Some have referred to this part of Romans as an exposition of the Lord Jesus parable of the two lost sons. Can I have the sex, drugs, and rock and roll son of the younger brother, and then the self-righteousness, the hard-heartedness, the indifference of the older brother seen between Gentiles and Jews. We look to the reading of God’s word if you would just join me in prayer. The grass withers and the flower fades, but Lord, your word stands forever. And we ask then that you who caused all of scriptures to be written for our learning, that you would grant to us hearts to hear them, to mark them, to learn and to digest them, that we would embrace and ever hold fast to the blessed hope of everlasting life, That which you’ve given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we now pray. Amen. Beginning in verses 12 to 16 to start. For all who have sinned without the law will all perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it’s not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
For when Gentiles who do not have the law, by nature, do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They shown that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. On that day, when according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. The word of the Lord. Be seated. During the reign of Emperor Claudius, the Jews, whether they were Christians or not, had been expelled from the city of Rome, and they were allowed to come back years later under the Emperor Nero. Originally, they would have been the leaders of the early church in Rome. And so with them gone, the Gentiles would have stepped up just fill the gaps in their absence. And no doubt, when they returned, there would have been some skirmishes for the leadership that was to take over. Jewish Christians throughout in the early church struggled to recognize Gentiles as being fully part of God’s covenant community. It was easy to see them as second class citizens. Some were even claiming that they needed to take on all of the law, all the Torah, in order to become Christians.
Christians. It’s interesting how things shift because now you have many Gentiles who are encouraging Christians to take on the Torah and stuff to be fully Christian. It’s an odd thing in the Christian church how these things move around. But Paul puts everyone in their place. He says something that would have surprised these Jewish Christians at the time. He said, Gentile believers were not deficient because they do not have the law, for the law is written upon their hearts. Paul is getting at the very nature of true religion. Is the law written on your heart internally or is it only printed, as it were, externally on your shirt? The problem for the religious is that we can use the very things of God to keep us from the heart of God. We can use our neerness to God to actually keep him at a distance. And because only those who have a new heart belong to the Lord, we can never offer an outward substitute. We can never do things that will make us on the inner circle of the kingdom. God requires a changed heart. More than just proximity. And Paul has steadily been building his argument to show that all stand condemned before God, whether you’re Jew or whether you’re Gentile, all need the saving work of Jesus.
He has hit hard at what we’re often considered the pagan or the Gentile sins. And he’s anticipating that response of, Yeah, you tell them, Paul, those filthy sinners need to hear this. And now he switches around. He points the barrel towards the sins of the religious. He’s asking, Where is the law in relationship to your heart? Is it written upon you? He’s already said in verse 11 that there’s no partiality with the Lord regarding the judgment of sin. And now in verse 12, he says, For all who have sinned without the law will perish without the law. All who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it’s not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Now, that seems pretty straightforward. If you’re a Gentile sinner or if you’re a Jewish sinner, you’re in trouble because you’re a sinner. God will judge everyone by what we’ve actually done. Chapter 1, Paul has laid out that mankind universally is guilty because they have suppressed the truth of God. Coming up in chapter 3, he’s going to tell us a solution for this universal problem is redemption that’s found only in Christ.
What is he doing here? He’s not talking about how salvation works. He’s demonstrating God’s impartiality to two groups of people who might be expecting partiality. The standard for both is perfection. Martin Luther was fond of pointing out that God’s commands tear us down, but his promises raise us up. Here, Paul is tearing us down for a moment. What Paul has just said in verse 13 would have been something Jewish people would have thought and taught. You got to walk the talk. You got to walk it. They would have looked down on the Gentiles because those Gentiles did not know the law and they could not walk in it. And Paul brings the hammers down on this Jewish thinking, starting in verse 14. For when Gentiles who do not have the law by nature do what the law requires, they’re a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of law is written on their heart while their conscience is also bear witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. Now, Paul says here it can be difficult to understand. He Who is he talking about?
