Summary: Can we accept Jesus as our savior and not as our Lord? Paul gives us a very important answer.
"Depart from me, I never knew you."
What chilling words these will be for those who thought they were going to enter heaven but instead were turned away. How can we be sure that we won;t hear those words? Let’s be careful to know for sure.
Romans 6:15 - “A Sorry State”
As Paul writes his letter to the Romans he is careful to be very clear regarding the doctrine of salvation. Paul up to this point has given a clear picture of how Christ alone provides our salvation, but in this verse his tone changes quickly and he provides a point of clarification. Paul asks this rhetorical question; “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” I believe this is a fair question to ask you today. Should you continue in sin because your salvation is by grace alone through faith alone?
If we are not saved by our works then do our works really matter? Many of those who profess Christianity must think not. The amount of Christians who get divorced each year is equal to our non-Christian neighbors. Many Christian youth believe cheating is okay as long as they do not get caught.1 25% of those who claim to be born again and who regularly attend church say that they have no personal relationship to Christ2 and 60% of evangelical Christians feel no responsibility to share their faith.3 Paul was concerned about a group of Christians who believed this way and we ought to be concerned as well. When we are faced with the question - is continuing sin in the life of a Christian okay - we should reply as Paul, “Certainly not!”
As we follow Paul’s argument we need to appreciate his heart here. Paul does not give a watered down invitation to Christ. His concern here is not for response, but for clarity. Greg Laurie in his book The Upside Down Church states “Sometimes we pastors get to thinking that our objective is to make people respond to God. But, that is not your job or my job. Our job is to make the message clear and leave the results up to God.”4 Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” This is a strong warning and one which you and I should be mindful. Who is Jesus referring to in this passage? It is obvious that He is talking about those who claim a servant relationship with Him but refuse the Father’s will. As your pastor I, like Paul, have a tremendous responsibility to explain the whole gospel. In this light, join with me as we follow Paul’s clarification of the gospel message.
Romans 7:16 “A Matter of Loyalty”
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey...” Right away Paul lets the reader know that salvation is less a matter of destination than one of loyalty. Too often we think in terms of heaven and hell in regard to salvation. The rich young ruler who came to Jesus as recorded in Luke 18 also thought in this manner as evidenced by his question, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Pause here for a moment and think with me how thrilled we would be to have a rich man come to our church and ask us what it would take to join. We know how we would respond, but how did Jesus respond? Jesus answered him by telling him to sell all that he had and to give it to the poor and to follow him. Of course the rich man turned away and Jesus replied, “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”
A closer look at the terminology in this passage gives us some insights as to why this is true. The rich man called Jesus “Good Teacher” rather than Lord. This is very significant for us to understand. Are you aware that the term “lord” appears in the Bible nearly 8,000 times? This is more than any other word excluding pronouns, conjunctions and the like. The implications of this term must be explored if we are to fully understand the gospel. The Greek term for Lord carries with it all the implications of authority and sovereignty.5 When one is lord, then that person is in a sense a king to whom those who address him as such must be loyal. Perhaps this is why translators used the term to translate Yahweh perhaps feeling that nothing else could capture the meaning of God’s name better.
The rich man also wanted “eternal life” but Jesus referred to what he was seeking as “the kingdom of God.” It is as if Jesus was saying that eternal life is impossible outside the kingdom of God. It is only in accepting his lordship that one becomes a part of that kingdom. Paul gives us only two possibilities of loyalty in this passage, one is sin and the other is righteousness. I ask you, which one are you loyal too? Verse 17 tells us that we were slaves to sin and we must ask - how did this happen?