Thursday, October 08, 2009
Blogging Through Romans: Romans 9: 30-10:4
Romans 9: 30-10:4
Paul digs the hole deeper. He calls his fellow Jews “ignorant” and “unenlightened” for not having faith in Jesus. Paul confesses a desire that they be saved, but he seems to suggest that chasing after works of the Law as a means to righteousness is, in fact, a form of faithlessness.
Which, in a sense it is. After all, if they’re pursuing righteousness through obedience to the Law, they are saying that it isn’t faith that makes them righteous, but obeying the Law does.
But also, Paul also seems to be saying that such an act of faithlessness is worse than other forms of faithlessness. Either the Jews have been chosen or they have NOT been chosen. If faith is a gift then the people of Israel can’t be faulted for not having that gift.
Christ may be “the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (10:4) but does that also mean that obedience to the Law is sinful? I’m not saying that we SHOULD be under the Law, but Paul does seem to suggest that the Jewish Christians are “unrighteous” because of their insistence on obeying the Law’s demands.
Paul seems to be needlessly creating an Us vs Them attitude toward Jewish non-Christians. This is why Jews today see Paul as anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. They counter Paul by saying that the Law was never meant to make them righteous. They aren’t in obedience to the Law so they can be in a good relationship with God. They obey the Law because it is a gift from God to establish them as a unique people, beloved by God. The Law gives them stability and identity, not righteousness.
They might even agree with Paul when he says that the Law does not justify. That’s not the Law’s job. But they would disagree with Paul when he says that the Law condemns. They say the Law gives them life.
Paul may have been responding to a specific fight in the church between Jewish Christians and their gentile brothers and sisters. But we’ve universalized this fight, and in doing so, misrepresented what Jewish people believe today about the Law.