Transformation. From ugly duckling/sinner to beautiful swan/child of God
In days of old God gave man the law of Moses. He gave this law to the children of Israel to guide them as to what was right and to keep sin in check. The Israelites followed the law for a while but they strayed from the right path which led to the opportunity for the rest of the world to come to God through Jesus Christ.
But for all the good, the justice and righteousness that the law defined, there was one major flaw. Man could not keep it.
There was nothing wrong with the law but man was unable to keep the law. And because man could not keep the law but continually failed, the law was never going to bring a man to perfection. The law was never going to make a person righteous before God because it could not transform anyone from the nature of sin to the nature of God.
But now there is a way.
Mercy in the love of God
It is the will of God that He show mercy to all mankind.
God is love and because He is love, He shows true and complete love and He will be absolutely merciful to all mankind if they will seek Him out.
There are many people in the world today who make this statement. “If God is a God of love, why do so many people suffer?” If we know that God is love, which He is, and if He is a merciful God, which He is, then there must be some other explanation. And there is, so let's look at it.
Unraveling the mystery of the new covenant
The new covenant was a mystery to the Jews prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. There was much written about it in the law and prophets but it was not understood and revealed in its fullness until Christ came to fulfill the prophecies and to explain the new covenant.
One of the great mysteries of the new covenant is revealed in this section of scripture. But to this day it is still not well understood. And it is because of this particular mystery that many both in the days of Jesus and the disciples right down to today have stumbled over the stumbling stone.
To understand this mystery, indeed all of the mysteries of the new covenant requires faith. And even among some who claim to see this matter, it is evident that they still do not understand it. Their words deny their stated beliefs and as such they do not receive all the promises of the Lord available under the new covenant which rest upon faith. Why is it so?
Beware pride and arrogance
So often today I see infighting between the different denominations and groups who call themselves Christians.
I see Protestants arguing with Catholics, Pentecostals arguing with non-spirit filled religions, and everything in between. Every group has a point of view and every group believes they are correct and have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They throw up the arguments of past Christian writers pitting one expert against another in an attempt to prove that they are right and others are wrong. And they use their experts to try to disprove and discredit the expert opinions their so-called opponents are quoting.
And they are all wrong. All they show in their arguing is pride and arrogance. They add nothing to the advancement of the gospel and rather they are away from it because pride and arrogance have no part in the gospel of Jesus Christ or the pathway to life. And this is part of what this section of scripture discusses.
Israel stumbled. They fell from the grace of God. They became hard of heart and stiff-necked not willing to bow before the true God but turning aside to false gods and to gratification of the flesh.
The way is hard and we stumble forward in Christ
They chose to seek a form of self-righteousness through works of law rather than following in the footsteps of their father Abraham who was righteous by faith in the mighty working power of God.
So they stumbled. And it was over the stumbling stone of Jesus Christ that they finally fell flat and which allowed the Gentiles to come into the fold.
But Paul shows us here that although they stumbled and fell, their fall was not absolute. They did not stumble to a place where they could not or would not arise again. And there is a lesson for us all in these words and this teaching.
They did not see
Israel failed to obtain the full grace of God which led to the opportunity for the rest of mankind to find it.
Most of the religious leadership of the Jews at the time of Christ did not recognize His coming. They failed to see that He was the promised Messiah spoken of by the righteous men and prophets for hundreds of years before His coming.
And yet they were looking for Him. They knew He was coming for they searched the scriptures and the signs of His coming as they had for years…and missed Him. Why?
The foundations upon which the new covenant rests are twofold.
A covenant of grace
First there is the principle of faith. To receive the gifts of God and to enter the kingdom of God requires faith. You cannot receive or achieve anything from God on the basis of works alone, but only through faith for that is the way God has set it up. And faith is the foundation that we must apply. Faith is the bit we have to do. But even faith would not be helpful if it were not for the primary principle that God established.
The principle of grace. If God did not show us His grace that allows all of His good gifts and promises to flow to mankind, especially the Gentile races of the world, then we would all be lost. God opened the door for us through His grace and then everything else followed. It is only by grace that Jesus came and died for our sins and established the pathway to righteousness.
Well can we sing Amazing Grace for it is amazing that God chose us to be found when we were lost and that He chose to show such grace to a people who did not seek Him or know Him.
Spiritual Israel. One nation under God.
When Jesus walked this earth He brought a message of hope for man, not just the people of Israel but for all of mankind. God had a plan for the people of this world and the message of Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation was intended to unite the peoples of the world.
In early days God chose Abraham and promised him that his descendants would inherit the world. The children of Israel thus believed themselves to be a blessed people, and rightly so.
But they became arrogant and hard of heart. They rejected the ways of God and turned away from Him and their rejection opened the way for Jesus Christ to deliver His message of hope and salvation for the rest of mankind. And now we see that while God still speaks to Israel, it is no longer just the physical descendants of Abraham, but the children of faith who are spiritual Israel.
Do you want to be stronger in your faith? Do you want to stand in the faith with the strength that Abraham had when he was prepared to sacrifice his son and heir but fully convinced that God would provide a solution when he was tested?
Hungry for knowledge
The faith that we Christians hold as we come to Christ and grow and mature in Him is not a blind faith. The gifts and revelations we receive from God as we walk in His ways with Christ Jesus are given by grace but we must learn how to use His gifts to serve Him and to grow ourselves.
God’s will for His people is that they mature and be strong in the faith. There is much to learn as we walk with Jesus and much to believe as the mystery of the words of God written in the Bible He has given us is unravelled. All of this is thus boiled down to the pursuit of one thing.
Simplicity of Righteousness by Faith
Righteousness by faith is a very simple process. And it is not a new process because it existed even prior to Jesus coming. Parts of this section of scripture show the pre-existence of righteousness by faith even under the law for even then there was a requirement of faith.
More importantly though is that it was necessary, no, essential, that righteousness by faith be simple. The righteousness that would lead all mankind who chose to come to God had to be simple so that it would be accessible to all of mankind. That is why simplicity was the foremost element of this process.
Here we see Paul discuss this simplicity and he paraphrases parts of the Old Testament showing that it is simple and not hard to find. Continue reading