Sunday, 27 April 2008

Why religion can't save you Romans Series Part 4

Neil preached from Rick Warren's sermon below, note the editing
Grace: The Truth that Transforms
Romans 2:17-29
Rick Warren

In this first major section of Romans, chapter 1:18 - 3:20 Paul makes the convincing case that everybody has sinned. The first section of Romans is answering the question, "Why do I need to be saved?" He says everybody has sinned therefore we all need forgiveness and salvation from God. In this passage of Paul's writings, the first three chapters of Romans, Paul identifies three different types of people who need forgiveness, who need to be saved. They are the rebellious person, the respectable person and the religious person. We've already looked at two of these. In the first chapter we looked at the rebellious person. These are the people who rebel against God outwardly, they reject God, they repress the truth, they reject the truth, they replace the truth. Intellectually they rebel against God and we saw how morally they rebel against God to do their own thing in sexual immorality and perversions. Paul says they were guilty of two kinds of sins: godlessness which is living as though God doesn't exist and wickedness which means living without rules. There is a certain group of people in the world who just kind of say, "Forget God! I'm going to do my own thing." They're rebellious, godless, they live without rules. Paul says those people need salvation.

Then he deals with the second kind of person in 2:1-16. This is the respectable person. This is the guy who says, "I'm a decent citizen. I'm law abiding. I'm better that those so-and-sos in chapter 1. I'm no pervert!" They feel superior. They're quick to judge people whose sins are more open and gross. We looked at that person and looked at four characteristics of the self righteous person. We saw the fact that only God has the right to judge people; we don't.

Then Paul says there is one more group of people who probably think "I'm not just a moral person -- I'm religious." He uses the Jews as the example because that's what Paul was. He says that these are the people who are trusting religion to save them.

This is the hardest group to reach with the gospel -- the religious person. Often the rebellious person gets to the end of their rope, their life is falling apart, they're an alcoholic, everything has gone wrong and they're quick to admit their need. The guy on skid row is pretty quick to admit "I have made a mess of my life!" They are often the easiest people to reach. A little more difficult are the respectable people in the next chapter. They're the people who'll say, "I'm a good moral person so I don't need Christ. I'm better than so and so." They are a little bit harder to reach. They say they keep the Ten Commandments. [Ask them to name the Ten Commandments. Ninety‑ five percent of the people in America can't even name the Ten Commandments, let alone keep them.]

But by far the religious person is the hardest person to reach with the gospel. He is trying to work his way to heaven and he's trusting his religion to save him. Paul points out that you can be religious and lost. You can be a church member and still be headed for damnation.

Definition of religion: Religion is man's best attempt to get to God. The Bible compares religion with a relationship. It's a relationship to God that saves us. A relationship is God's attempt to get to man. We find that in Jesus Christ.

In this chapter 2:17ff, Paul deals specifically with the Jewish religion because he was a Jew. But the principles apply to anybody who thinks that his religion can save him. You could substitute the words "church member" here and it would apply. the purpose of this section is to show that religion without Christ will not get you to heaven. It will not save you. It will not get you right with God.

Paul starts off by giving eight characteristics of the religious person.

1. They depend on a label.

Paul says in verse 17, "If you call [name, claim] yourself a Jew you think you're going to make it to heaven." The Jews thought that their name was an instant passport to heaven. Regardless of what they did, if I'm a Jew, I'm going to make it! Pride of tradition. The word Jew comes from the word Judah. It's first used in 2 Kings 16:6. Judah literally means "praise to God" or praise. So the word Jew means a praiser or he who praises God.

The Jews, if anybody, loved to depend on their label. If you asked them "Are you right with God?" they'd say, "Of course! I'm a Jew!" Do we have people doing that today? Sure. Just ask "Are you a Christian?" and people will immediately answer, "Of course. I'm Presbyterian" or Baptist or Assembly of God. Or my parents were Christians or my grandparents were missionaries or my uncle is a pastor as if you could become a Christian by osmosis. Kind of soaks in, a heritage. Today you could insert the term "church member". "Are you a Christian?" "Of course, I go to church. I attend such and such church" as if that label will make you an instant Christian.

There are a lot of labels today: I'm a fundamentalist, dispensationalist, charismatic, full gospel. One guy told me he was a Christian because he was an American. America is a Christian nation, he is an American, therefore he was a Christian. Going to church will make you a Christian about as much as going to a chicken house will make you a chicken or going to a Lions club will make you a lion, or going to the Rotary club will make you a roter. It isn't membership... it isn't a label that makes you a believer. But the first characteristic we see is that they call themselves something.

2. They rely on rules and regulations.

"You rely on the law..." He's talking about the first five books of the Old Testament, commonly called the Pentateuch -- penta meaning five. These were the first five books written by Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Jews call those five books the Torah.

The fact is the law has never saved anybody. Galatians teaches that that is not it's purpose. The Jews felt that simply because they had the law given to their nation that made them believers, that they possessed instant salvation whether they obeyed it or not. Simply because they possessed these books they felt like they were going to make it to heaven.

John 5:39-40 Jesus is speaking to a group of Pharisees who thought they were going to make it on their own works. "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that, by them, you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about Me and yet you refuse to come to Me to have life." Jesus was saying, You think you're going to get to heaven just because you have the Bible.

We have this today. You ask people, Are you a Christian? They might answer, "Sure, I own a Bible" as if just because they own a Bible and it's setting on the coffee table, unopened in five years... they think they're going to make it. People even brag about the translation they have. "Of course I'm a Christian! I use the King James version!" You have to do more than just own a Bible. You have to practice it.

3. They think that they have special status with God.

"You call yourself a Jew, you rely on the law, and brag about your relationship to God." Sometimes the most prideful people in the world are religious people. They brag about their relationship. The Jews felt that they had an inside track to God. They felt that because they were the chosen people, they had special status, "God likes us and doesn't like everybody else, then we are the cool group." Have you ever met anybody who said, "We're the only religion. My denomination is the only group of true believers. Everyone else is false." That's a trait of religion.

Jesus has nothing to do with religion except that He's against it. Jesus taught that religion would never get people to heaven. It's the relationship that gets you to heaven not any religion. The Jews felt very secure. They thought, "We can't do anything wrong. We have this religion." When you study the scriptures you find that God often bypasses a religious establishment to get His message across. When God wanted to announce Jesus' birth did He go tell the priests? No. Who did He first appear to? Shepherds. The low life of society. He bypassed the high priests, the rabbis, the teachers, the denominational groups. When God wanted to get the message out it says, "The word of God came to John the Baptist." Who was John the Baptist? A nobody. He wasn't part of the religious establishment. And God often does that. He can't get His message through to religious people because they think they've got special status.

"If you call yourself a Jew, if you rely on the law, if you brag about your relationship to God and if you know His will."

4. They claim to have a pipeline to God.

Religious people claim to have a pipeline to God. "We know his will!" Because the Jews had God's word, they knew His will! The all important word is "if" -- "if you know His will". When Paul said this he was being sarcastic. He's setting them up. You guys think you've got it together: you've got the label, you've got the name, you've got the pipeline to God. He's setting them up for a fall. He's saying it's not enough to know God's will, you've got to do it. It's not enough just to know the law, you've got to obey it.

" approve of what is superior because you're instructed by the law."

Philippians 1:10. We have the exact same phrase. It's only used twice in the Bible. In Romans it's translated, "you approve what is superior" in Philippians 1:10 it says "that you may be able to discern what is best." He's talking about values, priorities.

5. They maintain a high moral standard.

There's nothing wrong with that. This is good. You ought to maintain a high moral standard, a strong code of ethics, approve what is superior. You ought to go for the best in life and have a high standard of integrity. But moral integrity will not get you to heaven. Values and priorities are good but they are not enough to get you to heaven.

The Jews (and a lot of religious people) felt like they were superior because of their moral ethics. "I don't need to go to church; I'm better than so and so." -- as if God is going to grade on the curve. "You'd never catch me doing that! I don't do those kinds of things!" The Jews and religious people often have a high moral standard. Why? He says, "Because you are instructed by the law." They had been reading God's word. God's word teaches that we are to be people of integrity. We are to be ethical people. Many of the Jews had the first five books of the Bible memorized. They had a lot of head knowledge and they were Bible students. But Bible knowledge will not get you to heaven.
Paul is systematically tearing down every prop that religious people think will get them a passport into heaven. They thought "I'm not like that immoral person and pervert in chapter one. I'm better than the moral person in chapter two who doesn't know God but lives a clean life. I'm a religious person. I do works. I try to please God by what I do. I read the Bible and I'm instructed by the law." All of these privileges were things the Jews took pride in.

