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Religion means ritual service. The Greek, thréskeia means ritual worship, religion (reverence or worship of the gods), or worship as expressed in ritual acts.

Religion is not the new covenant way. It is a dead way, not a new and living way.

Why any would think we benefit from ritual acts, when we have the fullness of God himself living in us, is beyond me. Yet I hear it all the time, often from pastors. They say it’s how we touch God. Oh, really?

James 1:27 (Easy To Read Version) The kind of religion (worship) that God accepts is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world’s {evil} influence. This is the kind of religion (worship) that God accepts as pure and good.

James is not saying that religion is worship that God accepts, or that caring for orphans and widows is worship.

He is saying that action and caring are what God accepts, not ritual.

Showing you faith in your works is a huge theme with James. Like Paul, he is saying that it’s our reasonable service. It is not service to God, but to the members of the body, the church. God himself is not served by human hands.

Nobody ever connects with God in a real or true way by rituals. They in fact form a barrier, requiring priests and go betweens, and objects, and recitation of words. Empty, meaningless words, designed to make the worshiper feel that they are touching God, when in fact it is faith in His words that pleases Him.

Jesus said that the day was coming when people would worship God in spirit and in truth – for these are who God seeks. The place (neither a mountain, nor temple with rituals) is neither spirit not truth. Jesus is truth.

The day Jesus spoke of is here.

We have the Holy Spirit abiding in us. No more go betweens. No more pretenses. No more uncertainty. So again, why would anyone want to practice empty religion?

 

 

 


 

What is Paul talking about in Romans chapter one?

Jesus said that all the law and the prophets were based on two things. We must love God with our whole being, and love our neighbor. And an overview of God’s acts throughout the scripture shows, among others, this theme:

God loves us.

God hates idolatry.

God hates mankind’s abuse of one another.

Now, since Paul is the apostle of grace, when he talks about sin and judgment, we have to understand the context and see his statements in light of grace. If we don’t, we have Paul saying two contrary and mutually exclusive things.

We are either forgiven, and dead to law and sin, or we must keep confessing sin and obeying the law to keep ourselves on God’s good side. It’s is not both.

Paul clearly says that having begun in the spirit, we cannot continue in law.

If we do, we are fallen from grace – meaning we have left grace and its benefits in our walk with Jesus. (It doesn’t mean we have lost our salvation. He does not un-adopt us.)

When we read Romans 1, particularly verse 26, we have become accustomed to the understanding that he is talking about homosexuality. But traditionally it was not understood that way.

Romans 1:26 says this: (King James) For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature

Traditionally, the understanding is that Paul is talking about pagan, idolatrous, practices and rituals.

The Adam Clarke Commentary says, Verse 25. Changed the truth of God into a lie. In the place of the true worship of God, they established idolatry. In various places of Scripture, idols are termed lies. Isaiah 44:20; Jeremiah 10:14; 13:25. The true God was known among the primitive inhabitants of the earth, those who first became idolaters literally changed the truth of God into a lie: they did know the true God, but they put idols in his place.

Verse 26. For this cause God gave them up; idolatry necessarily produced all kinds of impurity. How could it be otherwise, when the highest objects of their worship were adulterers, fornicators, and prostitutes of the most infamous kind, such as Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Venus, abominable evils with which the apostle charges the Gentiles in this and the following verse. I could produce a multitude of proofs from their own writings; but it is needless to make the subject plainer than the apostle has left it.

Verse 27. Receiving in themselves that recompense, the women and men, by their unnatural prostitutions, enervated their bodies, so that barrenness prevailed, and those disorders which are necessarily attendant on prostitution.

The whole context of this passage is men leaving their knowledge of God and creating their own gods to worship.

They got progressively more depraved in that worship, which employed temple prostitution, involving both males and females.

I like the Message Bible on this:

Romans 1:24-30 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them–the God we bless, the God who blesses us.

Oh, yes! Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either–women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men

– all lust, no love.

And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it–emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches. Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.

Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way.

I have emphasized the part about all lust, no love. Whether someone is gay or straight, debauchery is universally condemned (for it abuses God’s creature – mankind).

Whether gay or straight, loving God and one another is the thing.

I would rather have to account for loving too much than putting burdens on people that no one can stand under. That’s what the Pharisees did. Not for me, thanks. Goodness and love win.

Which takes us back to what Jesus said to do.

The short of it is that there are “experts” on both sides of this. I have chosen to draw a big circle and be inclusive. Now that I’ve done it, a huge weight has lifted. The judging, and dragging the law around, was a heavy burden. I lost the benefit of grace.

Jesus said His yoke was light.

Come to think of it, LOVE is the long of it too.

Because love never fails and love remains. The greatest thing is love.

