I don’t have much to say in way of introduction to this post, only how good it feels to spend time in God’s word. Yesterday I got to meet with my discipleship mentor (for the second time in two weeks, whoo!) and we are in the midst of going verse by verse through Hosea. So not only did I get to sift through this second part of Romans chapter two, but I was able to study Hosea chapter six as well. I am very thankful for these opportunities. With 17 days (but who’s counting?) of school left in the most difficult semester I’ve encountered yet, God’s word is like a breath of fresh air into my soul.
You all know the drill, before we begin it is imperative that we start with hermeneutics. The author of Romans is Paul, the audience is the Jews and Greeks of the Roman Church (which will be extra important in today’s post), and the purpose is Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith.” Excellent! In order to rightly handle the word of God, one must study within context. Without further ado…
“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” (Rom 2:12). To understand what the law (which is the ten commandments) meant to Paul and the Jews and the Greeks, let us take a field trip to the book of Hebrews. “Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well” (Hebrews 7:12). Alright, let’s break it down. The definition of a high priest is a man who represented the people to God. The high priest was the person in charge of sacrifices in the Old Testament in order to continually cleanse the sins of the people. Since everyone in the Old Testament lived underneath the law they were in constant need of sacrifices on their behalf because they were all sinners which made it impossible for them to perfectly keep the law. This extended to the high priests; if they made one mistake, it cost them their lives. When Jesus came to earth, he was both 100% God and 100% man (the ol’ hypostatic union) which made him simultaneously a high priest who represented the people to God, and an apostle who represented God to the people. Because of this, when Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross, as a high priest he made the final sacrifice that ever needed to be made. This change in the high priest and the repercussions of his sacrifice signaled a change in the law. No longer was (or is) the law necessary. Now because of God’s mercy shown through Jesus, all those who believe in him and his sacrifice have eternal life no matter how many times they sin according to the law, because these people are no longer underneath it. “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:18-19). The law was a broken system because no one could achieve it. In Jesus, all who believe can again have a relationship with God by being saved in his name. Back in Romans, the Jews believed in the Old Testament whereas the Greeks believed in Jesus Christ. This is Paul explaining that those who choose to live under the law will never have salvation, because they have all broken the law by sinning.
“For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom 2:13-16). When the law was given to God’s people, there was only the Jews. As it says in Romans 11, the Gentiles were later grafted in like a wild olive shoot. They didn’t become a part of the olive tree until after Jesus made his sacrifice. Therefore, they never lived underneath the law, knowing nothing but the grace of Jesus. However, Paul makes a point to say that the law is written on their hearts. What this means is that even though the Gentiles (and all true Christians) do not have to live up to the law’s standards, they should use it as a guide. The goal of all saved people should be to strive to be Christ-like. The ten commandments reflect the perfection of Jesus. No one outside of Jesus will ever be able to keep them in their entirety, but they are there as a reminder to show how Jesus was, is, and will forever be. Paul then goes onto say it is by belief in Jesus that all who are not under the law will be judged. I really like the use of the word “secrets” here. It implies an intimacy that God has with men. Only He knows our hearts.
“But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, The name of God is blasphemed among Gentiles because of you” (Rom 2:17-24). Paul rips into the Jews of the Roman church here because of how they treated the Gentiles. The Jews considered themselves superior because they had the law, so Paul is here to remind them three things: 1.) the law is no longer necessary because of Jesus, 2.) they cannot judge because they are sinners just as much as the Gentiles (or anyone else for that matter), and 3.) living under the law means that in order to achieve salvation they must keep it perfectly which, again, is impossible. In fact, Paul explicitly states that because the law is no longer God’s will, they are committing blasphemy by spreading the false teaching amongst the Gentiles that they are more significant in their salvation because of the law. In all reality everyone is a sinner, and in the end only through Jesus can those sins be wiped clean.
“For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Rom 2:25-29). To best explain this passage, I’m going to jump to Galatians 5:2-6. “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Naturally, Paul explains himself best. Circumcision is more than just a symbol, it marks a man in the eye of God that they are to keep the law. With circumcision, no man can be saved through Jesus Christ because they are designated as still living under the law. Therefore, it is not right to say that a Jew who is circumcised is better than a Gentile, because if they feel the need to boast about their physical appearance it shows that they have not been truly changed by the Holy Spirit on the inside. Under Jesus, like Paul has been hammering home this entire section, all men, regardless of nationality, can be saved.
This was a super-duper long post, but I hope that it helped to rejuvenate you as much as it did me. I don’t know about you all, but because I’m such a dirty, rotten, filthy, stupid, stinking sinner I am so, so, SO thankful for Jesus Christ and the fact that I will not be judged by the law whenever God calls me home. Praise the Lord! This concludes chapter two of Romans. Next week I will be back for the start of chapter three. I hope to have you all come along for the next part of this joyous journey. 😀