February 6, 2011

Romans #5

Romans 2:17-29

Now Paul addresses the Jews. He makes it clear to them that they also need God's gospel. He first sums up a number of things in which the Jews boasted. They boasted that they were in connection with God. They were confident they could be leaders, lights, instructors and teachers in divine things because they thought they knew God's will through the law. They imagined others were inferior: blind, in darkness, foolish and babes. They felt superior and elevated above other people. And God had revealed His will to them in the law. What they didn't realize was that first of all they had to obey it. (Commentary on Romans, M.G. de Koning)

The Roman General, Pompey the Great, 106 BC-46 BC, intervened in a Jewish civil war between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the first century BC. As a result, Pompey sent to Rome a great number of Jewish prisoners to be sold as slaves. The Jews proved to be so determined to continue in their Jewish rites and rituals, that the Romans chose to set them free in order to keep a reasonable peace in the city. Rome assigned to them a place close to the city. Josephus tells us that 4000 were banished from Rome at one time, and even a greater number were punished who refused to become Roman soldiers.

So there was very large Jewish population at Rome. The gospel had made its way back to Rome from Peter's sermon in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The gospel worked its power among both the Jews and the Gentiles, and the church there became known for its faithfulness to what it knew of the gospel.

It is evident that the church at Rome was made up of Jews and Gentiles, but seemed to be dominated by Jews. The Jews were proud of their heritage, and held the Gentiles as second class Christians, so the church basically had two camps.

Paul deals with their pride, proving that both Jews and Gentiles are equal before God.

We should note that there are no Jews today as Paul dealt with in this book.

A reason for this book was to reconcile the two factions into one united body. It appears that the two parties were trying to defend their particular opinions.

When we think of "the church", we think of a local congregation. However, "church" is used as a general statement to include all believers. By that, I mean that the church at Rome was made up of many groups that were meeting in the name of Christ. So it is possible that the two "factions", were meeting separately—one group for the Jews and one group for the Gentiles.

The problem Paul is dealing with was probably like the one addressed by Paul in Galatians2:

13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

In other words, though Peter saw the vision that joined the Jews and Gentiles in the faith, he still had a problem with dissimulation, or hypocrisy.

I find the opening of this book somewhat confusing. Paul started this letter highly complementing this church. Now he speaks quite strongly against divisions between the Jews and the Gentiles. It almost makes on think he is writing to a different group that what he complements in his greeting. In fact, his words get so strong that he seems to be addressing the Jews who are completely outside the faith.

From Paul's words, we see that the Jews were exalting themselves over the Gentiles. They had been special in God's eyes, and had even been given the Law by which God will judge the world through Christ Jesus. So Paul starts his letter with some general statements:

First, proves that all men are natural sinners.
Second, all men have the written law of God–Gentiles in their hearts, and Jews in both their hearts and in the revealed commandments, making the Jews more accountable before God.
Third, God is no respecter of persons, Jew of Gentile.

Paul's progression here is interesting.

1. Pleasant toward the church
2. Identifies the downward trend of all mankind
3. More specific in condemning all professed Christians for their hypocracy
4. More specific in condemning the Jews for their haughty spirit
5. More specific, v. 17ff., in condemning these Jews at Rome for their pride over the Gentiles.
6. More specific, v. 29, as he "cuts off" the proud Jews from being Jews, and replaces them with those with the circumcised heart.

In v 17, Paul starts directly addressing the Jews, showing that regardless of their high sounding regard for the law, they were no better than the Gentiles. Under the influence of the Spirit, Paul shows that though he had never met them, he was not ignorant of the attitudes of their heart. He was speaking with knowledge.

He tells the Jews that they were a peculiar people. The Jews had been set apart from the nations of the world to receive the written revelation of God, and to have his presence among them.

Thou art called a Jew, particularly by religion rather than by birth. It was to be an honorable title, for salvation was of the Jews, and they were proud of that fact. Though they were to be set apart for the glory of God, they were among the most wicked of men.

There were many evil practices under the name Jew:

Many of the synagogue of Satan were Jews, Revelation 2:9: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

In Matthew 3:7-9, John the Baptist called them a generation of vipers:

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

And today, there are many evil practices under the best name, Christian. And the world delights in shining the light of public knowledge on such Christians.

restest... They rested in the fact that the law was among them, and they were the people of the law. It was in their books, and in their synagogues. They were puffed up with their privilege, and considered it enough to bring them to heaven.

But Paul points out all the law was to them was a source of pride. They rested their souls in the speical privilage of the law, yet were far from their eternal secutity.

