Religion Without Faith
In our previous studies of chapter one and the first sixteen verses of chapter two it has been made abundantly clear that the pagan Gentile is vile, wicked, and evil. In the last study we saw that even the religious Jews were wicked, vile, and evil. In our study of the rest of chapter two we see that there is no hope for the religious person who is wrapped up in their religion.
Let me say at the start here that religion is man’s attempt to gain God’s favor. What religion actually does is exalt the religious, and steals the glory that belongs solely to the Maker of those who are religious.
Here is an outline of our study –
I. RELIGION HAS A FAULTY CONFIDENCE OF POSITION (vv. 17-20).
1. The Jews had their position in Abraham, loving the position, but despising the responsibility.
2. We all must understand that the law was given to ‘drive’ humankind to God’s grace. See Galations 3:24-25.
3. Overconfidence in the flesh is seen from the prophet Jeremiah’s words to a confident people who were about to go into captivity, “Trust ye not in lying words saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.” (Jeremiah 7:4).
4. They believed themselves to be secure because they were in the presence of the temple of God, and God would not destroy His temple – so they thought.
5. Just because one does good things, lives a good life, and possesses religious objects does not mean they are right with God.
II. THE CONDEMNATION OF THE LAW (vv. 21-24).
1. The Hebrew religious leaders saw the importance of teaching the law, but did not live it themselves. They were quick to condemn their people, but would not see their own sin.
2. They developed loopholes for themselves. With these loopholes – they condemned the people who failed to keep them. You can see one loophole they had for themselves in Mark 7:10-11.
3. These teachers were “proud possessors of the law”. They were not “doers of the law” (James 1:22-25). They taught to “Abhor” (hate, despise) idols, but saw no problem with raiding pagan temples, taking the idols within and selling them at a profit, thus, committing sacrilege. How do we as Christians do some thing which we may despise, yet make profit doing it?
III. RELIGION IS OF THE FLESH; GODLINESS IS OF THE HEART (vv. 25-29).
1. Jewish circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant people. A mark of being God’s possession. The Jews were to worship and adore God alone, no other.
2. A Gentile who keeps the law has better standing before God – if indeed they could keep the law – than does the Jew who does not keep it.
3. This was a sign of sin which God was dealing with. There is no salvation in circumcision. There is, likewise, no salvation in baptism. Any confidence in these to save is purely religion, and will condemn rather than save.
4. We become the people of God when our stony heart becomes soft and supple before Holy God.
-Tim A. Blankenship