Summary: Why are we so concerned that people should become christians?
George Barna, a market researcher on Christianity, recently revealed that 51%, or 1 out of 2 people, believed ‘good people’ went to heaven. Sophie Loren, some of you are old enough to know who that is, said this when asked if she was going to heaven: “I should to heaven, otherwise it is not nice. I haven’t done anything wrong. My conscience is very clean. My soul is as white as those orchids over there and I should go straight to heaven.” You know the sad thing about those two comments – many people, even some in here this morning, actually agree with them. This morning I want to answer the question ‘Why Christian?’ If good people go to heaven then how much good is good enough to get there? If a clean conscience is the necessary requirement then how do we clean our conscience? I want to say neither of those are the means of salvation and heaven. Turn with me to Romans 10 and let us hear what the Word of God says concerning being a Christian.
Romans – context of the letter – it is generally accepted that Romans is the greatest of all Paul’s letters. He wrote Romans somewhere between 51-57AD. Romans is the great exposition of the doctrine of salvation set out in logical fashion. Paul states the doctrine and then the application of that doctrine to daily living of the Christian. Salvation is the main theme of Romans and it comes from the righteousness of God – which the passage before us this morning addresses.
In verses 1-4 Paul speaks of his loving concern for the nation of Israel. Paul speaks from personal experience of their condition before God. Paul knew their condition as it was his own before he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. In verse 1 he addresses them as ‘brothers’ – but please remember this letter is going to the Christians in Rome. He is referring here to those who are ‘brothers in Christ.’ He wants to state again, as he had shown in his actions of going to the Jews, first with the gospel, that his desire is for them to be saved. This is Paul’s heartfelt desire and purpose in preaching the gospel that the Jews, but not only they, would come to the saving knowledge of Christ.
Verse 2 – Paul bears testimony to the zeal of the people of Israel for God. However this zeal is based on ignorance and not true knowledge of God. But please note their ignorance is not excused. They may have been sincere, as Paul once was, in their zeal, persecuting the church, as he once did (1 Tim 1.13), but they were sincerely wrong and therefore stand condemned before God. Zeal is good but without knowledge it will lead to disaster. Augustine once said “It is better to limp in the right way than to run with all your might out of the way.” Please here those words of Paul. If the nation of Israel were without excuse, even though they acted out of ignorance of the revelation of God in Christ, then how much more do you and I stand condemned when we do have the knowledge of Christ. It was not out of evil minds that they acted but ignorance and yet they are still not saved. Please hear that this morning.
Verse 3 ‘Since’ introduces the reason for their zeal, their actions. They were ignorant of the righteousness which comes from God. Ignorant of that they sought their own righteousness through human effort in keeping the Law. But in so doing Paul says they were in fact refusing to submit to God’s righteousness. Listen to me this morning: If this morning you are seeking to be right with God through anything other than Christ then you stand condemned this morning – according to these verses. It is in fact a rebellious act to seek righteousness other than that which comes from God in Christ. The Jews did not understand that they could not establish a righteousness of their own before God. No matter how hard they tried or how sincere they were they were doomed to failure. Listen to these words of Paul in Romans 1.17 – read. This righteousness from God is revealed in Christ and it is this alone, received by faith, which Paul says brings salvation. It was of this that the nation of Israel was ignorant of and so attempted to establish their righteousness through observance of the Law.
Verse 4 – but look what Paul says here about the Law. ‘For’ at the beginning of verse 4 moves the argument along and establishes the basis for Paul’s teaching on this matter. In Christ the Law not only found its fulfilment but also its end. Paul speaks here of the decisiveness and finality of the work of Christ. The Law pointed to Christ and in Christ it came to completion. But all that the Law did was to establish their sinfulness before God and their need for the righteousness which comes from God. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ had brought to an end any attempt to be righteousness before God by observation of the Law. Look at the last sentence of this verse – righteousness for those who believe. Paul now brings his readers back to what he had stated in 1.17 – it is by faith the righteous live.