7 Things That Will Not Bring Salvation – Part 1

In the days when the Apostle Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, there were a lot of seemingly “religious” people who were counting on a lot of different things to make them acceptable before God. Paul knew very well the heart and mind of the average devout and pious Jew, after all, he had been one himself. In Romans 2:17-2:29, he referenced 7 key elements upon which many of his countrymen and former spiritual brothers were relying in order to receive the Salvation of God. Although he applied these specifically to the Jews, we can certainly see many obvious similarities between what they were counting on to save them and what many around us today are confiding in for their own salvation. Let’s look at them now:

1.) Spiritual Heritage

“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,” (Romans 2:17)

There was a great deal of spiritual pride among many Jews in that day. The culture and race into which they were born gave a false sense of security to many Israelites. They felt that, since they were descendants of Abraham, whom God blessed, God would bless them each individually, as well. They believed that this heritage and lineage entitled them to God’s favor, regardless of their own personal behavior.

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

John the Baptist pointed out the illogical nature of this type of thinking to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to investigate his ministry. God places no value on a person’s heritage and lineage, He deals with each person based on their own faith and actions, not their great-grandfather’s.

Jesus, in one of His own confrontations with the Pharisees, made it clear that a person’s true father is the one whose will he obeys and whose behavior he imitates:

“They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:39-44)

As Paul had earlier mentioned, God makes no distinction with respect to a person’s race or nationality (see Romans 2:11), and He certainly gives no merit to a person’s heritage. The Jews of the day were relying on the fact that they were Jewish to save them from God’s judgment. They believed that, since they were descendants of Abraham, God would spare them.

What About Today?

We should notice that verse 17 does not say, “Behold thou art a Jew…”
It says, “Behold thou art CALLED a Jew…” (emphasis added).

The distinction is subtle, but very important because this passage serves to define what really makes a person a Jew. The common idea of the time was that a person is born a Jew, racially and religiously. But being a Jew has more to do with obeying God than it does a birthright.

Distinguishing between the Jewish race and the Jewish religion is a difficulty even to this day. Added to it is the confusion of the title “Jew” given to the scattered peoples of Jewish heritage throughout the world. It is hard to know exactly what a person is referring to when they say, “I am a Jew.” Do they mean that they are an “Orthodox Jew” who practices the religion of Judaism? Are they a “secular Jew” in the sense that they are an Israeli national but not necessarily a member of the Jewish faith? Or are they a Jew simply because their ethnic background is of Semitic origin, regardless of their nationality and religion?

The ancient definition melded these distinctions together. If you were a Jew by race then you were a Jew by religion. If you were one, then you were the other. This concept still exists in the Arab Middle East today where a person’s religious affiliation is inseparably tied to their national origin. Since participation in the State endorsed religious practices in Islamic countries is compulsory, every person living in those countries is either considered a Muslim if they participate, or a heretic and criminal if they do not.

Consequently, Arabs label any Westerner as a “Christian”, regardless of their religious beliefs, simply because they were born in a nation where the historically predominate religion has been Christianity. Added to this is a residual mindset from the medieval days of  Christendom, where “Christianity” was often more of a political force used to unite a King’s subjects than a religion.

So, the idea still exists to this day. Many people in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Australia identify themselves as “Christian” for no other reason than that has been the religious heritage they were brought up in. To them, it is a cultural identifier more than a religious faith. They may have never set foot in a Christian church, picked up a Bible, or prayed a single prayer, but they will claim to be Christian because of the culture into which they were born. They believe that this spiritual heritage is enough to make them right with God.

Others rely on the faithfulness of family members to save them from God’s judgment. They believe that the fact that their father was a Protestant minister, or that their sister is a Roman Catholic nun is sufficient reason for God to deal mercifully with them. I once actually heard a woman comment that her mother was extremely delighted that her brother was studying to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood since it meant an automatic “free pass to Heaven” for the whole family!

If anything, our spiritual heritage does more to condemn us than save us if we reject God’s grace. Salvation is non-transferable from one person to the next, every person must secure it for themselves by their own faith in Jesus Christ.

2.) Knowledge Of God’s Will

“And knowest his will…” (Romans 2:18a)
The second thing that will not save a person from God’s righteous judgment is knowing His will. The Jews had the written Word of God in the form of the Old Testament and could read God’s will in it. They felt that this gave them an inside track into the heart and mind of God, that they knew Who He was and what His will was for mankind. This “inside knowledge” of God, they felt, was sufficient to shield them from God’s judgment.

