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Romans Series #19


      Title:                                 religious but Lost


      Text:                                  Romans 2:17-29

      Subject:               Religious Hypocrisy

      Date:                                Sunday Morning — June 29, 2014

      Reading:             Matthew 13:1-23



I am of the firm and ever-deepening conviction that there has never been a time in the history of Christianity when there were more lost people in the church than there are at the present time. It is very easy to find a religious person; but it is not very easy to find a saved sinner. It is very easy to find a religious person; but it is not so easy to find a believer. It is very easy to find a religious person; but it is not easy to find a person who knows God. Most people have been inoculated with a mild dose of Christianity that makes them immune to the real thing.


Proposition: The sad reality is this: Most people are religious but lost.


That is the title of my message — religious but Lost. Yes, most of the people you and I know are religious but lost. — Are you? Are you religious but lost? — Am I? Let’s bring our religion to the Word of God and find out.

·      Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

·      Make your calling and election sure.


The Son of God tells us


(Matthew 7:21-23) (21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


Multitudes who expect to go to heaven are on their way to hell. Thousands upon thousands of “good people,” “moral people,” church-going people, church members, and church workers, are lost, religious, yes, very religious, but lost! In the last day countless prophets, priests, and preachers will find themselves

·      lost who thought they were saved,

·      condemned though they thought themselves righteous,

·      cast into outer darkness who presumed they would inherit the kingdom of light,

·      forever cast into hell’s everlasting torment who expected to inherit heaven’s eternal bliss!


Hear the Son of God again.


(Matthew 7:13-14) (13) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: (14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


Most everyone enters into Wide Gate Religion and walk in Broadway Christianity. Few, very few, enter in by the Strait Gate Christ Jesus, and walk in the Narrow Way Grace. If I have read this Book correctly (and I know I have), most who think they are saved are lost. Are you one of them, religious but lost? Are you one of them? Am I?


Satan’s Lie


Satan’s greatest lie, the devil’s most compelling and greatest deception, his most cunning device by which he keeps sinners from Christ is religion.


What horrible humiliation, disappointment, and shame awaits multitudes who think they are saved who are in reality lost. They claim salvation; but they shall receive damnation. They are self-satisfied under a delusion in a refuge of lies; but at the judgment bar of God they will be horrified to hear the Lord Jesus Christ declare, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity…I never knew you!


(Matthew 15:8) This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.


Multitudes have “a form of godliness,” and nothing more. We would be wise to examine ourselves, to make our calling and election sure. —— Salvation is to be had by faith in Christ alone.


(Acts 4:12) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.


(Acts 16:31) And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.


Romans 2:17-29 is specifically addresses to the Jews, the physical seed of Abraham, the children of Israel, those people to whom God gave his law, his tabernacle, his priests, his prophets, and his Word, a people who were religious but lost!


The purpose of Romans 1-3 is to show us that all the sons and daughters of Adam are lost, in need of God’s salvation, in need of the gospel, in need of Christ.

·      The openly defiant rebel is lost (1:18-32).

·      The proud, self-righteous moralist is lost (2:1-16).

·      And the religious hypocrite, the false professor, the religionist without Christ is lost (2:17-29).


Here (Romans 2:17-29) Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, goes after his own people the Jews and demonstrates that even the Jew, the very religious Jew, is a sinner who stands guilty before God. Let’s read the text together (Romans 2:17-29).


(Romans 2:17-29) (17) Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (18) And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; (19) And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, (20) An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. (21) Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? (22) Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? (23) Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? (24) For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (25) For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (26) Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (27) And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.


Religious Refuge


The Jews described in this portion of Holy Scripture had a great religious refuge, a refuge of lies that gave them a great sense of superiority and security. Their refuge was built upon seven mighty pillars, pillars upon which religious men and women lean heavily, until God the Holy Ghost knocks their pillars down and destroys their refuge of lies.


1.    They had the name “Jew. — “Thou art called a Jew” (v. 17). — The word “Jew” means Jehovah. These people were Abraham’s seed. Their name set them apart and distinguished them from all other people. Multitudes wear the name of Christ (Christian) who will not have his livery!


2.    They rested in the law (v. 17). — They did not love the law, or obey the law, or even understand the law; but the law (with all its ordinances, ceremonies, and sacrifices) was given to the Jews. They, therefore, claimed God favor and presumed that they were accepted by the Almighty. — They rested in the law, but knew nothing of the righteousness of God in Christ, who is the end of the law! — What multides today rest in religion!


