“Wrestling With Romans”
Born Not of Man…But of God (Chapter 2 Verses 17-29)
The case of those who take a moralistic position because of access to the Scriptures is even worse (vv17-24). Take the Jews for instance. For to know God’s will and not to do it, is surely to be deserving of many stripes (Luke 12.47). Each condition the Apostle describes here is assumed, if you know the Bible (v18), if you claim to have precise spiritual perception (v19), if you claim full understanding and ability to articulate the truth (v20), if you demand exact moral standards (vv21-22), if you boast in the word of God (v23). If you do all this, and fail to attain that standard yourself, what are you really doing? You’re dishonouring God (v23b). Worse still perhaps, you could be causing God’s name to be blasphemed (v24)? What an indictment! I recall a friend once telling me of how he witnessed a Christian’s car parked in this particular town where he lived it was parked on double yellow lines. He knew it was a Christian’s car because it had a sticker in the back window for God so loved the world , etc. The car was not just an offence to the authorities but other road-users, and as they looked at this car and its bumper sticker message, they were blaspheming God’s name as a result. Nothing wrong in making God’s name known, or displaying the gospel to people in that way, some people want the whole world to know that they are Christians, good. If we shout about it, let us make sure we live by the standards of God’s word.
Even the sacraments can be claimed (vv25-27), but without obedience to God, what benefit is that? You can be baptised, or come to the Lord’s Supper, but if there is another person who partakes of none of these sacraments, yet obeys God’s word, they are in a much better position altogether. The physical act of applying rites, whether of baptism, confirmation, or partaking in the Lord’s Supper does not affect the spiritual condition of any one person, without the obedience God is looking for (Micah 6.7-8), heart obedience. For it is that that makes a person a real Jew, a true Israelite, spiritual person, or if you prefer a real Christian (vv28-29). In other words being born again, circumcision of the heart, that is the requirement in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 10.16), and in the New Testament (2Corinthians 5.17; John 3.3). That takes place not by the working of the law (v29; Romans 3.21), but by the sovereign operation of God’s Spirit. Moralistic, religious or otherwise, it’s condemned here. To please and receive the praise of God (v29b), a new heart, that is what he is looking for (1Samuel 16.7).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)