There is an old saying, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” If something is good for one person, then it should apply equally to another as well. Today we talk about equality. The word implies impartiality and fairness. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world were things like pride creates a false sense of superiority. One of the worst forms of superiority can come when someone thinks they are better than another because of their religious practices. Paul was addressing this very problem in the Roman Church.
Our text this week is Romans 2:17-29. The Roman church was composed of both Jewish believers in Christ as well as gentile believers. It appears that there was division in the church along those lines. Those from the Jewish background were experiencing pride. While it was easy to charge the gentiles with sin, they were having a harder time applying that label to themselves. They had mistakenly come to believe they were righteous by virtue of their religious tradition and participation in religious ritual. In these verses Paul takes a veritable sledgehammer against that position.
Paul wants both the gentile and Jew to understand that “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God” (Rom. 3:10-11). As believers in Christ we must never forget that we are saved by Christ, and only by Christ. While we are called to worship, witness, and serve, none of those things makes us better than another person. Indeed, God’s law has a leveling effect. As one preacher rightly said, “the ground is even before the cross.” Paul puts it this way, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of Sin” (Rom. 3:20).
If God’s law does what it was designed to do, it will break a person of their pride as it reveals to them why they stand condemned before a holy God. That has always been the purpose of the law. It was never meant to be a steppingstone into God’s presence, but an anvil that smashes pride and self-righteousness into dust. After the law has done its job, a person is prepared to meet their Savior. Only through faith in Jesus can a person be made righteous (Rom. 10:1-4).
The benefit the Jews did have is that “The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). Like them, the church has the distinct privilege of being entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We reveal the gospel best when we show the world how it can change a poor needy sinner into a true lover of God. God desires to put His people on display. Not to show forth their righteousness, but to demonstrate his mercy and love to a sinful and condemned world (Rom. 5:8). When the world sees the church, they should only see humble sinners praising Jesus for His salvation. Saved sinners are God’s best advertisement for salvation (1 Tim. 1:15).
While in seminary, I heard the testimony from a man and woman who were notorious sinners. She was a former prostitute and he was a former drug dealer. They both spoke of Jesus’ love and mercy towards them. As I listened to their testimony, I was struck by the fact that they were sharing the same stage as the president of the school as well as some notable theologians. Indeed, the ground is level before the cross.