Thursday

20 February 2014

“For Christ is the end of the law, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (10:4)


Background

Paul is still concerned to answer the question: who are the people of God? He moves on from the task of showing that God is not unjust in choosing some and not others, to explain the impact of Jesus on the make-up of God's people.

Righteousness is a way of life: life as God's people. It is based on faith in Christ. Paul contrasts the pursuit of righteousness through faith with the place of actions ('works' (v. 32)) in achieving this way of life. This has led in outdated scholarship to the condemnation of Judaism as a legalistic, works-based faith, a view which has done considerable damage over the years. Careful reading of Jewish texts reveals a covenant-centred faith, where keeping the law is a delight, a joyful response to God's covenant love (Psalm 119:97-104) which shapes a whole community into God's people. Paul uses the word 'zeal' to express this (v. 2), and he understands this from the inside (Philippians 3:6). Nevertheless, in Paul's eyes this focus on the law prevents some Jews from recognising Jesus as the final consummation of God's purposes, the person to whom the law points, and a yet more joyful way of responding to God's love. Earlier in his ministry, Paul had used the image of the law as a tutor, keeping a young person in check until in maturity they became able to act independently in Christ (Galatians 3:24).

Paul returns to the Old Testament, spinning together a number of texts which stress that keeping God's commandments comes naturally to God's people (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) - no-one needs to battle to discover God's will. If this is true, then for Paul, the gift of faith in Christ comes to us even more naturally, through the confession that Christ is Lord and the inner faith that God raised him from the dead. The final outcome of this will be salvation (verse 9) in God's new age when evil will finally be destroyed and God's purposes for this world will finally be achieved.


To Ponder

  • The very first statement of belief among the earliest Christians was simple: Jesus is Lord. What difference does it make to life to believe this?
  • For Paul, final salvation is a future event. To what extent does this make sense in light of your own walk with God?


Bible notes author: 
The Revd Caroline Wickens

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