5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
1901 ASV Translation:
5 For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby.
I. Paul's Use of Leviticus 18:5 [also found in Nehemiah 9:29 (2 Esdras 19:29) and Ezekiel 20:11 and 20:13 and 20:21].
A. Paul appealed to Moses both here and in Galatians 3:12.
B. In Jesus' dealings with the self-justifying "lawyer", He was asked, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?", and His answer was, in the final statement, "This do, and thou shalt live" (Luke 10:26-28), which was an echo of Moses, Nehemiah, and Ezekiel.
C. Paul's "legal" theology.
1. We have already seen that Paul did not consider the Law to be a means to righteousness before God for at least two reasons.
a. On the one hand, the Law was not given to "justify" but to condemn (Romans 3:19-20).
b. On the other hand, justification by the Law would automatically lead inexorably to "boasting" (Romans 3:27), which, in turn, inexorably leads to potent hatred (Romans 2:17-24) and rejection by God (Romans 11:18-21). This was Lucifer's sin and it has not "improved" over time, but, rather, become more heinous as the days go by.
1) That this was Paul's bottom line understanding is revealed in many places, but one of the clearest is Ephesians 2:9: salvation is by grace lest any man should boast.
2) Boasting is anathema to God above most other "sins".
2. We have already seen that Paul considered the truth about the Christ to be the "end" of any use of "Law" in the service of attaining a righteous standing before God (10:4).
3. In the text before us, Paul appealed to Moses' dictum that if one was to attempt to "establish his own righteousness" (10:3), he would only be able to do it by "doing" the things written in the Law and living, or dying, as a result of whether he had been successful in the "doing". It might be helpful at this point to remember the words of James 2:10 and those of Romans 3:12.
4. In the outworking of this "legalism", Paul tied "living" to "performing".
a. It is crucial that we understand the profound implication that exists here: "Life" has never been by the human "performance" of dictums of righteousness.
b. In all of Paul's theology, "Life" is an unwarranted "gift" that is given at the point of "faith"; it is never a "deserved" reward that is granted to those who "perform". The reason for this is not difficult: "Life" is the result of an open flow between the Author of "Life" and those to whom He imparts Himself and this is impossible apart from "faith". "Life" is the consequence of an attitude on the part of the recipient that allows the flow from God. That attitude is called "faith" in the Bible. All manner of "deserving works" can be negated in terms of any "Life" potential simply by one thing: an unbelieving attitude. By the same token, all manner of Death producing deeds can be negated by a turn in "faith" to the God of Life so that His "Life" flows in spite of the Death environment.
c. This makes the real question of "Life" not "How can I find it in myself to do?" but "How do I trust Him?". What are the things that block "faith"? How do I come into "Truth" with a trusting response? And, "How do I relate Truth to my daily circumstances in a way that is believing?".