Romans 3:9-26, 31 ~ The Gospel

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Tonight we are looking at Romans chapter 3 and 4. In the chapters leading up to this point, Paul has exposed the problems, or sins, of every people group on earth. He has touched on those who are openly wicked, the morally self-righteous, those who have never been evangelized, and then finally, the group we looked at last week, the Jews who were religiously pious outwardly, but lacked the same inwardly. And now in chapter 3 Paul is going to pull all these groups together by explaining this universal problem that all of mankind shares because of sin and then explain what God has done in light of this.

No One is Righteous

Read Romans 3:9-20

Paul begins in verse 9 by summarizing what he has just gone over in chapters 1 and 2…. ”Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.” And now Paul is going to show how Scripture has always attested to this truth. If you know what a concordance is, it’s like he’s going to look through his concordance and show all the verses that appear under the topic “sin” to support what he is saying. Paul begins in verses 10-12 by quoting from two almost identical Psalms….Psalm 53 and Psalm 14. Turn to the first 3 verses in one of those Psalms just to see how Paul is really simply quoting God’s Word here.

“There is none righteous, not even one;” v.10

One of man’s greatest hang ups when it comes to being acceptable to God, is trying to earn God’s acceptance. But what Paul is saying is that not even the most moral man is considered righteous before God.

“there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” v.11

Not only is no one righteous, but no one understands God or His truth on their own, and no one who seeks God on their own. So in two verses Paul has stripped away all of our crutches….our morality, our understanding, and now our desire for God. Paul says, in and of himself, man has none of this.

“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” v.12

This is the point Paul has been trying to make since the beginning of his letter to the Romans. All of mankind has turned it’s back on God. On his own, Paul says man is worthless/useless…meaning, he is incapable of achieving the righteousness that God requires. There is not even one man who is good in God’s eyes.

Then in verses 13 through 18 Paul describes the depth of man’s condition, just how far man has turned from God, in case someone is thinking to themselves, ok, I can see what he is saying, but it’s not that bad…

“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. 14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

More words from the Psalms explaining that the sin of man is seen in his words, what comes out of his mouth flows from what is inside. If you don’t believe that man is truly that wicked, listen to what people say, what is at the root of our words.

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.

Verses 15-17 are references to what is written in Isaiah 59:7-8 (flip there). These are the very words of God to His people. These descriptions of mankind are not Paul’s, they are God’s! When we read this in Romans we might think that Paul is exaggerating to make a point….but then we would have to say that God is an exaggerator as well when we realize Paul is just quoting God. And God says here that without Him, man is quick to slay others, to bring about ruin and misery, and to never seek peace.

If you look at the second verse of Isaiah 59 it explains why man is like this…“your iniquities have separated you from your God…” This is at the heart of the gospel, our sins have separated us from God. Many of us experienced that separation before putting our faith in Christ, but even now as believers we experience that. When we sin or live in sin, we really do feel that separation don’t we, we verbalize it when we say we “feel far from God.” It is a very real and very tangible experience, we often use the word “void” to describe that feeling of separation from God before we know Christ. When my father put his faith in Christ in his mid-fifties, he stood up before a group of people and explained how there was a void in his life and he realized then that Christ and God were the only ones who could fill it…he had not been a believer yet he felt that separation.

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Turn to Psalm 36. Paul’s final description of mankind without God, is that he doesn’t fear God. This means man on his own would never look to God as God, he would never honor, respect, or worship God. On our own instead of worshipping God and living our lives according to His ways, we would worship ourselves and live according to our own desires and what we think is right. The psalmist explains the result of this…

Psalm 36:1b-2 “There is no fear of God before his eyes. 2 For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.” Instead of worshiping God, man without God worships himself, he replaces God with self. This is the root of sin: pride. Think of the sin in the garden that Eve committed…her motivation was that in eating the fruit she would become like God. And the Psalm here says the result of replacing God with self is a failure to even recognize sin, much less hate it enough to repent of it. And we also saw that Adam and Eve both justified their involvement in eating the fruit by blaming another. And the truth here that we need to understand is that without repentance man will never turn to God in need of a savior. Which means, on his own man is hopeless.

