Monday, August 21, 2017

The Problem With Man-Made Salvation - Romans 10:1-4

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Romans 10:1-4 "Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."


I'm a big coffee drinker. Years ago I began drinking coffee while working on night shift at a manufacturing plant. My recipe for the perfect cup of coffee included a little bit of milk, the coffee and a few teaspoons of sugar. One day when I had awoken from my sleep to get ready for the day, I made my typical cup of coffee. The night before had been particularly long. I was bleary eyed and not fully awake. I poured in the milk, the coffee and what I thought was sugar. When I began to sip and savor that coffee, I immediately was jarred awake and had to spit it out in the sink. Why? I had unwittingly substituted what I thought was sugar. In the sugar's place I had spooned in table salt! The perfect cup of coffee recipe was ruined. The coffee was unfit for human consumption and was worthy of a trip down the sink.

Do you realize when it comes to changing lives, people try the wrong recipe? Human beings are born with what we call "original sin", meaning that the original sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was transmitted down through every generation (see Genesis 3:1-14; Romans 5:11-21). This "original sin" has warped and ruined the human mind, will and emotions - resulting in man's inward curvature toward himself and away from God. Human beings know they are guilty and sinful, and thus try to manufacture their own version of salvation. 

In Romans 10:1-4, we find the Apostle Paul mourning over the spiritual condition of his fellow Jews. The nation of Israel alone had received God's Law, the revelation of the Old Testament and the promises (see Romans 9:1-5). Furthermore, from the humanity of the Jewish nation would derive the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Tragically, Israel in Paul's day had most of the ingredients needed for salvation, save one: a heart of faith. 

Man-made salvation is described by Paul in Romans 10:1-4 as having something, missing something, wanting something and rejecting something.

1. First, we find that man-made salvation does have one thing: Desire to worship. Now of course, the unbelieving heart won't worship the true and living God. Sadly, the Jews in Paul's day "had a zeal for God", but, not according to knowledge. They worshiped what they thought was in the right way. Instead, they had mixed together the truths of God as given to them in the Old Testament with centuries and layers of human tradition. When we don't worship in God's way (Jesus), we won't get to the true and living God. 

The result? The people were more zealous for the trappings of their religion and man-made system than the God of revelation. Nevertheless, the human propensity to worship stems from being made in His image, having eternity written on the heart (see Genesis 1:26-28; Ecclesiastes 3:11). Unless there is genuine salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, this impulse will be misguided and steer the person further and further away from God. 

2. In addition to having one thing, man-made salvation is missing one thing: saving knowledge of God. We read in Romans 10:2 "For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge." The Greek word used by Paul in Romans 10:2 speaks of a specific knowledge, a saving knowledge of God. To know about God, His oneness in being, His eternality, His invisible nature, and to even have a fear of God in His revealed attributes gets one in no better position than a fallen angel - a demon (see Romans 1:18-20; James 2:19). It is not enough to know about God. Jesus says that eternal life is knowing the true and living God and Jesus Christ, His Son, Whom He sent (see John 17:3).  

3. So man-made salvation has something, is missing something and thirdly wants something. Paul states in Romans 10:3 "For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." Righteousness refers to "rightness with God". Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, who weaved together garments of fig leaves to cover their fallen nakedness, human beings attempt to cover their fallen condition before God that knows all and sees all. Unless the righteous garment of Christ's perfect life and substitutionary death is received by outstretched arms of faith, fallen man will continue to seek after their own way of salvation. 

Anytime we try to manufacture our own spirituality or salvation, we by default are rejecting what God has already, freely and victoriously provided in Jesus Christ. 

4. So human attempts at salvation have a desire to worship (albeit anything but God), are missing a saving knowledge of God and seek to establish the standard of righteousness that will silence the condemnations of God's law and conscience. But now let's lastly consider what human attempts at salvation reject: Christ Himself. Paul writes in Romans 10:4 "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

What does Paul mean when he states that Christ is the "end" of the law? The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains:

"The Law did not and could not of itself provide righteousness before God for individuals (cf. Rom. 3:20; 7:7). But Christ fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17–18) by keeping it perfectly during His sinless life (cf. John 8:46) and then gave His life in payment for the penalty of sin and the broken Law (cf. Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:13–14). The Law then pointed to Him as the Source of the God-provided righteousness it could not supply (Gal. 3:24)." 

To give another illustration, think of the relationship between a map and a particular destination you may have in mind when traveling. The map is but the means to the destination. You may use a physical map or use a gps. The gps or map is not the destination, but instead is telling you how to get to the destination. The map or gps does not contain within itself the destination. Instead, the destination is external to the map or gps. Once you arrive at your destination, you don't keep staring at the map or fiddling with your gps for entertainment. What do you do? You get out of the car and begin to enjoy and explore your destination. 

Sadly, many people will try to find where they are going rather than heeding a map or gps. I don't know about you, but I on occassion will shut off the gps (maybe the little voice is annoying me or maybe I think I know better than it does). I get lost, frustrated and end up missing out. In like manner, the Law of God points me to the cross. Unless unbelieving man has "recalculated" as it were at the cross, he or she will continue driving in the wrong direction. 

Closing thoughts:

Having the wrong approach or wrong elements for salvation is much like getting lost or drinking a really bad cup of coffee. Unless we have Christ, we don't have salvation. Unless we receive Christ, we will persist in rejecting what God is offering to us. 

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