Summary: This is the 4th of 30 Studies in the Book of Romans
17Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.
After addressing the Gentiles, Paul turns his attention to the Jews now. He begins with a question to the Jews, “What about you?” Before he begins questioning them, he begins to affirm all the things they base their confidence in. He knows that they pride themselves in being known as Jews – the chosen people of God, in whom the Lord had done many mighty wonders in time past, and through whom Jesus came into the world. He goes on to tell them how they have put their trust in the law of Moses (as if that would make them righteous in God’s sight and save them from the wrath of God), and how they brag about the intimate relationship they possess with God. He goes on to say that they claim to know God’s will perfectly, meaning that they know exactly what God desires of them and they live by it. They pride themselves in that they approve and praise things that are good and excellent. They are taught and instructed by the law. They are confident that they are guides to the blind, they considered themselves a light to those who lived in the darkness because they considered themselves the enlightened ones who know who non-Jews did not know – the God of the Universe. They considered themselves to be so wise that they felt that they were the ones who could instruct people, whom they considered foolish, in comparison to them. They were so mature in their faith in God that they became teachers of those who were as immature as babes in comparison to them. They were like the embodiment of knowledge and of truth concerning all that was in the law. They were the ones that others had to look up to.
21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.
Paul then goes on to ask them questions, based on the above assumptions they had of themselves. The first question he asks them is whether they as the ones who teach others first teach themselves. That’s a really good question for each of us to ask ourselves today as well. Before we teach someone else, do we practice what we teach, before we teach? The second question is similar in nature – only a little more specific. If you preach that a man should not steal, do you yourself steal? If you say that a man should not commit adultery, do you yourself commit adultery?
You who hate idols, do you rob temples of idols? Perhaps temples of other gods were being robbed of their idols for personal gain. So, on one hand, they were abhorring idolatry and on the other, were stealing the idols from those temples for to sell them for personal gain. They boasted in the law they believed in and yet they also dishonoured God by breaking that very law they boasted in. Paul then quotes Isaiah 2:24, where he implies that on account of all this dichotomy of the Jews, the name of the Lord was being blasphemed among the Gentiles.
25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Another thing that the Jews made their boast about was the fact that they were circumcised as the Father of their faith, Abraham was and taught must be done to every male child. But Paul says that circumcision is only profitable if one obeys the law, but if one breaks the law, then their circumcision has lost its meaning and they have become as if they were uncircumcised.