Monday, August 01, 2022

2022.08.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 2:17–24

Read Romans 2:17–24

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the reader called, upon whom the apostle is specifically focusing now (Romans 2:17)? Upon what is he resting? In Whom does he make his boast? What does he know (Romans 2:18)? What does he approve? From what is he instructed? What two things is he confident that he is in comparison to others (Romans 2:19)? What two more things is he confident that he is in comparison to others (Romans 2:20)? What does he have in the law? Whom should he be teaching (Romans 2:21)? Whom should he be examining for theft? Whom should he be examining for adultery (Romans 2:22)? Whom should he be examining for idolatry? By what question can he evaluate whether his boasting in the law is unto the honor of God (Romans 2:23)? What happens to the name of God on account of such a man (Romans 2:24)? Among whom does this happen? How had this concept been previously communicated?

What is a first, right response to our covenant status and instruction? Romans 2:17–24 looks forward to the this week’s midweek sermon. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when we have been associated with God and instructed by God, one of our chief uses of that instruction is to follow it in such a way as to bring honor to Him. 

The kind of person to whom the apostle is speaking here. In Romans 2:17-20, the apostle gives us an eleven phrase catalog of the attributes of the sort of person to whom he is speaking. It basically boils down to this: someone who is associated with God and instructed by God.

He is associated with God. He is called a Jew. He rests on the law; from the context, he thinks that just having it and hearing it (cf. Romans 2:13) gives him safety and security. He makes his boast in God. Even if his heart is far from God, he is still the sort who draws near with the lips. He knows that God’s greatness ought to be his theme, and he makes others think that it is his theme, and maybe believes that it is himself.

He is instructed by God. He knows, approves, is instructed, guides, is a light, an instructor, a teacher, having the shape/formula of the truth. He’s very impressed with this, as others are blind, in darkness, foolish, and babies. 

What this kind of person would do, if these things are genuinely true. There really are people whom God sets apart to Himself from the world and whom God instructs. It would be a mistake to say that there aren’t. What, then, is the apostle’s point in the questions that make up Romans 2:21-23? He’s asking diagnostic questions to help the man in Romans 2:17-20 assess whether these things are genuinely true about himself.

The necessity of learning for ourselves first. “You, therefore who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” Here is a great help for recognizing whether we are genuinely instructed by God. If the wisdom is from God and His Word, then we come before Him with a keen recognition that by comparison to Him and His Word, it is I who am blind. I who am in darkness. I who am foolish. I who am a baby. I come in gratitude, humility, and expectation—thankful for what He has given but knowing that there is so much yet to be overcome, in which to grow, etc. But, if my coming to Scripture is largely an exercise in reaffirming how correct I already am, then I am exposed as self-wise rather than God-instructed.

The necessity of examining ourselves first. “You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?” This would be a shocking question to most pharisaical Jews. And the question about adultery even more so. And the question about robbing temples even more! But God’s law is very searching and exceedingly broad. As the apostle just finished pointing out (Romans 2:16), it touches even the secrets of men. 

When we begin to approach it the way that Jesus did in Matthew 5:13–7:12, we realize that it especially addresses the heart that God alone can see. Rather than saying “of course not!” to all of the questions in Romans 2:21-22, we ought to be asking ourselves how it is that we are breaking these commandments from our hearts. He who lacks humility makes himself less useful to others not more. It is the one who has practiced dealing with sin in his own heart who is actually useful to his brother. Having dealt with the log, he can help with the speck.

Self-righteousness betrays a disregard for God and His honor. It’s not just God Who can see our hypocrisy. The unkept heart inevitably shows through. When Romans 2:24 adds “as it is written,” it shows that God has been diagnosing this as a problem for a long time. We are fools if we think that our hypocrisy will stay hidden. And if we try to live this way, we show that we don’t really care about the honor of God. For the man who is false before God knows that he will eventually be exposed before men as false, and then he will bring shame upon the Name of his God. 

We can tell ourselves that our boasting is in God. But if we aren’t actively caring about how we honor Him from the heart in our obedience, then we can be sure that we do not really care about honoring Him in our theology. If we are using God as an excuse to feel superior to others, then we are false. And when this falseness is exposed, God’s honor bears the brunt of it.

So the last great question isn’t just, “do I teach myself?” or “do I examine myself?” but “do I really love God and His honor?” What a hard question; praise God the answer for Christ is “Yes!” And the more the Spirit works in us, the more that will be our answer too.

If you are really instructed by God, what will your experience of Bible study and hearing preaching be like? What is the difference between asking yourself “do I do this” and “how am I doing this”? How does loving God’s honor affect how you approach the Bible? How you approach other people?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for setting us apart to Yourself and instructing us. Help us to remember that by setting us apart to Yourself, You have made what we do to reflect upon You. So give us genuine humility under Your Word, genuine gratitude for whatever work You do in us, genuine desire for more of that work, and genuine praise of You in our hearts and on our lips. For we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

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

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