Is he talking about unbelieving Gentiles or about believing Gentiles? Now, you can make the case either way. We spoke about this last week. You could set forward a hypothetical example that Paul is saying that there are no truly just Jews or just Gentiles. They’re all guilty. They all fall apart because of the lack of their righteousness. The other way that you could look at this is to say that he’s speaking about Gentile believers. He’s talking about those who now have the Holy spirit in them that’s directing their life and their faith. He’s used a language from Jeremiah 31 of the New Covenant being written on the heart. So I think that’s probably what he’s doing. He’s speaking about Gentile Christians. And he’s telling us that God’s judgment is fair and impartial. We will be judged by the light we walk in. Greater light, greater accountability. Think about it. Has there ever been a time when you judge someone else but did the very thing that you judged them for? The answer is yes. Yes, you have. Because I’ve done it, too. We’ve all done this. We’ve all said something about somebody to look down on them or to judge what they’re doing.
And then we’ve turned around and done the exact same thing. Sometimes maybe in the same day, the same hour. Have you ever been there, even when you said something like that? It could be a while later and you end up doing the same thing and to your mind comes back the very thing you said against somebody else. That would be the Holy spirit convicting you of judging someone for doing the same thing you’re doing. And to judge us fairly All the Lord needs to do is just to play back our own words that we’ve judged someone else with. To be clear, Paul is not telling us there will be those who are saved apart from faith in Christ. That’s not what he’s saying. But how the Lord chooses to reveal himself to people outside of the normal means of evangelism, that’s up to the Lord. Could he reveal in some way a saving knowledge to someone that’s beyond our understanding? Sure. But we don’t know that. We’re not called on to know that. We’re called to deal with our own hearts. People always have those questions. It’s understandable. Well, what about children who at an early age or mental disabilities, those who are in far away places, are they out of the kingdom because they do not know the truth of Jesus?
Paul is simply not addressing that question here. How the Lord applies this saving work of Jesus to Each unusual story is not ours to know in this time in this place. What we do know is that his judgment is fair and just and that he is abundant in mercy and grace. How the Lord accounts for them is their story. And rather than getting upset about somebody else’s potential story, he calls each of us to look to our own heart. Rather than judging God for what we think is fair or not fair, it’s like, why don’t you focus on what’s under your control? Your heart. How do you stack up with your own judgment about the things that you do and say? Not one of us is going to go before the Lord claiming that there’s been a travesty of justice on our account. Each of us will get what he deserves by an impartial judge. There’s no favored nation status with the Lord. Like Pinocchio, we all have a Jiminy cricket that’s letting us know when we have done something wrong, our conscience informs us. And Paul is not saying that that conscience is perfect.
He’s not saying it’s infallible. He’s not even saying it’s complete. People sear and they damage their conscience by willful sin and suppressing the truth. We saw that in chapter one. But it does let us know that we have failed in some way to measure up to even our own standard when we have wronged someone else. And this is true of all peoples everywhere. We have enough to condemn us. And as believers, our consciences are prompted by the Holy spirit, informed by the word of God. And God’s word gives us more revelation. We have a greater light to walk by. And Paul then rounds all this out in verse 16, On that day, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. A time is coming when all actions and thoughts are going to be laid bare before the Lord. And Paul’s point is that we all sufficiently know right and wrong, and we know that we would be condemned. Now, if we take a few of these verses by themselves, it could seem like Paul is saying someone could be saved apart from Jesus, but that’s not what he’s saying at all.
Paul is setting up his argument. He’s saying everyone stands condemned. And those Jews who would naturally think that they’re automatically close to God because of the law, Paul, he takes their feet out from underneath them. He’s leveling the playing field. All will be judged by what they know. But salvation through Jesus is offered to all who call upon him. There is bad news, but the good news is there. The good news is there and is found only in the in the work of Jesus. He is taking this misplaced Jewish confidence and he’s exposing it. That elder brother sin, the sin of the religious, saying it has to be written more than on your shirt. It’s got to be interior. It’s got to be written on your soul. He says, verse 17, But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent because you are instructed from the law, Now, Paul knows about self-confidence in the law. He knows about his own self-righteousness in his own Jewishness. He looked like the modeled Jew. His outer behavior was so exemplary. But he was far from the Lord.
