“If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!) So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”
Romans 4:14-25 NLT
Abraham, being an elderly man, approximately 100 years old, should have, naturally speaking, been incapable of fathering a child. However, God, supernaturally, made him capable. This was an act of God! The same was true of his wife Sarah. She was 90 years of age. Have you ever known, personally, a 90 year old woman who got pregnant and had a baby? I haven't. It would be considered a miracle. Indeed, it would be. In the natural, it is impossible. With God, it is possible.
We, too, must recognize that the only way we can be "born again" (John 3:1-7) is through supernatural impartation. We are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). Only Jesus can, by his power, make our sinful, dead spirit alive again. Take a moment to praise Him right now!!!
“David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.” Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised! Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised. Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.”
Romans 4:6-13 NLT
The Holy Spirit is driving home the definite truth of salvation by faith. If this is not clear in the last few chapters we have gone through, then we must be blind. It is established, without debate, that anyone who is right with God is made that way by faith. No one can ever say they are good enough to obtain righteous standing with God. We could call this Positional righteousness. Positional righteousness is our acceptance by God. We can only be accepted by God through Jesus Christ (see John 14:6; I Timothy 2:5: Acts 4:12: Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:10)
Practical righteousness is our response to being made positionally righteous. Because we have been placed in right standing with God, through Jesus Christ, we are now rendered capable of walking in newness of life through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes into us to dwell. Only then, by God's person and power, are we able to walk in the spirit rather than the flesh. The Holy Spirit gives us power from God to live a life that pleases Him. The natural, unregenerate, sinful, man is incapable of accomplishing true righteousness apart from God's imparted power which is received by faith!!
“Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”
Romans 4:1-5 NLT
Genesis 15:6 is the passage Paul was referencing about Abraham. Abraham lived before the civil, ceremonial, and moral law was given to Moses. If keeping the law saves someone, then Abraham would have been lost. We know, however, from the last couple of days that this is not the case. It has always been about faith. Faith is trusting in what cannot be humanly seen or achieved. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Verse 6 of the same book and chapter says “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Ephesians 2:8 says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”. Paul makes this same remark in verses 4 and 5 of today's reading. Salvation is a gift, not a wage. We earn wages. A gift is freely received, not achieved. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV.
Words cannot describe the gift of salvation. Are you a recipient of that salvation? I pray so! If not, simply call on Him and ask Him to save you. Now, shout for Joy because of our Father's lavish love!!!
“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”
Romans 3:21-31 NLT
No need to say more!!!!!!!
“Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace.” “They have no fear of God at all.” Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
Romans 3:9-20 NLT
In today's scripture we see that Paul makes himself, as a Jew, equal with all sinful men. We are all sinners. The law, given to Moses, was a skeleton of sorts. Its intention was to bring strength, stability, and structure to an, otherwise chaotic, out of control, depraved people. Without the regulations, rebellious, wicked mankind would sink to lows that would utterly destroy civilization. Stability and civility are essentials to life. Man left to himself would self destruct. The law was given to us, in God's great mercy, to preserve us alive with the intent of giving us opportunity to see how sinful we are and perhaps repent and be saved from eternal death. Paul quotes from the Psalms to underscore his point. He uses Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; 36:1. He also draws from Isaiah 59:7-8. Using these passages, he illustrates the condition of all men. Lastly, he emphatically states that no man can be made right with God by doing what the law says (see verse 20). The law can protect us from the excess of unrighteousness, it can promote our well being humanly, and even punish our violations, but it cannot change our person. Our sinful nature must be transformed. No law can do that. The law informs but cannot transform. Only Jesus can transform! We need a complete spiritual metamorphosis. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!!!
“Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God. True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him, “You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.” “But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.”
Romans 3:1-8 NLT
The Jewish man can recognize the value of his circumcision because it symbolizes the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 17:9-14. The act of circumcision was a very important part of the Jewish religious heritage. The Jews are the ones who received the spoken Word of God. Christianity was birthed from Judaism (the Jewish religion). Jesus was born from Jewish lineage. However, we must not determine that we are "ok" with God just because we have gone through a religious ceremony or have been the recipients of a religious heritage.
Just as we cannot equate religious association with salvation, we cannot say that our sinful conduct brings God more glory because it magnifies His Holiness.
On one hand we have the religious man. On the other hand, we have the wicked man. Both are under a misunderstanding of their own hearts. No matter what we do religiously or what we think rationally to excuse our irreverence, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Ceremony, or the absence thereof, without the true knowledge of salvation both result in the same thing: a lost soul. We must recognize that we can only be saved from our sin through the atoning work of Jesus. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are called to depart from our sinful acts. The presence of the Holy Spirit within us enables us to overcome (Romans 8:1 and 2). 2 Timothy 2:19 says "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (KJV).
We cannot say that we know the Creator and walk distinctly opposite of His ways. We need to adopt ways of life that enhance our respect, reverence, and awe of God's Holiness but we must never confuse our "ways" with salvation. Truly knowing and loving Jesus results in a changed life, but the things we do can never achieve salvation. Christ Alone has accomplished this. Salvation is received, not achieved. Gifts are accepted by the recipient at no cost to them. However, the price of the gift was paid by the giver. Jesus paid our price!!
(See Ephesians 2:8-10 and Romans 5:15,16,18; 6:23).