3.) Approval of God’s Law

“…and approvest the things that are more excellent,…” (Romans 2:18b)

The exaltation and reverence for God’s Law, God’s Word, or a strong moral code are not enough to make us right with God, either. The Jews in that day placed a great deal of reverence on God’s Word. The local synagogue normally contained the sole copy of the Law in each town, and it was handled with the greatest of care. Great ceremony and ritual accompanied bringing it out or putting it into the place where it was kept hidden away behind a veil or curtain.

The religious leaders of the day would even strap over-sized cases which contained fragments of Scriptures to their foreheads or arms in response to God’s instructions in Deuteronomy 6:8. The emphasis, however, was on the wearing of the case itself. They did this, not because of their love for God or their desire to keep His Word close to them, but to impress others with their supposed religious devotion. They did this as an exhibition to try to convince others of their high regard for the Word of God and their approval of what it said.

What About Today?

There are parallels with this type of behavior in our own day. We mentioned in our second item, Knowledge of God’s Will, that to simply know God’s will and what His Word says is not enough, neither is our approval of it.

We can agree with what the Bible says, we can talk about how good the Ten Commandments are, we can go on and on about how Jesus was a great spiritual leader Who taught some wonderful truths or the impact on morality that the Word of God has had on the world. We can attend church week after week and shout, “Amen!” to everything the preacher says. But do we know Jesus and is He our Savior? Or are we just going through the motions, hoping that will be enough?

We will look at number 4 next time, Lord willing.

What Must We Believe? – 10 Components of The Gospel Message

When I first came to faith in Jesus Christ — that is to say, when I got “saved” — I was a 9 year old boy. At that time, I had never heard the word “Trinity” (except maybe as part of the name of a church), I couldn’t have told you who Habakkuk was, I was unable to even spell Deuteronomy, and I didn’t even realize there was a difference between Methodists and Presbyterians (except that they attended different churches, of course). Names like John Wesley, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and John Calvin were completely foreign to me. But I did know one thing: I knew that Jesus Christ loved me and cared about me. I knew that He had given Himself for me (although I really had no idea what the Crucifixion and Resurrection were all about or why they were even necessary).

My faith in the Lord Jesus was very simple and literally “child-like” at that time, but it was a real faith. I trusted in Him and knew that I wanted to follow Him, whatever that meant. After a time or two of finding myself wayward and wandering, this prodigal son did eventually come home, and I ended up learning a few more things about my precious Savior and His Word than I knew at the beginning. I didn’t become more saved by learning these things, nor did my faith somehow become more efficacious having found them out. But after I did become a part of God’s family, there were some important components of the Gospel Message that I came to understand more fully, components that are fundamental to what actually defines the Gospel.

But the question remains: Are there essential elements of the Gospel that should eventually be believed and accepted as a Christian gains maturity in their relationship with the Lord? I believe that there are. There are certain absolute, non-negotiable tenets that constitute what it means to truly be a Christian, doctrines which cannot be rejected by one who would claim to trust in and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, once they do learn about them. Traditionally, the Church has written down “creeds” which delineate agreed upon doctrines that should be universally accepted,whose recital and confirmation often establish whether or not an individual may join their congregation as a full member. But long before a single creed was written, the Apostle Paul included 10 such fundamental doctrines for all believers in the Book of Romans:

“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:23-25)

The “it” that Paul is writing about here is “Justification by faith” or, “Salvation.” In the same manner that Abraham was justified before God by the simple fact that he believed God, so it is with the believer in Jesus Christ. Contained within this statement are our 10 key elements that we must believe:

1.) Salvation Is Available To All

“But for us also…”

The universal availability of Justification with God is repeatedly demonstrated throughout the opening chapters of Romans (e.g., 1:14, 1:16, 2:11, 3:22, 3:30, 4:12, 4:16). This is very crucial for us to believe because if we doubt that God’s Grace is available to us, we are not going to put our faith in Him. If we believe that God’s Grace is not available to someone else, we are not going to share the Gospel with them. Therefore, it is very important that we understand and believe that every living person has access to receiving Salvation.

2.) Righteousness Is Imputed, Not Earned

“to whom it shall be imputed…”

Again, many verses in the opening chapters of Romans clearly show that Salvation is a gift of Grace from God, not something earned by man’s efforts (e.g., Rom. 3:20, 3:27-28, 4:4). Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

One of the most crucial things that we must understand about the Gospel is that Righteousness with God is never earned, it is imputed as a gift.

