Monday, July 29, 2013

Grace And False Assurances by Martin Wiles

Romans 2:17-24
I. The Jews False Assurance

A. Have you ever received false assurances?
1. Imagine the child who receives false assurances from the parent who does not have custody but only visitation rights.
2. Dad promises to pick them up at a certain time or take them to a particular place but makes a habit of calling with excuses as to why he can’t follow through.
3. I recall the time my Dad and all the other ministers in his Association decided to change insurance groups for one who made a better offer than that offered through the Southern Baptist Convention.
4. While the monthly premium was lower, it did not take them long to discover they had been duped.
5. How many have purchased insurance policies with supposedly great benefits only to be pointed to the fine print when the money is needed.
6. Or suppose you visit an antique store in search of a cameo. The dealer had one, assured you it was genuine, and you purchased it for a significant sum of money. Later, you decided to sell it, so you took it to an expert appraiser who unfortunately informed you it was only costume jewelry and worth only a fraction of what you paid for it.

B. The greatest false assurance would be thinking we had salvation but then discovering what we depended on was of no value to affect it.
1. Many Jews found themselves in this very position, and Paul now takes the opportunity to warn them about trusting in uncertain things. They assumed they were Paul’s greatest friends, but now he begins to turn the tables on them and will demonstrate they are as equally wicked as the pagan Gentiles.
2. Early Christians had some of the same misunderstandings as the Jews. Many still held the philosophy that one had to become a Jew in order to be a Christian. The first church-wide Council dealt with this very matter (Acts 15:1-35). Were the Jewish laws incumbent on the Gentiles?
3. The series of phrases Paul uses would readily help the Jews know he was referring to them, but at the same time were designed to make them contemplate why they were not living up to what a Jew was supposed to be. (Paul will later explain what a true Jews is)
4. Paul was certainly not denigrating the Jewish race. He and Jesus belonged to it.
5. What were some of the false assurances they relied on? Obedience to God’s law, their heritage as his chosen people, and special knowledge of God’s law and truth.
6. The first problem encountered is the impossibility to perfectly obey God’s law which would be necessary for it to affect salvation.
7. The rich young religious leader who once approached Jesus asking what he had to do to inherit eternal life reflected a similar misunderstanding.
8. When Jesus rattled off half of the Ten Commandments, the young man proudly-and probably sincerely, proclaimed he had obeyed them. What he failed to realize was there was a spirit of the law at stake in addition to the letter.
9. Though he may have outwardly obeyed them-which is doubtful, he certainly had disobeyed them inwardly.
10.  In fact, Jesus’ instruction for him to sell all he had and follow him produced an inner spirit that was in disobedience to the law.
11.  One command stated a person was to have no other gods before God, but this young man-based on his resulting actions, had placed riches before God.
12.  His leaving proved he had an inner conflict with God’s law.
13.  Jesus also dealt with the spirit of the law in his “You have heard it said, but I say” proclamations.
14.  According to the religious leader’s interpretation of the law, not committing adultery meant not involving oneself in the actual act. Jesus however said that looking at a woman with lust made one guilty. (Matthew 5:28)
15.  So Paul destroys the Jews dependence on God’s law for salvation and eternal security.
16.  Many Jews also depended on their heritage as God’s chosen people.
17.  As such, they viewed themselves as guides to the blind and a light for those who were walking in spiritual darkness.
18.  Interestingly, that was God’s plan for them. He called Abraham from a pagan culture and led him to a land of promise.
19.  The Promised Land was not a place God planned to put him and his descendants because of the godly people living there.
20.  The land of Canaan was filled with a hodgepodge of pagan people who worshipped their gods in a variety of ways-the sexual aspect having a great influence on their worship. Through intercourse with temple prostitutes, they believed their crops would produce. Baal was a fertility god as was his female counterpart.
21.  God’s intent was for Abraham and his descendants to influence the pagans rather than the other way around.
22.  Unfortunately, many of Abraham’s descendents did what many believers still do-they compartmentalized their lives. They worshipped the one true God but also the pagan deities, believing the latter was necessary if their crops and herds were to flourish. They also believed this had no bearing on their loyalty to God.
23.  The believer is endowed with the very same responsibility. Jesus taught we are the salt and light of the world. (Matthew 5:14) If we allow things in our life that will dim the light or affect the saltiness of the salt, we too will fail in our endeavor even as the Jews did.
24.  Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for traveling far and wide to gain one convert but then turning them into a son of hell. (Matthew 23:15)
25.  Rather than guides to the blind, Jesus called them “blind guides.” (Matthew 23:16) There is a huge difference between a Seeing Eye dog and a blind dog.
26.  They were also convinced they had perfect knowledge of God’s law which enabled them to instruct the ignorant and teach spiritual babes the ways of God.
27.  The fact that they often missed the spirit of the law proves they had not mastered what they assumed.

