Romans 2:17-29

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 23, 2015 0 comments
by Katie Erickson

“Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’
 “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 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. “A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:17-29)

In the previous verses we looked at last week, Paul wrote about how no one can live up to God’s standard of perfection. Total perfection and sinlessness is required of every person, but nobody can live up to that. In this week’s verses above, Paul continues on in a similar theme of looking critically at how we live our lives.

Paul addresses two main topics in this section: the law and circumcision. Both of these topics were of key importance to the Jews because of their religious significance. The law was given to the people of Israel by God through Moses in Exodus 20, and circumcision was given to the people of Israel by God through Abraham in Genesis 17. Both were still very significant to the Jews living in Paul’s day, so Paul wanted to address them and how they relate to the “new religion” of following Jesus Christ.

Paul’s main point with discussing the law is to ask the people if they are truly following it. Are they just talking the talk, or are they truly walking the walk? Do they really live out what they’re preaching, or are they living as hypocrites? This is a tough question. If you take an honest look at your life, do you truly do everything that you proclaim?

Verse 23 sums up Paul’s point in going over all of this: “You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” The main purpose of all of our lives as human beings is to give God glory. He created us, so we should honor and glorify Him. If we boast in the law, or claim that we keep it perfectly even when we don’t, then we’re dishonoring God. Whether it’s not teaching ourselves what we’re teaching others, stealing when we tell others not to, or whatever, we’re dishonoring God by breaking His law. By failing to live out the law that they professed to love, they make God look bad. We today do the same thing when we break God’s law - we dishonor Him.

The next topic that Paul goes into is circumcision. The Jews felt like they were extra special because the law was given to them, and because the rite of circumcision was given to them too. Circumcision was an outward way they could show that they were set apart from other peoples on the earth. But here, Paul continues to break down their self-confidence in these inherited things. Being righteous because of their genealogy just doesn’t matter anymore.

Just as no person can fully keep the law, no person is considered righteous simply because he is circumcised. God’s standard is still complete perfection and obedience to every last little bit of the law, all the time, whether a person is Jew or not.

Paul’s main point for us today is the same as it was for the people in Rome - outward signs are not enough. We need to have the right attitude of our hearts when following Christ. This should not be a new concept to the Jews, as it is brought up in Deuteronomy 10:16 and Jeremiah 4:4. The writers of these Old Testament books used the idea of the outward sign to show that it must be inward as well.

In this section of Romans, Paul addresses outward actions, particularly of the Jews. Yes, they still need to strive to live righteous lives, but no one can live up to God’s standard of perfection. No one, whether Jew or Gentile, can be saved simply by outwards acts. Our hearts must be fully devoted to God.

How do you measure up on this? Do you try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk? Are you focusing on outward signs and neglecting the attitude of your heart? Both are essential to truly living your life as a follower of Jesus Christ.