3.) Salvation Is Voluntary And Contingent On If We Believe

“If we believe…”

Salvation is not an automatic provision for anybody. It occurs only if we believe. There are some who teach that you need to do absolutely nothing in order to be saved. There are others who teach that everyone (or almost everyone) will be saved. Neither of these teachings are supported by the Bible.

Granted, our part in the process of Salvation is vastly lesser than God’s part. In fact, He has done EVERYTHING else in order for you to be saved. The ONLY thing that you have to do is believe on Him. But you do have to do that.

4.) We Must Believe On God

“believe on Him…”

Some people believe that it really doesn’t matter who or what you believe, as long as your belief is sincere. But whom we put our faith in is extremely crucial. It is not enough to just have faith, our faith must be in God. We must know in Whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12).

5.) Jesus Was Raised From The Dead

“that raised up Jesus…”

We MUST believe that Jesus Christ was literally and physically resurrected from the dead. If we do not, then we remain dead ourselves in our own sin (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). If Jesus Christ was not literally raised from the dead, then He is dead still. And so are we.

6.) Jesus Is Our Lord

“Jesus our Lord…”

There is a movement in some parts of the Church today which teaches that one does not need to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord in order to be saved. Proponents of this “No-Lordship Salvation” teach that it is only necessary to believe that Christ paid the price for your sins. There is no obligation or expectation to turn from sin and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, only to believe that He has paid the price for your sins and then you are consequently free to live your life however you choose.

I am unable to find any passage in the New Testament where the Gospel is presented apart from the accompanying call to follow Christ or the title of “Lord” being attached to His name. This passage is no exception.

7.) Jesus Died

“from the dead…”

Along with a literal, physical resurrection, we must believe that Jesus suffered a literal, physical death. Skeptics and liberal Theologians have suggested countless alternate scenarios where Jesus did not actually die, it only seemed that way.  But in order for an actual resurrection to occur, an actual death must also occur.

Jesus Himself said that He was dead and is alive again (Revelation 1:18).  How can we say we believe on Him if we do not believe what He has said?

8.) Jesus Was Delivered

“Who was delivered…”

We must understand that Jesus was not a helpless victim, no, He was in control of His destiny and voluntarily went to the Cross (Matthew 26:53, John 19:11). Jesus was the Perfect Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus willingly paid the price for the sins of mankind.

9.) For Our Sins

“Delivered for our offences…”

This is why Jesus was crucified. For our sins. He has paid the penalty required of us.

10.) And Raised For Our Justification

The whole purpose of His death and Resurrection was so that we could be justified with God if we believe on Him.

So, we see nestled into Romans 4:23-25 a summary of the entire Gospel Message. These are the essential components that we must believe if we are truly trusting in Him.

Five Characteristics Of A Servant Of God

Today, I would like to talk about 5 characteristics that every servant of God should have, based on the Apostle Paul’s introduction to the Book of Romans. These characteristics were present in the life and ministry of Paul and are good indicators of any Christian’s spiritual health. They can be found in Romans 1:8-12.

A Thankful Servant

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (Romans 1:8)

Verses 1-7 of Romans 1 serve as the typical formal “greeting and salutations” that open up most of Paul’s letters. They serve as an introduction of Paul, the writer; the church at Rome, the addressee; and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the book’s subject. Verse 7 concludes these lines of introduction with a benediction to the Roman believers to whom this book is addressed.

So, Verse 8 would be the actual first sentence of the body of the letter itself. After reading the entirety of Romans, we see that Paul certainly had a great deal of extremely crucial doctrines to expound on in this letter and, judging by the fact that he begins shortly hereafter to present and define the Gospel in earnest (beginning with Verse 18), he is not given to wasting a lot of time with excessive pleasantries. But what is the first thing that he does?

“First, I thank my God…”

A devoted servant of the Lord will be sure to take the time to thank God, regardless of their own sense of urgency for the task at hand. Before he asks another thing from God or presents anything else to his readers, Paul ensures that he gives thanks to the Provider of all things. The frequent giving of thanks in the life of a believer is an often repeated, highly important practice in all of Paul’s teachings (e.g., Phil. 4:6, Col. 3:15, 1 Tim. 2:1). In fact, he will tell the Church in Thessalonica that the giving of thanks to God is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ for the Christian (1 Thess. 5:18). And he will shortly tell the Church in Rome that unthankfulness is a step in the path that leads a man away from God and is a hallmark of a heart in rebellion against the Lord (Rom. 1:21).