"If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for those who are in the dark and an instructor of the foolish and a teacher of infants because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth... you who teach others do you not teach yourself." Compare the terms religious people use for themselves and the terms they use for other people. v. 19 circle "consider yourself a guide" "consider yourself a light" "consider yourself an instructor" "consider yourself a teacher" ‑- that's what religious people think. Then how do they treat the rest of the world? Blind, in the dark, foolish, infants. See the difference in attitude?

6. The sixth characteristic of religious persons is they have a condescending attitude toward others.

They think they've got it when nobody else has it. "We're the teachers, we're the guide, we're the way." Everybody else is blind, foolish, in the dark, everybody else is just stupid! Have you ever known anyone who was a religious snob? "Listen to me, world, I've got the answer for everything." A religious know it all? Wants to show you how much Bible they've got under their belt. This is a characteristic of a religious person. They use the Bible as a hammer to beat you on the head. They take great pride in correcting you. They've always got a verse to quote; it gives them an ego boost.

The fact is God had given the law to the Jews. But why did God give His word to the Jewish nation? So they could strut around superior to everybody else? He gave it to them to be the missionaries of the world. When it says the Israelites were God's chosen people, it doesn't mean they were special and that God loved them more than anybody else. But they were special in that they were given the message to take to everybody else. That's why they were God's chosen people. The problem was they didn't do it. They sat on it. Rather than giving it away, they became more and more separated and said, this is only for us. That's one of the reasons Jesus Christ came to earth. The Bible says He came to break down the barrier because the message was not getting out. Now God has taken another group to share that message to the world -- the church.

These people have a condescending attitude toward others. These are the know-it-alls who go out and beat up on people and then they complain about being persecuted. Suffering for Jesus? No, they're just being obnoxious! Don't blame it on Jesus. No matter what you're doing if you're going to be obnoxious, people are going to be upset.

If your faith makes you feel superior to others and put them down, then you're devoted to a religion not a relationship. Your faith is not to make you feel superior. I like what Billy Graham says, "Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread." I'm not any better than anybody else. When I go to share the gospel it's not because I'm more superior or more perfect -- I'm not! It's like if I had the cure for cancer I'd share it, even if I had cancer myself.

v. 21 "You who teach others, do you not teach yourself? And you who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? And you who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?"

7. Paul asks five very pointed questions in these two verses. He nails them! One of the characteristics of religious people is that they don't always practice what they preach.

Religious people are easy prey for hypocrisy because they have external standards. They hold up a standard of living then they don't live up to it themselves. That makes God upset. Paul asks them these pointed questions: "Do you practice what you preach?" Circle: "you teach", "you preach", "you say", "you abhor", "you brag". What do all of these words have in common? They're all related to what part of your body -- your mouth. These are mouthy people. Religious people are great at mouthing things but not being able to back it up.

Paul is saying, "Your walk does not match your talk. Your conduct does not match your claims. Your behavior does not match your belief. You say one thing but you do something else." Isaiah 29:13 "They honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me." A lot of religious people just give lip service. On Sunday they say the Rosary, pray a prayer, sing praise songs and do these things with their lips but they walk out and it does not match in their life style.

Ezekiel 33:31-32 This is the basis for what Paul was saying. This is a quote, or correlation. "My people come to You as they usually do and they set before You to listen to Your words but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed to them You're nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well. They hear Your words but they do not put them into practice." There are a lot of "religious" people who go to worship and they listen to the sermon and they listen to the special music and the songs and they even sing and they walk out with no intention to apply them to their lives. Paul says that's not going to make it!

Romans 1. Paul has listed the seven characteristics of a religious person. The result of religion in the world is in v. 24 "As it is written Jesus' name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." What an inditement! Paul isn't writing the easiest passage here. He's saying, because of your religion, non religious people are turned off! Because of your piousness, unbelievers reject God.

When I first came to the Saddleback Valley, I went door to door and knocked on hundreds of homes. I began to ask people, "Why don't you go to church?" I asked five questions in a personal survey. I discovered an interesting thing. The unchurched people in this valley don't have hang ups with God, they have hang ups with Christians. They don't have hang ups with the Lord, they have hang ups with the church and what they perceive. They have a problem with believers who act superior, who pretend to be perfect, who brag about their relationship to God, who treat other people in this condescending manner -- all of these characteristics -- who don't practice what they preach.

The biggest problem is not: "Do you believe in God?" Yes. "Do you believe in Jesus?" Yes. "Do you believe in the Bible?" Yes. "How come you're not in church?" -- "I got burned a few years back. I went to a church and something happened..." Paul is bringing this out here. This was the ultimate put down to the Jews. To the Jews the worse sin a Jew could commit was blasphemy. Blasphemy is bringing shame on God's name. Paul says because of the way you act, unbelievers are turned off, unbelievers don't want to have anything to do with the church. He says You claim to be teachers, instructors, guides for everybody but you're actually turning people away. How many times have you met someone who's said, "If being a Christian means being like that person, forget it!" Do super pious people turn you off? You get around them and they make you feel inferior. Like you know nothing.

I think what the Bible is saying is be careful about our attitude toward non-Christians, people who don't know Jesus. There are a lot of obnoxious witnesses. Gahndi had actually studied the claims of Christ and he was very close to becoming a Christian. But when he came to America he was going across the South -- the Bible belt -- and went to a restaurant where they wouldn't let him in because of the color of his skin. Gahndi wrote later that he rejected Christianity not because of Christ but because of Christians, because of the hypocrisy in their lives.

Two statements to remember:

1. It's not my duty to make people be religious. God has never called you to make people be religious. Some people go around like little policemen and every time somebody cusses they stop -- "You shouldn't do that!". It's not your duty to make people religious. It's your duty to share Christ with them.

2. Never expect an unbeliever to act like a believer until he is one. That includes your kids, your husband/wife, your parents, people you work with. The Bible says that you don't have the power to change until you have Christ in your life. When we ask people to go clean up their lives and they don't have the Lord, they don't have the power to do that. Jesus never said, "Go clean up your life. Get rid of all your faults, bad habits and then come to Me." He never said that. He said, "Come to Me with your hang ups, problems, faults, sins, and I will give you the power to make the changes." There are a lot of people who come to our church who are in life styles that I don't approve of. But the Bible says that we're to love people and reject sin. Love the sinner, hate the sin -- that's what the Bible teaches.

I could stand up on Sunday morning and say, "If you're doing [and name particular sins], go get your life cleaned up and then come back." We could put up a sign that says, "No people who take dope need come in to this church." Where do those people need to be more than anywhere else? In church! That's where they need to be. They're not going to find the answers in some bar or anywhere else.

We accept people where they are and then as they make the commitment to Christ, Christ gives them the power to make that change. This is a policy of our church -- of accepting people rather than rejecting them. Because you can't change until you have Christ in your life.

I have discovered that people are not offended by genuine, sincere witnessing. It's not people who really care and share their faith in an honest way that turns people off. It's the high powered phonies and hypocrites -- religious people -- that turn people off. I've shared my faith with a lot of people who I thought would turn me off. I'd share it and ask, "What do you think about that?" They'd say, "I think it's real interesting" and I'm surprised! The fact is people in the world are much more willing to receive the good news than we are willing to share it. They want it and are waiting for it. What they don't want is some religious person to cram a religion down their throat. Don't talk about religion, talk about a relationship. A relationship to Christ.

A guy in the paper writes a column -- his favorite column is to attack Christians. About once a month he comes up with some attack on Christians. Yet, what he's attacking is not Christians; he sets up straw men and then knocks them down. He attacks religious people -- kooks. We don't have to defend people who don't represent a true believer.

What about all the things that were done in the name of Christ? the Crusades? Even Hitler did some things in the name of Christ? There are a lot of things that have been done in the name of Christ that have nothing to do with Jesus. You don't have to defend those things. Don't worry about it.

The point of verse 24 is he's saying religion sends some people to hell. The true message often gets confused in the trappings of religion and people are turned off, so they miss Christ. That's one of the things we try to do on Sunday morning. We try to have a worship service without all the religious trappings. I wonder how many of you would have come to Christ in a traditional church? Or your friends?

One of my real desires as pastor to you and other people in our church is I want to teach people how to be Christians without being religious. That's one of the deep desires of my heart -- how to be a believer, turned on, loving Christ, Spirit filled, without being a kook. If you're looking for a church that will teach you how to be "pious" you've got the wrong place. I think Jesus was completely spiritual yet perfectly natural. I think if you got around Jesus Christ, you'd feel totally comfortable, at ease. I think He put people at ease. All kinds of people -- prostitutes, lepers, rejects of society -- were at ease around Jesus. And I want to be like Jesus. Irenaeus said, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." Many times what religion does is stifle the humanity of people. It keeps them from being creative. They get so many rules, regulations, rituals that weren't even in the Bible. Charles Swindoll says, "Religion is a curse, not a cure."

