Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 14 2013 - Romans 2:1-24 – Living the truth

In the previous chapter, Paul has been describing the character of the Gentile world from the perspective of Judaism. One can imagine the discomfort of his Gentile readers and that some of his Jewish readers are now beginning to feel just a little bit smug. But that’s all about to change, for, like an Old Testament prophet, he now turns the focus away from others – ‘them’ – to focus upon his fellow Jews – ‘you’.

It’s fascinating to read what Paul has to say here. One can hear so many echoes of Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees. And now these same arguments come from one who had lived as a Pharisee; he had known that world from the inside. But he can now see it for what it is in all its shallowness and self-righteous pretence.

The Jews that Paul is describing considered themselves much better than the Gentiles because God has given them his law and shown them clearly the life that is pleasing to him. But, says Paul, it is not knowing the truth that counts for anything but rather, living the truth. Pride in knowing God's word can easily create a people who continually point out the faults in others while being blind to those in themselves. Such people, far from bringing the light and blessing of God to those around them, cause God to be discredited and his word discounted (Romans 1:23-24).

Don’t you realise, says Paul, that God has no favourites. He chose the children of Abraham for the sake of the whole world. He did not reject the other nations but purposed to bless them through Israel. And if his fellow Jews feel they have some priority in God’s sight they had better watch out; it might equally turn out to be a priority in judgment (2:9).

God’s Spirit is at work far more widely and generously than you realise, adds Paul. There are many who have never heard God’s law and yet who live lives marked by grace; unselfish lives devoted to the service of others. They show that God has imprinted upon their conscience an awareness of the life that is pleasing to him.

As we read these words of Paul, it’s easy for us to see just how much Pharisaic Judaism got wrong. Yet in doing so, we easily fall into the same danger of turning the spotlight away from ourselves onto others and finding fault with them so that we might justify ourselves. We need to examine our own hearts to ensure that we are not those who simply take pride in our knowledge of God’s word. We need that word to humble us, to fill us with a sense of wonder at God’s grace and the greatness of his saving purposes. We need this word to shape our lives. Moreover, we need to open our eyes to recognise that God is at work all around us, even among those whom we would not readily recognise as ‘one of us’.

If we have become proud that we are not like other people we have failed to understand the grace of God and the message of Scripture.

Lord God, may your word so shape my heart, mind and life that I may become increasingly like the Lord Jesus. May the character of my life as well as the words of my mouth convey your grace and goodness to those around me. By the power of your Spirit, may my life be a blessing to others and cause your name to be praised and honoured. Keep me always from the subtle, self-deceiving and ugly sin of hypocrisy.

Peter Misselbrook