At this wonderful time of the year, songs extol the birth of Jesus. The advertising world pays scant attention to the angel of the Lord who appeared in a dream to Joseph to explain why he was to take Mary as his wife. She was expecting a child, conceived in her of the Holy Spirit. He explained the birth of her Son in this way: “And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
The saving work was prophesied to come about through the lineage of King David, the BRANCH (Jer. 23:5-6). The Branch, meaning to “bud out,” speaks of the lowly origin of the Messiah, similar to the tender plant or suckling of Isaiah 53:2. Jeremiah’s promise of a reigning king is yet to be fulfilled, even though Jesus embodies the concept of God’s righteousness. To illustrate, imagine a diagram of successive mountain tops. We will call them Mountain Peaks of Prophecy. The prophet saw the first mountain peak and saw it fulfilled in his day. However, he did not see the second or the third peaks separated by valleys, symbolizing the passing of time until the next, or even final, fulfillment. Consider Luke 1:31-32b. Parts were fulfilled, but Jesus has never reigned: “over the house of Jacob” (v. 33). Now, for an explanation of the phrase The Lord our righteousness we turn to the New Testament.
God’s righteousness is imputed to believers as accomplished through Christ’s substitutionary death (Rom. 3:21-25). To begin our analysis of the work of Jesus, note the connection between the Lord our righteousness given in Romans 3:22 with the similar statement by Jeremiah. Christ our righteousness suffered for sin outside of, or apart from, the law (v. 21). His death signaled a new understanding of Jewish rituals in that His death is applicable to everyone who believes, both Jew and Gentile. This universal aspect encompasses people of all nations because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (v. 23). Our standing is not determined by how well we measure up when compared to others, but how we fail to compare with God’s glory.
The substitutionary death of Christ provides the foundation principle by which aspects of His death are explained in different terms taken from the customs and practices which surround us. We can begin with the experience of redemption. It refers to the practice of paying off the money one may have paid, such as a watch that may have been pawned. We say the watch has been redeemed when payment has been made. This is the thought in Mark 10:45 when it is stated Christ gave “his life a ransom for many.”
Another image comes from the Jewish practice of sacrificing an animal to atone for sin. In so doing the wrath of God is propitiated (v. 25). Other words are used, one from relationships in which the source of a break in relationship is removed and the two parties are reconciled. Jesus removed the dividing wall which separates one from God. The point of alienation is removed. His death made possible the remission of sins.
Yahweh our righteousness must be proclaimed, especially to the Jews (10:1-4). Paul’s heart-wrenching cry for the salvation of the Jews reminds us of Jeremiah’s weeping over Judah’s rejection of God as destruction by Babylon threatened them. The Jews of Paul’s day were zealous, but for the wrong things.
God’s plan of salvation has been made abundantly clear (vv. 9-10). Many professing Christians wrestle with the lack of assurance about whether or not they are saved. Sin in the life can cause doubts as can one’s theology, but many misunderstand the meaning of faith. They try to “believe harder,” so to speak. Faith is not a work, but the acceptance of the work of Christ to make salvation possible. Our text assures us of the two guaranteeing principles of being saved. First, one must believe that what Christ did is all sufficient. Then, ask Him to save you. Romans 10:9-10 is the contract God offers every sinner. It is His contract sealed with the blood of Jesus. Don’t let feelings or theology deprive you of assurance. Claim God’s contract.
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