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Romans 2

August 14th, 2011 by Vic

“God does not show favoritism”

August 14, 2011

Romans 2

 

Paul had just pointed out that after mankind chose not to glorify God and give thanks to Him they found ways to satisfy their sinful desires (24), shameful lusts (26), and their depraved mind.

 

Now in this chapter Paul is imagining the protests of a Jew who thinks he is better than the Gentiles that Paul has been talking about.

 

The Jew could agree that God would punish the Gentile sinner.  But he never considered that God might punish him.  He was special to God.  He did not sin as bad as the Gentiles.  Some Jewish writings even state that no circumcised man will go to hell.

 

The Jew believed that everyone was destined for judgment except himself.  He thought that his lineage or his religion would guarantee him a place in heaven.  Many people today think like that.  They assume they are special to God, but Paul says God shows no partiality (11).  The Jews thought the covenant, the law, and their ritual were like ‘base’ when we play hide and seek or kick the can.  They assumed it was a place where God can’t touch me.

About 6 years before this letter was written the Jews had been kicked out of Rome.  They would not work on the Sabbath so couldn’t serve in the military.  They were sending huge offerings back to Jerusalem.  The Romans considered them atheists.  One Caesar kicked them out of Rome for 5 years.  Now they had just returned to their synagogues.  They were stubborn in their religious practice and proud of their differences.

 

The Jew carried a religious pride.  Paul is dealing with that attitude of arrogance.  Paul says, “You are right.  You have been special to God.  You honor God.  God has been good to you.  But that goodness should give you a repentant and thankful heart.”  God’s love is intended to motivate you to forsake sin.  Paul reminds them that they are sinners like the Gentiles.  They thought the Law was their Law given by God and they were special to God.  The label ‘Jew’ or ‘Judah’ means praise.  They thought their label made them special.  Their rituals, sacrifices, and festivals were different from the Gentiles.  They felt special.  After a general statement that God is not partial (11) Paul begins to discuss the error of their assumptions (12-29).

 

2:1-4  Instead of repenting and being thankful, they were treating God’s goodness with contempt (4).  Sins of pride and presumption are self-deceiving.  If you make a big fuss over the dirty carpet in the church, where will people look when they come to your home?  You complain about the weeds in the flower gardens where will visitors look when they come to your home?  You are announcing your standard of judgment.  God will judge you by the standard you have used to judge others.

 

It is not smart for me to judge you.  Judging is God’s prerogative.  If I start judging you, He uses my understanding of right and wrong to judge me.

 

God’s judgment is just, no miscarriage of justice, no false witnesses, no deceptive lawyers.  God is not going to wink at your sin and judge mine.  God does not forgive you more than me.

 

God is patient, kind and good, but not forgetful.  It is a shameful thing to go on sinning after you are forgiven.  Your parents don’t forgive you to condone your sin.

 

2:5-11  The words, ‘stubbornness’ and ‘unrepentant’ are only used here in the NT.  These are the people who say, “I believe in a good God.  He would never send anyone to hell.  He loves everybody.”  But without judgment, there would be no justice, and life would have no value.

 

In 1:17 God’s righteousness is being revealed and in 1:18 God’s wrath is being revealed.  Now we see that wrath can be stored up just like good treasures.  The day of wrath is the opening of the storage unit that has been set aside with our name on it.  Because God is forbearing and patient, not all sin is punished instantly.  But judgment will be just when the agent of death brings us into God’s presence.  In Matt 6:20 Jesus commands us to store up treasure in heaven.  Now Paul reminds us we are storing up wrath unless we repent and follow Jesus.  When we repent our storage unit is emptied.

 

The judgment of God is based on man’s actions (6), not his words or appearance.  The work is not just faithful rituals or public charity, but the obedience of faith (1:5).  Just as the believer lays up treasures in heaven, so the stubborn and unrepentant stores up wrath for the last day.

