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RELIGION:

THE GREATEST ENEMY OF THE PAULINE MESSAGE

OR

DARE TO BE AN ELIJAH

In I Kings 17:1 we read, "And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of ISRAEL liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word."

Elijah was one of the Old Testament prophets. His name means, my God is Jehovah. Notice what Elijah says to Ahab, "As the Lord God of ISRAEL liveth," I think this is very significant, for when Elijah comes on the scene the nation of ISRAEL is living In Idolatry and worshipping a false god, a dead god. They worshipped Baal. So Elijah lived in a day of false religion. Also the worst king of ISRAEL reigned when Elijah appears. I Kings 16:30-33, "And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of ISRAEL to anger than all the kings of ISRAEL that were before him." So we see that Elijah lived in dark days, evil days, but religious days. In his day there was much deception; the people were fooled by evil men and women; they were fooled by Satan and the means Satan used was religion.

Now we also live in a day when people are being deceived. II Timothy 3:13 says, "But evil men and seducers, shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." The word "seducers" means (in the Greek) "to lead astray or to cause to wander." It refers to an impostor or a seducer. The words "shall wax" mean "to advance or go forward." So these evil men and seducers or impostors shall wax worse and worse, doing what? Deceiving. Notice, this is the device Satan uses - deception. The word "deceiving" here means "to cause to wander out of the way."

We live in a day like Elijah when Satan is deceiving people, and the means he is using is religion. Would you dare to be an Elijah, and stand with God against this evil? Would you be willing to shun false religions and the evils of them? Would you stand with our apostle, the Apostle Paul, and his message of grace - the fact that salvation is by grace and grace alone in this dispensation in which we live? Ephesians 2:8,9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Romans 3:24, "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Today people are not saved by works or ceremonies such as baptism, church membership, catechism or altar calls, but by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:26, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit."

Men and women are being deceived by Satan through religion In this Dispensation of the Grace of God In which we live. That is why they are not following God's apostle for us today, the Apostle Paul, who said in Romans 11:13, "For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify mine office." This same apostle said in Philippians 3:17, "Brethren, be ye followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example." He also says in Philippians 4:9, "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and seen in me do: and the God of peace shall be with you." He says his commandments are the words of the Lord, and if any are spiritual they will acknowledge this. I Corinthians 14:37, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord."

Yes, our Lord spoke from Heaven to Paul and from Paul to us. Paul's words are the words of the risen, glorified Lord. And we are to preach the gospel according to the revelation of the mystery given to Paul. Romans 16:25, "Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began." Ephesians 3:2-4, "If ye have heard of the Dispensation of the Grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in a few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)."

But let me ask, why aren't people following Paul's message for today as they should? What keeps them from it? The Devil, naturally, but how? By working through the same thing he did in Elijah's day, RELIGION - false RELIGION. Yes, religion is what keeps people from the true message for today.

Now, what is Satan's greatest tool? Deception, of course. Yes, he is the great deceiver. Revelation 20:11, "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." So we see Satan is the great deceiver. Now, in what realm does he use his deception mostly? The religious realm. II Corinthians 11:13- 15, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." From these passages we can see easily that Satan works through religion to deceive people. Religion can be one of God's worst enemies because it is Satan's best realm of deception; it is where he leads many astray. Watch RELIGION; it is against God, it hates and despises His true servants just as It did Elijah, our Lord, and His apostle to the Gentiles, Paul.

Let me show you how evil religion can be and how people are deceived by it and kept from the true message of grace. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us there is only one true church in this Dispensation of Grace. That is the Church, which is His body. Ephesians 1:22,23, "And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." Colossians 1:18, "And He is the head of the body, the church..." Ephesians 4:4-6, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called In one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Paul says there is one body, one Church, in this Dispensation of Grace, and all who put their faith and trust in Christ become members of that one true Church by the baptismal work of the Spirit. I Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."

So we see God has only one Church in this dispensation into which He baptizes all true believers - the Church, which is His body. But today there are hundreds and hundreds of sects and denominations. Now, since the Bible says there is only one and we are to keep the unity of it, then all others are man-made and Satan's deception. They are all false religions.

People are deceived because they cannot see the difference between RELIGION and THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, between religion and true faith in Christ as taught by the Apostle Paul. The difference would be easy to see if they understood Paul's distinct ministry to us today.

Let me show you just what religion does. In the Bible, in Jude 11, we read of "the way of Cain." When most people think of Cain, they think of his evil murder of Abel. But, just what was "the way of Cain?" True, he was a murderer, but he was also very religious and his wrong religion resulted In murder.

Did you ever know that Cain was the first one who brought an offering to the Lord. Genesis 4:3, "And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord." So we see Cain had religion. But he was lost, and all who possess religion instead of Jesus Christ the Lord are lost. Cain's religion led to murder. Genesis 4:3-5, "And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offerings he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." And then In verse 8, we read "And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." You see, religion can reach great heights, it can polish a person, but It can also sink to very low depths. But true faith In Christ Jesus reaches supernatural heights, It makes a person a new creature, and God empowers that person and enables him to live supernaturally.

Now look what the religious leaders of our Lord's day, when He was on this earth, did to Him. Matthew 26:58,59, "But Peter followed Him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus to put Him to death." Notice who sought to put our Lord to death - the: chief priests, the elders, and all the council; they were the religious leaders. Also In Matthew 27:12, "And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing." So we see, It was the religious leaders of our Lord's day that accused Him; WATCH RELIGION!

Look what religion led Paul to do when he walked In the Jews' religion before he met the Lord. Galatians 1:13, "For ye have heard of my conversation In time past In the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted It." Yes, Paul persecuted the church. Acts 8:3, "As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." He also was present at Stephen's death and consented to It. Acts 8:1, "And Saul was consenting unto his death." Now do you see how religion is a tool of Satan, used to deceive people? Don't you think the religious leaders of our Lord's day on earth thought they were doing right? Yes, for they were deceived. They did not know what they did. That is why our Lord prayed in Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Look what Peter says In Acts 3, talking to the people of Israel concerning the fact that they killed the Prince of Life.

Acts 3:17, "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." Paul thought he was right when he persecuted the church and consented to murder. Why? Because he was religious. But Satan deceived him as he did the other religious people of our Lord's day.

The people In the Old Testament of Elijah's day were also deceived by Satan. Would you dare to be an Elijah and stand against the false religion of our day which keeps people away from God's truth for us, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul?

The Devil Is using the hundreds of sects and divisions and religions to keep people from the truth of the "mystery" revealed to Paul for us.

Let me show you what Paul thought of his religion after he met Christ and was created new in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:4-9, "Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is In the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."

Now, let me ask you, are you saved; are you in Christ? If so, are you standing up for the mystery revealed to Paul, God's secret purpose for this dispensation? Brothers and sisters In Christ, if we stand true, it won't be easy. Satan, our great enemy, will continue to work. He hates the message of the Gospel of the Grace of God. So we will have opposition, resistance and opponents from without and within the church. Religion will give us a battle and some of our worst enemies will be Christians who are walking after the flesh. Galatians 4:29 says, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."

In closing, let me say, religion has shed the blood of many saints. Religion is still causing much evil in the world. Religion keeps many people from Paul's distinct ministry. Yes, religion Is probably keeping more from the truth of the Pauline message than any other thing Satan uses.

If you are not in Christ today, will you turn from religion to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved by grace through faith in Him? Ephesians 2:8,9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."

 

 

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