Summary: This message examines the difference between being religious and being a Christian.
Do you believe that there are people in the world who are lost and don’t even know it? The vast majority of these people are very religious. They do religious things, they talk using the religious jargon and they even dress correctly. In the world today there are approximately 4,200 different religions. There is one thing that every religious person has in common they are depending on their religious deeds to obtain their eternal reward. To properly understand this message I feel it is essential for us to define exactly what a religion is. A religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. In Paul’s day without a doubt the Jewish people were by far the most religious. They were depending upon who they were and what they did to justify themselves before God. In our text Paul is addressing all those who were trusting their heritage to save them and his goal was to show them that this view is faulty. In fact anyone who trusts their heritage and deeds for salvation is as lost as a person who does not know Jesus Christ. Maintaining traditions, doing good deeds, growing up in a Christian family or attending church will not save us. Salvation is not earned by what we do, it is a free gift of God. Perhaps the best way to sum up Paul’s main point is this; “How to live as a Christian without being religious.” Today let’s look at Paul’s words to discover how to be a Christian without becoming religious.
I. Understanding why: the traditional views of the Jews.
A. They relied on their heritage.
1. To the Jew being a direct descendant of Abraham automatically equaled God’s favor and blessings.
2. The name Jew comes from the Hebrew word Judah which means to praise. The Israelites started calling themselves Jews after the Babylonian captivity since they no longer were a nation.
3. They held unswervingly to the belief that they were and always would be God’s chosen people and that made God’s continued blessing sure.
4. Paul in no way is implying that it was wrong to be a Jew, what he is condemning is trusting that your identity will guarantee God’s favor.
B. They placed their trust in the Law.
1. The Jew claimed special status by being the recipients of God’s Law that was given through Moses.
2. When Paul speaks of the Law, he is referring to the first five books of the Bible which was known as the Torah.
3. The Jews believed that their salvation was totally dependent upon their observance of the Law.
4. Paul shows that the continued disobedience to the Law by the Jews not only disgraced themselves but also disgraced God.
C. They kept track of their good works.
1. The Jews, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees of Paul’s day took great pride in the good works they displayed publicly.
2. This was very evident in the fact that they had a much narrower view of life than their neighbors.
a. Dietary laws
b. Lifestyle restrictions
c. Worship instructions
3. They put great stock in the rite of circumcision which God gave to Abraham as sign that would set His people apart.
4. All these things that the Jewish people held to made them believe that they were much more superior to any other people group.
II. Understanding why religion will never lead to salvation.
A. The keeping of rituals and traditions does absolutely nothing to justify us before God.
1. God intended for the Jews to be a light to the Gentiles but their blatant disobedience to the very Law they were teaching disgraced God before the Gentiles.
2. The Jews strived to enforce all the stipulations contained within the Law leading them to pride and a false sense of righteousness. They substituted keeping the ceremonial Laws for obedience.
3. Paul shows that along the line the Jews broke the very Law that they treasured erasing the distinction between them and the Gentiles.
4. The keeping of rituals and traditions are meaningless, what God expects is for us to display His character in our lives for the world to see.
5. There is always the danger of starting to trust in what we do rather than placing our trust in the grace of God.
B. Boasting of religious knowledge leads to self-deception rather than righteousness.
1. Those who have religious knowledge and have been exposed to good teaching run the greatest risk of self-deception.
2. Paul demonstrates that many of the Jews who were seeking to teach the truth to others were deceiving themselves because they were failing to apply the same truth to their own lives.
3. The truth is that it is much easier to tell others how they should behave then to behave in the right way ourselves.