Ok so by now you’ve realized I am literally posting answers to weekly assignments due for the current class de jour, Romans.  It is an intense 7-week class, rifled with readings and cross-references and Scripture verses and Paul and themes and…yowzers.  Brain-wracking stuff.  But I like non-stop, I crave and devour learning new things, and I am honestly trying to understand what God expects of us so I no longer make the dumb ass mistakes I’ve made for oh, roughly 42 years, 1 month, and 16 days.

Below is my submission to the last part of question 2 of 3, all due Thursday by 11:59pm.  This one made me cringe.  Mostly, because it’s questioning “the law” and I (zip it, those of you who will suddenly let out a “Nah…Really?“) immediately realized that I HATE TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO.  When I respect you, when I’ve known you for a while, when we are officially friends – I will welcome your kind advice with open arms instead of an iron clad fist.  But lead with telling me what to do and it’s all over.  Once, in the midst of my dating debacles, I remember receiving a text which read, “Such and such and address, 7:30, dress to impress!”  It took me all of half a nanosecond to realize he was an idiot and I am a (sometimes) bitch who has had her fill of idiots.  So, I text Chels: 

Can you believe this?  I am seriously vacillating between showing up in sweats or showing up in a leather dress and 5″ heels.  What do you think?

What the f*k does vacillating mean?

And there you have it.  Our covenant relationship.

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2C.  Paul clarifies the effects of original sin and the issue of whether or not individuals are recipients of the law by stating that “All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law” (Rom. 2:12-13). Regardless of ethnicity, Paul is establishing that all men stand condemned before God – whether they have the law or not.  Once he discusses the Gentiles who are not in possession of the law but who keep the requirement of the law, the idea of “heart circumcision” is introduced (2:25).  By keeping the requirement of the law, the Gentiles are showing that the law is “written on their hearts” (2:15), i.e. that they too have the essence of God’s legal requirements already ingrained and as such, are just as much without excuse as the Jews who possess the law.  A basic sense of “moral” custom is the take away here, whereas Paul also denotes deeds prescribed by the Mosaic Law to define “works of the Law” (2:15; 3:20; 3:27; 3:28; cf. Gal. 2:16, 3:2, 3:5, 3:10).
What is distinctive about the phrase “the works of the Law” is the complexity surrounding how those works are done, or if they even are.  Meaning, what is Paul’s exact point and end goal here?  His claim in 3:20 that “no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law” is seemingly a big deal, and one that must be explored further.  In the quest of further exploration, Blackwell tells us that consulting the only other Jewish text outside the Pauline corpus – 4QMMT, or the six Dead Sea Scrolls found beside Qumran (4Q394-4Q399) – is smart discovery work.[1]   When combining the Scrolls, the single text restored essentially states that some works of the law are beneficial to the recipients and it will be reckoned to them as righteousness when they do what is upright and good in God’s presence, for the good of themselves and Israel (SC 26-32, summarized).
One way to reconcile the text’s “works of the law” is to view it as a summary for the instructions found in its interpretative comments section which deals with some of the commandments in the Torah – specifically twenty-four different commandments that also include the community’s (recipients) own view about how these rules of behavior are to be applied.  However, another way to understand “the works of the law” may be in its reference to observingthe Torah, whereby the focus is not on the application of behavior according to the Torah, but rather on the individual human agent obeying what the Torah commands.[2]
While the distinctions are ambiguous at best and mind-boggling at worst, the bottom line seems to be that by “the works of the law,” Paul meant it as a reference to the works required by the law grounded in the overall purpose of the letter, which is to motivate the readers to do certain things – the “works of the law” are to be observed[3].  And…be observed.
This matters in so far as how whatever needs to be done in observing the works of the law equates to righteousness.  Because ambiguity again reigns with regard to Paul’s sense of linking righteousness with something (i.e. faith, etc.), he draws on a modification of a scriptural claim found in Ps. 143:2:  “for no one living is righteous before you” to serve his purpose of defining this as best we may understand.  In comparison with God, no one is righteous and by the attachment of “by the works of the law,” Paul shifts the focus so the declaration accentuates the means by which a person cannot become righteous before God. 
All this to say (I think) – while the law is an absolute, a guideline, a clear message from God, “doing” the law won’t make you righteous before God; if they (we) are to be righteous (referring to a mode of relationship to the Law set in contrast to faith in Christ), we cannot use “works” in the sense of striving for self-achievement apart from God.  Observance of the Mosaic Law was more a response to a gracious God in order to demonstrate the individual’s covenant relationship. 
The same holds true today for those of us not under Mosaic Law – we should want to observe certain “rules” or “laws” in response to our love of someone with whom we are in relationship.  But not everyone who does something for us will we enter into relationship.  Relationships are a matter of the heart (2:15), and none is more profound in meaning yet simple at its core than what Paul is teaching here.  An outpouring of love and observance of the law is shown in response to how we feel about God.  Once we know – absolutely know with unwavering certainty – how we feel about Him, then our actions align and those resultant works which we do are in responseto that unbreakable, solid bond demonstrating to all that we believe in a covenant relationship.  A love stated but followed up with inaction is fooling no one, least of all God who knows all.


[1]Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Pgs 52-53. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2015.
[2]Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Page 54. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2015. 
[3]Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Page 54. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2015.