In His Letter to the Romans (continued)
(b) In the Matter of Religious Tradition
Then the Lord takes this thing into another realm. I hope you recognize the meaning of the background, the dark background, against which this word "hope" is placed. The Spirit of God through the Apostle takes it into the realm of religious tradition, as exemplified by the Jews. Everything now for them is traced back to Abraham and to Moses. What a lot the Apostle has to say about Abraham and his faith - "Abraham believed" - and then about Moses, and the Law coming in. And here is something of tremendous significance and importance that we must note, for here we see the particular function that was in view in God's sovereign choice of the Jewish nation. Have you ever thought of it like this? There are many things that could be said about the Jewish nation, their past, present and future, but what comes out so definitely here is their function in the sovereignty of God. It was, and still is, their function, so far as testimony is concerned, that is, the witness of their history. It was to show just one thing. You can have a grand father - I do not mean a grandfather! - and you may have the best religious tradition; but nothing of that is carried over in your heredity, that is, it does not pass into your nature.
What a father was Abraham! What a lot is made of "Abraham our father"! What a magnificent specimen of faith and obedience was Abraham! They were all of the stock of Abraham; as a nation, they derived from Abraham. And what a system was the Jewish system of religion, so far as standard is concerned, a moral ethical, religious standard. There is nothing that can improve upon it in the religions of the world. What a magnificent system of religious precept was the Jewish religion, which came in through Moses! - not only the ten commandments, but all the other teaching that made up the Law, covering every aspect of man's life. And they were the children of that: yet what do you find here? You do not find the faith of Abraham in them, and you do not find the reflection of that great system in them, in their nature. These very people, deriving from such a one as Abraham, and being the inheritors of all those oracles of the Mosaic system, in their natures are devoid of everything that is represented by Abraham and Moses. These people are still characterized by - what? unbelief, in spite of Abraham; disobedience, in spite of Moses! What could be more hopeless?
Some people have the idea that, if they have a good father and a good mother, that puts them in a very secure position, but human nature does not bear witness to that. There are may be advantages; but it is no final guarantee that you are going to escape all the difficulties and all the conflicts and all the sufferings of getting your own faith. The fact is that parents can be utter for God, they can be the most godly, the most pious, and yet their children can be the most renegade. A strange thing, is it not? The disposition to faith and obedience is not in the blood. Religious tradition of the best kind does not change our nature. It may go back for generations - it does not change our nature. We are still unbelieving and disobedient in nature, however good our parents were. You may have prayed from the beginning for a loved child, from the time it was the smallest babe; you may have sought to live before it for God: and yet here is that child self-willed, disobedient - everything else.
(continued with # 6 - (Hope Is a Desperate Situation)