8. "Circumcision has value if you observe the law but if you break the law you have become as if you have not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirement will they not be regarded as those who were circumcised? And the one who was not circumcised physically yet obeys the law will condemn you who even though you have the written code and circumcision are a lawbreaker. A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly and circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the spirit not the written code. From such a man's praises is not from men but from God." The eighth characteristic of a religious person is that they rely on rituals.

v. 25-29 Paul really makes some cutting remarks about circumcision! This practice had become a ritual, an end in itself. v. 28-29 key words: circle "outwardly" and "inwardly". He's talking about the difference between an outward practice and an inward attitude. Originally circumcision was meant to be an expression of faith. It symbolized commitment to God. It was like the wedding ring of Judaism, like baptism is to the Christian. This wedding ring is a reminder of a vow and it says "I belong to one woman. I am committed to her for life." It represents a vow I made to Kay and to God. But a ring is only worth as much as the vow behind it. It's worthless if there is no commitment behind it. Without commitment, this ring is worthless and useless.

Circumcision was the symbol of the Jew's commitment to God. Paul says that the outward symbol means nothing if there is no inward commitment. Abraham began the practice long back in the Old Testament. Every Jewish boy was circumcised as a symbol to God. It became a ritual. Every Jewish man thought if he was circumcised that was his passport to heaven. He could do any thing and still make it to heaven because of that one ritual. It was a form of works, they took pride in it. If you asked a Jewish man "Are you right with God?" he'd say, "Of course, I'm circumcised!"

You can substitute any word you want to for the word circumcision and you get the same idea. You can substitute the word "baptism" "Lord's supper" "I'm a church member" "holy communion" "confirmation". It doesn't matter the ritual -- all of these things are useless symbols if there's no heart commitment behind it. A religious person tends to rely on rituals that he can point to. Ritual without reality is worthless.

Philippians 3. If anybody was religious, it was Paul. There were probably few men who were more religious than Paul. He gives his testimony about religion in v. 4-5 "Though I myself have reason for such confidence if anyone else thinks he has reason to put confidence in the flesh I have more. Circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. In regard to the law a Pharisee [the upper crust], as to zeal, persecuting the church, as to legalistic righteousness, faultless..." Paul kept every law. He was a perfectly religious person. How much confidence did Paul have in his religion. (v. 7) "... but whatever it was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider it all rubbish. I have lost all things that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God by faith." Paul says, All of those things that I would have put on my resume to impress people to get into "Who's Who in Religion", I consider that garbage because it isn't worth anything! What is important is my faith in a person, God's Son, Jesus Christ!

v. 28 In the last two verses of chapter 2 of Romans, Paul concludes by asking the question "Who is a real Jew?" and it's going to surprise you. That question is still one of the most debated questions over in the nation of Israel. Some people say it's on the basis of religion -- a true Jew is somebody who has a kosher kitchen and obeys all the Old Testament laws. Yet there are many Jews culturally and by heritage, who are atheists. There are many atheistic Jews. They say Judaism isn't a religion, it's a race. There are those who say it's only by ancestry. But what about those who converted to Judaism? There are Black Jews and Oriental Jews applying for permission to come into Israel to become Israelis. Can you be black and be a Jew? Oriental? They are trying to decide "Who is a Jew?" Is it by race, religion?

God's answer is verse 28. "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly [rituals]. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, by the spirit, not the written code. God says nothing external makes you a Jew, it's not a ritual, race, custom, religion. It's in your heart. It's what's inside that counts. This is interesting: Knowing Greek makes it interesting studying the Bible. Verse 29 is a pun, a play on words. Circle "a man's praises". The word "praise" is the same word for Jew because the word Judah means praise. The pun is, Jewishness comes from God not from man.

Galatians 3:29 Paul again says, Who is a true Jew? "If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." You become an heir of Abraham. If you belong to Christ then you're a Jew, spiritually you become a believer, a Jew, when you put your trust in Jesus the Messiah. That makes you a Jew.

Another way: What makes you a child of God? Who is a Christian? Who is saved? It's not necessarily somebody who has been confirmed, baptized, taken the Lord's supper, joined the church, kept the Ten Commandments. It is faith in Christ.

What is the bottom line of this section? Paul is saying, We don't need any more religious people. Religion has never saved anybody. No matter what religion it is: Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Hindu, Mormon. Religion has never saved anybody. Paul points out the things the Jews were trusting in. Today we see there the very same things religious people today are trusting in.


A couple of application questions: What have you been trusting in to get you to heaven? Raised in a Christian home? Great, but just like each person has to make their own decision to be married, each person has to make their own decision to be a believer. What have you been trusting in? A background, a heritage, a membership somewhere, baptism? Paul systematically in this passage, tears down every one of those things and says it's not religion it's a relationship. If you've never started that relationship would you do it right now? Open your heart to Christ. Pray in your heart. He knows your heart. He knows what you're thinking. "Jesus Christ, come into my life and save me. I'm not going to trust in anything else but You." It's so simple. Jesus made it so simple no one could say it's too hard to understand. You don't put your confidence in anything else. You put your confidence, your faith, in Christ Himself. Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.

Those of you who have been believers, maybe for some time, Is it possible that somebody in your life has been turned off to becoming a Christian because of your lifestyle? Maybe it's inconsistent with what you claim to believe. 1 Peter 2:15 says "Live in such a way that it silences the critics." Would you pray, "Lord, help me to be intensely spiritual and yet perfectly natural."

Thank You. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Sunday, 20 April 2008


Roman's Series no 3
Grace: The Truth that Transforms
Romans 2:1-16
Delivered by Neil Cowie from a sermon by Rick Warren at Saddleback
[Neil began with a tribute to grieving families from the Elim Christian School tragedy. ]

We began this new section on sin in the book of Romans. Tonight I want us to look at what Jesus attacked more often, more severely, more directly than any other sin. It wasn't adultery, it wasn't taking drugs, it wasn't watching TV. But it was the sin of self righteousness. I agree with Churck Swindoll who calls this the deadliest sin in the world. You can find it anywhere. Whether you're rich or poor, educated or uneducated, Christian or non Christian, you can find this attitude of judging others -- politicians, prostitutes, pimps and pastors. Everybody is guilty of this sin. You can find it everywhere. It's one sin we tend to make excuses for. "I'm not really judging; I'm just a fruit inspector." This sin Paul talks about as being a major problem in our lives.

We talked about how all of mankind are guilty before God. We looked at what is probably the most realistic picture of what sin does to people in the entire Bible. It was graphic and gruesome. In Roman culture you could find every single vice. Likewise in American culture you can find every single vice.

But Paul imagined people reading that and thinking "That's not me! I'm no pervert! I'm a decent law abiding citizen! I'm a respectable person." If that's the way you feel, Romans 2 is for you. The moral self righteous person is just as guilty as the immoral person. In fact, no body is innocent.


The key to this section is in the first verse. It's the word "judgement". "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement." The word judgement does not mean evaluate, analyze or discriminate or be discerning. It literally means condemn. It means sentence, pass a verdict. He's not talking about having discernment. You who condemn other people. You who judge other people... Judging is the favorite pass time of the self righteous. He says no one has the right to judge other people and then he says only God has the right to judge other people.

He starts off in the first four verses about four characteristics of the self righteous person, the person who thinks "I'm not so bad. I'm OK. I'm no gross sinner! I have a few faults and weaknesses but I'm all right." He says four things about this self righteous person:

1. He accuses others and excuses himself.

v. 1 "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement on somebody else. For whatever point you judge the others, you are condemning yourself, for you who pass judgement are doing the same thing."

Isn't it typical about human nature to be unrealistic about ourselves? Everybody else is guilty but we're innocent. It's everybody else's fault. The common word for this is hypocrisy which means we're inconsistent. The worse kind of pride is religious pride. "I've got it together and you don't!" These people judge other people particularly these people in chapter 1 who are really blowing it in an obvious way but to themselves they say, "I'm not so bad!"

How do we excuse our sin? He says, You're not really without excuse but you try to.

1) We label our own sin. We don't gossip, we're just sharing a concern. "I'm not critical, I'm discerning. I'm not lazy, I'm mellow." We relabel our sin. "I'm not negative, I'm realistic. I'm not unreliable, I'm flexible." We take what we judge in other people, but when it comes to ourselves we say it's not wrong, it's just our characteristic, "just the way I am". How many respectable do you know that do that?

2) We conveniently forget our own sin. "The person who thinks he has a clear conscious just has a poor memory." A lot of times we think there's nothing in our life, but we may not have thought enough about it.

2. "We know that God's judgement against those who do such things is based on truth." He measures other people by the wrong standard.

