(For Part 1 of this study, Please Click Here)
4.) Training In God’s Word
“…being instructed out of the law” (Romans 2:18c)
The Greek word used for “instructed” here is katacheo. It is the word that we get “catechism” from.
The idea is not simply learning a little bit of God’s Law here and there, but rather being brought up in it from the time of childhood. The Jews in that day, like Orthodox Jewish families today, began teaching their children about the Law of Moses from the time they were very young. These people were not just familiar with what God’s Word said, they knew it very well.
5.) Teaching God’s Word
“And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.” (Romans 2:19-20)
Because of the rigorous training in the Word of God that they had, they felt confident to teach others. We should note from the language here that it wasn’t for pure reasons that the Jews sought to teach others. Paul uses the terms “blind”, “babes”, and “foolish” to summarize the Jews’ description of those whom they taught. It wasn’t a desire to glorify God by sharing His truths with the Gentiles who had not been given the Law, it was condescending arrogance and religious pride that motivated them to give instruction.
“Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?” For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” (Romans 2:21-24)
Worse than the prideful arrogance was the hypocrisy. The very sins that they were preaching against, they were committing!
What About Today?
When it comes to hypocrisy among those who have studied and teach the Word of God, we scarcely need to go into any detail. Just mention the words hypocritical Christian or hypocritical preacher and most people have no trouble thinking of plenty of examples on their own. This is the terrible truth of the matter.
Aside from their own self-deception, the greatest tragedy of this type of behavior is shown to us in verse 24:
“…The name of God is blasphemed…through you.”
When our “walk” isn’t in line with our “talk”, those who are outside of the Church notice. When we begin to tell others about sinful man and the judgment of God, believe me, they are going to watch and scrutinize everything that we do and say. And Who do you think they mock and reject when we prove that we are not the real deal?
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
It is God’s reputation that is at stake when anyone declares that they are one of His. Non-Christians are not watching Christians because they think that Christians are anything special, they are watching to see if God really does bring change into the life of a believer. They are watching to see if what we are telling them about God is true or not. They tend to get nervous when they see no visible sin in the life of a Christian, because if it is possible for someone else to really live a holy life, then maybe God is expecting them to do the same. That is why there is such a relief to the non-Christian when a child of God falls because, in their mind, it confirms their suspicions and frees them from any expectation to come to God and turn from their own sin.
What message are our own words and actions sending? Are people blaspheming or glorifying God because of us?
6.) Religious Ritual
“For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” (Romans 2:25)
In Genesis 17:10-14, God first declared the sign of His covenant with Abraham, the sign of circumcision which would identify the Jews as part of that covenant. This would become the identifying mark of all males within the nation of Israel.
But the sign of the covenant was just that, a sign. The rite of circumcision did not justify a man with God. Over time, the Jews had begun to place the emphasis on the act of circumcision itself as meeting the requirements of God’s Law, rather than it being a sign that a person was under that Law and was, therefore, obligated to fulfill its requirements.
Circumcision was really a badge of identification that a person was a Jew, had received the Law of Moses, and was living under that Law. But being circumcised no more fulfilled a person’s responsibilities to that Law than putting on a badge and uniform fulfills a police officer’s responsibilities to the law of the land. It’s a start, but a certain type of behavior and responsibility is expected after they put that badge and uniform on.
Using the same analogy, we know that if a police officer is a lawbreaker, then their badge doesn’t really do them a whole lot of good. They are a hypocrite for breaking the very laws they are sworn to uphold and, when they are caught, they are judged and punished just like any other lawbreaker. Actually, the judgment is often harsher because they are expected to know better. Don’t you believe that God is going to judge more harshly those who should have known better, as well?
“Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?” (Romans 2:26-27)
Verse 25 says that circumcision benefits a man if he keeps the Law of Moses. But if he is a lawbreaker, then he might as well not be circumcised at all. The police officer’s badge is a symbol to the entire world that he is a man under authority and responsibility, that they hold a special place within the government of the land. But if they are a lawbreaker, then they might as well take the badge off, they’re a hypocrite.
The sad truth of the matter is that there were actually Gentiles who, even though they did not have God’s written Word, followed the requirements of the Law better than many of the Jews. Now, we know from reading on in Romans Chapter 3 that there are none who live up to God’s standard, Jew or Gentile, so the idea in these verses is not that any person, Jew or Gentile, will be justified by keeping the Law of Moses. Galatians 2:16, like Romans 3:20, also tells us that no flesh shall be justified by the works of the Law. The point of verses 25 and 26 is that circumcision itself is not what makes a person in right standing with God. Having the sign of being under the Law doesn’t fulfill the requirements of the Law, only complete obedience of the Law does.
