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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Welcome everyone to HBS and to our study of the book of Romans verse-by-verse.
Before we begin this week’s lesson I’m going to respond to a question:
Why did I start this on-line Bible study?
Statistics show traditional Bible study attendance is still declining and this is true whether it’s held in a church or in the home of a church member. There are multiple reasons for this, of course. Some people have been significantly “hurt” by a church group and are reluctant to attend a Bible study or a church for that matter. Then there are those who are uncomfortable in a small group setting because they “feel” their Bible knowledge is not “up to par” with others in the group. Some people are home-bound. Some are just too busy; they would prefer to arrange and keep their own schedules and fit Bible study in when they have time. I could continue because there are literally as many reasons as there are people in the congregation. Therefore, the need exists for an on-line community of Believers gathering together regularly to study God’s Word in the safety and comfort of their home. HBS and other sites like it have helped fill that niche.
Thank you for the question
Please go to Romans chapter 10 and we’ll drop in at verse 5.
Paul marks the difference between the way of the Law vs the way of faith
5: For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live (by) that righteousness.
Paul wisely chooses to develop his argument by quoting Leviticus 18:5 and Moses, the man who wrote it, where the LORD God says, ’So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them…
The word “if” in this command from God makes it a conditional statement. If Israel would obey all God’s commandments 24/7; 365, then they will LIVE – simply said. The Israelites listened to these words and responded in unison saying, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 24:3).
There’s a small word in Israel’s response that’s often overlooked. It’s the word “do.” The Mosaic Law was legalistic. It was a work-based religious system. But please understand the element of faith has always been a requirement for salvation. You can trace this truth all the way back to Adam and the woman in the garden, after Adam’s act of disobedience. Nothing is specifically mentioned, but we have evidence that an act of faith took place on the part of Adam and the woman because her name was changed to Eve meaning: the mother of all the living. You pick up a couple more clues regarding the need to believe God and obey Him in Genesis 4:3-7. Thus, taking God at His Word and obeying Him have always been an essential element in one’s salvation.
Therefore, you cannot separate the two. Faith and obedience go together.
The LORD God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of the Israelites sins and there were certain procedures prescribed by God which they had to perform (Leviticus 4:35, 16). The Israelites couldn’t deviate from God’s spoken word.
When they obeyed the LORD God, they were demonstrating faith in what God had said. However, as time passed, the faith element slipped away, and all that remained was the rote religious system – the people just did the “works.” And God won’t stand for this: “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ “(Matthew 15:8-9).
Contrastingly, we see this in the church today. People go to their local house of worship, sit in the same seat each week, sing some songs, put a few dollars in the basket when it passes by, fight sleep while the church leader sermonizes, or check their e-mail on their smart phones, leave early before the service is over to beat the rush out of the parking lot, and then return to the practices of the “world” until Sunday comes around again. There is no element of faith involved. People are just participating in the “rote religious practices.” It’s a sad commentary but the majority of Christians today are ignorant concerning what God has said. These folks are doing the “things” they think need to be done (works) but without faith. Just as Paul said, they have a (kind of) zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. And God won’t stand for this! Scripture says, without faith it’s impossible to please Him…
Getting back to Paul, and Moses’ statement in particular, I’m paraphrasing here, perfect obedience to the Law would obtain eternal life from God. If this were not true, the LORD God wouldn’t have said it. But both Paul (Romans 3:9-19, 23) and the Old Testament (1 Kings 8:46) declare that absolutely no one gains eternal life this way because we all sin. But the principle that the LORD God’s demand for faith and no sin is crucial because none of the O.T. sacrifices, or the cross of Christ, makes sense without it.
Paul writes: And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be (what) justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Galatians 3:3-4)
In other words, if you’re one of those who want the “righteousness from law,” you must keep the whole law PERFECTLY and by a PERFECT faith (see Numbers 14:11, 20:12). Only one Man has managed to measure up to God’s perfect standard.
Let’s go to the next verse.
6: But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follow: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), (Deuteronomy 30:12; Romans 9:30)
This verse speaks of achieving self righteousness through human effort.
In verse 6 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 9:4 where God warns Israel: DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART – when the LORD your God has driven them out (Israel’s enemies) before you, ‘Because of My righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land… In other words, Israel’s receiving the Promised Land wasn’t because of anything they had done. It wasn’t due to their ingenuity or military might. It wasn’t because they had kept all of God’s commandments perfectly, so it had nothing to do with their righteousness. It was due to God’s undeserved grace apart from any human effort.
In a nutshell Paul is saying all their good works accumulated over a lifetime (keeping the Law), couldn’t please God. There is no life or salvation in the Law; it can only condemn and kill: For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be (what) fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
God’s way is the only path to “righteousness” and this is by faith in Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected, according to the Scriptures. People in Paul’s day who were building their own “stairway” to heaven based on their good deeds or their own merit system are excluded, as are the people who fall into this category today: For all of us have become unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like filthy garments (Isaiah 64:6).