He compares others to himself. "I'm the arbitrary standard. I'm better than ...." We contrast that with the way God judges because God judges based on the truth. The problem is we are blind to the truth. All of us have blind spots, areas of weakness we don't see. I don't see my own weaknesses. You don't see your own weaknesses. Many times we don't see where we're at fault but we only see where other people are at fault. It's ironic but we tend to judge in other people what we dislike in ourselves. If you have a problem with pride you're going to be very quick to judge people who are full of pride. If you're very lazy you'll be very quick to judge people who are lazy. It's just our nature. When we start to judge things, we have the tendency to judge the things we dislike about ourselves the most. When you see someone violently reacting to a certain sin it may be they have a fear of it or they are guilty of it. We measure by the wrong standards and tend to play God.

3. He thinks that judging others puts him in a better position.

v. 3 "So when you, a mere man, pass judgement on them and yet you do the same thing, do you not think that you will escape God's judgement?" You who judge other people, do you think that's going to win you points with God? Do you think that's going to make it less serious for you? That by judging others we'll escape judgement ourselves?

The reason we like to judge others is it makes us feel better, superior, like we're not so bad. There's some faulty logic here. Let's say you and I both owe money to the same man. I'm in debt 20 million dollars and you're only in debt 10 million dollars. You say, "Since you're in more debt that I am, therefore I'm free from debt." Does that make sense? No. "His sin is worse than mine!" Does that negate your own sin? No. We think by judging others, we're put in a better position, that we're going to escape judgement. God doesn't grade on the curve.

Paul says don't think that by pointing out other people's sin, that you're off the hook. When you point a finger of criticism at somebody, you've got three fingers pointing back at yourself. Anytime you start to judge somebody else you've got three fingers pointing back at yourself judging your own sin in your own life.

4. He misinterprets God's blessing on his life.

This is the fourth characteristic of a self righteous person. v. 4 "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience not realizing that God's kindness leads you towards repentance." A self righteous person shows contempt. In Greek, what he's really saying here is you treat it lightly, have low regard for it, take it for granted. Many people presume on God's goodness. They take it for granted. It's the attitude of "Everything is going great, therefore God must think I'm great. Everything is going smooth, therefore I must be in with God. He must think I'm special, a chosen person." The self righteous person thinks he deserves God's blessing. He doesn't realize it's all of God's grace and if God gave him what he deserved he wouldn't even be here. He's saying we misinterpret God's blessing. We think that since everything is going great therefore I must be without sin. And the Bible teaches that God blesses our life even when there is sin. He does it because of grace.

It's amazing that God knows everything about you and about me and yet He's patient and loving. How many times has God had a legitimate reason to can you? You know lots of time. He's saying that our attitude should be one of knowing that we didn't get what we deserved! We ought to not underestimate God's goodness or take it lightly.

The purpose of God's goodness and kindness is to lead you towards repentance. The purpose of God blessing your life is to motivate you to change. That's the purpose. He wants to motivate you to change. It's like the old saying, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." The positive approach. God's goodness, not God's judgement, is what leads people to repentance.

This is very important. It's one of the foundational principles of Saddleback Community Church. We believe that the way you bring people to Christ is not by putting them down and telling them what they already know they are but by holding them up and showing them what they can be and showing them the benefits of Christ and what God wants to do for our lives and show the goodness of God, the kindness of God, the patience of God and the Bible says that leads to repentance. Not by preaching "You're going to hell" but "Look how patient God is with you. Look how much He loves you. Look how kind He is." When we realize how good God is to us and how little we deserve it, it ought to cause us to fall on our face and say, "I'm so grateful for what You've done in my life! You've not given me what I deserve but You've given me what You want to give me, Your kindness and blessing." A spiritually self righteous person misinterprets the goodness of God.

Look at the results of being judgmental:

v. 5 "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath when His righteous judgement will be revealed." The result of this self righteous attitude of "I'm OK and everybody else is not" all we're doing is storing up wrath. One day the dam is going to break. In life you can store up one of two things: wrath or treasure in heaven (Matthew 6). What are you storing up? Store up the goodness of God. Judgmentalism makes God mad. Why?

Why is it that the people Jesus got the most upset at were the Pharisees not the adulteress? It's because they were judgmental. And they destroyed the dignity of other people. Being judgmental is playing God. Paul says only God has the right to judge. When I judge somebody I'm playing God. That's why cursing is wrong for a Christian. When you say, "God damn you!" you are pronouncing a judgement. You're being a judge. Or when you say, "damn it!" that is a judgement. God says that nobody has a right to judge except God. That's why we're not to swear. To damn a person is to condemn a person.

All of this is accumulating and one day the dam is going to break. Then watch out! You who think you are spiritually cool are just as guilty as the person who has fallen into all kinds of gross problems like the person we looked at last week.

I thought tonight while we're on this subject it would be important to look at the seven passages of scripture on when it's wrong to judge.

When Is It Wrong To Judge

Seven times when you should not judge another person.

1. Romans 2:1-3. It's wrong to judge when you practice the same sin.

2. When it blinds you to your own faults. Matthew 7:1-3 "Do not judge! [That's a command. Right from the mouth of Jesus!] or you will be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged. The measure you use, it will be measured to you." If you're critical of others, people are going to be critical of you to the same degree. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Jesus is using Hebrew humor -- humor by exaggeration. When he told this I'm sure the disciples fell over laughing. Why are you worrying about a speck of sawdust in your neighbor's eye when you have a plank hanging out of your head? You're out there walking around and the plank is hitting everybody. It's the difference between nitpicking and log pulling. We are great speck analyzers. Don't do that. It's wrong to judge others when it blinds you to your own faults. The results are you reap what you sow. The results of judging another person are you are judged also.

3. John 7:24. It's wrong to judge when you draw conclusions based on outward appearance. "Stop judging by mere appearance and make a right judgement." When you look at a person and judge them by their hair, clothes, style, color of their skin, zits on their face, it doesn't matter... when you judge by outward appearance that's wrong. 1 Samuel 16:7 "God looks at the heart but man looks at the outward appearance." When you judge according to the outward appearance it's wrong.

4. v. 51 "Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he's doing?" No. It's wrong to judge when you condemn somebody else before hearing the facts. Get the facts first. Even if your conclusion proves accurate ultimately, you're wrong anyway because you judged without getting the facts. How many times do we make judgements based on hearsay? There's always more than one side to a story. There's your side, their side, God's side. Don't judge before hearing the facts.

5. Col. 2:16 "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to religious festival, a new moon celebration, or a Sabbath day." You are wrong when you judge a person's spirituality on the basis of external observances. What you eat, what you drink, what day you worship on -- three common areas of conflict in Christianity. Diet, drink, days. Don't get into disputable matters. Don't get hung up on these external things. When you start judging a person's spirituality by external things like diet (one's a vegetarian, another eats meat), drink (one can drink alcohol and one can't), their lifestyle (one goes to movies, another doesn't), what day they worship on (one goes on Saturday, the other goes on Sunday). What are these things? Later he says "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking. It's righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." These are external standards. Christians disagree on these things. That's obvious. There's a lot of confusion. We all have our own list of don'ts. In certain areas of the country it's a don't for women to wear make up. In another area it's OK to wear make up but you can't play cards. In another area it's OK to play cards but you can't go to dances. In some places it's OK to go to dances but you don't smoke. In some places it's OK to smoke. Don't let the external standards be the basis for how you judge a person's spirituality. In Southern California we judge on the basis of meetings. How many church meetings do you go to? If you go on Sunday morning every week you're a good Christian. If you go on Sunday morning and Tuesday night you're a great Christian. If you go on Sunday morning, Tuesday night and a home Bible study you're a spiritual giant! We rate our spirituality on how many meetings we attend. I've wondered what would happen if all of a sudden we cut out all the meetings in Christianity, what would be left? I know some people who think they're really great Christians because they go to church every night of the week. They go to a different Bible study every night. No doubt they're probably learning something but that does not necessarily be a true measure of their spirituality. You can have tremendous knowledge of the word and be carnal. Don't base your spirituality on external things -- these do's and don'ts.

6. James 4:11-12 "Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. And when you judge the law you're not keeping it but setting in judgement on it. There is only one law giver and judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy, but you, who are you to judge your neighbor?" When did you become the self appointed judge of life? They serve the Lord, not you. When you judge other Christians, you're speaking against them, slandering them. He's saying, it's wrong to judge people when it causes you to slander another Christian. It's wrong to judge when it causes you to speak evil against, or slander, another believer. Slander means to ruin their reputation.

This is a fine line we have to face here. There are times in scripture we are called to be discerning and there are at least four times we are called to judge, not with this kind of condemning attitude, but with an valuative attitude. There is a fine line. We are to hate sin but love the sinner. We are to hate wrong but love the people that are involved in it. Ephesians 4:29. This is talking about the whole concept of speaking positively about other Christians. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building each other up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen." He gives some qualifiers here on the way we're supposed to speak to other Christians. You speak in ways that build them up and not you. Speak in ways according to their needs, not your needs. Speak to edify, to encourage, to strengthen. We should speak positively to other people -- do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.

