Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: Sunday, November 11, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 11, 2012

Divine Anthropology: Jews, Gentiles, and the Law; Romans 2:9-10

It is obvious from the book of Romans that the apostles were fighting a spiritual caste system that divided Jew and Gentile, and this divide was detrimental to individual spiritual growth and the spiritual wellbeing of the church. The church was fundamentally Jewish in its conception, and the Gentiles were eventually included as recognized, equal members with much controversy. Acts, chapter 10 makes this abundantly clear. Before this, Gentiles were of the proselyte class, and their participation was confined to the Court of the Gentiles. Now, the Gentiles have become coequals with God’s chosen people, the Jews. We will develop this as we progress in the book of Romans, but the Western church’s relentless propaganda against Jewish uniqueness and its embodiment of the church is no less than utterly diabolical.

As we will see as we progress in Paul’s letter to the Romans (and don’t miss this), the stature of the Jews, and their future, and how that fits into end time prophecy is efficacious to THE GOSPEL. Many in the church have been dealt a woefully bad hand by the academics of our day through the idea of “secondary” or “less essential” (“essential” and “non-essential”) doctrine. Matthew 4:4 and 2Timothy 3:16,17 clearly brings this idea into doubt, and for very good reason. Eschatology is GOSPEL. We will see that one’s belief regarding the relationship of the law to grace will determine their eschatology—particularly in regard to the resurrections and judgments.

Therefore, Paul is laying the groundwork in his divine anthropology for an understanding of how law, grace, Gentile, and Jew relate to each other and the outworking thereof. The whole of Scripture is GOSPEL. Scripture is truth (John 17:17), GOSPEL is truth. All of these terms are used interchangeably throughout Scripture. When one merely believes in the saving work of Jesus Christ to be saved, the only authority for that information comes from the Bible. There is no reasonable criterion for accepting that part of the Bible, and not the rest.

Whether wittingly or unwittingly, gospel belief unto salvation recognizes the authority of the Bible for life and godliness—it is “obedience to the gospel.” The obedience does not save; you are saved when you recognize such and want it for your own. Certainly everyone agrees that saving faith is not a mere mental ascent to the facts of the gospel. It is also a commitment to mix the remainder of the Bible with our faith (see the book of James). Deciding to marry someone and getting their agreement is what makes us married. The commitment. Certainly, all agree that marriage is a commitment and participating in the marriage itself is not what makes us married.

However, some approach the gospel like they approach marriage: “We are going to live with each other for a while to see if we are compatible.” Hence, there is no trust in the idea that this marriage is the right idea; therefore, they are going to take it for a test drive. Many in our day approach the gospel the same way. Some gospel presentations beckon, “Try Jesus.” “Experience Jesus.” This goes along with the idea that salvation is primarily a “personal experience”; ie, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus.” This also often results in the idea that, “I tried Jesus and didn’t like Him, but since I decided to take Him for a test drive, I am still saved.”

We must remember that Christ’s own way of presenting the gospel was, “FOLLOW ME.”

Matthew 8:22

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Matthew 10:38

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 19:21

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Matthew 19:28

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 20:34

And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

There you have it. Saving faith is a commitment to follow the Lord. The following doesn’t save you; the commitment to follow saves you. A cursory observation of the gospels reveals many who engaged in a test following of Jesus and decided following Jesus wasn’t their cup of tea. They wanted to live with Jesus for a while and give Him a try. But that’s not trust. That’s not putting your trust in things yet unseen. That’s having faith in something that is verified; and usually, something that you prefer: “God agrees with me, so I will follow Him.” Christ Himself stated it this way:

Luke 9:62

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The vast majority of gospels in our day define salvation as an ambiguous “personal relationship” that is higher and more virtuous than, “a bunch of rules.” This is hyperbole for the purpose of rejecting the true gospel which advocates following Jesus for not only who He is, but also what He SAYS. To not follow Jesus according to that, starting with the basic truth that He alone made a way for us to be kingdom citizens is to follow a God of our own making. And frankly, a supposed “intimate” relationship with Jesus that is supposedly based on things of higher virtue than propositional truth is to lend credibility to a realm of uncertainty. Myriads of belief systems and theories are directly related to the abandonment of a goal to “be one mind in Christ”; ie, the Bible is God’s full truth statement to mankind for life and godliness.

