Romans 11:22 (NKJV) 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Yesterday we began answering the question, “How can we live in God’s goodness?” The first thing we must say in answer to the question is simply this. We must believe in his goodness. We must believe that everything God does in our lives is good even if it may not appear so on the surface. James 1:17 is a wonderful promise along these lines.
James 1:17 (NKJV) 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
When I approach things with the assurance that the God I serve is always good, it gives me a different perspective on life. I can say with Paul that nothing can separate me from the love, and therefore the goodness, of god. (Romans 8:37-39)
In looking at Moses encounter with God, we find in chapter 34 that something had to happen before God actually showed Moses his glory. Moses had to cut a new set of tablets so that God could re-write the Ten Commandments that Moses had broken in response to Israel’s sin. Before God could show Moses his glory and his goodness, the commandments had to be in place.
As we read the rest of Exodus 34, we see that God promises Moses he will do powerful signs and wonders for Israel. He also gives them some directives. Most notably, he directs them to keep themselves separate from the people of Canaan and from their Gods. He promises Moses he will drive them out, but while he is driving them out, Israel must maintain their holiness.
What does this mean to us? Does God require that we earn his goodness? Is this just for Israel under the Old Testament or do we have to maintain a Godly lifestyle in order to live constantly under the benefits of God’s goodness?
As we read today’s verse, we see a statement from Paul’s mouth about the goodness of God. This chapter is speaking of the fact that God grafted the gentile church into the covenant with Israel. This chapter is about the truth that God brought the church into relationship with himself apart from the law. We are in Christ by grace through faith not by acts of obedience. Israel maintained their relationship by keeping the law not by faith.
This was necessary for Israel because Jesus had not yet come. He had not died for the transgression of Adam. The results of the fall had not yet been put upon him and he was not yet raised for the justification of man. To some Israelites, this did not seem fair. In this chapter, he is telling the church that it was not fair. It was grace. Grace is not fair, but it is just.
His point in this verse, however, is rather interesting. Paul portrays what has happened between the church and Israel as two sides of the same coin. He uses the word severity to describe his actions toward Israel. The Greek word here means decisiveness or rigor. His actions toward Israel were decisive. Sin produced separation from God. For many years, he had pushed the judgment for Israel’s many sins to the future. Once Jesus came, that judgment came decisively, and they were cut off.
Paul also notes that the other side of the coin was that decisive judgment released God’s goodness. That goodness was not just to the gentiles but to all who would believe upon Jesus. Israel’s special dispensation ended in decisive judgment. To the outward eye, this seemed severe but God’s severity was only so he could release his goodness.
It is the latter half of this text that will give those who preach that grace eliminates consequences for disobedience some problems. Paul says that the goodness God gave to those who receive Jesus continues as long as we walk in his goodness. If we do not walk in his goodness, we can be cut off as well.
I believe that if we take all the teachings of Paul as a whole, we cannot conclude that we are completely cut off from salvation. If every act of disobedience caused us to lose our salvation, most of us would need to be saved every day. As we read this chapter, I think we cannot escape the fact that this is a warning to those in the church who were making grace an excuse to sin. Paul tells us that if we do not continue to walk in the goodness of God we can and will suffer the same fate as Israel.
What happened to Israel? Did they stop being God’s people? Paul did not think so. What happened to Israel is that the things they were trusting in for salvation became ineffective. The method of salvation obtained solely by keeping the law was replaced with the cross and they were just as much entitled to that as anyone else. If they did not choose to accept the cross, the protection and blessing of their covenant was no longer affective. They had to accept and walk in the goodness that God had provided in Jesus or they were cut off from the covenant just like the gentiles
I believe we need to understand that to partake of the goodness with which God desires to bless us, we must also continue to walk the principles that release the goodness of God. As I said yesterday, our behavior does not earn us righteousness or salvation. Our behavior keeps us under the influence of the goodness of God.
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23.) Romans chapter 6 tells us that we must not yield our members, neither our bodies nor our souls, as servants of sin. When we do, we give death influence in our lives. This does not mean we will go to hell. It does mean that we may experience hell on earth. It also means that we are not pleasing to the Father who gave his Son for us. This should mean something to us.
How do we continue in the goodness of God? We must obey the Word of God. Paul’s writings alone are full of things we must do. Let us look at one passage.
Ephesians 4:20-24 (NKJV) 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
This scripture uses the word “conduct.” The term “put off” is something we must do for ourselves. I believe that if we choose to do this by faith, the Holy Spirit will help us. The bible does not say he will do it for us. I must put off certain conduct that flows from the deceitful lusts of the old man. I am not the old man any longer. Any honest Christian must admit that some of the conduct and habits of the old man remain. It is up to me to put them off.
Then I will be able to put on the new man. All of this is tied to another kind of conduct I must put on. I must be renewed in the spirit of my mind. How do I do that? Romans 12:2 says we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is the same word used in Ephesians 4:23. How do we do that? Joshua 1:8 says we must meditate in the Word of God day and night.
I will continue in the goodness of God as I learn to put off the old man and put on the new man. I will continue in the goodness of God as I am transformed by the renewing of my mind in the Word of God. If I continue in this way, I will partake of all that the goodness and glory of God have for my life.