Thursday, June 18, 2020

Romans (4) Perfect Judge

Another Contradiction
Another false teaching of the Jewish Judger is exposed in Romans 2:14-15. This is another crack at the bluster of Rom 1:18-32. The judger tries to say in a different way that people who do not know the law, actually do know it, because it was written on their hearts. This was not true. Gentiles possibly know a little about what God requires, but they do not have the law on their hearts.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel had both promised that God would eventually write the law on his people’s hearts (Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:27). However, this promise would be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit after people were born again under the new covenant. It does not apply to people who do not know God, as the Jewish Judge implies.

Paul responds by saying more about the Jewish Judger (Rom 2:17-20). This man is a Jew. His hope is in the law. He uses the law to make moral distinctions. He believes that he can be a teacher of people living in darkness; those who are foolish and blind. He claims to be able to do this because he has an outline of knowledge of truth.

Paul responds by saying that the Jewish claim that they can teach the nations is invalid because they were not applying it himself (Rom 2:21-24). He cites some events that had actually happened in Rome, where Jewish teachers had dishonoured God and put his people at risk, by stealing and committing adultery. God had given the Jews his wisdom for how the people of the community could live at peace with each other (Rom 3:2), but they had failed to do that. That unfaithfulness does not undermine God’s rightness (Rom 3:4). Instead, they had undermined their testimony by disobeying the good laws that God had given to them.

The remainder of the chapter deals with the Jewish Judger’s claim that Gentile Christians need to be circumcised. The purpose of circumcision was to keep God’s people separate from the rest of the world. This was an important aspect of their protection from the spiritual powers of evil. It was a sign that they belonged to God and that these evil powers could not attack them.

Following Jesus defeat of the spiritual powers of evil on the cross, our spiritual protection is different, so circumcision is no longer so important. It reminds Jews that they are Jews, but has no value for those who are not.

Paul then playfully suggests that some who are not circumcised can fulfil the law. This is a consequence of the Judger’s false claim that the Gentiles have the law written on their heart. It would mean that some Gentiles would fulfil the law they supposedly have written on their hearts. This gives the odd result, that people who are not circumcised can fulfil the law, while those who are don’t. This contradiction undermines the Jewish Judger’s arguments about the circumcision and the law.

God is Unjust
The Jewish Judger’s argument about God’s wrath comes up again in Rom 3:5-8. He suggests that if God is wrong to judge, he should not be the judge at the end of the age. This is foolish. The problem is not with God being judge, but declaring that his attitude is one of wrath. Paul undermines this argument, by treating it as foolish. He says that it is as stupid as saying that “we should do evil so that good may come”. Paul calls this blasphemy and says that people who think like that deserve what they will get (v.8). God is right in everything he does, so he is the perfect judge.

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