It Is Not the Hearers of The Law Who Are Righteous

(Romans 2:12-16)

If there is one thing that defines what civilisation is, it is the rule and structure of law. The establishment of a society based upon a set of agreed and accepted laws is what enabled societies to build, grow and prosper.

It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous but the doers of the law
It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous but the doers of the law

And even today the rule of law is seen to be a great and marvellous thing. Our societies hold up the law and those who practice and pursue the law as something marvellous. Our TV shows and movies often depict the law as something to be esteemed and as being the ultimate arbiter between good and evil.

People also turn to governments to resolve all manner of issues and conflicts, problems and breakdowns, as they expect the lawmakers to be able to solve their problems for them. There is an expectation that the governments can and should be able to resolve all the difficulties and problems faced by society through the establishment of laws that will bring about a greater good.

But they are wrong. And there is a very simple reason why people have made the mistake of believing the law is or can be a panacea for all the ills of humanity, and the reason is contained in these few words of scripture.

Hearing versus Doing The Law

Paul wrote in this section of scriptures in verse 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.

There are many people who highly esteem the law, whether it be the laws and instructions of the land or the laws of God, but they do not do what the law says. They claim to believe the law is good, but then they choose not to follow what the law says.

There are those who cry out for the government to help them or to save them from all kinds of issues when they have often fallen into the problems they face because they chose to reject the laws that would have kept them safe. They will oppose authority, slander governments and police and then be the first and most vocal to call upon governments or police to enforce the law when they are in difficulties.

They know the laws but choose to twist the law to their own ends and their own advantage.

These people are those who Paul described as being hearers of the law but not doers of the law. They choose to deliberately and unashamedly reject the law even when they know full well what the law says to protect them and others. They are the people who drive under the influence, speed in built up areas contrary to what the law says and cause accidents on the road, killing or maiming others and then seek compensation from governments for not making the roads safe when they are injured.

And it is the same for those who disobey the laws of God and suffer the consequences of their actions.

Consider the food laws as a simple example. Under the laws of Moses you can eat anything from the sea that has fins AND scales. So any fish is OK to eat. But shellfish such as scallops, oysters, crayfish, lobster and the like that do NOT have fins and scales are not to be eaten. And you can guarantee almost 100% of the time when there is an outbreak of food poisoning from seafood it is due to these types of seafood that are not of the fins and scales varieties.

The laws of God were given to man for our benefit, not for His benefit. The laws of God were given to man to help us to live happier, healthier and better lives so that we do not come to harm physically or spiritually. God's laws promote harmony between man and God, man and his fellow man, and also for a man and himself.

So when someone wilfully chooses to reject Gods law that was given for their good and instead chooses to do what is wrong, then they are going to suffer the consequences of that wrongdoing.

It is not simply enough to know what the law says, you have to do it too. You have to obey the laws both of God and man if you want to reap the benefits of the laws. If you want to be happy, healthy, safe and secure you have to both know and do what the law requires.

But there is still an even better way which came about through Jesus Christ.

Freedom From Law

Having read what I have written above it may seem strange to recognise that one of the principle reasons for Jesus coming to the world was to set man free from the law. And this is exactly what He came to do, to fulfil the requirements of the law without sinning so that He could provide a way to escape from the law.

So if the law is so good, and if in the law we have the wisdom of God written to help us live happier and healthier lives, why would God want to set us free from something that is good through the coming of Jesus Christ? Why is it necessary that we should be set free from the law if the law is good?

Well the simple answer is that man cannot keep the laws of God and the failure to keep Gods law or the breaking of Gods law is sin.

God does not want us to sin and sin is the one thing that stands between man and God. It is sin that prevents God from helping man and restoring man to the perfection man had when God created man in Adam and Eve.

So if man continues to sin by breaking the law, and if it is the law that stands condemning man as a sinner, and if God wants to help man achieve perfection once again then God had to firstly remove sin, which He did by offering Jesus Christ as the perfect sacrifice for sin, but then He also had to remove the law so that we could no longer break it and thus sin.

This is why freedom from law was so important and why it is one of the most important aspects of why Jesus Christ came and died. It was so that by the removal of the law, which we accept by faith when we take the death of Jesus upon ourselves, we could cease from sin as we accept His death as our own.

When we go through baptism in water we believe by faith that we are dying with Christ and accepting His death as our own, and being raised with Him as we are lifted out of the water to be reborn or born again as new creations in Christ Jesus.

And because the law ceases to be binding on a person once they have died, as it says in Romans 7:1, we are set free from the law because through faith we believe we have died with Jesus Christ. And just as Abraham was declared righteous by faith when he believed God, we too are declared righteous by God when we believe in what He has done through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to wash away our sins and to release us from the law so that we can be reconciled to God ready for Him to come to us and help us have the full victory and be restored to the perfection He meant man to have when man was created.

Commitment Versus Compliance

So what about the law then? If we are no longer under the law does that mean we can do whatever we want, as some people slanderously suggest?

No of course we can't. As I have already said, the law contains the wisdom of God to help us know right from wrong, good from evil and to enable us to live happier and healthier lives both physically and spiritually. Just because you are set free from the law does not mean you reject what it says.

For example, if I am now free from the law and go out and eat a mess of oysters that have been sitting out in the sun a bit too long, I cannot expect not to get ill or even to die just because in Jesus Christ I have been separated from the law. Only a fool would reject the laws of God that were given to help, not hinder.

And this brings us back to the scripture in Romans 2 that says it is the doers of the law who are righteous and not just the hearers of the law.

What God seeks is for His people to do what is right…ALWAYS. He wants people to do what is right because it is the right thing to do, not because the law says it is right but because it IS right.

The Lord is seeking people who are committed to doing what is right rather than compliant to the law. He wants commitment not compliance.

Compliance suggests punishment. Do this and don't do that or else expect to be punished. That is what compliance is and that is the way the law works, whether the laws of God or the laws of the land. There is always the “big stick” waiting to punish those who do the wrong thing when they do not comply with the requirements of the law.

But commitment says I want to do what is right because it is the right thing to do. I want to do what is right for both my own benefit and to please God because there is the promise of good things in doing what is right. Commitment is not about punishment but about reward. It is about receiving good things rather than avoiding bad things.

It is about looking at things differently. Looking at things through eyes of wisdom and insight rather than fear or suffering. It is a mindset and the way we look at and approach all situations that makes the difference.

Consider it like this. Some people think that if they do the right thing they are somehow missing out. They feel they are paying a price or bearing a cost by doing what is right. Such people often consider themselves as martyrs for their cause, which they believe to be right and may be long-faced and appear to be suffering.

The truth is though that you do not suffer for what is good and right, you enjoy the benefits of doing what is good and right. It's all about perception and mindset.

Zig Ziglar once used an analogy about exercising that fits well with this changing of your mindset. He said, “You do not pay the cost for exercising, you enjoy the benefits of it.” Sure there are some initial aches and pains when you start to exercise to get fitter, but when you feel the strength in your body and you don't tire as quickly and your heart and lungs pump better and your body is able to throw off sickness more quickly, that is when you realise the benefits of an exercise program.

And it is the same with God and the laws of God whether we are under them or set free from them. We reap the benefits of doing what is right because it is right. We receive the righteousness of God through doing what is right, not just by hearing what is right. And the key to all of this is faith for it is only by and through faith and the grace of God that we are able to receive His righteousness.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Scott Anderson)

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