N. T. Wright notes that Romans is
…neither a systematic theology nor a summary of Paul’s lifework, but it is by common consent his masterpiece. It dwarfs most of his other writings, an Alpine peak towering over hills and villages. Not all onlookers have viewed it in the same light or from the same angle, and their snapshots and paintings of it are sometimes remarkably unalike. Not all climbers have taken the same route up its sheer sides, and there is frequent disagreement on the best approach. What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.
With that in mind, shall we continue our tour of the Roman Road Home.
Romans 2:17 You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. 18 You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.
Paul turns his focus now to the Jews. At this point In time the church in Rome is still operating as a sect of Judaism and the Gentiles had been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, the Israel of God. The most probable ancient account of the beginning of Christianity in Rome is given by a 4th-century writer known as Ambrosiaster:
It is established that there were Jews living in Rome in the times of the Apostles, and that those Jews who had believed [in Christ] passed on to the Romans the tradition that they ought to profess Christ but keep the law [Torah] … One ought not to condemn the Romans, but to praise their faith, because without seeing any signs or miracles and without seeing any of the apostles, they nevertheless accepted faith in Christ, although according to a Jewish rite. Ambrosius, Works, iii 373.
V.17 “You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him.”
He is addressing his fellow countrymen who consider Jesus the Christ of God, but would not accept that the Gentiles had equal standing before God unless they submitted to the ritual of circumcision and the keeping of the Law. A spiritual application for the Church today might be, no member of any denomination or sect can claim any special status with God. Or that no one is saved because their church or denomination has a better understanding, teaching or special revelation about the Godhead or eschatology.
When the crowds started to respond to the teaching of John the Baptist and came to him to be baptized he had this to say, “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” Luke 3:8
V.18 “You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law.”
To Timothy his true Son in the faith Paul wrote, “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,” 1 Timothy 1:18
We know that the Way of Life and the Word of God is true, if we walk it and talk it in Wisdom and Truth. The Word of God should never be used as a cudgel to beat someone down with, but as a life ring for them to grab hold of when drowning in the storm.
V.19 “You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness.”
The Israelites were called as people to be a light to the Gentiles and this quote from the scroll of Isaiah was used by the Jewish religious teachers and the Apostles as well, but from differing points of view.
He (The LORD) says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6 NLT
Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'” Acts 13:46-47 NASB
V.20 “You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.”
Possession of the Law is not enough. Having the Holy Bible and knowing what is in it is not enough. For God is seeking out doers of the word and not hearers only. He has fulfilled the Law and the handwritten requirements that were against us. He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it and to give us the Perfect Law of Love.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34 NASB
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10 NASB
Mark 12:28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. NASB
When we become doers of the Law and not hearers only we start to understand that it is much more than all the tithes, offerings and sacrifices we have made for The Lord. That His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I have a hard time with so-called religious leaders who lay such heavy trips on the children of God. Always extorting or exploiting them to give more or do more. It seems like there are so many worn out Brothers and Sisters in the Church. They just can’t say no. They’ve been made to feel so guilty and convicted. When they come to me I like to give them this scripture, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2 NLT
Doing the good works and deeds that He has called us to do is a blessing, but having a yoke laid upon the backs of the disciples that neither we nor our forefathers were able to bear is not God’s Way. To try to do good deeds with canal, human strength will always result in a worn out and tired disciple, but to find your strength in God alone and to have a new song in our hearts gives that peace which passes all understanding.
May this teaching be a blessing to all who read it.