God’s Righteous Judgment, Romans 2:1-16

High-fives echo in response to the judge’s verdict on the Gentiles: “Guilty as charged.”

166163e41e3c9ac70768869d063e6d8bLike the last passage, I feel like I’m in a courtroom, but this time slinking down in my seat to avoid apostle-attorney Paul’s piercing gaze as his focus shifts from the Gentiles toward the Jews. No, I’m not Jewish, but Paul didn’t let anyone slide. Probably some Jewish heads nodded their approval when Paul pronounced God’s judgment on the pagan Gentiles. Paul lights into their condemning attitude like a firecracker (verses 1-10).

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” –vs. 1

Despite knowing God’s laws, the Jews failed to live up to it. Their sin may have been hidden in more socially acceptable forms. But Paul faults them for having a stubborn and unrepentant heart, treating God’s great kindness, tolerance, and patience with contempt.

Those who patiently and persistently do God’s will, however, will find eternal life (vs. 7). This may sound like a contradiction to his statement that salvation comes by faith alone (1:16-17), but he is stressing that our deeds follow in grateful response for what God has done.

Again, Paul warns of God’s wrath toward: self-seekers, those who reject the truth, and those who follow evil.

Judgment With or Without the Law

All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.” – vs. 12

Paul weaves his case: Can the religiously privileged Jews expect special treatment because they’ve been given the Mosaic Law? This gave the Jews greater responsibility for following it.

Or could the Gentiles receive an easier verdict for not having God’s Law? Certainly God’s revelation through the Law made His will more fully known. But God made Himself known to the Gentiles through nature and the inner law of conscience.

Conclusion

Paul concludes that all—Jew and Gentile—are guilty of violating God’s Laws. People are condemned for what they do with what they know, not for what they don’t know. God doesn’t play favorites. God patiently waits for our repentance. But a time is appointed when He will judge everyone’s secrets when we stand before His throne. No one will stand apart from the saving grace found in His son, Jesus Christ. (For more on God’s judgment, see John 12:48 and Revelation 20:11-15.)

So what?

The sins we’re tempted to point out in others are often the sins we struggle with the most. Like King David, we need to consistently ask God to search our hearts and show us our sin so we can seek His forgiveness.

Ps. 51Those of us who have grown up in Christian families could be considered today’s religiously privileged. Are we focused on living according to what we know? Or are we passing judgment on those around us?

Authentic Jewishness is Inward, Romans 2:17-29

I hope you’re enjoying summer. Mine has been a flurry of baseball games, swim lessons, kid chauffeuring/refereeing, and gardening. Although my weeds are persistent, they don’t argue. 🙂

Speaking of arguments, Paul continues his to the Jews in this passage: Everyone, including Jews, stands guilty before God.

Jewish Advantages and Pride

In verses 17-20 Paul parallels the Jews’ pride with their advantages:

  • You call yourself a Jew (vs. 17). The Jews were proud of their heritage. 2 Kings 16:6 records the first mention of the term Jew.
  • You rely on the Law (vs. 17).
  • You glory in (brag about) your relationship to God (vs. 17).
  • You know His will (vs. 18). The full revelation of God’s will was given to the Jews through the Law before Jesus entered earth’s scene.
  • You approve what is superior (vs. 18). Because of the Law they knew right and wrong.
  • You are convinced you are a guide for the blind, a light for those in darkness (vs. 19-20). This reveals the Jews’ high esteem for themselves and low regard for the Gentiles.
The Jews’ Inconsistencies

In verses 21-24, Paul strikes out the Jews’ hypocrisy when he expands on his previous charge in Rom. 2:3:

"So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

“So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

Paul’s curve ball comes in the form of five high-thrown questions, dropping over home plate with a pronouncement to each.

