Saturday, 10 November 2012
Romans 2:1-16 - God is right and we are wrong!
So because everyone has been running away from God and our sin has twisted the way we think and act, Paul says we are without excuse when we stop to consider God again. And looking down on others to make ourselves feel like we're good is no help at all and is complete hypocrisy because in the scheme of things, we're as far from God as anyone else. We might feel like we're good when we compare ourselves to Hitler but next to the infinite perfection and holiness of God, we're in the same boat as him. We have no right to judge anyone else because we're rebels too. Only God can do that. The fact that God allows us to keep on living in this world is not because we're good enough to deserve it but because he is patient and wants to give us time and repeated opportunities to be sorry for our sin and come to him asking for mercy and forgiveness because we're wrong and guilty.
Paul says those who continue to reject the opportunity to stop running from God and ask for his forgiveness are actually making God angrier and angrier because he hates sin and wants us to know him. This is justice. The more they sin against God and think, speak and act selfishly, the more proportional punishment they rack up. No-one gets away with anything in the end. God sees it all and will judge everyone perfectly according to the truth.
Paul then describes two kinds of people and it's easy to misunderstand what he means but we must be careful to understand him in the light of what else he says about this in other places in Romans and in other letters he writes in the New Testament...
What he doesn't mean... is that there are good people and bad people and the good people go to heaven and the bad ones go to hell. This is a myth! God never says this, Jesus never says this and it's nowhere in the Bible! It's easy enough to make the Bible say this but only if you pluck verses out in isolation and ignore the context of the rest of what the Bible says.
What he does mean... is that there are people who increasingly do good because they have faith and are trusting and following Jesus and know God personally and there are those who generally don't because they don't have faith and aren't trusting and following Jesus and don't know God personally. Compared with God and his standards, there are no good people, only bad people. It's clear from what Paul has said already that no-one is in a position to earn their way into heaven by their good actions so it can't be about this. People have two choices though: either they continue to be 'self-seeking and reject the truth' or they repent (stop running from God and start running towards him instead) and trust and follow Jesus and receive the forgiveness from God they need. This is our only hope.
Paul then explains that all this applies equally to Jews (Israelites) as well as non-Jews (Gentiles). Just because God gave the law to the Israelites does not make them any less sinful and in need of forgiveness and rescue than anyone else. There are no excuses for Gentiles either. God has given everyone a conscience and feelings of guilt when they do what is wrong. There is no-one who can say to God, "But I didn't know I did anything wrong!" In the previous chapter, Paul told us that God has given everyone enough knowledge to know there's a creator because of creation. Now he tells us God has also made sure we know all too well that we need forgiveness because we know we fail to live life innocently. No excuses for anyone! And there will be a day when God judges everyone justly. He will be proved right and we will be in the wrong. Forgiveness through Jesus is our only hope.