Day 4: It’s Not All Grace
because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight Romans 3:20
Works – Most Christians believe that the Law has no place in the process of salvation. It is grace alone that brings us into fellowship with the Father. There is little doubt that God’s action towards us, and not our attempt to appease Him, is the true foundation of our redemption. But is that the end of the story? Is there no further obligation on our part once God has gifted us with restoration to His company?
Verses like this one might be understood in a way that would confirm that the Law no longer has a place in the life of a believer. Nothing could be more mistaken! Paul was Jewish, in thought and expression. What he means in this verse is not in conflict with the rest of the Bible, including the words of the Son. Paul follows that path of Deuteronomy 30:11. God saves us in order that we might obey His commandments, not so that we might ignore them. In fact, He tells us that what He asks is not too difficult for us to do. It is expected! Keeping the commandments will not save us; The Law leads us to the saving work of Jesus. But once we have been adopted into the family, we are obligated and expected to live according to the commands of God the Father. In fact, if our actions do not display evidence of a commitment and willingness to obey Him, it just might be the case that we were never adopted.
The Greek word here is erga. It is “work, task, occupation, enterprise.” But Paul is not thinking Greek. Paul is thinking Hebrew. What he means is that a slavish and mechanical observance of religious rules to obligate God is a useless misunderstanding and practice of the Law. The Law is not a chore to check off the list– the Law is life! Without a heart devoted to the author of the Law or without a relationship with the Creator of the universe, all rule-keeping is empty and meaningless. God wants circumcised hearts, not regulated hands. Christianity is a religion of volunteers and servants, not rules for the mindless and heartless enlisted. What Paul means, from a Jewish (or hebraic) perspective, is that a legalistic application of the Law justifies no one. Such an application is a mistake. The Law is a contract for enjoying life, not a set of rules for controlling behavior. The more God’s children learn to follow His Law, the more we can experience the pureness of God’s love. That is why God can expect His children to keep His commandments, joyfully!
Think about it this way. When did the Israelites receive the Law? Before or after they were redeemed, rescued, and saved? They were given these commandments not only after redemption, but also after being told the following: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant you shall be to me my treasured possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:4-6
Not only is this about family, but also, this is about purpose.
In this family, you have a role and a purpose. As a parent, I have expectations of my children. Why would God be any different?
From an Hebraic perspective, the Law is the will of God. It is how He relates to all of His creation. To follow the Law is not about rules and regulations, it’s about devoting ourselves to the One who is devoted to us. The One who set us free from our own personal Egypts, brought us into His family, and has given us a purpose and a role for life. To observe the Law is my way of saying, “Thank you for rescuing me.”