The Better Hope

Michael Beck

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The “righteousness of the law” is predicated upon doing (i.e., “works.”)

And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us. (Deuteronomy 6:25)

To be accounted righteous under the Old Covenant one had to be obedient in all things and at all times.

Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.
And the LORD heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the LORD said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! (Deuteronomy 5:27-29)

From the very beginning, God knew that despite Israel’s willingness to be obedient in all things and at all times, such a life would be impossible for them to fulfill. Blessing, life, and righteousness would not come to man as a result of his own efforts to fully keep the law’s commandments. Instead, God intended that even the most diligent adherent to the law should find himself under the curse of the law, dead in his sins and trespasses, and not righteous.

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14)

Paul understood that the impossibility God saw under the Old Covenant is remedied in the New Covenant, as both Jew and Gentile receive the “blessing of Abraham” through faith in Abraham’s seed (i.e., Jesus Christ.) It is now possible for those in Christ to fulfill the righteousness of the law as they walk in His Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

The gospel which Paul preached declared the power the church has in Christ to not only WILL but DO all God’s good pleasure.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21)

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12,13)

In light of the great power available to and in them, Paul’s prayer was that the New Testament saint might “know what is the hope of their calling.”

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power (Eph. 1:15-19)

Paul’s great chagrin was seeing those who had begun in the Spirit, take their eyes off the provisions of the gospel, and seek to be made perfect (i.e., fulfilling the righteousness of the law) by their own ability (i.e., “flesh”) and apart from the Spirit of Christ.

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)

Paul knew that those under the law entertained a hope of fulfilling the “righteousness of the law” by their own efforts (i.e., flesh) rather than through the power of the gospel and the provision of the New Covenant.
He knew that being circumcised placed one under the obligation of keeping the whole law by one’s own power.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Galatians 5:1-5)

Paul warned the church that their “hope of righteousness” would not be realized through circumcision and dedication to the law, but only through their continuation in Christ and His Spirit. Only by being born of the Spirit and becoming a new creature is Christ was the “righteousness of the law” (i.e., complete and continuous obedience) made possible.

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. (1 Corinthians 7:9)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Galatians 6:15)

Paul saw the saved Gentiles as those who could “provoke” Israel to jealousy, because they were doing what Israel was failing to do.

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom. 2:25-29)

Paul was not an antinomian (i.e., against the law) as many claimed; but he knew the purpose and limits of the law.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets (Romans 3:20,21)

Of all people, Paul believed that saved Jews should understand that righteousness did not come through the law. And if any who claimed to be in Christ were failing to walk in the righteousness of the law, neither Christ nor His gospel, were to blame.

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:15-21)

The same Christ who walked in complete and continual obedience lives in the New Testament saint. He is our hope of glory and righteousness.

And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness … (Matthew 3:15)

And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8:29)

Israel’s true hope was not in their ability to please God, but in the coming of their Messiah, who would do for and in them what their own best efforts could never do. He has freely given to all who believe upon Him a “better hope,” by which we draw near unto God to be “saved to the uttermost.”

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. (Hebrews 7:19)

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.