Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 2
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

"I must have done something right." The thought crossed my mind the other day as I rode my bike to Bike World to have the gears adjusted. I was trying to navigate my way across four lanes of traffic in the frontage road on 1604 to get to the turnaround, and the situation was complicated by more cars exiting the freeway. But just as I turned around to check traffic a huge window opened up and I was able to safely ride all the way across without dodging a single vehicle.

Have you ever had a thought like that? Maybe you got the first parking spot in the lot in front of Target. Maybe you opened your mail to find an unexpected check for a rebate or refund. Maybe you found the last great looking blue shirt in your size on the 60% off rack at Penney's. "I must have done something right."

It amazes me how easily we can attribute good fortune to our own goodness. It also amazes me how much we can complain whenever some kind of trouble comes our way. "What did I do to deserve this?", we ask. And, "Why me?", we lament. Truth be told, what should amaze us is why we have so many good days, considering the sin we are guilty of committing each and every day. It should amaze us that we don't experience anything but discipline, considering our need for it.

So why does God show us so much kindness? Why is He so good to us? First, because that's his nature. God is love, and it's a part of who He is to show us His love. But there's another good reason that Paul brings out in Romans 2:4: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"

Have you ever thought of God's kindness in that way? Rather than thinking "I must have done something right" when good things happen, maybe we should ask, "What do you want me to repent of, Lord?" God shows us kindness so that being drawn to Him by His love and mercy, we will turn from our sins and receive His grace. So the next time you catch that green light when you're running late for work, don't think, "I must have done something right", say "Lord, thanks for your kindness. What do you want me to turn away from so that I can experience more of your love?"

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 2
Author: Pastor Zach

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about the merits of Kindle, an electronic unit from Amazon.com on which you can purchase, download, and read books. "I don't know if I could ever read a whole book on a computer screen," I told my friend. "It doesn't look like a computer screen, though," my friend informed me. "It's designed to be easy on the eyes." "I still don't know," I responded skeptically. "Well," my friend finally said, "I think it's pretty cool. Although I don't do a whole lot of reading."

As much as it frustrates me, because I love to read, I, like my friend, don't read as regularly as I'd like to. Commitments, appointments, and the affairs of daily life cut, sometimes deeply, into my reading time. That is why today's text from Romans 2 is of special interest to me:

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, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. (verses 14-15)

Paul here speaks to those who have not had a chance to catch up on their reading. In the first century, it was the Jewish people who were the keepers of the written law of God. And they were fervently devoted to reading it, parsing it, and memorizing it. Indeed, an ancient rabbi would have the entire Old Testament memorized. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were not familiar with the Word of God. For they lived in a pagan context in which there were no readily available Bibles. Thus, any Gentile convert to a nascent first century Christianity had some reading to catch up on - the whole of God's written revelation!

Paul, however, in these verses, says that even those who do not read Scripture have some knowledge of what it says: "Even though they do not have the law... the requirements of the law are written on their hearts." In theological parlance, we call this "natural law." That is, even someone who has never read the Bible still has a basic "moral compass," as it were, because God has etched his laws into each and every human heart. That is why, for instance, societies, whether Christian or not, consider murder to be wicked. It is part of God's natural law. The first century Jewish philosopher Philo states it thusly:

The world is in harmony with the law, and the law with the world, and the man who observes the law is constituted thereby a loyal citizen of the world, regulating his doings by the purpose and will of nature. (On the Creation, 3)

In other words, Philo maintains that there is an unwritten inexorable order to this world, by which people are encouraged to live and by which we judge. And that unwritten inexorable standard is natural law. C.S. Lewis states similarly:

Everyone has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say... [For in quarrels, a man is often] appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which expects the other man to know about... It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of law or rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed... Now this law or rule about right in wrong [is] called the law of nature. (C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, 3-4)

Standards that are not written, but simply known, agreed upon, and assumed. These are the standards of natural law.

Evil, therefore, has no excuse. One cannot say, "I didn't know it wasn't okay not to murder." Or, likewise, "I didn't know I had to tell the truth." Yes, you did know. Even if you're not much of a reader. Thus, we all stand convicted by the law of God. For what we do not know from the pages of Scripture we know from the guilt which riddles our hearts.

It is for this reason that Paul writes the book of Romans. For Paul knows that Jews and Gentiles alike stand condemned under God's written and natural law. But Paul wants to free them from this condemnation and bring them into salvation in Jesus Christ. As Paul later writes, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law [whether written or unwritten] of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2).

This, then, is why we should read: for although we can know God's law apart from reading the Scriptures, we cannot know Jesus apart from reading the Scriptures. Without the Scriptural gospel, we stand condemned. What's written on our hearts can lead us only to despair and not hope, only to guilt and not joy, only to slavery and not freedom. So perhaps it's time for us all to do a little more reading of and a little bit more listening to the gospel. For it is in the gospel that we find hope and healing from Jesus. And that's something I love to read all about. I hope you do too.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2020-06-05 08:10:14