Obeying God’s Law

When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭NLT

Reading these early verses in Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians, we might be thinking that there seems to be a problem between Jews and Gentiles. Paul spends a lot of time dealing with them separately, as he is doing in these verses today. What was going on? A little bit of extrapolation from the political and religious situation in those days of life in Rome perhaps indicate that the Jews were trying to separate themselves from the Gentiles in their churches. Perhaps they were trying to reinstate their historical standing before God and resist the introduction of Gentile believers. But whatever was going on, Paul brings them down to earth with a bump. He was in fact saying that the Jewish believers were no better than the Gentile believers. And he sets out in these early chapters the reasons why.

In these verses today, Paul was pointing out that sin is sin, whether committed by a Jew or a Gentile. Without God’s saving grace, the result is the same. But is it a bit unfair to say that God will judge those who had never heard His law just as harshly as those who have heard it? We’re back to the conscience factor. Regardless of the Law, God has wired us all with a conscience. So intuitively we know, when it comes to our behaviour, what is right and what is wrong. But the reality is that regardless of whether or not we have a set of rules and regulations, a law, to follow, sin will be judged one day. 

We pilgrims have a God-given responsibility to communicate, both to ourselves and to others, that sitting in a church pew on a Sunday won’t necessarily make us either a Christian or righteous before God. In that very same pew, we will hear much about God, about His law, about His attributes like love, grace and righteousness, but in return we must always be aware that we must act upon what we hear. So, if we hear about God’s love, we must be aware that we have a responsibility to show that same love to others. In 1 John 4:10-11, we read, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other“. And in 1 John 2:4-5 we read, “If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him”. If we hear about God’s love but don’t show love to those around us, then we are doing exactly what Paul warned the Roman Christians about – they listened to God’s Word but they didn’t obey it. And the same warning rattles down the centuries to our spiritual inboxes today. Just to consign it to our spiritual spam folders just won’t do. As Paul wrote, “It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight.” James wrote in his epistle, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” (James 1:22-25). What we must do can’t be clearer than that.

Dear Father God. We thank You for Your patience and grace. Without it we would be lost. We worship You today. Amen.

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