 

Religion and sacrifice, worship and service, seem to get confused.

We are in the spirit, and walk in the light, so when we worship it is in spirit and in truth, as Jesus said it would be. Out of our relationship to Him come our “acts” of worship.

We are the worshipers that the Father seeks.

Out of our worship come our expressions of true religion, such as seeing to the fatherless and widows, and keeping ourselves from the influence of the world’s ways (which just may only mean the ways of the law/Jewish system – and by extension pagan rites/ways – but necessarily worldly culture/technology, etc.)

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

This is an exhortation from James not to let the world’s religious ideas influence our spiritual walk, not as a command to be pure and/or to please God.

God is pleased with Jesus and He is pleased with us.

It is not a moral choice. It is living in the kingdom way, and comes from grace. Christ lives it through us and we live it in Him. It is the divine dance – perichoresis (peri-circle resis-dance). This term was used by the early church to describe the Trinity; we are part of it in Christ.

The agnostics of apostolic times said that flesh was evil – Paul countered this by saying we are good and acceptable to God in our flesh – for we are redeemed. The Jews were only used to offering dead animals on the altar, to be burnt up – Paul countered this by saying that there are no more acceptable animal offerings. Jesus’ offering was once and for all. We then live through faith in the Son of God.

Because God’s ways are not like the religious world’s ways, and because He loves and favors us, we are lined up with His program.

Paul says it is reasonable to be workers with Him, to learn His ways, to get a right mind in this, and to prove/show what His will is here on earth.

His work is supernatural and when we are joined with Him, we become His point of contact with the world, bringing His grace for salvation and healing.

This is important, because we frustrate grace when we try to do anything “for” God, thinking we are being “spiritual”, or becoming “more spiritual”. We are to walk in the faith that all we do is in Him and for Him. This is reasonable.

If we seriously think we can ever surrender our ALL to God, we don’t understand why Jesus died!

The NASB says: Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

J. P. Green’s Literal Translation says: 12:1 Therefore, brothers, I call on you through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.

The Greek actually says that he (Paul) invites them to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is their logical service.

The word, spiritual, is not in the text!

The NASB (and a few others) get that from the word for service, which can mean ritual service in the temple. I know, it’s a stretch, but that’s what you come up with when you don’t recognize what worshiping in spirit and truth means.

These things matter. A bad translation can mess us up. It can have us running around, thinking we are worshiping God by offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, when this is not true at all.

We are already acceptable, and our worship is in spirit and truth, not in any sort of sacrifice.

No more sacrifice remains. Even alluding to presenting ourselves as a sacrifice is repugnant. It treads on the work of Jesus. Pure religion is not sacrifice, according to God. It is service to others. Get with His program.

The following is the passage used to say that there is a spiritual act of worship:

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (KJV)

Notice that verse one does not say “spiritual service, or “spiritual act of worship”, as some versions have it. The Greek literally says, “I am inviting (parakaleo – to call near or invite) then, you brothers, through the pities of the God, to stand/proffer/be at hand, the bodies of you (your bodies) sacrifice (act or victim, literal or figurative), living, holy, fully agreeable, to the God, the logical ministration/latreia (or “divine” service) of you (your)….” And so on.

(From the Thayer and Smith Greek Lexicon, latreia: service rendered for hire – any service or ministration: the service of God – the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law – to perform sacred services)

The word spiritual is not even there.

The passage draws its language from the old type of service under the law, after the flesh. But by the mercies of God, it is reasonable to present ourselves to Him – for we are wholly His.

Notice that it also says, “living”. It’s a new and living way we are walking in. Not the way of death, but life. We “surrender” to God’s way, the living way, and the only sacrifice we can logically bring is our living selves – our hearts and our hands and our feet. Lively stones of God’s building.

We are in the spirit if we are Christ’s. We are therefore spiritual, before we “do” anything else!

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord…

Romans 8:9-10 – But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Those who are Christ’s are spiritual, the old man being dead.

We all may not be mature, but we are all spiritual because our very nature has been changed – we are a new creation. Everything we do is actually spiritual. God fully accepts our acts done by our living flesh, for we are accepted in Christ.

I like it put this way: Romans 12:3 – (The Message) I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

Here is another, grace-based, take on that passage.  Paul is inviting them, because of God’s grace given by His mercies (he just spent 11 chapters talking about grace) to be ready as flesh and blood human bodies, to serve in the temple made without hands (for elsewhere it is written that God is not served by human hands).

In other words, we serve in the body of Christ, we who are now living in newness of life, with him working through us. The rest of the passage is the result of what the grace-walk looks like. 

It isn’t true spirituality to do anything in order to be spiritual; it will only fail. True spirituality is recognizing and acknowledging that we are already spiritual – and then walking in it.

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