Sunday, April 12, 2015

Romans 2

    I have to admit I'm a bit excited as I write another blog post in this series! My brother asked me last night why I blog, and it made me stop and think for a minute. I really enjoy writing, and I hope this is doing someone some good somewhere! I know it's done me some!

    I would highly recommend you just go get a Bible and open it up to the chapter I'm speaking from. I don't want to type the whole chapter or even all the verses I mention, because I would still be typing when Jesus came back, and I have other things I want to do before then! So just open your Bibles and exercise that reading education you have!

    Rom. 2 is where Romans really starts getting fun. Alright, let's be honest, chapter 1 doesn't really carry that much conviction for us "good" Christians, right? I mean, c'mon, I'm not "filled with unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice" or a "hater of God", am I? It's easy to leave chapter 1 thinking, "I'll add those dastardly Greeks to my prayer list. I hope God draws them to himself soon!"

    Well, fear not! Paul has not forgotten the self-righteous either! Rom. 1 is the condemnation of the Gentiles, the idolaters and nonreligious of the day. Up to this point, the Jews in his audience would have been nodding and maybe giving a few "Amens" here and there if they were Baptist Jews! Here is where Paul stops the fun for the "religious" in the audience.

    V. 1 opens with a bang. "Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." I can just picture the Jewish readers listening to someone read this aloud to the church, nodding, nodding, jaw dropping! Up to this point, you can read Rom. 1 and still leave feeling pretty good about yourself if you're moderately moral. Well, Paul intends to shatter that myth!

    Chapter 2 is the condemnation of the Jews, so that the depravity of man is proven to be world-wide, not limited to Gentiles. Paul recognizes instantly what is going on in the Jewish minds as they read his letter, and addresses it strongly!

    While the Gentiles are guilty for their sin against God, the Jews are guilty to an even greater degree because of their knowledge of what God expected of them. Paul says in v. 5 that because of their stubbornness they are "storing up wrath for yourself". God does not take the gift of His grace being spurned lightly. The Jews, having looked at all the gifts that had been granted to them as God's chosen people and still turned their backs on the Messiah, are simply making their punishment that much worse.

    V. 6-8 say very clearly what that means. God will render to every man exactly what he has coming, whether he is a man who strived to do good (which Paul will define later) or whether he is a man who simply walked in unrighteousness. V. 9 is the first time Paul includes both Jews and Gentiles under the same judgment when he says "There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek." 

    So, that verse tells us something. As long as you've tried to do good, you're safe. God will invite you into heaven.

    Now, I can hear some of y'all now saying, "That doesn't sound like the Taylor I know." Ok, I'm not saying it! Paul is. V. 10 says that every man who does good will receive "glory and honor and peace". Now, isn't that comforting!

    Well, before you get comfortable, let me burst your bubble with the little pin that is v. 11-12. Everyone who sins ignorant the Law (the Gentiles) will be judged without the law, and all who know the Law (Jews) will be judged by the Law. Think about that for just a sec. Paul just encompassed everyone with those two statements. Either you're ignorant of the Law or you know the Law, but there's no other option. And Paul tells us that both will be judged!

    V. 14 gives the principle that each of us, particularly Gentiles who had no law, have the law written on their hearts (conscience). So, when Paul seemingly gives the loophole to the Gentiles that since those who don't know the Law aren't required to obey it, he isn't exactly doing what it appears. He's simply attacking it from a different angle. V. 14 tells us that none are ignorant of the Law, either the Jewish law or what each of us has engrained in our hearts, but either way, we still are measured by the standard of the law! So, we can't escape for lack of a standard, because each of us have one!

    Now, Paul leaves us for just a moment with some blissful ignorance in v. 9-16, which tell us that those who do good will be given rewards. Now, some of you may be ready to jump at my throat for works salvation teaching, but believe me, this is not! You just haven't finished reading yet!

    Let's review for a second. So, we are going to be judged by whether or not we have been obedient to whatever law (whether in conscience or in writing) we were given. Now, Paul shatters the nice, comfortable room of works salvation in v. 17-29.

    If the law is so important to you, have you kept every point of it? Those who feel most secure in their works are those who are the "most righteous"? But are they guiltless? Have they ever stolen (v. 21), have they ever committed adultery (v. 22, Matt. 5:28)? The obvious conclusion is this: none have kept the law perfectly. We have all failed at some point, particularly if we listen to Jesus' articulate the true meaning of the Law in Matt. 5, where He lays down obviously impossible precepts by which our hearts will be judged.

    V. 25 completes the crushing of any ability to hide behind the title of Jew for safety from the judgment. Paul tells them, yes, circumcision will protect you... as long as you are not a transgressor of the Law! The door just slammed in our face!

    Paul has successfully slammed shut the last chance of the Jews to prove their salvation by means of their status. If their status only applies if they have perfectly kept the Law, and as Paul has just said and will continue hammering in chapter 3 that they have not, then they stand equally guilty as the Gentile!

    As if this is not enough, chapter 3 continues the same strain of man's universal guilt! No longer are we Jew and Gentile as different levels of guilt, now we all stand equally guilty of all points of the law (Jms. 2:10). None have an excuse before God, as Paul opened the chapter with. We all stand, completely naked and bare of our self-righteous defenses, and deserving of God's wrath.

    Paul is hammering the question, "Why do we need this salvation?" By the time he is finished, we should be a quivering little mass on the floor, crying out for mercy! V. 13 sums up the whole chapter beautifully. "For not the hearers of the Law are just before God. but the doers of the Law will be justified." You want salvation apart from Christ? Fair enough. Just keep the Law perfectly, and it's yours!

    So, it is Paul who offers the attempt at works salvation. If you simply persevere to do good (v. 7), you will receive glory! So, all you have to do is persevere in doing good! But what Paul will eloquently show us in chapter 3 is that none of us have done that or as chapter 8 says, are even able to do that. Thus, we all stand in need of Christ. I believe total depravity and inability will be abundantly clear by the end of next post!

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