A Prayerful Servant

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;” (Rom. 1:9)

How many inner, spiritual struggles; how many conflicts within our own souls; how many crises of faith and moments of doubt could be resolved if we were to admit that we do not always pray as we should? We know that we ought to pray and pray often, but other matters crowd into our lives, competing for our attention — and they slowly suffocate our spiritual health.  It seems so obvious, so utterly intuitive that our deepest trials, our toughest battles could be swiftly overcome; not by standing firmly on our feet, but by falling to our knees in prayer! Yet we do not. If he was anything, Paul was a man of prayer. Would that all Christians were so given to a robust prayer life that we were all described as men and women of prayer. I can think of no more urgent goal for any believer than this.

A Submitted Servant

“Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey BY THE WILL OF GOD to come unto you.” (Rom. 1:10 emphasis added)

James wrote in his epistle that everything we do is done by the gracious allowance of God Almighty. Whether we do this thing or that, even whether or not our life on Earth continues another moment, everything that we have is because of the providence of God and is according to His will (James 4:13-15). Paul wrote the letter to the Romans while he was in the city of Corinth. He wanted to visit the Church in Rome personally, but he recognized that his life was in the hands of God, to do with according to His will and desire. Paul knew that his life was directed and upheld by God’s power, not by his own will and strength. The servant of God must recognize that he has been crucified with Christ and that the life he leads now is not his own, but belongs to his Lord Who lives through Him (Gal. 2:20). It was Paul’s desire for a “prosperous journey” that would bring him to Rome, and he asked the Lord for as much. But he knew that God may very well have something else in mind for him, and it was God’s will that he wished to see come to fruition — even above his own.

A Giving Servant

“For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;” (Rom. 1:11)

A devoted servant of God will have the desire to serve His people. Without a question, we are God’s servants, not man’s, but the biggest way that we serve God is by serving others who belong to Him. God did not call any of us to shut out everyone from our lives and live in isolation. Nor did God call us to seek to be served, but rather to serve others. So many Christians go to church and call it the “Sunday service”, but whose service is it? Who is serving and who is being served? For many, the thought is that the pastor is serving the congregation, but God has called His people to serve Him and serve each other. God doesn’t want “benchwarmers” filling the pews, He wants people with the heart of a servant.

Most churches I have visited will point out to newcomers the advantages of joining their congregation by telling them about all of the things they offer to them. My first question is: Can I be used here? Is there an opportunity for me to serve in this church? If not, I want to go somewhere else! If it is not in the service of others, then how can we really serve a God Who is in need of nothing? Before He ascended back to the Father, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. “Do you love Me?“, He asked three times (John 21:15-17). When Peter said he did, what was our Lord’s response? Do this for Me, do that for Me, bring Me this, give Me that? No. “Feed My sheep.” Take care of the needs of My people. A servant of God is by definition a servant of God’s people.

A Humble Servant

“That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” (Rom. 1:12)

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the ungiving and selfish believer is the seemingly “selfless” servant who appears to do nothing but serve other believers and give to them. While having a great zeal to do the work of the Lord and serve His people is very commendable (and all too rare!) , we must be sure that we do not develop an overinflated sense of self-importance. No matter how far along we get in our walk with the Lord, there is never a time when there are not things we need from other believers. Never. God has intentionally designed it this way. We do not all have the same function in the Body of Christ and we all need each other.

It amazes me that Paul can tell the new converts in Rome that he is looking forward to them comforting him, but he does. Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament; Paul, the man to whom the Lord Jesus Personally appeared and taught the Gospel to; Paul, the founder of several of the very first churches in the world, spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Yes, even Paul recognized that he could be comforted and blessed by even relative newcomers to the Faith; he recognized that he still benefited from the gifts which the Spirit of God gave to other Christians. Although he realized that it was necessary for him to write to and eventually visit the Church in Rome in order to firmly establish them in the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, he was also aware that he himself was not beyond being blessed with the Spiritual gifts that God had given them.

5 Characteristics Of A Devoted Servant

There are obviously a whole lot of other characteristics that we would attribute to a profitable servant of God, but we clearly see these 5 displayed in the Apostle Paul through what he says in this passage of Romans. They are 5 characteristics that ought to mark every servant of God.