7. 1 Cor. 4:5 "Therefore judge nothing." Nothing -- how is that possible? Look at the context. What is Paul talking about? "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time. Wait until the Lord comes and He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts." Circle "motives". Paul says it's wrong when we question people's motives. In v. 3 Paul says, "I care very little if I'm judged by you or by any human court. Indeed, I don't even judge myself. My conscious is clear but that doesn't make me innocent. It's the Lord who judges me." Paul was continually being questioned about his motives. If you do anything in life you're going to have your motives questioned. There were people in the different churches, even churches that Paul had started that questioned his motives: ego, money, power struggle, empire builder. He was continually having his motives questioned. Paul said I don't care if you judge me or not because I'm not accountable to you. I'm only accountable to God. Then he says, Don't judge people's motives. We don't have any right to question or try to figure out other people's motives. We can't even figure out our own. Most of the time we don't even know why we do what we do, much less know why other people do what they do. Many times our motives are so vague and hazy and mixed that we don't even know ourselves why we're doing what we're doing. Only God knows the ultimate motives of our heart. Paul's saying, If you can't even figure out your own motives don't waste your time trying to judge other people's motives.

These are the seven ways we're not to judge.

Romans 2, Paul says in the first five verses, Don't judge. It is a sin and it's just as wrong as the sins mentioned before. Verse 1, "You therefore have no excuse".


Then he goes on and uses this as an opportunity to talk about who does have the right to judge. He says there is only one person who has the right to judge us. That is God. v. 6-16 he tells us when God will judge people, how God will judge people, and what we will be judged for.

When will God judge people?

v. 16 "This will take place on the day [referring to the day of judgement] when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ as my gospel declares." In v. 5 it says, you're storing up wrath for the day of God's wrath -- the ultimate day of accounting. The day when all of us are going to give an account of ourselves before God at the throne. That date has been set, it's already on God's calendar. It will not be moved, postponed. It's an awesome thought to think that one day I will stand before God and give an account for every word that I've ever said, every thought that I've ever had, every action that I've ever taken. One day I will stand before God and I will be accountable to Him. The Bible teaches that nobody will be able to say, "God, it wasn't fair." Why? v. 6 God's been patient and kind and understanding. All of this time He's been patient for so long. So when will God judge people? On that day -- that day of judgement.

How will God judge people?

God judges people two ways. First, v. 2 "Now we know that God's judgement against those who do such things is on truth." That is one of the reasons why God can judge and we can't. God knows it all. God will judge people truthfully. That means He knows it all, it's based on fact, not hearsay. He's seen every moment of my life from the cradle to the grave. He knows everything about me. He knows every thought I've had. He knows it all and because of that He judges based on truth.

Hebrews 4:12-13. A corollary verse. What is the truth God uses to judge us with? That truth is the Bible, the word of God. "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword. It penetrates, even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." God's word is true so that it can judge our thoughts and our attitudes. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account." Nothing is hidden. Everything that ever happens, God sees. He sees truthfully.

Our judgement is superficial. God's judgement is complete. Our knowledge is half, partial. God's knowledge is complete. We are subjective. God is objective. God has a right to judge us because He knows the truth.

How else will God judge us? v. 11 "For God does not show partiality" or favoritism. God judges truthfully and impartially. You can count on a fair trial before God because He's impartial. It seems today that men's judgement is not impartial. We are partial. We're harsh on some people, we're soft on others. A lot of times in our courts today it seems if you're rich and famous you can get off pretty easy. But if you're poor and know nobody they'll throw the book at you. God says, "I'm impartial but man is partial." We like to label people, categorize them and put them in groups. God says we're all alike in His eyes. That's why God is the only person who has the right to judge. Because He is completely true and impartial.

Three Principles of God's Judgement -- What will we be judged for?

When you were in school and took tests, wasn't it helpful when the teacher told you in advance what was going to be on the test? God does not say "There's going to be a final exam at the end of your life, but you won't know what's going to be on it." In Romans 2 God tells us the three things that we're going to be held accountable for at the end of our lives. We can know right now so we can start preparing for the final exam.

1. We're going to be judged according to our conduct -- the way we act, the way we lived, our deeds. v. 6-10 "God will give to each person according to what he has done." God's going to judge you according to what you have done, not according to what you intended to do. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This verse is a quote from the Old Testament. Psalm 62:12 and Proverbs 24:12 which talks about the mercy of God and God judges us according to our deeds. "There is a personal accountability." God is not going to judge you according to what other people have done. God is not going to judge you for what your husband/wife/parents/kids have done. You are only accountable for yourself. Personal accountability. God will judge you for what you have done. On the other hand, He also says, you can't blame anybody. You don't accept the blame from anybody else and you don't blame anybody else. You can't say, "If only... it was because of..." It's personal accountability.

v. 7 "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory and honor and immortality He will give eternal life. But for those who are self seeking and reject the truth and follow evil there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil first for the Jew and then for the Gentile [This is not a matter of priority but the fact that the Gospel was given first to the Jew and then to the Gentile] but glory, honor and peace for every one who does good first for the Jew and then for the Gentile." God will judge us according to our conduct. This passage could be misunderstood. When you read it, it sounds like you can earn your way to heaven. You do good -- you make it to heaven. You do bad -- you go to hell. Yet the Bible does not teach that at all. Paul is not saying that you can be saved by self effort, good works. Some people think if they can do enough good works, they've got it made or if my good works are a little taller than my bad works I'll make it to heaven. Most of us think we're good enough to get to heaven but bad enough to be fun.

He says God will judge you on your works. But what are the works he's talking about? Going to church? taking communion? keeping the ten commandments? tithing? What are the good works that he says get you to heaven? This very question was asked of Jesus in John 6:25. Some Jewish leaders (if anyone was trying to work their way to heaven it was the Pharisees) found him on the other side of the lake and asked him "`Rabbi, when did You get here?' Jesus answered, `I tell you the truth. You were looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.' Do not work for food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him, God the Father, has placed the seal of approval.' Then they asked Him, `What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, `The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.'" That's the works that get you to heaven -- believe in the one He has sent. Who is the one he has sent? Jesus Christ. You don't get to go to heaven by being good, perfect, or trying to be good because being good enough to get to God you'd have to be as good as God. And nobody is perfect. Trusting Christ as your only basis of salvation is the work of God.

Romans 1:9 The guaranteed result of sin, "There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil." Are some of you living examples of that verse? We all are. The trouble and the stress. Pressure comes from being out of the will of God. The trouble and distress of life comes from sin.

Results of living for God. "But glory, honor and peace for everyone that does good."

How is God going to judges us? First, by our conduct and then...

2. God is going to judge us according to our conscious. V. 12‑ 15. "All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law. And all who sin under the law will be judged by the law." If you're a Jew (which means under the law) then you'll be judged because you knew the law. If you're a Gentile and you didn't know anything about the Ten Commandments you'll still be judged apart from the law. It doesn't make any difference. v. 13 "For it is not those who hear the law are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by their very nature the things required by the law, even those they are a law to themselves since they show the requirements of the law that are written on their hearts, their consciences [circle this] also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing them, now even defending them." Paul is saying that the Jews had God's law in a code. But everybody else has God's law on their conscious. Each of us will be responsible for acting on what we knew. How did we respond to what we already knew? Just because somebody knows more that we do doesn't excuse us. Just because the Jews had God's revelation did not excuse the rest of the world. The ultimate issue in your life is not, How much do you know? but, What did you do with what you knew?

v. 13, he says "God is not going to judge us for hearing the law but according to our responsiveness for it is not those who hear the law that are righteous, but it's those who obey it." A lot of people go to church and they think they've got it made just because they're going to church. They go to church, set, listen, they're interested, but they keep their faith on a discussion level. They never apply it. They never think of actually putting it to practice on Monday morning. It's kind of an intellectual stimulation or an emotional lift. It's a great feeling to go to church.

Paul says there is a misconception. You think, "God, I went to church each week and listened intently. I even took notes." Paul says that it's not the fact that you heard the word but the fact that you obeyed it that makes the difference. Knowledge only increases your responsibility. The more I know, the more I'm accountable for. But even if I don't know anything I'm accountable because my conscious tells me what's right and wrong. We need to respond to it.