 

A childlike seeking of God should be spontaneous.  Those who diligently seek God’s glory and honor receive eternal life (7).  The self-seeking receive wrath (8), trouble and distress (9).

 

Selfishness is sin like adultery or drunkenness.  Our culture says some sins are greater than others, but that is not true in God’s eyes.  Gossip is often listed with murder.  On the other hand our culture says some things are sin which may not be in God’s eyes.  God looks at the heart.  Sin in God’s eyes is a broken relationship often caused by disobedience of God’s law.  The NT uses at least 7 different Greek words that we translate ‘sin’ in the English Bibles.

 

The word “first” in 9 & 10 does not mean first as being better than second, but first of a long line, or first of all nations.  It’s like we might say, “He was the first player to foul out.”  First in privilege also means first in judgment.

 

Paul now elaborates:

The Law can’t save you (12-16

The label can’t save you (17-24)

The liturgy can’t save you (25-29)

 

2:12-16 The law can’t save you. Those without the law and those within the law are judged by what they know.

 

The phrase “will perish” is future middle which means the subject acts upon himself like when the child becomes a man or I hit myself in the nose.  That means your sin carries its own penalty.  You will perish in and of yourself, because of your choices.

 

The phrase “will be condemned” is future passive like the word “will be justified” in verse 13, which is future passive.  The passive voice means the subject receives the action, an outside force will act on the subject.  That means we will be condemned or justified by an act of God.  You are not your own judge.  You cannot earn, avoid, or control the event.  You must live by faith.  We are justified by faith in Christ.  In Him there is no condemnation.

 

The law is known by more people than just Jews.  There are Gentiles whose lives give evidence of a moral sensitivity.  The ‘work’ of the law is singular.  ‘Works’ are usually negative in Paul’s writings.  The ‘work’ happens in the heart while ‘works’ are outward.

 

Many people may not know the written law of God, but they have some knowledge of God in their conscience and in creation because God put it there.  When we condemn another person for his sin we reveal a law in our own hearts.  So every man is without excuse.  And when they do the right that they know to do, they are a law to themselves.  Their conduct, conscience, and thoughts are proof that there is a higher law.

 

We trust in God who has provided a way for our sin to be atoned/forgiven.  He can clean out the storage unit that holds the penalty for our sin.

 

God will judge (16).  God will judge the motivations for our good deeds.  It will be a judgment by Jesus Christ.  The gospel replaces the law as a measure of judgment.  It is the gospel of grace and faith.

 

All men will be judged by the gospel.  There is continuity between the OT law, the conscience of man, the law written in our hearts and the gospel.  The criterion for judgment is no longer the law, but the gospel.

 

Don’t put your confidence in your law or your opinion.  Don’t put your confidence in your good life.  Don’t assume God is pleased with you because of who you are, what you do, or what you possess.  To please God your life must demonstrate that God’s law is written in your heart.  God sees your heart.

 

The external law can’t save us.  It is God’s love that saves us.  For God so loved the world, He sent Jesus.

 

2:17-24 Your label can’t save you. You call yourself a Christian, does that save you?  Does your church attendance magically please God?  Is your Bible a lucky charm?  Has communion become a security blanket to your relationship with God?  Do you think your family connections will help you get to heaven?  Do you speak a good God-talk?  Do you have faith in your faith or faith in God?  (17)

 

Pick a name, any name.  How can that name save you?  Why should God be impressed with a label or a name you might have?  God is not impressed with the name Jew, Hebrew, Israelite, Christian, church member, etc.  What label would impress God?  What job title would impress God so he would want to forgive you?  (Friend of Jesus)

 

The label should tell us what is in the package, but it won’t change the contents.  God does not look at your label.  He sees the contents. (18)

 

You assume your ways please God more than the Gentile ways?  You assume your definitions of sin are accurate?  You assume your education was accurate?

