Day 4

True Obedience

from the Romans reading plan

Romans 2:17-29, Deuteronomy 10:12-17, Matthew 23:1-7

BY Melanie Rainer

In one of my seminary classes, we were to read Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, as well as—according to the syllabus—the book’s preface written by C.S. Lewis. Paying close attention to the syllabus (though not that close), I read both the preface and the introduction.

A few weeks later, during his lecture, the professor pointed out that we technically didn’t have to read the book’s introduction, but he said if we’d been smart, we would have. He explained this had been his intention—even if the syllabus hadn’t spelled it out explicitly.

Was he assuming we were mind readers? Not really. He just had expectations. 

At some point, we all give instructions—to colleagues, to children, to friends, to husbands—that may not be perfect or exact, but we hope the recipient will pick up on our intent, on the spirit of what we’re asking them to do. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. 

Paul is giving a similar instruction here to the Jewish Christians in Rome. He is echoing Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, asking Jesus’s followers to read deeper into the law. Paul tells them it’s not about following the letter of the law—it’s about following the heart of the One who wrote it. Paul’s laundry list of law-breaking activities in verses 21–23, reads similarly to what Jesus said in Matthew 5.

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘Do not murder; and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
—Matthew 5:21–22

Jesus preached these words to some who knew the law backward and forward, but He was holding up a magnifying glass to their hearts. They weren’t out murdering people—they were law-following Jews, after all—but what was going on in their hearts? Were they angry with their brother? Jesus said that they, too, are deserving of judgement. The spirit of the law was broken, even if the exact rule was not. 

Paul does the same for his readers. He questions their obedience to the law, but then he reminds them it’s the posture of their hearts that matters most. These proud Jewish Christians came from a long heritage of following the law. They too easily forgot that Jesus came to fulfill the law for them.

It’s not hard to see myself in the Jewish Christians of Rome, slipping back into trying to follow the rules rather than the One who wrote them. It’s easy to think my righteousness comes from acting the right way, rather than from “the Way” Himself (John 14:6). But as the psalmist tells us, “Wouldn’t God have found this out, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” (Psalm 44:21).

If I’m honest, what’s going on inside my heart is usually much uglier than how I act on the outside. Thankfully, Jesus came to wash me clean from the inside out. This is the beauty of the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit: to compel me to seek God’s heart first and obey His law by the help of His Spirit. 

Post Comments (69)

69 thoughts on "True Obedience"

  1. Tomisin Olaniyi Laseinde says:

    This one hit, I’ve been praying for the salvation of a loved one. And I realize my heart is unclean towards them as I’ve been filled with hate towards them over their life choices and the things that a life removed from God has caused them to do. My desire has not been from love, but because I’m hoping they’d stop hurting me if they find Jesus. I need God’s love in my heart for them.

  2. Joan Audrey Domosmog says:

    Me crying over :) day 4 and God is convicting.

  3. Jillian Schaeffer says:

    The inside is ugly! But the redeeming work of Christ the fulfillment of the law makes me righteous

  4. Maria Deleon says:

    I’m very behind but I’m doing the study on my time and I really enjoyed day 4.

  5. Mariah Addington says:

    Thank you Lord for reminding me that I am broken and messy without you. I need your grace everyday. Help me see others the way you see them.

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