Monday, July 11, 2022

2022.07.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 2:12–16

Read Romans 2:12–16

Questions from the Scripture text: What will happen to how many of those who have sinned without the law (Romans 2:12)? By what will those under the law be judged? How would someone have to be justified, if they are justified by the law (Romans 2:13)? How do Gentiles show that they already know what the law demands (Romans 2:14)? Where was this law written (Romans 2:15)? What bears witness to this? In what types of activities do Gentiles’ consciences do this? On what day will all sinners be perish (Romans 2:16, cf. Romans 2:12)? What will God judge that day? By Whom? According to what?

How do we know that we will be judged and how immense that judgment will be?  Romans 2:12–16 looks forward to the this week’s midweek sermon. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that on the day of wrath, the secrets of our hearts will be judged against the standard of that glorious Jesus Christ Who is offered to us in the gospel. 

How can Gentiles, who don’t have the law, be judged? Romans 2:12 says that “as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law.” We have already heard from Romans 1:19–20 that all men are aware of God and His glory. However, apart from grace, the children of Adam refuse to glorify His glory (Romans 1:21) or give Him thanks. Indeed, they give that glory to created things instead (Romans 1:23). 

So all sin is against the glory of God. When men accuse themselves (Romans 2:15), their consciences show that they are aware of God’s law (cf. Romans 1:32). And when men excuse themselves (Romans 2:15), their consciences show that they are aware of God’s law. However much we push down on the knowledge of God’s glory, we all know that our sin is against Him. If our minds and hearts were functioning properly, we would freely admit and acknowledge that our sin deserves and receives a response from God as great as His glory itself.

How can Jews, who have the law, be judged? This might seem like a silly question to us, after considering how we have all sinned against God’s glory. But there apparently were Jews who thought that they were given the law as something that they would keep in order to obtain the blessings that God was promising. They even thought that the atonements in the ceremonial law were just enough to make up for the small breaches of the law that they made at times, so that it all balanced out. 

There are people in churches today making similar mistakes. They live feeling pretty good about how they’re doing, so long as they don’t make “great stumblings” (in their own estimation), but when they do make those stumblings, they have recourse either to the sacraments or to some other spiritual “works” or even just make themselves feel better by remembering the cross. But in their overall relationship with God, they have no sense that even their best works need this atonement, and that it is never their remembrances of Christ that make things better but Christ Himself Who has once-for-all made them right with God.

The law itself gave moral commands that would have to be perfectly obeyed in order to be justified by the law. This should have shattered the idea that they could be justified by circumcision or sacrifices, because doing these would at best keep that part of the law, and still leave them liable for breaking the other parts of the law. And even their sacrificing was never done sincerely enough of purely enough!

So the law itself was not of faith, but it demanded that they be justified through faith in Him Who would fulfill all perfectly. Jesus fulfilled the moral law perfectly. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law perfectly. Jesus was the point of the law. Jesus was the end of the law for righteousness. When He comes, that which was always true becomes that much clearer: the law that the Jews heard could not save them; it could only point to the only One Who could save.

When Jews failed to see this, they pushed down on the glory of God displayed in the law. They pushed down on the glorious standard: “you shall be holy as Yahweh your God is holy.” They pushed down on the glory displayed in the wrath of God in the burning sacrifices, where the original fire upon the original sacrifices came out from God Himself.

But Jesus has come as the display of the glory of God—not in wrath but in gospel! The secrets of men are bad news, then. The secrets of the Gentiles are that they know about the glory of God in creation but have sinned against Him anyway. And the secrets of the Jews are that they know about the glory of God in the law but have sinned against Him anyway.

But now Jesus, God the Son, has come in the gospel and displayed the glory of God. He Who is God Himself has atoned for our sins because only One Who is as great as God’s glory could suffice to atone for sin that is against God’s glory. This is the great display of Jesus and His glory that Romans 3:25 will proclaim when it says that God exhibited Jesus as a propitiation. 

So, it is awfully frightful that God judges the secrets of our hearts. He judges us against the standard that we know, despite our efforts to push down on that knowledge. And it is awfully frightful that this judgment is through Jesus Christ, since He is an even greater display of God’s glory than we have in the creation. But it is awfully merciful that the way we come to know about the greatness of this judgment is “according to my gospel.” 

For those who come to be justified not by what we do, but only by what Jesus has done, we learn the greatness of the judgment that we deserve by the very fact that Jesus has fully taken it upon Himself!

What sins in your life are you tempted to think of as not a big deal? What has God shown in the creation and the gospel to show you how big a deal it is? What can(has!) be (been!) done about it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, truly You have displayed Your glory in redemption even more than in the creation. Forgive us for when we respond to these displays of Your glory by excusing ourselves. Thank You for making the greatest display of Your glory in Your Son, Who offered Himself for our sins. Give us to trust in Him, and to hate our sin for His sake, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

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