Application of the word of God is the bottom line. A lot of people wonder why I don't on Sunday morning, go into a lot of detail on the background of the text and culture. I just give ways to put the word into your life. If I only have twenty minutes I better say the most important thing. The most important thing is not the background of the text. The most important thing is what am I going to do about it? I could go into the Greek etymology of each of the words: Love your neighbor as yourself -- and spend 45 minutes on it. But it is much more important to take the verse and say, Let's talk about five ways you can apply this verse this week. How can you love your neighbor as yourself at work? How can you love your neighbors yourself at home? with your relatives? ... God says it doesn't matter how much you hear the word of God but what matters is, Do you put it into practice? My goal on Sunday morning is to make it as easy as possible so people can practice it immediately, so they don't have to go out and try to figure out what it means, how can I apply it to my life?

James 1. James is saying the same thing Paul is. v. 22 "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word and doesn't do what it says is like the man who looks at his face in the mirror. After looking at himself he goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently in the law that gives freedom and continues to do this not forgetting what he has heard but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does." It's not just enough to look in the Bible, but you're not to forget it. That's why I try to give outlines so you won't forget it, so you will take notes. You forget 95% in 72 hours if you don't make any notes. James 4:17 "Anyone then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." The problem isn't that we need to know more. I already know more than I'm putting into practice. I already know a whole lot more about the Bible than I'm able to assimilate into my life. Our problem is becoming living Bibles where our lives translate the Scripture. Someone asked me one time, "What's the best translation of the Bible?" The best translation is when you translate it into your life. You become a Bible. We're either Bibles or we're liables!

Romans 2. We're judged for three things. First, our conduct. Second, our conscious. Then ...

3. We're going to be judged for our character. v. 16 "This will take place when God will judge men's secrets [circle that] through Jesus Christ as my gospel declares." When he talks about the word "secrets" he's literally talking about people's motives. We are not to judge peoples motives but God can because God sees inside of us. He knows what we're really like. Just like in the previous verse -- if you don't know the law, it's written on your conscious. It doesn't matter what your religious background is, if you don't have a Bible you've got a conscious. In verse 16 it says God can look at your motives, He sees the inside of you. That's what your character is: Why you do what you do.

It's interesting that people say, reputation is what you are to other people, character is what you are in the dark. Reputation is what people say about you, character is what God says about you. It says, "God will judge men's secrets".

1 Cor. 4:5 "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts." There are a lot of unbelievers who look like Christians on the outside. They're moral, upright, don't drink, smoke, curse, chew, run with girls that do... they are moral! They salute the flag, serve in boy scouts. They are moral people. A lot of unbelievers look like Christians, outwardly. And there are a lot of Christians who look like unbelievers, outwardly. Paul is saying in this chapter, You thought you got away in chapter one because you weren't involved in gross sin. The moral person has just as many things to be worried about as the immoral person.

Paul is simply trying to show our need for God, our need for salvation, our need for grace. He's doing a good job of it. He's showing us that we've all blown it. On judgement day nobody is going to be able to say, "My conduct was sinless. My conscious is perfectly clear. My character is spotless." That's depressing to think the final exam is coming up and I'm not going to pass. I'm going to flat out fail!

Do you remember sometimes in school you had a teacher that, if you did a certain thing, you could skip the final? Maybe if you did a certain paper you could skip the final?

Good news! There is a way to skip this final, a way you can bypass all of this judgement. You won't even have to go through it. Revelation 20. We have an advance picture of what it's going to be like on that day of judgement. God says there's going to be a certain group of people who get to bypass the judgement. Passed on approval. Verse 12, "And I saw the dead, great and small. I saw them standing before the throne and the books were open. [notice the plural -- books] Another book was open which was the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books and the sea gave up the dead that was in it and death and Hades gave up the dead [people came back to life for the judgement] and each persons was judged according to what he had done. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life he was throne into the lake of fire." That's how the judgement day is going to be. That's the final exam.

How do you get past the final exam? You make sure your name is in that Book of Life. John 3:16 "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." The fact is Jesus wants to save us from the judgement. He wants to be your savior not your judge. He didn't come into the world to condemn it but to save it.

But if you don't accept Jesus Christ as your savior He will some day be your judge. I urge you to settle this issue today.

There is one sin that you will probably have to deal with more often than any other sin in your life. It is so subtle, it often catches us by surprise. Paul clearly identifies this tendency in this section of Romans.


Definition: "krino"

4 characteristics of a self-righteous person:

(vs. 1)

(vs. 2)

(vs. 3)

(vs. 4)

When is it wrong to judge others:

Romans 2:1-3

Matt. 7:1-3

John 7:24

John 7:51

Col. 2:16

James 4:11-12

1 Cor. 4:5


When God will judge people: (vs. 16)

How God will judge people:

(vs. 2)

(vs. 11)

What we will be judged for:

(vs. 6-10)

(vs. 12-15)

(vs. 16)

Our only hope: Rev. 20:12-15; John 3:16-17; John 5:2

Sunday, 13 April 2008

The Verdict

Easter 4 year A Sermon
Roman’s Series part 2 Romans 1:18-32

It’d be easy to get hung up on the sexy bits of this reading wouldn’t it…and to completely miss Paul’s point.
But there’s no chance we’re going to do that today…
given the fundamental importance of this part of Paul’s message… to us as Christians… and to everyone on earth for that matter.

Last week in the first of our studies on Paul’s letter to the Roman’s… we discovered as an apostle… it was Paul’s responsibility… to receive and articulate… defend and proclaim…the gospel…[pause] the good news of Jesus Christ. And Paul accomplished much of this…
in his letter writing.

As well…we learned it’s our responsibility as Christians …to share the good news in our own time and place…
to share the Gospel of
Word slide
the power of God… for the salvation of
everyone who believes. And Graham showed us how Paul gave us his six point Gospel sharing kit…
to help us spread the good news. Paul tells us
Word slide
1. The origin of the gospel is God
2. The confirmation of the truth of the gospel is Scripture
3. The substance of the gospel... is Jesus Christ
4. The scope of the gospel is all nations
5. The purpose of the gospel is... the obedience of faith and
6. The goal of the gospel is the honour of Christ’s name

Easy peasie …right? Armed with a clipboard and these six points… we can triumphantly leave church today … as well equipped evangelists…to carry on the work of Jesus in the world.

Blank slide
Not so fast…this knowledge is not enough…
Paul wants the Roman’s to realize…wants us to realize…
that before we can share the good news…
we have to understand in our hearts… the bad news…
the truth about ourselves ...the truth about the human disease… for which Jesus and his message are the medicine…

We have to snap out of our denial…we have to stop protesting our own innocence… if we really want to receive … the gospel of grace that will transform our lives.

We…the church…not the great unwashed…not the pagans in Rome…not the rest of secular society in Aotearoa New Zealand…we…have to really get the bad news…
before we can understand and share the good news.

And today Paul gives us the bad news…with both barrels right between the eyes [pause]…

not one of us is innocent…and because of this…
there are dramatic and divine repercussions.

How do we know this? Paul asks…We know this…
because the evidence is right before our eyes…

Slide words
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven…
right now. And just how the wrath of God is being revealed… Paul will tell us further on…

but first we have to accept… the distress and discomfort…
of knowing our unconditionally loving… all merciful…
all compassionate… all forgiving God…is furious with us.

We simply can’t negotiate… God’s exasperation and fury… out of the gospel story… nor may we tone it down.

This isn’t about God throwing down lightening bolts or displaying sudden irrational fits of rage. It’s about God’s just indignation…God’s anger…God’s pain God’s heart break…at the behaviour
of his wayward children.

Next…. Paul tells us… what angers God most…
We go on to read…The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven first
Slide words
against all the god…less…ness

You see…Because God wants a loving relationship with us…the most effective way to hurt and anger God…
is to behave as though God doesn’t exist. Why?

It’s obvious. Is it possible to face in two directions at the same time? No. Is it possible to exist in a state of love and reverence for God and turn away at the same time. No.
Put another way…
Is it possible… to face God fully in faith and commit sin?

I don’t think so…Paul didn’t think so…
Because that’s what the Greek word for sin means…anomie…missing the target…aiming off target

And the target is God…your relationship with God. You’re either aiming your life and your love at God…
and God’s way of love… or you’re missing the target.

What else makes God furious…
Not only god less ness but also
Slide words
the wickedness of those who suppress the truth
by their wickedness. [pause]

Paul tell us People knowingly suppress the truth about God. … … Because
slide words
‘what may be known about God is plain to them, because God’s made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world… God's invisible qualities— God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen…
being understood from what has been made,
so that humankind is without excuse. [pause]

Blank slide
God’s eternal power and divine nature—
are clearly seen in all creation…and that includes us…that includes human beings.

So…Paul is saying it’s evident to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear…not only that God exists, but that God is the Creator, who loves and cares for his creation…and Paul believes there is absolutely no excuse for denying this.

This is unbelievably important! Sin isn’t just an arbitrary list of do’s and don’ts laid down by a strict God…to spoil our fun…All our sins… are actions against God and God’s good creation.

Next... Paul strengthens his case against humanity...

