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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Romans 2 - Religion Doesn't Save

My first opportunity to teach through the book of Romans happened last Thursday night as I taught through the entire second chapter. It was a challenge to condense things so I could make it through the entire text with the allotted time that I was given. I was able to manage it. After the message was done, many of the guys encouraged and thanked me for teaching because it revealed to them it is "not how much I do, but it is how much I give" to Christ. Indeed, in my own life I must avoid trying to live off my own righteousness [i.e. my "doing"] and focus on giving everything over to the Lord and relying on his righteousness. It was very inspiring and a great takeaway truth from the lesson for me. Here are some notes from my message. Enjoy!

Religion Doesn’t Save: Paul’s Condemnation of the Religious World

There is not a more dangerous place to be in your life than to think you are religious enough to be saved.
“I believe that human morality, rather than flagrant sin, is the greatest obstacle to the gospel today. If you ask the average law-abiding person why he expects to go to heaven, the answer will be some form of “because I’ve been good.” [Parables such as] the rich young ruler (see Matthew 19:16-20), the prodigal son’s older brother (see Luke 15:28-30), and the Pharisee praying in the temple (see Luke 18:9-12) all had this in common: They were confident of their own goodness [religion]. Their attitude is replicated throughout our society. And the more religious a person is, the more difficult it is for that person to realize his or her need for the righteousness of Jesus Christ.” (Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges, 2002, p. 121.)

“A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” (Martin Luther)

“You can have tons of religion without an ounce of salvation.” (unknown)

Outside of Romans 2, Paul affirms religion doesn’t save in Colossians 2:6-23:
“[6] Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, [7] rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. [8] See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. [9] For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, [10] and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. [11] In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, [12] having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. [13] And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. [17] These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. [18] Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, [19] and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—[21] “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” [22] (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [23] These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

Paul says no philosophy, no tradition, no knowledge, no mysticism, no circumcision, no laws, no rituals, no works; no religion can save you from your sins except the sin-forgiving, life-resurrecting, death-triumphing substitutionary death of Jesus Christ!

Introduction to Romans:

When we read the book of Romans, we need to understand the context in which it was written. What is the essential context of the book of Romans? It is Paul’s Gospel, undiminished.

The book of Romans is Paul’s most comprehensive and exhaustive writing among his thirteen letters, which contains 7,114 words, all emphasizing biblical nature of Gospel.

The genre of the book is letter, so it is written “to address specific situations in the Christian communities that it is received. The Writers were most concerned with applying theology in practical ways to real-life situations.” The book of Romans is a unique letter that was carefully written and delivered with precise details to showcase the biblical Gospel because it was not being taught or understood correctly. Thus, when reading Romans, we must recapture the NT context of the letter genre to educate and correct us in biblical truth. Doing this makes us see the book of Romans as it was intended: an authoritative substitute for Paul’s personal presence in Rome, carefully written and delivered to address the Christian communities about “the righteousness that comes from God, the glorious truth that God justifies the guilty by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.”

Therefore, his condemnation of the religious world (the Jews) is much more serious because they believed contrary to the Gospel. The believed their religion saved, but Romans 2:1-29, 3:1-8 indicate they are far from being religiously good.

Romans 2:1-29 - The Big Picture
The book of Romans begins with the first three chapters revealing how we desperately need the righteousness of God in Christ because of depravity.

The thesis of the book of Romans is Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Notice how Paul does not say “the righteousness of religion” or the “righteous shall live by religion.

Paul made sure that the explicit gospel was emphasized from the beginning of his letter to make sure his audience would understand the seriousness of their depravity and need for saving grace through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Anthropology & Harmatology – The Doctrine of Man and Sin
Romans 1:18-32
Paul explains the Gentile world (secular) is guilty of all unrighteousness.
Romans 2:1-29, 3:1-8
Paul explains the Jewish world (religious) is guilty of the same unrighteousness.
Romans 3:9-31
Paul further explains how all of mankind is therefore guilty of all unrighteousness and need the justification of God’s righteousness through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Paul breaks down chapter two by giving us five biblical definitions of several terms to prove religion doesn’t save, but the entire religious world is guilty of the same unrighteousness the secular world practices.

Romans 2:1-5
Definition of God’s Judgment
Romans 2:6-11
Definition of Practices
Romans 2:12-16
Definition of Law Breaking
Romans 2:17-24
Definition of Hypocrisy
Romans 2:25-29
Definition of Circumcision

God’s word teaches us several theological principles in Romans 2:1-29:
1. God is the great judge (v.2)
2. God shows no partiality (v.11)
3. God will judge all things, including the secrets of men (v.16)
4. God shall not be dishonored or blasphemed (v.23-24)
5. God wants our praises (v.29)

Applying the theological principles:
1. We should not judge others because we actually condemn ourselves who are guilty.
2. We should not show partiality because God does not show partiality to others.
3. We should not commit sin in secret because God knows all things and will reveal it.
4. We should not dishonor or blaspheme God because it displays hypocrisy.
5. We should not seek the praises of men but the praises of God for all things.

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