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STUDY OF THE EARTH MOVEMENTS
THE TSUNAMI OF LOVE
Survey of Romans 2-3 thematically
This represents the examination of the exposures of breakages upon the earth as shown in Romans 1. In a figure, then, it is a geological examination; the eruption is past, the study of it ensures. Thus more directly, it is the review of the damage of sin, as exposed in Romans 1, and the approach to its resolution. This comes clearly at the end of Romans 3. Following this uncovering of the pith of the gospel, Paul proceeds to the comparison of Abraham and his faith, and the offer of Isaac rejected in favour of the sacrifice the Lord provided, and the Christian and his faith in the sacrifice at last categorically sufficient, Jesus the Christ. It with that section that we commenced in Chapter 1, at the outset of this work.
we have here studied Romans 2-3, this will enable us to move directly,
after the end of this present chapter, to Romans 12, to which we arrived
in Chapter 3. Indeed, in one sense Romans 12 takes on the emphasis at the
end of Romans 3; for there the pith of the Gospel, exposed in detail in
the intervening chapters 4-11, comes into contact with the effect in multi-dimensional
living. This is shown right through Romans chapters 12-16. There Paul deals
with personal consecration, relationships with the State, with the weak,
as also with those divisively departing from apostolic doctrine, from the
word of the Lord. But for now, let us return to the thrust from Romans
1 and follow it into Romans 2-3. There is - to change the figure yet again,
a midwifery department in the hospital of faith, which leads to well-being,
as well as a sports and development establishment, which deals with the
best way of living in the faith, the understanding essential for this and
the blessedness of a life OF faith. For now, our concern is FINDING this
life, and to this we proceed in pondering Romans chapters 2-3.
1. JUDGMENT OF JUDGES
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge..." ... so Paul opens.
Paul's thrust: Intolerable as are the atrocious sins he has just been listing in Romans 1:26-32, sins of heart, spirit, mind and body, yet the purpose is not to act as judges. God is judge. It is to expose what needs remedy. It is not to pretend that it does not need exposure and remedy, or that it does not matter. Far from it. It is however in being diagnosed, here exposed for a purpose -
One must be QUIT
OF THESE THINGS ONESELF, not a sort of verbal arbiter in absentia
from the moral scene. What is needed is action, separation and
severance from all such conduct and all it entails - except for the purposes
of the Lord. "We know that the judgment
of God is according to truth against those who practise such things"
(2:2), so that to practise participation in any of this is to ask for judgment.
Rather the continuance of life in the midst of such things should lead
one to repentance, to realisation that God is being good and that it is
time to show a love of goodness in a practical manner by REPENTING of one's
own follies, warpings, errors (2:3).
2. FRUIT SHOP SYMBOLS HAVE TREE REFERENCE
Paul here introduces the fruit-shop symbol. Good lives have good fruit; bad lives have bad fruit. Do you seek honour, the glory of God and immortality by patient continuance in good; or are you seeking some other glory, in fact self-seeking, and do you obey all right, only the wrong one, the voice of unrighteousness ? THAT is the question. The one fruitage is fashionable, but tribulation and anguish are in store (2:8-9); the other lives and will live with glory and honour and peace. God is not partial (2:11).
In other words, what you are, you do; and where you are, you will be. Lives belong with what they are founded on, fashioned for and where they find themselves functional. In James' terms, faith without works is dead and faith has its fruition in works.
Of course James
also makes it clear that we are born again by the work of God, who fashions
us; so that the good is not the product of superiority of nature, but intervention
of God; and that this is an instance of a GIFT of God which He bestows.
Still, the gift works; and while it is of course nothing to do with the
working of the gift, that we receive the gift, for the reception of the
gift by nature must precede the production of the fruit, yet the fruit
will come. It may be misconstrued, pompously "judged" in the way Paul detests
and Christ forbad, but it will be there. False prophets, the topic when
Christ spoke, will be readily enough detectable; but as to the good tree,
it produces good fruit whether the "judges" be warped or not. As to God,
HE is not warped, but is always as He could be and would be, for God has
all power and no unrighteousness (cf. SMR Ch.1).
