“Satisfied? Satisfied!” by Pastor Andy Braams

A demand for justice has been present throughout history. One of the earliest preserved writings in mankind’s history is known as Hammurabi’s Code. Dated to 1754 BC, about 300 years before Moses started writing what we know as Genesis-Deuteronomy, this code contained 282 rules regarding how to conduct financial transactions, including fines and punishments for breaking the code.

Many centuries later (around 620 BC) a man named Draco, devised a set of laws and their respective punishment for Athens. Draco was commissioned to write down what had been the oral law in order to bring an aspect of fairness to the justice system. Before it was written, any oral law could be manipulated or changed to suit the aristocracy. Once Draco finished writing this “constitution,” anyone who could read (or knew someone who could) was on more equal ground.

We all have similar issues with justice. Maybe it is/was a parent, a sibling, a boss, etc. Someone makes rules and changes either the rule or the punishment to suit his/her needs. And we don’t know how we should please them. In fact, we don’t know if we can please them. Thus, having a law, and knowing the prescribed punishment can be very helpful.

The same is true with God. Paul has made it very clear in the verse preceding today’s passage (and the preceding section, back to 1.18) that we can do nothing on our own to earn God’s favor. So, the question we must ask, is the same question that Martin Luther asked 500 years ago, “How can I stand before a holy God?”

Romans 3.21-26 answers that question. That is why I mentioned in my Friday video preview that many Bible scholars believe this passage is the greatest paragraph (passage) in the Bible, which would make it the greatest paragraph written in the history of the world. Think about that!

Why is that true? Because these six verses explain how justice is truly possible for anyone, but that everyone must make a choice on how they will receive that justice. The truth about salvation is that…

Salvation isn’t what you do; it is about what God did.

So, how can sinners such as you and I stand before a holy God? Let me share the truth of that previous statement about what God did in three parts. I will break down each of these ideas down further in the daily videos this week and next (due to next Sunday being Hub Sunday).

Jesus Made Righteousness a Possibility for Everyone (Romans 3.21-22)

Verse 21 begins with “But now.” One pastor has called these words two of the most hopeful words in the Bible. I am partial to “But God” from our study of Ephesians (2.4) in the past, and what we will see in a couple of months in Romans 5.8. (The two verses referenced here are not the only places “But God” is referenced in the Bible. It is found 23 times in the NT alone.)

“But now” is a transition in the text and so it can certainly be interpreted as Paul shifting gears. He has spent the last 64 verses showing us that we are all sinful people. “But now,” Paul is about to (finally) provide the solution, and that leads to a greater meaning of the phrase, “But now.”

The previous 64 verses represent the previous history of the world, at least back to the time of Moses when the Law was given. Whatever all of the people of history thought about the Law, one thing was true – it could not save them. It could only point out their deficiencies. “But now” Jesus has come. “But now” Jesus has died. “But now” we can be found righteous before God because of what Jesus did if we put our faith in Him. “But now” is the time to make the decision about the gospel, “for it (the gospel) is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1.16).

And even if the God’s gospel was only recent made fully manifest through Jesus, the idea is nothing new. God foretold this truth through both the Law and the Prophets. That is, the Old Testament is filled with evidence that God would make a way through a coming Messiah – and that way would be opened for everyone – if only they believe. For, as Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one come to the Father except through me” (John 14.6).  People may not have known that truth before, “but now” they could fully realize it. So, because of “But now” we have the first part of the answer in how we can stand before a holy God. Jesus made a way because He is the Way.

God Offers Redemption to Everyone (Romans 3.23-24)

We can also stand before a holy God because of redemption. He has redeemed us. What does redemption mean? Well, it means to buy back. But in 1st Century Rome it has a more specific meaning.

At the time, many (maybe even most) of the people in Rome lived in some form of slavery. I have mentioned many times that not all slaves from yesteryear faced the types of conditions most modern people equate with slavery. Of course, some did. But the idea of redemption was really a term that had to do with freeing people who lived as slaves – that is, those who were in some type of bondage. When someone redeemed someone, it was to free that slave from that bondage. We might consider this idea similar to paying a ransom. God paid this fee, this ransom, to free the people who were in bondage. It was, and is, His gift to His Creation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Why was this needed?

