Monday, July 24, 2006

Jews Are Joining the Trip (Romans № 6)

[Let me preface my remarks by thanking you for staying with me as we walk through Paul's letter to the Romans. It's become rather tragic and it's going to get worse before it gets better! Stick with me and we'll see the light at the end of the tunnel together!]

A week ago we examined Paul's estimation of the pagan world--and he esteemed it spiritually bankrupt. Last night at church we saw Rabbi Paul of Tarsus target his own brothers, the Jews.

It may be difficult, if not impossible, for contemporary Gentiles to appreciate fully the relationship ancient Jews had with Torah (the Law of Moses). To them, Torah was the means of their very identity, their way of explaining their significance in the world. It made them separated/different/sanctified. They where The Chosen Ones. Torah proved it.

Paul, however, is about to upturn the apple-cart; to him, Torah--if not obeyed perfectly--was a death-trap.

"But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth-- you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision." (Rom 2.17-25 ESV)

To Paul, having the Torah didn't make you a special person; you were a special person only if you kept Torah. Of course, it was impossible to keep Torah perfectly--and that was Paul's point.

He bluntly says, "For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God" (Rom 2.28-29 ESV). This would seem incredible to the ears of a Jew in the first century. Paul is saying, "If you're looking to Torah for acceptance with God, you're in trouble."

Again, before a person can be found he first must know that he is lost. Paul is backing both Jew and Gentile up against a corner and telling them, "You're going to hell."

The word "gospel" is from the Greek word ευαγγελιον which means "good news". Simple logic dictates that news can be good only if other news is bad. Before he presents the gospel of Jesus Christ Paul is presenting the bad news. All are damned apart from Christ.

How bad did Paul see it? Read his words and judge for yourself:

"What is our conclusion then? Is it that we Jews are better than they? Not at all! For we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under the sway of sin, as the Scriptures say: 'Not a single human creature is upright, No one understands, no one is searching for God; They all have turned aside, all have become corrupt; No one does good, not even one! Their throats are just like open graves, with their tongues they have spoken treachery; the poison of asps is under their lips. Their mouths are full of bitter cursing. Their feet are swift for shedding blood, Ruin and wretchedness are on their paths, They do not know the way of peace. There is no reverence for God before their eyes.'" (Rom 3.9-18)

Adam Clarke elaborates in his Commentary:

"There is none righteous - This is true, not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles; of every soul of man, considered in his natural and practical state, previously to his receiving the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no righteous principle in them, and, consequently, no righteous act can be expected from them; see on Rom 3:12 (note). God himself is represented as looking down from heaven to see if there were any that feared and sought after him; and yet he, who cannot be deceived, could find none! And therefore we may safely conclude there was none to be found."

If things really are this bad then people are going to hell.

And that is Paul's point.