Summary: Whether or not we encounter God’s truth when we study the Scriptures is determined by the approach we take to them.
In this series, we want unbelievers to understand that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. We also want believers to understand that the way to life the Christian life is not by religion. Many unbelievers have concluded Christianity is a religion because believers have taken a religious approach to living the Christian life. Therefore, one of the best things that believers can do for unbelievers is to lose our religion.
We’ve talked about justification - being right with God. We said we can’t be made right with God by our good works, but only by the work Christ performed through His death for our sins and His resurrection.
We’ve also talked about sanctification - living right for God. The way to live right for God is not by a religious approach focusing on “do’s and don’ts” but by cultivating our love relationship with Christ.
One of the ways we cultivate our love relationship with Christ is through our reading and studying of the Bible. Through the Scripture, we can grow in our relationship with Christ and thus, be enabled to live for God. Jesus prayed for us and said: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” - John 17:17 (NIV)
Through spending time in God’s Word, we can learn truth that enables us to live right for God. This brings us to our today’s topic - how, as followers of Christ, we need to reject religion for real truth.
Paul is writing to the church in Corinth - a church he started. He had been away for a while and another group had arrived, who taught things contrary to Paul. This group was part of what scholars refer to as “Judaizers.” We first encounter the “Judaizers,” in Acts 15.
“Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.’” - Acts 15:5 (NIV)
These folks were believers who insisted that if one was to be right with God and live right for God, they must adhere to the law of Moses.
As we pointed out last time, as we looked to Matthew 11:28-30, Rabbis in Jesus’ day would develop a suggested way of living called a “yoke” to teach people how to keep from violating the law of Moses. A rabbi would have thousands of laws called “hedges” he taught as his suggested way of living right for God.
This was the Judaizer’s approach. Paul, however, said the way to live for God is through a growing love relationship. The Judaizers brought letters of recommendation to validate their teachings. Paul’s letters of qualification were the changed lives of the Corinthians themselves.
In verse 6, Paul contrasts his approach to the Scriptures with that of these Judaizers. What is saying is that his approach to the Scriptures presented real truth as opposed to that taught by the Judaizers, as
evidenced by the changed lives of the Corinthians believers.
How could Paul and these Judaizers approach the same Scripture (the Old Testament) and come to such different conclusions? The difference was that the Judaizers took a “letter of the law” approach, while Paul took a “led by the Spirit” approach.
1. A “letter of the law” approach focuses on defending tradition, while a “led by the Spirit” approach focuses on discovering truth - vs. 7-11
This New Covenant that Paul mentions in verse 6 is spoken of in the Old Testament. But these Judaizers were so focused on defending the traditions of Judaism that they failed to see it!
“‘The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the LORD. ‘I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” - Jeremiah 31:31-32a; 33 (NLT)
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” - Ezekiel 36:25-28 (NIV)