Knowledge is Power
Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 10. As we turn there, I want to give a big thank you to Dave for filling in for me last week in short notice. He delivered a great sermon. If you didnt get a chance to hear it, Hope was wonderful and recorded it for me and it is posted on the Church FB page. Thank you to the rest of you for your prayers and understanding as I was just knocked completely out by this fever and Hope passed along the concerns and the love last week. Thank you.
So, as we open up to Romans chapter 10, we see that Paul is, in some ways still addressing the same thing we did at the start of Chapter 9, his heart for the lost. And in Chapter 9, he poured out his hearts desire in the first few verses of chapter 9. After that, he addressed 3 questions or challenges that some have made regarding Gods sovereignty, finishing the chapter with no doubt that God is in control of everything, he created everything he alone sees what is good and right and that trusting in Christ alone is the only way for us to enter into Gods Kingdom.
And so, the need for salvation and the author of salvation are established. Later on in chapter 10, likely what we will look at next week, he will deal with how we are saved, some of the general mechanics. This week, we are looking at the importance of knowledge, in both salvation, our justification and in our Christian walk, in our sanctification.
Lets go ahead and read this weeks verses. Romans chapter 10, and I will be reading verses 1-8. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do highly encourage you to follow along in your Bibles, whatever translation they may be. If you do not own a Bible, we have some on the back table there that we would like to be our gift to you. Romans 10:1-8, the Apostle Paul writes:
Brothers,[a] my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.[b]
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
The part of Pauls writing here that we are gong to focus on is something that Paul is very, very familiar with. In verse 2 here, Paul talks about his fellow Israelites and says that they have a zeal for God, more accurately in context, who they think God is, but their zeal is not based on any knowledge of Him.
Paul is intimately aware of this conundrum. Think of who Paul was. He describes himself in Philippians 3:4-6, as he writes:
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,[c] blameless.
A good resource for you to look at online is GotQuestions.org. They put together a systematic and chronological biography of Paul based on all the Bible verses that talk about him and his background and a little bit of resources from that period in time. One of the ways they sum up Pauls life before Christ is when they say, “Paul’s early life was marked by religious zeal, brutal violence, and the relentless persecution of the early church.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/life-Paul.html)
Paul’s early life was one of 100% dedication to doing the will of God. The problem was that he was going in the absolute wrong direction. 180 degrees backwards. He had knowledge of what we know as the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew them in and out, upside down and backwards. We see in his writings how often he quotes from the Old Testament. But he also shows us, in his writings, in Gods Word, that having intellectual knowledge of the scripture, reading it like literature for a University class or something like that, just studying its literary value, has no benefit. You can have all the scriptures in the World memorized, that doesn’t mean you know what God is saying through those words. You can’t know what Gods means through those words unless God reveals it, as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3: 14-16:
14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one[c] turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Without Christ, a zeal and passion for God is not a zeal or passion for the One True Biblical God. Jesus says that you cannot know the Father without the Son. (Matthew 11:27) And so, many Israelites at the time, many people today of ALL religions, including Christianity, think that they know god and that they have a zeal for God, but without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, who He is, and through him, Who God the Father is, whatever god we have a zeal for is a false god.
And the only way we can know who Jesus is, is through the revelation of Him through the bible, Gods Word. Jesus is the Word. And the Word was God and the Word was with God. (John 1) When Paul, then going by Saul, finally met the real Jesus, and through him, the true God, as recorded in Acts 9, his zeal was paired with knowledge, knowledge that saves and knowledge that focus’ the zeal that many have for god into a real difference making, actionable zeal.
Again, Paul was intimately aware of what true, biblical knowledges means to the life of a believer. True knowledge of Christ and who He is changes lives. We live in a country and a time when we can claim to be Christians, claim to know Christ and to believe the Bible and no one would be able to pick us out of a crowd. This stat is a few years old, but in recent surveys, 2 stats jumped out.
First, over 90% of Americans claim to believe in “god.” In this case, obviously, god is an undefined, spiritual word of something outside of ourselves, or inside of ourselves in some cases, that really has no definition. Second, somewhere around 75-80% of Americans self-identify as Christians. I choose that word, self-identify, very purposefully. As we see across the country, throughout society today that people can “self-identify” as anything they want, scientific and biological facts not withstanding. People can self identify as anything, with no evidence to back up their claims and we are told that we need to accept that self-identification.
