Summary: This sermon attempts to communicate that living by the law will not make you right with God rather you must be right to live right and you are made right by receiving righteousness from God whether Jew or Gentile.
Living by the law sounds good doesn’t it? Most of us Americans are law abiding citizens, wouldn’t you say? That is, until you stop and think about how the jails of our nation are over crowded and how the court system is back logged with cases. I was talking with a lady one day who had been coming with her son to court for regular appearances for over a year and had yet to come up on the docket. In fact, most Christians are law abiding citizens wouldn’t you say? Until you stop and think about how frequently each of us breaks a traffic law – even law enforcement officers themselves break those. Well, living by the law isn’t as good as it sounds on second thought!
The Jewish people of Paul’s day lived by the law. In fact here he describes religious Jews who profess to live by and keep the letter of the law, yet they break it. Here Paul’s still trying to convince the Jews that they’re lost, that there’s something wrong with them, that they’re not right with God if they’re depending upon their obedience to the law and fulfilling it’s requirements to make them right with God. The point is, they can’t live by the law and become righteous or right in God’s sight.
So the question arises for you and for me – “How Should We Then Live?” Several Christian writers and theologians have used variations of this question as title of their books, including Francis A. Schaeffer, Wayne Muller and Chuck Colson who wrote “How Now Shall We Live? You live out of who you are – your identity. Those Jews and Gentiles alike lived out of who they were – sinners! “Monkey see, monkey do” as the old saying goes. Or I might more accurately put it, “Monkey Be, Monkey Do.” All a sinner can do is sin. Any good you do being born “in Adam,” apart from God, while spiritually dead is a good act of sin. Likewise, any evil you do is an evil act of sin. A sinner can only do good and evil acts of sin in their behavior. That’s how they now live. To live righteously and godly in this present world you must be a righteous person, a saint, you must be saved from sin, and sealed with the Spirit from God. You must be “in Christ,” born from above, receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. As Paul puts it, “the righteous shall live by faith.” Let’s look to see what he says to those Jews about living by the
law. First of all I hear him saying:
I. This Is Who You Think You Are verses 17-20
In the first 16 verses Paul deals with the Jews in a relatively restrained and tactful tone. However, here his mood changes and his tone becomes a bit more serious and severe as he lays out before them the necessity of bringing what they do in line with who they are – their practice in line with their profession. Paul the preacher is waxing eloquent as he attempts to convince his hearers of their need for a different kind of righteousness.
Verse 17 begins with the phrase, “If you call yourself a Jew.” To be a Jew was to enjoy certain religious advantages over other peoples. They saw themselves privileged with a special role to the world. But that privilege gave way to self-righteousness and bragging about their special relationship to God. This is who you think you are: if you rely on the law, i.e., rest in, trust in the law to make you a better person, right with God. They got their sense of security, their okay-ness with God from their connection to the law and by obedience to it. So they bragged about their special relationship with God.
Verse 18 continues, “If you know His will” – that revealed in the Mosaic Law, i.e., spiritual and moral truth. “If you approve what is superior” i.e., right from wrong or as the CEV translates it, “By reading the Scriptures you learn how God wants you to behave.” Verse 19 gives more of who they thought they were … There’s no one as blind as those who think they can see. Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides” in Matthew 23:16. A light for those in the dark – all a Gentile could do was to hope to be taught by a Jew, so the Jews reasoned. Verse 20 says, “an instructor of the foolish, ignorant; a teacher of infants, immature; because you have in the law – the full expression, embodiment of knowledge and truth. Self-righteous Jews persuaded themselves that they were superior to other peoples. And who they thought they were came from a misunderstanding of what it meant to be favored keepers of the law. They fell short of God’s intention