Romans 2.17-29 – Carrots and peas

I want you to imagine going to the supermarket and buying some tins of food. Even if you never buy food in tins you can still imagine this…so you go to the supermarket and you think “What I need now is a tin of peas”, so you buy your peas, get home, open the tin to eat them for your lunch and find that you’ve actually bought a tin of carrots. I know, carrots are fresh and delicious and better not bought in tins, but, shock, your tin of peas is actually a tin of carrots. How would you feel? This tin is labelled peas, but it’s actually carrots.

You bought it in good faith, but the outer label doesn’t match the inner goods. 

Today Paul is writing as much to the Romans, 

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonour God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Just as calling yourself a tin of peas if you are actually a tin of carrots is wrong, so is calling yourselves a Jew if you actually aren’t, says Paul (vv.17-24). He says that if your outer label says something that your inner goods are not, our label is meaningless (v.25), and that, in reality, if our inner goods are right, correct, and proper, then our outer label will be regarded as right, correct, and proper, regardless of what it said previously (vv.26-27). 

As soon as we call ourselves Christians, followers of Jesus, or believers, we have a label to live up to. Sadly, when we inevitably don’t due to our inherent human nature we tarnish the label. Think how sad you were when you opened the peas and saw carrots…But, instead, we should be focused on what is inside, our inner goods. The inner goods receive praise not from man but from God, and He will change our label accordingly.

We focus on the inner person, which is being renewed day by day to conform to the image of Jesus.


Point to ponder – Does my outer label match my inner goods?


Prayer – Father, help me to focus on being a believer, on being a follower, on being a disciple. Help me today to think of this first and foremost, to live a life of righteousness that brings only glory to You and Your name. I pray that my actions match my words, and my deeds match my claims. Amen.

Romans 2.12-16 – Your moral compass

So often nowadays we hear people justifying their lifestyle by saying things like “Only God can judge me”, which of course is true. Or sometimes people get all morally relative and say things like “I’m a good person, I’ve never killed anyone.”, but the comparison game has to come to a head somewhere, doesn’t it. Often people are working from their own moral compass, that thing inside of us that tells us whether something is right or wrong, our conscience. But the problem is that our consciences can be violated, as a result of our inherent sinful nature, our conscience can not be so true, and our moral compass can point somewhere other than true north. Paul speaks to this in Romans 2.12-16,

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

We see that, basically, there is no excuse whether we have the law or not (v.12), and, actually, even if we hear the law, and even if we hear the Good News of Jesus, simply hearing doesn’t actually save us (v.13), we need to do something with it! 

Paul goes on to say that even those without the law in front of them can still abide by it because it is written onto their hearts (Jeremiah 31.33 and the New Covenant). This is a wonderful privilege we have; to be living under the New Covenant of grace and to have the law of the Lord written on our hearts. That still, small voice, the tug of the conscience from inside, our conflicting thoughts that accuse or excuse, this is all our moral compass at work.

Through being in right relationship with God the Father through faith in God the Son, Jesus, we have God the Holy Spirit living in us.

This guarantees us that our moral compass is pointing to the absolute True north and means that no matter the circumstance, situation, dilemma, or problem we may face that we always have the right path before us, because God has put His law within us, and it is written on our hearts


Point to ponder – Is my moral compass pointing True?


Prayer – Father thank you for the world changing, life giving sacrifice you made for us by sending your Son to die for our sins. We know that this was the turning point in the history of the world, and in our own lives too, when we came to acknowledge and accept this. Help us to keep our minds on your law, and help us to keep our moral compass pointing to You. Amen.


Interested in morality? Our worldview devotional series covers the four big questions a worldview has to answer; origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. 

Read it here.

Romans 2.1-5 – Me? Never.

We finished yesterday with a long and lewd list of sins that God has very clearly told us will lead to eternal separation from Him if we practice. The kicker was the last statement, not only those who practice, but those who give approval too. If you think about it, if you are endorsing and approving something, you are as good as doing it, you are saying that morally, you believe it’s ok.

The human part of us then looks at this list and becomes ultra defensive, ultra moral, and ultra judgmental. Something like 

Me, no, I would never A/B/C”, 

That’s horrible, I never…”. 

Paul starts chapter two by addressing this very attitude,

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

We know that at some point in our lives, we have walked this way. We know we were under bondage to something found in vv.26-31. They are a pretty all-encompassing group of flaws in the human condition. Paul is saying look, if you pass judgement on those who are still struggling and suffering with these sins, as a lifestyle, you condemn yourself, because we have all been there.

Here in this passage we see the way out of such bondage;

God’s grace past, present, and future. 

Paul writes do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience; kindness towards our old self, forbearance with our slowly learning and sanctifying self, and patience as we work towards who we will be one day. God treats us this way in order that we repent, which means to turn away from the old and head actively toward the new. This is not to be confused with remorse, feeling bad about what you did but then heading back to it.

We really should lose the judgemental, ultra moral mindset when confronted with a list of sins like Paul presented here, and humbly think, and know, that we too were once slave to this way of life. 