3. THE TWO CHASMS
Who has not sinned (Romans 3:23 categorically answers that question concerning the sons of Adam)! There are different ways to sin, and now, to revert to our figure, Paul examines two huge cracks in the earth, chasms down which millions may fall, and fall.
The first is the KNOWLEDGEABLE SIN. Here with the law of God in hand, one may sin. Judging other people intemperately may be just one of those sins; judging as if one had divine assistance in categorising all men, may be merely one officious misuse of the savour and taste criteria which help in fellowship. He who said, By their fruit you will know them, also said this, Judge not. (It is even all recorded in the same chapter 7 of Matthew.) Thus that whole assessment of character and ways which does not limit itself to the things indisputable and sure, in its very self-assurance can fall into the same field, sin, the same chasm, as the victim of such intrusive pomp who may be slandered by bitter hearts rather than being itself mischievous or misaligned in the things asserted.
The second chasm is IGNORANT SIN. However, even here, says Paul in his review, his critique of the position, his field survey: even here there not a complete emptiness, the ignorance is not total. CONSCIENCE enters in. People may lack the law of God, but their consciences and reasonings can still assess, survey, cite, consider, construe and review their own actions. Their thoughts, he says, "accuse and excuse" themselves; there is an ideational battle scene, a mental clash, a moral turmoil seeking resolution in the heart even of ignorant man, the one to whom the law of God has not come in a practical historical way.
This second chasm is not categorically worse than the first. Rather, people who lack the written law of God, the book of rules, to name but one of its features, have another book in their consciences. It may indeed not now be perfect but it is in general operational. It may be distorted as the review in Romans 1 would indicate, but it is still there. They "show the work of the law written in their hearts" - Romans 2:15.
Sin without law, perish without law; sin in law, be judged by law (2:12). Such is the unpleasant dual motor of judgment.
Unpleasant? Certainly judgment is not pleasant; but then, neither is sin, and judgment is according to truth: and as to truth, is not the unpleasantness of judgment just the other side of what it judges. Is it a fault in the truth that one defiles it!
Tribulation and anguish are however the end of it all, in the order of judgment (2:9). And as to the knowledgeable sinner, "not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified."
Now all this
exposure of the chasms and of the results of falling into them is occupying
Romans 2:5-15. The particular comparison of the knowledgeable and
the unknowledgeable has taken up verses12-15.
It has followed on from the sin without law, perish without law, sin in law, be judged by law statement of verse 12.
having been researched, Paul proceeds to the issuance, at the end of the
chasms (2:16): for all this judgment is to occur "in
the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according
to my gospel."
4. THE HOPE OF THE GOSPEL
IS THERE THEN SOME HOPE COMING ? AFTER ALL, PAUL HAS IN ROMANS 1 MADE CLEAR THAT THERE IS GOSPEL WHICH IS "THE POWER OF GOD INTO SALVATION". TO COME INTO THAT, ONE MUST OBVIOUSLY BE OUT OF ALL THIS!
If the judgments are to occur according to "my Gospel", the question arises, what IS your Gospel? The anxious, the upset, the self-condemned, the repentant ... may ask - Is there accordingly, then, not a way out of this pit ? If Romans 2:4 speaks of the RIGHT approach as this, that "the goodness of God leads you to repentance", is not there then some way of following this way up and out, or of being reached in the pit and taken from it - as in Psalm 18:16; drawn in some way from its terrible vastness and endless seeming voluminousness, into the upper air of goodness, through repentance and this Gospel which is the power of God into salvation ?
At once we look:
Whether we look
at the New or the Old Testament, this emphasis is fresh, zealous and intense.
If you like oxymoron, God is implacably merciful in His approach to men.
