“Wrestling With Romans”
Righteousness or the Traditions of Men? (Chapter 10 Verses 1-21)
The previous chapter explained why, or rather how the Jews came to be where they are spiritually. Now Paul reiterates his heart’s desire, in personal intercession, O that Israel might be saved (v1). The Jews are a clear example to us of a people who were zealous for the things of God, so very sincere (v2), but, so sincerely wrong. They burned with zeal, they were fanatics when it came to God’s house, the temple, the temple. Their outward obedience to the word of God, the law, interpreted through the lens of their own rabbinical traditions. There was no indifference amongst these folk. There was no atheism, no skepticism, they were a people who knew what they believed, and tolerated no compromise, none. But they were wrong, ‘dead’ wrong! They lacked the essentials. They hated Jesus, the life-giving gospel. That everything depends upon a person’s religious sincerity, is a load of old twaddle. You can very sincerely and zealously drink a cup of arsenic, but it will as surely kill you stone dead as drinking it without zeal and sincerity. But error always tends to fanatical zeal which is self and other destructive. A person can be zealous for the truth of the gospel but it will always have a sanctified sanity and balance that will avoid the morbid, misery of fanatical cultish zeal.
They didn’t know the righteousness from God (vv3-4), not because they weren’t told, but refusing to be told. In one word – unteachable. They knew it all, they had it right, and everyone else was wrong. But isn’t that one of the problems we face in the Christian Church today in the UK? So many Christian people, and on all sides of each controversy, who think that they know it all. And added to it this tendency to use their religion to brow-beat others, everyone must be the same as they are, or woe betide, each must conform to them, or be conformed, or there’s no fellowship. Where, O where is Christian love? Where is the meekness and humility of Jesus Christ, what ever happened to the teaching in the gospels, the sermon on the mount? Paul’s letter to the Romans when he gets to chapter twelve, will turn to the practical outworking of all this. The righteousness that comes from God will lead to a rightness of living. The word of God was given to us, to lead us to Jesus, and make us right with God (v4), not to destroy one another with, not to fight over with Pharisaic furiousness. But to set us free from sin (John 8.36), and enable us to live and work and learn together. But growth and learning are dependent upon humility, a willingness to listen and learn. A willingness to correct and be corrected by one another, in a spirit of gentleness and with respect for those whom Christ died for.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)