But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God . . . you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?
–Romans 2:17, 21
Several years ago, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention caused quite a controversy when they published a prayer guide encouraging Christians to pray for the salvation of Jewish people. People were outraged. One Jewish leader said, “It is pure arrogance for any religion to assume that they hold the truth.” But the most insightful comment I read came from columnist William Raspberry, who wrote, “Look at the matter from the preacher’s (or the Southern Baptists’) point of view. The minister believed to the point of certainty that he and his fellow believers had found the one sure way to salvation. It was his duty to share his knowledge with the rest of us not because he wished us ill, but precisely because he didn’t. It was as though he knew the bridge around the next mountain curve had been washed out and that to allow us to continue along that route would mean our death. Who would refuse to warn an unwary motorist even if the warning might be misinterpreted as rudeness? . . . Didn’t the Old Testament prophets do the same thing, warning people to repent before it was too late? And weren’t they Jews? Was the Southern Baptist prayer guide any more offensive or arrogant than, say, Jeremiah?” Mr. Raspberry understood the implications of the claim that there is only one way to be saved. In his column, he articulated the bottom-line questions we all have to consider. First, “Is there only one way to salvation?” And second, “If there is only one way to salvation, then isn’t it our duty to share it with others?” To both questions, Paul answers with a resounding yes! In Romans 2:17, we will discover how to become a Christian without being religious.
The theme of Romans is that we all need a right standing with God. The problem is none of us has righteousness on our own. All men are guilty before God. For example, the pagan who has never heard the gospel is guilty and needs salvation. The moralist who tries to keep a code of good conduct is also guilty before God because he is not good enough. Finally, Paul looks at religious people. We have the idea that religious people ought to be okay with God, because they do a lot of good works to earn God’s forgiveness. Shouldn’t their attempts to receive righteousness count for something? Yet Paul said in Romans 2 that religious people are also guilty before God in spite of their spiritual heritage, biblical knowledge, and religious works.
Paul used the Jew as an example. In Paul’s day, most people thought the Jews were the most religious people and that they certainly ought to be saved. If Paul were writing to us today, he might talk about the Mormons, the Catholics, the Methodists, and the Baptists. He would say all these religious people are guilty before God. Regardless of spiritual heritage, biblical knowledge, and religious works, everyone needs the salvation that comes only through faith in Christ.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “How to Be a Christian without Being Religious” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Abraham H. Foxman, quoted in “Southern Baptist Prayer Guides: On Judaism,” Religious Tolerance, March 15, 2006; William Raspberry, Washington Post, September 24, 1999.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.