It is a dangerous thing to rest in whatever external privileges we might think we have.

boast... Spiritual pride is destructive. I cannot count those who when they found I was a pastor would tell me how much they loved the Lord, yet their works did not correspond with their profession.

Christians also can boast like this about knowing the Bible. They tell others how to behave, but they have never seen themselves in the light of the Bible. They only know it for others. They may condemn stealing if someone else does it, but if they do it, they call it taking something to which they have a right. Similarly, they say it's wrong to commit adultery, but they forget the Lord Jesus said that "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." They know an idol is an abomination, but they do not mind using their time, strength, property, intelligence, etc. for themselves instead of for God. So, if someone is boasting of knowing the will of God, but is not obeying it in his life, he then dishonors God. Isn't it true that God's name is blasphemed because people go to some religious meeting on Sunday, but during the rest of the week they try to enrich themselves as much as possible at the expense of others?

Illustration: Some time ago, a man visited from Cumberland. He got here early, and while waiting for us to start, was telling how much he loved the Lord and the word of God. The message that day concerned divorce. He had been divorced and remarried, and never came back.

Christians also can boast like this about knowing the Bible. They tell others how to behave, but they have never seen themselves in the light of the Bible. They only know it for others. They may condemn stealing if someone else does it, but if they do it, they call it taking something to which they have a right. Similarly, they say it's wrong to commit adultery, but they forget the Lord Jesus said that "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." { #Mt 5:27-28} They know an idol is an abomination, but they do not mind using their time, strength, property, intelligence, etc. for themselves instead of for God. So, if someone is boasting of knowing the will of God, but is not obeying it in his life, he then dishonors God. Isn't it true that God's name is blasphemed because people go to some religious meeting on Sunday, but during the rest of the week they try to enrich themselves as much as possible at the expense of others? (de Koning)

V. 18, knowest his will... They knew the will of God, not only knew it, but approved those things found in his law that were more excellent.

Though Paul is speaking to the Jews who knew and even taught the law, it applies very well to the hypocrite. He knows and understands the truth of God, the will of God, and will approve what he knows. He is able to discern things that differ. That is, he can distinguish between good and evil, though they may at times lie so close together that it is difficult to separate the two.

He can reason very well, yet is a bad Christian. He may be well skilled and understand Scriptural controversies, yet be a stranger to the power of godliness.

He not only understands the truth of God's word and God's will, he is confident he has the qualities needed to teach others who he considered less learned then himself.

Yet he is doing what he is trying to instruct others not to do.

Thus the hypocrite can have great knowledge and understanding of the law, and even approve it, but he will not do it. How many good men can teach the deep and wonderful things of the Word of God, yet their lives outside of their teaching role are anything but what they teach.

Being instructed... The Jews took great pain in theaching their children when they were young. All their lessons were out of the law. They had all the knowledge, but that knowledge had made no impression on the heart.

V. 20. Paul tells them that they only have a form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. He tells the hypocrite that he should be teaching himself what he is trying to teach others.

2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

An all too sad example today is the home education movement, Christian schools and colleges. They turn out man and women who know the truth of God's word, and how that truth is to be applied into life. The college graduates especially feel they are now qualified to teach others, though they are not doing what they know they should do.

Sadly, modern Christian Colleges are probably experts in turning out hypocrites as described by Paul here in Romans.

Isaiah 5:21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

V. 19, darkness...

Isaiah 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Though Isaiah is speaking of Christ, Paul sounds like the Jews to whom he is speaking considered themselves the answer to Isaiah's prophecy. They were confident they had the corner on the truth, even the truth of the Gospel, and that all other nations must come to them for schooling in the gospel. They were the ones who have the law-word of God.

2:1, they felt that they were the ones who were qualified to judge others.

V. 21, the Jews sinned against their knowledge of God's word and their profession of Christ. They were doing themselves what they were teaching others to avoid.

Matthew 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

They pulled down with their lives what they built up with words. How can we expect others to believe what we do not believe enough to live out in our actions?

Examples will govern more than rules. The greatest obstacle to our success in the Kingdom work is our lives that do not match our profession.

Thou that sayest.

Hypocrites can talk of religion, as if their tongues did run upon pattens, they are fair professors, but foul sinners; as was that carnal cardinal Cremensis, the pope's envoy, sent hither, A. D. 1114, to interdict [or censure a Roman] priests' marriages, and being taken in the act with a common strumpet [promiscuous or disreputable woman], he excused it by saying he was no priest himself, but a correcter of them. (Trapp)

Paul lists 3 sins:

1. Stealing.

Psalms 50:16 ¶ But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? 18 When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.

