Summary: Do we have a form of religion or a real relationship.
By Law or By Grace
The Jews were very strict in keeping their rituals and ceremonies. They had a form of religiosity, but lacked faith in God. They were faithful to their teachings but not forgiven of their sins, they were religious but lost. We know many like that today, very religious, following all the creeds and dogmas of religion but lack in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
There are several spiritual practices outlined in this passage, the first is
1. Spiritual Pride- 17-20 RO 2:17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth
a. They were given the LAW, to them it was a matter of race not grace.
b. They kept the letter of the law with their practices.
c. They had a form of truth, but denied and rejected the Messiah.
d. The religious can only guide what they know, but how can they lead us to Christ if they don’t know him? Jesus called them “blind guides” (Matt 15:14)
If you stand for nothing you will fall for everything.
The second is;
B. Spiritual Practice. V 21-24 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: "God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
We who teach are called to a higher judgment. (James 3:1). Teach others to follow the Law, yet we break the law. Paul addressed this mindset earlier, do we think that just because we are preachers and teachers that God will overlook the sin in us while judging this same sin in others? Paul is telling us to practice what we preach and teach. These Jews that Paul is addressing knew the OT law but did not follow it, the same is taught by Jesus in Matt 15, the religious bind on others what they themselves are not willing to bear. Remember what Jesus said about the mind and body. If you think it, you did it. If we think about cheating on our taxes, if we think about changing that price tag, we are guilty of stealing. One common way of stealing is making copies and bringing back the original to the store for a refund. We violate copyright laws, we are stealing. I do not understand all the copyright laws, but I know that if we copy something and sell the copy we have violated the copyright laws and are guilty of stealing. We know the laws, and when we break them we are guilty. And the world is watching, is God’s name worthless to others because of what we have done in God’s name? Has God’s name become worthless because of our actions?
The third Spiritual practice is;
C. Spiritual Purity: v25-29 RO 2:25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. 28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Our spiritual practices only have value with we follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law. But we can’t and that is why Jesus had to come. He set us free from religious acts and made us righteous by His blood. It is not religiosity but relationship God seeks. We can try to obey all the laws and rituals, but none of those make us righteous before God. It is not what we do that makes us righteous, but what Jesus did that atones for our sins. God is not looking for those who practice religion but those who seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. Only the pure in heart will see God, it is the humble who come before Him and say “Have mercy on me O Lord” and mean it.