Board index Specific Bible verses, texts, and passages Jeremiah

Help me understand Jer. 31:33 and Rom. 2:15

Postby Wasabio » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:43 pm

I was wondering if you could help me understand differences between these two verses:

Jeremiah 31:33 - "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Romans 2:15 - "[The Gentiles] show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them"

The Jeremiah verse is talking about the New Covenant the Lord will make with his people, and the Romans verse is (presumably) talking about Gentiles who do not know God. Jeremiah says that the Jews do not yet have God's Law written on their hearts and minds, yet Paul in Romans says that the Gentiles have had "the work of the law" written on their hearts. How can this be?

Thank you!
Wasabio
 

Re: Help me understand Jer. 31:33 and Rom. 2:15

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:26 pm

Jeremiah is writing a prophecy of Israel's restoration to the land (chapters 30-31). It's a joyful, positive message in very dark days. The army of Nebuchadnezzar was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, and their demise was imminent. Jeremiah is prophesying that their exile will not be permanent, but rather the Lord will bring them back (31.10-11, 17).

There are three revelations regarding the restoration: (1) prosperity (vv. 27-30), a new covenant (31-37), and rebuilding (38-40). Pertaining to the covenant, when the nation is destroyed in 586, the Mosaic covenant will collapse. God will create a new relationship with His people (also spoken of by Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Malachi). The Mosaic covenant was truly broken, but not nullified. There will be a new covenant that is one sense a continuation of the old, but in another sense a genuinely new covenant, making a new beginning and a new dynamic in divine-human relations. First, it was given without conditions; two, it was written on hearts (unlike the Sinai covenant); three, it was grounded in a new act of divine grace, the forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31.34).

It will begin when the Israelites return to the land 70 years later (516 BC) and continue until David's offspring sat on the throne (Jer. 33.26) and established his everlasting covenant (Jer. 32.40). The first stage of fulfillment of this was with the coming of Jesus and His indwelling in us, but the final fulfillment of it all is still future.

Romans 2.15.

In Romans 2, Paul is arguing against the self-confidence of Jews that claimed they had automatic salvation because they were the people of God. Everyone, Paul claims, is a sinner—even Jews, and everyone is need of salvation.

Even Gentiles, who never had the Mosaic law, can be good people. They're still sinners, like every human. Ironically enough (for a Jew), some Gentiles were better people than some Jews! No matter: all are sinners and no one is justified by works, even if they do good works (moral behavior) without knowing about the Law. But the fact that they can be good without knowing the Law shows that God has put general revelation of Himself everywhere, and people are able to actually live good lives because they have an unwritten Law on their hearts (conscience).

Pulling it all together and answering your question.

The references are speaking about different things even though the same types of words are being used. Jeremiah is talking about special revelation, a covenant that God will effect eventually in the person of Jesus. This is a covenant of grace and forgiveness, not one of law and works. It will be grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit (the real heart-writer).

Paul is talking about general revelation—the inbuilt consciences of Gentiles that enable them to be good people even though they haven't seen the Mosaic Law.


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