Summary: God’s judgment on the religious man
May 2, 2010
We’ve been studying through the book of Romans, and tonight we’re going to finish chapter two and start chapter three.
Paul has already blasted the Gentiles by saying that they’ve knowingly rejected God and that they’ve fully embraced the most heinous sins. As a result they’ve been given over to a depraved mind.
We can imagine that Paul’s Jewish readers were pleased to hear Paul’s condemnation, but then in chapter two he turns to bring the self-righteous Jews down to the same level.
I said this last week, but I want to reiterate that these verses are in no way anti-Semitic and neither am I. We’re going to talk a lot more about the “self-righteous Jew” but only because this is the context of the verses. Paul is writing to his fellow Jews who hope for a salvation based on works.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3)
The unbelieving Jews weren’t righteous, they were self-righteous.
It needs to be said that the phrase “self-righteous Jew” could easily be replaced with any person from any culture or nation who works for a righteousness of his own without seeking it from God.
In fact, this is the whole point of the text. The Jews thought the Gentiles deserved hell while they themselves deserved partiality from God because of their lineage and their religion. As Paul points out, apart from faith, all men are the same: totally depraved and separated from God.
If Paul were to write this letter today he might talk about the religious Americans with Bibles in every home and churches on every corner. “They think that being moral and showing respect for God is going to help them, but it’s not. They’re no different than the communist torturer in Russia or the insane terrorist in Iran; they’re all law-breakers whose righteousness is incapable of saving them from His wrath.”
That’s why tonight’s message is once again entitled…
God’s Judgment on the Religious Man
1. Outward religious appearances are meaningless without inward righteousness (:25-29)
25For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
In other words, the mark that set them apart from the pagan nations is nullified if they become like the pagans.
Think of a police officer who wears a badge; the badge is a symbol of his authority and it sets him apart from common citizens. But if that officer is relieved of his duty, it does no good to wear the badge—he’s a common citizen once again. The badge is only a symbol.
Circumcision is only valuable for those who “practice the Law.” But every man (including the Jews) transgressed against the Law and so they were not at all righteous. They were like citizens with badges.
26So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?
I don’t think we can really appreciate this verse the way the original hearers would have. Imagine if a preacher told you that a Muslim terrorist was more American than you.
That kind of makes you angry doesn’t it?
That’s how these Jews felt—“if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?”
He’s saying that a man who isn’t a Jew and who isn’t circumcised can be more righteous than a circumcised Jew. Circumcision is of no value to a man who breaks the law, and a man who keeps the law doesn’t need to be circumcised. This must’ve been heresy to the original readers.
28For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
The Jewish circumcision was worthless because it was merely outward religion. He seemed righteous on the outside, and men who watched him thought highly of him, but God judges the heart. When God looks at the pagan Gentile He sees a wicked sinner; when God looks at the religious Jew He sees a wicked sinner.