Tuesday, March 22
Reader: “For merely listening to the law”
Response: “doesn’t make us right with God.”
Scripture: Romans 2:12-16
When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.
Today’s reading in Romans reminds us that the Bible is a unified library of books containing personal letters, poetry, theology, prophecy, history, parables, narration of conversations, and songs of worship. The Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli) tended to look at the main focus of this book to be salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ by God’s grace alone apart from any human effort. The five solas were key: sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria (which J.S. Bach put at the end of all his compositions S.D.G.). Translated: By Scripture alone, By Grace alone, By Faith alone, By Christ alone, and For the Glory of God alone.
In holding a different perspective, many contemporary interpreters of Romans view the Reformers perspective as missing the first-century Jewish understanding of their position before God. In this letter Paul was attempting to correct this Jewish mindset. You’ll recall many of Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees and Sadducees were because the Jews believed they were saved because they were children of Abraham. In their minds they endeavored to keep the Law in order to maintain their relationship with God. They believed the kingdom of God was only for them. So when Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. . . “ (John 10:16), he was indicating that he had come for all peoples. That Jesus so often ministered to the Gentiles was a great source of irritation to the Jewish leadership. One can see why contemporary scholars would hold the position that Paul was addressing in correcting the exclusivity of the Jewish mindset.
For example, within the first few verses of this epistle, Paul spells out several times that his mission is to tell the Gentiles what God has done for them and that salvation in Jesus Christ is for everyone. Paul builds his case in the last part of the first chapter declaring that everyone “knows the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.” At the beginning of the second chapter Paul addresses the Jews directly concerning their rejection of God and their accountability to God.
We then come to the pericope for today. Having addressed the Jews’ situation in the first part of this chapter, Paul then turns his attention to the Gentiles and the law. Obedience becomes central in his argument. He reminds us all that God uses natural revelation to awaken people to the reality of God. The Gentiles will be judged on how they respond to what can be seen all around them. The Scriptures reveal that God’s law is written in every heart, Jew or Gentile. Everyone has a conscience which tells them when they do right or wrong. The truth is people do not always obey their conscience. Even though the Gentiles did not have the written law, they will be judged by God based on how they have responded to their conscience.
How is this passage relevant in today’s world? Did you notice the central point Paul is driving at is that race and ethnicity have nothing to do with salvation. The gospel is for every human being. Being a child of God is the main point, not if you are Jew, Greek, Roman, Asian, African, European, American, Latino, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, Australian, etc. In our culture so focused on race, gender confusion, we need to hear Paul’s words anew. Having been made in the image of God, all human identity is found in Christ alone. “In Christ now meet both east and west, in him meet south and north; all Christly souls are one in him throughout the whole wide earth.”
Music: “In Christ There Is No East or West”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpITJOShix0 British Christian Music
tune St. Stephen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRCc1zU6kIM St. Michael’s Choir tune McKee
To you, O Son of God, Lord Jesus Christ, as you pray to the eternal Father, we pray, make us one in him. Enlighten our personal distress and that of our society. May stubborn wills yield to the truth. May cold hearts thaw through the work of thy Spirit. May arrogance and self-righteousness be convicted by the truth. And may the truth of “for God so loved the world” burn deeply into our hearts. Receive us into the fellowship of those who believe. Turn our hearts, O Christ to everlasting truth and healing harmony. ―Phil Melanchthon 1497-1560 from Eerdman’s Book of Famous Prayers, p.46 (He was a friend of Martin Luther’s) Adapted Daniel Sharp