Because as the preceding verse tells us, everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (v. 23). Adam experienced the glory of God while Eden. But from that point, the sin present in each of us keeps us separated from the glory of God. The Law could not undo that. Our work cannot undo that. Even God could not undo it and remain true to Himself (as we will see in the next part of this post). But He could make a way through the gift of grace. In fact, He has made that way. Remember, “But now” the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law. That is, “But now” the gift is available. So, God has done His part through providing a gift through His grace; our part is to receive that gift by faith in Jesus.

God Has Provided a Means of Justice to Anyone (Romans 3.25-26)

Notice the difference in the last word of this point compared to the previous two points. Jesus made righteousness possible to everyone. God offers redemption to everyone. But because not everyone will receive that gift, not “everyone” will be justified. However, anyone can be – through faith in Christ.

Verses 25 and 26 are complex and deserve a deeper dive. I will cover them further in videos next week (after Hub Sunday). For now, let me just say that the argument is ultimately about how ruthless God is.

One particular word in verse 25 is part of the challenge. The Greek word is used in different way and can mean expiation or propitiation. The ideas are similar, but propitiation goes further. Expiation is to remove the sin. That was the purpose of the sacrifices in the Old Testament. Each time an animal was sacrificed for a person that person’s sin was removed from them – temporarily. Propitiation, on the other hand, is to satisfy the wrath of God. This means that not only has the sin been removed, but the justice that God demands has been fulfilled. The idea of propitiation is a better understanding in this context.

What Jesus did was not only to remove the sin from us. Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself so that we would not have to face that wrath. Many Christians (and non-believers as well) struggle with this because it means that God cruelly sacrificed His Son. But that is missing something key. First, Jesus laid down His life willingly (John 10.18) which some will say only applies to humans, but the premise remains. Second, Jesus is God. Thus, God did not just make some sort of child sacrifice…He sacrificed Himself for the good of mankind. That is a huge difference.

Yes, Jesus death was brutal. It had to be. He wasn’t dying for His sin, He was dying for our sins. He took every sin from every person from all time upon Himself. That was the price that had to be paid. God demands justice for all. The people could not live according the level of justice required. So, God has provided the means of justice for anyone, but it must be received. Thus, not everyone will be justified by the blood of Jesus. Those who do not receive the gift of God’s grace must pay for their own sins and will do so eternally separated from God in the place known as hell.

The plan before Jesus arrived may not have been clear to everyone. “But now” God has showed His wisdom to satisfy His need for justice by also being the justifier of all who believe in what He has done.

Thus, the justice God demanded has been satisfied. The question is do we accept it?

CONCLUSION

Earlier I mentioned Hammurabi and Draco. Some say that Hammurabi’s Code was mostly fair, although some dispute that claim. But Draco, well, the punishment did not always fit the crime – at least not what humans thought should be the standard. The punishment was very real. In fact, the punishment was so severe, it was suggested the laws were written in blood, not ink. Nearly any criminal offense received the death penalty. For instance, stealing even one apple or a cabbage is thought to have resulted in the death penalty (no copies of the code still exist, so what is known is through what others have written). These laws were so harsh they only lasted about 25 years, but the legacy of their harshness remains. Today, when a law is considered too strict, or a punishment too harsh, we refer to these laws as draconian (or draconian measures).

Some will say that God’s standard is draconian in nature. Perhaps that is true because as we will see later this year, the wages of sin is death. “But now” God has made a way. God has given a gift. God has redeemed us from being slaves to sin – if only we place our faith in Christ. Not in ourselves. Not in our works. Not in our money. Not in anything except Christ.

JOURNEY

And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

God’s standard of judgment is Jesus (Romans 2.16). And Jesus modeled love. So, I do not believe God’s laws are draconian. Or, at least, they do not need to be. Jesus made a way. The answer to Luther’s question: How can I stand before a holy God?

One word – Jesus.

Could Jesus’ death really have satisfied God? Yes. I am satisfied that Jesus satisfied everything that God needed to be satisfied.

NEXT STEP(S)

LIVE.  As I stated above, salvation isn’t what you do; it is about what God did.

If you believe in the truth of what Jesus did; you have been justified. You have been made righteous and cannot not only stand before a holy God, you can live your life in thanksgiving to a holy God. Remember, as Romans 1.17 said, the righteous will live by faith. If your faith is in Jesus, then you are righteous before God. If you are righteous before God, are you living like it? If not, why not? Why not make this moment your “But now” moment. “But now” I will live for Jesus because He died for me.