Even though creation itself... is a
constant revelation of God...available for all to see...
and even though this must produce.. a knowledge of God... deep inside every one of us... [pause]

in our God given freedom... humans still turn away.. .and
Slide words
‘neither glorified God nor gave thanks to him...
their thinking became futile...
and their foolish hearts were darkened.’

Blank slide
When people look away from the light...
they ignore the truth that is right before their eyes...
they look elsewhere... for objects of worship

Slide words
‘Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory... of the immortal God...
for images made to look like mortal man...
and birds and animals and reptiles. [pause]

Fundamental to Paul’s understanding of the good news is the bad news that human kind is willing to elevate almost anything above God.
To aim at any target other than God.
To worship and adore and serve... anything but God.

Blank slide
Remember how at the very beginning of this passage Paul says God’s wrath is being revealed...well now…
after explaining why God is so angry and hurt
Paul tells the Romans…Paul tells us…
just how exactly…God’s wrath is being revealed

Word slide
‘Therefore... God gave them over...
in the sinful desires of their hearts

Notice Paul doesn't say... God gave them up.
Some people think that's what Paul means. No...
Paul says "God gave them over..."
That means God allows us to reap the results of our own sin.

Blank slide
God chooses not intervene in our love…
God gives us freedom to reject him and his will for us …and in costly love…costing God… pain and anger… God allows us to experience the full consequences…
of our actions…in effect… God’s love and God’s wrath…can’t be separated.

And as far as human beings are concerned…it’s the very pain… the very consequences of our actions… that constitute a self… conferred… penalty...

Though costly for us and for God…
the beauty of this arrangement… is that
when our self inflicted pain becomes unbearable…
we find ourselves at rock bottom…
our own resources exhausted.. prompting us to finally… to question our choices...and realise that we simply can’t do life very well without God’s help.

And it’s the painful experience of the consequences of our actions... that leads us to see clearly how we have
Slide words
‘exchanged the truth of God... for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator...’

Blank slide
Remember earlier... Paul tells us God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen, and understood... from what God has created? Well next... Paul explains what our failure to respect God’s hand in all creation...leads to

It leads to seeing creation... including other people ...not as revelations of God’s creative power...
but as objects...existing only to satisfy
our human desires.

And nowhere is this objectification of God’s good creation more evident... than in human sexuality. What Paul calls ‘our sinful human desires...
sexual impurity...and shameful lusts.’

When we objectify other human beings for our sexual purposes... when we use them...or dominate...
or abuse power over them...
then we have exchanged the truth of God...
revealed in those we exploit...for a lie.

And this gets so bad Paul tells us... even

Slide words
‘women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way... the men also abandoned natural relations with women... and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men...and [as a consequence] received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.’

Self serving objectification of others... incurs heavy physical... emotional and spiritual penalties...[pause]

Now Paul could have left it at godlessness...lying and sexual sin...but he does not...[pause]

Failing to respect and revere the revelation of God in creation... leads to a long list of human sin...
Slide words
‘since they didn’t think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God...he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not... to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness...

slide words
evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful;
they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

Blank slide
And God is furious…because each of these actions… demeans and exploits… harms and abuses…
the revelation of God’s eternal power and divine nature...displayed in creation.

Which one of us can plead not guilty?

Paul wants us to understand... that to say ‘there’s nothing wrong with me’ means…
we simply don’t get the Gospel… to say there’s nothing wrong with me…means we can do just fine by ourselves… we don’t need God… [pause]

Slide words
‘Although they know God's righteous decree...
that those who do such things deserve death...
they not only continue to do these very things...
but also approve of those who practice them.’

Blank slide
And please notice... Paul isn’t blaming...
some outside force for tempting us...
or entrapping us into sin,
Paul is laying the burden of guilt... right at our feet.

You can’t get what the Gospel means unless you snap out of your denial…you can’t get what the Christian faith is... or grace or salvation...
if you can’t accept your own tendency to turn away from God...your own sin...and therefore...
your own need for forgiveness. [pause]

Then and only then... Paul tells the church...
are you in any share the Gospel of grace effectively.

One famous pastor warns his congregation
‘If you are a perfect person, please do not come back
to this church any more. It is a hospital for sinners.’

And another... reminds us ‘In the evening of life... we shall be judged on love...and not one of us is going to come off very well... and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving forgiveness of my Lord... I could not call on him to come.’

Having explored today the dangers of denying our own sin...and our reluctance to judge week...
in the third part of our Roman’s series...
we’ll explore the danger of judging others...

In the mean time... may we turn our faces to God...
and may our lives be transformed... by the grace and forgiveness... we don’t deserve... but which is freely given.

Questions for reflection
Why is the bad news about ourselves so fundamental to understanding the good news Jesus brings?
Why would understanding the bad news about ourselves help us to share the good news more effectively with others?

Why is understanding how God's eternal power and divine nature are revealed in Creation the key to understanding what sin is?

Is it possible to face God in love and reverence and sin at the same time?

Monday, 7 April 2008

The Gospel and how to tell others

Easter 3 Year A Sermon Roman’s series Part 1
Romans 1: 1-6, 14-17
Author Professor Graham Hill
Being too upfront about our Christian faith is frowned upon in these days. How can Christians have a monopoly of the truth? Why do we want to persuade everybody to become Christians? The prevailing view is that of tolerance, everybody has a right to believe in their own God or religion; there are other great faiths just as good as Christianity – leave me alone to believe what is best for me. On these quicksands it is a relief to turn to the New Testament, particularly the book of Romans.
The epistle to the Romans is the fullest, grandest and plainest Gospel manifesto and it encapsulates what is different about our faith compared to all others. In its simplest form the message of Romans is that all men are sinners and Jesus Christ came to save sinners.
This morning we are going to look at the first five verses of Romans where Paul wonderfully describes what the Christian Gospel is and before we finish we will look at a few verses further on that Paul states what evangelism is.
(A) What is the Gospel? vv 1 – 5
These verses are an elaborate statement of the Gospel because he had not yet visited Rome; the Christians there were not familiar with his teaching and he was not sure how well grounded they were in the faith. He feels the need, therefore, to establish his credentials as an apostle and to summarize his gospel.
Rom 1:1
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. As a slave and as an apostle he is set apart it on the Damascus road two things happened – he was converted and he was commissioned. As an apostle it was Paul’s responsibility to receive, formulate, defend and proclaim the gospel. From verse 2 to verse 5 he now proceeds to give a six-point analysis of the gospel, to which he has been set apart.
1. The origin of the gospel is God
The Christian good news is the gospel of God. The apostles did not invent it; it was revealed and entrusted to them by God. What we have to share with others is not a pack of human speculations, nor one more religion to add to the rest – it is rather the gospel of God, God’s own good news for a lost world. Without this conviction all our outreach loses its content, purpose and drive.
2. The confirmation of the truth of the gospel is Scripture
V 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. That is to say, although he revealed the gospel to the apostles, it did not come as a complete novelty, because he had already promised it through his prophets in the Old Testament Scripture. The prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New both bear witness to Jesus Christ, and this is what we come to next.
3. The substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ
If we bring verses 1 and 3 together, by omitting verse 2, we are left with the statement that Paul was set apart for the gospel of God regarding his Son.
Calvin writes: ‘The whole gospel is contained in Christ; to move even a step from Christ means to withdraw oneself from the gospel.’
Paul now describes Christ by two contrasting clauses: Rom 1:3-5
‘who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.’
This is probably a fragment from an early creed and speaks of the incarnation and resurrection.
4. The scope of the gospel is all the nations
V5 Through him i.e. the risen Christ (and for his name's sake), we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Paul is saying the gospel is for everybody; like him we too have to be liberated from all pride of race, nation, and tribe and get it into our heads that God’s gospel is for everybody, without exception and without distinction
5. The purpose of the gospel is the obedience of faith
V5 ‘we received grace and apostleship to call people to the obedience that comes from faith from among all the Gentiles
The proper response to the gospel is faith and faith alone. Yet a true and living faith in Jesus Christ includes an element of submission and this leads inevitably into a lifetime of obedience. It is not possible to accept Jesus Christ as savior without surrendering to him as Lord.
6. The goal of the gospel is the honour of Christ’s name
The words ‘for his name's sake’, which the NIV places at the beginning of V 5 actually come at the end of the Greek sentence and so form something of a climax.
Why does Paul desire to bring the nations to obedience of faith? It was for the sake of the glory and honour of Christ’s name:
Phil 2:9-11
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
We should be jealous for the honour of his name – troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honour and glory which are due to it. The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission ( vital as that is), nor love for people who don’t know Christ and are lost (vital as that is) but rather zeal – burning passionate zeal – for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes our outreach is no better than a thinly disguised form of imperialism, when our real ambition is for the honour of our nation, church, organization or ourselves. The only imperialism that is Christian is for the concern for His Imperial Majesty Jesus Christ and for the glory of his kingdom.

