Scripture: Romans 2:1-16
Observation: Paul shares that everyone is accountable to God – even the Jews, who were originally God’s chosen people. He warns them not to judge others and shows them that God’s kindness encourages them to turn from sin. He warns of the dangers of living in sin, and he finishes the passage by encouraging the people not to only listen to the law but to obey the law as well.
Application: Before we dig into today’s passage, here’s a little Bible 101 – I’m writing it mostly to remind myself what’s going on, but you’re welcome to read it and remind yourself, too. :-)
The Jews were God’s chosen people, and from the Jewish people, the Messiah was born. This Messiah was promised to the people long ago, and he was known as Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. We read a lot about what the Jewish people went through during the Old Testament, and then in the beginning of the New Testament, we meet Jesus. Through Jesus, the playing field is even. All of the old rules and laws no longer stand. Because of the death of Jesus, anyone who puts their faith in him will have eternal life, no matter who they are or what their background. Jesus fulfilled the law. Anyone who was not raised in the Jewish tradition at the time was called a “Gentile.”
Alright, back to today’s reading. Here’s the thing: The Jewish people knew the law inside and out. Many of them could recite it backwards with their eyes closed. They would have been undefeated at Bible Trivia night. They probably had matching t-shirts that said, “Keep calm and recite on.” (I don’t know if any of that’s really true, but I’m 76% confident it was.)
You know those moments in life when you’re feeling pretty good about yourself? Maybe you’re strutting around because you have a new outfit or new shoes on? This happened to me once. During college, I was rockin’ brand new heels and I just knew I looked good. (I know I have pride issues, I’m working on them, so please STOPJUDGINGME.) As I was walking (or more accurately, catwalking) through the dining hall, I tripped on a chair and ate it. In front of everyone. It was awkward and embarrassing and awful and pretty much my life in a nutshell.
We all have those moments. We feel great about ourselves because of what we have, what we can control, what we possess. And then something happens and we’re facedown on the floor, embarrassed and wondering what the heck just happened.
That’s what’s happening with the Jewish people here. They were probably feeling pretty good about themselves. They held on to the knowledge of the law, and at times, even believed that because they had originally possessed the law, they were guaranteed salvation. They felt good. Safe. Secure. And then, Paul kindly drops this little bomb:
“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 2:13
The win in life isn’t simply listening to the message of Jesus. It isn’t reading your Bible, praying, reciting hundreds of verses. It isn’t going to church, being better than others, checking boxes. The win is obedience.
Do you simply listen or do you obey?
Listening is important. Listen to what the Bible teaches you, what your pastor teaches you, what your parents teach you, what your friends teach you. Listening matters; it’s how we learn. Listening is easy. It’s a fairly passive act. We can hear something, take some notes, make some underlines, nod our heads.
But, the real challenge is in the obedience. It’s where we take all those things we heard and put them into practice, even when the odds are against us. Even when we don’t understand why God isn’t answering that prayer the way we think he should. Even when we’re doing everything we can and it feels like everything is just getting worse. Even when (fill in the blank with that seemingly impossible thing you’re facing right now). Yep, even then.
We simply need to obey.
So, let’s obey God today. You probably already know what he’s pushing you, stretching you, challenging you to do. You’ve listened. You know. You just need the courage to obey, a gentle nudge to remember that listening without obedience is pointless. Let’s pray this prayer together today, and let’s obey God even when ___________.
Prayer: God, thank you for your relentless grace, for your willingness to give us second chances when we let our own pride or fear get in the way. I pray for the ability to obey you today; I pray I won’t be satisfied with merely listening or hearing you. Fill me with courage. Help me rely fully on you, turning away from any thought or idea that I’m in control or that I can live by my own power. I trust you for this today. Amen.