When Joshua asked the Israelites to choose if they would serve the Lord by obedience to his commands under the law(See Joshua 24) they responded by saying, “Yes, WE WILL serve the Lord.” But if you read this chapter further(and many take this scripture completely out of its context) you will find that Joshua said…”N0 YE CANNOT SERVE THE LORD!”
What Joshua said in fact was, because God is holy and just and punishes sin you will not be able to measure up.” Look at vrs. 19,20
The Israelites however, just ignored the facts and insisted that they could keep the law. But if you read the Bible in the continuation of the story of the Israelite’s history you will find that what Joshua said was true, they could not keep the law and in fact stumbled over and over again to the point of even being so stiff necked that they rejected the Messiah who came to bring the New Covenant of GRACE to them.
In Romans chapter 9 we find that the “children of the Promise” the Israelites, stumbled at the stumbling stone. What does this mean exactly? Well, if you go back to Joshua 24 you will find that Joshua said to the Israelites, “Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.”
Then the Israelites responded by saying in effect that WE WILL CHOOSE TO OBEY THE LAWS OF GOD. Now keep in mind that Joshua offered them the law to reveal their sin but he also said to them “offer your hearts to the Lord.”
If the heart is desperately wicked as the Bible says then the heart that is wicked is not able then to keep God’s law now is it? Scriptures say,”How can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? How can you who are evil learn to do good”?
The heart which is desperately wicked can never choose to do good or to obey God’s commandments. Man’s heart must be made new in order to serve the Lord, and this comes by the born again experience and not by the will of the mind.
Putting away of our “gods” is the first step in coming to Christ. What are our gods? Anything that is self orientated, including our “I WILL CHOOSE TO OBEY THE LAW.”
This was the case of the Israelites who had a very self righteous attitude here and still continues to this day, preferring the law instead of GRACE.
“And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.”
Now, read on to find out what was the stumbling stone? Joshua 24:18-23
“And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of THE LAW OF GOD, and took A GREAT STONE, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold THIS STONE shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.”
According to the New Testament the stone which the builders (under the law) rejected, (those building their own way to heaven) became the chief corner stone of the spiritual building of God’s church made without hands (no man works) but made by GOD ALONE. (Romans 9: 27)
“This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” Acts 4:11
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the head stone of the corner.” Psalm 118:22
So if we continue to try to be justified and made righteous by the law we are not under grace because the scriptures say that those under law stumble at the stone…JESUS CHRIST…preferring their own righteousness under the law.
You cannot “choose” to serve God for in doing so you have put your own righteousness in the equation. Can you see that now? Vessels of mercy always receive Jesus Christ because they have been “called by Grace into this hope”. Romans 5:2
Romans 9 says that RIGHTEOUSNESS IS OF FAITH unto all who believe (Jew or Gentile) and that the law is a stumbling stone in receiving Jesus Christ. The law shows us that we are sinners and so we are either going to respond by humbly saying,”Be merciful to me a sinner” or “I WILL CHOOSE to serve you God, under the law.”
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:19-28
In conclusion, salvation is by faith, our righteous comes by faith, and those who come to Jesus are as many as the lord our God shall call. Receiving Jesus Christ is a supernatural act of grace and not by the choice of one’s will for when we will to serve God we put ourselves under the law. Those in Christ are born again by grace through faith, not of themselves, NOT OF THE WILL OF MAN, but the will of God. Ephesians 2:8 Sola Scriptura!