By Works or by Faith?
Romans 9:30-10:4 (Pastor Heo)
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
10:1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Spiritual things can only be discerned spiritually.
Spiritual truths can only be understood through the ministry of the Holy Spirit – as Jesus said, “The Counselor will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”
The Spirit also helps us in our weakness. Many times we don’t know what to pray for, but the HS intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8?).
Today in the study of this text we need the guidance of the HS to understand this word.
These verses seem strange outwardly:
“9:30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not *by faith but as if it were by works*. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.””
These are quoted from Isaiah 8:14, 28:16.
These can be said easily like this:
- Those who try to save themselves by works – efforts – are not saved.
- But those who did not try to save themselves by works – but only came to Jesus by faith – are saved.
- Those who try to have a right relationship with God by their own power, did not find it.
- But those who came to Christ only by faith, found it.
- Those who thought they could please God with works, could not.
- But those who came by faith, pleased God.
This is the meaning of these sentences. The point is: We must understand, clearly, biblically, what salvation is like.
- Genesis 1:1 – God created all things. In the work of Creation, all the Creation did nothing to be created. Only God took initiative to create all things. Salvation is like this.
- As we know, Jesus turned water into wine.The water did nothing to become wine. Only Christ took initiative to turn it into wine. Salvation is like this.
- Jesus raised the dead Lazarus – buried underground with a bad smell. Lazarus did nothing to raise himself. Only Jesus did. Salvation is like this.
- Also, the HS caused Mary to become pregnant with the baby Jesus. She did nothing of her own power to become pregnant. Only the HS did. (In this case, Mary was like the clay in the hands of the potter – last week) Salvation is like this.
- “Salvation is like birth.”
- Salvation is a kind of birth.
- “You must be born again.” – born of the HS.
- Salvation is birth AGAIN – rebirth – birth from the HS.
- Yes, we know of the story of babies. The babies do nothing to be conceived, nothing in choosing genes, DNA, gender, parents, birthplace, blood type, etc. Only parents (and God) did anything for the baby to be born. Salvation is like this.
- We did not ask Christ to come into this world to save it – nor to die on the cross – nor to rise again from the dead – nor to rise to heaven – nor to come again. Absolutely, on his own choice, according to God’s sovereign will, Christ did all these things for us. Salvation is like this.
Salvation is found only in Jesus Christ.
Do you believe this? Then the biggest error and mistake of the Israelites was that in history they waited a LONG time for the Messiah (this is Christ). “In him was life, that life was the light of man … when he came into this world, the people (esp of Israel) did not recognize nor receive him.” This is the biggest error.
Jesus says in John 9 directly to the people of Israel, “You diligently study the Scriptures thinking that by them you have life. But these are the Scriptures that testify about me. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
“I and the Father are ONE.” (I am God.) Yes, Jesus claimed that.
At this, the Jews picked up stones to stone him, and he said, “Why do you stone me?” They said, “Blasphemer!” (You, a mere man claim to be God.) That’s why they crucified him. They did not believe he was God.
Yes, even today, people believe he was a good man, good prophet, good Savior. But we must believe he is true GOD.
Next, let us see the study of chapter 10.
In chp 9, 10, 11 – this is the story of the Vindication of God through the nation of Israel.
- Chp 9 = Israel’s PAST election
- Chp 10 = Israel’s PRESENT rejection
- Chp 11 = Israel’s FUTURE redemption
Today, we study Chp 10. You know, even today, Israel is one of the most difficult nations on earth to be evangelized.
Chp 9 = emphasized God’s SOVEREIGNTY (will/election) – God has mercy/compassion on whom he wants
“Does not the potter have the right to make some clay common and some noble?” Israel did nothing to be elected/chosen by God. Only God chose them (for a special mission – the salvation of the world).
Chp 10 = emphasizes Human RESPONSIBILITY
Through the study of Israel, we can see that even Divine Sovereignty does not negate Human Responsibility
Nowhere in the Bible does it say we must choose only one. These are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they cooperate with each other – even though we may not fully grasp these truths.
This is a paradox:
- God has 100% sovereignty
- We have 100% responsibility
Do you have will power? Choice? This means we are responsible beings.
“I am a responsible being before God.” Really?