Last week I made the statement that: “I’ve begun to believe…the most true sign of a spiritual problem [is] lack of repentance and justifying our actions. Let me offer an analogy. My mom is a very anally clean woman and as long as I’ve known her she has always cleaned house 2-3 times a week (she never really believed in housekeepers). But my dad never helps her and so she finally stopped cleaning in hopes that it would motivate my dad to help with the cleaning or at least hire a housekeeper. But anyone in this room who is married knows that that tactic NEVER works. So, the result, an inch of dust on everything…and they have 3 cats so you can only begin to imagine how bad it was. But what I found most interesting was that over time it didn’t seem to bother my mom anymore. It was like she didn’t even notice it. But the truth was, whether she acknowledged it or not, it was there, and the longer she ignored it the less she had the ability to even notice it…which means she was never going to be disgusted enough to clean it!

And this is what we do with sin – we try to ignore it, even justify it, and eventually we’ve ignored our sin enough that as the Psalmist says, we fail to even detect our sin anymore, much less hate it enough to repent of it. And the root of all of it is pride, love of self. We don’t want to acknowledge our own failures and inability to do good and be in control.

So then in verses 19 and 20 Paul explains the result of our condition, the result of sin. He explains how it happens. First, we fail to live by God’s law and commands. So we can’t make it right, we lack the ability to be righteous/holy/perfect on our own. So the law and our inability to uphold it silences us. As we stand before God in light of this truth we are left without excuse or exception. All are sinners and all fall short. It is through our inability to live according to God’s law on our own that we become conscious of our sin and the reality that we can’t do it.

Application

Before moving on to the rest of our passage I want us to stop and think about this. What does this mean for us practically? Daily? It means that when we fail to live up to God’s law we must make a decision on how we will respond. We have two choices.

1. Self at the Center – First, we can respond by putting ourselves at the center. Self-protectively and pride-fully choosing to not focus on our sin, as I have said before, justifying it, ignoring it, and failing to hate it and repent before God. We can pretend that we are not all that bad and we are doing the best we can, avoiding any conviction God may put on our hearts or on others’ hearts. Or we can keep picking ourselves up, punishing ourselves for our failures, and try harder and harder to please God in our own strength and ability. And we can try to draw close to God through our own efforts and doing the right thing.

2. God at the Center- Or, we can respond by putting God at the center. This means that we not only allow God’s law to expose our sin and inability to uphold it, but we also acknowledge how we have failed, hate it, and repent of it. We can choose to depend on God’s grace and strength rather than our own. To respond in repentance when we feel His conviction on our hearts. And allow that humility and dependence on God be what draws us near to Him.

Earlier we talked about why we should serve and most of us are tempted to quickly come up with a reason or justification of why it doesn’t apply to us. But what God’s Word teaches us is that our response instead should be one of humility, willing to accept that it probably does apply to every single one of us because of our sin nature…and then to take that conviction and put it into action, letting it motivate us to humble ourselves before Him and listen to His voice, not our own.

The Good News

In Young Life we had a series of “talks” that we gave at club every Monday night. And one of the things I loved and hated about it most was how we would talk about sin and our separation from God one week and not tell them about Jesus until the next Monday. It was painful but we really wanted to kids to think about it and let it sink in, because without an understanding of our sin and inability to be in relationship with God we can’t even begin to understand our need for a savior and what God did for us. But luckily, Paul is much nicer and he immediately tells us the good news.

Read Romans 3:21-26

a righteousness from God, apart from [obedience to] the law, has been made known”

There is hope, God has another way for man to be justified and restored to a right relationship with Him….and not only that, Paul says that God has been trying to tell mankind about it since the very beginning through the law and the prophets…this new way to righteousness had been prophesied And then Paul tells them what you and I already know. That God’s way of righteousness comes through faith and belief in Jesus. And this is for all of mankind, not just the Jews, but also the non-Jews….just as all fall short, all can receive this free gift from God. It is through the grace of God that we receive Jesus, and it is through Jesus that we receive redemption. Whether you believe in predestination or not, this is the truth of God, and how this works in light of election is a mystery to us, but it doesn’t change what Paul is saying here.

