I recently met up with an old friend from High School. After graduation, we both went separate ways, married, lived in different states and over time simply lost track of each other. It was a pleasure to meet and “catch up” on each other’s lives, our children, and now our grandchildren. What struck me immediately was the change in my friend. The youthful spontaneity was gone. Her laughter that had been so prevalent in younger years was replaced with a more serious countenance and the very hints of sadness. She was immediately aware also of the not-so-flattering physical changes in me as well. Extra weight, limps from surgery, and even the baggy lines etched from too much work and too little rest did not escape her notice. But none of those changes stopped us from laughing a little, sharing a lot, and leaving our dinner thankful for our friendship.
The lesson this week is kind of like my reunion. Time had most definitely made a difference in our outward appearance - whether we wanted to admit it or not. Inside, we had also been changed by our good and bad experiences and exposure to life. Our innocence of youth, long gone! As Paul writes to the Romans, he advised them that our most important changes are the ones that internally line us up with God’s standards. Consider the changes on the inside, the way we guide our thoughts, the rules we apply to our daily life, and the way we view others. Are they in line with God's thoughts and life lessons? As we study today, pray for discernment, not toward others, but for yourself. Look at these verses as seeing an old friend. Think about where you were and where you are now. Use Paul's writing to repair and renew your own path and heart. Do we line up with what His word tells us to do?
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
There is no partiality with God. Some of the Jewish religious leaders of the time thought that because they had the Law, they would be judged less severely than the Gentiles (non Jews). Similar to when the Old Testament prophets tried to warn that just because the Temple was in Jerusalem, it alone would not keep God from sending punishment and destruction for the nations of Israel’s and Judah’s sins. God will judge sin, with or without the law. He is righteous. The pivotal point that humans like to forget is that we are all in the same boat. We sin. We fail. We fight for our own will. God knows that and loves us anyway. We are not excused, we are redeemed. We are covered and forgiven through the precious sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As our pastor says, why He loves us we just can’t understand, but He does love us with a deep and abiding love. Despite our failures, despite our willful sin, despite our disobedience, despite it all. He didn’t change the standard for us, He paid the penalty for our crimes. One cannot begin this lesson without first taking personal inventory - we all sin, miss the mark, and fail. We are all guilty. We all need Jesus. When we get to heaven and are asked why we think we should be allowed to enter, the answer will have nothing to do with our accomplishments. It will have everything to do with our belief in Jesus and what He did. I am covered by His sacrifice.
When we get to heaven and are asked why we think we should be allowed to enter, the answer will have nothing to do with our accomplishments. It will have everything to do with our belief in Jesus and what He did. I am covered by His sacrifice.
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified,
Paul says, It is not enough to just boast because you have the Law. The giving of the law to Moses was about more than just words. They were instructed to keep the law and apply it’s content. Inherent in the word “keep” is the idea of treasuring and protecting as well as following. They were required to cherish as well as do what was commanded in the law. The same admonishment is given to us as New Testament believers with the word of God. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (James 1:22-24). Notice it says that we deceive ourselves if we hear and do nothing. God help us to be do-ers. Even when it is difficult. Even when I’d rather offer a sacrifice rather than just be obedient. Even when it’s not what I want, help me make the right decision to follow God’s word.
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
Paul is writing this letter around 58 AD. He has not been to Rome yet, but he will eventually get there. He is earnestly educating the Jew and the Gentile on the one multi-ethnic family of God that Jesus and the prophets have promised. There are generations of divisions. It is not easy. The Jews are adamant that they have the law of Moses. They consider themselves different and more special in the eyes of God. The Gentiles know very little about the law of Moses, but they do know enough to understand that things like murder, betrayal, and hatred are wrong. Though they don’t have the law of Moses, they do have written in their hearts basic knowledge from their creator God. Paul calls this their law unto themselves. Even it condemns…
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
Many things we hide from ourselves as well as from others. Yet, we cannot help but point out the same flaws when we see them. God sees it all. We are not able to keep secret anything from Him. God is no respecter of persons. Paul reminds them that it isn’t enough to just rest in the Law, their primary purpose for having the law, was to teach it to others. All will be judged by God’s standard and in His righteousness. The Jews know better than anyone what God has brought them through by His will and His instruction of the Law. It is not time to boast; it is time to teach and to allow Christ to be revealed to the world through the whole council of the word of God.
And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
Ouch! Speaking now to the Jews, Paul also reminds us. God’s rules are not different; they are the same for us all. Do we pride ourselves on knowing God and yet do things that we shake our heads at and condemn in others? Can we read the word of God and not self-examine? It is extremely easy to point out the flaws in others. Can we see and admit those flaws in ourselves? Paul asks a double-edged question. If you preach, teach, claim the name of Jesus, or guide in any way, do you apply the word to you with as much fervor (self-righteousness) as you do to others? Going back to my friend, it was easy for me to see the changes in her. To hear her story and know where she made her mistakes. But how long to remember I had done the same with different situations over my life? Isn’t it amazing! If we are not careful, we forget our own secrets, the things we hide. The biggest secret is that we all have the same secrets. Somehow, we think we are the exception - we are not. We are expected to do something with what we know - ignorance does not excuse us.
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
All of our lessons over the last few weeks have shown us that it is the heart, our relationship with God, that makes the difference. It is not what we wear or how we appear. It is not the praise of others, our boss, or the family. It is our heart. The hidden us- that shows what we really are. The part that only God knows. Paul’s analogy of the circumcision of the heart is profound. The cutting away of the hidden things that don’t matter to heal and restore the heart of things that do matter. This gets us the Praise of God. Isn’t that what we really want, to hear enter in thou good and faithful servant, for Him to be well pleased because we made a priority of His Son? I have missed my friend. I have been given a wonderful opportunity to rekindle that friendship. Do you miss your friend, the one that sticks closer than a brother? He’s waiting on you. Look him up. Talk to Him. He wants to hear from you.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!