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The doors are open to everyone in Romans 2
I am a self-confessed über-nerd and recovering (not really) video-game addict. Long before the Wii hit store shelves, I had pre-ordered myself one. Because of this, I got this really cool-looking card that would entitle me to exclusive deals on Wii-related stuff. Of course, like most of these things,‘exclusive’ meant pretty much nothing and those specials deals never surfaced.
In the Old Testament, the Jewish people had a sort of 'exclusive deal' with God, but it was much better than the one I got. He took them as his people, and taught them about himself. Non-Jews (Gentiles) got to understand God's character through the Jews.
However, in Romans 2:6-11 (and following), Paul explains that despite the Jew's previous special treatment, God will judge all people according to their actions. Those who do good are given eternal life & those who do evil are punished - Jew or Gentile.
He goes on to say that all of us are aware of the fundamental truth of God’s Law (2:12-14). So, even though we may not have had the Law written down for us, we still had access to it in our hearts and conscience. As a result, God will still judge the Gentiles through Jesus (2:16).
‘Well then, is there still any advantage to being a Jew?’ Paul anticipates his readers asking (3:1). Why yes, there is! With my Wii member card, I got a Wii early (and a cool card); with the Jews, they got God’s Law written down for them, laying it out much more concretely than the Gentiles’ hearts could (3:2).
‘But God promised that if the Jews were faithful, then they would enjoy a place better than the Gentiles! You’re saying that they don’t get to enjoy this privileged position. Does this mean that the Jews’ actions stopped God from being faithful to his promises?’ (3:3). Of course not!, Paul says. God always keeps his promises, so you’re obviously reading the promises wrongly (3:4)!
‘So God knew that the Jews wouldn’t keep his Law, but gave it to them with the promises anyway! That’s just not right!’ (3:5). No way!, says Paul. God is the judge of the world (3:6), so what he says, goes. He decides what is right, and so what he does is right by definition.
‘Well okay then, smarty-pants; if God’s Law shows how great he is (by how weak we are), then why should I be condemned for sinning? It’s achieving something good, right?’ (3:6-7) Paul says no - people are still responsible for their own sin (3:8).
‘So, in the end, are Jews any better than Gentiles?’ No. All of us are under the power of sin (3:9). No-one is righteous, no, not one (3:10-18). No-one will be judged right with God in his heavenly courtroom by their actions.
All this has been a pretty bleak picture of our state before God. We’ve rejected him as Creator, we face judgement for our high-treason and we’d be destined for eternal punishment if this was the end of the matter (which it could have been very easily). Thankfully, it isn’t. Next week, we look at the big ‘but’ of the Bible.
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