And very briefly here in verses 25 and 26, Paul explains how God did this. To you and I it sounds foreign and strange, but to the Jew it made perfect sense.

“God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”

Every time the Jews sinned by not obeying God’s law, they had to go to the temple and make a sacrifice for forgiveness and to be made right before God. It was constant because as Paul said, we are unable to uphold God’s law on our own. So in the most simple terms possible, Paul explains that God sacrificed His own Son to cover over all sins for all time, so that if someone accepts Christ’s sacrifice for them, then they are restored before God for good. Think about what that meant for the Jew hearing or understanding this for the first time.

“He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Paul explains that it is because of the justice of God that He did this. God is not able to do anything that isn’t true to His nature. So God can’t lie because He is truth, and that would go against who He is. Along those same lines, God is perfect in His execution of justice because he is perfectly just. So Paul explains that God had held back and “passed over” the sins of mankind because of the justice that He planned to carry out through Jesus Christ and those who would put their faith in Him. So God endured the sins of the past because He knew that through Christ, those sins would be atoned.

Finally, in verse 31, Paul answers a question that many at the time, and even now, were wondering….and here’s how Eugene Petterson words it in “The Message,”

“By shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.” 3:31

One of the first time I took a group of High School girls to Young Life summer camp I got a question similar to this during cabin time. It had been an incredible week and I was seeing God really changing their hearts and their minds. And during one of our last cabin times together one of the girls said something to the effect of…So, if our sins are always going to be forgiven, and we can’t lose our salvation, then why stop sinning? I had only been a Christian for about 4-5 years and this question stumped me, I had no idea what the “right” answer was! But this is a question that is common to man and that Paul deals with here knowing that it would be an issue. So, in other words, they wanted to know if they no longer had to uphold the law since they were made right before God through faith in Jesus. And Paul’s answer is….no!! And I want to offer three reasons why…

1.     Now that we are set free to live according to the Spirit we can strive to uphold the law. And we do this knowing that we will still fail because we still have our sin and our flesh, but we also have the spirit and as we yield to Him we are able to live for God. And so we uphold God’s commands and ways with joy because of what He has done for us, not out of fear or condemnation, and because we long to please God and live in His ways.

2.     And not only that, but we also are told in the New Testament that it is by living in God’s ways that we are able to live life to the full, experience God’s blessings for us in Christ, and have an abundant life. So when we view the law like that we see that it is a gift not a burden.

3.     And lastly, when we strive to uphold God’s laws and fail, that is when we are reminded most of our need for God. It is His law that reveals to us our sin, keeps us grounded so that we always acknowledge our sin, and opens the door to repentance. The law has the power in our lives to turn us back to God when we have strayed and live lives that are fully dependent on Him.

A Word About Chapter 4

So based on what Paul has explained here in chapter 3 he goes on in chapter 4 to speak pretty specifically to the Jews. As we talked about last week, they often depended on things other than faith to make them righteous….obedience to the law, circumcision, and their ancestry from Abraham. But now Paul takes what he just said and shows how each of those things were not meant to be built upon human striving, but on faith in God and His Word. He shows how Abraham’s righteousness came because he believed God, not because of his works. Abraham’s works flowed from his faith. So Paul is basically telling the Jews that if they look to Abraham as their example then they need to see and understand that the example he set was one of faith and belief.

Conclusion

As we close tonight I want to tell you something that I read in one of the commentaries as I was preparing. It said that this truth that Paul presents is not about how we feel, but about what we believe. When we are feeling condemned by our sin nature we must realize that that is not from God, because God sees those who are in Christ as justified. When we feel far from God we need to remind ourselves of the truth that in Christ we are no longer separated from Him. We must learn to recognize the truth daily, believe it, live in it, and view our lives through it. Do you live as someone who has been set free or as someone who is still in bondage? I am not asking you if you still sin, I already know the answer to that. But I am asking you if you are choosing everyday to strive in the Spirit to live in the righteousness that Jesus purchased for you on the cross? Do you understand what Christ did for you and who you are now because of it? He died so you could be set-free from sin and live in relationship with God. Do you receive that gift with joy each day?

