For a more careful execution of this topic refer to my Romans series at The Bible Archive. My main point will be this: that the Gospel winds up being a practical help that can be used to cure any form of boasting evidenced in cynicism, pharisaicism and judgmentalism. To prove this, I’ll focus on Paul’s argumentation in Romans.
Most of us are familiar with Romans which is broken into four Gospel focused. Note the chart:
As a skeleton structure this means nothing but once we zoom in and examine Paul’s argument the implications become obvious.
Chapter three of the first movement finalizes a major dilemma, that all men, both Jew and Gentiles, are sinners before God and under God’s wrath. And yet, Christ became a propitiation for God’s wrath so that Sinners wouldn’t be wiped out. The section culminates with the love of God and the end of hostilities pointing out that the equal footing of both Jews and Gentiles before God: under His wrath, propitiated on behalf of God and justified by faith apart from works.
The second movement’s great dilemma is that man is besmirched and bemired by sin: they continue to sin because they are sinful. Both Gentiles and Jews find themselves law struggling with the carnal desires against conscience and/or command-moreso when the command becomes explicit. But this section also culminates in God’s solution once again in Christ. Both Jewish and Gentile believers have died in Christ and have risen in Christ and are therefore able to try to walk as perfect as God always demanded. There will surely be failures but God’s solution is not merely giving access to that bounty but providing all the power to generate that bounty. Specifically God imbues with His Sprit, has a plan for those in Christ to be conformed into the image of the Son, and they will surely be perfected. This section also culminates with the love of God and showing that God is altogether on the side of those who are in Christ.
The third movement’s great dilemma is potent: If God has discarded His promises to Israel how is it possible that He’ll keep His promises to those in Christ in regards to ensuring their ultimate conformation and glorification? Paul deftly argues that it’s not a matter of the created person’s desires but the fact that God has figured a way possible that no one stands head and shoulders above another in respect to race, creed, age-ranking or even works. All people stand on the same ground of God’s absolute right to show mercy giving Him unrestricted usage of His mercy. God can therefore freely show mercy to Israel and to Gentiles because it’s His prerogative. Of course, God can also choose to refrain from showing mercy and take an individual or group who already stands under His wrath and make that individual firm in their decision against God: they then become a vehicle of God’s wrath to save others. With these facts in place, Paul establishes the length of God’s mercy towards Israel and the fact that Israel is only partially hardened but will fully be realized in a later time-a time after the Gentiles have received their full mercy. The Gentiles stand on the mercy of God for Israel is partially hardened and the Jews stand on the mercy of God since they’re only partially hardened and not full-on. In fact, the Gentiles are being saved to provoke Israel to jealousy but how much greater (argues Paul) will it be when the Jews finally do believe. This section winds up culminating in the wisdom of God.
The final movement then deals with a great problem which is an expansion of Chapter 7. The Church is a new entity where she stands on God’s mercy, love and wisdom and promised to be perfected but her members are wracked by their old sinful ways. Therefore God’s solution is this Measure of Faith. This is not a little faith for X person or a little faith for Y person: that would be contrary to Paul’s constant argument that no one has a reason to boast.
The measure is a measuring rod, or a ruler-stick, of the object of Faith which is Christ Himself. There was wrath, Christ propitiated; there was sin, Christ empowered; there was needs for mercy, Christ was provided; there was need for love, Christ illustrated; there was need for wisdom: God was personified and died. So this measuring rod winds up being used for everything.
Like a regular measuring stick asks “How long is this?” this stick does the same thing. Yet the question this measuring rod wants to answer is twofold. Question one: How do I measure up to God’s Gospel? Question two:Do They stand on the same ground (before God) as Me?
Constantly through the final chapters of Romans the measuring rod is used.
- How does it work in the body of believers? We’re all segments of a Whole, saved by grace, justified by faith, standing on God’s mercy and equipped by His Sprit to function as a whole.
- How does it work in the government? We are sinners, just as they, the powers that be are established by God therefore we are to respect them as God ordained.
- How does this work in regards to things that are doubtful? Christ died for me while I was still a sinner and Christ died for Them while they were still sinners: should I then beat them down over food when they stand before Christ and His righteous decisions?
- What about dealing with these legalistic Jews in our church? Well, both Jews and Gentiles stand on the same ground but they have the commandment that really makes them aware of their sinfulness-just as myself with my conscience.
- Should I rob them of their convictions if they stand before God’s mercy, wisdom and love?
So here finally is my concluding practical point. Cynicism looks at everyone else as having some ulterior selfish motive. Pharisaicism is that position where we look at all others as beneath us. Judgmentalism is that position where we self-righteously preside over others in matters that aren’t black or white and in fact, may be extremely minute. In each of these positions we’re stepping away from the Gospel’s message (you are a sinner, you have no place to stand but the same ground as those next to you, beneath God’s wrath, on top of His Mercy, needing His Love and grateful for His wisdom in sending His Son who died so that Humanity may live). But when we step back under the shadow of that cross, we are put on the same level with everyone else: completely reliant on the Lord. We can’t be cynical, pharisaic or judgmental since we don’t have that prerogative.