Summary: God's judgment on the religious man
April 25, 2010
A rather pompous-looking deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment's pause, one youngster said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."
Our study in Romans tonight deals with the subject of hypocrisy.
So far Paul has blasted the pagan Gentiles for suppressing the truth and for being completely wicked. Then he turns to the religious Jews and puts them on level ground saying “you who judge do the same things” (Rom. 2:1).
He then builds a case against the religious Jews saying that anyone who breaks God’s law is guilty and will be judged by it: knowing God’s Law is actually just as bad as not knowing it because it only reveals sin; it doesn’t forgive it.
In the following verses Paul continues his attempt to show the Jews that their religion is simply not enough for salvation because they, like the Gentiles, stand guilty before God.
Let’s look at the first verses:
17But if you bear the name "Jew" and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,
This is a list of all the religious efforts of the Jews:
They, first of all, went by the name “Jew.” Like the Pharisees, they were counting on their genealogy to provide them some type of partiality from God.
John the Baptist saw some of these religious leaders coming for baptism, and he said…
Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. (Matthew 3:9)
Similarly, God might tell us that we can’t ride to heaven on the coattails of a religious background.
The next part of their religion was to “rely upon the Law.” They genuinely thought that because they followed all the prescriptions given in the Pentateuch that God would see how much they did and He would not pour out His wrath on their sin. Paul addresses this same subject later on in chapter four:
"FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 10How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised. (Romans 4:9-11)
In other words, Abraham wasn’t saved by keeping the Law; he was saved before he kept it and keeping it was a sign of his faith.
Likewise, there are so many who believe that their moral practices will keep them from damnation and wrath. In fact, the number one response to “why do you think you’re going to heaven?” is something to do with being a good person. Listen, it wasn’t good enough for Abraham, it wasn’t good enough for the Jews, and it’s not good enough for you. Faith precedes morality.
The next notation of Jewish religion is that they “boast in God.” Of all the world religions, it’s true that they had the right God, and they were proud of this fact. They no doubt thought of the story of Elijah making fun of the priests of Baal who could do nothing, and they beamed with joy knowing Elijah’s God, who consumed the offering with fire, was their God.
But again, knowing the right God wasn’t enough. You’ve heard me say many times that my goal in evangelism isn’t theological agreement. While it’s impossible to be saved apart from the name of Christ, it’s also impossible to be saved from simple knowledge of facts.
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19)
Knowing about the right God isn’t enough for salvation.
And look how well they know Him:
18[You] know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,
These Jews were very familiar with God’s will and with His ways. They were comfortable with spirituality and spiritual discipline, and they knew Scripture backwards and forwards to the point that they were guides to the blind, correctors to the foolish, and teachers to the immature.