Has anyone ridden in a self-driving car? This is the transportation technology of the future! They’re being developed or improved by Uber, Google, Tesla, BMW, Audi, Honda, and more. These cars run on autopilot. It’s a scary thought to me to put my life in the hands of technology that’s going to travel at speeds of 40-65mph when I’m not in control every moment! I’d say the closest any of us have ever come to doing this is when we’ve put our lives in the hands of an elevator, roller coaster, or high speed train. You just get in and take off and don’t really pay attention at all. You’re just along for the ride. It’s something to get you from A to B. This is what happens when we become followers of religious rules and regulations (the Law of Moses for example). You go on autopilot, using the rules to get you from point A to point B to gain favor with God. Doing it out of obligation, as a religious work. When you switch to religious autopilot, your heart is not in it. You’re just along for the ride. Paul (and the Lord) is dead-set against religious autopilot. Cars on autopilot may soon become the safest way to travel and save life on the road, but people on religious autopilot are headed for a fatal crash. Don’t go on religious autopilot.
Think of it this way. A parent of a teenager could make a rule or requirement (“law”) for their teen to attend worship service everySunday. That’s an expectation that the parent has made for their teen to model the importance of being present at worship service. I think there’s Biblical backing for that expectation, but let’s set that aside. Now, that teenage son or daughter can choose to attend only because their mom or dad has made that rule and set that boundary. They could attend only to fulfill the external expectation set for them. They can comply and sit in a chair without being engaged or committed. They can be present but be totally rebellious and angry in their heart. So, it’s possible to do the work of obeying the requirement, yet still be sinning. Mere attendance does not fulfill the heart condition. In Romans 2:28-29 Paul says A person is not a Jew [or Christian] who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew [or Christian] who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Each of us must ask ourselves this question: Am I only outwardly Christian? Am I only following Christ on the outside (doing all the right things), or am I truly allowing genuine heart-change on the inside? That’s a serious question. The requirement (ie Law) doesn’t deal with the power of sin in the heart. To deal with sin, we’re going to need something a lot more powerful than a boundary line!
So Paul concludes that the Law does not have the power to put us in good standing with God (make us righteous). Following rules and regulations (ie Law) doesn’t gain us access into the family of God. It doesn’t put us in good standing with God because no one can keep the Law perfectly. You step out of bounds one time, and you’re disqualified. The Law has no power to deter you from stepping over it’s boundary. So, whether you’re a Jew under the Law, or a Gentile outside the Law, we are all unrighteous. The whole world falls short. There is no one who does right. That’s why we need to have faith in Jesus Christ the perfect Law-keeper!