Performance not Privilege – Wednesday, 28th Week in ordinary time – Romans 2:1-11

We know that St Paul did not found the Church in Rome. Hence in writing to them he is eager to complete his mission of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles and where better to do it than in Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire. In this letter to the Romans Paul makes a great point, namely that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16). The whole purpose of the letter is to explain that all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, are guilty before God owing to sin, and that the only escape is through the free gift of God in the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.

Chapter two begins with the word ‘therefore’. This word indicates that something is being concluded before something else is being communicated. In the last chapter Paul painted a picture of the deplorable condition of the Gentiles. Clearly in 1:20 he states that the Gentiles are “without excuse” for “though they knew God they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him but they became futile in their thinking. Therefore God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity.” After his general indictment of the Gentiles, Paul shows that in spite of special revelations, the Jews enjoy no advantage in moral status before God over the Gentiles(Rom 3:1–8).

While writing his thoughts on the matter, St Paul also anticipated a whole class of people who would say “amen” to what he had said about the Gentiles in chapter two. Perhaps some of the Jewish Christians in Rome and even perhaps some of us in our homes today must be thinking, ‘how right Paul is; how terrible the world outside the Church has become, how deluded people are, perhaps even how deluded some of us used to be, before we followed Christ.’ But in saying this we also mean how righteous we are as compared to others. We wish to be set apart from the others because we believe that we are the moralist who have kept God’s word to the tee.

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