When Paul says, WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN, he is referring to all the Israelites who were (are) storing up works, trying to be good, to achieve righteousness. It amounts to saying, “I’ve no need of the cross or Jesus Christ because I got this. I can make it on my own.” In effect these people are denying Jesus Christ’s work of the cross which is absolutely necessary for God’s righteousness.
Let’s go to verse 7.
7: or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). “(Hebrews 13:20)
Here Paul is saying don’t presume you can gain God’s righteousness by paying for your own sin for Scripture says: No man can by any means redeem his brother Or give to God a ransom for him – For the redemption of his soul is costly, And he should cease trying forever (Psalms 49:7-8; Matthew 25:8-10).
The only way an individual can be saved today is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Now that’s a narrow path, I know it is and the world believes in “wide paths” or the “many option” plan. But where will those other options take them? That’s the question. If you’re relying on Mohammed, Buddha, Judaism, Hindu gods, or any other religious cult, and some so called Christian systems fit into this category today, for reconciliation none of these religious systems will transform you from being an enemy of God to a saved individual. (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 5:6-10; Ephesians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
When the nation of Israel (or anyone) tries to live under the righteousness of the law, or some other merit system, no slip-ups are allowed. One lie and you’re done. One angry word and you’re out of bounds, and there is no penalty great enough to redeem yourself. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers (here’s that word “do” again) of the Law will be justified. (Romans 2:12-13; Matthew 7:21)
Before we move on from here it’s imperative that you all understand where our Apostle Paul is coming from. He’s emphasizing to his brethren that both Jew and Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation by grace alone through “faith alone,” in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The act of believing (plus nothing else) imputes Christ’s righteousness to the Believer. After that, when God the Father looks at the true Believer He views them “just as if they never sinned” – having been justified by faith (Romans 5:1a). Philemon 18 is the perfect illustration of our sin being imputed to Christ’s account.
Our Apostle Paul preached salvation through “faith” (alone) and it’s important that you understand there is nothing added to this declaration. You don’t need to climb a high mountain, swim a swollen river in the winter, walk on broken glass barefoot, join a specific church group, pray a certain prayer, be baptized with water, keep every commandment perfectly, or tithe a certain amount on a regular basis. When Paul says all you need to do is believe in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures to be saved, plus nothing else that’s what he means (Galatians 1:3-10). Anything added to Paul’s gospel is “works.”
It’s my responsibility to bring to your attention what the Scriptures say and what they don’t say. In regard to the salvation experience, at no time did the Apostle Paul invite the individual to “accept Jesus into their heart, and you’ll not find any mention of a “sinner’s prayer” in Paul’s writings. I’m not interested in starting an argument. I merely point these truths out to you because people have a tendency to “lock on” to the traditions of men forgetting what God said.
A 2011 Barna Study revealed that nearly half of all adults in America have prayed such a prayer, and have heard such an invitation during an altar call. Subsequently they believe they are going to heaven, although many of them rarely, if ever, attend a church, read the Bible personally at home, and have lifestyles that conflict with the written Word of God. This brings up the question of legitimacy regarding their salvation.
Engaging in debates as to whether it’s right or wrong for someone to use the expression “Ask Jesus into your heart” is a fruitless waste of time, much like riding a merry-go-round it gives you something to do, but takes you nowhere. However, it may interest you to know that some evangelicals have begun to criticize the “sinner’s prayer” as unbiblical and superstitious. They say there is more to salvation than saying a “formulaic prayer.”And this Bible teacher couldn’t agree more and says thank you God.
The real issue is ASSURANCE. What matters is establishing a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and then knowing you are truly saved. I know children and adults who struggle with the issue of assurance. They doubt their salvation.
Academic credentials are no guarantee of clarity in communication. Sometimes an educated person can take a simple message, confuse it, and make it anything but clear. In Colossians 4:4 Paul prayed to make his gospel telling clear “to light up” it’s message.
The person who relays the message of God’s good news has the responsibility to “shed light” on the message; to make it clear, and not obscure it.
How important is this? Answer this question for me: what’s at stake?
Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of salvation (Romans 1:16). So, it’s no wonder Paul had an “anathema” for anyone who preached a different gospel.
At some point in time every Believer is going to be given an opportunity to share the gospel in some form or fashion. When doing so, they must be very careful about what they say and how they say it. For example the word “believe” can be misleading, if it’s presented as intellectual assent, instead of as trust. Judas Iscariot believed certain “facts” about Jesus but he never came to trust Jesus for his salvation.
Salvation is not about believing a list of facts.
Salvation is not about asking Jesus to come into your heart.
Salvation is not about praying to God for forgiveness (He’s already done that).
Salvation is about believing Jesus Christ’s shed blood, death, burial, and resurrection were for you; and on this matter you “won’t be shaken” (firmly stand).
(To be continued)
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