As we have been studying Romans, chapter 1 tells us that everyone, all humanity is in the same condition. We are all broken by the effects of sin and therefore separated from God. Because of our sinful state, we all deserve to die. And we can’t plead ignorance because we are “without excuse.” God has revealed himself to all people. Every person knows there is a God and also knows the difference between right and wrong. We are all internally programmed to understand these things.
In Romans 2, Paul is addressing the Jewish mentality which is the religious mentality. Here’s how it goes with the religious mindset. That because they are religious, trying to keep the Law, observing the religious feasts, trying to keep the Sabbath, etc., that they have an inside track with God and have a right to point their boney fingers at the irreligious people.
Paul starts going after these Jews who are trusting in all of their own goodness saying, “You’re just as guilty as these other people who are not religious.” In addition to this intuitive knowledge that everyone has, you Jews also have been given the Law of God. Not only do you have an inner witness, you also have an outer witness. The Jews are pointing their accusatory fingers at the gentiles saying, “There’s no way you can be accepted by God.” But Paul turns the tables on them and declares, “You’re making it worse on yourselves. Since you’ve been given superior knowledge of God’s right standards through the Law, in addition to your intuitive knowledge, you’re doubly guilty. You have a mental understanding of what is demanded by God, that is, perfection and you know you are not keeping the Law yourself.”
The conclusion of Chapter 2 is that “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or a Gentile, if you’re religious or not—everybody is guilty before God.” The religious person doesn’t have an inside track. Religion doesn’t make you any closer to God; it actually makes you more accountable.
One day, I ran into a man and in conversation, I asked him, “Are you a Christian?” His reply was one I have heard many times. “I’m trying to be.” I asked, “How are you trying to be? What are you doing to be a Christian?” His response was a list of things that he was working hard to perform. Church going, tithe giving, logging hours of prayer, fasting, etc. In other words, this person was trying to get close to God based on his performance. I finally asked, “How are you doing with that?” He was honest when he replied, “Not so good.”
We have four children and seven grandchildren. None of them try to be my children and grandchildren. They are by birth. Are they good children? Are they good grandchildren? I think so but it doesn’t matter. They were born into our family. And we, dear friends, were born into God’s Kingdom and has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do.
Is there anything wrong with church going, tithing, prayer, fasting and other spiritual disciplines? Of course not. These are all good things when they are expressions of our love to God. But when they are viewed as rungs on a ladder that you have to climb to get into God’s presence. This is where religious exercises move from being helpful to becoming deadly.
A common phrase used by people to describe their walk with Jesus is the following, “I’m trying to be a good Christian.” A good Christian? What does that mean? Jesus would say, “There is only one who is good and that is God.”
Romans 3:12-21 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law…
We will begin to see in Romans 4 and building through chapter 8 the rescue mission of God as He comes to not only rescue us but to make us His beloved children.