He does not stay angry for ever, as if in a mood; He rather has indignation
against evil, but delights in mercy to the point of being practical about
it, and making provision for it and making a straight door, if you like,
to His office for dealings in this matter. He does not slacken His pace
AT ALL, in purity; but He does make provision for mercy.
5. JUDGING THE SECRETS
Hence when we read in Romans 1:16 concerning God judging the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to Paul's Gospel (which of course is simply THE GOSPEL - I Corinthians 15:11), we are alerted to marvels. God's pre-disposition towards mercy is intensive, like a good coach towards skill. The mercy of course is His own skill. The secret things do indeed belong to God who knows all (Deuteronomy 29:29), and He shows mercy on whom He will show mercy as we saw (Romans 9:15-16). He will not be dictated to, immersed in argumentation from sinners: but shows mercy. Yet for all that, His disposition is statedly to the uttermost to show mercy. He is the gracious sovereign, who is sovereign, the merciful ruler who rules.
Paul will shortly expose the inward parts of this matter more obviously, but already it is suggested. Judgment is by the gospel. Mercy is ingrained into the process.
Paul now proceeds in Romans 2:17-24 to lambast self-righteousness, that careful, artful keeping of the law which is about itself, and forgets God; which is religious but not righteous; which exalts itself but would as it were humble God, by using His name and the talk of His law amidst immoral actions of its own.
No, says Paul,
"he is not a Jew who is one outwardly ... but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart" - Romans 2:29.
Having dealt with the self-righteous syndrome, to which he returns in Romans 10:1-4, where he proceeds to that great simplicity of Romans 10:9:
First, he acknowledges that the Jews have had the inestimable privilege of transmitting the scriptures, the word of God, throughout so long a history (Romans 3:2). The fact that so much unbelief in that to which the prophetic scriptures issue, unbelief in Christ, in truth, in reality, has come upon so many Jews for so long, this does this in any way impugn the honour or the integrity of God. Of course not! (2:3-4). In fact, God knows how to handle deceit and deviousness, delinquency and the like. If some Jews disbelieve, will God cease to be faithful ? Far from it. If God inflicts wrath on the covenant breakers, does this not justify His righteousness who so acts; and in this way does not the sin actually lead to an expression and conservation of the glory of God!
If you follow such a twisted argument as that, Paul indicates, you might as well say, 'Let us do evil that good may come!' An obvious prevarication and deception.
In fact, of course,
Paul has already shown that when sinners who major in the thing, use the
name of God while categorically caught in sin, it amounts to a blaspheming
(Romans 2:24), quoting from Ezekiel 16:27. Are the Jews in themselves better
than others ? They are not! he declaims. In fact, turning to Psalm 14,
he exposes the whole human race as caught in this way or that, in sin.
The law, states the apostle, speaks
"Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight" - Romans 3:20. The law only makes sin the more obvious, or as he puts it elsewhere, exposes the nature of sin, so that it becomes clear it is "exceedingly sinful" (Romans 7:13). It has a horrendous aspect which grime may cover. The word of God exposes it in all its sharp definition as it really is.
This basis for the gospel of grace being laid, this diagnostic X-ray having being given for the operation to follow (cf. Hebrews 4:12), but one for all that, without which there would be no adequate sign of need, or realisation of the totality of the action which is to follow: Paul proceeds in Romans 3:21-26 to expose the method of mercy, the matrix of the gospel.
God has made clear His righteousness in another way. Not our doing but His doing, His standards exposed by Himself in action; and as to that, the law and the prophets indicated that He would do it. He has now done it (3:21 cf. 16:25-26). This righteousness is not achieved by some sort of Upward Bound magnificent achievement amidst the heights of competition, unless it be that of Christ Himself over all odds and anguish, in the performance of what was needed, of what it took to do it. This righteousness has another way altogether of being obtained. It is by faith (3:22).
