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Romans 2:12-29

As you look at Romans 2:12-29 in your House Fellowship this week, you may be feeling the weight of God's wrath and judgement.  You're probably looking back to Romans 1:16-17 (where Paul told us that salvation is found in the Gospel and that God reveals his righteousness) and wondering, "what happened?" If that's you, don't worry!  Don't panic. Paul will expand on this idea in forthcoming chapters in Romans, but first he has to deal with another revelation from God.  Romans 1:18 says "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men suppress the truth."

It's clear from the amount to words and thought Paul gives to the coming judgement of our sin that the issue of sin is extremely serious.  There's no doubt that Paul wants us to feel the burden of our sin and the true state of the man who exchanges the truth for a lie.

I can't help but think of Pilgrim's "burden."  In John Bunyan's classic work, Pilgrim's Progress, the protagonists, Pilgrim, discovers that he's weighed down by a burden, like a backpack full of stones.  As he seeks relief from his burden, Pilgrim begins a journey that leads him into the Kingdom of God.  But had Pilgrim not realized the weight of his burden, he never would have set out on his journey.  I believe Paul wants to be absolutely sure we feel the weight of our sin and are desperately crying out, "What must I do to be saved?" before he returns to the revelation of God's righteousness and the only thing that has the power to save -- the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In a part of Romans 2:12-29, Paul deals with the Jew who ignores his burden because he has the Law. But it is not the Law that saves the Jew any more than a dusty Bible on the shelf saves us today.  Paul says "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" (Romans 1:12).  Ignorance is no excuse but simply knowing what the Law says isn't what saves either.  (And he claims that nobody is really ignorant because we all have an awareness written on our heart.  We intrinsically know right and wrong.)  So what saves?

Paul says doing the Law saves.  "Oh," you say, "so if I feed an orphan I'll be saved?"  Many within Christendom would have you think that.  But if we seek to do the finer details but miss the bigger point, we still won't be justified when we stand before God on the Day of Judgement.   It will be like the Pharisees who will argue with God that they did this and that in the name of the Lord but Jesus will say, "I never knew you."  (See Matthew 7:21-23.) The purpose of the Law is to bring about our need for a savior and then the Law points us to the only perfect, sufficient, Savior--Jesus Christ.  Paul understood this when he preached, "Let it be know to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believe is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39).   So really, we must be doers of the Law it to submit our lives to Jesus for salvation.

Submitting our lives to Christ still means we'll feed orphans; but in doing so, we'll rightly do it in the name of Jesus, rather than in vain for our own glory.  In being doers of the Law, our very lives will be lived to know Jesus and make him known in the world.  In being doers of the Law, we won't put our faith in the paper and ink of a dusty Bible on the shelf but in the very revelation of righteousness from God!  Anybody can read the words on the page, but it's an entirely different thing to give your life over to what those words proclaim.  Simply going to a local church on Sunday is not doing the Law.  Instead, we become the Church as our fully-submitted lives become living stones that Jesus will use to build his Church.

Paul's words are hard to hear because they draw attention to our burden--our burden of sin.  But we must be thankful for these words because they lead us to the freedom of salvation.  How are we like the Jew's Paul is talking about?  In what ways do we wrongly place our faith in the finer details of our Christianity that we ought not to because they are not actually leading us to be doers of the Law?  What are the Christian things we've placed higher than Christ?   Are we treating Christ like our "get out of jail free" card?   Additionally, how are we acting like the Gentiles Paul writes about?  We know what's right and what's wrong and at times we accidentally do the right thing; but just thinking we're doing the right thing won't bring about salvation.  Are there times when we fall into the trap of thinking "I'm a good person so God will save me?"

The thoughts of the Jews as well as the thinking of the Gentile was just as persuasive in Paul's day as it is in ours.  Oh Lord, please grant us eyes to see where our thinking and actions are wrong.  God, please use these words of your coming Judgement to jolt us out of our wrong thinking and into a sweeter relationship with your son, Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo gloria!
Pastor Bryan

* The photo for this post comes from an illustration by William Blake in the John Bunyan work, Pilgrim's Progress