Righteousness for everyone who believes

Epistle of Paul to the Romans 10: 4-13

Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Here the Apostle Paul expressed concern for his fellow Jews who continued to live under the Law. In showing that Christ is the culmination of the law, Paul drew on the Hebrew Scriptures. In referring to Deuteronomy 30, Paul intended that the Jews would recall Moses’ challenge in verse 15 and again in verses 19-20: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction,” and “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life. …For the LORD is your life.”

Just as Moses offered those two alternatives, Paul presented the Jews with two alternatives. According to Paul, there was the Law under which the people of Israel had laboured for centuries without ever being able, through their own endeavours, to satisfy a holy and righteous God. The alternative was Jesus Christ, as Paul said, “the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

The Jews could opt to stick with the Law and rely on the repetitive temple sacrifices to try to please God or they could accept the once-and-for-all-sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a perfect atonement for sin and could put their faith in him. Paul urged his readers to choose life, to choose to trust in Jesus Christ.

Today some believe that good behaviour and living selflessly for others should be sufficient to earn a place in heaven. That resembles trying to live by the Law, totally obedient always to God’s decrees. Some believe that, if somebody had consistently lived “a good life”, God should honour that person but that is not what the Bible teaches. It is contrary to Paul’s message to the Romans. Trying to earn a place in heaven through “good works” is futile. None of us is without sin; any such effort is doomed to fail.

Paul repeated what God had been saying all along: to be considered righteous, one must turn to the only “righteous one” and put full faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Then do good works, not because you need God’s favour but because you already have it!

Find more posts from the Rev Peter Rose at http://pcfchaplain.wordpress.com.