Summary: Our title of "Christian" is meaningless if our hearts don’t match our claim.
The Religious Lost!
I. They Lack Humility 2:17-20
II. They Lack Obedience 2:21-24
III. They Lack Understanding 2:25-29
In his book, Early Christians of the 21st Century, Chad Walsh wrote:
Millions of Christians live in a sentimental haze of vague piety, with soft organ music trembling in the lovely light from the stained glass windows. Their religion is a thing of pleasant emotional quivers divorced from the intellect, divorced from the will, and demanding little more than lip service to a few harmless platitudes. I suspect Satan has called off the attempts to convert people to agnosticism. If a man travels far enough from Christianity, he is always in danger of seeing it in perspective and deciding that it is true. It is much safer from Satan’s point of view to vaccinate a man with a case of MILD CHRISTIANITY so as to protect him from the real thing.”
Sadly, this is the position of many in the evangelical world today.
If we were doing a study of the entire book or Romans we would have seen in the opening chapters of the Book that Paul is attempting to deliver us from our mistaken idea about the basic goodness of man. Even now, we tend to think that man is basically good even though we see what is happening to the world around us.
Paul describes HIS day in Rom 1:28-32. See if THIS sounds familiar:
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Now, this is Paul’s letter to the Romans. But there WERE Jews in Rome, and Paul knew that these words would stir those Jews. And as we look at 2:17-29 we can see how Paul anticipates their reaction. He sees them protesting: “Paul, you can’t treat us like Gentiles! Don’t forget WE are the chosen people. God gave US the Law and sealed OUR relationship... Are you trying to tell us that we aren’t any better off then those...those Gentiles?!
And in so anticipating their protest, Paul gives us a picture of what I call The Religious Lost. The first characteristic of the religious lost is that they lack humility.
I. They Lack Humility 2:17-20
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;
Notice here what Paul is doing. In order to make his point, He begins by building up the Jews and at first it appears as though Paul is supporting them. In vv.17-18 he lists 6 things that were central to the Jew’s sense of special privilege.
First, Paul says “if you call yourself a Jew.? The NASB says “you bear the name Jew.” So proud were they of their identity that many of them who lived in Gentile cities used the word “Jew” as a surname. Their egos were so inflated–or puffed up–they included it in their name. Not to glorify God, but to set themselves above those around them.
Second, Paul says they “rely on the Law.” They thought that because they had received the Torah at Mt. Sinai that they had a unique standing before God; and that by POSSESSING it (not living by it) they were protected and set apart.
Third, they “boast in God.” This phrase is used in other places to mean a positive quality, but in this context it refers to their boasting that they were God’s favorites, that through God’s choosing, the Jews had a monopoly on God.
Fourth, they prided themselves on the fact that they “knew His will.” And again, not only did they know His will, they had exclusive knowledge because no one else knew God’s will because they weren’t Jews.
Fifth, they “approve the things that are essential. They considered themselves better able to make moral decisions.
Sixth, they were “instructed out of the Law.” The Law was their guide.
Now all these were wonderful privileges, and they made the Jews feel very good about themselves especially compared to the relatively uneducated gentiles. And with this inflated ego, they were deceived into thinking that these attributes made them acceptable to God. They served as sort of a checklist that determined their approval rating.