Matins Devotion: January 10, 2023
There’s a great scene from an episode of “Seinfeld” where Jerry goes to get a rental car but is told they don’t have the mid-size sedan he reserved. When he argues with the agent, she tells him, “sir, I know how a reservation works.” “I don’t think you do,” he replies. And in his typical manner, Seinfeld goes on to explain that they know how to take a reservation, but they don’t know how to hold one. And it’s the holding that’s important. Anyone can just take it.
St. Paul is making a similar argument to the Jewish Christians in Rome who have set themselves up as teachers over the gentiles, despite the fact that they are not living faithfully. The Jews are essentially saying “we are a holy people, we are set apart. We hold a special status with God because He gave us His commandments. He told us not to steal or commit adultery or idolatry. We know how righteousness works. ”
And Paul is responding, “I don’t think you do. Anyone can receive the Commandments. But it’s not the receiving of the Commandments that makes you righteous. It’s the keeping of them. Being told by God not to steal or commit adultery or serve idols doesn’t make you righteous. Refusing to steal or commit adultery or serve idols does, which is why the gentiles who live according to the Commandments they weren’t given are more righteous than you when you don’t live according to God’s covenant.”
But in all of this, Paul is not telling the Jewish Christians that they become righteous through the law. Rather, he is setting the stage to tell them where righteousness truly comes from. It’s not receiving the commandments that makes us righteous. It’s the keeping of the commandments, those commandments we could not keep, those commandments we shattered into a million pieces.
But Christ kept them in our place. Upon the cross, Jesus destroyed our unrighteousness and clothed us with His righteousness. Upon the cross, our Lord destroyed our sins and covered us in His perfect obedience to the commandments. In His resurrection, His Father proclaimed that He had accepted this trade, this great exchange. And everyone who believes this will receive this. Everyone who trusts in Christ will receive His salvation.
So in the end, receiving is what makes us righteous. Not receiving the Commandments, but receiving the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ. You have received it. You are righteous. That’s what’s important.