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As Paul concludes Romans 9 he still wants to challenge those who think the law can save them. He categorically states that the law is for our benefit, but not our salvation. He particularly challenges Israel for their lack of faith and stuck rigidly to the law. This has been their stumbling block.

But Paul is a man who hopes in the gospel. He eagerly desires that Israel may be saved. But their salvation can only come through Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

The challenge for God’s people today is that we do not rely on ourselves and our own efforts for salvation. We are to have faith alone in Jesus Christ as our Saviour.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

The heart of Paul's message in the central chapters of Romans has been the tension between salvation for the Jews and for the Gentiles. Paul has been pulling together the key theological understanding of the law, of salvation, and of grace. He has countered the objections that came his way, but he now comes to the ultimate objection, And it's really a cry that they might have that it's not fair. Paul perceives that they can't understand that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. They are blind to the circumstances that God has brought about in their very own history to demonstrate what he has meant by their keeping of the law and the true way of salvation. Let me affirm this again. No one can be saved because they keep rules and regulations. We can never be good enough to satisfy God's wrath. Our problem is we often put God in human terms and we think that we can treat him like those around us. And let me try to give you an example of that. I remember as a child making my parents very cross, and I mean very cross. I will confess it didn't happen just once. They were mostly patient with me, but at times I would tip them over the edge. And even from a young age, I would try to fix things by being good and doing good things. This obviously isn't a picture of me, but it gives you a bit of an idea of what a child might do. I would be quiet and get on with the jobs that I was given without complaining. I was known to be the chatterbox in our house, so that was a big difference to what was normal. I would even go out of my way to do the things that I wasn't asked to do, like tidy my room and make sure none of my toys were in the way. I would even do my best to wash the cars well, a job I really did not enjoy, especially in the winter months. I did all of this to try and appease my parents, hoping that they would forgive me more for whatever I had done wrong and tip them over the edge. And we're all a little bit like this. We try to be on our best behaviour to make things right. We try to appease those whom we have hurt or have offended. hoping they will forgive us because of our good works. We even think that we can get their forgiveness without saying sorry and admitting to our fault. This was how the Jews Viewed the law. They believed by living a strict, law abiding life, then they would know God's salvation. But again, that was never God's way. That's not what God told them. Because in the second commandment, God tells his people, in Exodus 20 verses 4 to 6, You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. What the second commandment wants, God wants complete devotion from his people. They were to worship him and him alone. That's why the first commandment instructs them to have no other gods before him. This is the basics of the law. When God detailed how their worship of him was to be practiced, we see that the forgiveness of sins is not through trying to appease him and simply trying to be good. It is through the blood of an animal sacrifice. You see, when we try to appease, and when we try to be good thinking that's enough, we create an idol. It may not be one that is fashioned by man, but it's one we fashion in what we will worship because we think that will be the key to our salvation. But it's very clear throughout scripture that blood, it's that substitutional blood, was needed. Once a year, in terms of the Old Testament people of God, to settle God's wrath against them, who were a sinful people. But as we know, they were a people who kept following the world around them. They wanted to be just like the other nations, time after time. And at times, they integrated through marriage with other people groups, and gave up the faith that they were called to follow. They could never keep the law, and so the law could never save. But today, we still think like the ancient Israelites. If we appease, then we will be forgiven. We demonstrate this in our homes from an early age, as I've said of my childhood. And we practice it at times when it comes to salvation through Jesus Christ. That's why these verses that we look at tonight liberate us from this idea that we can do anything for our own salvation. And Paul begins with a reported, a repeated question in verse 30. He has asked before, what shall we say then? And he uses this to try and settle the argument. And his first position is an accurate but difficult one. The Jews won't like this. And here's what he says, What shall we say then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it. That is a righteousness that is by faith. And we agree with this because the answer to this is yes. Paul has already affirmed in chapter 3 in verse 29 that God is the God of the Gentiles as well as the God of the Jews. He draws this together by asserting that Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it. That is a righteousness that is by faith. Both the recipients and the means of their reception of righteousness, they're significant. Gentiles did not pursue righteousness because this was the prerogative and gracious reward of God's chosen people, to whom God appeared from Abraham onward. But in coming, but in the coming of Christ, and the period that followed, many Gentiles have received righteousness. This righteousness did not come by observation of the law, particularly in circumcision as the sign