The verse we begin with today begins with a contrast conjunction (“but”), so we must back up a little to understand the contrast. Hence:

Romans 2:6 – He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

Here, we have the criteria set before the crippled Romans who had angst regarding their significance in the church, but yet were serving with full diligence to the point of their service being known throughout the world (1:8). Regardless of their handicap, they served faithfully. Why? Let me use Japanese American citizens during World War II as an illustration. Though their families were interned and treated as second class citizens, Japanese American soldiers gave their all in the American military—despising the idea that they were “fighting against the motherland.” Why? They had faith in America, and deemed it as their best hope for a worthwhile future. Therefore, they strived to prove their worthiness as American soldiers and earn the respect of the American public. This is what was going on at Rome.

And Paul wanted to completely eradicate that misconception. He wanted to remove that handicap completely. If they were doing well as it was, just think how much better they would do if this hindrance was removed! Much of the letter is dedicated to completely explaining why the Gentiles were coregents with Israel at every level. Be sure of this: such is one of the primary themes of this letter and seen throughout. And it is not enough that Paul simply states the idea as fact, or the what, he fully explains the why in painstaking detail:

Romans 2:9 – There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

Whether Jew or Gentile, Paul reiterates the ONLY standard for the standard in verses 6-8. But verse 7 is packed with theological depth:

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

Why does it take “patience” to partake in “well-doing”? In this one verse, Paul eradicates volumes of hideous antinomian doctrine in our day. Oh the power of God’s wisdom! What men invest millions to propagate, God destroys with twenty human words! The fact that it takes patience to do well indicates a conflicting force within in us. Certainly, God doesn’t need patience to do well; it’s obviously talking about us. And if Christ obeys for us, why do we need patience? Is it saying that we need patience in order to let Christ obey for us through a Reformed formula of passivity lest we not live by faith? Then why would Paul not simply say so? To the contrary, Paul will revisit this later in the letter, explaining in detail why we struggle to obey Christ, and why it takes patience (hupomone).

Another  element that can be seen in this verse that also disavows antinomian theology (especially of the Reformed sort) is Paul’s affirmation that we can partake in “well-doing.” This is also confirmed by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 5:9

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

By “away,” Paul is referring to being at home with the Lord. In context, the “pleasing” is the same whether here as Christians or in heaven. The goal is the same. Christians are able to please the Lord with our works here and now, and it goes without saying that we will be able to do so in heaven after our transformation is complete. As Christians, we look forward to the day when pleasing Him will not take patience. Coupled with the fact that the law is the standard for pleasing God, one must come to the sobering realization that those lifted up as the Doctors of Grace in our day refuted the idea that Christians are able to keep the law. John Calvin made his concurrence of this abundantly evident in the Calvin Institutes (book 3, chapter 14, sections 9-11). The crux is the issue of keeping the law in order to please God, versus the keeping of the law for justification (salvation). Calvin, like many others, though via nuance and doublespeak, saw no difference in the role of the law in justification versus the goal of sanctification: pleasing God with His truth as the standard for doing so. The result was all Christian works being “deprived of its merit” (Inst. Book 3, Ch.14, sec.11).

Paul will teach us the different roles that the law has in salvation versus a life that pleases God this side of glory; specifically in regard to salvation, the law has NO role. In fact, Paul will teach us posthumously that the law was completely abolished in regard to judging our fitness for heaven. This was the grave error of the Reformers: the law remained the standard for our justification; hence, Christ must keep it for us. Thus, it logically follows that we had better not try to keep it IN salvation—it still being the standard for justification. This would be, “legal fiction.” Yet, here is what Paul will teach us:

Romans 3:21- But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

No one is justified by “works of the law,” and I contend that means a work of the law by anyone—by us or for us. Righteousness is imputed to our account because of the “law of faith” that believes in the one act of Jesus Christ that demonstrated the righteousness of God:

