“External rites, whether those of Judaism or of Christendom are meaningless unless there is a circumcision of the heart, unless God has touched the person’s heart and there is a reality to his or her faith…. To live livesthat are a scandal in the sight of nonbelievers, to profess a faith that means nothing in our inward parts, this surely places us under God’s wrath.”
Donald G Barnhouse said this:
“There are those who are attached to form, ceremony, liturgy, religious precepts and practices, and all the attitudes that go with such attachment, and who are yet alien to the grace of God. They have ritual without redemption, works without worship, form of service without the fear of God in its proper sense, and thus they come under the condemnation of God.”
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth… (Click HERE to read the rest of the passage)
There was one word in this passage that stuck out to me. It was mentioned 9 different times. It is easy to overlook but it seemed to me to be the key to the passage. It was the little word that has HUGE implications: the word “if.”
Here is a one sentence summation of what I think Paul was saying: IF you do all the right things and even have the right “look”, it doesn’t matter IF you do not know the right person.
Now admittedly he did not mention Jesus in this passage. He is building his case in these early chapters of the need for the Savior and Jesus is very much on Paul’s mind if not on the page he is writing.
So here is my paraphrase of what Paul is saying in a 21st century, American, North Durham, baptist context:
If you go to church every Sunday, and give your money, and read your Bible, and pray, and take notes on the sermon, and memorize portions of Scripture, and go on mission trips, and help with the Toy Drive, and donate time and money to the Durham Rescue Mission, and have a child that you sponsor in Haiti, and have a cross that you wear, and own Christian tee shirts, and listen to K-Love, and regularly read this blog – but don’t know Jesus, then all of that is of no value. It only has value if you know Him.
It is always good to make sure that we know why we are doing what we are doing. If you do all that stuff to earn God’s favor then you are in trouble because you can’t do enough. If you do all that stuff because you love Jesus and want to know Him better then you understand the gospel. Just make sure that you never put the cart before the horse.
Next Week’s Passage: Romans 3:1-8 Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-7
Here are a few quotes from Matthew Henry to think on regarding this passage…
“What method God takes to bring sinners to repentance He leads them, not drives them like beasts, allures them; and it is goodness that leads, bands of love. The consideration of the goodness of God, His common goodness to all, should be effectual to bring us all to repentance.”
“The wrath of God is not like our wrath, a heat and passion; but it is a righteous judgment, His will to punish sin. This righteous judgment of God is now many times concealed in the prosperity of sinners but shortly it will be manifested before all the world.”
Romans 2:1-16You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.… (To read the rest of the passage click HERE)
Here is a reminder of the prayer I prayed on Sunday when I preached that is ALWAYS appropriate when we look into God’s Word:
“Lord, would You capture my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection.”
In chapter 2 Paul addresses those who may be tempted to look down on others. Specifically he is addressing those who after reading chapter 1 might think, “That’s sick. People who do those things are terrible.”
Here are my takeaways from this passage:
1) I am very quick to judge other people. And I am especially quick to justify my sin by comparing my sin level to that of others. Paul is making sure that our reference point is not others but Christ. We will not be judged on whether we are less sinful that others but on whether we have the righteousness of Christ. When we understand this, really understand this, then it should make us less prone to pointing fingers at others because we realize that there are three pointing right back at us.
2) My other takeaway is this – I WILL be judged on the basis of what I do. But, I will not be saved on the basis of what I do! This is a key point that Paul will make throughout Romans. We are saved based on what Christ has done not on what we have done. Salvation is by grace through faith. But Paul does not ever discount works. Our good works do at least two things: 1) They are indicators of the fact that we have been saved – they are the fruit of salvation not the root of salvation. 2) They are the basis for our rewards in heaven. (See 2 Cor 5:10, 1 Cor 3:9-15, Romans 14:10-12) We are saved by faith. We are judged by works.
This is not a make-you-feel-good kind of passage. This is a passage though that requires serious personal reflection largely because we are a people who by nature are quick to judge others. I am reminded again that I need to keep Jesus first and foremost in my mind and heart so that I have a correct base line for my life.
Next Week’s Passage: Romans 2:17-29 Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-6
Tough love is tough on everybody. Good parents don’t enjoy disciplining their children, truth be told, they hate it. And churches must sometimes take a strong stand when a member refuses to stop behavior that is self-destructive, damaging to the family, or clearly dishonoring to God. However, if we genuinely love someone, we cannot remain passive passive while sin destroys the sinner and everyone affected by his or her evil deeds. While we are not responsible for the choices of another, we can refuse to allow destructive behavior in our presence. This is, in fact, the approach the Creator has taken with sinful creation.
Humanity’s complete rejection of God left Him no other choice but to pronounce judgment, which began with His “giving over” humankind to their sin. Theologians call this “judicial abandonment.” Judicial abandonment is not the same as rejection. It is, instead, the first step in God’s plan of redemption.
There is a phrase that appears 3 times in this passage that always catches my attention whenever I read it. It is found in verses 24, 26, and 28… “God gave them over.” It sort of sounds like man had gotten so bad that God just threw up His arms in frustration and gave up on them. But what does it really mean?