“Defining Good” by Pastor Andy

A couple of weeks ago, a former Nazi prison guard was convicted of 5,230 counts of murder. This type of case is not new. We have seen similar cases over the past several years, and we will see a few more, but not many. Why? Well, it has been 75 years since WW2 ended and the number of living war criminals who have yet to be prosecuted is small. (1)

Do you think he should have been convicted? I mean he was only charged with 5,230 of the deaths of the estimated 65,000 deaths at Stutthof. And he was only 17. Did he have a choice? As I have said before, when I was 17, I had blond hair and blue eyes. My heritage is German. If I had been born in Germany 1920 instead of in America in 1970, Bruno D. could have been Andy B.

For the record, I think Bruno D did deserve his conviction. He was indicted because he fully supported the “insidious and cruel killing” at the camp. So, despite his age, he was fully complicit. But the reality is that all of us are complicit in some type of sin. Every one of us. We may look down on some sins more than others, but none of us are innocent, particularly before God.

Our passage today makes that point abundantly clear. Romans 3.9-20 concludes a long section of Romans which began at 1.18. We have seen the sins of Gentiles. We have seen the sins of the Jews. And now, Paul provides details of just how corrupt the human race really is. (He has not yet mentioned the solution, but that is coming – with a first mention next week.)

Because of our sinful nature, we need a judge who is above it all. Yes, Bruno D. deserves to be convicted. Andy B. has not done anything similar, so you might let me slide. But compared to a holy and righteous God (cf. Rom 1.17), I have nothing of myself on which to stand. None of us do.

Many of us may claim to talk the talk, but only Jesus can walk the walk.

Andy, is it really that bad? Well, rather than me giving you my opinion, let’s see what God had to say through His messenger Paul.

To begin, let me remind you that this section of Scripture follows immediately after the Jew has tried to suggest that God has not been faithful to His promise (Romans 3.3, 5, 7). The Jew has argued that sinning actually helps God to look good to others, but as I said last week, God does not need help to look good, God is good.

So, before we review how Paul continued his response to this Jew, let us take a moment to define good.

When you think of good, what comes to mind? I think that most people would think of examples over an actual definition. For instance, we might think something like, “She is a good girl.” Or, “this meal is good.” If we try to define it, many would think of it as “not bad.” Because good is descriptive, we know it is an adjective, but what does it really mean? Here is how dictionary.com defined it. Good can be:

      • Satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree. – So good is satisfactory. Well, ok. But let’s go further.
      • Of high quality, excellent. – Ok, now we are getting closer. High quality sounds better. But how about…
      • Morally excellent; virtuous, righteous, pious? (2)

In Romans 3.9, Paul uses the word righteous. In verse 12, he uses good. So, this last definition is the right one for us. It links the two together. Let us agree that this is our definition. Having defined what good is, or can be, now let us turn to the text to see what Paul said to Rome, and in extension to us.

So, what does Paul say?

None is righteous. No not one. (v. 10)

That is, none are good. No one is morally excellent virtuous, or pious.

No one understands. No one seeks God. (v. 11)

Ouch. Maybe you thought you did. But Paul says nope. Not even Paul himself! And I agree. The reality is that if we truly understood who God is and what He has done for us, we would seek Him continually. We would worship Him constantly. What about worry?  We never would because we would be completely focused on the things of God, etc. So, if I am having a conversation with Paul, I might have been prepared to argue initially, but having thought about it, I am ready to agree.

But Paul is just getting started. Why? Because too many people think they are good (remember our working definition). So, let’s continue with Paul’s thoughts.

People turn aside. (v. 12)

People turn from God. Not only do they not choose God, they turn from Him. They choose themselves. They choose their stuff. They choose whatever they think will bring them worth, but instead, they become worthless (v. 12).

Ok, Paul we get it. Uh, no you don’t. Not yet.

Their throats are open graves. Their tongues deceive. Their mouths curse and create bitterness. (vv. 13-14)

The idea of an open grave could have two meanings. It could mean that it is ready to take in a dead body or it could mean that a body is lying in the grave already dead. Considering Paul is comparing an open grave to a throat, I believe he means the second idea. How does the metaphor work?

Have you ever smelled a body that has been dead for a while? Imagine that body undergoing decay in an open grave. The stench would be horrifying. Now, consider someone who is constantly vulgar, who has nothing good to say about anyone, or something similar. I believe that is the comparison Paul is making.

