Summary: Talking without walking leads to mocking and blocking
As most of you know, I officiate high school volleyball and basketball. When I first began doing that over 15 years ago, I really wasn’t very good, but I was fortunate to have a lot of more experienced officials who have mentored me and helped me to become a better official over the years. So now as one of the more experienced officials, I feel an obligation to give back by doing what I can to help train newer officials.
That is usually a really rewarding experience, especially when these less experienced officials are eager to learn and to improve their skills and they actually make an effort to apply what they are being taught. But unfortunately there are always a few officials who are not nearly as good as they think they are and who therefore seem to think that they really don’t need any help. I often refer to these officials as “yah but” officials because every time you make a suggestion, they reply something like this: “Yah, I knew that, but…” and then they proceed to give some excuse for why they aren’t doing what they claim to know they are supposed to do. And those officials never get any better because they never change what they are doing as a result of what they are learning.
This morning, as we continue our study of the book of Romans, Paul is going to address what I call “Yah but Christians” – those who claim to know God and His truth, but who always seem to have trouble living according to what they claim they know. So go ahead and turn with me to Romans chapter 2 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 17:
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
(Romans 2:17-24 ESV)
Although I believe Paul began speaking primarily to the Jews in the church all the way back in verse 1 of chapter 2, this is the first time he addresses them by name. So, before we go any further, I think it’s important to point out that Paul is not being anti-Semitic here at all. He is a Jew himself and I think it’s pretty obvious here that he is being quite direct with his fellow Jews because of his genuine love for them. Paul is not trying to single out the Jews as being uniquely deficient but rather he wants to make it clear that possessing God’s law and a higher moral standard than the Gentiles did not exclude the Jews from needing to personally respond to the gospel by faith in Jesus alone. And here is the message that Paul has for his fellow Jews – and for us:
Talking without walking leads to mocking and blocking
The focal point of this passage is found in verses 21-22:
…you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
In those two verses, Paul accuses the Jews of living a life in which their walk didn’t match their talk, or to use another often used phrase, they didn’t practice what they preached. And then he asks a series of three questions which are intended to help them see that they do in fact live that way. Obviously not every Jew steals or commits adultery or robs pagan temples of their idols, But the point Paul makes is that those sins are prevalent in their culture and that all of them are guilty of not practicing what they preached in some area of their lives,
So therefore, all of them need to make the gospel theirs personally, as we discussed last week.
That main idea is bookended on one end by verses 17-20, which show the reasons the Jews had come to live like that and on the other end by verses 23-24 that describe the result of that kind of life.