  1. You who teach others, do you not teach yourself (vs 21)?
  2. You preach against stealing, do you steal (vs. 21)? This refers to the eighth commandment.
  3. You say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery (vs.22)? This refers to the seventh commandment
  4. You who abhor idols, do you rob temples (vs. 22)? This also refers to those who act irreverently in or against a holy place.
  5. You who brag about the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law (vs. 23)? Hollow praise—bragging about the Law without obeying it—insults God.
Obedience to the Requirement of Circumcision (vs. 25-29)

As a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male. Although this was practiced by other males in ancient times, it held special meaning for the Jews. However, Paul countered that a real Jew was one inwardly, not by the external tradition. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. Instead of mechanically observing the written code, it involves cutting away the old sinful nature.

Questions to Chew On
  • Why does Paul show the Jews’ inconsistencies?
  • What do God’s judgments tell us about Him?
  • What does circumcision of the heart accomplish that observing the Law cannot?
  • How does any of this relate to us today, especially if we are not Jewish?

God’s Faithfulness, Romans 3:1-8

There’s no camouflage here. The apostle Paul paints a bleak portrait of our sin against the canvas of God’s brilliant holiness. In the previous two chapters, Paul chisels away at the common excuses people use to justify they’re not sinners: 1) “There is no God” (1:18-32), 2) “I’m better than others” (2:1-16), 3) “I’m religious, or a church member” (2:17-29).

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this "Deadly Sins" t-shirt.  Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this “Deadly Sins” t-shirt. Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Paul Defends With Four Questions

This chapter begins with Paul strengthening his defensive stance: All stand guilty before God.

It’s as though he’s tackling an imaginary opponent who is blitzing him with objections on his previous points of Jewish “lostness”. In classic Paul style, he fires back with four questions:

  1. What advantage has the Jew? (vs. 1-12) Paul’s statement about real circumcision and true Jewish identity undoubtedly sent shock waves throughout the congregation (2:25-29). They would naturally have questions. Paul answers this question: “Much in every way!” The Jews were chosen first to model and share God’s words in the Old Testament. (Paul later lists other advantages in Rom. 9:1-5.)
  2. Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? (vs. 3-4) Paul answers: “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (“Not at all!” has been translated as “Far from it!”) In chapter 2, Paul described the hardened Jews who talked the Law talk, but failed to walk the Law walk (2:21-24). They were faithless to the covenant God made with them. Paul cites part of Psalm 51:4 to prove God’s vindication in judgment.
  3. Is not God unjust to impose His wrath upon us? The imaginary objector proposed that his sin provided a contrast to God’s righteousness, thus highlighting God’s holiness. Paul answers: “Certainly not!” Shepherd’s Notes says it well: “If that were so, how could God judge the world? The moral governorship of the universe was at stake with such an absurd charge.”
  4. Does not my falsehood cause God’s truth to abound? This question is similar to #3. This reasoning feeds the lie: “Let us do evil so good may shine forth.” (vs. 8) What is Paul’s response to this twisted concept? “Their condemnation is deserved.”
So What?

God doesn’t need our sin to highlight His holiness. Instead, He wants us to reflect His love and goodness.

The Mosaic Law, which God gave to show us how to live, convicts us of our sin. The Law, however, is not our source of hope—God is.

We can’t earn God’s love; He freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His son, Jesus Christ—not through observance of the Law.

Righteousness Through Christ, Romans 3:21-31

If you feel buried with the depressing news of God’s condemnation of our sin, hold on! 8eac46465563cf7c764bde3ab6662c60

Paul brings us great news: We can be declared not guilty—justified—by trusting Jesus Christ to remove our sins.

Paul’s meeting with the risen Christ on the Damascus road radically changed his dependence on the Law and his stance that he was righteous by following the Law (Phil. 3:6). In this passage, he writes of the righteousness found through Jesus Christ.

Attested by the Law and the Prophets

In verse 21 Paul expands on Rom. 1:2 to include the Law with the prophets in bearing witness to God’s saving acts in Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the Old Testament promises are fulfilled in the New Testament.

