Week 8 9/13 Ern Baxter's Exposition of Romans by Dr. Bill Peters
Up to this point Paul has largely related judgment to deeds of conduct. The words "do, do not, work, and deeds" have been prominent. Now he goes to the source of human conduct, "men's secret privet lives". God will judge man for what he really is at the core of his person, the source of his whole rational
and responsible life. Jesus said, "OUT OF THE HEART proceed evil thought, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matt. 15: 19). This is why one must have a purified heart to be right with God (Acts 15: 9). The Bible has much to say about "the heart" and Peter refers to the real person as "the hidden man of the heart" (1 Pet. 3:4). All of man's deeds
will be "taken into account in the day of true judgment", and that, in conjunction with the secret thoughts and motives. This principle pervades the scriptures.
Eccl. 12: 14 - "For God shall bring every work into judgement, WITH EVERY SECRET THING, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
Luke 8:17 - "For NOTHING IS SECRET, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad."
1 Cor. 4:5 (JBP) - "We should make no hasty or premature judgments. When the Lord comes he will bring into the light of day all that is at present hidden in darkness, and he will EXPOSE THE SECRET MOTIVES OF MEN'S HEARTS."
"The Father has committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22). He who "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4: 15), is qualified to be Judge in that day. While the gospel is good news, it faith fully declares the fact of judgment. In fact the good news is that, through faith in Jesus Christ one can escape the awful penalty for his sins. The gospel is to those who are "heading for death, the deathly smell of doom", while
to "those who are being saved it has the refreshing fragrance of life itself"
(2 Cor. 2: 16 JBP). In preaching the good news, Paul always did so in relation to the certain and awful fact of judgment. We have a sample of this in his address in Athens.
Acts 17:30,31 - "God now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness BY THAT MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED."
THE RELIGIOUS SINNER (2:17-29)
It is possible to be religious but lost! Paul establishes this fact by citing the case of the Jews. Since Paul's day a comparable condition is to be found in areas of professing Christianity. Strictly speaking, a "religionist" is "one who is devoted to a religion" and that in a good sense. However, to many it has come to mean external adherence without sincere inward commitment. It is in this sense that we use it here. We shall consider:
The Religionist's Claim (17-20)
The Religionist's Conduct (21-24)
The Religionist's Condition (25)
The Religionist Compared (26,27)
The Religionist Corrected (28,29)
a. The Religionist's Claim (17-20)
Claims to Privilege (17,18)
"Behold, Thou Art Calle d A Jew"
Paul does not detract from the privilege of being "called a Jew". The Jew certainly had an "advantage" as will be stated in the next chapter. Judah, from which the name Jew was derived, meant "the praised one" and according to verses 28 and 29 was one who should have the praise or approval of God. "It was considered a title of honour, be cause it designated the people of God." The Jew was proud of the name and all it stood for in the history of God's relationship to the covenant people. However, to be "called a Jew" and "be a Jew" according to divine standards were two different things, as we shall
see. This pride of privilege is expressed by Paul when he speaks of "we who are JEWS BY NATURE and not SINNERS OF THE GENTILES" (Gal. 2:15).
"Restest In The Law"
The Jews were proud of the fact that they were the custodians of the Mosaic law. God had given it to them. They thought that possession and knowledge of the law guaranteed them salvation. But Paul had already scored that error when he had said "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified"
( 13). This is one of the distinctive features of religious sin, to believe that knowledge of the truth is sufficient for salvation without obeying the truth. This is delusion of the worst sort.
"Makest Thy Boast Of God"
This was not the boasting of humble gratitude but of exclusive mon opoly. They knew the true God the heathen didn't. "They gloried in God as a national asset and private prerogative." They "regarded themselves in such a sense the people of God, as to be secure in his favour, let their personal character be what it might".
"Knowest His Will"
"Unto them were committed the oracles of God" (3:2). They knew the Scriptures. They as a people, had been chosen to receive and pre serve the knowledge of God's will as given "at sundry times and in divers manners unto the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1 :1 ). But that which should have awed and humbled them only made them proud and disdainful of others who had not been privileged.
"Approvest The Things That Are Mor Excellent, Being Instructed Out Of The Law"
The Jews had the ability to discriminate between right and wrong and make decisions as to what was a,1c.i was not according to the Scripture. This was a much more refined discrimination than the Gentiles could make who were not "instructed out of the law". However, it is one thing to make a valid judgment on the rightness or wrongness of a thing, and another to give ones self completely to the right. This was the point at which the Jew stood condemned. "It was not his moral judgments, but his moral conduct that was in fault."
Claims to Superiority (19,20)
"A Guide of the Blind"
Paul has just enumerated the Jews' claim to distinctive privilege in relation to God. He now describes the Jewish attitude to the rest of the world, as one of "confidence" in his ability to teach the world divine truth. The tragedy is that it was not an empty claim, for they had the truth, but they failed in their mission. "With a slight touch of ridicule", Paul shows the process by which the Jew should, and could have reached the world. First he would take the Gentile by the hand and guide him as one does a blind man.