and the seal of the covenant promises. And this is the huge stumbling block for Jews, particularly Christian Jews. How do they recognize Gentiles as being saved if they've done nothing about the law? These Gentiles, Paul says, received righteousness by faith, not by works of the law, as Paul himself attempted to do as a Jew and as his fellow Jews are still trying to accomplish. And he goes, this is what he goes on to say in the next verse. The Gentiles have not earned the right to salvation based on good works. God has demonstrated again his mercy and his grace to them just as he did to the Jews. And this is where Paul continues in verse 31. Because here he contrasts the Gentiles with the Jews who sought righteousness by focusing on the law. But that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Look at those words and notice what Paul says. He again speaks of the benefit of the law and we've already covered this already in this series but he speaks of it again because the law was a conduit that led to righteousness, but its keeping was not righteousness itself. I wonder do we understand that about the law? The law was a conduit. It was taking people somewhere, but following the law was not righteousness itself. In other words, by following the law, you were not made right before God. The law that conjured was to lead to worship of God and worship of Him alone. That is what saved the Jews. Faithful and exclusive worship of God. They were unwilling to believe all the promises of God, and so went after other gods to satisfy themselves. But these other gods didn't necessarily look like idols of stone or wood, but it was idols in their heart. It was their own way of believing that they could save themselves, just to be like the other nations, because the other nations were perceived to be better than the Jews. This is now the challenge that Paul puts to the Jews in verse 32, and he quotes here from the prophet Isaiah. He asked the question, why? The answer comes, because they did not pursue it by faith, that conduit that was to lead to faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone as it is written, Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. And whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. Here we have our reason for why the law doesn't work. It is by faith alone that we are saved. For the Jews, they tripped over their own stumbling block. They looked to the law rather than to the God of the law. And in doing so, they took their eyes off this truth and focused on the path they chose to mark out, thinking that it was a path of salvation. And this is why Paul then writes in Ephesians 2, verses 8 9, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. God doesn't create a stumbling block. We create one ourselves when we reject him and his way of salvation through his son Jesus. I wonder, are we in danger of being like these people of Israel of old? Are we concerned with what we think is the right way? That we've taken our eyes off Jesus. That we're adding something to salvation for ourselves and indeed for others. That they have to pass our test so that we can know for sure that they're saved. Do we think that we can appease God and make him happy with us and that that will be enough for salvation? Well, it isn't and it won't. The only way to salvation, the very heart of the gospel that Paul has been drawing us back to again and again, is to trust God's grace that was given to us in Jesus Christ through his death and through his resurrection. His is the sacrifice that is needed on our behalf to satisfy God's wrath. And now at this point we can feel as if the Jews are gone. They're a hopeless case, there's no hope for them. But chapter 10 starts with a heartfelt outburst from Paul. And here we see his gospel heart. Because he says, My heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. Isn't that a wonderful prayer from the Apostle? He's not just looking at a small group of people, he's looking at an entire nation. An entire nation that is lost, that thinks it's going to be saved, but it's not. And what is his heartfelt prayer? That they might be saved. Paul hasn't written off the Jews because of their lack of understanding. He earnestly prays that they may come to faith in Christ. Or, by the law. They can only be saved in Jesus Christ. The Jews have a knowledge of God and a zeal for Him, but their intentions are misplaced. They don't truly worship Him as they should. And so when they don't do that, they become ignorant, as Paul says in verse 3. They don't submit to His righteousness. This is their problem, and it's a sin problem. They lack the necessary application of the righteousness of God that comes through faith. This is what Paul is saying at the heart of his letter. He began with it and we keep coming back to it for when he says in Romans 1, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith. As he writes this, he's trying to, to get us to focus on what the heart of the gospel is so that when he takes this argument about Jew and Gentile, and now this, this strongest of arguments that the Jews will completely disagree with. He wants to draw them back to say, it is by God's grace that any of us are saved through faith alone, in Christ alone. And so we do well to remember this focus of Paul as he begins this letter. From the outset he has been building on these two verses for what it means for the Jew and for the Gentile. We have no excuse to know this and believe this. Don't allow other things to be the stumbling block. Believe what God's Word tells us, and don't build your own way of salvation, because that way is truly a dead end. Now Paul finishes with this statement of Christ and the law in verse 4. