Written in the Heart
Romans 2:12-16 NKJV
For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Paul’s purpose in writing this letter to those in Rome was two-fold: 1. they had received distorted rumors about Paul’s message and theology, and so he felt it necessary to put into writing the gospel he had been preaching now for 25 years; 2. He sought to correct certain problems in the church occurring of wrong attitudes of Jews towards Gentiles (specific to ch. 2) and Gentiles toward Jews (ch.11). The overall theme of this letter is God’s gift of righteousness is demonstrated in our death with Christ to sin and the power to live a victorious life in and by the Holy Spirit. Paul declares that a transformed life in Christ results in the application of righteousness and love to all areas of our behavior- the body of Christ, social, civil and moral.
What is Paul saying here?
Paul is explaining to these Roman believers that those who live without the Scriptures to guide them will still be found guilty before God because at the judgment it will be shown that they ignored their Creator and violated the warnings of their moral conscience. Each deliberately walked away from God and without a Savior will suffer eternally. People who had the Scriptures (Jews) will also be found guilty because they did not obey them.
To prove to the reader that pleasing and obeying God is not impossible for those who don’t know the Bible, Paul describes a deep change that was taking place in the Gentile converts when they were born again. Even though they had little knowledge of Scripture, their lives began conforming to God’s righteousness. Paul speaks of “the work of the law written in their hearts” and their conscience and thoughts guiding them to obey God and do His will. This is in alignment and fulfillment of OT prophecy:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, [a]though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their [b]hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Paul continues to persuade Jewish believers, when the time comes for these Gentile converts to stand before God and the hidden, private areas of their lives will be disclosed; there will be no surprises and the record will show that they fulfilled God’s law.
I need to address a few heretical teachings in today’s church
“Charis”- the Greek word for “grace” in the NT does not mean “unmerited favor”, as so many have described. It has one definition. This is taken from the Strong’s exhaustive concordance of Bible: graciousness of manner or act of the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; joy, liberality (which is freedom)
Every place in the NT that uses the word grace has this for its definition. So Titus tells us,
Titus 2:11-15 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. 15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Grace teaches us to keep and obey God’s law that is written on our heart. Grace is not a static thing- it is not like spraying on perfume that masks your body odor for a time until you start to stink again. It is active and alive, it writes the law of God on our heart and produces the ability to actually keep and obey God’s law. We are actually able to please God, obey God and overcome sin through the power of “charis” and the Holy Spirit which is poured into the life of those born-again.
We will get to Romans 7 in a few months, but it is the difference between an unregenerated man trying to live by God’s law and he is unable to fully obey God. This is the famous quote from Paul, “For the good I will do, I do not; but the evil I will not do, that I practice”. Many use this Scripture as an excuse for why they have to continue to sin, they cannot help themselves….this is very often twisted and misquoted. Paul is portraying the hopelessness of a man trying to please and obey God on his own merit, apart from being born again of the Holy Spirit. This is why he starts out Romans 8 with there is no condemnation to those in Christ…. Ch. 8 is all about life, freedom from the “Law of sin and death” and the ability to overcome sin and the enemy. The Romans 7 man is powerless to overcome sin. THE Romans 8 man victorious to overcome sin.
The apostle John tells us further of the ability to overcome sin by the power of God:
1 John 3:1-10 NKJV 3 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of [a]God! Therefore the world does not know [b]us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (Underline this in your Bible) 4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
-while the Holy Spirit is doing His job, cleansing us, leading us, guiding us, directing us, prompting and urging us to obey God’s laws; we have a part to play. John tells us, that those in Christ “purify themselves”. I think a lot of people are unwilling to discipline their flesh to get the required results.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may [a]obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize [b]is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
When I first was saved- nobody had to tell me to stop drinking and partying, nobody told me to stop dressing provocatively, nobody told me to stop going to bars and hanging around those who party, nobody told me to stop sleeping around; the Holy Spirit convicted me. Nobody had to tell me to go to church, read my Bible, seek the Lord in prayer- the Spirit within me pressed me to do these things. God wrote His laws on my heart. I so desired to know Him and seek Him that nothing else mattered but to be in His presence.
-If you have not stopped sinning, have you truly been born again? If all the above is true, which it is; then what is going on in you that you are rejecting the power of God in your life? If you are still continuing on in your sin, you do not know God. I do not care who told you what.
Romans 3:4 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be [a]true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”
How is it that anyone has to tell you to stop sinning? Why does anyone have to tell you to read and obey Scripture? To pray? To fast? To not forsake the gathering? WHY? Maybe it’s because you have been deceived by a false gospel….
-The second part to this is the question: what gospel have you received? Paul told these Roman believers that we would be judged by “his gospel”, the one he had been preaching for 25 years at this time of writing. The gospel that Paul preached was one that included repentance and a radical break from sin. Paul told the Galatian church,
Galatians 1:8 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be [a]accursed.
And again to the Corinthian church, they were willing to hear and receive another Jesus and another gospel, remember how 1 John 3:7 said, “let no one deceive you” by telling you that you could continue to live in sin and know God?
2 Corinthians 11:4 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!
The apostle Jude tells us
Jude 3-4 3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord [a]God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Any gospel that tells you that Jesus is OK if you continue to sin, and turns the charis of God into lewdness; it is a false gospel.
I am currently reading a book on Bonhoeffer.
From the Holocaust Encyclopedia: “The pop. of Germany in 1933 was 60 mil. Almost all Germans were Christians, belonging to the RCC (20 mil) and the rest protestant (40 mil). The Jewish community was less than 1% of the pop. Throughout this period there were virtually no public opposition to antisemitism or any readiness by church leaders to publicly oppose the Nazi regime on the issues of antisemitism and state-sanctioned violence against the Jews”. Christians were persuaded by the “positive Christianity” in Article 24 of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform, which states: “We demand freedom for all religious denominations in the State, provided they do not threaten its (the Nazi Party’s) existence nor offend the moral feelings of the German race. The Party, as such, stands for positive Christianity, but does not commit itself to any particular denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialist spirit within and without us, and is convinced that our nation can achieve permanent health only from within on the basis of the principle: The common interest before self-interest.”
It was not until 1945 that any church spoke out. 12 years of silence from Christians during the Holocaust.
What did Bonhoeffer attribute this following of such evil? He attributed it to something he called “cheap grace” that he accused the churches at that time of preaching
“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
“Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.”- explain
Sounds like the messages playing today. This is the gospel being preached in so many churches, “It doesn’t matter if you continue to sin! You are forgiven! God loves you and wants you to be happy and to be nice. Grace means you got away with something! You be you”
So Paul tells us, because of this wonderful and awesome grace that God has bestowed on His own and giving us His perfect gift of the Spirit to overcome this world and the sin that so easily trips us up that one day our hearts will be laid bare before Him, everything secret will be revealed and our thoughts and the intents of our heart will be laid bare. We cannot hide anything from Him. WE will give an account of all.
Luke 8:17-18 17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18 Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he [a]seems to have will be taken from him.”
Paul asks the question of us today: Will your heart accuse you or excuse you?
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