"A Light of Them Which Are In Darkness"
This is "another figurative expression to denote a teacher". Here he is seen opening the eyes of the Gentiles and dispelling the darkness of his ignorance by the light of divine Scriptures. He not only could give the blind man guidance but also sight.
"An Instructor of the Foolish"
The figure changes again and the Gentile is seen as being without true understanding. The Jew is in possession of such understanding and will replace Gentile ignorance with the wonderful revelation he has from God.
"A Teacher of Babes"
Here the Jew considers himself an adult and the Gentile just a baby. The Jew will teach these ignorant children.
"Hast the Form of Knowledge and of the Truth in the Law"
The reason the Jew could see himself as just described was because he did have "the form" (the precise sketch, the exact outline) of "knowledge and truth". "The law" here stands for the Scriptures of the Old Testament. They had the truth; they knew the truth; they knew they could and should teach the world the truth; but they failed, be
cause they didn't themselves obey the truth.
b. The Religionist's Conduct (21-24)
Does Not Learn What He Teaches (21a)
"Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" You know the truth. You have it perfectly outlined in the Scriptures. You claim the right and the ability to transmit it to others. But your conduct indicates that you do not instruct yourself. True teaching must come from the teacher's experience as well as his understanding. The teacher must not only teach others to "observe all things" but he him self must do so.
Does Not Practice What He Preaches (21b,22)
It is not enough to know the truth as a fact, it must be translated into act. Paul is describing a state of affairs. The Jews who made much of the law but had no vital relationship to God were without the spiritual and moral power to live holy lives. It followed then that they would be unable to practice what they preached. They declared the truth that stealing was wrong but did not themselves refrain from stealing. So, with moral impurity "Commit sacrilege" means to "rob temples".
There are historical instances of such behavior on the part of Jews. It may be however that reference is not so much to their actual robbing of temples as to their receiving such stolen goods from the robbers themselves.
Does Not Possess His Profession (23,24)
They professed to be subject to the law. They declared that the law came from God. They broke the law. They "dishonored God" by so doing. The heathen judged God by the people that professed to be His followers. The result is that the heathen despises the hypocritical religionist and blasphemes the God he misrepresents. This was no new thing among the Jews, for Paul quotes Isaiah who had said, "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you".
The Religionist's Condition (25)
JBP • "That most intimate sign of belonging to God that we call circumcision does indeed mean something if you keep the law. But if you flout the Law you are to all intents and purposes uncircumcising yourself!"
God had ordained circumcision as a physical sign of belonging to the covenant people. There could be no question therefore that it had some value. It was intended to tell the covenant people that they were "cut off" from unrighteousness and committed to obedience to their covenant God. It was never meant to be a substitute for heart obedience. With few exceptions this was exactly what the Jews were doing. Here are some of the statements of Jewish teachers on the matter. "A circumcised man does not go to hell." "All the circumcised have part in the world to come." "But for circumcision, heaven and earth could not exist." "Abraham sits before the gates of hell, and does not allow that any circumcised Israelite should enter there." Moses in his parting words to Israel warned of this terrible possibility.
Deut. 10:16,17 - "Circumcise therefore THE FORESKIN OF YOUR HEART, and be no more stiffnecked. For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, WHICH REGARD ETH NOT PERSONS, nor taketh reward."
Paul echoes Moses. Physical circumcision is no substitute for heart circumcision and in judgment "there is no respect of persons with God". The religious sinner attends to the externalities of religion while his heart remains unchanged. Any external religious rite, even though ordained of God and having value when rightly used, becomes valueless when done apart from faith and obedience.
The Religionist Compare d (26,27)
Paul now asks the Jew a question with an obvious answer. If the Gentile who is uncircumcised obeys the law, and since circumcision does not apply to him, would not "his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision"? And
would not such a Gentile by his obedience to the law, apart from circumcision, by his very obedience judge the Jew who has the privilege of the law and circumcision and yet disobeys the law? Now the matter of a Gentile obeying the law could be purely hypothetical for the purpose of illustration, or it
could refer to "those many Gentiles converted to the gospel who, all uncir cumcised as they are, nevertheless fulfill the law in virtue of the Spirit of Christ, and thus become the true Israel, the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). In any case, Paul is again emphasizing the fact that no amount of external re ligion excuses heart disobedience.
The Religionist Corrected (28,29)
"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter: whose praise is not of men, but of God."
We cannot overemphasize the importance of this passage. It is one of those great summary passages that appear from time to time, providing in a concise statement the summation of an important subject. We are told what is the nature of the true Jew, the real child of God; and the nature of the professing Jew, the one who makes external profession without internal change.
"Outwardly" and "inwardly" are the key words here. He is not a Jew in the sense of a real child of God if his only claim to being such is that he is by physical descent an Israelite and has received the mark of circumcision in his body. In terms of Christianity we might say that "he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, by relating to some professing Christian body, church, or denomination; nor is baptism or any other Christian ordinance of value if it is purely an external thir,g".