“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans 2:12-13) What is the ultimate folly? It is to listen to the Word, and not act. James says it is like the person who looks at his face in the mirror and then forgets what he looks like. (James 1:23) The law – indeed the whole of Scripture – is a mirror. It gives you insight into who you are. But some people look, and quickly forget. The Bible says this attitude is the attitude of a person who will face the ruin of his or her entire life. Some people will get to heaven,thanking God for every word they ever heard – for the Word of God has been life to them. On the other hand, some people will go to hell, and will rue the day they ever heard one word from God, for it will register against them on judgment day. Please do not take that lightly. At first glance, this passage in
Romans 2 seems fairly simple; Paul is simply contrasting hearers and doers. But if we look more closely at verse 13, initially it also seems to say that if you do the law perfectly, you will be justified – as if Paul holds out the possibility that you can earn your way into heaven. This is called a dialectical tension. God does demand obedience, but at the same time, we also know that we are only saved by grace.
How will God judge those who know his Word?
1. HE WILL JUDGE BY YOUR OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD- Christianity does not present us with an optional set of commands. If the New Testament teaches you to keep the marriage bed pure, it actually means what it says. If the Law says you shall not steal, or commit adultery, or murder, or if it warns you against worshipping other gods – you must not take this lightly.
2. HE WILL JUDGE BY WHETHER YOUR OBEDIENCE LEADS YOU TO RELY ON GRACE- You should not get the idea that law keeping, or even obedience, earns you a place in heaven. It does not, even though some people think it does. You should come to the law, read its requirements, get a picture of yourself, and cry to the Lord for grace, saying, “Oh Lord, save me, give me grace to live in the way you want.” That is what the law actually necessitates. The tragedy in Paul’s day was that many of the Jews failed to see the law’s purpose – that when they heard the law, they were to look for grace and mercy. Have you ever audited a class in college or in university? Auditors show up, get what they want out of the class – and that is it. But they do not do the assignments, nor are they tested on whether they have mastered the material. Some people, sadly, are ‘auditing’ Christianity. They show up for the lectures but do not do the assignments. They have been auditors of the faith, but never enrolled in Jesus’ course for abundant living, only listened in. How tragic! We, too, have missed the purpose of the law. We have not let it show us our true state – that we are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace. And we have not let it instruct us on what righteous living looks like.
APPLICATION: As Christians we are reminded that without the grace of God, we are condemned like the rest of humanity in our sins. It is so important to grasp how much we need a Saviour. May we strive to be more obedient to His word and rely on His grace and mercy every day.
WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE FOLLY? IT IS TO LISTEN TO THE WORD, AND NOT ACT.
Dr. John Neufeld