Romans 2:15-16

15. Who as such, point out the work of the law written upon their hearts, their moral conscience also testifies, and between themselves the inward debate accuses them and even defends them. 16. On that day when God judges the secrets of men, according to my Gospel, through Jesus Christ.

If I try to defend away my actions and sins in the light of the Law, who will save me? Who will deliver me from myself and my own polluted sense of self-righteousness and the sins of thought, word, and deed? My Christian heart bears a truthful witness against me to the Father. The Law within me won’t allow me to defend myself because I can’t. I try to defend and write away the evil that I have done, but my heart calls me a liar. What can I do? What can anyone do to save themselves?

Hold fast to Jesus Christ. Luther wrote, “Christ has done enough for me. He is just. He is my defense. He has died for me. He has made His righteousness my righteousness, and my sin His sin. If He has made my sin to be His sin, then I do not have it, and I am free. If He has made His righteousness my righteousness, then I am righteous now with the same righteousness as He. My sin cannot devour Him, but it is engulfed in the unfathomable depths of His righteousness, for He himself is God, who is blessed forever.”

Jesus is greater than all of our sins. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:31-34). How is this made know? Through the Sacraments and the Word… the Gospel, the true Gospel as proclaimed by Paul and not some false human-centered, flesh pleasing gospel.

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Romans 2:12-14

12. For as many outside the law sinned, and outside the law they will be destroyed, for as many were under the law sinned, through the law they will be judged. 13. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the ones who keep the law who will be justified. 14. For when the nations that do not have the law by nature, might do the requirements of the laws, these, though not having the Law, they are law unto themselves.

In our day and age’s post-modern idea that has this notion of fairness, equality and tolerance of all thoughts, Paul’s writings against moralism and moralist teachers and judges in Romans 2 is something very tempting to ignore or reason away. We don’t like that Paul is telling us that our moralism code or ‘law’ is wrong, or that someone else’s moralism code may be wrong as well. It doesn’t mater what form our moralism takes, even if my own moralism leads me to having no excuse from judging others for doing things that I myself am guilty of doing. If I take my own moralism to it’s logically extreme, I become self-condemned by the very law and moralism that I judge others against.

When we realize what hypocrites we are for judging others against our own false morality the true Law is acting on us. We begin to understand that by “works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20). We confess we King Solomon that “surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Eccles 7:20). Then we get on our knees and pray with the Psalmist “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Ps 143:2).

Romans 2:9-11

9. Tribulation and distress upon all human souls of the ones who do evil, first the Jew also the Greek. 10. But glory and honor and peace to all performing the good, first the Jew also the Greek. 11. For God shows no favoritism.

Paul is finishing a chiasmus he started yesterday in verses 7 and 8 (godly-wicked) with verses 9 and 10 (wicked-godly). So the four verses look like this:

A: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

B:  but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

B: There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,

A:  but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

What does this mean? The tribulation and distress of those that do evil (the moralists) is inescapable. These ‘righteous’ individuals will not be comforted in their punishment. They are like like the righteous rich man looking up to heaven and seeing Abraham with Lazarus, the poor, sinful, and sore ridden beggar, at his side. There is no salvation. There is no easing of God’s justice because they have rejected God’s form of salvation, Jesus Christ crucified. Instead they “loved vain words and sought after lies” (Ps 4:2).

While ‘all performing that good’ have not rejected God or His Word. They rely on God the Father “who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4). First to the Jew, through whom the promised Messiah, forgiveness of sins, life everlasting and salvation has come to all peoples.

God shows no favoritism or literally, “For there is not receiving of face in the presence of God” or “God does not receive anybody’s face.” Paul is showing that God does not make any unjust distinctions between individuals by treating me, you, or Grandma Schmidt as better than anyone else because we are all sinners and all of our deeds are as polluted garments (Isaiah 64:6). In Baptism, Jesus took upon Himself our polluted garments and bathed them in His blood that flowed from His pierced sid on the cross making them white as freshly fallen snow and put them on us as new and unpolluted.

Romans 2:6-8

6. Who will render to each one according to his works. 7. On the one hand, to those who by steadfastness perform good works for glory and honor and incorruptibility, He will give eternal life. 8. But on the other hand, those belonging to ambition and disobey the truth, but let themselves obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and rage.

