Romans 2:17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
27 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?
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 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.
In verse 17 we see that those spoken of as having the law, are Jews. The Jews of Jesus’ day assumed they were good because they had the law. They had greatly corrupted it but that did not matter to them. There are many ways in which the Jews show us a picture into life in general. The Jews are God’s chosen people, but they are also descendants of Adam and Eve. They are born as lost sinners just like Gentiles are. They must be saved by repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, just like Gentiles. The Bible tells us we can learn from the life of the Jews as we study the Word of God.
Many religious Gentiles today behave just like the Jews in our text. They have a corrupted form of Christianity, but that does not matter to them. They call themselves Christians and that is all that matters. Modern day Christendom is in the dark when it comes to the definition of a Christian because they reject the Word of God.
In verse 18 God shows us that these Jews knew God’s will. They were not ignorant of the law. They claimed to be living by a higher standard than the Gentiles. They made that claim on the basis that they had been instructed out of the law. They were actually condemning themselves, claiming to know the law but not living according to the law.
In verse 19 they further claimed that they were the authority that the Gentiles should trust. This is certainly the mentality under which the Pharisees operated in the days of Jesus. It is also the philosophy Saul (Paul) functioned under prior to his salvation. He was out to stop the people of “this way”, because he claimed to have a superior understanding of the law of God and that those who believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah were not only mistaken, but they were interfering with the will of God. That was their assumption and they were quite convinced of that. In fact they were so convinced that they would pursue true saints to imprison them and even at times kill them.
In verse 20 God continued to lay out the delusional thinking of these spiritually lost people. The apostle Paul was directed by God to confront this mentality, publicly. The saints he was writing to in chapter 1 needed to understand that this brand of religion was poison.
These Judaizers preyed on the ignorant. They went after the foolish and babes. These would be those who were either lost or not well versed in the Scriptures. Notice that they were described as having a form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. They had a form, but they did not have the truth.
Many people today are impressed and deceived with a form of religion. They seem uninterested in the fact that all they have is a form. That is good enough for them. That is part of the lie of the devil as described clearly in II Corinthians 4:
II Corinthians 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
In verse 21 the question is brought to bear upon these hypocrites. They were quite eager to teach others, but how is it that they were not teaching themselves? Their hypocrisy was quite evident. Paul was directed to list some of the sins these Jews were involved in.
Theft takes on many forms. Jesus exposed the false teaching of the Pharisees with their unjust manner of offerings. In Mark 7 these false teachers were not willing to look after their aging parents, claiming the money the parents needed had been promised to God. They were lying about that. First of all their god was a false god. Secondly the money was going to enrich themselves. The Old Testament taught that children need to honour their parents. When parents get older they will need help from their grown children. They may just need some physical help, but they may also need material help. Not all parents are wealthy and in Bible times there was no government run pension. There still may be a need to help needy parents today. The important thing is for parents to be saved and thus have learned how to be frugal and for children to be saved and desire to be that help that God intends them to be.
The point is that theft is not just walking into a bank and robbing it.
In verse 22 the illustration is regarding adultery. A preacher or teacher that is divorced and remarried cannot teach someone else how to live. You cannot condemn any adulterer if you permit adultery. The same is true for idolatry. You may not have a statue of Mary in your house or yard, but you might be a covetous person. That too is idolatry.
In verse 23 Paul stated that to boast of law keeping and being justified by the law, requires faithfulness to the law. In breaking the law, these hypocrites were dishonouring God. We do not get to write a perversion of God’s law and call that good. We need to abide by God’s law if we are His children.
Again, law keeping does not save anyone. Law keeping does not secure anyone’s salvation. Law keeping can be an evidence of having been saved. Christians do not steal because they love the Lord. They do not commit adultery for the same reason, etc.
In verse 24 we see what the issue is here. These hypocrites were giving the Gentiles occasion to blaspheme God. That is what happens when a person claims to be saved, but chooses to make up his own rules of what salvation looks like.
Many people today have either adopted this ungodly brand of Christianity, or they despise the truth because of the lies they witness.
God’s standards are high, but they are also attainable in Christ. The lost can never meet God’s standard. The saved can and must meet them. Many lost people have no use for Christianity because they see the hypocrisy in what is called Christianity but is not.
In verse 25 Paul was directed to bring in the law of circumcision. This was a law given to the Jews. Gentiles are not called upon to be circumcised in the flesh. The circumcision of the flesh was a very clear picture of the spiritual circumcision that is required of all born again Christians. Spiritual circumcision is that cutting of the filth of the flesh from the heart. This can only be done by God. It takes place in salvation.
When a professing saved person lives in sin, they make circumcision void. It has no meaning. It accomplishes nothing. A person cannot be a saved person if they want to indulge in sin.
In verse 26 we are reminded that if the uncircumcised (Gentiles) keep the righteousness of the law, then are they not meeting the requirements of circumcision? In verse 27 we are reminded that the saved Gentiles would judge the unsaved Jews. That was something that was an insult to the Judaizers. How could a Gentile ever judge a Jew? God says that the saved Gentile is better than the unsaved Jew. The saved Gentile will put the unsaved Jew to shame by his godly lifestyle.
In verses 28-29 we are reminded that a true Jew is not one who has outward circumcision. It takes more than just a name to be saved.
The circumcision of the flesh means nothing if there is no circumcision of the heart. Many religions today equate “infant baptism” with circumcision. They do not even follow the Biblical definition of baptism, but they claim their perverted form is of merit and they teach that “infant baptism” is one of many works that may provide salvation.
In verse 29 we see that the true Jew is the one whose heart has been changed by God. Again we see God refuting the false teaching of works salvation. Biblical salvation is a convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the sinner. The sinner who heeds this work, turns to God in repentance and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
It is possible to assume that a person who seeks to live for God, is focussed on law keeping. That will be true for some of them. However, a true child of God will abide by the law of God because he has been saved. He does not do so in order to be saved. He is saved and thus he is motivated from within to obey the law of God. He desires to be that clear light that God has made him to be at the moment of salvation.