Summary: Rituals won’t change us, but a relationship and faith in Jesus will.
Can Rituals Save You?
Text: Rom. 4:9-12
1. Illustration: Growing up in the Catholic church I knew a lot about rituals. I went to church six, sometimes 7 days a week. I was baptized as a baby. I went to confession to a priest. I was confirmed. I served as an altar boy. The problem was that I didn’t know Jesus, and all the rituals in the world couldn’t change that fact.
2. It wasn’t until someone told me that Jesus wanted to be my personal savior and wanted to have a personal relationship with me that my life changed. Because true Christianity is not about rituals, it’s about relationship.
3. We can look all over the world and see people performing religious rituals, and they change nothing.
4. The only thing that can change us is coming to the cross of Jesus, and by faith accepting him into our lives.
5. In our text today, the Apostle Paul talks about…
a. The Blessing Of Forgiveness
b. The Seal Of Forgiveness
6. Read Romans 4:9-12.
Proposition: Rituals won’t change us, but a relationship and faith in Jesus will.
Transition: First, Paul talks about…
1. The Blessing Of Forgiveness (9-10).
A. Blessing Only For The Circumcised
1. Paul has been talking about the faith of Abraham, and how it was his faith that gave him right standing with God.
2. However, the Jews to whom he was speaking to insisted that it was circumcision that God credited to Abraham as righteousness.
3. So, Paul asks them a very simple question, “Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.”
a. Paul begins by quoting Genesis 15:6 again, asking if the blessing of forgiveness is for the circumcised or if it was also for the uncircumcised?
b. He answers this question by reminding his readers that for Abraham faith was credited to him as righteousness.
c. Now let me remind you of something I said about this a few weeks ago, credited as righteousness was not something that he earned but rather it was a gift from God.
d. Paul is referring back to what he said in vv. 7-8, where he quoted from Psalm 32,
e. Romans 4:7-8 (ESV)
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
f. First-century rabbis applied Ps. 32 only to the Jews, but here Paul is interpreting it in light of Gen. 15:6.
g. It was Abraham’s faith, not his faithfulness to certain rituals, that made him righteous (Barton 594).
4. Now, Paul gets to the real heart of the matter in v. 10, where he asks, “How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.”
a. Here Paul is asking if he was it was credited to him as righteousness after or before he was circumcised?
b. If it came after, then it was the result of good works of the law and the Jewish system was right.
c. However, if it came before circumcision, then Abraham's faith was what initiated it and Christianity is correct.
d. Paul's answer is clear and emphatic, it was before and not after!
e. History bears this out, his faith is credited to him as righteousness anywhere from thirteen to twenty-nine years before his circumcision.
g. Ceremonies and rituals serve as reminders of our faith as well as instruct new or young believers, but we should not think that they give us any special merit before God.
h. They are outward signs and seals that demonstrate inner belief and trust.
i. The focus of our faith should be on Christ and his saving work, not on our own actions.
B. Forgiveness Of Sins
1. Illustration: When Tina and I were in Bible college a black Baptist preacher spoke in chapel one day. He was speaking on the subject of water baptism, and said, “You can go down a dry devil and come up a wet one!”
2. Rituals won’t save us, only faith in Jesus!
a. Acts 26:17-18 (ESV)
17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you
18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
b. The reason that you can go down a dry devil and come up a wet one is that all of the rituals in the world won’t change you.