Paul, just like the Word, doesn’t deal with hypotheticals. His writing against the moralist here isn’t going to sway anyone if it’s a mere ‘hypothetical,’ because hypotheticals don’t change anyones mind. Granted they make one think in an ‘if this happens…. then this happens’ or ‘this is the way to handle it’ sort of way. I find myself thinking through hypothetical situations from time to time, truth is we all do. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that’s not what Paul is doing here and to think so is just plain silly. Paul’s aim is to chop down that tree of moralism from branches to root. It seems to me that Paul’s writing here is mimicking John the Baptist’s sermon in Matthew 3:10 “even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Paul wants these moralists saved and first their moralist tree must be chopped down and burned because it only bears bad fruit. Unfortunately, the moralists have traded the truth of Christ on the Cross for their form of self-justifying morality. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” (Rom 1:25). They prefer their unrighteousness or as Lenski, in his commentary, calls it, “the spurious master made by wicked men for themselves and is, therefore, condemned and doomed to condemnation from the very start. What a master! One to be trampled under foot. To be obeyed? Never!” (p 153)

Paul wants those moralists in verse 8 to become the steadfast in verse 7. The only way that can happen is through the Word and not hypotheticals. This is The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, that alone removes sins of unrighteousness and ambition. Christ on the cross removes these sins “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Jesus Christ “who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Is 43:25) and has compassion on us; treads our iniquities underfoot. He has cast all our sins into the depth of the sea (Micah 7:19). Jesus is the only one that can turn these moralists in verse 8 into the steadfast in verse 7. Hypotheticals won’t help… not even a little.

Romans 2:3-5

3. But consider  this, O man, you who judge the ones practicing such things and at the same time doing them, do you think that you will escape altogether the judgment of the Lord? 4. Or on the riches of His kindness, and tolerance, and patience you scorn, because do you not know that the kindness of God is meant to lead you to repentance? 5. But by your hardness and unrepentant heart your store up for yourself wrath on the day of wrath when the judgment of God is revealed.

Paul is still speaking about these moralists, but in a way to get them to repent of their sins. And not just a casual repentance that we think is good enough. Rather, Paul is referring to a complete repentance, a complete turning away from their moralistic attitudes and thoughts. God doesn’t want to see these people store up His wrath for themselves when Christ comes in judgement. “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ez. 33:11)

Don’t be like these moralists. Repent! Scripture and our Confessions attest that we need to repent. Our confessions speak about two parts to repentance 1.) Confession of sin and faith in the Gospel (Faith is the most important part); 2.) A changed life (fruits/good works) follow repentance.

Examples:

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 6:12 – Jesus sent the apostles to preach that people should repent.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Small Catechism Article V) What is Confession?

Answer: Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor as from God Himself, by no means doubting, but firmly believing that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

What sins should we confess? Answer: Before God we should acknowledge that we are guilty of all manner of sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. Before the confessor, however, we should confess only those sins of which we have knowledge and which trouble us.

What are such sins? Answer: Reflect on your condition in the light of the Ten Commandments . . ..

Apology Article XII

We say that after penitence must come good fruits and good works in every phase of life. There can be no true conversion or contrition where mortifying the flesh and good fruits do not follow. True terrors and sorrows of the soul do not permit the indulgence of the bodly in lusts, and true faith is not ungrateful to God or contemptuous of his commandments. In a word, there is no penitence inwardly, which does not produce outwardly the punishing of the flesh. This, we say, is what John means when he says, “Bear fruit that befits repentance,” and Paul when he says, “Yield your members to righteousness” (paragraphs 131-132).

Romans 2:1-2

1. Therefore you are without excuse, O man, whomever you are who judge. For in the manner in which you judge each other, you condemn yourselves, because you, the judge, do the same. 2. But we know that the judgment of God is according to the truth upon the ones who are practicing such things.

Paul, after listing the sexual sins, vices, and showing no one as innocent in 1:26-32, has the nerve to call out those of us who judge? Paul’s right of course. We are all without excuse and fail to keep Dt. 6:5-6. We are always hiding  behind our false morality, peaking over our fences to our neighbors houses and yards, casting judgments because they dare harbor and do in the light the same sins that I harbor and do in the darkness of my depraved heart. What miserable sods we be. We, the ones who judge others for holding an inferior view of morality know the verdict of God. We deserve condemnation and death, just like those we judge as inferior, more guilty or, dare I say it, more sinful than we view ourselves.

What hope is there if my morality, my judgments of others can’t save me? What hope do I have if me being less of a sinner than my neighbor won’t save me? If this Law keeping that I try my best to do won’t save me, what will?

Christ Jesus my Lord! Christ the Savior in the manger, on the cross, in the tomb and ascended into heaven to judge the just and unjust. “On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.” (Ps 62:7) “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)

“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” Edward Mote


 

Romans 1:29-32

29. Having been filled in all unrighteousness, wickedness, selfish greed, malice, full of envy, murder, rivalry, deceit, malignity, insinuators, 30. slanderer, God haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventive criminal, sons disobedient to parents. 31. without discernment, treacherous, callous, merciless. 32. Though they know perfectly well God’s decree that such things are worthy of death, they not only do them, but also are in agreement with those doing them.

After Paul has listed sexual acts, as discussed yesterday, now moves on to other vices that people do. He counts all of these vices, these actions that plague consciences, as sins that deserve death. Is that fair? Yes it’s fair. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3:23). These vices are manifestations of sin and sin needs to be destroyed, burned up and never done again. However, these vices, these sins are things that I’m comfortable doing. It’s easy to be boastful, greedy, and merciless. It’s almost impossible to be humble, gracious, and merciful, but that is what we as forgiven sons and daughters of God are called to do. We are called to live our faith. “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17).