Then, Paul links the tongue and mouth itself. So, not only do people talk badly about others (ever done that?), but they also lie, they create strife, they cause others to be bitter – in part because they are bitter themselves. Jesus says this clearly when talking to the religious leaders of the day. Yes, those religious leaders who thought that they were good (remember our definition). Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12.34). James also writes about the fickle nature of the tongue in James 3.

For Paul, he equates the speech of many to the deadly poison of a snake. In other words, not good. And yet, Paul is not done. He has covered our speech, but now he turns to our actions. And you guessed it, he doesn’t give us credit for being good there either.

Their feet are swift to shed blood. Ruin and misery are in their paths. Peace is unknown to them. (vv. 15-17)

In other words, the people Paul is describing are destructive. They destroy people with their mouths, and when that isn’t enough, they turn to action. Let me remind you that Paul is writing to 1st Century Rome, not 21st Century America. But we see the same thing today. Why? Because no one is righteous, no not one (v. 10).

Paul is simply describing human nature. Sure, most people can be reasonable much of the time. Until they are wronged. Until they do not get their way. But remember, the definition of “good” is not being morally excellent most of the time, or when it is convenient. Being good is being morally excellent. Period. Exclamation point.

And only God is that kind of excellent – always.

And that fact should lead us into a deep reverence for God. But it doesn’t. Why? Because, as Paul has already said, “all have turned away.” We simply do not follow God perfectly. And because of that, for all of us (although certainly some more than others)…

People do not fear God. (v. 18)

You probably know that fear here is meant as reverence, meaning we are to be in awe of God. But Paul has stated at the beginning of this long section, all the way back in Romans 1 that people suppress the truth (1.18), do not honor God (v. 21), nor thank Him (v. 21). People do not fear God.

Paul’s point is made clear in the final two verses of this passage and section. We all try to justify ourselves – by what we think, by what we do, by where we live, by who we know, etc. But Paul again lumps all of humanity together to say that “no flesh will be justified” by the “works of the law” before God (Romans 3.19).

Why?

Because God is good. God is morally excellent. You and I are not. And no matter what we try to do, we cannot be. As Paul wrote, it is through our knowledge of what is right and wrong, that we ultimately discover what our true sin is (Romans 3.20).

CONCLUSION

I began this message talking about a man who at 93 years of age was convicted for doing something that was deemed “not good.” It took 75 years for that conviction to happen. But it did. But has justice been served? He led most of his life knowing what he did, whether or not he considered them atrocities. Maybe he lived with regret. Maybe he was even fearful that he would one day be discovered. But is this man’s conviction now really justice?

Regardless of your thoughts on whether or not justice as, or even can be served in that case, the fact is that the case against Bruno D (and others) show us that one day all of us have a court date in front of us. It may be a few years or even a few decades, but we will face our time before the Judge in the proper time. And that Judge not only knows what “good” is, He epitomizes every aspect of goodness.

That judge has not been fully introduced in Romans yet. Paul did mention His name in the first sentence of His letter and again in Romans 1.8. But the time has come, as we will see next week, for Paul to share the answer to our problem of not being righteous. Thus, our JOURNEY letter for this week is:

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

We are not good. We are not righteous. We never can be. We can talk all we want about our desire to be good and faithful to God, but it is only through Jesus that we have that chance. As I said above, many of us may claim to talk the talk, but only Jesus can walk the walk.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN.  Romans 3.12-17 may not incorporate every type of sin, but these verses are representative of our behavior over time when we give in to our personal desires. Take time to reflect on each of the verses in order to determine where you may be most vulnerable – neglecting God, with your mouth, in your actions, etc. so that you can ask Jesus to help you overcome these traps because of your righteousness in Him (if, and only if, you are a Christian). Otherwise, confess this sin to Him and give your life to Him in order to become a Christian.

1)  https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/23/europe/nazi-guard-germany-conviction-intl/index.html

2)  https://www.dictionary.com/browse/good?s=t

“Who’s Judging Who?” by Pastor Andy Braams

Many of you probably saw the movie Forrest Gump. Essentially, the movie shows the life of one man whose actions weave in and out through the course of history in the 50s through the 90s. One of the other major characters is Lt. Dan, who was Gump’s CO in Vietnam. Lt. Dan lost his legs in the war, but he and Forrest connect a few more times including when Forrest is trying to start a shrimping business. Shortly after Dan arrives, a major storm hits them while in the gulf. Dan challenges God (quite the opposite of Jonah) and the scene sets us up well for our topic today. The clip does have one bit of language in it. Here’s the clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjcK-LGgtLA

Can you relate? Maybe the events in your life are not quite as dramatic, but we all question God? We may question His will. We may question His goodness. We may question His faithfulness. Again, Lt. Dan went further than that, but the basic premise is the same.

