#7 Fig Leaf Religion
The theme of Romans is The Righteousness of God, the only righteousness that qualifies us for Heaven.
The first division of Romans is 1:16-3:20. It deals with man’s desperate need of God’s righteousness. Under this division in earlier articles we’ve already dealt with sinful, fallen man’s degeneracy in Romans 1:18-32 and the certainty of his judgment under God in Romans 2:1-16
Within this division we are examining in this message a major group who need God’s Righteousness; the religious, but lost. This group is described in Romans 2:17-29.
What is religion? It is that upon which we rely to give us a favorable standing in the sight of God, save us from His judgment and punishment for sin, give us eternal life and make us fit to dwell with Him in Heaven.
THE VAIN HOPE AND BOAST OF FALSE RELIGION Romans 2:17-20
All the false religions of man are Satanic-inspired and all boast that their’s is the way to God. Religion is associated with pride and self righteousness. False religion leads man to be proud and feel good about himself.
All those trapped in false religion are “of their father, the devil.” That’s what Jesus told the Pharisees of his day in John 8:44 as He exposed the religious leaders who were holding the Jews in religious bondage. It was this public exposure by Jesus that drove the Jewish leaders mad to the point of turning the crowds against Jesus and ultimately seeking His crucifixion.
THE SOURCE OF FALSE RELIGION
God created Adam and Eve and placed them in The Garden of Eden to have sweet fellowship with Him daily. According to Genesis 2:15-17 His one and only prohibition was to avoid eating fruit from a certain tree in the midst of the Garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Earlier, Lucifer had rebelled against God in Heaven. That rebellion and its consequences are recorded in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. There we will find; not all we would like to know, but all we need to know about Satan’s origin and fall. In Genesis 3 we have the story of how Lucifer, (whose name was changed to Satan after His rebellion against God) appeared to Eve as a beautiful talking serpent. There in Genesis 3:1-6 Satan beguiled her to listen to him and disobey God. She ate of the forbidden tree and gave some also to her husband who joined her in her rebellion towards God.
Incidentally, but importantly, Eve was deceived by Satan. Adam was not deceived, but walked into his sins with his eyes wide open, knowing he was deliberately disobeying God.
It is for this reason Paul instructs in I Timothy 2:9-14 that women should not preach to and pastor men. That does not make women second-rate Christians. Women have a huge role in the church teaching both women and children, as well as in the home. I’ve repeated in several articles on this web site that women; both single and married have probably had a greater influence on my life growing up than men. Mothers and single women can have a huge influence on the direction of the next generation as mothers, teachers and baby-sitters. How does that saying go? “The hand that rocks the cradle, moves the nation.”
Through our early years as a family, we could have used more money just meeting the bare essentials of life; but never for one moment would we have considered my wife giving up her responsibilities of raising our children at home in order to get a job and make more money so we could have more than the essentials. My wife loved her responsibilities as a wife and mother and did an excellent job of raising our children. But you can read more about this under the categories VIRTUOUS WOMAN and FAMILY. Now back to the story of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden.
Immediately Adam and Eve recognized that they had sinned against God and devised the first religion. They now recognized they were naked; not just physically naked, but morally naked and bankrupt before God. That first religion was to make aprons of fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Covered with those fig leaves, they sought to hide themselves from the presence of God. That, in essence, is the vanity of man-made religion.
Sinful man, knowing he is guilty of sin and deserving of death, vainly attempts to rid himself of guilt and make himself presentable to God. False religion comes in a vast variety of ways, but it’s all based on man attempting to atone for his sins and making himself presentable to God. That, in essence, is a description of all false religion.
Throughout the Bible false religion is nearly always associated with empty formalism, ceremonialism and works of self-righteousness. Satan, the source of all false religion, leads men and women to take pride in their self-righteousness and uses religion to keep us from recognizing our need of Christ as our Saviour from sin.
THE BOAST OF FALSE RELIGION
BOASTS IN A NAME
False religion boasts, not in Christ; but in a name or label. That name may be Jew, Muslim or Roman Catholic. Or you may boast that you are Protestant and a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, or some other denomination. Or you may be a member of a cult, such as Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science or Scientology. Cults are religious groups of people who believe that they are the only true Church. Or you may be as I am: independent and non-denominational. Or you may be associated with some oriental Eastern religion.
Peter, preaching Jesus to the Jews in Acts 4 announced in verse 12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved.”
Throughout the world, man is incurably religious. Only a fool living on this earth in this amazing universe filled with evidence of intelligent design would claim to be an atheist, according to Psalm 14:1.
Christ died on the cross to save man from sin and religion. The most difficult condition from which to save a man is not his blatant sin; but from a false religious system. The devil will do all in his power to keep a man trapped in a religion- anything to keep him from Christ. It’s only by the grace, love and sovereignty of God that anyone of us can be delivered from our sins and from a false religious system.
BOASTS IN A KNOWLEDGE OF OLD TESTAMENT CEREMONIAL LAW AS A MEANS OF ATTAINING RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HEAVEN
That was the boast of the Pharisees whom Jesus confronted during His earthly ministry. In Matthew 23 Jesus scathingly exposed their wicked hearts. In Romans 2:17-24, Paul, who had been a chief Pharisee before his conversion, exposed their wicked hypocrisy.
THE BLASPHEMY OF RELIGION WITHOUT CHRIST.
Religion that rejects salvation by the grace of God through faith in the blood sacrifice of Christ alone for our sins is blasphemous and leading people to Hell.
Cain practiced such a religion, trying to impress God with the works of his own hands. Read about it in Genesis 4. God rejected his bloodless sacrifice and accepted his younger brother, Abel’s blood sacrifice, which pictured the ultimate and final blood sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Cain became jealous and furious over this and killed his brother Abel. Down through the centuries this enmity has continued as God’s enemies have persecuted and killed Christians.
THE SIGN AND EVIDENCE OF TRUE CHRISTIANITY
In Romans 2:15-29 Paul concludes this matter of false religion with the issue of circumcision. Circumcision of Jewish baby boys was the sign of God’s covenant relationship with Israel, as taught in Genesis 17:9-14.
But beyond the physical circumcision of baby boys, God has a much greater concern, the spiritual circumcision of hearts from the sin and defilement of this world. See that concern in Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Jeremiah 6:10 and Colossians 2:8-11, 3:10-16.
After Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead, fulfilling all righteousness, Galatians 5:1-6 teaches us that circumcision was abolished as a spiritual requirement and evidence of true Christianity. Today circumcision of baby boys is no longer a requirement to bring us into a relationship with God; nor is it the evidence of a genuine relationship with God. Today, circumcision of baby boys is simply a health decision for parents and their doctors; that and nothing more.
The true evidence of Christianity is a circumcised heart, a heart from which Christ is cutting away and decreasing the evil influence of this sin-cursed world and the influences of our carnal flesh nature and a heart that is increasingly growing in godliness as it is being influenced by God’s Word.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.