Tenth Sunday After Trinity
 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;  but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,  as it is written,
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
[10:1] Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.  I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 9:30-10:4 (ESV)
“Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,… For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works… The law, there isn’t anything wrong with it, there is something wrong with us. It’s easy to get caught up in an either or concerning faith and the law and righteousness that comes from Christ alone. There is always tension. I suppose part of the problem is something like a food addict. They don’t have the choice to stop eating all together. They can’t be teetotalers where their addiction is concerned. They have to learn to eat in moderation. Who here doesn’t struggle with that?
So it is with our relationship to the law. It can’t be done away with because we follow Christ and submit to the righteousness that comes from God. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Christ is the end of the law. But this isn’t the end as in it is over, but the end as in it is the purpose of Christ. Christ fulfills it. He becomes our righteousness. And we are righteous apart from the law, apart from works. But there is a danger there too for us sinners.
See faith has no problem with the law. Faith wants to obey the law, but not as if by it it can earn salvation. Too often though, our Old Adam, our sinful nature wants to use Christ as an excuse to ignore the law all together, like a recovering addict foregoing his addiction. And it isn’t like one can really be moderate about the law. Either you try to follow it or you don’t. It isn’t like you can just strike a healthy balance, go for portion control with the law. If you break the law at all you are guilty of breaking the law. And faith doesn’t want that. Christ in us wants to follow the law, as Christ followed the law in his earthly life.
The trick here is, that we have to realize that though there is no life in the law, there is death in it. It is a paradox. It is another aspect of life that is asymetrical. We can’t achieve righteousenss and life by following the law, but by willfully ignoring it, and by breaking it, we can achieve death and unrighteousness. This is why we need Christ. This is why we need Christ for our whole life. Because, frankly we will never get it right. But Christ gets it right.
We can’t be antinomians, people who disregard the law all together. People who don’t follow it at all, and don’t care about it. I have to admit. That is more my tendency. Reading an essay the other day called “Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament,” a philosopher an atheist, Thomas Nagel, was hypothesizing that some people just naturally have a religious temperament. It’s hardwired into the way they think from the get go. I don’t think that is me. I know the type of whom he is thinking. There are people who think religion is a virtue, something good in life that gives it meaning, regardless of whether it is true or not, they don’t even ask those questions. Truth often has no meaning to these people today. It makes them feel good. They go with what works as they say. I don’t get it. If I wasn’t convinced that Christ rose from the grave, I think I’d be living a vastly different life than the one I am now. And I can’t say that adhering to Christ hasn’t given my life meaning, purpose and joy. Joy, and happiness, oh the forgiveness of sins, and the joy of salvation that permeates life in Christ. Convinced of Christ’s resurrection as I am, and the forgiveness of sins he imparts to the world, I daresay has brought a sobering joy to life I’d otherwise not have. But I don’t find that joy in the law, as others seem to do, as Paul accuses Israel here.
They thought their righteousness was through the law, by works. Belief in God without believing that Jesus is God, leads to that conclusion, always. There is no other way. And this is the problem of most religions. People talk about other religions as being beautiful. I literally hear people talk about other religions as being, beautiful, as having some sort of aesthetic value. That one has me scratching me head. This is what I mean by religious temperament, I just don’t share. I don’t have respect for other religions. I may have respect for the people that adhere to those religions, a love for them anyway. But it is precisely that love that tells me to confront them with Christ. Without Christ religion can’t help but to be some class in moral ladder climbing. And religion is ugly. Atheism is ugly for that matter, too. Even there righteousness comes through the law though, and there it isn’t God, but your neighbors who decide your righteousness. Without Christ, one way or another, you are going to try to achieve righteousness by the law, as if it were a matter of works, and even with Christ, that is a temptation to many. When Christ is not God, then Christ cannot forgive sins. That is the problem. When Christ is not God, then Christ, then not even God the Father can forgive sins. Then if there is going to be righteousness, one’s only hope is the law. But the converse of this is also true, when you seek righteousness in the law, then it is that you deny the divinity of Christ and his forgiveness, you do not submit to the righteousness that comes from God. That is religion for you, and it doesn’t get you far. It is rather futile, not beautiful, but futile.
But when Christ is God, when you come to that realization, that the man who rose from the dead is who he says he is, that he did on the cross what he said he was going to do there, and reconciled the world to himself. Well then that changes our relationship to the law all together. No longer do we see it as a source of righteousness. No longer to we refrain from breaking it for the purpose of attaining righteousness, or the fear of death that would consume us without Christ anyway. But now we realize that Christ is the end of the law. He is the laws purpose, and we follow it as best we can for the sake of love, the love of Christ and the love of neighbor. But no longer do we seek righteousness there, no longer do we seek to make up for transgressions with works. No, but we go to where we find the righteousness of God. Where God offers the forgiveness of sins in his Son Jesus Christ, true God and True man, who reconciled the world to the father on the cross, and rose from the dead on the third day, in accordance with scripture. Then we seek not forgiveness in the law, but in the New Testament in his blood, the bread and the wine, the body and blood of the New Testament, given for the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of the altar. There we recognize the true righteousness that comes from God, Jesus Christ, his son, our life.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.