God's Final Exam
As we draw near the end of term, and begin to think of finals that are fast approaching, and all the more during Holy Week, it can be a good time to think about the course God has set before us, and the expectations He has upon us for passing.
As I think about life in these terms, I see two parts to the ‘syllabus’ and they are sequential. You have to pass the first part in order for the second part to even count.
The first part is ‘qualification,’ as expressed by Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This is both distressingly simple and profoundly hard. Many people fail this test because they think it is too easy and dismiss it, looking for something more ‘substantive,’ in short, something they can do to prove they are worthy. This actually was a real obstacle for Benjamin Franklin to come to faith, who believed it insufficient. What these people, and many who do follow this test fail to recognize is that by declaring Jesus is Lord, we are surrendering our personal sovereignty to Him, and that is blooming difficult to do daily when we have our own agendas and desires. It acknowledges inherently that we are incapable of running our own lives by God’s perfect standard, and thus needed Him to pay off our moral debt. And whomever pays off a debt becomes the owner over the collateral, which in this case, is us. Not an easy thing for proud, rugged individualists to admit to.
Given that is the ‘qualifying exam,’ what follows is irrelevant if we fail that. The second part is to follow the Lord’s desires for us. It is easily summarized by Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Both of these are summed up by the ‘course objectives,’ also known as the Great Commandments, as given by Christ in Mark 12:29-31 (and in fact is in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke): “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The Course Objectives are simple, but not necessarily straightforward, as evidenced by the Jewish lawyer conversing with Jesus in this passage pressing Him by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Thus, the Romans 10:9 and Micah 6:8 passages are how to meet the objectives, and indeed, Christ says that all of the Law and Prophets (ie-the Old Testament) follow from the Course Objectives, as in practice do all of the New Testament’s commands. (“Love one another,” “Help widows and orphans,” “Don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols,” etc.)
But wait, if the Romans 10:9 passage is the qualifying exam, what about the Micah passage? If we fail that, then what? Well, the nearest analogy is that the second part of God’s final, the Micah passage, in effect, sets the class ranking. The Bible calls it our reward. See I Corinthians 3 for a discussion of it.
Consider that your homework.