According to the last passage, God has made it abundantly clear that He is plainly visible to anyone who will simply open their eyes. He is not a God to be so easily dismissed when He is right there in front of them. The point of the passage this week is that when men persistently abandon God, God will abandon them. He removes His divine protection from them and allows them the freedom to suffer the consequences of their own choices. They become more vulnerable to the destructive ambitions of the evil one but also suffer the destruction that their own sin works in and through them.
This abandonment by God is not an eternal abandonment. As long as sinful men are alive God provides opportunity for salvation. The gospel will always be Good News whether they want to hear it or not. Anytime someone turns from their sin, however blatant it may be, in genuine repentance and faith God welcomes them back and rejoices that another lost one has come home.
We only have to look around us to see that people are not concerned about their sin but only about the pain and unpleasant consequences that sin brings. Someone has said that sin would have fewer takers if the consequences were immediate. So God allows men to go deeper and deeper into sin in order to drive them to despair and to show them their need of Him. Even His abandonment has a redemptive quality to it. His ultimate aim is to heal and restore and save.
But make no mistake, as much as we like to talk about the great great love of God, there is also the great great wrath of God. And God will punish sin – either at the cross on behalf of the repentant saint or in hell eternally on behalf of the unrepentant sinner.
Next Week: Romans 2:1-16 Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-5
I believe the greatest demonstration of the wrath of God ever given was given on Calvary’s cross. God hates so deeply sin that He actually allowed His own Son to be put to death. The greatest manifestation of the wrath of God. He poured out His fury on His own beloved Son. He would not hold it back even from His own Son. That’s how He hated sin.
Jeffrey Wilson, the British commentator, writes: “God is no idle spectator of world events, He is dynamically active in human affairs, the conviction of sin is constantly punctuated by divine judgment.”
And the judgment on the cross sums up the world’s history. So, what is the time of the wrath of God? It’s constantly being revealed, all the time, all the time. Every time you turn around you see it. People live and die. Nations rise and fall. God judges sin.
You say to yourself as I said to myself about this point in my study – Now, wait a minute, there are some people who seem to kind of prosper in spite of this, right? There are some wicked people who seem to do so well and you ask yourself the question How can they live and get away with it? I mean, why does God let them live such wretched, dissolute, vile, sinful lives? Well, don’t forget Psalm 9:16 says: “The Lord is known by the judgment which He executed.” It will come. If God lets men prosper for a while in their sin, His bowl of wrath is just all the while filling up. If He lets them sin for a while it’s just that He’s sharpening the sword. The longer God pulls back the bow, the deeper the arrow plunges when He releases it. Judgment will come.
The story goes that the godly farmers in a western community were greatly shocked onesummer Sunday morning when they drove to the little church in the country. They found the man who owned the forty acres across from the church was in the middle of plowing his field, turning thefurrows. And he’ had been doing it all day and ignored the fact that it was the Lord’s Day. The people went on into the church and all the while they were in church they could hear the noise of all of his tractors. And so they were deeply concerned. He had worked all his other fields and purposely chosen to work the one by the church on Sunday to prove a point. He wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper, and pointed out that he had done all this on Sunday and yet he had the highest yield per acre of any farm in the county. And he asked the editor how the Christians could explain this. He didn’t feel God was involved at all.
The editor with great common sense printed the letter and followed it with this simple statement. “God does not settle all His accounts in the month of October.”
In the previous passage Paul talks about the gospel – the good news, as well as the righteousness of God. In this passage , and in the next few chapters, he spends some time talking about the bad news and about the wrath of God. It would seem that in order for us to really understand just how good the good news is, we need to understand just how bad the bad news is and just how dour our predicament really was.
But that was not where I found my pondering led me – though I suspect in the chapters yet to come that I will get there.
As I read the passage I began to ask this question: To what degree am I a “Christian atheist”? What is a Christian atheist you might ask? Craig Groeshel has written a book titled The Christian Atheist with the subtitle “Believing in God but living as if He doesn’t exist.” I think that rightly describes a lot of believers these days. I think it rightly describes me much more than I would like to admit to.
Here are the verses that prompted these thoughts…
Verse 18 – I am an enigma. There are times when I rejoice in, obey, and trumpet the truth and then there are times when my wickedness rises to the top and I deliberately “suppress the truth.” There are times when my regard for the Word of God would not be much different than that of an atheist. Like most people I tend to believe and obey what suits my lifestyle. Just being real.
Verse 21 – “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him…” I find that by nature I am a glory monger! In other words I like to receive glory unto myself more than I want to give it to God. It is a part of my selfish, sinful, wicked nature that defaults to this mode. It is the same with giving thanks to Him. It is not something that just happens naturally. You can see how I could be perceived as an atheist throughout much of my day.
Verse 23 – “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…” Believers do this all the time. I do this all the time. It is called idol worship. You have your idols and I have my idols. Of course we don’t call them idols. We call them things like money, jobs, sex, boy/girlfriend, church, etc. Things that we love more than we love God. Things that we honor and esteem and “glorify” more than we do God.
You may not think of me as an atheist but believe you me I can definitely act like one. I know Paul was making a point in this passage about unbelievers but I felt called out. I guess when I act like an unbeliever I ought to feel that way.
Romans is a great book to help me deal with all this stuff. It is a book about the gospel – and as you can already see the gospel is not just for non- Christians but for Christians as well. Especially for us Christian atheists.
Next Week: Romans 1: 24-32 Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-4