Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vicarious Law-Keeping (Romans 10:4-5)

The aim of the Holy Spirit inspired explanation of the Gospel is to remove the false notion that man can be justified through keeping the Law in the power of his flesh. The aim of the Gospel is to show that justification is on the basis of grace along through faith alone in Christ alone because of His vicarious Law-keeping, vicarious Law-paying, and vicarious Law-releasing. In other words, the aim of the Gospel is to show Christ as the fulfillment of the Law and not its nullifier so that the righteousness of God can be attained by faith and never by the flesh. We are justified solely as a gift through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24) based on His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrectionall on our behalf. Therefore we cannot be justified by our own Law-keeping (because we can’t keep it) and we cannot be justified without Christ’s Law-keeping (He’s the only One who could) for it must be fulfilled and not nullified. Our justification is based on the works of another and not our own! We are justified by a Savior who serves as our Substitute who alone was qualified to pay a debt He didn’t owe for those who owed a debt they couldn’t pay!

Since it is true that the aim of the Gospel is to remove the false notion that man can be justified through keeping the Law in the power of his flesh then of necessity you will understand that God has never justified any sinner through works of the Law but only on the basis of faith in God’s perfect Substitute – the Lord Jesus Christ. There has never been nor will there ever be a dispensation in which men are justified by their own law-keeping. It is error and heresy to believe that God has at one time in history justified men by their own law-keeping but today has nullified the Law through a dispensation of grace. There has never been anything but a dispensation of justification by grace through faith in the One and only Vicarious Law-Keeper.

Let me define vicarious so that you know exactly what I’m communicating so that you can also communicate this wonderful good-news to all men everywhere. Vicarious means “performed, received, or suffered in the place of another” (Webster’s Universal College Dictionary). All three meanings of the word apply to the totality of the work of Christ on our behalf. Christ performed Law-keeping in our place through His sinless life; Christ suffered Law-paying in our place through His sacrificial death; and Christ received Law-releasing in our place through His supernatural resurrection. Every single aspect of the work of Christ is necessary for our justification. Without His sinless life He could not become the Sacrificial Lamb and would not experience a supernatural resurrection by which we could be justified and become the righteousness of God in Him. Therefore faith in Christ does not nullify the Law but establishes it (Romans 3:31) and brings to an end all attempts at meriting justification through our own works by receiving it through faith in His works (Romans 10:4).

Here is the wonderful truth of redemption in Christ – we can’t keep the Law; He never said we could! He can keep the Law; and He always said He would! It is in this and this alone that the weary and heavy laden find rest for their souls. We don’t have rest because the Law has been abolished – we have rest because our Lord has been sufficient! Christ didn’t abolish the Law; He fulfilled it just as He said He would.

There are those today who believe that the Law has been abolished and that Romans 10:4 is teaching that the Law has been abolished. These are so against the Law that they discount the sinless life of Christ under the Law as a non-essential to salvation. They would dare divide the seamless garment of the work of Christ and reject His obedience to the Law as a necessary part of our justification. This is a severe misinterpretation of this passage that not only overlooks its immediate context but also the overall context of Scripture. That the Law has not been abolished but fulfilled is the explicit teaching of the Bible and so it does not imply in this verse or any other verse that the Law has been abolished. Faith establishes the Law because it trusts in the vicarious Law-keeping of Christ!

In Romans 10:4-5, Paul is contrasting Gospel righteousness (Romans 10:4) to the righteousness of the Law (Romans 10:5) in order to show that we are saved by Another’s Law-keeping and not our own. Why is this so? Because to be saved by the Law through our own ability to keep it is impossible for sinful man since the Law requires perfect obedience at every point perpetually throughout man’s life in order to receive the Law’s promise of life. The Law promises life for those who live by it in perpetual perfection but it promises death for those who don’t. “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them’” (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26).

So the Law does not bring righteousness to man, it actually reveals man’s unrighteousness through his inability to live by it in perpetual perfection. It is because of this that men must trust the only sufficient Substitute, Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by God. “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for ‘The righteous man shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:11).

We are justified by faith in the finished work of Christ alone. It is not that He kept nine of the commandments and we kept one – it is that He kept all the commandments and we kept none – “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). We don’t add anything to the work of Christ – He did it all and He did it all by Himself. That is why we read that “when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

That, my brethren, is vicarious Law-keeping - the Law-keeper dying for the Law-breakers and being raised from the dead for our justification and His own vindication. Christ performed the whole Law, suffered the Law’s penalty, and received the Law’s release on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him and also receive the Law’s release. That is justification; that is liberation; that is the Gospel!

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