Calvary Trumps Sinai
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 10:4b …for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Here we find again the all-important word, “righteousness.” In the context of salvation, it refers to being made right with God. In order to be saved, to have a personal relationship with Jesus and to go to Heaven when we die, a person must gain a clearly defined kind of righteousness, a righteousness not earned by works, but received by faith as a gift from God.
Salvation is available to every one who acknowledges their sinfulness, and believes in Jesus for salvation. We must submit to the Gospel’s terms.
A person has to go beyond law, and flee to Jesus. Law cannot give the righteousness God demands. It must instead be received as a gift from Jesus.
It is foolish for people to seek their salvation in the law. The law condemns. We can find nothing but guilt before the law. We can never be good enough to earn God’s favor, and should thus end our futile efforts.
Our strange infatuation with the Law is like a gnat that is attracted to a candle’s light. The gnat is fascinated by it, but suddenly its wings burn off.
We would rather trust in our own unsightly sinful selves than in God’s beautiful perfect Son. Calvary has warmth, compassion, and love cries, but we nevertheless prefer Sinai’s thunder, lightning, darkness, and rumblings.
How strange; people would rather cling to the cold tablets of Moses than to the precious cross of Jesus. YHWH declared that anyone who tried to scale Sinai while He was giving the Ten Commandments would be killed.
I wish I could help us see a death sentence yet remains for anyone who tries to reach Heaven by scaling the mountain of Sinai.
There is only condemnation in the effort. Life is found by spiritually scaling the mountain of Calvary. At the top of that hill forgiveness of sin is found.
In “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Bunyan wrote, “I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up with the Cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.”
Despite the futility of climbing Sinai, and the assurance of ascending Calvary, people are determined to try to merit Heaven, whether it be the Baptist who thinks salvation has to be earned and/or maintained by works; the Buddhist and his eight-fold noble path; the Catholic with his sacraments and holy cemeteries; the Church of Christ member and baptism, the High Protestant with infant baptism and confirmation; the Hindu and his burial in the Ganges River; the Jew and his Ten Commandments; the Muslim’s pilgrimage to Mecca. These are all manifestations of people who are seeking to establish their own righteousness through keeping the law.
I plead with you; do not stop at the law, dear seeker. Travel on to Jesus. Outside of Christ, there is no protection from condemnation. Look not to the Law for salvation. Safety is found solely in Jesus.
This is good news for everybody. It means people do not need to fear they have been too bad to be saved. All they have to do is to repent, and believe in Jesus. However deep the stain of sin, Jesus can cleanse it.
Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the
law: The one who does these things will live by them.
When we speak of being saved by grace through faith, we could be interpreted as saying we demean the law. This is not the case at all.
Moses taught the people of Israel (Lev. 18:5); the best life is one that abides by the law. Accepting the rule of law provided Israel social order, but Moses’ law was only a stabilizing influence, not a saving one.
Granted, if people could keep the law flawlessly, they would have righteousness. But it is impossible for anyone to do this.
Thus, law in and of itself is not enough to save us. People must have something more. This is why Jesus came. He is the “end” of the Law, that is, its “fulfiller”.
With regard to people’s salvation, the Law can only go so far. Jesus has to make up what’s lacking. The Law shows us our sin, but Jesus then has to step in and bring us righteousness.
He does for us what we could never do for ourselves. Jesus has come and made what should have been impossible into something easy to obtain.
Romans 10:6-7 But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like
this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that
is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.
Salvation does not require superhuman feats. We do not have to climb to Heaven to bring down a Savior. Jesus has already come to earth. God has not hidden our Christ in Heaven above. There is no need to worry about scaling inaccessible heights to find Him.
Nor is it necessary to seek in the abyss for One who has endured our punishment. Jesus already entered death and defeated it through resurrection.
Two things were needed for our salvation. One, a Deliverer had to come from Heaven. Two, He had to prove Himself by overcoming powers of Hell. Jesus did both: He came down from above and came up from below.
There is no need for people to try and earn their salvation. In the first place, it cannot be done. And secondly, it does not need to be done because Christ has done all that is necessary to purchase our redemption. As a result of Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul shared wonderful news with sinners.
Romans 10:8a On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near
you, in your mouth and in your heart.
Jesus has brought the message of salvation “near” to us. God does not mock sinners by dangling before them gifts impossible to receive.
The message of salvation is close at hand – we can speak of it with our mouth and ponder it in our heart. The poet said, “A man’s best things lie nearest to him, lie close about his feet.” This is especially true of salvation.
Our Savior is not far away geographically. He is nearby, knocking at our heart’s door. The difficulty is not in finding Christ – in fact, we cannot avoid Him. The struggle revolves around what we will do with Him.
There is nothing now to be done except for people to let the Word they have heard work in them. The only thing lacking with regard to salvation is receiving what God has brought near to us. You have heard the word, now all we have to do is respond to it.
Salvation comes on the wings of words. Righteousness is received as the result of hearing a message. This is possible because the message of salvation has a very special quality about it, as the next phrase in verse 8 shows.