Romans 9:30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31 but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32 Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works.
This is an interesting passage. Jews and Gentiles took different approaches to fulfilling the law. First of course were the Jews who received the law from God through Moses. They tried to fulfill the law via works (doing what the law says) because that was the path they were given. Follow the law and things will go well with you. Violate the law and things will go poorly for you. Despite their greatest efforts at being faithful to the law, sin always got in the way.
Normal human beings are incapable of fulfilling the law via works… because of sin.
Gentiles were given the law in the context of the new covenant of grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection. In this new covenant, God’s people openly confess our inability to follow the law via works due to human sin. Instead we confess our sins and receive forgiveness in Jesus who also bestows to us eternal life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Gentiles generally found this new covenant of grace easier to embrace since they had never lived in the old covenant of works. Not so the Jews. It’s hard to un-learn what you’ve been taught to follow you’re entire life.
While the church is not necessarily confused about works versus faith, we are being challenged to embrace things that differ from what we’ve been taught our entire life. An obvious example is our embrace of virtual church alongside in-person church. As you know Rejoice is continuing to explore what it means for us to be a “hybrid” church – virtual and in-person. We’re wondering how we best use church space when staff are mostly remote. We pursue the goal of making disciples of people we may never see in the flesh. And so on.
Heavenly Father you continually challenge us to think differently about how best to live out our faith. Give us grace to follow where you lead. Amen.