Ultimately, we ask God questions because we don’t trust Him. We question His motives, His purposes, His will. Why? Because for most all of us, life is about me. Not them, not us. ME. And, if God doesn’t conform to my will, well, then He needs to answer for it. Or, at least, we think He does. But, of course, such an attitude is our misunderstanding. We may even know that, but it doesn’t stop us from asking, and sometimes even, challenging God (even if we do so with less vigor than Lt. Dan.)

We are not the first to have such questions. We can see the questions during the time the Israelites roamed in the wilderness. We can see it in their disobedience during the time of the judges, the kings, and the prophets. We can see it in Jesus’ day. And we see the same idea in Paul’s day as well. As we move deeper into Romans today (beginning Chapter 3), we will see some of these questions (even if perceived by Paul), and if you have been tracking with this series so far, we can understand a little bit of the reason why.

But even if we can only understand the reason in part, it should be clear by now that God is impartial in His judgment. We have seen that already in a few places (e.g. Romans 2.11, 16), and we will see it more clearly today, and in the weeks to come. Thus, as our series title suggests, And Justice for All is not just a part of an American ideal, it is fully realized in the wisdom of God.

We do not need to prove God faithful. We need to prove ourselves faithful to God.

If the Jewish people were chosen by God, why did He punish them? Does He do the same today to Christians? Let’s see what Paul has to say.

Romans 3.1-8 is somewhat straightforward in some ways, and rather complex in others. One concept that is before us in the text, is a study in contrasts. Both sides of the contrasts are mostly listed, but a couple need to be inferred. You can find a couple more which are implied, but just notice the following contrasts:

      • Value in Circumcision vs. No Value in Circumcision (the latter is implied) (v. 1).
      • Being Faithful vs. Faithlessness (v. 3).
      • Being Unrighteous vs. Being Righteous (vv. 5-6).

The problem is that the Jews thought they were faithful and righteousness, especially compared to the Gentiles, in part because, as Jews, they were circumcised. But Paul refuted that notion in Romans 2.25. Circumcision matters, but only if you keep the Law.

But even if they did keep the Law, their faithfulness and unrighteousness compared to God was the real issue for them.

And it is the real issue for us as well.

We compare ourselves to others. We want justice for others. But, like the Jews would discover, true justice is equally administered to everyone.

As I mentioned last week, Paul’s words at the end of Romans 2 would have been rather offensive to the Jew. So, Paul considered some of the objections that they might have. Again, Paul is still having this “discussion” with an unnamed Jew (through a diatribe).

The Advantage

Based upon Paul’s previous words, this Jew “asks” if being a Jew has any real advantage. And let’s face it, after studying Romans 2, our expectation is that Paul would answer NO. Remember, God is impartial, so “Of course, no benefit exists.”

But Paul answered “Yes.” And he did so emphatically. Notice the words beginning verse 2. “Much in every way.” He then lists only one because he wants to focus on only one thing here (you can find a longer list in Romans 9.4-5).

Why?

Because the Bible came through the Jews. That isn’t what the words say, but it is what the text says. The words are that “the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3.2). Now, not all of those oracles (or revelations) have been preserved, but the Old Testament certainly contains more than a few.

So, Paul is saying that God chose the Jewish people to show Himself and to speak to humanity through that group of people. So, YES!, being a Jew has its advantages, but it does not guarantee salvation.

Let me put this in today’s context.

I have heard some people in the past say that they like the idea of Christianity, but they want to live their lives first. Well, first, Christianity isn’t an idea to be liked, it is a life to embrace. But that’s the issue. And I know because for a good amount of time, I was one of those people. I remember driving to work one day and seeing a bumper sticker which said something like, “In Case of Rapture, This Car Will Be Unmanned.” I thought, YEAH! That’s cool. But then I thought, that is pretty arrogant. Because if I am reading that bumper sticker without someone in it, then I have either just wrecked or am about to. And what if I die in that wreck? Before I repent.

