Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Romans 2

vs 1 - Very interesting to note that vs 1:32 mentions "approval" (they give approval to those who practice wickedness w/ them) - this is immediately followed up in 2:1 with numerous references to "judging" (which can also be translated "condemning"). Point here is that this is actually quite a telling characteristic of this world - if you do not approve, you are condemned. Relationship is contingent on agreement (and approval). This is true for both the liberal (anything goes) and the fundamentalist (my way or the highway) - both demand approval for their position, because that is where they are putting their hope. Many are quick to reject the church on account of hypocrisy, but the whole point is that we are ALL hypocrites, believers and unbelievers alike.

SUM: We tend to read these opening references to "judgment" in Ch 2 along the lines of "discern/decide" - how does it change if we read them more along the vein of "condemn"?

vs 4 - interesting to note that God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (in much the same way that Christ's signs were meant to bring repentance, not confidence - cf. Mt 11-12)

vs 6-8 - these have always been a little puzzling / troubling to me, probably because it sounds like "salvation by works" - of course it becomes something of a moot point later on, when we learn that there is no one righteous, not even one... (3:10-12). One of the things that is interesting about God's judgment here (in contrast w/ men's) is that it is righteous (vs 5), and the nature of judgment hinges on obedience (8). Kind of hard not to see some kind of judgment or hell in this passage. What is most interesting though, is that the dividing line (of someone's in-ness or out-ness) is no on the basis of their ethnicity (Jew vs. Greek), but rather on the basis of obedience and righteousness (10-11).

vs 12+ - of course the rightness of such judgment (of both Jew -AND- Greek) in the first place, hinges on the fact that there seems to be a law in effect for both of them - for the Jew its written on tablets of stone; for the Greek its written on their hearts, in their consciences (15). Seems to suggest something fairly profound about "the law" - that what we find in the OT is not the fullness of the law, but rather an expression of the law - not the thing in itself, but something which points us to the reality. This might be a minor distinction, but it seems important, to keep us from improperly clinging to the OT law (and note that Rom 12 effectively recapitulates that law as well).

It seems important to keep in mind that whatever Paul seems to be saying in Ch 2 (eg. via his logical argument), the point (or thrust) of these words seems to get summarized in 3:9-10 - we are all under sin, both Jews and Greeks. So as we read Ch 2, we need to keep 3:9-10 in view as a hermeneutical key.

What really matters is obedience, and none of us measures up in that area. So any time we condemn someone else (and thus approve of ourselves) we are engaging in an act of hypocisy, for which we ourselves will be condemned. We can never look to our own "keeping of the rules" (law) for our rightness - 3:20 - "for by works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin". The law (however we define it) constantly reminds me of my inability, my shortcomings, my own unrighteousness. It too is a means of grace, meant to drive me to repentance.

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