The apostle Paul is one of those people who tells you a lot about themselves when you first meet them! He’s written this letter to the church in Romans to introduce himself and to get some support when he hopes to visit on the way to a mission trip in Spain (15:24) In the end it won’t work out that way, but that was his plan. So Paul introduces himself as a preacher of the Gospel – which he succintly puts in 1:17 as “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith”.
That statement is a little ambiguous – it can be taken in a number of ways, so Paul then takes a lot of ink and the next 14 chapters explaining it before getting back to wanting to visit on a mission trip to Spain!
The last half of chapter 1 was about the fact that we need righteousness provided by God. Sin in the form of ungodliness, unrighteousness, and suppression of the truth attracts the wrath of God. The outworking of that in the present age is giving people over to their sinful desires and letting them experience the consequences of that.
In chapter 2 he realises his readers from a Jewish background will think that he is talking about those naughty non-Jews. They may be looking down on the Gentiles and thinking they are fine, because the have the Law, the “rightoues decrees” of God.
So Paul points out that they have no excuse either. They need a righteousness from God too. They may have the law but if they don’t perfectly obey it they will be judged just as much as Gentiles who do not have the law. They rely on conscience and the law “written on their hearts” – in other words a sense of right and wrong.
Simply put v12 then tells us
Gentiles – don’t have the law and sin, which means they will perish
Jews – do have the law and sin, which means they wil be judged.
For many Jews, it was all outward. They may have been physically circumcised as a sign that they are followers of God, but their hearts are not in it – their hearts are uncircumcised.
This letter is a rhetoric – building up the argument that we all need the gospel, layer by layer, so this chapter leaves us all knowing that we are sinners in need of God’s righteousness whether we are a Jew or a Gentile. Tomorrow’s reading completes that and the begins to give the good news!
Marinate on that,