August 23, 2011

Wednesday after the Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary
Morning - Ps.9, 1 Sam. 17:1-11, Lk. 18:15-30
Evening - Ps.19, 23, Esther 7, Rom. 2:17

Commentary
Romans 2:17

We now come to another division in the Book of Romans. This passage really should be in its own chapter. It begins in 2:17 and continues through 3:8, and the subject is the wrath of God revealed against Jews who have the Scriptures but do not obey them. Just having the Bible is not enough. The possession of the full revelation of God in Scripture does nothing to justify any person before God. The "doers" of the Law will be justified by the Law, but the problem is that, even those who have and know the Law right in front of them in the Bible, don't keep it. Even Jews who have the Law have not kept it, just as people who have the Bible today have not kept it (Rom1:18). All the problems of sin and resisting the will of God described in 1:18-2:14 apply as much to them as to those without the Bible. Romans talks about this in terms of Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles are those without the Bible, and they are without excuse. But the Jews have the Bible. They have the revelation of God open and available to them. Their problem is that they have not kept the Law. Thus, they too are under God's wrath. Or to put it in more contemporary language, they too, need a Saviour. To ensure that we get the whole point of this passage, let us call it "the wrath of God revealed against religious people," which we can summarise by saying, religion is not enough. Paul makes four points. First, they commit the same sins as the Gentiles who don't have the Bible (17-24). Second, they keep the outward forms, but not the heart of the Law (25-29). Third, they have the Scriptures but do not believe them (3:1-2). Fourth, the fault lies with Israel, not God (3:3-8).

Verses 17-24. They commit the same sins as the Gentiles. Remember that the Gentiles profess to be wise but are really fools because they know about God and know His will, but ignore their knowledge and plunge into sin (Rom. 1:18-32). The Jew's problem is that they have the Bible (2:18) and believe themselves to be guides, and leaders (2:19), and instructors and teachers (2:20) of the Gentiles, yet they commit the very same sins (2:22-24).
It is not difficult to apply this to our own time. See how blessed some nations are with the knowledge of God. Bibles and churches abound. Western culture is founded upon self-evident truth that comes straight out of the Bible. The culture, the laws, and the nations that share them are impossible without the Bible. Yet those same nations are guilty of gross sin. They have not lived according to the knowledge in Scripture. They have turned away from it and indulged in sin as gross and terrible of the nations who never had the Bible.
The "Church" is no more innocent than the culture, for, rather than standing against the culture, the Church has often led the revolution against the Bible. I think it may be true that there is more ungodliness in the Church than out of it because in the Church we pronounce God's blessings on our ungodliness.
Unfortunately, this is not just a Western problem. The Bible is available throughout the world today, and many countries that are now pagan nations inhabit lands that were once leading centers of the Christian faith.
The result of this sin is that the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles (2:24). Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles, but through its sin it caused the Gentiles to conclude her God was no God, or at best, no different or better than the pagan idols. Again it is easy to apply this to our own time. How often people have concluded our God does not exist, not because of logic, but because they see no difference between us and them. Our sin leads them to blaspheme God. Our sin does not relieve them of their responsibility. They are still responsible for their own sin. Rather, our sin makes us equally guilty, and equally under God's wrath and in need of a Saviour.

Verses 25-29. In these verses Paul accuses the Jews of keeping the outward forms of the Bible but not the heart of it (2 Tim. 3:5). You can circumcise, or baptize, a baby yet not be serious about following God. You can go to church, be confirmed, receive Holy Communion, and do many good works, and yet retain yourself as your god, rather than honour God as your God. You can say the prayers, and not mean them. You can outwardly conform to doctrines and ordinances yet still remain apart from God in your heart.

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