Because of the unique role and responsibility God gave to the Jewish people, there was a tendency for them to view themselves as God’s “favorites”, immune to his judgment. But Paul makes it clear in his writing that God does not show partiality. And those of us raised in “religious” homes today can apply some of Paul’s thoughts to ourselves as well.
Those who live in opposition to God’s law will ultimately suffer for it and those who obey God’s law will ultimately be given identity, fulfillment and freedom from pain and difficulty. Both of these outcomes are applied to the Jews first, because God chose them to reveal himself to the rest of the world. (He gave them the prophets and the Messiah was born from among them.) (v.9-10)
Those who do not know God’s specific law(as revealed in the Bible) will still be judged for their sin. Those who do know God’s law will be judged by the law. In either case, everyone will be judged. No one is justified in the eyes of God just because they were raised in a certain environment or because they are very knowledgeable regarding the Bible. In the cosmic economy, we are judged by our actions, not by what we know, as Paul indicated in verse 6 and reaffirms in verse 13. If you want to justify yourself, you’ll have to pull it off by carrying out the entire law. (v.13) Having religion in your background isn’t enough.
Everyone has enough of a moral standard built into them to be eligible for judgment. As Paul says, when non-Jews (or we might apply it further by saying non-Christians) instinctively do and value things that parallel God’s instruction, they have at the very least set up their own moral system, and demonstrate the truth that God built a measure of his law into them. And even this fundamental moral understanding is enough to accuse or defend their actions when Christ evaluates them. (v.14-16)
We don’t know exactly how God will go about evaluating those who die without ever having heard of Christ. But we know that the knowledge they do have will somehow be factored into it. We also know that God is a just God, and that in the final analysis, no one will look at a decision he makes and say, “That wasn’t fair.” (2 Th. 1:5-6)
The picture looks very grim for humanity in these verses. If perfect obedience to the law is the way to justify ourselves(v.13) then we’re hopeless, because we can’t even live up to the standards we set for ourselves!(v.14-15)
Paul will continue to establish the hopeless state of humanity and our desperate need for rescue. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s one we need to face and acknowledge.
Next Week- Religious Hypocrisy
Coffee House Question- What do you think are some of the negative tendencies that can arise in those raised in a Christian home? What are some of the advantages for those raised in Christian homes?