Actually, the more we recognize God’s sovereignty, the more we are to recognize our responsibility.
The Israelites were VERY aware of their privilege (as God’s chosen people) but tended to neglect their responsibility (for world evangelization).
What was Israel’s problem?
(This is not to criticize, but to teach us today.)
#1 They did not understand what salvation was like.
10:1 “1 Brothers and sisters (Israelites), my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”
Maybe the Jews would be shocked by this prayer of Paul for them.
- They THOUGHT they WERE saved, but actually, they were NOT.
- They thought the Gentiles had to come up to the level of the Jews to be saved. But actually, the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved.
The biblical understanding of salvation is the pre-requisite to enter into true Christian life.
- They thought that being physical children of Abraham would guarantee their salvation. But salvation is only found in Christ.
- They thought they could fulfill their salvation by works. But it is only obtained by faith in Christ. They thought they had much to boast of. But they had to be humble.
- They thought God was exclusively God only for them. But God is God of ALL human beings.
- They thought they were righteous, in no need of salvation. But they were unrighteous.
- They were proud. But deserved to be condemned.
- They rejected the visible God, Jesus Christ. But they should have recognized him.
Israel is still one of the most difficult nations on earth to evangelize – but God remains faithful to them.
#2 They had zeal without knowledge
Zeal = passion, enthusiasm – this is necessary to do something big or small successfully. Without zeal, we cannot do anything successfully. The problem is zeal without KNOWLEDGE.
How dangerous would this be?
- Big ZEAL for driving without knowledge of the road rules or car controls…
- Big ZEAL for guns without knowledge of the safety of guns.
- But in religion, big ZEAL is much more dangerous.
“2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
Personally, Paul personally know the danger of zeal without knowledge. There was a time before his conversion when he had wonderful ZEAL for God, but without knowledge. When he had this, he persecuted the church. He killed and jailed so many children of God and THOUGHT he was doing it FOR God.
So, zeal without God is fanaticism (fanatics). It’s like heat without light.
This was zeal for their own traditions, laws, cultures, and made them proud and arrogant.
“I must study. I must learn. I must learn and learn. Until heaven.”
#3 They did not know Christ is the END of the Law
“4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
- “For everyone” – does this include YOU?
- If you believe, are you involved in this sentence? Yes.
I said several times, the Theme of the book of Romans is the Righteousness of God.
Even today, we can see the word “righteousness” is repeated several times.
What does this mean: “Christ is the end (culmination) of the Law”? Four points:
#1 Christ is the fulfillment of the demands of the divine Law
Only Christ fully met the requirements of the holiness of God.
“Do not think I have come to abolish the Law. I have come to fulfill it.”
Only Christ is the full satisfaction of the Law of God. The Law of God is grounded in his very nature, so the breaking of that Law brings with it a penalty, condemnation, punishment, separation from God. ALL sinners cannot meet the demands of this Law. Only Christ as our representative and substitute can – through his obedience and sufferings. He fully met the demands of the Law.
Romans: “What the Law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful Nature, God DID by sending his Son that the requirements of the Law might be met in us who do not live by the sinful Nature but by the HS.”
#2 Christ is finishing “legalism”
There is no more “legalism” – “we are not under Law but under Grace.”
The relationship between God and his children is no longer a creditor/debtor relationship, or a judge/accused relationship. But the basic relationship has become Father/children.
This means Christ is the end of legalism.
#3 Christ is THE reality of all realities / shadows / types / patterns / signs
Gal 3:24 “The Law was given as a charge to lead us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith.”
All the signposts throughout the Bible. All the prophesies, signs, patterns, foreshadowing, etc, point to Christ who is THE way to life, salvation, heaven, God, a righteous relationship with God, reconciliation with God, peace, joy, real success, real well being, victory, glory, glorification. THE way is only Jesus Christ.
Since the Creation of the world, it is only Jesus Christ who has the right and power to say, “I am THE Way, the Truth and the Life.” (I am the ONLY ONE WAY). “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
#4 Christ is MY righteousness
“4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
“Therefore, since we have been justified though faith in Christ, we have peace with God, and gain access to this hope in which we now stand.”
1 Cor 1:30 “Jesus Christ is our righteousness, holiness, sanctification, salvation.”
God bless you in this sentence.
Let us pray.