Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Most Sinister of Sinners – A Look at Romans 2

It might help to read Romans 1 and 2 before reading this blogpost.

Romans Chapter 2 is a more stark expose’ on the human condition than Romans 1. Romans 1 includes all people- but Romans Chapter 2 narrows the scope a little.

Romans 1 shines a light on all humans who hide from God in shadows of sin and shame. Romans 2 puts a laser beam on those who hide from God in the light.

Romans 1 speaks to people who know the truth about themselves and suppress it. Romans 2 shocks people with truth that they ignore about themselves.

Romans 2:1 “You, therefore (oun), have no excuse.” Who is the “you” here?

Romans 2 is an indictment on the worst kind of sinner- the moralist- the sanitized and technically sound religious person- who believe they are so righteous that they can actually condemn others in their sins.

These are the ‘judgers’- and we have to be careful here. There is a standard that we appeal to in order to admonish and encourage each other. But this reference to judging is an attitude of condemnation and accusation.

These people seem to be the ‘most righteous’ in terms of looking good and measuring up to outward standards of moral code and law. But there are significant problems: hypocrisy, no self suspicion, stubbornness, no attitude of repentance, self seeking, the rejection of truth, arrogance, using righteous deeds to achieve social acceptance, bragging, (you know the person).

In Paul’s day, these characteristics were most commonly associated with the spiritual haughtiness of the Jews – in particular the Pharisees. Who can forget the blistering statements from Jesus about the oppressive religious leaders of that day- “vipers”, “Sons of Satan”, “White washed tombs full of dead men’s bones”-

I do think Paul eventually narrows to the Jews in this passage, but I also believe these principles apply to anyone who regards their religion in a way that it credits to them righteousness and an air of arrogance, superiority, and condemnation.

When Paul echoes what the Old Testament says about a ‘true Jew’- not outward law-keeping and circumcision, but inward obedience and the circumcision of the heart- the application would be true of those of us who claim to be in the covenant today.

I have paraphrased Romans 2 using the same argument for someone who claims the “Christian” status.

17 If you are an Evangelical, you are relying on a knowledge of God's word for your special relationship with him. You boast that all is well between yourself and God. 18 Yes, you know what he wants; you know right from wrong because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a beacon light for people who are lost in darkness without God. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that in God's law you have complete knowledge and truth. 21 Well then, if you teach others, why don't you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you do it? You condemn idolatry, but do you steal from pagan temples? 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, "The world blasphemes the name of God because of you." 25 The Evangelical ceremony of baptism is worth something only if you obey God's law. But if you don't obey God's law, you are no better off than an unbaptized sinner. 26 And if the sinners obey God's law, won't God give them all the rights and honors of being his own people? 27 In fact, unbaptized sinners who keep God's law will be much better off than you evangelicals who are baptized and know so much about God's law but don't obey it. 28 For you are not a true believer just because you were born to evangelical parents or because you have gone through the evangelical ceremony of baptism. 29 No, a true believer is one whose heart is right with God. And true baptism is not an outward show but a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people.

Our only hope to escape this state of ‘phariseeism’ is the Holy Spirit, a constant attachment to the gospel, and a group of believers around us to encourage accountability and honest evaluation.

Bottom line: None of us bear up under the Holy light of the Father who sees us as we really are. If we are trusting in anything within us to escape the wrath, we are foolish. If we think by condemning others, we can make ourselves cleaner to the Judge- we are deceived.
The most sinister of sinners are those who think they are fully clean apart from the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

The bad news keeps coming, but be patient- a beautiful salvation is about to be proclaimed!

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