To paraphrase scripture as presented in the Message we see that not only has the Church become Israel many have become spies only pretending to be Christians, who slipped in to find out just how free true Christians are who seek to pervert the freedom from religious legalism Christ gives us.  They want to build their own kingdoms and feather their own nests by bringing others into the same religious bondage they drag around like Marley’s chains through a life that reeks of the grave.

Now the paraphrase of Romans 2:17-29:

If you’re brought up Christian, don’t assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you’re an insider to God’s revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of God, informed on the latest doctrines! I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know God’s revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching “Don’t steal!” are you going to rob people blind? Who would suspect you?  It is the same with adultery.  And it is the same with idolatry. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his law. The line from Scripture, “It’s because of you Christians that the outsiders are down on God,” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away.

Baptism, the ritual that marks you as a Christian, is great if you live in accord with God’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being baptized. The reverse is also true: The unbaptized who keep God’s ways are as good as the baptized —in fact, better. Better to keep God’s law unbaptized than break it baptized. Don’t you see: It’s not the submerging in water that makes a Christian. You become a Christian by who you are. It’s the submerging of your heart in God, not the water on your skin that makes you a Christian.  And the recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.

Not only are we warned to avoid the legalism of religion we are specifically warned about false teachers and wolves disguised as Christians who seek to build their own kingdoms and lead others astray.

At the end of the book of Romans Paul warns us; One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.

And in Philippians 3:17-19 Paul tells us; Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

I’m not knocking anyone’s beliefs or their traditions.  What I am doing is trying to warn those who want to follow Christ.  We can’t let anyone, anything, or the peer pressure of any community fool us into elevating a system of man over the freedom of Christ.  We should ask ourselves, “How can customs, traditions, holidays, and ceremonies transplanted from paganism to attract or mollify converts as faith in Christ was spread, sometimes by the sword, across barbarian Europe after the fall of Rome save us?”  Anything that obscures the fact that it’s by faith alone that we’re saved and by obedience alone we’re changed is something holding us back from becoming what God created us to be.

Once again turning to Paul, the Apostle of the heart set free, we find in Galatians a stunning rebuke of those trying to turn a living faith into a religious structure.  In Chapter three he says, “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.

Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”  After faith comes we’re free.  Holding on to the structure of religion may make following easier but making ourselves a slave to it doesn’t set us free.  And Christ came to set us free.

Remember whatever is not of faith is sin and  no one can snatch us out of the hand of God but we can sure jump.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com  © 2019 Contact Dr. Owens [email protected]   Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens or visit Dr. Owens Amazon Page / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

Scripture quotes taken from and paraphrases based on:

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

And:

New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.