Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 7
Thesis: Being "lawless" is impossible; being "fully" informed is impossible; the dangers exist.
Introduction: In our study last week we looked into the claim, made multiple times in the New Testament, that God practices no "partiality" or "respect of persons". Since it is obvious, both within the text of Scripture and within the reality of man's experiences, that God does not treat all men the same, it was necessary for us to consider just what the claim means. We learned that the statement that God is no respecter of persons means that He does not allow considerations that are outside the boundaries of the laws that govern the particulars to have any influence over His judgment. He does not "bend the rules" for those who are subject to them. The only way a person can escape the application of a given set of rules is to be legitimately exempted from them.
In our studies of Romans 2, the issue is that particular set of rules that govern the Day of Wrath. Therefore, the statements made within the text of Romans 2 have to be understood in light of "that" Day. Three of the statements that are widely misunderstood because they are not kept within the boundaries of "that" Day are 2:6 (God will repay every man according to his works), 2:11 (there is no partiality with God), and 2:13 (the doers of the law shall be justified). This last statement appears to fly in the face of 3:20, but it does not since it's context is the Day of Wrath.
Now, this evening we are going to look into a part of Paul's explanation of what he meant when he said that there is no partiality with God. The part we are going to consider is the opening section of verse 12: Paul's statement that "those who sinned without law shall perish without law". The question is: What did he mean and what significance does it have to us?
December 14, 2004
- I. The Bigger Picture.
- A. It never pays to overlook the fact that Paul is dealing with the Day of Wrath.
- 1. As a day of "wrath", we cannot expect it to contain elements of "mercy" and/or "grace".
- 2. As a day of "wrath", we must understand that it stands outside of the "gospel" and has nothing directly to do with those who have embraced the gospel.
- B. It never pays to overlook the fact that Paul is dealing with those who have rejected repentance and have fully embraced the delusion of self-righteousness.
- 1. It is altogether foolish to take what Paul says to the impenitently self-righteous and try to make it fit those who have repented and have no interest in trying to establish their own righteousness.
- 2. Thus, again, we cannot find any reason to try to apply the truths of Romans 2 to the people of God.
- II. The Specific Picture.
- A. Paul made a greatly misunderstood statement in 2:11.
- 1. Everyone knows that God doesn't treat all men the same way.
- 2. Everyone also knows that the repeated references to "to the Jew first" implies a distinction in God's treatment of humanity.
- B. He, in 2:12-15, is attempting to provide understanding.
- 1. In this series of verses he explains God's lack of partiality in judgment.
- 2. In this series of verses he makes the "bottom line" the issue of "sinning", and he makes the "way sinners are treated in terms of impartiality" the issue of what level of exposure they had to "law".
- a. The Day of Wrath as a revelation of the righteous judgment of God will deal with sinners.
- b. The Righteous Judgment will take into consideration the level of exposure the sinners had to true information about what was right and what was wrong.
- III. The Issue: What About "Level of Exposure"?
- A. Paul had two categories of "exposure".
- 1. There are those whom he characterizes as "without law".
- 2. There are those whom he characterizes as "in law".
- B. Paul had two levels of consequence on the basis of "exposure".
- 1. There is "perishing" for those "without law".
- a. This is rather "generic" in that "perishing" has an almost infinite variety of levels of experience, none of which are desireable.
- b. The definition of "perishing" has been given in 2:8-9 in four terms, all of which are "relative".
- 1) Indignation.
- 2) Wrath.
- 3) Tribulation.
- 4) Anguish.
- 2. There is "judgment" for those "in law".
- a. This is far more specific because "law" addresses specific actions with specific consequences.
- b. The "judgment" of those "in law" will be heavier because of the greater level of rebellion involved in knowing. [The law had one consequence for those who sinned without premeditation and a heavier consequence for those who sinned "with a high hand"].
- IV. Specifically, What "Level of Exposure" is Signified by "Without Law"?
- A. First, we must understand that the phrase "without law" does not mean "without any law of any kind" because Paul turns right around in 2:14-15 and proves that those "without law" actually have a law written upon their hearts.
- B. Second, we must understand that being "without law" only refers to a certain lack of specificity of understanding.
- 1. There is no such thing as "law-lessness".
- a. God is: therefore there is no place in time or eternity where the attributes of God do not exist.
- b. The attributes of God constitute Law: the attributes are inviolable and have extremely specific applicational implications regarding sin and righteousness.
- 1) They define what is sin.
- 2) They define what is righteousness.
- 2. There is no such thing as "complete ignorance"...i.e., a "blank mind".
- 3. There is only "relative ignorance and relative understanding".
- a. In Romans 1:20 Paul made the claim that all know that God is and is powerful.
- b. In Romans 1:32 Paul made the claim that all know the judgment of God regarding the broad brush strokes of right and wrong.
- c. In our text Paul reveals the presence of "law" as resulting in a higher level of understanding of the character of God and what it requires of creation.
- d. Thus, it should be obvious that those who have divine revelation are going to be significantly more informed than those who have only the rationality of cause and effect and are significantly stymied by the presence of strong delusions.
- C. Third, we must understand that being "without law" or "in law" are disastrous to the person who takes their particular form of "law" the wrong way.
- 1. There are two ways to "take" law -- whether it is very general or very specific.
- a. One approach to "law" is that it is a demand for performance backed by force.
- b. Another approach to "law" is that it is a revelation of Truth backed by provision.
- 2. The ways that "law" is approached have created two, simultaneously existing, but inalterably opposed, universes.
- a. The "law as demand" approach is "law as regulation" and it generates a mentality of rebellion and guarantees the coming of a Day of Wrath.
- b. The "law as provision" approach is "law as revelation" and it generates a mentality of cooperation and guarantees the coming of a Servant Kingdom.
- 3. The ways that "law" is approached are determined by the "T"heology of the person who is being affected by "law".
- a. If God is fundamentally The Enforcer, Law is Regulation.
- b. If God is fundamentally The Provider, Law is Revelation.