by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1 July 19, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(142)Thesis: The principle of "faith" excludes all boasting that has its roots in human performance issues.
Introduction: Having seen how Paul makes a radical distinction between the two approaches to the issue of a right standing before God, we shall now look at one of the most crucial reasons for making the distinction: man's propensity to always seek a way to make himself superior to his fellow man. The first question Paul raises after he has made his case for the "fairness of God" (in light of the whole issue of "fairness" in Justice as the basis for God's coming judgment) is this one: where is "boasting"?
I. Why This Question?
A. The inspiring Spirit never sponsors an insignificant question.
B. Typically, the inspiring Spirit sponsors the most crucial questions rather than lesser ones.
C. Thus, we must address the nature of this question.
1. It raises the most fundamental issue behind the various theologies of salvation by works.
a. These theologies are always marked by two connected factors...
1) A human way to compel God to give both reward and recognition (which is rooted in an "inimical mindset" that assumes God must be compelled).
2) An attachment of the divine reward to an acceptable, on-going, human performance of "responsibility".
b. These two factors boil down to "salvation by suitable human effort" and a "threat of retraction by God on the basis of significant human failure to put out the effort."
1) You can be saved if you...
2) You can lose your salvation if you...
c. All of this is rooted in the human lust for a "reason from himself" to obtain and revel in recognition for achievement.
1) Man has been twisted so that he thinks that Life comes from recognition.
2) Man's twistedness results in a determined pursuit of recognition and a fierce opposition to everything that tends to diminish, or deny, that recognition.
2. It raises the most fundamental issue behind all of the conflict that exists in the universe.
a. At the root of all of the conflict that exists in the universe is a definition of "Life" that has its focus upon the "definer" as the "ultimate recipient".
1) Here, there is great danger: if we take a "means" and make it the "objective", we are heavily into error ("means" statements, such as "do all to the glory of God", are often turned into "objective" statements and, when that happens, great theological distortions take root).
2) The greatest danger of all is "T"heological: "What is God really like?" is a question that cannot be answered incorrectly without significantdownlinedamage.
b. The particulars of this conflict mostly develop out of the conflict over the "methods" employed to achieve the "objective" because of two realities...
1) The conflict over "methods" is a "faith" issue -- and men will strive mightily over issues of "faith".
2) The conflict over "methods" typically escalates "after the fact" because of the level of frustration that sets in because the "objective" was not achieved. The one who "got his way" in the "methods fight" is humiliated by his failure and the ones who did not "get their way" typically "rub it in" (with such nonsensical statements as "Well, I don't like saying 'I told you so', but...).
3. It raises this challenge: Are we willing to give up "boasting" in all of its various forms?
a. When Paul asked, "Where, then, is boasting?", he was not simply raising the issue of the illegitimacy of boasting; rather, he was fundamentally raising the issue of whether his readers were ready to give up both their flawed definition(s) of Life and their current methods of chasing it.
b. The fundamental issue in "boasting" is turning the spotlight upon ourselves; the mouth is one of our most fundamental instruments for "adjusting the spotlight"; and there is nothing more destructive than being in the spotlight by one's own manipulations.
II. What is the Rationale of the Exclusion of Boasting?
A. Paul says it rests upon a "law" -- but he uses "law" to refer to a "principle of operation", not "Law" as he has been using it as the particular principle of operation known as "demand/perform".
B. Paul presents two options.
1. A "principle of operation" known as "works" cannot exclude boasting.
2. Even a "principle of operation" known as "faith" cannot exclude boasting if the principle is not fundamentally different from that of "works".
a. For the most part, "faith", as a principle of operation, has been twisted by men into simply a variation of "works". It is nothing more than a "demand" by God that is to be met by "obedience" by men in the minds of most people.
b. Until men understand "faith" as a principle of operation wherein they receive benefit from God by God's own choices and actions without regard for their "performance", there will be no elimination of "boasting" and all of the damage it creates.
C. The "principle" called "faith" is rooted in the reality that God takes the initiative to make the original promise and, when the one to whom He makes that promise believes Him, He takes it upon Himself to fulfill that promise to that man.
1. This means that the downline issues involved in God's keeping of His promise have little, to nothing, to do with the downline choices of men.
2. This takes the "human performance element" out of the picture, and, by so doing, takes "boasting" out of the picture.