Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Romans (3) Jewish Judger

At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul explains that the Jewish Judger is wrong in his condemnation of people. He is actually putting himself under God’s judgement. Paul's message is consistent with Jesus behaviour. He was happy to dine with ordinary sinful people and he healed their diseases and cast out the demons who were harassing them. Jesus was only really critical of people who used the requirements of the law to condemn people and lay a burden on them. He understood that the law could be a burden for people who had struggled with life, and he got angry with those who did not help them deal with this burden. Paul was copying Jesus when he spoke angrily about the Jewish Judger.

Paul declared that the Judger was guilty of some of the sins that he had put on the list. He was guilty of injustice, deceit, cunning, arrogance, self-importance. He is unfeeling and uncaring. This is the type of behaviour that God really does hate, so Paul was correct in saying that the Jewish Judger was placing himself under God’s judgement.

Paul drives the nail home by saying that he was ignoring the aspects of God’s character that make him right/correct in what he has done.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance (Rom 2:4)?
This is an amazing statement, that cuts right across the Jewish Judger’s rant in Rom 1:18-32. When God thinks about the people of the world, his attitude is kindness, forbearance and patience. Paul repeats the word “kindness” to emphasize its importance. God is not interested in whacking sinful people; he just wants a change of heart. This a massive contrast with the judger, who wants people to see themselves under God’s wrath and subject to serious punishment.

Forbearance is an interesting word to ascribe to God. It means “restraint”. This is the basis for our salvation. God’s immediate response to sin is not to punish, but to restrain himself, and attempt to work out a solution, that will set his people free from the mess that they are in (Rom 3:25). Paul understood this, because he had experienced it himself. Paul was blunt with the Jewish Judger, because he did not want the views he himself held before he encountered Jesus being brought into the church by Jewish Christians who did not understand the radical nature of Jesus revelation of God.

The thing that really upsets Paul is stubbornness and unrepentance that insists on portraying God as harsh and cruel when he is actually kind. Paul has blunt words for him.

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the right judgment of God (Rom 2:5).
Paul tells the Jewish Judger that he will get what he wants: “wrath in the day of wrath”. I think that Paul is using hyperbole to expose his challenger’s harshness, because he concludes that the day will reveal God’s righteousness, not his wrath, ie “revelation of the right judgment of God”.

The thing that really upsets God is stubbornness and unrepentance that insists on portraying God as harsh and cruel, when he is actually kind (Rom 2:5). Condemning people who are enslaved by sin and evil is what brings judgment. This is was the judger’s mistake, and it really upset Paul, I presume because that is who he was before he encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road.

This is a warning to anyone who attempts to preach from the first few chapters of Romans. Which message are we pushing? If we are saying that God is angry with sinners and that they deserve judgement, we are backing the wrong horse. If we want to be with Paul, we should be proclaiming the kindness and patience of God.

A judgment approach to Paul’s gospel does not work. Paul demolishes the Jewish Judger’s argument. He would demolish the argument of any Christian judger’s argument too. When we start judging, we joining with the Pharisees.

Paul’s gospel is about the rightness of God, not about wrath against those who cannot help it. The message of the epistle is that we are stuck in sin until God recues us. Being wrathful towards people who have been entrapped by sin is mean, as wrath is a mate of satan.

Another Exaggeration
In Rom 2:7-11, Paul gives another exaggeration/contradiction of the Jewish Judger. He first says that people who pursue glory and honour and immortality will get eternal life (v. 7). They will get peace (v.10). This is not true. We are not told in the scriptures to seek glory and honour. Even immortality is a by-product, not something we should be seeking. The law did not promise eternal life. It promised life in the land, in peace and plenty, for those who applied God’s Instructions for Economic Life. Eternal life is a New Testament promise for those who trust the gospel of Jesus.

On the other hand, the Jewish Judger says that when people act out of selfishness and reject the truth (the one that he said earlier that they are supposed to know), they will face “anger, fury, trouble and distress (vv. 8,9). He really lays it on. People who fall into sin are in a really bad place. This is the same old message of wrath that contradicts Paul’s message of God’s rightness being revealed (Rom 1:18).

The one correct thing in these few verses is that God shows no partiality (v.11). This is true. God will always do what is right, so he will treat everyone fairly, without any favouritism.

The correct message is given in Romans 2:12-13. God does not show partiality, so people will be judged on the basis of what they know. People who do not know the law will be judged on the basis of what they know. In contrast, with the judger’s rant, they are not expected to know what God requires. The worst that can happen to them is that they will perish (annihilation). They will not face the torment of God’s wrath as the Jewish Judger had implied.

People under the law will be judged according to the law (v.12). If they obey the law they will be put right. This is true. The sacrifices described in the Torah actually worked, because they were intended to appease the spiritual powers of evil and prevent them from attacking the people of God. If the Jews implemented the requirements of the law, they would have spiritual protection.

The aim of the law was not to make people righteous before God. Only Jesus could do that. The law had a different purpose: spiritual protection. As long as the people trusted God, and implemented these sacrifices, they lived in peace and safety in the land. They believed the law and they were kept right (v.13).

The truth of the gospel is that people will be judged on the basis of their response to Jesus, not on their good deeds. Those who have given allegiance to him will receive eternal life. Their names are written in the book of life. Those who have rejected the gospel will perish (John 3:16).

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