God Remains Faithful (1)

  • God’s salvation consists essentially of His presence with us. Given this truth, then His wrath consists of His absence or separation from us. The bad news is this, without the good news of Jesus, no hope exists and God’s wrath is real.

    In the latter portion of Romans 2 and going through Romans 4 and even 5, Paul sounds a sober warning. God’s wrath is here; it is not some far-off future event. Paul says that God’s wrath is already at work in the world in what is effectively God’s “hands-off” policy.

    This is important to understand. Paul says God steps aside and gives us over to idolatry, sexual sins, and depraved minds. Human sin and depravity are both its cause and effect. You see, we are not only punished for our sins, but we are punished by our sins. This, of course is the state of man outside of the grace and love of God. In other words, it’s man’s condition under the old agreement of the law.

    For Paul the cross of Jesus deals finally and definitively with the dual reality of sin. Not only are we forgiven of our sins, our willful acts of disobedience, but we are also liberated from the power of sin. As we make our way through Romans 2, 3, 4, and possibly 5 we will see this truth and we’ll discover that God remains faithful to us.

    I’ll be using the Easy to Read Version (ERV) and The Voice version. So lets start with Romans 2 around verse 21 in the The Voice version.

    21 then tell me, why don’t you practice what you preach? If you are going to sermonize against stealing, then stop stealing.

    22 If you are going to teach others not to commit adultery, then be completely faithful to your spouse. If you hate idolatry, then stop robbing the temples! 

    23 If you pride yourself in having God’s law, then stop dishonoring God by failing to keep its teaching.

    24 Here’s what it says: “Because of you, God’s reputation is slandered by those outside the covenant.”

    Basically, Paul is pointing out hypocrisy in these verses. Now he’s talking to the Jews as is evident by verse 24, where he describes “those outside the covenant”.

    This is the very thing religious people in the church today are doing. They are quick to tell you how to live your lives, and to chastise you for your failures in keeping “their” rules and laws about right living. Yet, they go and perform the very things they criticize you about. Worse than that, they pick out the rules and laws they are able to follow and then judge you based on your ability to follow those rules and laws.

    Paul goes on to say, and I’m paraphrasing, “no wonder people don’t want to come to church, don’t want anything to do with Christianity, or the people purporting to be christians. Because of your false teaching and wrong believing, people outside the household of God only see God as a mean judge and executioner. It’s not surprising they slander God. The life you are showing them they must live is depressing, useless, and impossible to live.

    When people who claim to be God’s people are hypocrites, then God is the one who gets the bad name. The problem occurs when we say one thing and do another? When we set a standard for others only to break it ourselves? There is a lot of religious talk out there, a lot of smugness and self-satisfaction. Religion is nothing more than arrogance disguised as righteousness.

    People who are so dogmatic about making sure you keep some set of man-made rules, or follow some outdated unbiblical traditions set by men are people who cannot control their own lives. These are those who are perfectly willing to try and control yours.

    Paul addresses these types of people beginning in verse 25. Sticking with The Voice version.

    25 You see, circumcision is of value only if you keep the law’s teachings. But if you keep breaking God’s rules, you are no different than those without the mark.

    What is Paul pointing out here? He’s pointing out the fact that if you live under the law of circumcision (the physical act) then you must keep all the law. But if you are circumcised and keep breaking the laws of God, you’re no better than the Gentiles that you criticize.

    It’s no different today. People who have not received the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness are under the law of works and performance. They are trying to earn righteousness, rather than simply receiving righteousness. It is God who MAKES us holy and righteous by the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus at the cross.

    26 So if an uncircumcised man abides by God’s just precepts, doesn’t that make his standing before God the same as one who is circumcised?

    27 The man who is physically uncircumcised but still keeps the law, he will stand in judgment over the person who is circumcised and yet continually breaks God’s law.

    28 A mark that is evident doesn’t necessarily make one a Jew, and circumcision that is evident only in the flesh is not true. 

    29 But the true Jew is Jewish on the inside—in secret places no one but God can see—and true circumcision involves the heart; it comes from the Spirit, not from some written code. The praise and reputation of that kind of Jew come from God, not from man.

    What we see here is a parallel truth. Take verse 28 for instance. Just because someone proclaims to be a Christian, doesn’t necessarily make it so. I’ve asked people if they were Christians and they’ve given all kinds of answers. They say “Well I’m Catholic”, or “I’m Baptist”, or I was born in the USA and I drink coke.

    So what? That’s not what I asked you. I asked you if you were a Christian. Just like a mark of circumcision that is evident doesn’t make one a Jew. I’ve been to McDonald’s but that doesn’t make me a Big Mac. I’ve put in water lines using PVC, but that doesn’t make me a plumber. I’ve cooked many a meal, but that doesn’t make me a Chef. Get my point?

    If you are a true follower of Christ, the next time people ask you if you are a Christian, avoid that label by telling them this. “I am an Evangelical, Theistic, Trinitarian, Essentialist.” “I am not an Evangelical, Theistic, Trinitarian, Volunteerist.”

    What’s the difference? An Essentialist believes that God’s nature takes precedence over God’s will. A volunteerist believes God’s will takes precedence over God’s nature. If that were the case then God’s grace and favor would fail and His extreme judgement would result. Why? Because God’s nature is Love, not judgement. Again, God’s perfect will is almost never done, but God’s perfect plan will always be done.

    Getting back to Romans 2, it’s the truth in verse 29 that is important. It’s the circumcision of the heart, on the inside where God looks. It comes from the Spirit, not some set of rules that must be followed.

    Moving on to Romans 3.

    1 So then, do the Jews have an advantage over the other nations? Does circumcision do anything for you? The answer is yes, in every way. To begin with, God spoke to and through the Jewish people. But what if some Jews have been unfaithful? Does the fact that they abandoned their faith zero out God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! If every person on the planet were a liar and thiefGod would still be true. It stands written: Whenever You speak, You are in the right. When You come to judge, You will prevail.

    No matter what….God will always be true. God Remains Faithful.

    In verses 5-9 we see Paul holding a conversation to answer questions that may be on the minds of even you that are reading this teaching. What about our lies, our injustices, our corruption? Is God judging us for our sins?

    Study this because it also has a rhetorical communication about whether we should increase our wrong behavior to accentuate God’s goodness. It’s said again in another form in Romans 6:1 and following.

    Here’s Romans 3:9. “So what then? Are we Jews better off? Not at all. We have made it clear that people everywhere, Jews and non-Jews, are living under the power of sin.”

    Sin is more than just wrong choices, bad decisions, and willful acts of disobedience that violate God’s Word and are contrary to His will. It is that and much more.

    Paul knows sin is missing the mark or deliberately stepping over the line. He also knows that sin is a power at work in him and every child of Adam. Sin seems to have a will of its own. Like an addiction, sin takes hold of us and causes us to act in ways we never wanted.

    Here comes the good news that Paul realized. That is that the cross of Jesus deals finally and definitively with the dual reality of sin. What is the duality of sin? It’s what I stated earlier in this teaching. That being not only are we forgiven of our sins, our willful acts of disobedience, but we are also liberated from the power of sin (Romans 6:6,7,11,18,22 & Romans 8:2).

    It was difficult to find a good break point for part 1 of this teaching, so you may have to re-study parts of this in order to tie it in to part 2. Grace and Peace.