Romans 3:25 – whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Paul will explain how being “under the law” is set against those who are no longer under the law in any respect. Christ doesn’t have to keep the law for us because we are no longer under it for justification like those who are still under it and will be judged by it:

3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

This is why the eschatological understanding of end-time judgments harkens back to the gospel that one believes in. If Christians will be judged by the law (whether Christ keeps it for us or not), we are still “under the law” rather than the “law of faith.” Yet, the difference between the law in sanctification verses justification can be seen in the way Paul writes to us. We are not under it for justification though we are informed by it for purposes of faith (underline added):

3:21 – But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

The law informs us about salvation and how to live, but it is not a standard for our justification. That standard is only the “law of faith.” But in regard to being guided in life, Paul states, “For what does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3).

The law is marriage wisdom, but mere commitment to the marriage covenant makes us married. Continuing in the marriage doesn’t make us anymore married than what we were when we made the commitment, but does verify that we were really committed to the marriage. Turning away from the marriage means we never really understood what marriage was about. Marriage can never make one married. Only the original decision to be married makes one married. The carrying out of the commitment only assures us that there was a real commitment to begin with.

And there are only two people groups. Those who obey the gospel, and those who obey unrighteousness. We saw this in a previous study. To not obey the gospel is to suppress truth and righteousness. We continue in using the verses prior to the conjunction of contrast:

2:8 – but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

This is Paul’s point: in regard to salvation, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile; the only distinction is two different forms of obedience—obedience to truth or obedience to self. Jew and Gentile are both in the same boat. This is a metaphysical law that the Jews do not get a pass on because God chose them first as the nation from which He would disseminate His gospel. Though, “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), they are saved individually by the same law of faith. This is the beginning of Paul’s dissertation to remove the Gentile angst. Jew and Gentile are in the same soteriological boat. The Jew has NO advantage over the Gentile because they are the vanguards of God’s law. The days of the proselyte and the Court of the Gentiles are gone. But what of the law and its special relationship to the Jew? Paul will unravel that further as we progress. Paul was not satisfied with the all-important primary argument—he wants the Romans to be deeply appraised of the issue. And we will glean the gospel treasure thereof.

But we must conclude with this: there are only two commitments among all those that breathe upon the Earth: a commitment to damnation, or a commitment to righteousness. In regard to justification, or salvation if you will, you can’t work for righteousness because there is no standard to work for. Christ cancelled the law by declaring the full righteousness of God by going to the cross. But in regard to the only other alternative, one can work for more and more wrath and damnation because they are still “under the law.” Choosing to be “under the law” is a choice to be judged by it. They are being judged daily by a spiritually discerning law while not being spiritually discerning themselves. They will stand at the judgment with the golden rule as a defense of how well they measured against the demand of God’s law. Every idle word will be on the indictment. Every bad thought will be on the indictment. Every unkind word will be on the indictment. Every half-truth will be on the indictment.

Those who follow Christ escape such a judgment. Our sin, past and present (see Romans 8:30), has been forgiven because Christ paid the penalty thereof. We will not stand in the judgment under the law. This goodness and mercy of God leads us to repentance. We want to be like the Holy God that saved us. Our hearts are changed.

We uphold the law that we will not be judged by. We uphold the law that cannot condemn us or touch us. We don’t have to obey God.

We simply want to as new creatures in God’s family.

14 Responses

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  1. said, on November 16, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    “If an obedience producing faith becomes the basis of justification, then justification is by human works, not grace.”

    Perhaps you can tell me where in the above statement I said, “We must be given faith.” or “We are not rational, thinking people but puppets.” Or “Jesus believes for us.” or “If you have faith it is a ‘work.’”

    From that ONE line? I was taking ALL your words in all comments even in other threads into consideration. This is my point about conversing with Calvinists. We are always misrepresenting the words they write and will continue to do so according to them no matter what they say or write. That is how it works in the hall of mirrors and shadows called Calvinism, NCT, NC, YRR, Reformed, etc, etc. .


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