Being a Jew had its advantages. So does being a Christian. It is not something to wait for, it is worth complete devotion. And, yes, some will enter into eternity with God having made a last-minute decision, but I get a chance to know Him more personally, thank Him, and serve Him now. That is worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely devoted (Paul will say more about that to us in next week’s text), but I can move in that direction.

So, yes, the Jew has an advantage because if God was going to reveal Himself through His Word (and He did), then He had to do so through some group of people – and He chose the Jews (ancient Israelites).

The Promise

So, God chose the Jews. More specifically, however, God made a covenant with the Jews. And a covenant can be conditional; in fact, it often was. A covenant involved two parties entering into an agreement with one party generally being superior. (A couple of the daily videos this week go a little deeper into this issue.)

As a part of the covenant promises are made. Now, we all like promises that are favorable, but not all are good. For instance, “If you fail this test, you will fail the class” would be a promise that does not have a good result (although the alternative might be positive). Additionally, some promises have known conditions attached, but any promise that is made has a condition to it. For instance, a parent might say, “If you eat your dinner, you can have ice cream.” That is a promise with a known condition. It is a basic if-then statement. But a parent might promise something without a known condition, but some condition still exists. For instance, how many people promised an extravagant vacation this year, but COVID cancelled those plans. Again, the condition was not known, but it still existed.

The problem is that even when the condition is known, we tend to only remember the benefit. That is particularly true when the promises are two-fold: If you do this, then something good will happen; if not, then something bad will happen.

Such was the case for Israel. The people of Israel stood on two mountains and made a promise to God as He made a promise to them. The promise was: If you keep my commandments, you will be blessed. If not, you will be cursed. Two promises based upon the actions of the Israelites. You can guess which one they remembered.

Thus, in Romans 3.3-4, the Jews wonder where God’s promise is. Why are they still a people in suffering? Why are they still in exile? Well, they did not and have not kept His commandments (i.e. the Law), and so they are experiencing the curse part of the promise.

To change their fate, they needed to repent the way David did in Psalm 51, which Paul quotes here (v. 4). David was punished for His sin (the child died, and he had massive family issues as a father), but God was still faithful to David. The same possibility existed for the Jewish people if, like David, they would repent. That was God’s promise. And He was faithful to that promise. The people needed to be faithful to theirs as well. And that same is true for us today. We must repent when we have failed to be faithful to God, so that He can forgive us, even if that forgiveness includes correction. And that leads us to…

The Punishment

Again, the Jews were not keeping their end of the bargain, so they were being punished. But their thought process was that if God was holy, why would He punish them. Rick said something similar in one of his daily devotions this week. People ask him how he can arrest someone if he is a Christian?

A part of Rick’s answer is bound to his duty; but all of God’s answer is bound to His character.

But the Jews took it a step further. Notice verse 5 and verse 7. The Jew is effectively saying, “If my sin shows God to be holy, then He should thank me for sinning, not punish me. How can people know God is holy if they don’t have someone like me, and my sins, to show the difference? So, if that is true, why should He judge me for my sin…I am making Him look good.”

That is called false reasoning. Ultimately, it shows that God can benefit from our actions (especially our negative ones) rather than us benefiting from God’s actions. The truth is that God does not judge people because He wants to judge them (as some believe) or to make Himself appear more holy (as the Jew was saying). God judges people – and MUST punish them – Jew, Christian, everyone, because He IS a good God. It isn’t about what make Him look good, it is BECAUSE HE IS GOOD.

Paul addresses the fallacy of their argument here, but he comes back to it in Romans 6 (as we shall see later) to say that if we are really in Christ, then our goal should not be to show God’s glory by our sin (so that He can extend grace), but to become like Him (because of the grace He has shown).

CONCLUSION

At one point in Forrest Gump, Lt. Dan asks Gump, “Have you found Jesus yet?” Forrest answered: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for Him.”

The line is funny, but it has a sad premise, at least for that part of the movie. More importantly the line is revealing – and very true. Many people think that being a Christian is a title only. And for some, it is a title that has benefits (prosperity gospel preachers promote this). But they want the benefits of the life without looking for Jesus. Well, it certainly has benefits, but not the way many would want, and most of those benefits will wait for the other side of eternity. But having the love of the Father, and having an opportunity to know and serve Jesus through the power of the Spirit is certainly a benefit in the life we live now.

But with the benefit comes a responsibility. With the promise of God regarding our salvation to come, we must respond in our salvation now. The Jews thought it was enough to be the chosen people of God. Many Christians believe the same is true today. But as Paul has repeatedly said already in Romans, having the Law and a knowledge of God is not enough. We must turn that knowledge into obedient action.

What was true for the Jew then is true for the Christian today. The discipline the Jew faced will be faced by the Christian as well. As the writer of Hebrews remind us, “God disciplines the one He loves.”

Therefore, …

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is OOBEY.

We do not need to prove God faithful. We need to prove ourselves faithful to God.

That is done through obedience. It is done in faith. But as James told us, faith without works is dead (James 2.26). God’s holiness will be satisfied as He desires. That is true for anyone regardless of the time, their faith, or even their lack of faith. But for those who believe in the saving work of Jesus, that holiness has already been satisfied. So, when we do not obey, or we are not faithful, we repent (like David) and seek God’s forgiveness.

NEXT STEP(S):

LIVE.  What is God asking you to do? A few weeks ago, I encouraged you to do just one thing you know God has been asking you to do. Have you done it? Or at least started it? If not, why not? This is your task He has given you. It is your opportunity to show yourself faithful. Take the opportunity today to do it – to begin it. And as you show yourself faithful, allow God to remind you of His faithfulness as well.

“No Foolin’,” by Pastor Andy Braams

A little more than 50 years ago (1968), Jeannie Riley released a song that was number one on the country and pop singles charts, spawned a movie (a decade later), and eventually a TV show (in 1981).

The song is about the hypocrisy of the PTA. Many of you may remember the song, but take a few moments to listen the words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoD3lOCyz1A

Haven’t we all been there? Been hypocrites, I mean. I know I have. We all justify our own actions. We all think we are better that someone else, or perhaps many others. And therefore, we hold ourselves a little higher – not to a higher standard, but to a higher place – out of pride.

But the Bible is clear about pride. It is one of the six things God hates (Proverbs 6.17) and comes before the fall (Proverbs 16.18, 1 Corinthians 10.12). We teach others what is right and wrong, but do not live by the same standards we teach. That is certainly a part of what it means to sin.

Paul addresses that very issue in our topic today in the latter part of Romans 2.

It is also why we are not good judges. We are partial to ourselves (and some others), but true justice for all people should be based on a unified standard.

We all make mistakes, but when we choose to live in disobedience to God, we not only hurt ourselves, we also keep others from knowing God, and bringing glory to Him, as He desires.

If we are incapable of living up to our own teaching, how can we possibly live up to Jesus command to make disciples? (Answered in JOURNEY, be real and authentic)

First, we must understand that not being able to fully live according to what we teach does not excuse us from the need to teach.

In Romans 2.17-29, Paul chastises the Jew who teaches the Law. Paul does not chastise because of the teaching, but because the teacher believes that something else is more important. We will get to that something in a few moments. Look at verses 17-20. In these verses Paul shares several reasons the Jew should boast in God and, as a part of that, teach others.

      • The person is a Jew.
      • The person relies on the law. (The word rely could make this statement good or bad, but the Law itself was not meant to be bad (Romans 7.10 – it promised life), so we are treating this word as a positive in this case).
      • The person could know God’s will.
      • The person could approve (test) God’s will (cf. Romans 12.2).
      • The person learns from the law.

Because of this, the person has responsibilities. We see these in verses 19-20.

      • The person is to help others (guide the blind – those ignorant of the Law, i.e. Gentiles).
      • The person is to be a light to those in darkness.
      • The person is to instruct the foolish.
      • The person is to teach those who are children (particularly in the faith).

So, the person has the Law and is to teach the Law. But even as they teach others, they are not following the teachings!

If we go back to Romans 2.12-13 – they have the Law, they have heard the Law, but they are not keeping (doing) the Law. Thus, when they (the Jew) are judged, it will be according to the Law.

In particular, Paul mentions a few commandments that are being broken – stealing, committing adultery, and robbing the temple (which is stealing in one sense, but likely relates to idolatry here).

What is the result? God is blasphemed by the very people who should be learning from this person.

Again, none of us is perfect. But like this Jew, anyone who knows anything about the Bible has a responsibility to teach. You are obligated by Jesus. I may be more obligated in one way because I have been especially called and have a degree, but all of us are teaching in some way each day. That is, people are watching. And how we live says as much as what we believe as anything.