That is the gospel. Someone asked me once what people meant when they referred to “the gospel?” This is it – that our sin separates us from God, but He sent Jesus to pay the cost of our sins so that those who believe in Him will be restored to a relationship with God, saved from Hell, and given eternal life. We should strive everyday to ground ourselves in this truth and live it out in our lives.

Questions for discussion & application

●       What are some ways we avoid repentance and instead justify our sins? If you have a personal example you feel comfortable sharing please do.

●       What does it mean to live out the gospel in our lives? Give some examples.

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Romans 2:17-29 ~ Disconnected Religiosity

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Introduction of Romans

Some things to know about this book as a whole that will help you as we study it…Paul was writing to the believers who lived and worshiped in Rome. He had never met them but had heard of their faithfulness and fellowship. The most significant thing that will help us in understanding what we are reading is that most likely the church was composed of both Jews who had put their faith in Christ and non-Jews (gentiles) who had put their faith in Christ. As we have talked about before, this means that they come from very different backgrounds and so their struggles in living out the Christian faith are going to be different. We see this reflected in the book of Romans as Paul seeks to help the gentiles understand the history of the messiah and an understanding of God’s law, but also helps the Jews to understand the fulfillment of prophecy and what it means for their faith. So keep these things in mind as we study Romans the next several weeks.

Tonight we are going to look at the last part of chapter 2, and it is clear when you read it who Paul is addressing: the Jews. However, what is not clear is whether he is addressing Jews in general or specifically Jews who have put their faith in Christ. But either way, he is going to point out one of their biggest and most detrimental problems as followers of the Lord. So let’s read the passage and then work through it together…

Going Through the Motions

Read Romans 2:17-29

Leading up to this passage in chapters 1 and 2, Paul deals with the sins of those who don’t know Christ and refuse to worship God or living according to His commands. And he makes the point that even though we can look at the non-believing world and recognize this truth, it is not our place to judge them, that is God’s place. And the truth is, we will all be held accountable for how we lived. So Paul is basically telling them, stop worrying about other people’s sin and start worrying about yourself and how you live your life and faith. And in the verses leading up to where we are at tonight, Paul explains that the bottom line is that the non-believers don’t claim God’s law so that is why they aren’t concerned to live according to it….however, believers do, we claim God’s law as truth so we should be concerned with whether we are living according to it or not. And then he specifically calls the Jews out in this area and shows that this is their greatest downfall is.

Beginning in verses 17-20 Paul characterizes the Jews using a series of rhetorical questions to emphasize who they were and what was most important to them. One of the most significant things about the Jews is that they were God’s people, chosen to bring about redemption for all of mankind. They had a very special relationship with God and were the first to be given the law and enjoy covenant relationship with God. So Paul is saying , if you are a Jew, then this is what you are most proud of and he lists off those things that would characterize them and set them apart from other people. First, they are verbal about their faith and relationship with God and open about their intent to live a righteous life according to God’s law. Secondly, he says they know God’s will (sounds arrogant at first but we need to remember that knowing God’s will is one of our privileges of being in relationship with God, Paul even affirms to them later in Romans 12 that believers can know God’s will.) He also says, they “approve of what is superior.” In other words, they know the difference between what is important in life and what is not – we might say today that they had an eternal perspective – and they are not ashamed to “approve” of what is right and good in God’s eyes. Finally, Paul explains that they understood that as believers they were to be witnesses of the truth to those who were spiritually blind and living in spiritual darkness. Verse 20 literally says they are “…corrector[s] of the foolish [and]…teacher[s] of the immature…” So they understood their role was also to help those who misunderstood God’s word or who were younger in their faith. And Paul explains, their confidence in doing this comes from their belief and faith in God’s law as the “embodiment of knowledge and truth.”

As we break this description of the Jewish followers down we realize these are all good things! Paul has not said anything “bad” about them yet. This is exactly as we are called to live and what God commands us to do. Paul is describing mature believers here. As you grow in faith this is what your life should look like, this is what we are all striving for each day. So as we think of these Jews and hear what Paul is about to say to them, we should relate with them and think of them as “mature believers.” Today, these would be those who have been walking with Christ for a good portion of their lives, who know God’s word and can easily verbalize it to others, who are a part of a church body and spend a lot of time with other believers. For us today, it could be someone who was raised in the church, or someone like me who was not raised in the church but came to Christ in a student ministry and has now been living in Christ for 18 years. Whatever our stories, I bet a good majority of us in the room tonight can relate more to the Jews in Rome than the gentiles.