Since (3:23), ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, God has made up the difference in making available the pure and ultimate article, the actual perfection of His own righteousness, one without shame or blame or compromise or any other such thing. He has done it in an act of redemption. Christ has redeemed those under the curse of the law, the judgment of sin, the necessity of justly dispensed death, the correct and due citation of actual unworthiness for God, unfitness for heaven, the proper exclusion from His fellowship (cf. Galatians 3:10-13)..
This redemption cost of course. That is the nature of redemption: you buy the trapped goods. That is why it is free: indeed, in terms of the Gospel gift, God so acts that people may be
6. THE WAY OF REDEMPTION
What then precisely did He do, this Christ Jesus IN WHOM this redemption has its place (3:24), and FROM WHOM it may be dispensed ? Romans 3:25 tells us. HE was set forth as candidate for judgment, He took it upon Himself; He became the ground of pardon by God, who is so just and holy that He will not look upon iniquity.HE, the Christ, let it eat into Him in the exclusion from God His Father which it entailed, crying, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" according to the plan made clear in Psalm 22, verse 1 of which He there quoted. "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you", the Lord declared in Isaiah 59:2. THAT was why He did not hear. For in fact (59:1): "The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear."
Hence Christ took it. It had to come, He wished to come and do it (Psalm 40), in fact delighted to do it, as one might expect of the Son of that God who delights in mercy. Small wonder His everlasting Father delighted in this everlasting Son (Isaiah 42:1, Matthew 17:5). He isdelightful. Everlasting in His goings (Micah 5:1-3), He made this one of them, and hence achieved this redemption which frees us who believe, from the results of our sins, from their force, their doom their destiny, their proclivities and their degradation, their shame and their contempt, having taken them full bore, all their ingredients upon Himself (cf. Matthew 26:52-56). Yet He did this, not so that the sins might burrow like lice into Him, but merely impact on Him like waves on wreckage, which is what He seemed to become as the indignities and barbarities of His oppressors fell upon Him in the scene leading to and through the crucifixion (Isaiah 52:12-15).
God was indeed propitiated in His righteous wrath against sin by this exhibition, this exposure of beauty to ashes, of holiness to revulsion, so that satisfaction of righteousness was obtained by ONE man, incarnate, who paid the difference, bore the fruit and achieved the acceptance of penalty, so making peace. It is so simple, it is so sinful that burden which He took (cf. Isaiah 53:6 of those who believe and are healed), it is so superabundantly sinful to reject this new Covenant in His blood, and it is so common to do so.
However, God has "set forth as a propitiation by His blood" this Christ, and this for a purpose. It is
Thus in the day when God judges the secrets of men by the Gospel, this will be the biggest secret of all, but known to God: WHO are REALLY those who have believed. So many pious hypocrites will be there, to whom He will say, as in Matthew 7:21-23, Depart from Me, I never knew you!
Who are these and who are His! There is one secret!
It is of course no secret to the soul who knows God (Romans 8:16, I John 5:12-13, I Thessalonians 5:9, Philippians 3:20-21, Colossians 3:3-4), has trusted in Him for His salvation (John 10:9,27-28), is covered redemptively by the blood of Christ, believes in his/her heart that God has raised Him bodily from the dead (Romans 10:9) - who in short, believes God, receives His word - living for His salvation and written for His instruction. . It is however not in our hands to determine the hearts of others. For all that, one thing we do know about that is this, that if people are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of them (Luke 9:26), and that those who are His do not live a life of practising sin (I John 3) though He is indeed faithful and just to forgive us our sins if we confess them, while dwelling in the life which is His in His transforming and triumphant power (John 8:34-36, I Cor. 3:18, Colossians 1:27).
But in the end, ALL being in the same position, NONE will be delivered except those foreknown to God, whom He has predestinated, and whom He has taken in terms of the Gospel at His pleasure. None will be left who might have been taken; eternity does not depend on time and tide but on the predestining certainties of the God of all comfort, who delights in mercy, who would have all to be saved, who is master of all technique and time and space, whom none deceives, who has His way in heaven and on earth, whose plans are His own and hence adequate at all times for all His own purposes, whom it would please in attitude to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to Himself, but who will in fact take those who are His.
