Willfully Ignorant of God’s Righteousness

Romans 10:1-3 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.”

Two Extremes of the Same Whole

Now the specific context here is that of Judaizers trying to convince Christians that they had to be more like Jews and that they had to follow some of the Old Covenant liturgical, ceremonial, and dietary laws and restrictions, including that they had to be circumcised as part of their salvation. So Paul addressed this subject here in Romans and in Galatians, and I think some in Colossians, as well. For they were trying to be saved by adding on works that God did not require any longer.

The broader context here, though, is of people professing faith in Jesus Christ who are religious in form, but who reject what God has established regarding his plan of salvation, and so they make up their own version of the gospel which does not submit to God’s righteousness. Their interpretation of the gospel is that Jesus does it all and that no works are required of us at all, but that all we have to do is believe (usually not defined) and we are now good to go to heaven when we die regardless of how we now live.

Neither is correct. So, whether we are trying to establish our own righteousness by works of the Old Covenant liturgical and ceremonial laws, or whether we are trying to establish our own righteousness by claiming that Jesus does it all and that nothing is required of us at all, and so we can now live however we want since we have our ticket into heaven, it is still wrong in the eyes of God. These are like two extremes of the same pendulum. For either one is a salvation based in man’s thinking and not by God’s word.

So, to have the correct understanding of what the Scriptures teach us regarding our salvation, which is by God’s grace through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, and which is not of our own doing, we need to read not just Ephesians 2:8-9 but also verse 10. For it is there we find the correct balance. Yes, we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Even the faith to believe in Jesus comes from God and is not of our own doing. But our salvation is not absent of works. They are just the works that God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.

An Illustration from Marriage

I am going to share with you here an illustration from marriage, for when we believe in Jesus Christ with genuine God-given faith in Christ, we enter into a marriage covenant relationship with Jesus Christ which will not be consummated until Jesus returns and he takes his bride to be with him for eternity. In the meanwhile Jesus is preparing a place for us who are believing in him with biblical faith that endures until the end, and which leaves our lives of sin behind us to follow him in obedience.

Okay, so when a man and a woman who profess faith in Jesus Christ enter into a marriage relationship they should promise to love and to cherish each other, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, and forsaking all others, keeping themselves only unto their spouse, for so long as they both shall live, or something like that. So this is a vow of fidelity and of a lifetime commitment to one another, and this is what our faith in Jesus Christ should look like, too.

Now imagine if the bride-to-be said to her husband-to-be that she expected him to fulfill his half of the covenant as well as her half and that he should expect that she will do nothing, for he should accept that if she marries him that is evidence enough that she is married to him whether or not she lives like she is married to him or not. And so she feels now that she is secure and that she can then continue living like she did when she was single and that her husband should make no demands of fidelity of her whatsoever.

Would you call that a marriage? Now, I doubt that many people would actually verbalize this to their spouse-to-be, though some people might, but there are people who go into marriage relationships with no intention to be faithful or morally pure or honest or trustworthy, etc. Some of them are already committing adultery against their spouses before the wedding day and then they continue even after they are married. And some of them have no conscience at all about how they are treating their spouses, either.

So, since the Scriptures teach that faith in Jesus Christ is a covenant of marriage to Jesus Christ, then we should enter into that covenant more like we should enter into a covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Only the roles are a little different, but the men are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her a pure bride. And women are to respect their husbands. And they are to be faithful, one to the other and to live in moral purity.

So, when we marry Jesus we should not have this attitude that he does it all and that we don’t have to do anything. Even if he did not require anything, which he does, we should want to do what pleases him, and we should want to serve him and to obey him because we love him. We as married people should want to do what is right by our spouses, not so much just because it is required, but because we want to, because we love them, and we want to show them love, which also includes the way Jesus loves us.

So, in our relationships with Jesus Christ if we make up our own rules for how this marriage to Jesus is to operate, we are trying to establish our own righteousness, and we are not submitting to God’s righteousness. So, if we want to know what it means to enter into a covenant of marriage to Jesus Christ, then we need to read the Scriptures, Matthew to Revelation, and then do it again and again, and do it prayerfully, seeking God’s truth and righteousness and not our own. And then we need to obey the Word of God.

For Jesus said that if we are going to come after him that we must deny self and take up our cross daily (daily die to sin and to self) and follow (obey) him. For if we hold on to our old lives of living in sin and for self, we will lose them for eternity. But if for the sake of Jesus we die with him to sin that we might live to him and to his righteousness, then we have eternal life. For Jesus also said that not everyone who says to him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one DOING the will of God in heaven.

[Lu 9:23-26; Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

All The Way My Savior Leads Me

Lyrics by Frances J Crosby, pub. 1875
Music by Robert Lowry, pub. 1875

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

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