Railroad Track or Ladder
Jesus is speaking to His disciples about stewardship in the first 13 verses of Luke 16. You’ll find those messages under that category on this web site. In verse 14 we learn that covetous Pharisees who heard Him speak derided Him because they wanted to justify themselves. Jesus responded to them in verse 15. “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”
In this message I want to confront a common misconception that claims Israel, under the Old Covenant, was saved by keeping God’s Law; whereas we today in the church age are saved by the grace of God alone. The truth is that mankind from the very beginning has always been saved only one way and that is be the grace of God alone.
Noah was saved by God’s grace through faith alone. See Genesis 6:8 and Hebrews 11:7. Noah showed his faith by building an ark to protect himself from a worldwide flood he had never seen before, but it was God’s grace that saved him.
Abraham was justified by God’s grace through faith in God by obeying Him and leaving his home in Ur of the Chaldees and moving to a new land that God would give to him and his posterity, the land of Palestine. See Romans 4:1-4, Hebrews 11:8-19.
Keep in mind that Noah and Abraham were not saved by keeping God’s Law nor observing ceremonies, such as circumcision. In the first place, God’s law came 1000 years after Noah and 430 years after Abraham.
If you’ll take time to read Genesis 12:1-4 you’ll see that Abraham moved in obedience to God when he was 75 years old. In Genesis 17 you’ll learn that he was circumcised twenty-four years later at the age of 99. Paul in Romans 4:1-16 and in Galatians 3:6-18 goes to great pains to make it clear that Abraham was saved by grace alone, and not by keeping the law or being circumcised.
True, Abraham and his blood descendants have followed God’s law in being circumcised, as a mark of their national identity. The Bible teaches that God is far more concerned about the circumcision of our hearts, whether we be male or female, then He is concerned about circumcision of foreskins in males. Deuteronomy 30:1-6 Romans 2:23-29, Colossians 2:8-13 all show God’s concern for circumcision of hearts.
David who lived under the Law of Moses understood that his feeble, failed attempts to keep God’s Law could never justify him before God. He understood, even back in Old Testament times, that he was justified by God’s grace through faith in Him as he writes about it in Psalm 32. Paul refers to David’s justification before God in Romans 4:6-8. Of course, Old Testament saints looked forward to the promised Lamb, the Lord Jesus, who would take away the sins of the world. In anticipation of that Lamb, they offered the animal sacrifices as taught in the Law of Moses.
Don’t be misled to think that David or any of the godly saints in the Old Testament were legalists. They were not saved by law keeping. They were saved by grace alone, just as we are in the church age. Because of their relationship with God, they loved God’s Law and they obeyed from the heart, just as we today who know Christ, love His Law and are able to live the righteousness of the Law by the power of the Holy Spirit, as shown in Romans 8:1-4.
Read the Psalms as David repeatedly delights in the Law of God. Those Psalms are just as precious to us in the church age. We delight in God’s Law just as much as David did; but we, as David, understand that we are justified by God’s grace.
Some have well described God’s Law as a railroad track upon which God meant the trains, Israel in Old Testament times and the Church in our present age to travel down, led by the engine of God’s grace and coupled to that engine by faith.
The legalists: the false teachers of Old Testament times, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the Judaizers of Paul’s day, and the religionists of our present day, are all guilty of the folly and the futility of attempting to lift up one end of those railroad tracks and lean them against the gate of Heaven and attempt to climb those tracks as a ladder and gain entrance into Heaven by their own efforts to keep the Law of God.
That’s the basic difference between true Christianity and false religion, regardless of its name. The true Christian is one who has seen himself as a guilty, lost sinner and who by the grace of God has placed his faith in God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to pay the full penalty for our sins. As a Christian, he accepts the Bible as God’s holy inspired, infallible Word and delights in reading it, hearing it preached and obeying it. He is traveling down the railroad track of God’s Word, bound for Heaven by the grace of God.
The religionist sees the Law of God as a ladder to Heaven. He rejects the fact that he is a sinner and in need of a Saviour. Full of pride and self-righteousness, he attempts to climb that ladder and attain Heaven by his own hopelessly inadequate efforts trusting that through his works and through what his church can do for him, he will somehow attain Heaven. He is bound for Hell. As the Pharisees in Luke 16:15 he rejects and despises Christ and attempts to justify himself. He is an abomination in the sight of God.
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