The relative merits of ignorant and knowledgeable sin will be relevant, but not critical; for all have sinned.
As to the knowledgeable who claim their knowledge:
This is the lot of the sheep and the goats, to which the Lord is there referring as we see in Matthew. Thus they are categorically different ab initio; but from what beginning? In heaven, from the before-time event of predestination; and thereafter, in the grand mercy of the Gospel whenever and however God sees fit to bring them to Himself.
In that time when the Son of man to whom all judgment is committed, reveals all, then all the secrets will be out (John 5:26-27, Matthew 24:30-31).
Paul proceeds as we saw at the start of this chapter, to CONSECRATION and various other phases and facets of Christian life, from Romans 12-16, ending with SEPARATION from sinful substitutes for Biblical obedience to the faith. In the interim, at work in our chapters 2-3, we have already seen something of the tsunami of love and the lagoons left behind, shown in Romans 4-11, at the end of which Paul made clear the intensive differentiation of the lot of the Jew and the Gentile, followed by even more intense combination of their destines, which in the Lord, is into one unity.
To this consecration and that which also features in Romans 12, next, if the Lord will, we shall proceed in the next chapter.
See SMR Appendix B, and observe the words of Christ, while considering the whole gamut of grace which appears in the word of God, with which
they refused to heed,
shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.
they made their hearts like flint,
refusing to hear the law and the word which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.
Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.
it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear,
so they called out and I would not listen, says the Lord of hosts."
As to that last point, we read in Hosea,
did not cry out to Me with their heart when they wailed upon their beds
They assemble together for grain and new wine.
They rebel against Me:
Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms,
Yet they devise evil against Me:
They return, but not to the Most High;
They are like a treacherous bow" - (Hosea 7:14-16).
Confession aptly in view of this and many such things, declares: God
did "freely ordain
whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures..." (Ch.3, para I). Similarly, it asserts no less, that those who die, and are among His "elect infants", foreknown and predestined, He saves in Christ through the Spirit, the same applying to "all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word" (cf. Repent or Perish, Ch.1). These matters are treated in detail in Predestination and Freewill.
THE LOVE OF GOD IS LOVELY AND NEVER FRUSTRATED
Aptly for our present study in Romans 2-3, we should add something here concerning the implacable resolution, the magnificence of the love of God. It is neither ferocious, like the tyrannical Ďloveí of the lustful, nor dying, like the feeble Ďloveí of the selfish, but chaste and intense at once, beautiful for holiness, lovely in disposition, integral, not merely impulsive, and known are His from before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Chs.2-3, That Magnificent Rock; Item 17 Barbs, Arrows and Balm)
There is NONE to whom His heart is not so strongly disposed in love that their lostness is mere statistics: HAVING MADE PEACE through the BLOOD OF THE CROSS, Colossians 1:19ff. tells us, with ALL FULNESS of deity dwelling in Christ, in bodily form (Col. 1, 2:8ff.), according to the Fatherís pleasure, in His SON, who is His face expressive, His word eternal (II Cor. 4:6, John 1:1, 5:19-23, 8:58, Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 2:8-9, Hebrews 1): it ALSO PLEASED the Father to RECONCILE ALL THINGS TO HIMSELF through that blood. It is true that He does NOT do so, though so willing, but this is His attitude, fundamental disposition. Indeed, He IS love (I John 4). To ESCAPE such love, one needs to violate its provisions, disesteem its scope, deny its application; and PREFER DARKNESS in the very face of it (John 3 shows the COMING of the LIGHT in the FACE of which menís preference for darkness is fatal - cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4). That is the historical context: it is the principial statement of Colossians expressed historically. That is also precisely what is being said in John 15:21-23, EXCEPT He had come and DONE and SAID what He in fact did, they would not have sinned the relevant sin, that is the one which appoints them, by practical demonstration, as fit for hell.