 

You have a bad attitude.  You think you know it all.  You have lost your child-like spirit of curiosity, flexibility, and humility.  You don’t practice what you preach.  You have blasphemed the Name by your life-style.  People say the church is full of hypocrites because of you.  You are an embarrassment to God?

 

You may even persuade yourself into thinking you are a teacher (19) or a preacher or you know everything about everything.  You can’t see that your understanding is distorted by sin in your heart.  Your external label is nothing.  The law you claim to possess is only a shadow, form, sketch, or outline of the knowledge of truth in Jesus.  Your label may not even be a shadow of reality.  What God considers important is not what you are emphasizing.

 

Paul gives a rhetorical flourish (21) like the Greek orators.  Paul says some of you are an embarrassment to God.  You do not practice what you preach.  You criticize others for committing adultery, but you do it in your heart.  You make a big show of keeping away from idols, bars, dancehalls, etc., but you have financial investments in those things.  You destroy the idol temples so you can confiscate their things of value.  You have a protest march so you can loot stores and businesses.  You boast in the law and then break that same law.  You’re against drugs, but you drink coffee and wine to excess.

 

You dishonor God (23).  You failed to keep the law in your heart.  Your boasts are misguided, your confidence in the law is misplaced, and you have misunderstood God’s will.

 

You have contempt for your fellow man rather than love.  You have closed your heart and insulated yourself from the needs around you.  Your life should honor God, but instead you embarrass God by claiming to be his child.

 

2:25-29 Your circumcision can’t save you. Circumcision was a Jewish ritual to identify with the promise made to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations.  But it became a membership card with privileges without further obligations or commitments.  It became a ritual without reality or religion without relationship.

 

For Paul, Jewishness is not a matter of race, but a matter of conduct.  Conduct is much more important than circumcision.  Many different religions practiced circumcision.  The surgical, external mark of circumcision cannot save you.  Your favorite rituals cannot save you.  Your church membership cannot save you.  Your baptism cannot save you.  Going to church on Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and your birthday cannot save you.  Without a heart of obedience, your religion is no different than the pagans.

 

You say you don’t smoke, drink, or chew or go with the girls that do.  So what?  What you don’t have or what you don’t do does not impress God.  Doing good is what pleases God.  Faithful obedience purifies your life.  Doing evil pollutes your life and brings a curse.  Any advantage you may have because of your birth or worth can be nullified by your evil heart.

 

When Paul suggests that circumcision could actually count for nothing, the Jew would be appalled.  Circumcision to the Jew was like baptism to the Christian.  If someone told you that getting baptized may be a curse and not a blessing, you would have to think twice about that too.  But if you live with a bad attitude and bitter heart your baptism has been nullified.  Church attendance is also like circumcision.  It has no value if your heart is not right.  The things that are seen do not always indicate what is in the heart.  God is more pleased with the rough looking gangster-type with a satanic tattoo on his face who lives a holy life, than the dressed for success kind of person who has a dirty mind.  The real person is not always visible on the outside.

 

Look at the last verse.  The word for praise has a double meaning.  Jew means praise.  Judah means praise God.

 

A true Jew is one whose life says, “praise God.”  A true child of God is one who does not embarrass God by his life style.  A true Christian is one whose life style honors God.  It will be obvious to the neighbors.

 

You are a true Jew when your life brings praise to God.  Jewishness is praise.  A Jew is a true Jew when his life praises God in the routines of his life.

 

What does your life say?  What are you telling your neighbors by your life style?  We know that actions speak louder than words.  So what are you saying?  If you claim to be a child of God then act like your heavenly Father.  Love one another as I have loved you.

 

God does not hand out membership cards but He changes hearts.  Jumping through everyone’s religious hoops will not change you.

 

Trusting God will change you.  Giving thanks will change you.  Believing on Jesus Christ as Lord will change you and save you from the consequences of your sin.  The wrath being kept in your storage unit will be thrown out when you repent.  You can begin again with a pure heart before God.

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