3.    These people made their boast of God (v. 17). — They boasted that the true and living God, the Lord Jehovah, was their God. The Gentiles worshipped idols. These people Jews worshipped the true God. The Gentiles were aliens. They were Jehovah’s covenant people! The Gentiles had neither prophet nor tabernacle. — God dwelt with the Jews alone!


4.    These good, religious people were sure they knew God’s will (v. 18). — Their descendants are especially good at telling other people what God’s will is for them!


5.    They approved of the things of God (v. 18). — His Commandments! — His Sacrifices! — His Sabbaths! — His Ceremonies! — They believed in the Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope! — They believed in good, clean living, practical holiness, and personal godliness and righteousness. — The holy law of God was their rule of life. — But they didn’t obey the law!


6.    They were very confident of their ability and right to tell everybody in the world how they ought to live (v. 19-20).


(Romans 2:19-20) And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.


7.    They were circumcised (v. 25). — Paul here pursues the Jew into his last stronghold. Circumcision was more ancient than Moses and distinguished the Jews from other people. Circumcision was a symbol of the Lord’s covenant and a sign of all the advantages the Jews enjoyed as God’s covenant people. — What multitudes there are like them! — Religious but lost!


(Hebrews 6:4-6) (4) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, (5) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, (6) If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.


Men and women often feel, experience, and do much in religion who never experience God’s saving grace. Neither emotional experience, nor orthodoxy of creed, nor reformation of life is necessarily a token of grace. Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of such people. Look at what these people have experienced.


EnlightenedThey were once enlightened to an understanding of gospel truth. These were not heretics. These are not Arminians, free-willers, papists, Muslims, or Hindus. These people know the truth, at least mentally. They intellectually perceive and submit to the doctrinal truths of the gospel. To them, the doctrines of the gospel are logical and reasonable. They accept them as facts plainly revealed in the Word of God.


The natural man can see and understand any doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. He cannot see the glory of God in the face of Christ; but he can see and glory in doctrine. He cannot love Christ; but he can love doctrine. The unsaved man may be a better theologian than the believer. But the poor, uneducated believer knows and loves what the unregenerate man never can. The believer knows, loves, trusts, and rejoices in Christ.


Tasted Heavenly Gifts — Multitudes have tasted the heavenly gifts who have never tasted the Gift of heaven. During the Apostolic age, miraculous gifts were given to men. Some could heal diseases, speak in tongues, and prophesy. But miraculous gifts, which appear to be gifts of the Spirit, are by no means an evidence of grace, salvation, and eternal life. Gifts of the Spirit can be, and often are, counterfeited by Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:7-10).


Tasting the heavenly gifts and powers of the world to come is not salvation. Salvation is eating the Bread of Life. Salvation is not in miraculous gifts, but in immutable grace. Salvation is not in feelings, emotions, and experiences, no matter how great and life changing they may be. Salvation is in Christ!

·      A man can preach with power and eloquence, and yet not know Christ. – Judas did.

·      A man can perform miracles, and not know God. – Pharaoh’s magicians did.

·      A man can cast out demons, and yet be the messenger of Satan (Matthew 7:21-23).

·      A person can speak in tongues, and yet speak by the power of the devil.

·      A man can preach, promote, and defend righteousness, and yet speak by him who transforms his ministers into angels of light and preachers of righteousness.

Spiritual gifts and usefulness must not be looked upon as evidences of grace and salvation.


Partakers of the Holy Ghost — This passage even speaks of lost men and women who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost. We read of wicked King Saul that, “The Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied,” but the Spirit of God was not in him. Balaam spoke by the Spirit and prophesied of Christ’s coming, but never knew the Christ of whom he spoke. In fact, Balaam’s ass even spoke a word from God by the power of his Spirit; but neither Balaam, nor his ass, were born of God.  Caiaphas, the high priest, spoke by the Spirit of God, declaring the gospel as plainly as any man ever did. Yet, he was a lost man.


It is possible for men to say and do things which, considered by themselves, make it appear that they are partakers of the Holy Spirit, though they are not born of the Spirit. There were many in our Lord’s day, as there are today, who “believed. But the Master did not commit himself to them, because he knew what was in them (John 2:23-24). These are the very people being described in Romans 2 — religious but lost!


Tasted the Word of God — We are told in Hebrews 6:5 that these people have even tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come. They love good preaching and are moved by it. You find them at every Bible conference. Their emotions are stirred by the preaching of the Word; but it never reaches their hearts.


