Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 4
Thesis: The unity of God allows justification to escape the boundaries of Judaism, but it does not allow it to escape the boundaries of divinely revealed Truth.
Introduction: Last week we began to consider the meaning and importance of Paul's second major question after he had established the inescapable truth that justification before God would only be obtained by the principle of faith in opposition to the principle of works. The first question was how this inescapable truth addresses the problem of human boastfulness as a direct attack on the roots of Sin. This second question addresses the problem of the Jewish perversion, through boastfulness, of the doctrine of God. It has to do with the issue of whether the true God is "Jewish" in the sense of only really being interested in the Jews (not as a race, but as practitioners of the particular type of religion known as "performance theology" -- salvation by works).
In our study last week we argued that Paul's question was his second major bombshell for people involved in the Jewish theological mindset. The first such bombshell was his argument that the purpose of the Law was not to provide a way of salvation through its works, but, rather, to provide a revelation of the hopelessness of anyone who attempted to gain salvation by its works. All have sinned. Under Law, this is both inexcusable and unacceptable and leads only to condemnation. This second bombshell is his argument that Yahweh is not locked into being "God" only of the Jews in respect to His salvation objectives. This was a frontal attack by Paul on the Jewish twist on their election by God. Instead of their election being something that makes them the center of the God's universe, it is something that makes them God's instruments of salvation for others in His universe. (By the way, Paul argues in Ephesians that even the Church exists in part for the edification of the angelic hosts; thus, he carries his concept of election unto instrumentality on into the Gospel also.)
Now, this evening we are going to continue to pursue understanding of Paul's argument that true theology has been distorted by the Jewish focus upon Law as a revelation of the way of salvation through works. Since the root of Sin is self-exaltation, it is no accident that the way of salvation has been turned, by Sin, into a way to exalt oneself by superior achievement through superior works. And, likewise, it is no accident that "election" has been turned, by Sin, into a doctrine of "my superior importance to God" instead of a doctrine of God's desire to obtain instruments whom He can use to extend salvation to others who are as important to God as I am. So, this evening we are going to look into Paul's use of the "Shema" of the Jews to argue against their perversion of its meaning.
August 9, 2005
- I. The Significance of the Unity of God.
- A. It is the core of the Jews' "Shema".
- 1. The "Shema" of Israel is, in a sense, a creedal confession that summarizes the Jewish faith. It is enjoined upon the Jew to recite it every morning and every evening.
- 2. The opening words of the "Shema" are "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One". The title "Shema" comes from the word "Hear", which is the opening command.
- 3. These words come from Deuteronomy 6:4 and they were quoted by Jesus in response to the question of the "greatest commandment" in Mark 12:28-30.
- 4. As the core, Paul could not have chosen a more significant line of argument. This significance explains why he raised such violent antagonism among Jews: they considered his words an "attack" upon the very roots of their belief system (and they were).
- B. It is the root of "T"heology -- providing fundamental insight into the true essence of God.
- 1. Paul has dropped two bombs on "Jewish" thinking...aggressively denying their grasp of the purpose of the Law and the significance of their election.
- 2. This kind of thing, to be valid, has to have its roots in the very character of God. In other words, truths must have their roots in Truth.
- 3. The "unity" of God is a fundamental argument regarding the comprehensive "peace" in the Person of God in respect to His values and beliefs so that there is no "conflict" between the values held or the beliefs executed. This means that Justice and Mercy are not at odds with one another. This has been a major aspect of Paul's argument in Romans 3 -- that Yahweh is both Just and Justifier of those who believe.
- a. Polytheism actually has its roots in the ignorance of man who, because he cannot seem to put the various attributes of God together in one person in peace, creates multiple "gods" who reflect certain major "attributes".
- b. Monotheism, in its twisted forms, also has its roots in this same ignorance in that man cannot get the attributes into harmony in the same person.
- c. But, where polytheism accepts the attributes and divides them up among "gods", twisted monotheism actually denies certain of the attributes in order to arrive at a semblance of "peace" in the Person (but this denial is not overt, it is the hypocritical "this people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me" reality of subscribing to the attributes without practicing them).
- II. The Significance of Paul's Use of the "Unity" of God.
- A. He begins with something the Jews could subscribe to: Yahweh is "the Judge of all the Earth" (Genesis 18:25) Who must make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked.
- 1. When he declares Yahweh is God "of the Gentiles", no Jew can legitimately argue against His "root" thesis because all Jews subscribed to Yahweh as Judge of all the Earth.
- 2. What some of the Jews do not recognize is the fact that Yahweh as Judge of all the Earth is really only the "application" of certain of Yahweh's attributes to all of humanity, particularly the attributes of omnipotence and justice.
- B. He proceeds to go where the Jews refuse to go: Yahweh is also "the Savior of all the Earth" (1 Timothy 4:10) in that He "will" justify both the circumcised and the uncircumcised.
- 1. Rationally, there is no escape from Paul's accusation that the Jews are being proud hypocrites if they arbitrarily limit Yahweh's expression of Himself toward the Gentiles to power and justice (that is to say, without specific divine revelation of limitation, there has to be a reason for such a limitation and it boils down to arbitrariness to support a secret agenda).
- a. For what cause would anyone desire to impose only power and justice on mankind?
- b. There is only one cause: self-exaltation through "superiority of performance" (the twisting of Law into a way of salvation) and "superiority of position in the favor of God" (the twisting of election into primacy of importance rather than instrumentality). This is Sin.
- 2. Rationally, there is a fundamental flaw in making "Justice" supreme and "Mercy" a matter of whim.
- a. It is true that "Justice" has a different kind of "necessity" in it than does "Mercy".
- 1) "Mercy" is not "necessitated" by the seeker. No one needs mercy who has done what is right; those only who are in a fix by bad choices need "mercy".
- 2) "Justice" is "necessitated" by the one subjected to it. One's actions require a valid reaction if "justice" is to be satisfied. The entire universe of God is set up on the cause/effect basis.
- b. But it is not true that there is no "necessity" for both "justice" and "mercy".
- 1) The "necessity" is in the Person of the God Who is Who and What He is.
- 2) The "necessity" is revealed by the actions of God in His self-expression. God never acts contrary to His nature, so He never does anything that is not nature-driven. His actions of mercy reveal a merciful nature.
- 3) The "necessity" has been experienced by Israel in her election by Yahweh from out of all of the nations of the earth.
- c. Therefore, for Israel to limit the expression of Yahweh's character to herself without specific divine revelatory cause is to be simply arbitrary and, therefore, suspect as to motive(s).
- 3. Rationally, there is no reason to deny the extension of justification to the Gentiles by Yahweh.
- a. In the first place, the Old Testament "kingdom vision" includes nations besides Israel.
- b. Then, one must raise the question as to how they can be included.
- 1) Their inclusion must be on the same basis as Israel's inclusion: justification.
- 2) Their inclusion must be on the only basis: justification by faith.
- 3) Their inclusion must be on the only basis that the only basis has: the content of the faith. No one can believe who does not have a foundation for belief.
- c. Therefore we can conclude that, since "works of Law" is not the basis, the uncircumcized do not have to be circumcised to be included in the righteousness that is by faith.