, desiring to do right in His sight and not just seeking to “look good” in the sight of men, then that person is approaching the law through faith.
The Stumbling Stone
In the final few lines of this chapter of Romans 9 we see Paul quote the prophet Isaiah and speaking about 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 9:33
The stumbling stone that was laid in Zion is Jesus Christ. But the key word in this verse is the word “believes”. It is he who “believes” that will not be put to shame. Faith is the key.
The Pharisees and those who followed the law on the basis of works stumbled and fell because they sought righteousness through works. They did not believe. They did not have faith in God but put their trust in themselves and in their own works.
But in Christ we learn to have faith in God for there is no other way to approach God except by and through faith. And when we have faith we will not stumble as the followers of the law and those who sought righteousness by doing good deeds did.
Works and deeds are not enough. They do have a place and it is important to do good and to do what is right, but the key is faith for without faith all the good works in the world will amount to nothing for works will only build a person up in the eyes of themselves or other men, not the eyes of God.
God wants people to believe in Him and then do the works befitting their faith. Works alone are not enough. Faith is he key. It always was the key and it always will be the key to the kingdom of God.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com taken by Joseph Ellis)
You might also like:
Doing The Will Of The Father
Holy Spirit Convicts
Baptising The Ethiopian
Keeping The Law Of Moses
None Are Righteous
What Is Sin
Righteousness Of God
Free Gift From God
Gods Promise To Everyone
Where There Is No Law
Faith Like Abraham
Essence Of The New Covenant
Your Faith Has Made You Well
Crumbs From The Masters Table The Canaanite Womans Faith
On This Rock I Will Build My Church
The Power Of A Prayer Of Faith
The Promise To Jesus Followers
Ask In Faith And It Will Be Done
Have Faith In God
Believe In The Lord
Increase Our Faith
Doing The Works Of God
Faith Is More Important Than Knowledge
Seeing Is Not Believing
If You Keep My Commandments
Seeing But Not Believing