Monday, July 25, 2005

The Fairness of God's Judgment

I continue my journey today in Romans Chapter 2.
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?

4Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6who "will render to each one according to his deeds":[a] 7eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, 9tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:1-11 NKJ)
Paul at many times in his ministry needed to speak Truth to Power, but in many ways he reserved his sternest rebukes for the communities of fellow believers to whom he owed the responsibility of his attention.

Our society today abhors any form of chastening. Many “enlightened” believers today might view Paul as too stern a scold. Some might even liken his patient correction as judgment in itself, and see a contradiction in his remonstrance to the Romans, but that would be wrong I think. God instructs us to so love our brothers and sisters in Christ that we not shrink from lovingly but firmly bringing faults and wrongs to their attention, that they might repent of any sin and find reconciliation. Paul likewise notes that chastening is never first received with joy, though we should come to enjoy its fruit:
11Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11 NKJ)
Paul served as an instrument in God’s eternal purpose in growing those who would respond to God’s call upon their lives, but his instruction could be difficult to receive. In speaking to the Church in Rome, Paul, speaking as the one-time way outsider and inquisitor, and through his ministry was approaching the seat of power for the known world. He spoke of God’s great promise, but one that carried a price. And perhaps in spite of what might have been entreaties from Roman believers to acknowledge and admonish evil in the community mote by mote, Paul responded with a call to the fellowship for true humility.

And as one who had been on the business end of a heartless judgment in persecuting Christians, Paul knew whereof he spoke. As a Brother in Christ, his words to the Romans are an attempt, guided by God, to speak humility into a people who had grown stiff-necked in seeing fault all around but not within.
12For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13(for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:12-16 NKJ)
Paul here speaks of a mystery that lies at the heart of God opening up His blessing and covenant to the Gentiles (non-Jews). The Jewish People, as those chosen, had been given God’s Law as revealed in the Ten Commandments, the Prophets, and millennia of working His purposes through His elect. God opens up His promise of Salvation to all who would act on that promise. No longer would strict observance of His laws and ordinances be the single path to Grace. As Paul explains in his letter to the Galatians, the law was the way God preserved His promise and invested His grace until, in the fullness of time, He would work a greater purpose, not just for the Jews, but for the whole world:
24Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24 NKJ)
4But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born[a] of a woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" (Galatians 4:4-6 NKJ)
God established His intent to deepen His connection to His people in speaking forth a future covenant through Jeremiah:
33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NKJ)
We may rightfully fear (in the sense of respect and diligently attend to) the judgment of God. But we can find peace by recognizing and nurturing that belief, that while we were yet sinners God saved us through Salvation offered by the atoning death of His Son Jesus. And as He promised, by our faith He might draw us close to Him as He writes His Holy law upon our hearts.


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