Sunday, May 27, 2012

Romans Chapter 2 Part Two

Romans chapter 2 - Part Two Romans 2:16 The Greek text of this verse begins with the phrase “in the day.” The words this will take place are not in the Greek but are supplied to tie this verse back to the main idea of this section (Rom_2:5-13), namely, God’s righteous judgment (Rom_2:5). Rom_2:14-15 are actually a parenthetic idea (as indicated in the NIV). This was brought to mind by Rom_2:13 and the Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles. The certainty of divine judgment is emphasized by the words God will judge (lit., “God judges”). The Agent of divine judgment is Jesus Christ (cf. Joh_5:22, Joh_5:27; Act_17:31). This judgment will deal with men’s secrets (lit., “the hidden things of men”) and will reveal those things and prove God’s judgment right (cf. 1Co_4:5). Paul’s gospel is not the standard of God’s judgment. The idea is that the righteous judgment of God is an essential ingredient of the gospel Paul preached and a reason for trusting Jesus’ finished redemption. The day is referring to the “final day of judgment”. “Secrets” primarily refers to the motives that lie behind men’s actions. I John 3:21 "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God." God judges the heart. Your sins may be secret to man, but nothing is hidden from God. Jesus Christ is the Judge of all of us. We will stand or fall by Him. If He is our Savior and Lord we will go to heaven, if we have not accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we are lost. “My Gospel”: Not his own personal message, but the divinely revealed message of Jesus Christ which is “good news” in light of the bad news of judgment. In this section (Rom_2:1-16) God is seen as the Creator-Sovereign of the universe conducting the moral government of His human creatures. God’s absolute standards are known. God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous impartially according to their works, which reveal their hearts. Since no human being — Jesus Christ excepted — can be declared righteous (justified) by God on the basis of his own merit, every human is condemned by God. At this point in Paul’s argument the way a person can secure a righteous standing before God has not yet been presented. Here the emphasis is on the justice of God’s judgment, leading to the conclusion that nobody on his own can be declared righteous by God. Romans 2:17-20 Condemnation against unfaithful Jews Condemnation Because Of Their Hypocrisy Paul undoubtedly had the Jews as well as moral Gentiles in mind in the group he addressed as “you who pass judgment on someone else” (Rom_2:1). But there he did not refer to them by name as he did here — if you call yourself a Jew (lit., “if you are named a Jew”). In Greek this is a first-class conditional sentence in which the conditional statement is assumed to be true. Paul was addressing individuals who were truly called Jews and who, in fact, gloried in that name. This fact is followed by a list of eight other moral and religious details in which the Jews gloried in their sense of superiority to the Gentiles, all of these included as part of the “if” clause (Rom_2:17-21). Previously called Hebrews and Israelites, by the first century “Jew” had become the most common name for the descendants of Abraham through Isaac. “Jew” comes from “Judah,” (meaning praise), one of the twelve tribes and the designation for the southern half of Solomon’s kingdom after his death. From the time of the Babylonian captivity, the whole race bore this title. Their great heritage, however, became a source of pride and complacency which lead to judgment instead of praise. The Jews knew they were God’s chosen. They were proud, but they looked down on those who were not Jews thinking themselves better than others. Paul is telling them here that it is wrong to depend on the fact of their Jewish heritage to save them. The verbs used in this list are all in the present tense or have the force of the present, which emphasizes the habitual nature of the action: (1) The Jews rely on the Law; they put their confidence in the fact that God gave it to them. (2) The Jews brag about their relationship to God (lit., “boast in God”; cf. Rom_2:23), which means they glory in their covenantal ties with God. As a result of these two things the Jews (3) know His will (they have an awareness of God’s desires and plan) and they (4) approve of (dokimazeis, “to test and approve what passes the test”) what is superior (diapheronta, “the things that differ and as a result excel”; the same Gr. word in Php_1:10 is trans. “what is best”). They have a concern for spiritually superior standards. These abilities of Jews exist because they (5) are instructed (lit., “are being instructed”) by the Law. Their catechetical lessons as youths and the regular reading of the Law in the synagogues provided this continuing instruction. Paul tells these self-righteous people that they are without excuse. They had the law, but yet they did not understand. They were trying to instruct others and didn’t even comprehend themselves. 