Seeking to Establish Their Own Righteousness

Romans 10:1-4 ESV

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Behind the Scenes

In the very specific context in which this was written, what they were dealing with was this. Before Jesus Christ died on that cross for our sins and was raised from the dead and ascended back to the Father in heaven, and then sent his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers, God’s people were the Jews, and they were under the Old Covenant God had with his people at that time. And the Old Covenant required much in the way of ceremonial, liturgical, sacrificial and purification laws that the Jews had to follow.

But when Jesus Christ, God the Son, shed his blood for us on that cross to redeem us from our lives of sin and to give us new lives in him to be lived for his glory, he did away with the Old Covenant with all its ceremonial laws. But God’s moral laws remained, for our salvation from sin is about us dying with Christ to our sin and us living to him and to his righteousness in obedience to him and to his commands (New Covenant).

So, the situation was that many of the Jews did not accept Jesus as their Lord and Messiah, and they sought to establish their own righteousness by holding on to those ceremonial, liturgical, sacrificial, and purification laws of the Old Covenant, some of which the Jews had added on to. So, they were embracing forms of religion without faith in the God of their religion. And they were going through the motions of serving God without submitting to God and to his will for their lives.

And the point of all of this is to point out the fact that we don’t have the right to make up our own religion, or to conjure up our own ideas of what it means to be saved from our sins and to have eternal life with God. God decides all of that, and it is written down for us in the Bible (Genesis-Revelation), and we just have to do what the word teaches us about God, and about his salvation from sin (New Covenant). And most of this we will find in Matthew-Revelation, though the Old Testament tells us about it, too.

Applied to our Lives Today

When Jesus walked the face of this earth, he taught the New Covenant. The apostles after him taught the New Covenant, as well. But the New Covenant is not lawless. In fact, Jesus said we have to obey him if we want to have eternal life in him, and so did the apostles. They all taught under the New Covenant that we have to obey the Lord’s commands, in practice, or we will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

So, what do we have to obey, and what do we not have to obey? Well, if you read Paul’s writings, in particular, and if you read them in context, you will see that “the law” Paul taught against included the sacrificial, purification, ceremonial and liturgical laws of the Old Covenant, and more specifically the command of circumcision. Those no longer had to be obeyed. They were done away with by Jesus’ blood sacrifice for our sins on that cross.

Under the New Covenant we have to obey Jesus and his commands under the New Covenant. He summarized all the law into two commands, to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as ourselves, but the New Testament Scriptures detail for us what sins we are to forsake and what commands we are now to obey, for the New Testament is loaded with instructions to us Christians with loads of do’s and don’ts.

And the New Testament Scriptures teach that if sin is what we practice, i.e. if we continue in deliberate and habitual sin against God, and if righteousness and obedience to our Lord are not what we practice, if we do not repent of our sinful ways, and if we do not submit to Christ as Lord of our lives, then in the end we will not inherit eternal life with God no matter what we have confessed with our lips or thought we believed in our hearts.

Our Righteousness or God’s?

If it is our own righteousness we are establishing as the foundation for our faith, based on our own thinking and reasoning, or perhaps also based in a few select passages of Scripture taught out of context and twisted to say what we want them to say, then that is not true faith that saves. But if we are indeed submitting to God’s/Christ’s righteousness, then we are walking in obedience to our Lord and we are no longer living to gratify our flesh.

And the way we learn God’s righteousness is through reading the Scriptures, in context, prayerfully, carefully, seeking God for understanding, and not interjecting our own thinking and reasoning, and not interpreting the Scriptures through the lens of man’s teachings which may be faulty and which may actually be teaching lies as though they are truth. For there are many false teachers and false shepherds of the people out there.

And as we begin to read the teachings of Christ and of the apostles, unless we are just not willing to listen to truth, which is where many are, the truth should “hit you right between the eyes” (an expression), meaning you can’t miss it unless you are blind. All throughout the New Testament we are taught that we must die with Christ to sin, not just once, but daily, and that we are to follow Jesus in obedience to his commands, in practice.

For Jesus Christ shed his blood for us on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness and holiness. So, by the Spirit, we are to cast off all those works of darkness, and we are to no longer live in sin, and we are now to walk in obedience to our Lord in doing what he says to do. For if we do not, we will not inherit eternal life. But if we do, then we will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Rev. 2-3; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15]

Because He Lives

By Gloria Gaither / William J. Gaither

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth a living just because He lives

And then one day, I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns

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