It is very common for men and women to enjoy rare, unusual gifts and experiences, without experiencing God’s saving grace in Christ. Outward gifts and heartfelt emotions impress and deceive. We must have something more. We must have Christ (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).


(1 Corinthians 13:1-3) (1) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. (2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.


Religious Hypocrisy


Go back to Romans 2. In verses 21-24 the Holy Spirit, the Searcher of hearts, exposes the horrid, damning hypocrisy of lost, self-righteous religionists.

·      They never live what they profess!

·      They never do what they demand that others do! — The Bragging Pharisee!


(Matthew 23:13-16) (13) But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (14) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. (15) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. (16) Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!


(Matthew 23:23-33) (23) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (24) Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. (25) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (26) Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. (27) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (28) Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (29) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, (30) And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. (31) Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. (32) Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (33) Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?


Like the Scribes and Pharisees, like the Jews in Romans 2, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, fallen man thinks that religion is righteousness. It is not! Trusting their own righteousness, multitudes are religious but lost! — Are you? Am I?

·      Do you trust your feelings, or Christ?

·      Do you trust your goodness, or Christ?

·      Do you trust your experience, or Christ?

·      Do you trust you church, or Christ?

·      Do you trust your doctrine, or Christ?

·      Do you trust your religious heritage, or Christ?


The Jews, like vast multitudes today, being utterly ignorant of Christ and of all things spiritual, went about trying to establish righteousness for themselves by religious duties, ceremonies, laws, and holy days (Romans 9:30-10:4).


(Romans 9:30-10:4) (30) What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. (31) But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (1) Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.


Living under the mask of religious hypocrisy, you dishonor God and cause his name to be blasphemed (vv. 23-25).


(Romans 2:23-25) (23) Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? (24) For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (25) For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.


Inward Not Outward


(Romans 2:28-29) (28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.


True godliness is inward, not outward. True religion is a matter of the heart.

·      Faith is a matter of the heart.

·      Repentance is a matter of the heart.


A person is not a child of God, righteous before God, and justified by mere name, nationality, profession, and ceremony. True circumcision is not something outward in the flesh, but it is an inward work of grace on the heart.


A person is a true Jew, a true Israelite, a true child of God who has a work of grace in the heart, who renounces his works and looks to Christ, who worships God in spirit and truth, who has the law of God written on his heart.


(Psalm 34:18) The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.


(Psalm 51:17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.


(Isaiah 66:2) To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.


(Philippians 3:1-3) (1) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. (2) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. (3) For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.


God’s true Israel, God’s true church, Abraham’s true seed can never be satisfied with the mere outward form of religion. They delight in the privileges of public worship; but they must have more. They feel the necessity of that vital power, life, and heart of Christianity. Here in Philippians 3:3, the Apostle Paul gives us a threefold description of those who are the true people of God, “the Israel of God.” —— “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.”


All who are born of God worship God in the Spirit. — True worship is the exercise of faith, love, and praise toward God, through the merits and mediation of Christ. It is spiritual. God’s people worship him in their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our outward acts of devotion are only a reflection of our inner life in Christ.


God’s people rejoice in Christ Jesus. — Those who have a true apprehension of themselves, realize that there is nothing in them to boast of or rejoice in. We make Christ alone our glory and boast. We rejoice in Christ’s wisdom, his righteousness, his redemption, his strength, and the riches of his grace. To them that believe Christ is all. He is our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption! — “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!


Christians, true Christians, saved sinners have no confidence in the flesh.The true people of God place no confidence in themselves, nor in anything they have done, either moral or religious. Christ alone is the confidence of the true believer before God. We trust him for our justification our sanctification, and our eternal glory. He alone is our hope in life, in death, and in the judgment.


Are you religious but lost? Am I religious but lost? Or are you an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile, a child of Abraham, circumcised in your heart? I can answer that question with one statement from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ.


(John 8:39) Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.


(John 8:56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.


(Romans 4:3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.


I can’t say much, but this I know. I trust Christ. Do you? If you do, you are an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.

  • Chosen of God!
  • Redeemed!
  • Called!
  • Circumcised!
  • Blessed!


(Colossians 2:8-15) (8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (9) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (11) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (12) Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; (14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (15) And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.


Are you tired of your hypocrisy, tired of faking it, weary of your refuge of lies? — Come to Christ! — Trust the Christ of God!






Don Fortner








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