The Problem

While Paul’s characterization of the Jews in Rome is a positive one, he’s not done…the next verses tells us what the problem is. What Paul is implying is that while they are doing all of those things that he just listed, while they are outwardly living the Christian life, inwardly they are lacking. Here’s how Paul explains it…Verbally they are speaking truth and claiming faith, they are even teaching others what God’s Word says….but they themselves are not living out what they are speaking.

Paul says, you teach others, but do you teach yourself? So Paul is basically saying, Do you not see that no matter how knowledgeable you are in God’s Word, you still need to apply it to your life every single day. Following God is not about learning all of God’s Word, passing a test, and then moving on. It is a daily, moment by moment struggle to live for God and live out His Word. And no matter how your life might look compared to another’s, you still need the Spirit of Christ to be able to follow God’s law, which means depending on Him and not on self. Here, Paul even chooses two specific examples that we can only assume were present amongst these Jewish believers….stealing and adultery…and he summarizes by saying, you boast about God’s law, but then you turn and choose to not live by it.

Then in verses 23-24 Paul tells them the result of their hypocrisy. First, God is dishonored. Second, non-believers blaspheme God. Here Paul refers to Isaiah 52:5 and Ezekiel 36:22, when the Israelites had sinned against God and been exiled from the promised land. We are told in those verses that the behavior of the Israelites (acting against what they said they believed) caused the pagan nations to profane God’s name. To profane means to “treat something sacred with irreverence or disrespect.” When we say we believe one thing, but don’t live our lives according to what we say we believe, God is dishonored, and even worse, God is misrepresented to the unbelieving world and so they fail to know who God truly is and even degrade God. And we know this is true because we hear it from non-Christians constantly. Brennan Manning said it best when he said,

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Application

As we study this we must be very careful to not dismiss what he is saying about the Jews because we don’t see blatant hypocrisy in our own lives. We think, how could this possibly apply to us? What we need to keep in mind is that the Jews did not decide one day they were going to be hypocrites, they had no sly plan of how to get the most out of God but not have to give up their lives completely. God’s law was one of their most treasured possessions, they cared about their special relationship with God more than anything. But overtime this is where they found themselves as that relationship with God slowly moved from the center of their lives to just a part of their lives.

We need to understand that this is the trap that we can all find ourselves in as we become mature believers. Our reality is that, after awhile, being a Christian can seem more like second nature than like something that is strange and unfamiliar. We eventually get to a point where we don’t think twice when it comes to being leaders in the church, teaching others, or even living in the world as followers of Christ. This is what eventually happened to these Jews, and what eventually happened is that the life they were living before man became disconnected from the life they were living for God. Being a believer for them was one of their characteristics that defined them, but not the thing that defined them and shaped every aspect of their lives. They became lazy over time and began to depend more on their status as Jews than their relationship with God, growing apathetic in their faith instead of zealous; judging others, but never questioning themselves. And eventually it led to a double standard in their lives and justifying their own sins.

And this is also what happens to us. We wear the label “Christians” pretty easily here in Dallas; but we can also hide it easily when we need to. We know God’s truth and easily teach it to others, but many times the core of what the Bible teaches is not at work in our own lives, transforming us and changing us. We see sin in others’ lives clearly, but may rarely recognize or repent of our own sins, much less feel sorrow or regret over our sins. More often we might lament over our sin nature in general but justify our behavior and move on. And I’ve begun to believe this is the most true sign of a spiritual problem…lack of repentance and justifying our actions. And like the Jews, we have our own little public and private sins that we’ve somehow disconnected from our relationship with God to the point that we don’t even identify them as sin. And all of this not only results in apathy in our own relationship with God, but it also misrepresents God and even causes others to turn away from God in resentment.