His outer behavior also demonstrated that by wanting to persecute the church, his own animosity towards the work of God. And he goes on. He said, If you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of the knowledge of truth, all of these things, of course, are blessings. And they are blessing for those who are Jewish, to be sure. But as one commentator says, Because they know their Bible, it doesn’t mean they do their Bible. That’s what Paul is getting at. There’s a big difference between knowing and the doing. He says in verse 21, Then you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? He’s shifting from blessings to inconsistency of doing. While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You say that one month’s not committed adultery, do you commit adultery? You who have poor idles, do you rob temples? The eighth commandment, the seventh commandment, the first and second commandment, all listed here as conditions of the heart. He’s saying, There’s a disconnect. You who boast in the law, dishonor God by breaking the law.
For it’s written, the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. Likely, he’s taking Isaiah 52 and Ezequiel 36 together. But there’s a failure of the Jewish people to live up to the high standards of the law that have caused God’s name to be in disrepute because of this with the nations around them. Now, we can all try for an outer obedience, an outer behavior that’s It’s not really intended just to look good. But there’s an outer behavior that can only come from a heart that’s been changed by the Holy spirit. It’s not about whether the law is good or bad, it’s good. It’s about, is the law written on your heart or not? Several years back, there was a couple of models of a Datsun car, which is now Nissan, and it looked like a BMW. You could buy some BMW badging and some pieces that made it really hard to tell the difference between the two just by looking the exteriors of them. You could really make your Datsun look like a BMW. But a Datsun that has the outer look of a BMW does not give you a German sports car experience.
When you take it out around the corners, you open it up on the straightaway, you find that there’s something missing inside. And Paul continues to show that the outside reveals what’s under the paint. He goes on in verse 25, For circumcision indeed is a value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. If a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? This would have been amazing to hear if you were a Jew of this time. Surcumcision was held as one of the great identifiers of God’s covenant people. Some quotes from various rabbis, circumcision saves from hell. God swore to Abraham that no one who is circumcised shall be sent to hell. Abraham sits before the gate of hell and does not allow any circumcised Israeli to enter there. They thought a lot about it. And all along, the Lord is the one who spoke about the inner circumcision of the heart. It wasn’t simply outward. Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 10, Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 4, Jeremiah 9, circumcise your heart. And Paul takes his theme up as he continues, The one who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
For no one is a Jew who’s merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart by the spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man, but from God. Now we hear this in… Nobody’s really that worked up about circumcision. In Paul’s day, This was astounding to hear. Besides a religious identification, this was also part of a national identity. 200 years before Jesus, the terrible ruler Antiquius IV, he ruthlessly tried to eradicate the Jewish religion. He went so far as to hang children who were circumcised and their parents who allowed it to take place. And pious Jews were willing to be put to death rather than to disobey the Lord. So to hear Paul, a Jew himself, say these kinds of things, it’s no wonder that they reacted so strongly against him. We see that in Acts where they wanted to put him to death. He’s saying that Gentile believers who have the spirit of Christ in them, he’s saying they are true Jews, just like Jewish Christians who have the spirit of Christ are also true Jews. He’s anticipated an objection.
What do you mean, Paul? Surely my being Jewish matters. He says, yes, it’s wonderful. It has lots of benefits, but only if what is inside is a spirit-led follower of Jesus Christ. For some Jews to extend this blessing to Gentiles was unthinkable. Why? Because that’s the great sin of religious people. It’s unbelief. Wait a minute. That’s Does that make sense? How is unbelief the sin of religious people? You put religion in quotes. It’s any outy religion here. It’s outward versus inward. And Paul was talking about this outward the expression of faith that was far from the heart. This was what Paul was like before the Lord opened his eyes. There was no inner heart humility that was fueling the outer actions of obedience. Even if they were great acts, they were not believing acts. In the Kingdom of God, there are only first-generation believers. You may come from a long lineage of Christians in your family. Praise be to God. Great blessings to come from that. But you must be a first-generation believer. You do not get in because of your family history of your pedigree or because you have been believing parents. You get in by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
The outer signs of faith, which are good, right, and important, and not denigrating those at all, those are good things, only benefit from an inner regenerate heart. The two have to be wedded together because you can use your religious acts and symbols to keep the Lord at a distance, just like the elder brother did in the parable. Remember, Judas was baptized. Judas cast out demons. He healed people like the other apostles. He was there at the last supper. And we hear then the words of Jesus in Matthew 7, speaking about the coming judgment. He says, And that day many will say to me, ‘lord, lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not cast out demons in your name? ‘ And do many days of power in your name? That’s close. That’s Really, really close. You’re right in the inner circle doing that stuff. And then I will declare to them, I never knew you. Apart from me, you workers of lawlessness. Lawlessness. But aren’t we doing all the stuff? The fruit, the outer action that Jesus is speaking of is belief. It’s belief in him. We can use these outer responses to keep God at a distance or to try and make God a debtor to us.