Well, 75-80% of Americans self identify as Christians. The problem is that there is no evidence to show that they believe anything that constitutes making one a Christian. Things like who Jesus is and how he saves. Things like what salvation is and why we need it. Things like who God the Father is and what He has revealed to us.
A few weeks ago, Ligonier Ministries released the latest findings in a study they conduct every couple of years. Dave mentioned this last week and read some of the statistics. We went over this 2 weeks ago in Prayer Meeting as well. Christianity Today wrote a good article summing up some of the findings and I have copies of that article on the back table which include a link to the raw results of the study itself, and I encourage you to look at and play around with some of that information and to really see how bad the State of Theology is in this country.
The simplest take away is that the vast majority of people polled, really don’t know what the Bible says and therefore, the Church, as a whole, doesn’t know what the Word of God is or says.
Now, a part of that is on mine and other pastors shoulders. It is on the shoulders of elders throughout churches across America. Elders are clearly tasked with the responsibility of teaching those under their care, though the Pastor is the elder who takes the main teaching role, especially in our setup, but also in most churches across America. So a part of your knowledge about what the bible says, about what is true and what is not, a part of that falls on my shoulders. For these 30-45 minutes here in Sunday mornings. For the 30 minutes or so of bible Study we have at the beginning of our prayer meeting on Wednesday Mornings. My responsibility is to give you all accurate and true teaching of what the bible says. In that, in my responsibility to rightly handle to Word of God, James writes that I will be judged stricter than those who are not teachers.
But the bigger responsibility, the larger onus is on you. You have a responsibility to know what you claim to believe. You are the only one that can take responsibility for your faith. You are the only can that can know what you believe and why. You are the only one who can put your faith in its proper priority context. You are the only one who can do any of the things it takes to build and grow your faith and your walk with Christ.
And finally, its all of our responsibilities to help each other. Its our responsibility to encourage and exhort each other. To walk along side each and bear each others burdens, as Paul writes in Galatians (Gal 6:2). He also writes in Ephesians 4:12-14 that we are to “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[e] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” We are responsible for each other as well.
Why does this matter? What does it matter what we think or believe? We look at the State of Theology Study and they asked 34 questions. Some of these questions are secondary, though very important, and some of these questions are vital to the fact that we consider ourselves Christians. Some of these questions we cannot answer a certain way and still consider ourselves Christians.
Statement 12 says “Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.” And you answer Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Dont know, Agree, Strongly Agree. Overall, only 23% of respondents agree at all. Only 26% disagree that even though everyone sins a little, people are generally good. 39%, 39% say that the Holy Spirit can tell them to do something that the Bible forbids! Then again, only 25% disagree that the Holy Spirit is a Force instead of a personal being. That means that 25% rightly understand that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, as in God. He is not like the force in Star Wars. And the last one I will run off right now, the Statement that Jesus is the first and greatest created being. Only 28% disagree with that!
Heres the thing, maybe to some of you, obviously to some of those who responded to this survey, those aren’t big issues. They are not important enough issues. Except that, this is the stuff of the Gospel. These are things that the Bible is crystal clear on. Jesus is very god and very man. He lived a sinless life. Much of this we have gone over here though Pauls letter to the Romans. We are all born sinful, slaves to our sin nature. We are not naturally good people. Not by Gods definition. Some of us do more good deeds or are more moral than many others around us, and that is a good thing. But none of us are good as defined by God. And so, because God loves us, Paul writes in Romans 5:8, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
When mankind first sinned, its relationship with God the Father was broken, it was shattered, we see that back in Genesis chapter 3. To have that relationship restored requires righteousness. Since God is Holy, He requires Perfect righteousness. Since we are born sinful, even the smallest sin takes away any perfect righteousness that we may have. Christs sinless, perfect life and sacrifice imputes, or puts on, his perfect righteousness on to our unrighteousness. So that, when we receive His righteousness by Gods grace through faith in Him and His Son, we are seen by God as and declared Righteous.
If we lose any of that, If Jesus isnt sinless, or if Jesus isnt God. If we are good and righteous enough on our own, if sin doesn’t separate us from God and his Kingdom. If the Bible is not truly the Word of God and inerrant and sufficient and authoritative, then we lose the Gospel. And if we don’t follow the Word of God, and Jesus is the Word, then we cannot call ourselves Christ followers, or Christians.