Experienced through Faith in Jesus Christ (vs. 22-25)

Paul reminds us of our verdict: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs. 23).

But he doesn’t leave us stranded in God’s just death penalty toward us due to our sins. Instead, Paul affirms that God made available a right relationship with Him by trusting His Son, Jesus Christ.

Sweet Grace

Grace: The free favor of God in salvation. Unmerited, unearned “kindness and love of God our Savior toward us” (Titus 3:4).

I thought my cousin’s picture depicts a great response to God’s grace.

Photo credit: Kendall Smitherman

Photo credit: Kendall Smitherman

Paul’s uses three metaphors to illustrate what God has done for sinners through His Son, Jesus Christ (vs. 24-25):

  1. Courtroom: In this setting, we see a condemned person who hears his/her charges have been completely cleared.
  2. Slaves: In Old Testament times, a person’s debts could result in his being sold as a slave. The next of kin could buy his freedom (redemption) and set him free from bondage. Jesus paid the price of our sin, death, so we can go free.
  3. Ritual Sacrifice: The wrath of God has been removed from the guilty person.
God’s Justice

In verses 25-26, Paul shows that God forgave all human sin at the cross, even those who lived before Christ came. Paul argued that God’s timing doesn’t mean He is indifferent to sin and justice, but rather: 1) He is just, and 2) He is the One who justifies—makes right with Himself—those who trust in Him.

The following points sum up this section:

  • Excludes Pride (vs. 27-28): When God’s grace is understood, pride vanishes. Why? Faith isn’t a deed we perform, rather, it exalts what God has done. Faith is based on our relationship with God, not on trying to attain right standing with God by keeping the Law.
  • Affirms God As God of All (vs. 29-30): Paul affirms that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles.
  • Upholds the Law (vs. 30): Does faith “nullify” (abolish) the Law? As in the opening of chapter 3, Paul answers “Absolutely not!” Faith in Christ fulfills all the obligations of the Law. The NIV study Bible says, “When we understand the way of salvation through faith, we understand the Jewish religion better . . . . Faith does not wipe out the Old Testament. Rather, it makes God’s dealings with the Jewish people understandable.”
So What?  

When God confronts us with the gospel of Christ, we are invited to receive a righteousness and right standing before Him apart from following any legalistic religious code. What God has done through the death of His Son on the cross—providing payment for our death penalty—may be experienced by us through faith.

Why does God desire a relationship with us based on faith in His Son?

What are some results of justification by faith (God’s act of declaring us not guilty for our sins)?

Abraham Justified by Faith, Romans 4:1-8

This chapter builds on the previous one: “man is justified by faith apart from observing the Law”. Justification is God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins.

In this section, Paul offers proof that faith—not works—was God’s plan in the Old Testament. Abraham, the founder of the Jewish nation, was a prime Old Testament model of justification by faith. When Abraham was 75, God revealed that He would bless and multiply Abraham’s offspring through a son. Even though Abraham was childless and didn’t know how God would bring about His plan, he placed his confidence in God. Paul cites Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

In verse 4 Paul reasons that if a person could earn right standing with God by being good then the giving of that gift would be an obligation instead of a free act. Paul also reminds us of King David’s joyous discovery of forgiveness of sins in Romans 4:7-8.

www.pinterest.comSo What?

Like Abraham, we can also have a right relationship with God by trusting Him. God desires dependence, faith, and trust—not faith in our ability—to please Him. Jesus Christ is stronger than our feelings and/or actions. He is  able to completely save those who reach out to accept His generous gift of salvation, even when our faith is small. Justification marks the entry point of our relationship with God in salvation when we place our faith/trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.

How do we get rid of guilt from our sin? The NIV Study Bible suggests: 1) quit denying our guilt and recognize our sin, 2) admit our guilt to God and ask for His forgiveness, and 3) let go of our guilt and believe that God has forgiven us.

In view of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, is any sin too big for Him to cover?