C. Can Christians today make similar mistakes?
1. Could Paul say to us, “If you claim to be a Christian, why aren’t you living up to the name?”
2. Do we depend on heritage matters that also provide false assurances?
3. When coming from a privileged religious heritage, we must avoid some mistakes: thinking God accepts us on a good deeds outweighs bad deeds system, if we are overly good in some areas of spirituality that he will overlook areas of sin in our life, that God is obligated to help or save us because of all the good we have done, or that our spiritual heritage will gain us acceptance with him.
4. We might term those Paul addressed as religionists-those who trust in their religion rather than in a relationship.
5. What are some mistakes the religionist person can make?
a. Thinking just because he has God’s Word and honors it that he automatically honors God with his life.
b. Thinking it is enough to profess belief in God.
c. Thinking God approves him because he knows right from wrong.
d. Assuming he has God’s approval because he supports the better things of life.
e. Assuming God accepts him because he is familiar with the teachings of God’s Word.
f. Because of the above, he assumes he is light to the blind, but religion is the not the light of the world.
g. Because of the above, he assumes he is a guide to the foolish.
h. He assumes he teaches those who are immature in the faith, thus presuming he is mature.

II. The True Jew’s Responsibility
A. Their goal should have been to effectually realize who they thought they were.
1. Their actions were not matching up with what they taught.
2. If they know so much, as they assume, Paul says they should teach others, but at the moment their example would get in the way.
3. Paul mentions the sins of theft (this can be more than an outright act of robbery), adultery, idolatry, and pride of having God’s law.
4. Their actions, however, were causing others to blaspheme the name of God.
5. We must remember we can bring shame on the name of God by our actions, discourage other believers, and cause others to sneer at our God.
6. Just because unbelievers do not have a relationship with Christ does not mean they cannot describe how a Christian should behave. Often, their description is accurate and also a blight on those who claim to be.

B. Before we can judge the sinful actions of others, we must look at ourselves.
1. Jesus taught this same principle in the story about the speck and beam in a person’s eye.
2. In addressing the self righteous and unjust judgment of many, he said we should not try to remove the speck from another person’s eye when we have a log in ours. (Matthew 7:1-5)
3. A self righteous judgmental attitude that leads us to believe we are better than someone else because of our religious heritage only leads to tearing others down while trying to build ourselves up.
4. Obeying God’s will is more than strict obedience to a set of rules. Rote obedience usually misses the true spirit of the law.
5. Those Paul addresses had somehow learned to excuse their own actions or not see them as sinful while condemning the very same things in others-especially the Gentiles.
6. These verses under consideration are actually a rebuke of hypocrisy-pretending to be something we are not even if because we are deceived.
7. It is akin to using Scripture to advise someone to do something you would not be willing to do yourself.
8. It is always easier to say the right words than to live them; to give good advice and not take it ourselves.
9. Salvation involves a relationship not simply obeying a set of rules.

A. While the verses are addressed to Jews or religionists who are depending on their special heritage for salvation, the applications extend to anyone who makes their mistakes.
B. Religion is about a relationship, not adhering to a set of rules and placing our confidence in them or anything else.

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