“The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God’s law. But if you don’t obey God’s law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. And if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it. For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
Romans 2:25-29 NLT
Once again, the Holy Spirit makes a clear declaration that we aren't pleasing in God's sight by outward observances of ritual or ceremony. How many people will attend church this weekend thinking "O, I did my duty" and walk out of a place of worship the same way they walked in: Lost. They are lost because they equate participation in the liturgy of a church service with being pleasing to God. No, pleasing God comes through submission to Jesus. He is the means of our fleshly circumcision (the cutting away of our sinful nature). The new covenant He established through His body and blood is the only atonement for our sin. There is NO OTHER option!!! We cannot rid ourselves of the Adamic nature (The depraved, sinful, wicked nature of humanity that came because of the sin of Adam). ONLY JESUS, the last Adam (see I Corinthians 15:45-47) can cut away our flesh (carnal, wicked nature). Only He never sinned (See 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15). Only a sinless sacrifice, as a substitution for the first Adam, could be the acceptable payment for our sin. Then, and only then, could we be accepted by God. When we trust our sinful lives to God, through Jesus, we undergo a transformation process. He makes us acceptable to God and restores us to right standing with God! He completely changes us from the inside out, not from the outside in. You can wash a pig, put a ribbon on its tail, spray it with perfume or cologne, take it to church, and teach it all of the manners of religious practice, but it's still a pig. The only way a pig can be anything else is through a divine transformation. The same is true with us. We CANNOT become anything other than what we are, apart from a divine transformation. That divine transformation is through the shed blood of Jesus! As 2 Corinthians 5:17 proclaims “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” KJV.
“You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth. Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.””
Let's draw a parallel between the Jew/Gentile relationship and the church goer/non church goer relationship. There are millions in America who identify themselves as "Christian" because of their association with the faith in some form or another. Some seldom pass through the doors of a church and yet claim to be "Christian". Others attend regularly and, therefore, feel they deserve the title. Perhaps many feel the connection simply because their family roots are in the faith. The sad commentary is, however, that although these people associate with "Christianity" their lives are in opposite practice of its principles of faith.
Often, those who do not identify themselves as "Christian" at all, are repulsed by the actions of those who do. Such was the case in the above scripture. The Jews felt they deserved to be recognized as "God's" people just because of their inherited faith.
My friend, none of us can claim to be "God's" children simply by association, tradition, or heritage. The only way we can call ourselves His children is to visit the cross and recognize that our sin placed Jesus there. We must repent (turn from by a change of mind and direction), ask for forgiveness of our sins, and invite Jesus to become Lord of our lives. This is what is known as being "born again" (see 2 Corinthians 7:10; I John 1:9; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:8-10,13; and John 3:1-7).
Today, no matter how your idea developed that you are "Christian", I challenge you to examine the evidence based on the Word of God rather than your assumptions. Are you truly in the faith??
“For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
Romans 2:12-16 NASB
Being a Christian is not determined by whether you attend church, go to Sunday School, hold a position in the church, or even if you have a theological degree from a Christian institution. You can talk the lingo, share the rhetoric, go through the motions, and be a nice, moral person but that doesn't redeem you. You cannot simply identify yourself as Christian because you are a church going individual that carries a Bible, has a bumper sticker that says "honk if you love Jesus", have your name on the church membership roll, and have been raised in a Christian home. All of these things are great things but when it comes to the transformation of your sinful, wretched spirit there is only one cure - THE BLOOD OF JESUS!!! (See Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:14; I Peter 1:18-19 KJV).
I have said, in the pulpit at church, that there will be people in heaven that we thought were going to hell and there will be people in hell that we thought were going to heaven. Why? Because God, and God alone knows the true condition of someone's spirit. We see, and observe the outward person. God sees the spirit.
I can hear someone saying "I thought you had to live the Christian life to show that you are a follower of Jesus and to get to heaven!" Well, first of all, what is the Christian life? Is it doing what all of the other church people are doing or is it living like Christ? I submit to you that a true follower of Jesus will be a transformed person (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). I also submit to you that a disciple of Jesus will desire to live like Jesus (see 1 John 2:6). However, we cannot say we are a follower of Jesus simply by going through the motions. We must have His Spirit (see Romans 8:9-11).
Whether we are Jew, Gentile, religious or not, we most certainly must be born again (see John 3:1-7). Correspondingly, it is important for a believer to be connected to a local church. Every baby needs a family and a home, every car needs a place to park, and every tree needs a place to be planted and grow. I believe that every believer needs a bible believing, preaching church to call home, and a place to belong and stay planted (see Hebrews 10:25).
Sitting on a pew doesn't make me a Christian any more than sitting at a gas station makes me a car. It is possible to be so religious that you are blinded by your own self righteousness. Do the right things, but be absolutely certain that Jesus has washed you in HIS BLOOD! Only then will you be acceptable to God!
“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”
Romans 2:1-11 NLT
Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, challenged the religious man (specifically the Jew) to recognize their own wickedness. The Gentile culture was steeped in obvious ungodliness and debauchery (excessive perverted conduct). The Jewish man (religious man) could stand back and point his finger at the obvious wicked conduct of the heathen world but he couldn't see the wickedness of his own heart.
Regardless of whether you are a wicked man or a dedicated religious man, if you haven't recognized yourself as a sinner apart from God, repented of that sin, and accepted Jesus as Lord, you are still lost. No one is "ok" with God just because they are raised in a moral environment, attend church, and lives a "clean" life. What is unclean is our nature. We are born in sin. We need redemption. Only Jesus can redeem us from our unclean state of life!!! Only the blood of Jesus can wash our sins away!!!
It is a good thing to live a clean life and to contribute to the moral stability of society, but that isn't good enough. There is only One who is "good". Jesus is His name! My trust is completely in Him!!! I pray yours is as well!
Rev. Curtis Norris