1 Corinthians 1:31" That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." Though the next verb (in Rom_2:19) continues the first-class conditional structure begun in Rom_2:17, it also marks a transition of thought. It is the perfect tense of a verb which means “to seek to persuade,” in which tense it has the meaning “to believe.” (6) Many Jews were convinced and as a result believed certain things about themselves in relationship to Gentiles. Paul listed four of these: a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor (paideutēn, “one who disciplines, a trainer”) of the foolish, and a teacher of infants. (7) This belief by Jews rested in their having in the Law the embodiment (morphōsin, “outline, semblance”; used elsewhere in the NT only in 2Ti_3:5) of knowledge and truth (the Gr. has the definite article “the” with both nouns: “the knowledge and the truth”). Their form of religion was just that, a form. This was a technical keeping of the law without any understanding of what the law really stood for. Because they possessed the law, the Jews were confident that they were spiritually superior teachers; guides to blind pagans, wise in God’s ways, and able to teach babes. This is like memorizing a bunch of words without any idea of what they meant. There is no purpose in memorizing, unless you know what the meaning of the Scripture is. God is not pleased with us technically keeping His laws. He wants our love and obedience. The Light of God is something you cannot turn on and off. If you have the Light, it shines in your life not just one day a week. If you feel you have got to go to church, you probably don’t have the Light. It should be a joy for a Christian to go to church. Church should not be an obligation that you fulfill. To go to church should be the desire of your heart. Romans 2:21-24 Without doubt as Paul enumerated this list of moral and religious distinctives, he got repeated affirmative responses from his Jewish readers. The Jews gloried in their special spiritual position, which contrasted with the Gentiles. The apostle then summed up all these distinctives in the clause, (8) You, then, who teach others. Matthew 7:4-5 "Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye?" "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." This scripture is saying [practice what you preach]. Most preachers will tell you, when they are preaching, the message is for them as well as the congregation. Then Paul asked the question, Do you not teach yourself? This question is followed by a series of questions on specific prohibitions in the Law — against stealing, committing adultery, hating idols — each of which a Jew (“you” throughout Rom_2:17-27 is sing., not pl.) was guilty of doing after telling others not to do those things. Many ministers in our day need to review this verse. Ministers are not exempt from God's laws. We must not be just hearers but doers of God's law. James 1:23-25 "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." "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." The best sermon any man or woman can preach is the one we live every day of our life. Here we are not only talking about ministers, but every Christian’s walk. Paul indicted such a Jew for hypocrisy: You who brag about (“are boasting in”; cf. Rom_2:17) the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law? The law was given by God to help mankind. These Jewish leaders had twisted God's law to fit what they wanted. Many of the customs they required the people to do, they did not do themselves. They had no feelings about putting burdens on others, but were not willing to do them themselves. The high priest’s office was founded to be a go between for God and his people. It was originated as an honorable holy office. By the time this was written, it had really decayed into something terrible. They were even buying the priesthood. These had become power lovers, rather than men of God. An honest Jew would have to respond to Paul’s questions by admitting his guilt and his hypocrisy. Paul did not condemn this hypocrisy of the Jews on his own authority; he quoted their own Scriptures (the close of Isa_52:5, in the lxx). Their hypocrisy dishonored God; also it caused Gentiles to blaspheme God. “Why should we honor God,” Gentiles may have reasoned, “when His Chosen People do not follow Him?” This is quoted from Isaiah 52:5. These Jews had missed the whole point of being the chosen of God to have the law. Just their arrogant behavior made the non-Jews think that it was not good to be a believer. Instead of them living a better life for having known God, they oppressed others and ran them away from God. Romans 2:25-27 Condemnation Because Of Their Trust In Rites The Jews trusted not only in the Law of Moses, as the preceding paragraph shows (Rom_2:17-24), but also in circumcision as the sign of their special covenantal relationship with God. But Paul argued that trust in the rite itself was meaningless and was a basis for God’s judgment. Circumcision has value if you observe (“are practicing”) the Law. Conversely, if you break the Law (and they did), you have become as though you had not been circumcised. In the Greek this second part of Rom_2:25 is interesting: “If