a. We can actually obey the law to perfection (its requirement)
b. That the law was given to us at all
c. That the law is necessary to maintain the free gift of resurrection life
We have covered this topic in a number of ways previously, but suffice it to say that the Law was never given to Gentiles and certainly never given as a requirement for resurrection (immortal) life. At best, it served as a schoolmaster to Israel to reveal her wickedness and failure. It also contained pictures of the coming sacrifice of her Messiah. Surely we can learn from the Law, we are not to be subject to it nor are we to delude ourselves into thinking compliance pleases God to the point we have claim over his mercy and grace as a debt to our supposed obedience.
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
The structure of this passage starts with the reminder that all of us, no matter how religious or wicked in the eyes of the world (or in our own eyes), we must recognize that all are condemned under sin. This is true for those under the law and those outside the law. Romans 2:12, 23; etc.
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
God's love displayed towards us (particularly towards us Gentiles) is found in his mercy, his wonderful, kind, and loving mercy. We dare not sully his mercy with the notion that we can "maintain" grace, mercy, love, or righteousness by the works of our hands. Again, shocking that we have to revisit this topic again and again and again with professed believers.From the Reformed to the Ultradispensationalist, we all rest on the Finished Work of the Savior. It is on that sure foundation that we find grounds for fellowship. Without that common foundation of Christ Alone (upon which we build a structure by our service), there can be no fellowship. Together we cry "Christ alone!" to a lost and dying world deceived by its ideas of righteousness.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
Here enters the admonition to "maintain good works." Note in this age, this is not the Law. We also note that this admonition is given in light of "his mercy" which "saved us." Grace is the act of God granting us immortal, resurrection life through faith in his name (John 20:30-31). Mercy is the act of God ignoring our misguided attempts to put him in our debt via the works of our own hands.
And that confusion and blasphemy has crept into the lives of believers who fail to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). The Law has its place. But the law could never save nor could it ever maintain salvation. We used to see this delusion outside the walls of faith, poisoning man's world of "religion." Today, we see it inside the walls of faith, diluting and destroying the finished work of the Savior in the minds of millions of professed believers.
I believe there are three basic classes of disciples of this old heresy in a new home:
- Those who have never truly rested in grace and are still deluded
- Those who are in bondage to fear that they could lose (or never had) the free gift of life
- Those who are puffed up and deluded into thinking God is pleased (and ultimately in their debt) because of some fantasy that they can keep the Law
In all three classes, it seems the delusion is strong.
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
This admonition from Paul needs little commentary. Note how the law-keeper is "self-condemned." What have genealogies have to do with anyone in the one new man? Nothing. As our blessings are from "before the foundation of the ages," no law or genealogy has any bearing on our position in Christ.
We finally turn to the greatest (blameless) law-keeper of them all:
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith...
Paul states clearly that he places no faith in his genealogy or in the law. He trades it all for the knowledge of Christ. This passage goes on to speak of Paul seeking to "attain unto the out-from-the-rest-of-the-dead" resurrection. Yes, there are crowns, rewards, and a prize that can be won by faithful service. But these are the houses we build on the sure foundation. These works will be tested, but the work of the Savior has already been presented and accepted.
We are careful to "maintain good works" BECAUSE we are saved by his mercy, not TO BE saved by his mercy. Shocking we have to continually defend the work of our Savior this way in these last days. Well, maybe not so shocking. As Paul warned in the final book of God's revelation (2 Timothy), many different sorts of heresies an rebellions would arise. Among these, delusion religionists with faith in their own works.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
A wretched picture indeed.
- Your Best Life Later (Prizes, Rewards, and Resurrection)
- A Fresh Look at the Power of His Resurrection
I also recommend the series on Walking in the Spirit and the Series on Walking According to the Calling to which we have been called.