Paul begins his letter by introducing himself, reminding the reader why he is writing and then goes on to explain why God’s wrath is upon his fallen creation. Some of us think that God is all for social justice, but forget that God also cares about your sexual ethic or how you steward your finances. God really cares about outward justice and internal justice as well.
It would be easy to say that Paul isn’t talking about me. I’m not that bad of a guy, not as bad as my co-workers or my family. But what is your basis for that judgement? God’s judgement is based on objective truth. His opinion is not swayed by what he had for breakfast (like mine). His thoughts are clear and good. He sees not only the evil, but the thought, or seedling of a thought that grew into the desire.
I have a hunch, that Paul is looking back through his scriptures. Israel had the law and believed they had some sort of righteousness because they were the chosen people of God. They therefore looked upon the Gentiles with judgement. They didn’t have the law, they ate bacon or cheeseburgers or something not kosher. Maybe some meat sacrificed to idols. But was their judgement honest? Was it true?
2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
Who is righteous? Is it those that have the law or those that obey the law? And if it is those that obey the law, but do not have the law, then the law they obey is written on their hearts. This must have been difficult for any Jewish convert to Christianity. A deconstruction of sorts of the pillars of the faith, to the one pillar. Jesus.
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.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.
What is circumcision? It was the sign of the covenant between God and his people (Gen. 17:10). Paul is saying that this sign has merit and it is important, but that is merely a glimpse of the whole painting. God never intended his people to be marked only outwardly. God wanted people with changed hearts (Ezek. 36:26).
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
As a Christian, from Indiana, what do I take from Paul’s letter? Understand that your relationship with God isn’t based on your denomination, bible version, favorite pastor or worship band. Your relationship to God is based solely on Jesus. Understand that you have nothing of value to give God for his grace, that you are a spiritual beggar. This should strike our hearts. The next time you see a homeless man in the streets begging for money, remember this is what we all look like spiritually, without Jesus.
What causes us to judge others? What stories can you think of Jesus judging? Not judging?
Paul always tries to encourage unity in the church. How does this chapter promote church unity?
If I use Christianity as a stepping stool toward Social Justice, then my outward life can look amazing, but my inward life is backward. What fruit is in your life that evidences a real internal love for Jesus? You will usually find it on the trees which no one else is interested.
Paul is looking back over his scriptures and pulling out a laundry list of wickedness. I may not struggle with your specific sin, but I struggle with others. You can’t know my temptations and I can’t know yours. But God does. God sees all and uses it for our good. I pray that you stand up today and show grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it, because God showed grace to you. May God inspire and motivate you to follow Jesus this week.