Thus in view of I Peter 3:18-20, which is expounded in The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4, and which does not lend its language to fleshly persons, but rather to the Ďspirits in prisoní; and of Matthew 11:21, which shows that IF Christís works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, substantial repentance would have been gained in those cities, and of Godís omnipotence without limit in the fulfilment of all His plans and purposes (cf. Isaiah 43:13, Psalm 115, Ephesians 1:11) and hence of His love: there is strong attestation that those foreknown to God, His own, are able to be found WHEREVER and WHENEVER His dispositions have them. If ignorant they have left this world, then knowledgeably He will save them. The fact that the Westminster Confession speaks of such elect persons who have not been reached by the ordinary means of grace as being nevertheless saved, does indeed broach this principle. It does well.
It means that it is not by any means sure that if you do not hear the gospel in this world, you will be in hell. It is no use making up things, pleasing certain cultural expectations and not other points in parallel. The fact is clear: we do not KNOW what will happen to those ignorant of the Gospel hereafter; but we DO KNOW that it is WRONG to LIMIT the Holy One of Israel (Psalm 78:41), to add to His word or to proclaim in the dark what is not revealed in the light. Ours is a covenantal religion, and we do not have access to new things to tittivate. What God has revealed, let us keep to; what He has not, let us not declare.
We DO know that the love of God is never shortcircuited, for He is NEVER frustrated who does what He pleases in heaven and in earth, and He WORKS and WHO will prevent it! as He states (Isaiah 43:13). We DO know that WHOEVER is elected in love (for Christ did not change, does not change, was as deity in the predestination of all, the Christ who is the exact image of His Father), that such a one is Godís and nothing in heaven or earth will prevent that personís salvation, through the Gospel. We DO know that this will be CHRIST only, by His GOSPEL only, whenever it may be fulfilled in time which was predestinated in eternity (Col. 1:4). We DO indeed know that it will be a salvation in which works and relative merit is as irrelevant then as it always is now, that the Roman Catholic doctrine of being judged according to the light given is nonsense, for there is NO OTHER NAME given to men under heaven, but this one, by which they MUST be saved, and the proclamation of any OTHER Gospel even damns the preacher, though it were an angel (a good point for Mormons to remember, along with there being no other God before the Lord, nor any after - Isaiah 43:10). By NO OTHER GOSPEL or way is any ever saved.
Now Romans 2 is of supreme interest here. In 2:12-16 we have not only a denunciation of self-righteous misapplication of the love and covenant of God, but an indication that the Gentiles do better than this when, with thoughts accusing or excusing each other, they look for something better. The end of ALL these things, the swagger and the seeking, is found when God judges all things through His Gospel (2:16) - the only way out of sin and in by His grace, to God. Now it is clear that Gentile seeking is more robust than the cited Jewish rebellion; that ignorance is better than misconceived bliss; and that the ONE Gospel will be the criterion for all. There is here a glint of hope that some who DID NOT KNOW will fare better than many who misused their knowledge (cf. Luke 11:51-2). There is however something better: the assurance that the Gospel, which in Colossians is so amply expressed, as in John 1-3 as to its relevance to all, will be the cutting edge. GOD WILL, indeed, always gain His own by the Gospel, Christ once suffering acrid anguish. Other means are folly, are excluded; other persons are lost: lost from and to eternity, in the face of His love. ALL sinners who ever come to heaven, are exceptions to just damnation, by Christís intervention. Planned from eternity, this is fulfilled when He pleases.
What then ? Some who did
not have the inestimable privilege of hearing the Gospel may be saved through
the Gospel, as will be manifest in that day; many who think they know,
will be excluded through their uncontrite rebellion; love will fail with
no one, ever, anywhere, though many departing from the light, will dwell
where they belong. The love of God in mercy and grace made apt and adequate
remedy. There is no other way home, and being lost is indescribable anguish.