Rambling through Romans (13): 2:12-29

12 Those who have sinned outside the Law will also die outside the Law, and those who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. 13 It isn’t the ones who hear the Law who are righteous in God’s eyes. It is the ones who do what the Law says who will be treated as righteous. 14 Gentiles don’t have the Law. But when they instinctively do what the Law requires they are a Law in themselves, though they don’t have the Law. 15 They show the proof of the Law written on their hearts, and their consciences affirm it. Their conflicting thoughts will accuse them, or even make a defense for them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the hidden truth about human beings through Christ Jesus.
Jews will be judged as well
17 But,
if you call yourself a Jew;                                                                                                              if you rely on the Law;                                                                                                                   if you brag about your relationship to God;                                                                                18 if you know the will of God;                                                                                                                if you are taught by the Law so that you can figure out the things that really matter;                19 if you have persuaded yourself that you are:
a guide for the blind;                                                                                                                                      a light to those who are in darkness;                                                                                           20 an educator of the foolish;                                                                                                                          a teacher of infants (since you have the full content of knowledge and truth in the Law);
21 then why don’t you who are teaching others teach yourself?                                                                     If you preach, “No stealing,” do you steal?                                                                                         22 If you say, “No adultery,” do you commit adultery?                                                                            If you hate idols, do you rob temples?
23 If you brag about the Law, do you shame God by breaking the Law? 24 As it is written: The name of God is discredited by the Gentiles because of you.
25 Circumcision is an advantage if you do what the Law says. But if you are a person who breaks the Law, your status of being circumcised has changed into not being circumcised. 26 So if the person who isn’t circumcised keeps the Law, won’t his status of not being circumcised be counted as if he were circumcised? 27 The one who isn’t physically circumcised but keeps the Law will judge you. You became a lawbreaker after you had the written Law and circumcision. 28 It isn’t the Jew who maintains outward appearances who will receive praise from God, and it isn’t people who are outwardly circumcised on their bodies. 29 Instead, it is the person who is a Jew inside, who is circumcised in spirit, not literally. That person’s praise doesn’t come from people but from God. 

Biblical faith is always and all the time about relationship and responsiveness to God.  God never leaves himself without a witness.  Inside the Law or outside the Law; inside the church or outside the church, God seeks a relationship with all who will know him. 

Any who respond to God’s grace in the measure that they know it will be the “Jew” God desires all of us to be!

As Paul says in another of his letters:  Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter” (Gal.5:6).

Responsiveness to God, or obedience, is what makes faith, faith.  The ritual, communal, and doctrinal frameworks that order and direct our faith are life-giving to the extent they mediate our relationship to God.  When they become ends in themselves, however, these things morph into religion.  And as Paul said in Galatians, then they cease to matter.  Or as he says here in Romans, the unchurched who do respond to God’s grace (in the measure they receive it) will judge those who religion consists is going to church, keeping the rules, paying tithes, etc.

Remember, Paul told us the gospel is power (1:16-18).  Faith is our willingness to be grasped and changed by that power which has already reordered the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is the circumcised in spirit of which Paul speaks here (v.29).  Their praise comes from God. Religion, or lack of faith, keeps such power at arm’s length, preferring to try and avoid or use it for self-aggrandizement.  Such people have uncircumcised hearts and receive their praise from other people no matter ow deeply involved with church they may be.


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