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6. Not of Works Lest Any Man Should Boast
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It’s About Circumcision
“Not of works lest any man should boast” is a phrase the Apostle Paul wrote that is spoken ubiquitously in today’s church world. I mean it’s everywhere! And it’s being used incorrectly to make people believe they don’t have to live by God’s 10LC to make heaven. This is DEAD wrong. And Paul would be livid at this lie! But today’s preachers don’t care. They’re happy to twist his words around to everyone’s destruction. Unbelievable! So what’s it REALLY about? What REALLY made Paul write “not of works” in some of his letters?
Paul wrote “not of works” because of two main issues of his day — circumcision and food abstinence. That’s right, the Old Testament Jewish laws of circumcision and abstaining from eating certain foods, and whether or not those laws needed to be followed for salvation, was the issue at hand that led Paul to write, “it’s not of works, lest you should boast!”
Listen, the Jewish religious leaders of Paul’s day were adamant about the gentiles needing to be circumcised in order to be saved. This fact is first seen in the book of Acts: “Then some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). Can you imagine? That’s what was taking place back in Paul’s day! And yet, Paul knew salvation was NOT of those works of the law, for circumcision of the flesh was NOT a 10LC issue. Immediately, Paul picks this subject up in Romans, addressing the Jewish religious leaders in Rome:
“Indeed, you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your BOAST in God … You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, but then make money your god instead! You who BOAST in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?
“Circumcision has value if you observe the law (the 10LC), but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are NOT circumcised keep the law’s requirements will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is NOT circumcised physically and yet obeys the law (the 10LC) will condemn you, who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker!
“For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:17-29)
Do you see what was taking place here? The Jews were BOASTING in the fact that their flesh was circumcised. They were PROUD of that! But Paul knew they weren’t keeping God’s 10LC. He was even naming certain of them, specifically. In other words, Paul was making it crystal clear that the 10LC laws were of paramount importance and that circumcision of the flesh was unimportant. Can you see now why Paul would write to these Jews … “it’s not of works, lest any man should BOAST”? Paul’s dealing with this topic again in his letter to the Corinthians:
“A man who already has gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision, before he became a Christian, shouldn’t worry about it; and if he hasn’t been circumcised, he shouldn’t do it now. It doesn’t make any difference at all whether a Christian has gone through this ceremony or not. But it makes a lot of difference whether he is pleasing God by keeping God’s commandments. THAT is the important thing!” (I Corinthians 7:18-19)
Wow! It doesn’t get any clearer than that, does it? And God’s commandments are the 10LC! See, friend, Paul LOVED God’s 10LC. He KNEW they were the laws of love that needed to be kept to prove one’s faith in God. He continuously preached “obedience to them” was the path that leads to eternal life, all throughout his letters. It would take me days to point out all the verses he wrote in support of the 10LC. In other words, he preached the EXACT SAME MESSAGE as Jesus Christ. But all the other laws, all the Jewish laws and customs like circumcision, hand washing, not eating certain “unclean” foods, feast observances, and more, Paul knew those laws were NOT needed for salvation. And thus he wrote, “It’s not of works of the law, lest you should boast!”
Let me take a moment and explain something to you about the word “law” in the New Testament. It’s from the Greek Word “nomos” meaning:law, regulation, principle; this has a broad range of meanings and referents, ranging from the OT Scriptures as a body, the first five books of Moses, or any single command of the Scriptures. Friend, this is the Greek word used by Paul all throughout his letters. So here’s the point … you HAVE to read what Paul is talking about around the word “law” to know what law he’s referring too! They are letters Paul wrote. Letters are meant to be read in their entirety. You have to read them in context. You can’t just pull out a phrase here and there, and then spin it to make it say what YOU want. That’s dishonest. That’s deception. That’s what the Devil does! And that’s what happening today, all over churchianity.
So I challenge you, whenever you see Paul talking about salvation is “not of works of the law” look at what he’s talking about around it. It’s almost exclusively the law of circumcision. For instance, in Galatians, Paul writes: “Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). Well, we learned in part 5 of this series that “the faith of Jesus Christ” is to “keep the 10LC”. So what law was Paul talking about that we are NOT going to be justified by? Well, read the first 15 verses of that chapter and you’ll see. He said: “But neither Titus, who was with me, being Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves, forcing us to follow their Jewish regulations” (Galatians 2:3-4). Do you see it? It’s circumcision! Thirteen times the word comes up in Galatians! Paul was saying you Jews are NOT going to be justified by your keeping of the law of circumcision, but rather by your keeping of the 10LC!
