As we continue through Paul’s letter to the Romans, it’s good for us to reflect on what we’ve seen so far. Again, much of the value of Bible study comes from the time taken to meditate – to ruminate – on it. That’s the best way to allow it to bring transformation.
Who Needs the Gospel?
Paul has already outlined the gospel for us: it’s the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. But who needs that salvation? Paul’s spent a good deal of time discussing “those guys” in chapter one. The ones who suppress the knowledge of God, choosing to be ignorant. Those ones filled with envy, murder; the foolish, faithless, heartless and ruthless ones. That’s not you and me, though, is it?
Chapter 2 has blown all that nonsense away. We saw how he now takes aim at those good-enough religious types: those who try to appease God through repeatedly doing things they think God likes. And, so often, they then look down on those ne’er-do-wells in condemnation. Chapter 1 called out gossip and slander, but how frequently do we see that in the Christian community? How frequently am I guilty of gossip and slander? The thought that we often pass judgement (in our minds, if nowhere else) on people based on what they do, but we’ll always judge ourselves on our motivations… Ouch! I know that’s me right there.
What Paul’s showing us – showing me – is that we all need the gospel. We never get past it. All have sinned and fall short of the standard.
Credits and Debits
Paul zooms in specifically to talk to his Jewish kinsmen there towards the end of chapter 2. He says to them: we have the Law – the very word of God! We have the right lineage, we rightly boast in having the true God, and we have the right mission. But that doesn’t mean we are favoured on that basis. Those are all good things, but it’s not enough to render us perfect. We have the Law, but are we keeping it? Really?
You recall how we looked at that Rich Young Ruler from Mark 10. He thought he was doing great. Yes, Lord, I’ve kept the Law! Yet he knew he had a lack (commendable!) and, as Jesus showed him, he failed at the very first commandment. The young man had another god whom he worshipped: his wealth. On the outside, he looked like he had, along with this physical assets, a great deal of credit with God. Highly favoured, and highly blessed. But, as Paul says in Romans 2:28 “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. Let’s edit that a little to make the point.
No one is a Christian who is merely one outwardly, nor is salvation outward and physical.
What makes you, or me, a Christian? Is it the attending church and life group? Is it the vocabulary? Or is it the reading and the prayers? Paul would say:
But a Christian is one inwardly, and salvation is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.
There is a great debt we all have accrued through sin, and no amount of doing the right things will erase it. What is needed is the infinite credit of Jesus Christ the righteous! Paul says in 1 Timothy that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” That I speaks to me, just as much as it did to Paul.
The Romans Road
As we continue on our journey through Romans, we’ll soon see Paul’s climactic statement: “None is righteous, no not one.” Paul’s leading us to the conclusion we’ve been ensuring is clear upfront in our series: the righteousness of God is what we need, and praise God indeed that He has revealed in to us in Jesus Christ.