I’m doing all the stuff, God. You owe me. You owe me and fill in whatever. We certainly can do this as parents. God, I’m checking off all the boxes and you owe me good kids. He doesn’t owe you anything. He may bless you with good kids. He may bless the fruit of your labor. But that’s a blessing. It’s not an obligation because you’ve somehow earned it. And it is a religious heart of that sense that tries to earn. It tries to be able to say, I did it my way. And if I did it my way, God, you owe me, and I am not a debtor to you. There’s not a person who’s going to come before God who’s not a debtor to his grace. And that question comes, do your outer actions come from a new inner heart in faith in Christ? If so, there’s no second-hand citizens in the kingdom. There are no upper and lower elite versus regular. We have the spirit of God. There’s no divisions to be in the church. And Paul’s day was between Jews and Gentiles. We have all kinds of our own divisions that we have to overcome.
Jew, Gentile, not currently one of them here. But we come to the same place. We come either eventing the The younger brother prodigal or the elder brother self-righteous. And often there’s a conversion that takes place. You go from having been this terrible sinner, and then you’re a Christian long enough, you turn into an older brother. And it’s a strange thing. It’s like, I’m a sinner separated from God here, and I’m a sinner separated from God here. But that’s often that seems to be the route. And God calls us all back to himself, whether you’re the prodigal or the self-righteous, the one who did it all right. Saying, You’re only going to come to me through my son. And he alone is going to transform your heart by the power of the regeneration of the Holy spirit. And if that is you, you walk according to the law because the law is now upon your heart. It changes everything. It’s not an obedience because you’re being flogged into doing it. It’s a freedom to do what God has you for. The joy of his commandments, the sweetness of them, because that means in living life with the people around you, you are loving others more than yourself.
You’re right back to Everything Jesus preached in the sermon on the mount. Pour in spirit, recognizing your great need, in morning for your sins, being comforted by him, the pureness of being the son and the the daughter of God because of what he has done. There’s no distinction. There’s no separation. We’re all equal before Jesus. We’re also all lost before Jesus. No one is getting in apart from him. And so coming, we come as those who have been given faith to believe. We have been recipients of his mercy and his kindness. We have been called from darkness into light. And we then, because of that, can take the outer and the inner and wed them together in a beautiful… Hard to even describe. You see it when you see it. When those things come together, it is amazing. And that’s the adornment of the gospel that we are to have. And that was missing to these Romans. And Paul is calling them back, Adorn the gospel with the righteousness of Christ given to you by faith alone to transform you, that you will not judge others because you’re a better than them. They’re lower than you.
There’s a mercy and a tenderness that you now have for people who are lost and not a vengeance of wanting them to get theirs. But you’re desiring saying, I was lost, but now I’m found. God, please open their eyes to see. I don’t want God giving me what I deserve. Be very careful about wanting God to give someone else what they deserve. I don’t want it. I want the mercy of God found in Jesus Christ. Give him to sinners and a transformation of heart. That’s what we want, and that’s what we pray for other people, that changes everything in how we go forward. Pray with me. Father, indeed, we come before you. We do confess. Lord, we check people all the time for the very things that we do. And Father, we confess that as sin. Lord, we ask that you would not only forgive us, but you continue to show us when that happens, that your spirit, that he would quicken us to know the very words we speak to others, condemn ourselves. And Father, we thank you for the remedy. The remedy for your wrath is Jesus. And we pray, Father, that there would be more of that remedy applied to our lives than sanctification.
And Father, I pray that there are any here who do not know you. I ask that you would open their eyes to see, Father, that you would that you would grant them saving faith, or that you would take them from darkness into light. We pray for that. We pray, Father, that you would be pleased to use us here at faith government for the expansion of your kingdom through the proclamation of the good news of Jesus. We bless you for your goodness and your kindness. You indeed are Lord above all. And we praise you through Jesus, our Lord. Amen. Please stand.
Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.