So seriously, check it out. Whenever you find “not of works” in Paul’s letters, look around it and see what he’s talking about. Romans and Galatians are the two biggest places where Paul uses the phrase, and if you’ll look, you’ll see what had Paul upset was the Jewish law of circumcision, and the Jew’s belief that this was needed for salvation. Ephesians contains the exact phrase we’re talking about here today “Not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9) and just two sentences later Paul says: “Now don’t forget that you gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were PROUD of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts” (Ephesians 2:11). There you go. It’s ALWAYS about circumcision!
Let me put all of this to you in a different way, can you imagine a man walking up to Paul and saying “Paul, I’m struggling with the sin of adultery. I’ve been married 10 years now, but I have a mistress on the side, and I just can’t let her go”. And Paul leans over, pats the guy on the back and says, “Oh, brother, its ok, salvation is not of works of the law”. Can you imagine? Or how about a thief, or a murderer, or someone full of hatred and unforgiveness, or a greedy person? And Paul just comforts them and says, “Aww … it’s ok, friend, it’s not of works. Don’t worry about it.” Do you see how stupid that is? Paul would NEVER say that to those people! And yet, that is what preachers today are doing when they use the phrase “not of works” in their salvation pitch. You know they’re referring to the 10LC! They’re saying you don’t have to repent and live by the 10LC to make heaven. It’s not of works! You can go some other way. Just say this prayer with me. How tragic!
And guess what we NEVER hear out of preachers? The simple words of Jesus Christ, “If you want to obtain eternal life, keep the 10LC”. In other words, DO Term A in the SE! Why do Christ’s words NEVER come out of their mouths? It’s because they’re confused. They’ve been tricked by the devil. I mean Jesus is answering the VERY QUESTION of what WE must DO to obtain eternal life, right there in their own Bible, and yet they cannot repeat his answer during their salvation pitch! It’s STUNNING! Honestly, they don’t believe Jesus’ words. Therefore, “Keep the 10LC” just will NOT come out of their mouths. They’d rather quote phrases from Paul’s letters, completely in error, and leave you as confused and misguided as they are. Satan has done as Peter said, he has twisted Paul’s words to their own destruction. It’s sick. And I promise you, these preachers will PAY dearly for their deception. For their lies are helping to send people to hell
As for Paul, do you know how many times he said we should be DOING GOOD WORKS to make heaven, meaning keep the 10LC? Oh, over and over again! Why don’t preachers grab these phrases out of Paul’s letters and parrot them continually during their salvation pitch? Here, listen to some of them:
“For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the DOERS of the LAW shall be justified!” (Romans 2:13)
“God will repay each person according to what they have done. To those who by patient continuance in doing good, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans 2:6-8)
“I (Paul) preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that ALL must repent of their sins and turn to God – proving they have repented by doing good works” (Acts 26:20)
“Do you not know that the wicked will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the Kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-10)
Well, you get the point. I could go on and on with verses proving Paul knew “keeping the 10LC” was OUR DUTY in obtaining eternal life. And if we didn’t, we wouldn’t make it! Friend, just realize Paul was NEVER referring to the 10LC when he used the phrase “not of works”. He was referring mostly to the Jewish law of circumcision. But get the irony of this … the law of circumcision is no longer an issue today in Christianity! No one’s debating anymore whether this is necessary for eternal life. So, in other words, Paul’s phrase “not of works” (in the context he used it!) is actually no longer relevant to today. It should never even be spoken today. It’s a throw away phrase, with no relevance or meaning in today’s church world. And yet, sadly, we hear it continually.
So let me wrap this up … friend, if you hear a preacher today using Paul’s phrase “its not of works” in their salvation pitch, knowing they’re referring to the 10LC, implying you do not need to follow them to make heaven, you’re listening to a devil! RUN FROM THAT MAN/WOMAN! Turn him/her off your TV! Get them off your computer! Their words are the words of Satan! Rather, listen to the simple, pure and honest words of Jesus Christ, “If you want to obtain eternal life, love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself, which is accomplished by keeping the 10LC! DO THIS, and you will live eternally!”