But… but… but…

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Posted by James

Romans 2:1-29

Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.

True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him,

“You will be proved right in what you say,
    and you will win your case in court.”

“But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.

Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10 As the Scriptures say,

“No one is righteous—
    not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
    no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
    all have become useless.
No one does good,
    not a single one.”
13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
    Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “They rush to commit murder.
16     Destruction and misery always follow them.
17 They don’t know where to find peace.”
18     “They have no fear of God at all.”

19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

Some thoughts

Making excuses: We all do it. It’s one of the things that I deal with on a daily basis – ‘I would hand in my homework but my dog ate it, sir.’ It is also one of the most difficult parts of Christian life. We may well genuinely want to do what is right, ‘but time is tight’, or ‘the temptation is too much’ or ‘I need some down-time.’ All things I will confess to saying to myself when I have fallen short of the mark this year.

This part of the letter is pre-empting the things Paul thinks the Jewish-Christians of Rome will say in reply to yesterday’s passage. They thought they knew the laws, and being told that didn’t make them better people would unsettle them. In the same way, it is easy to think that because we know bible passages, we are somehow more holy than people who can’t spell ‘bible.’

Brilliant excuses for not following Jesus:

  1. If all of us are sinful anyway, what is the point in standing out as a Christian and doing things differently? (V1)

In the same way that God entrusted the Jews with the Law of Moses to be an example of what people should be like, we have been trusted with the task of spreading the news that Jesus is the escape from sin. To do this we have to act differently.

  1. Christians don’t always live their lives as the bible tells us. Won’t their lack of commitment to God mean God won’t keep his promise of freedom to them? If that is the case and we are all sinful anyway, why bother?

God will answer prayer and keep his promises regardless. He has promised to punish sin, but also to forgive those who are willing to change themselves. Therefore, our commitment, while good, is not what will earn us a place in His kingdom, but it is His forgiveness.

  1. If God showing forgiveness is a good thing, surely the more he has to forgive the better? If we did what we wanted and asked for forgiveness afterwards, people would see how good God is. Surely that should excuse us from that sin?

No. God will judge the whole world, and we need to be aware that his goodness is not a result of our sin, but a rescue. It is hard to repent of something you deliberately set out to do! It would be like saying, ‘I crashed my car into the shopping centre because I wanted everyone to see how good the ambulance service is’ and expecting the attending paramedics to be pleased!

Paul then goes on to re-enforce the idea that following what is right cannot save you. It is only there so that we have a better idea of what is right and wrong. Therefore just ‘being a good person’ is not enough to enter God’s kingdom, contrary to what many people in our world believe, as ‘no-one is righteous.’

Over to you!

  • Challenge: ‘You therefore, have no excuse.’
  • Response: Do you ever make excuses for not doing what you ought to?
  • Pray: For anyone who lives ‘a good life’ but doesn’t see the point in Jesus.
  • Remember: ‘No-one is righteous’ – You can’t earn your way into heaven (but you should avoid sin when you can).