Through His amazing, saving, justifying, sanctifying, and ultimately glorifying grace we have been set free. We are free to turn away from the lives we once lived, and to move toward the life that He wants us to live, which simply has to begin, continue, and finish with faith in Jesus. 

When we see others still living this way, let us not judge. Let us thank God that we no longer are slave to sin, let us pray for those still under its grip, and let us model with our whole lives what faith in Jesus looks like. 


Point to ponder – Who was the person who didn’t judge me for living in sin, but instead showed me what a life lived by faith in Jesus looked like?


Prayer – Father again we ask that you help us not to judge those who are living in sin. We know this is your job, not ours. We also know that at one time we lived like this, but we also know that in an amazing demonstration of your love for us, Christ died for us whilst we were still sinners. For this we say thank you. For you kindness, forbearance, and patience we say thank you. Help us today to live a life of continued faith, of continued repentance, in your unending grace. Amen.

Romans 1.26-28 – The natural relationship

In an example of how far society has ‘progressed’ since the latter half of the nineteenth century, Charles Spurgeon would not read aloud this passage at church. In the house of God, the house of prayer, where His name is lifted, glorified, and His people are being sanctified, this passage was not to be read. It (and the following paragraph) contains practices that are not glorifying to God, neither are they truly edifying to His people. 

Sometimes the Word of God we read in our Bibles can be a little hard to really grasp, where knowing the context can make all the difference, or perhaps understanding the original languages. Romans 1.26-28 is not one of those passages. It details a sinful lifestyle as a punishment for sin. It details a way of life that, sadly, many gladly pursue in spite of what God says.

Paul wrote to a culture where homosexuality was celebrated. When we consider the emperor at the time was Nero, and when we consider the abhorrent sexual lifestyle he lived, as the ruler, we can see how little society has progressed. Paul writes to challenge this,

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

If we have exchanged the truth about God for a lie as we read yesterday, then one punishment for this is to be given up to dishonourable passions


The freedom to do as we please is, actually, a judgement in itself. 


We are actively working ourselves away from God when we choose to live in these kinds of ways, when we exchange natural relations as Paul puts it. Being given over to our debased minds and when we do what ought not to be done, we exchange the truth about God, the way He wants us to live, for a lie.

The lie that you can choose what will make you happy – God knows what will make you happy.

The lie that if nobody is being hurt its ok – God is being hurt by our choices, and ultimately so are we.

The lie that we know better than the all knowing, all powerful, all wise Creator of heaven and earth. We don’t. 

The natural relationship we are to pursue, bigger picture, is with God. When we pursue this relationship, He sends His Spirit to live in us, and all of our earthly relationships are reevaluated, reassessed, sometimes reinvigorated, and sometimes replaced. 


Point to ponder – Am I pursuing, first and foremost, the natural relationship of child to Father?

If yes, then how does this influence my thoughts about my earthly relationships?


Prayer today – Lord, help me to live today first as a believer in You. Help me focus first on the natural relationship of child to Father. Give me your perspective, your love for others, your heart for those around me. Help me to be the salt and the light in the community you have called me to. Help me to live for You today.

Amos 1.2-2.3 – The Lord roars

Sometimes we go deep in our teaching and devotions, sometimes we go wide to look at the general principle being communicated, it’s all part of taking the whole counsel of God’s Word. Yesterday was more of a deep dive into a singular verse, today a wide view of a chapter; what is being taught here?

Well, v.2 sets the tone for the coming chapters,

“…”The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”

Carmel is a mountain in Northern Israel we read of in 1 Kings 18 and serves as a reminder of idolatry and the enemies of Israel; basically they are going to shake at what is coming to them.

The rest of today’s passage is very formulaic, it follows a set pattern. Each of Israel’s neighbours (Amos almost drew a descending concentric circle around Israel as he wrote) has sin, upon sin, upon sin, upon sin; For three transgressions…and for four…I will not revoke the punishment…So I will send a fire…

In the Old Testament, fire is a very literal, physical tool used in the judgement of God, in the New Testament, it is more of a spiritual thing, think 1 Peter 1,

“6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The point from Amos 1.2-2.3 is this; even though these are not God’s people (that is tomorrow), even though they are not professing to live by God’s Word, abide in His will, follow His ways, even though they not believers their sinful lifestyle will still result in punishment from the just, righteous, Almighty God.

They are still humans made in His image, they still have to make a choice as to their eternal destination, and God still wants them to choose the right way, and through His absolute impeccable character and holiness will act if they do not.

Surely, then, this must motivate us to live the most consistent witness we can, to show people that there is another way to live.

Surely this should stoke the fires of evangelism within us, to tell people that there is another way through our words and ways.

And surely this should renew within us a healthy respect and reverential fear for our great God, to make us know deep down that He is so holy and just and righteous that the behaviours and lifestyles we read of here are simply not acceptable before Him.

There is some pretty challenging stuff to come in Amos, but, the last verse of the last chapter points to our salvation – and we will point to this verse often -, the reward for not living in sin, upon sin, upon sin, upon sin,

“I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.” (9.15).