Doctrine and theology matters. Now, having said that, there is something we need to remember. While our salvation, our justification, the moment we move from spiritual death to spiritual life happens in a moment, our growth and knowledge do not happen in a moment. We need to remember where we started and we need to remember where others start.
As I often say, this is an instant where I am preaching to myself just as much, if not more so than I am preaching to you guys. And as such, I will use myself as an example. I didn’t become a Christian til my mid 20s. When I did become a Christian, when is started reading the Bible and going to church, I didn’t automatically and immediately jettison some of my unbiblical views.
I gave Jim this example a few weeks ago, but I didn’t immediately stop believing in evolution, even so-called Theistic Evolution when I started learning what the Bible says and growing in my faith. But, as I started to submit my thinking to the truth of Gods Word, as I was being transformed by the renewing of my mind, I started to see what Genesis and the rest of the Bible clearly teaches, that God created the world as stated in genesis 1 & 2 and not over millions or Billions of years. My view moved from evolution to Creationism. But my point is that, and hopefully Jim doesn’t think less of me for this, the change in thinking happened over the course of a few years.
We never stop learning. And we are all at different points of our journeys. And we do need to remember that all the knowledge in the world, with out grace, and without love means nothing. Paul emphasizes this I 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1-3, where he writes: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
So, as we make sure that our zeal for God is according to knowledge, let us remember that the knowledge comes in different times, at different levels, that some of us have been growing in our faith for decades, some, maybe for months. Whats important is that we walk along side each other, share our resources and equip, edify and encourage each other.
So, practically, what are some of the resources that are available to you to grow in knowledge and sanctification? Well, first and most important, bar none is your bible. Dave hammered this point home last week as well and it cannot be emphasized enough.
Author and Theologian Justin Peters says it great, If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud.
The Bible is Gods revelation to us. It is his word for us. This book here is THE Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.
If you have or do or use nothing else, read your Bible, believe it and live it. What other resources are you privy to? Well, your Pastor. Thats me. Dave is a Pastor as well. Some may say he used to be a Pastor, but unless you become disqualified by sin, I don’t think you ever truly stop being a Pastor. So, we really do have two Pastors in the congregation here. We can be a great resource for you. We also have a whole bunch of mature, experienced Christians that are willing and able to share their experiences, knowledge and anything else God has gifted them with. We are here for each other.
Third, and related to that, you have access to these sermons. Not just here on Sunday mornings. But I type them out ahead of time and I record them as I am up here. Both the manuscript and the audio get posted online, usually Sunday afternoons/evenings. The easiest way to find them is through the Bangor Community Church Facebook page, but if you want to know some other options, talk to me after the service today.
In My office, I have many books. If you want to look at some of them, or borrow one or two, we can work that out as well. There are many bad “Christian” books out there, so please be careful and discerning, but there are a lot of great, scriptural, biblical books out there as well.
Just being here, especially Sunday mornings, but Wednesday mornings as well, can be a resource just for fellowship and encouragement, helping us walk through life with each other.
One f the things close to my heart is right Doctrine and so I have the article I mentioned this morning back on the table there if you want to grab one after the service. Anytime I see a study like this come out, I will look over it and use it to see where can we as the church correct what we have wrong and what can we teach clearer and better. I will post useful and relevant articles on the church Facebook page as well. This article will be posted when I post the sermon, hopefully this afternoon as well.
Lastly, I mentioned this a few weeks ago and some people have expressed an interest, but Village Missions Contenders Discipleship Initiative is another resource that you will soon have access to. This is Bible college level teaching that is provided by VM for free. This can be taken as intensively or casually as you would like, but it is a great resource for learning about Christianity in all aspects. There are six classes and it starts with hermeneutics: How to Study the Bible. This covers such things like how to make sure you know the context of what you are reading, how you know we can trust the bible, how we got the Bible that you hold in your hands and so much more.
I dont have any details yet, but after the holidays, at some point, we will start these CDI classes and I really do encourage you all to think & pray about taking part of these classes.
So, as you can see, Bangor Community Church is here to ensure that we all have whatever we need to know and learn and grow in our walk with Jesus Christ. I pray that none of us have said about us what Paul says about his fellow Israelites in Romans 10:2, For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
Know Christ. First Have a saving knowledge of him. You hear me probably say this every week, but this is the motto of the Reformation, started now 501 years ago. Salvation is by Grace alone, through Faith alone in Christ alone according to the scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone.
Know Christ and then continue to learn more about him, being conformed to his image, growing in wisdom and knowledge.