you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become a foreskin.” In other words a Jewish lawbreaker is just like a Gentile lawbreaker; the Jews’ rite of circumcision counts for nothing. For the Jew, circumcision was a sign of the covenant. Here is a complete definition of circumcision as given in Genesis 17:11: Cutting away of the male foreskin was not entirely new in this period of history, but the special religious and theocratic significance then applied to it was entirely new, thus identifying the circumcised as belonging to the physical and ethnical lineage of Abraham. Without diving revelation, the rite would not have had this distinctive significance, thus it remained a theocratic distinctive of Israel. There was a health benefit, since disease could be kept in the folds of the foreskin, so that removing it prevented that. Historically, Jewish women have had the lowest rate of cervical cancer. But the symbolism had to do with the need to cut away sin and be cleansed. It was the male organ which most clearly demonstrated the depth of depravity because it carried the seed that produced depraved sinners. Thus, circumcision symbolized the need for a profoundly deep cleansing to reverse the effects of depravity. Under the new covenant provided by Jesus which is the covenant of grace, the meaning of circumcision has to do with the heart. 1 Corinthians 7:19 "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God." Philippians 3:3: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." The opposite is also true. If those who are not circumcised (lit., “if the foreskin,” a word used by Jews as a slang expression for a Gentile; cf. the comments on Rom_2:25) keep (phyllasē, “guard” and therefore “keep” or “observe”; cf. 1Ti_5:21) the Law’s requirements (and apparently some Gentiles did), will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? God will regard the believing Gentile as favorably as a circumcised, believing Jew. Colossians 3:11 "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all." The circumcision that counts is of the heart and not of the flesh. God is not interested in our flesh. He is Spirit and He is interested in our spirit which is made in His image. Matthew 6:28-34 "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:" "And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith?" "Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? Or, what shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" "(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek :) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof." Jesus also came to heal our bodies. III John 1:2 "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." Paul concluded that a Gentile who obeys (“fulfills”) the Law judges a Jew who, despite his having the written code and circumcision, is a lawbreaker. A Gentile who obeys what the Law requires, even though he does not know the Law (Rom_2:14) is in God’s sight similar to a circumcised Jew. This thought would be revolutionary for Jews who considered themselves far superior to Gentiles (cf. Rom_2:17-21). A Gentile’s humble obedience to the law should serve as a stern rebuke to a Jew who, in spite of his great advantage, lives in disobedience. To whom much is given, much is required. These Gentiles were living better lives with less knowledge than the Jews. These Jews are not setting the good example for God that that they need to. Galatians 6:15 "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." Romans 2:28-29 These verses form the conclusion to the entire section that begins with Rom_2:17. Being a true or genuine Jew is not a matter of outward or external things (such as wearing phylacteries, paying tithes, or being circumcised). Genuine circumcision is not the physical rite itself. Rather, a genuine Jew is one inwardly and true circumcision is… of the heart and by the Spirit. “He is a Jew”: A true child of God; the true spiritual seed of Abraham. “Circumcision is that of the heart”: The outward rite is of value only when it reflects the inner reality of a heart separated from sin unto God. “Spirit…letter”: Salvation results from the work of God’s Spirit in the heart, not mere external efforts to conform to His law. In the case above it would be possible for a Gentile to be a better Jew than the natural Jew, because the Gentiles' heart is right with God. God looks on the heart of man and judges the heart. Only you and God know the relation that you have with God. Men look at the outward man, but God sees the heart. The NIV has rendered the Greek words “in spirit” as “by the Spirit,” as though they refer to the Holy Spirit. However, it is better to understand this verse as saying that circumcision of heart fulfills “the spirit” of God’s Law instead of mere outward conformity to the Law. Some Jews followed the Law’s regulation outwardly, but their hearts were not right with God (Isa_29:13). A circumcised heart is one that is “separated” from the world and dedicated to God. The true Jew receives his praise… not from men (as did the Pharisees) but from God, who sees people’s inward natures (cf. Mat_6:4, Mat_6:6) and discerns their hearts (cf. Heb_4:12).