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. The commentator Ian Duguid says this about these verses. Christ is the termination of the law in the sense that he ushers in a new age. Both continuous width and different from the former age, Christ destroys the delusion that a sinner can be justified before God by his own merit. I'm sure you've heard stories of people who fall asleep on train. I was reading a story last night to Sarah about a lion that does such a thing. It's called How the Lion Gets Home for Christmas. Yes, we're a little bit late and unseasonal with our reading at home. But the whole thing is, the family go off, they have a pet lion and the family go off to other families, but the lion can't stay at home. And so he creeps after them and he gets onto the train. And with the lulling of the train, the lion falls to sleep. And then the lion wakes up. It's dark, it's cold and there's no movement. There's no noise because the family are off the train. What's happened? The train has reached the end of the line. That's what all trains do. Even those that go around in a circle at some point stop because it's the end of their line as they go into whatever shelter they need for the night. That's an image that we're getting here of the law. Christ is the termination. Just as a train will terminate at the end of the line, so Christ is the conclusion of the law, because in Christ the law is fulfilled. It all came through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In him a new era is ushered in, and it's an era of grace. And in these last days of human history that we are currently living in, we only live by God's grace alone. Christ is now our righteousness. It is because God looks on him and not on us that we are made right and avoid God's wrath. We have no more need for animal sacrifices. No more blood needs to be shed to atone for our sins because Christ has done it once for all, the complete fulfillment of all the law, so that in him we may know his ministry of grace towards us. Tonight we can very quickly and easily think that this is a message for someone else. But it's a message for us all. We are human and we tend to wander in the way of the law. We perceive God as we perceive those around us and we try and convince him that we are good enough by what we do, what we give, how we treat others. But the only way of salvation, to be sure and certain, is to trust in Christ alone, by faith alone. When the writer of Hebrews wants to communicate this truth, they give an overview of the key figures in the history of God's people. And whenever you go through that list, some of whom we're looking at in Genesis, at the moment we discover that they weren't perfect. They were sinners. They didn't deserve God's goodness because of how they treated others, because of how they acted, and because of things they said. But you see, it didn't depend on them. It depended on God. And what God saw in them was even a shimmer of faith. And so he used that faith, and grew that faith, so that this long list in the family of God would continue God's plan of salvation so that in Hebrews 11 we can look back and see what our heritage is and how God has been faithful. But it's how that passage begins for us. Because the writer of Hebrews in the first two verses of chapter 11 says, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, for by it the people of old received their condemn, their commendation. It's not a lovely wee phrase. Whenever you look at some of the characters that are listed in Hebrews 11, we can easily write them off. Yet God doesn't. Because of their faith in him, even though they were not perfect. God gave them their commendation of faith and they are now in eternity with Him. You see, this is what faith is. As we are now heading towards the end of this letter of Romans, this is what Paul is going to tease out. What it practically means for us. It means that we have faith. And if our faith is waning, we keep in faith whatever faith we can, trusting in God to see us through. I'm sure that if I asked each of you individually how you were doing, words like weary and tired would come along the way because I think that in the current age we're living, that's a common thread. Yes, we will be weary, we will be tired, but we don't give up. And so it is with faith, we can be weary in faith, we can be tired in faith. But we don't give up because it's in this faith that we have, faith in Christ alone, that God gives us our commendation, so that like the saints of old, we will know true assurance of eternity in heaven. I wonder, will you have the same faith that leads to righteousness? Will you have the assurance of things hoped for in Jesus Christ? Even tonight, even if you have professed faith in Christ for years, will I wonder tonight will it be afresh to you that we'll simply not become lazy and take our eyes off Christ? May it be for each of our souls that we will have an unshakable faith that can only come from Christ alone, that we will stand no matter what we will face in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. In a moment, we will stand and sing a chorus of our closing song, but I wonder, will we stand for and in Christ as we sing it? It's words by Stuart Tynend and Keith and Kristen Getty that say we will stand as children of the promise. We will fix our eyes on him, our soul's reward. Till the race is finished and the work is done, we'll walk by faith and not by sight. That's what the gospel calls us to. That was the failure of the Jews, but it was the blessing to the Gentiles. That even though they did not follow the law, it was revealed to them so that they would know the truth. And by the way, who are the Gentiles? Well, we are. This is a message for us. This is not an ancient people group. This is the truth for us today. So will you stand as children of the promise, and will you walk by faith and not by sight? May God truly give us the grace to live this way for him this night and forevermore. Let's pray. Our Father God, we thank you that in your gospel we know the truth of what it means to live for you. So may we live by it, may we live in it, and may we live lives of faith, not wavering to the left or to the right. But fixing our eyes on Jesus, and we will walk by faith until he comes and the work is done. So, Father, speak to us and lead us in your ways, we pray. In Jesus name. Amen.

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