Friday, June 13, 2014


In John Bunyan’s classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, there is an interchange between Christian and Worldly Wiseman in which Christian seeks counsel as to how to alleviate his burden.  Worldly Wiseman responds by directing Christian to a village named Morality: “CHRISTIAN: I know what I would obtain; it is ease from my heavy burden.  MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: But why wilt thou seek for ease this way, seeing so many dangers attend it? Especially since (hadst thou but patience to hear me) I could direct thee to the obtaining of what thou desirest, without the dangers that thou in this way wilt run thyself into. Yea, and the remedy is at hand. Besides, I will add, that instead of those dangers, thou shalt meet with much safety, friendship, and content.  CHRISTIAN: Sir, I pray open this secret to me.  MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: Why, in yonder village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality, a very judicious man, and a man of a very good name, that has skill to help men off with such burdens as thine is from their shoulders; yea to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way; aye, and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their burdens. To him, as I said, thou mayest go, and be helped presently.  His house is not quite a mile from this place; and if he should not be at home himself, he hath a pretty young man to his son, whose name is Civility, that can do it (to speak on) as well as the old gentleman himself: there, I say, thou mayest be eased of thy burden; and if thou art not minded to go back to thy former habitation, (as indeed I would not wish thee,) thou mayest send for thy wife and children to this village, where there are houses now standing empty, one of which thou mayest have at a reasonable rate: provision is there also cheap and good; and that which will make thy life the more happy is, to be sure there thou shalt live by honest neighbors, in credit and good fashion.  Now was Christian somewhat at a stand; but presently he concluded, if this be true which this gentleman hath said, my wisest course is to take his advice: and with that he thus farther spake.  CHRISTIAN: Sir, which is my way to this honest man’s house?  MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN: Do you see yonder high hill?  CHRISTIAN: Yes, very well.”

Paul wrote his epistle, Romans, to a church comprised of both Jews and Gentiles.  And while Paul's point in chapter 1 was to show the radical depravity of all mankind, his objective in chapter 2 was to show that Jew and Gentile alike were under condemnation.  The Jews of Paul's day typically looked down upon the Gentiles as being especially sinful and worthy of God's judgment.  In addition, many of them erroneously assumed that righteousness could be obtained by performing certain moral and religious works—the view held by Worldly Wiseman.

This chapter has application to any who would view themselves as being excluded from the description of mankind in chapter 1.  John Mitchell once said that chapter 1 was for the "down and out" while chapter 2 was for the "up and out.”  In other words if you, having read through chapter 1, applying God's indictment only to others and not to yourself, you have missed the point.  Chapter 2 is for you.  This particular chapter is profitable in that it speaks to the principles by which God judges sin.  That is something which is important to know if we are going to avoid the mistaken perspective of Worldly Wiseman.

Amongst the other truths affirmed regarding God’s judgment are these: 1) God judges sin according to His righteous standard (Romans 2:1-5); God shows no partiality in His judgment (Romans 2:6-11); God judges the secrets of men (Romans 2:12-16); God is not fooled by man’s religious hypocrisy (Romans 2:17-24).

Mere external observance of religious rules can never work to satisfy the righteous demands of our all-knowing and just God.  The village of morality (Romans chapter 2) was in even greater danger than the City of Destruction (Romans chapter 1).  In Destruction the danger was manifest; in Morality it was smothered and covered up.  Believing all to be well, the fear of pending judgment was mistakenly discarded.  But there is a judge who knows all and who will impartiality judge according to His own righteous standard.  True righteousness is what is needed, the kind that is “a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:29).  That kind of righteousness is availed to a man only through faith in Christ (Cf. Romans 3:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).  In Christ alone is safe refuge secured for those who seek to “flee from the wrath to come.”

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