Gentiles – God’s Own People?

“And if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it.”
Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭26‬-‭27‬ ‭NLT

This statement from Paul must have been highly upsetting to the Jews. How dare he say such things, they must have thought. But Jesus did much the same to the Pharisees. In John 8, the Apostle John recorded the gist of a conversation Jesus had with some Jewish people of His day. And the dialogue highlights exactly what Paul was saying to his Jewish Christian friends in Rome. We read what the Pharisees said in John 8:33, ““But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”” The Jews basically took the huff because Jesus seemed to be saying to them that they were missing the most important truths that have ever been exposed. They thought, wrongly of course, that because they were of Abrahamic descent, everything about their lives and future was OK.

To take a step back, Jesus made an astonishing claim about Himself when He said, “… You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free“. He went on to clarify that He was talking about being a slave to sin, and He went on, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free” (John 8:36).‭‭ This was an incredible claim that Jesus made, and it dropped into the Pharisaical culture like an atom bomb. And to really rub it in, Jesus went on to challenge the whole basis for the Abrahamic religion practised by the Jews in His day. The Pharisees said, ““Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example” (John 8:39). And Jesus led them straight back to the very foundations of their faith. We read in Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith“. 

It’s not religion that will save us. When we stand before God it will do our cause no good at all if all we can do is to base our claim to salvation on our religious ways. On how much we gave to the church offering, how often we went to church, how many hymns or carols we could sing by memory. How familiar we are with the denominational liturgies, or what church volunteering opportunities we became involved with. What really counts is our faith. The Apostle Paul said to the Philippians church, “… I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). 

Paul said to the Roman Jews that His people are not those who, even though circumcised and Jews by birth, fail to obey His law. And he pointed out to them that the uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law have a mandate to condemn the Jews who don’t. 

We pilgrims today look back at the situation that erupted between Paul and the early Christians in Rome, and are perhaps tempted to take the moral high ground. But we shouldn’t, because we can fall into the same attitudes of mind, the same traps, that Paul’s readers had obviously done. Faith and obedience are the parameters that drive us to be true followers of Jesus. Not religion and liturgies.

Dear Father God. It’s all about You and Your love, not about us and our religions. We commit afresh to following Your Son Jesus today, with faith and obedience. Amen.

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