Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Vacuousness of Works Righteousness

"The fourth book [Numbers]... says much about the disobedience of the people and the plagues that came upon them... Indeed this is the way it always goes; laws are quickly given, but... they meet with nothing but hindrance; nothing goes as the law demands. This book is a notable example of how vacuous it is to make people righteous with laws; rather, as St. Paul says, laws cause only sin and wrath."
-- Martin Luther

If nothing else, the Book of Numbers shows us just how pathetic and unable we are as people to make ourselves righteous. It's not difficult to see connections with how the grumbling Israelites in Numbers acted and how we act when things don't go our way. The LORD gives his people a clear set of laws to obey in order for all to be well with them, and the first thing they do (and we do) is break it. We can never keep the Law. And to think for a second that we can be made righteous by the Law is beyond foolish. The Law shows us just how depraved we are, not how righteous we can become if we follow it. No, works righteousness is not the answer. Jesus Christ is. The Law is good... very good. But it does nothing to make us righteous. The Israelites in Numbers figured that out with difficulty. Abraham had faith, and God credited it to him as righteousness. And the same is true of the believing Israelites in Numbers... And the same is true of us.

-- Jonathan

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