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Why the message on the grace of God is offensive to religious folks

gracetidings:with dr doug mamvura

The book of Romans is a masterpiece on the subject of Grace.

Romans 7, shows the frustration of a person trying to serve God out of their own human effort. They don’t realise that our flesh is incapable of ever living the victorious life God intended for us. Some believers who are still embroiled in religion and traditions of man find themselves in this category. They believe it is their human effort or performance that will earn them salvation not knowing that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In Romans 8, we see a person who has clearly understood the power of the Gospel and is letting the Spirit of God live through them. The main focus in the book of Romans is to help us appreciate that we should turn from self- reliance, self-salvation and self-righteousness. Our self-righteousness is like filthy rags and this is a very strong word we see in the Bible. If we are to look at the meaning of this word and I would like to challenge you to do the research, you will then see the futility of being self -righteous like the Pharisees. We should accept God’s free gift of righteousness (Romans 5: 17) and salvation by faith in the Gospel. Live by faith in God’s grace.

Apostle Paul begins Romans 9 by lamenting the fact that the Jewish people were trusting in their own righteousness to produce salvation. He spoke of his deep longing for his natural brothers (Paul himself was a Jew) to be saved. Instead of them receiving the free gift of God through Jesus, they were trying to earn salvation. They didn’t want to come and be dependent on Christ, the Saviour. This is still prevalent in most of our churches today. If you tell someone that they are righteous, they look apologetic in disbelief because they focus on their natural self and conclude that they are not righteous. They tell you that they are “working on being righteous”. This is false humility stemming from ignorance. Second Corinthians 5: 21 states that “He who knew no sin became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. We are the righteousness of God. We are not working towards righteousness. No amount of effort on your own part including forty day fasting, will qualify you to be righteous. That can only be done by the modern- day Pharisee.

It is very unfortunate that some of us do not allow the Bible to get into the way of our beliefs and religion. This explains why our most of us, our lives are very ineffective, we live defeated lives. We try to obtain righteousness through prayer and fasting not knowing that we are already the righteousness of God through what Christ did for us in His death, burial and resurrection. It is a gift.

At the end of Chapter 9 in Romans, Paul made a summary of the things he had discussed to this point in this book and transitioned into Chapter 10: “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who didn’t pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith, but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to law of righteousness (Romans 9: 30 -31).

This was a very radical statement to the people Paul was writing to in his day. He was talking to people who were very zealous in keeping the law (Romans 10:2). Their entire life was built around seeking God. The law influenced how they dressed, what they ate, their politics, their work schedule and their giving among other things. At certain times of the day, everybody stopped to pray. These were religious people. Their whole life was consumed with seeking God. Does this sound familiar?

Then Paul came along and thoroughly rattled their religious cage by saying that the Gentiles had received by faith what the Jews were working so hard to attain by their actions. A gentile is a non-Jew, but the term in Paul’s day had become synonymous with a pagan. They were people who had no relationship with God.

Instead of denying themselves, they indulged themselves. We would call them heathens today. Yet Paul was saying, “These heathens who weren’t following after righteousness, who weren’t seeking God, who weren’t trying to live holy,” have attained unto righteousness by faith” (Romans 9:30).

If that wasn’t bad enough to the Jews, put it together with verse 31, “But Israel – all you religious people trusting in your performance for salvation have not attained unto it”. One can imagine how these Jews must have felt after hearing such comments from Paul. Isn’t it any wonder that Paul upset the religious people wherever he went? Paul was saying these heathens out there, that were not even trying to live holy are more acceptable to God than you. They have become righteous by faith in the Gospel and you who were living holy are rejected by God. This incensed many people. This explains why Paul suffered the persecution the way he did and this is also the reason why anyone who preaches the true Gospel of God still suffers persecution even today (Galatians 5:11, 6:12). The grace of God is offensive to religious folks.

The reason why the nonreligious have become accepted by God and the religious remain rejected is because the non-religious sought righteousness by faith in God’s grace and the religious sought it by faith in their own “holy actions”. It pains my heart to still some of us behaving exactly the same like these Jews that Paul was preaching to.

When the heathen heard the Gospel — that the salvation was a gift and they didn’t have to earn it, they embraced it. To them it was very beneficial because they hadn’t been living a proper life and they knew it. When someone came along and told them that God would accept them on the basis of grace as a gift, and that all they had to do was believe and receive Jesus as their Saviour, they went for it.

The religious person rejected Jesus for basically the same reasons — the Gospel told them it wasn’t their goodness that earned them a relationship with God.

They had to believe on Jesus and receive salvation as a gift. Their response was “That is not fair. Look how hard I have worked. I have put much effort into this. Do you mean that all my self-denial doesn’t make God love me more? Are you saying that all my holy living doesn’t make me any better than the person who has been living in gross sin? Do you mean that I need the same degree of salvation as the old reprobate over here?” Religious pride won’t let them receive a free gift like that.

This is the main challenge we see in our churches today. Many religious people are trying to do the right things- and it’s not that what they are doing is wrong. It is the fact that they are putting their faith in their actions instead of receiving salvation as a gift. For these people it is offensive to hear the Gospel preached. They get upset to hear that someone could not be living as holy as they are but receive from God better because they are putting faith in a Saviour instead of earning it. If you feel offended by what I have just said, I am sorry to say that you are religious and have not yet come to appreciate the true Gospel. You are no different from those people who were persecuting Paul for preaching this Gospel.

I have seen very “committed believers” who are always praying and fasting, they pay their tithes on time every time. They participate in church activities and are always doing religious deeds and yet they have been struggling with sickness or poverty. On the other hand, you see a drunkard receiving Christ and they have “no track record” of righteousness. This person receives a miracle which the religious person has been trying to get for years. The difference is that the drunkard put their faith in Jesus and the religious person put their faith in their “holy actions”.

l Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: drdoug@corporatemomentum.biz or Twitter @dougmamvura

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