Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Secret Self
Today we've a new top ten list for you. The following are the top ten actual excuses given to teachers:
10. "Jerry was at his grandmother's yesterday, and she did not bring him to school because Jerry couldn't remember where the school was."
9. "Ronnie would not finish his work last night. He said his brain was too tired of spelling."
8. "Eric hurt his knee in a karate tournament over the weekend. He won his age group, but was in too much pain to do his math assignment."
7. "Amy did not do her homework last night because we went out to a party and did not get home until late. If she is tired, please let her sleep during recess time."
6. "Henry stayed home because he had a stomach ache from eating too much frosting."
5. "It was my fault Mike did not do his math homework last night. His pencil broke and we do not have a pencil sharpener at home."
4. "Scott didn't practice last night because he lost his tooth in the mouthpiece of his trumpet."
3. "Diane was late on Wednesday. She fell asleep on the bus and was taken back to the bus yard."
2. "Cody was absent yesterday because we were out bowling until 2 AM."
1. "Tommy wasn't in school yesterday because he thought it was Saturday."
Now you can feel free to use these, especially if you have a late term paper or didn't study for your final exam, or perhaps to your boss about why your project is late - but I wouldn't suggest using them with God - especially if you have a tendency to make yourself look good by making others look bad.
2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Paul makes an abrupt switch here in Chapter 2. In chapter 1 he showed how people in general are responsible for their actions and responsible for knowing God. Undoubtedly many in the audience in the Roman church would have agreed readily as Paul condemns homosexuality, idol worship, and violence - but now he turns the tables and says to the church - why are you judging, you are just as bad!
2 Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
How upset do we get when other people do something wrong? Oh, she shouldn't have said that, or he shouldn't have done that. We get our back all up when we see a corporate CEO get caught manipulating stock prices to get an extra million - but we don't think anything of boasting about the worth of something we're selling - maybe a car let's say - not telling about that part that's about to fail - so we can get a better price.
We fall into this false sense that God wouldn't punish me - I'm a good person overall. The truth is that God judges based on facts, not opinions - on objective truth, not rose colored glasses. And we are all under that judgment.
We can't escape God's judgment by avoiding it, or resisting it. We need to agree with it and submit to the verdict - guilty, then let Jesus pay the price. How important that sacrifice becomes. When we think we something special on our own we do show contempt for God's kindness - because it is for love that He sent Jesus to die. Our problem is we just don't realize what He's done for us.
So the next time you find yourself getting angry at the sins of others, think about your own life, do you do those same things? And even if you don't, why are you condemning them? Instead we should lead people in sin to the love of God through Jesus Christ.
Not everyone will accept this - look at what Paul says to them:
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Here we seen the repentant and unrepentant heart compared. The idea of doing good doesn't mean we get to heaven by doing good - but this is the result - we realize we have sinned, we agree with God's verdict on sin, we cling to Jesus Christ and make Him our Lord - and then the outcome of that is a changed character.
The point is, if you seek self you'll receive judgment because it is rebellion against God and His way of escape. The only thing to look forward to is wrath and anger, but if we seek Him will get from Him glory, honor, and eternal life.
9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
The Jews were special - in that they were to be an example and the conduit through which God showed His love and forgiveness. Instead they thought of themselves as above it all and better than everyone else.
We need to be careful as Christians that we fall into the same trap. Don't look down on the person who is struggling with sin or the person who doesn't know Jesus - be the conduit for God's love in their life.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
So the gentiles who didn't know about the Jewish law will be judged according to their character - judged because they sin. The Jews will be judged on how they obeyed the law. Here's a key to understanding God's judgment:
14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
So it is the conscience, that part of us that Paul revealed in chapter 1, which becomes the judge of our character if we seek justification apart from Jesus Christ. If we do good things - our conscience defends us - when we do wrong, our conscience condemns us. Either the law, or our conscience shows us that we have sinned. It's not a perfect guide to righteousness, but a tool for revealing our imperfect nature.
And one day - Jesus will declare to everyone all the things they think they have done in secret so that none may escape God's righteous judgment.
The Jews here probably would be thinking - well, we have the law so we know God's will and how to please Him.
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth- 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
To those who think of themselves as the spiritually high and mighty Paul takes them down a few notches - pointing out as Jesus did to the Pharisees, that talking the talk is one thing - walking the walk is quite another.
When we do what is wrong we dishonor God. And when people who claim to represent God sin, it gives those who don't know Him an excuse to say: I won't go to church because of all the hypocrites there. Paul quotes from Isaiah 52. I remember guy who used this quote to resign from a group of elders who were overlooking the serious and unrepentant sin of a pastor. That took a lot of guts - and I never knew what happened to that guy until last summer - he's now pasturing a Calvary Chapel in Southern Oregon. It's integrity and honesty that count.
So next Paul zeros in on a particular thing the Jews used to hold themselves apart from others - circumcision.
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.
So outward signs of spirituality don't mean anything - what matters is obedience to the revealed character of God. You can't claim to be saved just by going to church and carrying the biggest Bible. You can't wear a cross and not go to certain movies and think that God will treat you differently.
We are all sinners - whether under the law or apart from the law. The law's purpose is to drive us to Christ. The purpose of our conscience is to make us realize we aren't perfect and drive us to Christ.
To conclude I want to zero in on a couple of little phrases that jump out of the text. The first is in verse 4.
1. God's kindness leads you toward repentance
Proverbs says "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." As we hear of the punishment for sin, the eternal separation from God for all those who fall short of His glory - we should feel fear, and that's the beginning of a journey of awareness.
But the end of that journey, the act that brings us into His kingdom is often not from fear, but from love. When we hear about a holy God and His wrath we are afraid but have no hope. But when we hear about a holy God who in His love died in our place and showed us unmerited kindness and favor - it leads us to turn towards Him.
May I make a suggestion? Beating people into submission may make them fear you, but will do little to change their behavior. It is through loving people, even if they act hatefully, that works. Now I'm not talking about accepting or tolerating sin - but often it is because people fear rejection that they will not reach out and open their minds to the gospel. They fear rejection by you and they fear rejection by God.
Share with others the need to turn - but make sure to do it by showing God's love through your own life.
2. From where do you get your praise, and for what?
The problem the Jews had was that they felt superior to everyone else. They had a physical mark on their bodies - circumcision - and relied on that outward sign to be both their justifier and fulfillment of righteousness.
Paul contrasts the outward sign versus the inward reality. He says that when we put on outward signs we get praise from men, not from God.
Think with me for a moment - when God calls you to something, do you ever find yourself wondering "what do I get out of this"? We need to be careful about two things - doing things in order to get recognition, and mistaking outward show for inward reality.
We can be the best looking Christian on the block, but have a life inside that is seriously wanting. We think that because we look like we have it together that we do have it together.
1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
How do we think we stand firm? By ignoring the realities of the inside person? Be honest with yourself - and with God.
Jesus said that when we give we should give in secret - it doesn't mean that no one can know, but the idea is that we give just to give - out of love, out of compulsion for what Jesus has done for us - not to get something back.
So to sum up - the message from Chapter 1 is: man is separated from God by a condition that naturally leads towards evil: sin. Chapter 2 says you can't be right with God by having an outward appearance of rightness. Don't make lame excuses to God, just be honest with yourself and Him about how you really are and how much you really need Him.
Next week in chapter 3, Paul reveals where true righteousness comes from.