Romans 2

Readings for this week August 6 – 10
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Booklet_Front_-_Romans

Day 1 – Judgement for a Reason

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 2:1-6

God has given people plenty of opportunities to get their lives in order, to turn back to him and repent. He is nothing if not fair and kind in this respect (not to mention all others!). But allowing humans to have multiple chances to turn back to him and start living rightly is a risky business. Maybe it won’t work. Maybe people will not take the chance(s) to turn around and head back in God’s direction. What happens then?

In Paul’s view, such people have shown themselves to be utterly deserving of the trouble and judgement that will one day be visited upon them. They have had plenty of chances to repent. They cannot say they were not warned; they have no excuse.

In this chapter we get to see Paul’s view of judgement. He spells the whole thing out in stark, clear language, leaving his readers in no doubt about the reality of it and the rightness of it. God is the creator and sustainer of the world. It is his. It runs on his word according to his rules. It is only right that he should be the one to judge it, weigh it, correct it – and set it to rights, renewing it and restoring it to the glory he always intended for it. This he most certainly will do. This final judgement was central to Judaism, and Paul still places it squarely at the heart of what he is saying here. God will judge all; those who refuse to heed his call to return to him may regret their decision.

Questions to Consider
In what ways do people wrongly respond to God’s kindness, forbearance and patience (verse 4)? What is the proper response we should offer?

Prayer
Lord God, help me to remember your justice and mercy, and to always heed your call to repent and turn back to you when I stray. You are always there, waiting for us to return to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Judgement for All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 2:7-11

The future day of judgement will be for us all. Many Christians think that faith in Jesus Christ means there is no final day of judgement for his people. Through faith and obedience to Jesus, we are whisked out of the heavenly courtroom before judgement is pronounced, receiving a free pass. Judgement is rendered, all things are consummated, justice and mercy are established, punishment and reward are doled out, and all things are made right and made new – without us. We are absent from this scene. Paul is very clear (both here and in his letters) that this is not the case. The future day of judgement is for all. And it will take place based on the entire life that a person has led. Everything. People often think that Paul rejects ‘works’ in favour of ‘grace’. But he doesn’t. A final judgement without works is not part of his theology. Our whole life led is taken into account, both what we believe and how we live out that faith.

But we need not feel condemned, or fret over the validity of our salvation. That is not Paul’s intention. We can, like Paul, have confidence in Jesus; we can have faith that, as his people, he will intercede for us with his Father, as he does now for us in these present times through his Spirit. As we will see in tomorrow’s passage, through Jesus, God’s people have been justified here and now, in the present, ahead of the final verdict that will be delivered in the future. But as today’s passage shows, the way we behave, good or bad, faithful follower or errant absentee, will still be taken into account.

Questions to Consider
What changes in your life might these verses prompt you to make?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, you are Lord and Judge. Continue to have mercy on me. Through your son, I can come to you in the hope of salvation, knowing you will receive me with love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – To Be Justified

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 2:12-16

Perhaps one of the biggest detonations in the letter to the Romans first occurs in today’s passage, but it’s one that lay dormant for a quite a long time, until theologians got hold of it and started a centuries long argument over one particular Greek word and what it means. The word, in English, is ‘justified’ (sometimes, slightly misleadingly, rendered as ‘righteous’). It means ‘to be declared in the right’. In the ancient law court setting (no modern juries, remember), it is what the judge would do at the end of the trial: he would find for one of the parties in the lawsuit, either the defendant or the plaintiff, and would declare them to be ‘in the right’. And that would become the reality: what the judge said became fact. The person is declared to be in the right. They are justified.

All human beings – followers of Jesus included – will be judged through Jesus. The seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown, the visible and the invisible – everything about us will be judged. But we can be assured that God is in control. He is the judge; he is just, he is merciful, he is not biased and he will not play favourites. Part of this chapter is Paul showing how those who think God is automatically biased in their favour – or biased against others – are mistaken. God will treat everyone equally – through their faith in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, we, his followers, have been justified. God has found in our favour and declared us to be justified, to be in the right, bringing forward the verdict of that final day into the present reality of the new people he is forming.

Questions to Consider
Why are the Gentiles, who didn’t know what was expected of them, still held accountable? Does this seem fair to you? Why or why not?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for your justice and mercy. Thank you for calling me back to you and receiving me back into your arms. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Jews and the Law

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 2:17-24

The Jews are God’s chosen people, called out from among the nations to act as his beacon to a world heedless of God and his ways. The law was given to them as a gift and as a sign of God’s covenant with them. Surely having possession of the law gives them an advantage; surely it puts them in a privileged position in relation to God? Yes, says Paul, the Jews are privileged in their position of having the law. But, unfortunately, the privilege hasn’t benefited them at all because of their failure to keep the law. Time and again, as pointed out by numerous prophets sent by God himself, they failed to uphold the law, and failed to live as God’s people should. Israel hadn’t just slightly messed up; they’d completely blown it. They had God’s life-giving law, but couldn’t live it out.

But Paul is not denying the truth of Israel as God’s chosen people. He is not denying the goodness of God in giving them the Torah; nor is he denying the goodness of the Torah itself. Israel may have failed. Paul will explore the implications of Israel’s failure – and God’s remedy for that failure – in more detail later on in the letter. But Paul’s point is that God has not failed. He has not changed his mind, or shifted the goal posts, or changed the rules. God has been faithful to his plan and his people, even in the midst of their sin and rebellion. Though Israel may have disobeyed their true calling, there was one who did not; there was one who fulfilled in himself God’s call to Israel and to the world – the faithful Israelite, Jesus.

Questions to Consider
What does Paul say about the Jews here? What issues does he say that they have? How are these issues remedied?

Prayer
God Almighty, thank you for your faithfulness to your people, and to all people, even those who do not recognise you. We turned away from you, but you keep your face towards us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Circumcision of the Heart

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 2:25-29

Paul goes right to the heart of the matter, right to one of the key contentious issues in the early church that he himself had encountered, particularly in his time in Galatia: circumcision. Circumcision was the badge of Jewish identity, the mark that signified membership in the nation of Israel, and hence that one was part of the body of God’s favoured people. And it was a badge that many Jewish Christians were insisting must be worn by Gentile followers of Jesus too. But Paul disagrees. He declares that it is the fulfilling of the law that matters, not the marks in the flesh. What is the point if the one who is circumcised is not keeping the law? And if some of the people keeping the law are Gentiles, then doesn’t it make sense to see their ‘uncircumcision’ as circumcision? After all, they are showing more faithfulness to God’s intentions than the people God himself has called into being to model his intentions and will for the world.

God has better things to say about the uncircumcised who keep the law than the circumcised who break it! What matters is what is inside a person. It is the ‘circumcision of the heart’ that matters with God and that shows someone to be a true, faithful member of his people, not the outwardly visible mark in the flesh. This is not something new to Paul, something that he has created out of thin air. This was something that Israel’s prophets and wise men had always said. It wasn’t the badge that counted most, it was behaviour of the person wearing the badge that mattered, especially if it didn’t match up with what the badge said.

Questions to Consider
What does Paul think of circumcision? How does Paul positively redefine a Jew in this passage?

Prayer
Lord God, may my heart grow to be more and more pleasing to you, by becoming more and more like yours in all I do and say and think. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)