The Lord charged the Pharisees with devouring widows' houses:

Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

2. Adultery. Again Psalms 50:18.

In spite of their strict moral laws in the commandments and in their moral codes, their lax divorce practices permitted adultery. According to the Talmud, some of there most celebrated rabbis were guilty of this sin.

Matthew 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

3. Sacrilege, or rob temples.

Since their Babylonian captivity, the Jews avoided idols. However, though they professed hatred for the idols in obedience to their laws, they made a good income by supporting the pagan temple traffic.

Illustration: It is like a Christian who says he hates drunkenness, yet owns a bar that promotes drunkenness.

They were proud of their knowledge and understanding of what the Law said. They taught it, and condemned others for not following the law. Yet they ignored the law in their own lives. Doing so, dishonored God, and caused God to be blasphemed, or spoken evil of.

Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Here we see pastors and Bible teachers who pride themselves in knowing and understanding the law. The know and understand what God's word says, yet they fail to preach against career women. They will preach against theft and adultery, yet not against sacrilege ; that is, against women in the work force. We are clearly told by Paul that such women cause God to be evil spoken of, and bring shame upon the teachers.

See, http://www.biblicalexaminer.org/B-WomanYoung%20ladies.html#Teaching%20Daughters

V. 24, For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you,

As it is written... Though he does not quote the Old Testament law he refers to, there are several:

Isaiah 52:5 Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.

Ezekiel 36:20 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. 21 But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. 22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. 23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.

Though we might praise God with our lips, even lifting our hands toward heaven as we sing praises, if our actions do not line up with the word of God, we blaspheme his holy name.

The world says, "I know how he acts when he is not around other Christians, or his actions do not correspond to his words of praise."

Vv. 25-29

Paul then mentions circumcision. You can read about its establishment in Ge 17. In the Old Testament, circumcision was the external sign that someone belonged to God's people, Israel. So you might expect a circumcised person to respect God's will, but if someone didn't obey God, his circumcision would mean nothing. The external sign of circumcision was only valid if the desire in the heart was to behave like a member of God's people. This desire found its expression in doing God's will. This even meant that an uncircumcised person (someone who didn't belong to Israel, but who respected the rights of the law) was owned by God as a member of His people. The result of this was eventual judgment on those who were only circumcised externally and not with the heart. The conclusion of this is seen in the last two verses. It deals with circumcision of the heart that leads us to the real meaning of circumcision. (de Koning)

This passage is avoided by those who want to baptize their babies. With no scriptural justification, they say that baptism replaced the Old Testament circumcision. That is not at all what Paul says here.

This section clearly states that circumcision has nothing to do with baptism. Rather, it refers to the heart.

The passage pretty well is self-explanitory:

The Jews were proud of their physical circumcision, even beliveing it would save them from the wrath of God.

1. Physical circumcision only profited if one kept the law.
2. Law breaking voided any profit that might have been in physical circumcision.
3. Law breaking counted as uncircumcision before God.
4. The Gentiles, whom were despised by the Jews, were counted as circumcised before God if they fulfilled the law.
5. The Gentiles who were physically uncircumcised and kept the law would judge those who were physically circumcised, the Jews, for not keeping the law.

V. 27, judge thee—that is, add to their condemnation because they did by nature what the Jews refused to do by law.

Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Thus, the men of Nineveh were counted as circumcised while disobedient Israel was not. The men of Nineveh were the true Jews in that case.

6. The message of Romans 2 and of Galatians 5 is clear. Even in the Old Testament law, the true circumcision was circumcision of the heart.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Colossians 2:11 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: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

The context shows that true circumcision refers to Christ's death on the cross when He died under God's judgment for sin. Someone who believes this with his heart is "circumcised of the heart." He who is a real Jew speaks of one who praises God. Belonging to God's people only externally attracts human honor. Man likes the visible side of religion because it makes him more important, but God looks at the heart. The external has only value for Him if it is a sincere representation of the attitude of the heart. God praises those in whom He finds "truth in the inward parts." Ps 51:6 This is what counts with God. (de Koning)

7. I will not take time to prove this statement, but from the very first, the true Jew are those whose heart has been circumcised by the Spirt of God.

I have a book on the subject, if you want further information.


Fair pretenses and a plausible profession may deceive men: but God cannot be so deceived; he sees through shows to realities. He is not a Christian who is one outwardly, nor is the true baptism outward in the flesh. Rather, he is a Christian who is one inwardly, and the true baptism is that of the heart. It is in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God.

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