What About Today?
There are similar ideas about performing certain rituals believed by some within the Church and even taught by certain denominations today. I might step on a few toes here, but I hope that you will hear me out on this. There are certain rites and sacraments within the Church that were NEVER intended to be a substitute for genuine faith in Christ.
The very best explanation I have ever heard concerning Baptism is that it is an outward sign of an inward change. Baptism is a wonderful thing given to the Church but, like circumcision was to the Jew, it serves as a badge, a sign of our relationship with the Lord. If the relationship is not there then the sign is not going to be a substitute for it. If the inward change has never happened, then the outward sign is of no benefit.
Baptism and Communion (or the Eucharist) are important and the Lord has given us instructions to observe them both. But He never intended us to look at the observance of them as what brings Salvation. We observe these things BECAUSE we are saved by faith in Christ, not so that we may BECOME saved. This is very important for us to see because that is the whole point of Romans 1:18-3:20, to strip every person of every substitute and every false assurance that they have, leaving every one of us with absolutely nothing to depend on to make us justified before God Almighty but faith in the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. If there is any straw which we are grasping in order to justify ourselves before God, then we are not relying on Jesus Christ alone.
“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:” (Colossians 2:11)
This is the circumcision that matters, the one on the inside. This is the circumcision that only God sees within us, that of the heart.
7.) A Holy Appearance
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:28-29)
And here is the summary of the other 6 things we have considered: It is not our holy appearance to people that makes us right with God, it is our inward faith. That is what saves us from God’s righteous judgment, faith in Jesus Christ. NOTHING else. When it comes to Salvation, this is the only factor considered: Are you trusting in Christ or are you trusting in something else?
A holy outward appearance might bring us the “praise of men” but it does nothing to impress God. Often, a self-righteous person is much harder to reach with the Gospel than an unrighteous person because they are so unaware of their need for a Savior. They are not going to see the need to come to Christ because they see nothing wrong with themselves.
What About Today?
Here is another area where everybody can think of plenty of examples that they themselves have personally witnessed. We all know that those whose lives appear to be the most holy and righteous are very often the ones who are hiding the most. They try too hard to convince everyone else of their piety and devotion and end up only fooling themselves. They lose out on the praise of God because their Christian walk is not genuine and they lose out on the praise of men that they so desperately crave by being so obviously phony that they become a laughingstock. And even those who are able to convince others of their “extreme holiness” end up isolated because, rather than possessing the humility and compassion that comes with a true relationship with Christ, they are arrogant and condescending in their self-righteousness.
There are those who adorn the walls of their house with beautifully framed plaques of Bible verses or the Ten Commandments. Their coffee tables are covered with Bibles and Christian books. Shiny crosses hang on chains around their necks, resting on t-shirts splattered with verses of Scripture or catchy “Christian” parodies of popular name brand logos. Metal “Christian fish” ornaments and Christian bumper stickers decorate their cars. They are always talking about the church they attend or the home Bible study they lead and are quick to loudly condemn any behavior in those around them that might be questionable.
But are all of these outward “signs” backed up by an inward conversion? Is their heart circumcised and can people see Jesus Christ Himself in them and in their life, or do they just see the symbols?
I am not saying there is anything wrong with wearing a cross necklace or having a Christian bumper sticker, but when the person wearing that cross or driving that car is living in such a way that their actions contradict these statements, they are doing more harm than good. Like we mentioned earlier, it is God’s reputation that suffers when those who claim to belong to Him turn out to be hypocrites.
We can be born into a solid Christian home, we can read the Bible from cover to cover, we can say how wonderful we think the holy Word of God is, we can graduate from the best Bible college and Seminary in the world, we can preach week after week from the pulpit of the biggest church in the country, we can get baptized and partake of Communion every single day, and we can drive around in a car loaded with Christian bumper stickers, dressed in a bright orange shirt with John 3:16 emblazoned on it, and park only long enough to hand a tract to every single person we meet. But not one of those things will get us any closer to being saved from God’s righteous judgment.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:20-23)
The people mentioned in this passage point out some pretty impressive reasons why they feel they should be saved. The activities they mention make it look like they are doing all the right things. What’s the problem?
“I never knew you.”
They are calling Him Lord, but their lives testify otherwise. They are relying on the outward signs to save them, not the inward faith. They are trusting in what they have done, not what Christ has done.
I’ve listed 7 things that will not save you from God’s righteous judgment, but that is not the entire list. The complete list is much longer. It includes every single thing there is but one:
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV)
Are you trusting in Jesus Christ for Salvation, or something else?
New International Version (NIV)
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