Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Have you ever broken the law? You might well reply “Yes, but not intentionally.” Law can be very exacting and complicated, I know this from the experience of working in a Crown Court for some years. Often laws are amended but the new slant on any particular law is not always adequately publicized resulting in people being caught out. When you consider that the vast majority of people in Paul’s era were illiterate, it raises the question what chance did they have in understanding the Law. The Jewish Law, the Torah, was very precise but its interpretation had been complicated by the Scribes with their own interpretation of what the Law meant. Paul, like Jesus, had no problems with what was written in the Law, but on the other hand did have issues with the way in which it was being interpreted and applied by the scribes and Pharisees. In Jesus’ time, it would seem that its application was as much about social control by the Sanhedrin, thus keeping the Roman authorities happy, than being aware of the nature of a meaningful relationship with God.
Paul reminds the Church that it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that brought about a new relationship between God and the believer rather than adherence to a set of rules in order to have a closer relationship with God. That description ‘believer’ is the key to that different kind of relationship with God. No matter how much we have struggled to find a meaningful relationship with God, He always welcomes us back home just as the father did with his prodigal son. Our salvation from the power of sin was brought about by Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection rather than adherence to a set of rules – Hallelujah.
Redeeming God, so often we feel that we can only function by following a set of rules, forgetting that it is through faith in your redeeming love that we receive forgiveness for our weakness and sins. Open our minds to the truth and magnitude of Your love for all, through Jesus our Risen Lord. Amen
The Rev’d Colin Hunt, retired minister, worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex