Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Romans 2.
I recently started wearing glasses (for the 4th time in my life, but that’s another story). I got them last Wednesday afternoon before church, so day one of wearing them I saw a lot of people. While most feedback on my new specks was very kind, I did have one humorous encounter. I walked into one of the student rooms at my church and the first word I heard was, “NERD!!!!!” It came from one of the two students sitting on the couch on the opposite side of the room. Before I could respond, the other student on the couch shouted, “Yeah, NERD!” The great irony? Both were wearing glasses. Now these two were just joking with me, and I take no offense. In fact, I am quite settled in my nerd-ness. But we do this with more serious things don’t we? I was raised right. I know right from wrong. This means I’m exceptionally gifted at noticing other’s flaws. Knowing right from wrong, however, does not mean that I’m all that good at doing right and avoiding wrong. This is the big idea of Romans 2. Romans 1 teaches us that we all know we should worship God, and yet we fail to as we put other things in his place on the throne. Romans 2 teaches us that knowing God’s law doesn’t fix our problem. Only perfect obedience from the heart could do that.
Paul is addressing a Jewish audience in Romans 2. There was a temptation among the Jews to be a bit smug towards everyone else. They had God’s law, they obeyed God’s law, God accepted them. This is what they thought, but would the real law abider please stand up? Paul wants them to know that having God’s law is great, but our failure to obey it just condemns us that much more. Here’s three ways we condemn ourselves with God’s law:
We judge others for breaking laws we couldn’t keep. (Romans 2:1-11)
Paul starts the chapter by saying:
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3 ESV)
Ouch! The Jews are the only people who have done this are they? We hold others to a standard we could never keep, then we feel extra righteous because we’ve rightly evaluated someone else’s life. What about your own life? Your judgement of others just further judges you!
Our knowledge outsizes our obedience. (Romans 2:12-24)
“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.  For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. “(Romans 2:12-13 ESV)
Paul keeps going on this theme by reminding the Jews that their knowledge of the Law should just sharpen their knowledge of their need for God’s grace. The Jews aren’t the only ones who struggle with this though. Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ll hear a great sermon, and I’ll start believing I’m good at whatever the pastor is calling us to do just because I understand it now. What about doing it? That reality is what drives us to Jesus! Paul is reminding the Jews and us that our ability to perfectly recite all the rules doesn’t make us right with God. If we want to be made right be obedience, we’d have to perfectly OBEY all the rules.
We don’t obey from the heart. (Romans 2:25-29)
“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.” (Romans 2:29 ESV)
Paul reminds us that God never wanted a bunch of judgmental rule followers. He wanted people who loved and obeyed him from the heart. Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can’t read “love your neighbor” and then check it off the list. We need transformed hearts!
Romans 2, like Romans 1, is driving us to Jesus. Without God’s rules, we’re condemned because we should worship the God who made the universe. With God’s rules, we’re further condemned because we judge others, don’t fully obey them ourselves, and don’t obey from the heart. We need grace! Romans 3 will introduce this big idea!
Questions for reflection:
Do you find yourself tempted to judge others by a standard even you can’t keep? Do you think there are truths about the gospel that you are forgetting when you do that?
Have you ever sat down and thought about your obedience to your own convictions? Do you find that you aren’t as consistent as you’d hope?
Do you find that even when you do obey, sometimes it’s just to impress others or make yourself feel better? Have you ever done a really great thing and looked back and seen some pretty dark motives?
Paul is being pretty tough on us in Romans 2. He’s doing this to point us in the right direction. We can’t save ourselves. We need Jesus! He is the only one who has obeyed every law from the heart.
Grace & Peace.