So, do our lives bring glory to God? Or do we cause others to not believe? Our words are important, but so are our actions.

The second thing we must know is that the crux of this passage relates to circumcision. Yes, the teaching is important. But Paul wants to ensure the Jew knows what they must do. This argument has been clear throughout the chapter. Romans 2.6, 13, and 16 are specifically geared to this idea.

But the Jew thought that circumcision was the safeguard. I am circumcised so I am fine. Baptists have a similar idea. I walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, and was baptized, so I am going to heaven.

For Baptists, the idea is “once saved, always saved.”

For the Jew, the idea was “once circumcised, always circumcised.”

Paul says, “Not so fast!”

At the end of this chapter, Paul makes it very clear that being circumcised IS important for the Jew (v. 25), but only if you keep the Law. Otherwise, Paul says, the uncircumcised Gentile is actually better off if they are keeping whatever they might know of the Law (or even if they do not know it, see Romans 2.13-16).

Such a statement would have been tremendously offensive to the Jew. However, it was not enough to show someone you are a Jew based upon a mark of your skin. The true nature of someone chosen by God was to show them the effect God has had upon your heart. That is, the true mark of a follower of God is not about the outward expression, as important as that is, it is about the inward change.

What was true of circumcision for the Jew is true of baptism for the people who call themselves Christians today. It is not about whether or not you were dunked (or even sprinkled); it is about following Christ. Yes, baptism is important. We are to follow the example of Christ (Matthew 3). We are to fulfill the commission of Christ (Matthew 28.19). Baptism is important. But it is obedience to Christ, actually heeding His call to “Follow Me,” that truly matters.

When we choose to follow Jesus, some people will praise us, and some will criticize us. That’s a reality. But the thoughts of others should not be what concerns us here, which Paul makes quite clear in the last verse of chapter 2. Read Romans 2.29.

By the 1st Century, the word Jew was synonymous with any person who was a part of God’s chosen people because of the covenant God made through Moses (i.e. the Law of Moses, or simply the Law). But originally “Jew” was a nickname of the tribe of Judah (particularly before the Babylonian Exile). And the word Judah means “praised.”

Thus, the Jewish people were “praising” themselves simply because they were Jews. They expected others to do the same. But man can only praise what they see on the outside. God will praise according to what is on the inside. Romans 2.29 suggest that many Jews were satisfied. But the last sentence shows that the praise for simply being a Jew because of circumcision does not mean that God is praising them.

Circumcision and baptism are outward expressions that can be seen by anyone, but God judges the secret things of man (Romans 2.16), those things that are on the inside. As I have been saying for months, this does not mean that good intentions are enough. Why? Because God does not only look inside, He also sees the fruit of the outside. Thus, we must be intentional to do what we know to do.

In other words, if I were to summarize this, I would say:

You need to be choosing what you are doing. And you need to be doing what you are choosing. And it should all be for the glory of God.

At the beginning of this post, I had you listen to the words from the song Harper Valley PTA. The PTA was concerned with the upkeep of an image rather than a change in lives. If they had been concerned with changing lives, they would have looked within their own ranks first – as is evidenced by the final verse of the song. Their concern was ultimately about title and status (that is, prestige) rather than helping others.

Sure, their words to the mother may have covered some concepts they thought were important. But was the goal of the PTA for their benefit (and exertion of power)? Was their goal to make other people feel worse, or to help live better?

The reality is that much of the judgment in our world today is to put others down. We may be able to fool others and even ourselves into thinking we are good. But we cannot fool God.

So, as we seek justice, let us ensure that we are first seeking God. Let us make sure we are following God. Certainly, we will not do this perfectly, but if we think that our salvation is secure without any effort to learn, follow, and teach others what He has asked (commanded) us to do, then I am not sure that we are any better than the Jews of yesteryear.

And if that’s the case, we are only foolin’ ourselves.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is OOBEY.

I have said many times, and I will surely say it many more times, as God allows: We do not work for salvation. Paul is not arguing for a works-based salvation, and neither am I. But we must work because of salvation. That is, if we are truly saved by grace, through faith, our work for the Father, through the Son, empowered by the Spirit, will show itself to be real and authentic – even if it is not perfect.

NEXT STEP(S):

LIVE.  You need to be choosing what you are doing. And you need to be doing what you are choosing. And it should all be for the glory of God.

We learn, we live, we love, and we lead – all because of the grace of God. So let us live for the glory of God.