Inside Outside Upside Down (Lent 10-2013)

When my children were little I enjoyed reading to them the Berenstain Bears book, Inside Outside Upside Down.  In the story Brother Bear gets inside a box that gets brought outside, turned upside down and put on a truck to go to town.  It was perfect for teaching spatial concepts.

The Jewish people of Paul’s day were about to get a lesson of their own about this.  Remember Paul asking rhetorically what benefit there was to being Jewish?   They had an insider role by being entrusted with the very words of God (Romans 3:1-2).

Being the chosen people made them proud (in both the good and bad senses of the word).  So Paul points out that even though they are inside, they are also outside.  They are inside the covenant of God’s chosen people, but outside with the same sins as everyone else.

Romans 3:27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.  (NIV)

If faith is what God’s looking for, then it doesn’t matter if you’re inside or outside the covenant because we’re all outside as sinners.  Paul was Jewish but he argues that this heritage alone isn’t reason for boasting although if anyone could reasonably boast, it would be Paul (Philippians 3:3-9).

Rather what matters is faith.  Faith brings the outsider inside.  It seems upside down that God would choose to put sinners in right standing with Himself.  Why would God bother?  It is His grace that motivates such an upside down thing.  Yet through Jesus Christ, Jewish people can be Inside Outside Upside Down and saved in the same way as God saves the Gentiles: by faith.

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Give it up for Lent: Boasting, Insider Attitudes

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For further study:

  1. What was the point of having a chosen people if they were outsiders, too?  (Isaiah 42:5-7 Luke 4:14-21)
  2. Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Why was it necessary that God turned salvation upside down?
  3. What can we boast about?  Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on February 23, 2013

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