Relying on Outward “symbols” of our faith

Paul could have stopped there, but he wants to make another point about this. He now brings up circumcision. First, we need to think about what circumcision was and what it meant to the Jews. It was a symbol given to them by God to identify them as God’s people whom He had made a covenant with. So, it was a physical sign of their relationship, God’s commitment to them, their commitment to His law, and of the promises of God to them that would come. Even though it symbolized all of these things and was given to them by God, it did not make them anything. It was simply a sign, it didn’t accomplish anything.

An analogy that might help us understand this better is that of a wedding ring and what it symbolizes. While a ring symbolizes a commitment made between two people, it does not make those people anything. The commitment they make through their vows and the covenant they sign in marriage is what makes them husband and wife. The ring is simply a physical symbol of that commitment. But, as that symbol, others can look at their ring to know that they are married and committed to one another. The ring is not what keeps someone from committing adultery, it is a person’s commitment and resolve to live according to that commitment that keeps them from cheating. In the same way, being circumcised did not make you a child of God, it symbolized something that already existed.

So in the same way, here in verse 25, Paul says, “circumcision has value if you observe the law.” A wedding ring has value, if you live according to what it symbolizes (your commitment to one person) “but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.” If you are married and have an affair, you are behaving as though you are not married. So the symbol loses it’s meaning…our actions are what reveal what we are truly committed to and what we believe.

Obviously, the symbol of circumcision doesn’t apply to us today…but what would? What are some of the symbols of our faith and commitment to Christ? Perhaps baptism or church membership. For some, it may be hanging crosses in your home or around your neck, a fish on our cars, scripture decorating our houses or offices. And for many it could be attending things like Bible studies, worship services, church, etc… Now keep those examples in mind and read on in verse 26.

“If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?”

If someone today has none of those symbols we just listed, yet they live their lives according to God’s Word and truth, will they still not be regarded as followers of Christ? Yes! Why? Because being a Christian is about our hearts and lives conforming to God’s truth and law, continually submitting to live according to the Spirit and not our flesh. It is not about wearing an outward symbol of membership and then our lives not reflecting His truth. So then Paul explains, that the person who does not have those “symbols” but lives as Christ called us to live, condemns us. And we also know this to be true…how many times have you been humbled and floored by someone who is so much more Christ-like than you but doesn’t know as much as you do or isn’t as verbally Christian as you are?

Circumcision isn’t the problem…

Now one thing we need to be clear on is that Paul is not saying circumcision is bad. How do we know that? Because it was given to them by God and He even commanded them to do it. So in the same way, baptism, church membership, and all those things we listed a minute ago, are not bad….they are actually very good and biblical

But when those things become our “proof” that we are followers of Christ, when they become what we lean on for salvation, when we see them as the most important thing that makes us a believer, and we fail to continue striving to live out the truth in God’s Word, that is where the problem lies. Because when we do that we will always fail to allow God’s truth to penetrate and transform the way we live, which as Paul says, is the very meaning of those things/symbols. So they lose their meaning.

Going back to the wedding ring/marriage analogy…when a spouse fails to live out the commitment he/she has made, the ring means nothing. It can no longer symbolize a commitment that is not really there. But instead, as Paul says here, the symbol then condemns us because we do what we have committed not to do.

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.”

Let’s reword that for us….A person is not a Christian if he/she is only one outwardly, nor are any of our Christian symbols merely outward and physical. – in other words, they are meant to be outward symbols of our inward condition. Both the inner and outer must be present.

Conclusion

“But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

The thing that we must be most concerned about as we strive to live out our Christian faith, is what is going on inside us. It is not about whether you know it all, or if you’re a regular attending member of a church, or if you are outwardly a great Christian in other’s eyes. It is about the heart, that is what God sees and what God cares most about. And when we live concerned most with the state of our heart before God, we can count on the fruit of the Spirit flowing from that and the outside reflecting the transformation that is happening on the inside. When we do that, God will convict us of our sins and shed light even on the sins we try to hide from Him….and our lives outwardly before men will reflect our lives inwardly before God. And as Paul says here we will seek God’s praise and not men’s, realizing God’s is the only one we need.

Questions for Discussion & Application

●       How did you relate to this passage and the lesson tonight?

●       How can you “teach yourself” as Paul says here in 2:21?

●       What is one of the outward symbols of the Christian faith that you find yourself leaning on rather than on being transformed by God’s truth?