(B) How can we get the Gospel across? (vv 14-17)
Paul writes:
V 14 ‘I am bound I am obligated’-----the gospel is a debt to the world; we are under obligation to make it known to others; we have been given this gospel in trust
V15 ‘I am eager’. He was eager because he had been entrusted with this treasure and this good news is for sharing
V16 ‘I am not ashamed’. There is no sense in declaring you are not ashamed of something unless you have been tempted to feel ashamed of it. Paul facing his first time visit to Rome was tempted to be ashamed but he overcame it by remembering ‘it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

V 17 ‘For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith"’. Martin Luther while preparing his lectures in 1514 tells how he gained a new understanding of righteousness from this verse.
“Night and day I pondered until ...I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before ‘the righteousness of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.”

Study Guide
1. What is particularly striking about Paul’s description of himself as a ‘slave’ and an ‘apostle’? What do the two terms tell us about Paul’s view of his calling?
2. What is the first and most basic conviction which underlies all authentic evangelism?
3. According to what Paul says here, why is the Old Testament so important?
4. What do verses 3-4 say about the double identity of Jesus?
5. What is the scope of the gospel?
6. Paul’s gospel demands, literally, ‘the obedience of faith’ (verse 5). How would you answer the suggestion that this contradicts his emphasis elsewhere that justification through faith alone?
7. What is the highest of all missionary motives?
8. Why might we expect Paul to have been reluctant to preach in Rome? What was it that overcame these factors?
9. Are you at all ashamed of the gospel? Why? What is the antidote to this?
10. What is the ‘righteousness of God’?
Christ is Risen Ian Westergaard
Opening prayer
Let us pray in the beauty of the morning and in the quiet of the hills. Speak O Lord. In the words of the prophets and the message of the apostles, you speak O Lord. Now we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.
There are 13 epistles or letters in the Bible which are credited to Paul. Of these Romans was written about AD 58 and is the sixth in chronological order but in the Bible it is placed first of all the epistles and comes immediately after Acts. Matthew Henry, who lived from 1662 to 1714, in his “Commentary on the Whole Bible” says it is placed first because of the superlative excellence of the epistle, it being one of the longest and fullest of all.
The fact is that these verses from Romans which we have just heard changed the world – it took nearly 1500 years but on the 31st October 1517 because of them a student and lecturer of theology called Martin Luther started a spiritual revolution, known as the Reformation, which simply turned the world upside down. That is a very simple statement of what Martin Luther did and why he did it but I don’t have time to tell the full story today.
Paul had not yet been to Rome but was writing from Corinth on his way to Jerusalem intending to travel to Rome afterwards. But in Acts 20:23 we read about the Holy Spirit warning him of the peril awaiting him in Jerusalem, what if he were unable to make it to Rome? The Church in Rome was well established. He must write them a letter so comprehensive that they had the gospel Paul preached, even if Paul himself were not able to visit them.
Romans is different from the other letters Paul wrote to the New Testament churches, those letters focused more on the church and its challenges and problems. The letter to the Romans focuses on God and His great plan of redemption.
I have seen it referred to as the “Roman road to salvation”. Martin Luther praised it by saying: “It is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel - the absolute epitome of the gospel.” John Calvin said: “When any one understands this Epistle, he has a way opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.”
The Epistle to the Romans has life changing truth but it must be approached with effort and determination to understand what the Holy Spirit said through the Apostle Paul. In its simplest form the message of Romans is that all men and women are sinners and Jesus Christ came to save sinners.
In the first verse Paul introduces himself as “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God”
A servant - an apostle: Paul’s self-identification is important. He is first a servant of Jesus Christ, and second called to be an apostle.
Some translations use the word “slave”, there were several Greek words used to designate a slave, but the idea behind the Greek word for servant (doulos) is “complete and utter devotion”, voluntary and born out of love for the one being served - not the abjectness which was the normal condition of a slave.
Set apart for the gospel of God
The origin of the gospel is God - The Christian good news is the gospel of God. The apostles did not invent it; it was revealed and entrusted to them by God. What we have to share with others is not a pack of human speculations, nor one more religion to add to the rest - it is the gospel of God, God's own good news for a lost world. Without this conviction all our outreach loses its content, purpose and drive.
The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures.
The confirmation of the truth of the gospel is Scripture. Although God revealed the gospel to the apostles, it did not come as a complete novelty, because he had already promised it through his prophets in the Old Testament Scripture. The prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New both bear witness to Jesus Christ, and this is what we come to next.
Regarding his son, Who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.'
The substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ. If we bring verses 1 and 3 together, by omitting verse 2, we are left with the statement that Paul was set apart for the gospel of God regarding his Son.
Calvin wrote: 'The whole gospel is contained in Christ; to move even a step from Christ means to withdraw oneself from the gospel.'
Through the risen Christ and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles.
The scope of the gospel is all the nations. Paul is saying the gospel is for everybody; like him we too have to be liberated from all pride of race, nation, tribe, caste and get it into our heads that God's gospel is for everybody, without exception and without distinction.
To the obedience that comes from faith.
The purpose of the gospel is the obedience of faith. The proper response to the gospel is faith and faith alone. Yet a true and living faith in Jesus Christ includes an element of submission and this leads inevitably into a lifetime of obedience. It is not possible to accept Jesus Christ as saviour without surrendering to him as Lord.
The goal of the gospel is the honour of Christ's name
The words "for his name's sake" which the NIV places at the beginning of V 5 actually come at the end of the Greek sentence and so form something of a climax.
Why does Paul desire to bring the nations to obedience of faith? It was for the sake of the glory and honour of Christ's name:
Phil 2:9-11
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every nameThat at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, - to the glory of God the Father.
We should be jealous for the honour of his name - troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honour and glory which are due to it. The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (vital as that is), nor love for people who don't know Christ and are lost (vital as that also is) but rather zeal - burning passionate zeal - for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes our outreach is no better than a thinly disguised form of imperialism, when our real ambition is for the honour of our nation, our church, our organization or ourselves. The only imperialism that is Christian is concern for Jesus Christ and for the glory of his kingdom.
Romans 1:14-17
I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
"I am not ashamed" – in spite of all the cultured Greeks who mock me for preaching foolishness and all the unbelieving Jews who deride me as preaching a false Christ – I am not ashamed of this gospel. Why? "For it is the power of God unto salvation."
"For it is the power of God unto salvation." In other words, this message of Christ crucified for the sake of sinners, of Christ raised from the dead as the Son of God in power, of grace given freely to those who will trust in Jesus – this message will bring all who bank on it to everlasting salvation.
Shamed, but not Ashamed
Christianity is under siege!
Being bold and outspoken about our Christian faith and principles is decried by our ever increasingly secular society. A society which asks “do Christians think they have a monopoly of the truth?” The prevailing view is that of tolerance, everybody has a right to believe in their own God or religion; there are other great faiths just as good as Christianity – leave me alone to believe what is best for me!
Why do we want to persuade everybody to become Christians? How do we overcome feelings of shame when we are shamed for believing and sharing the gospel? Answer: ponder the power of the gospel to bring forgiven sinners to final, everlasting joy. Nothing in the world can do this except the gospel of Jesus Christ. Judaism (that stops short of Jesus), Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam – they do not have a Saviour who can solve the problem of separation from a holy God through sin and offer sinners hope by grace through faith and not works. Only one message saves sinners, and brings them safely into the presence of God – the gospel of Jesus Christ. It alone is the power of God to salvation.
Therefore, Paul would say – Jesus himself would say – suffer, yes. Be misunderstood, yes. Be shamed, yes. But do not be ashamed. You will be shamed, but you need not be ashamed. Because the message of God's saving work in Christ is the only final triumphant message in the world. For the joy of salvation set before you, take up your cross, follow Jesus, be shamed and despise the shame.
It is the most loving thing in the world to tell the truth about the way of salvation. If Jesus has said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6), then, for the sake of love, we must pay our debt to the world, despise the shaming of our secular society and tell them.
God's power is available to everyone who believes. No one is excluded. Paul was God's servant sent with a message to call the world to obedience through a personal faith in what God had done through Christ. The power of the gospel unto salvation was and is available to everyone who chooses to obey the message through faith. Although the power to save resides in God, the key to that power is a personal faith that leads us to obedience.
In Acts 4:12 it says: "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved". The gospel of Christ alone is the power of God unto salvation.
Verse 17 – For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." It is through faith alone that we can attain salvation, no amount of good works can gain us salvation if we don’t have full, utter and unswerving faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ
Closing prayer. –
Heavenly Father help us believe and to have absolute faith in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to God and to Jesus Christ his son, and our caring servant. AMEN.