Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An introduction to Romans 2:1-29

Criticizing those who identify themselves as “the saved.”

In this section of Romans, Paul turns from criticizing the idolatry of unbelievers (non-Jews), and assuming that he has those of Jewish origin applauding, amening and self-satisfied with their religious status and knowledge of the law, Paul does an about face, looks squarely at the Jews and Jewish Christians and says: “Therefore you are without excuse, all you people of God, whoever you are that are judging others; for when you judge others, you are really condemning yourselves, because you are doing the very evil you accuse others of doing!”

At times in the history of the church, and often in the history of the Protestant Church, this section has been looked upon as a criticism of “works-righteousness,” which is the belief that humans earn their way to salvation by virtue of their good works, not by virtue of their faith in God’s good work in Jesus. But, Paul’s real point in this chapter is that it is a big problem to presume on God’s grace, because in the end everyone will give an account before God for what they have done in this mortal life. It is really the confidence in their faith that they have been elected by God for salvation that Paul is attacking, because this confidence is not characterized by humility and gratitude, but by arrogance and an absence of real gratitude.

To me, this chapter of Romans is best heard by the religious community known as “the church” in our time. That is, we in the church need to hear chapter 2 of Romans as directly addressed to us. We are those who believe that we have some superior status as “believers” that saves us, and we are those who trust more in our confessions of faith and rites of admission than the God to whom they are supposed to point. We might very well translate 2:26 as: “Therefore if the unbaptized keep the righteousness of the law, shall not this unbaptized person be counted as if he or she was truly baptized into Christ?” In this loose translation/interpretation, I have here substituted the rite of baptism for the rite of circumcision. Certainly, this is not justifiable on linguistic grounds; however, it may be justifiable as "an interpretation" that speaks a living word, as opposed to being stuck at the level of a literal translation with no real interpretation. Think about this chapter as addressed to the contemporary Church and see how it fits. It probably still addresses Jews pretty well too. As Christians we are so closely related to our Jewish brothers and sisters, both in our positive and our negative characteristics and tendencies. Back then, I think Paul aimed this criticism at those with a close tie to the Jewish tradition, whether they were Jews or Jewish Christians. That is another way of aiming his criticism at the “religious” as opposed to aiming (as he did in Romans 1:18-32) his criticism at the irreligious. Jews and Christians ought to try to hear this chapter together sometime, and see what comes of it.

I’ll go through this chapter verse by verse in the next couple of posts.

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