An insight from tonight’s Bible study on Romans 4:
It’s not just that we can’t work our way to righteousness by perfect law-keeping. Moreover, the sort of relationship that comes by working is of a different kind from a relationship based on faith.
A servant works for wages, and the relationship depends on the work of the servant. A child is in a relationship prior to any behaviour on its part.
So although God does demand perfect law-keeping, He wants something even better than perfectly obedient servants: children who will allow Him to be their Father.
“And at the heart of [the] contrast [between Jesus and Moses as new vs. old] are the different functions assigned to obedience under the two mediators. ‘For the Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (Jn. 1:17). From the perspective of the first Moses, the question, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ is a perfectly valid question (Jn. 6:18; cf. Ex. 18:20, 36:1-7, etc.). But when the new Moses has come, the question cannot be posed in the same way. There is now one work which is to be done—to believe (Jn. 6:29) —which is unique among works in that its efficacy depends, not on its activity, but precisely on its passivity (Jn. 1:12, 3:14—17, etc.).”
Karl T. Cooper, ‘The Best Wine: John 2:1–11’, Westminster Theological Journal , 1997, p. 373