romans“Do as I say, not as I do.” Have you ever heard that phrase before? In our study of Romans we have listened in as Paul has made it very clear to us that we know the difference between “right” and “wrong.” When our children are born we begin to teach them the difference, we try to guide them so that they will make choices that are good, so that they will respect other people, so that they won’t lie, cheat, or steal. I have known parents who didn’t attend church, didn’t claim to be followers of Jesus, and yet they’ve tried to instill within their kids a set of morals that certainly reflected biblical principles to some degree.

When our kids get older and they are better able to think for themselves and have a better ability to observe our lives they begin to question us. “Dad, why do you do what you do when you tell me not to do it? Why do you yell and cuss when you get mad, but you tell me that I shouldn’t lose my temper and say things that will hurt other people? Why do you tell me that I should never use drugs or alcohol, but you use them? How can you tell me what to do when you don’t even do it yourself?” “Mom, why did you lie when you’ve taught me not to lie? Why do you tell me that I need to forgive when you hold grudges against anyone who hurts you?” What is our response? Well, we explain why “what” we did is different, we give them reasons why it was “ok,” given our circumstance, to do what we did, but that it’s still not “ok” for them to do it, we tell them that they just don’t understand. You can put all of these explanations and excuses under the heading, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This is not only true of our relationship with our kids; this is true of all of our friends and family members. We, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, are living our lives before a wider audience than just our family. What are we teaching them, not with our words, but with our lives? That is the heart of the matter.

My prayer this morning is that by the time we reach the end our study this morning that you and I will both be able to see more clearly what God truly desires for our lives. Let me give you a clue to watch for as we go through this study–it’s not the way that we appear to those around us, it’s not what we tell them about our faith, our morals, or our relationship with God, but it is something much deeper, much more meaningful, and something much more difficult than putting on a “Christ-like face” each day.

Before we read our Scripture for today let’s back track just a minute so that we can set the scene. When we began our study of Romans 2, we spent some time talking about “who” Paul’s audience was in this new chapter? It was very obvious, in Romans 1, Paul’s audience was the pagan Gentiles, but when we come to Romans 2 the audience broadens. In Romans 2, there is no doubt but that Paul is addressing the religious moralists who saw himself as morally superior to the Gentiles, but the lesson is equally applicable to all of us who look down our noses at those who do not claim any faith at all. As we come to Romans 2:17 there can be no question that Paul aims his message straight at the hearts of the Jews. Let’s read our Scripture found in Romans 2:17-29.

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; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 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. 28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:17-29 NIV)

In our Scripture for today we see Paul specifically address the “Jew,” the religious person. Now that you know that this section of Scripture was intended for the Jews of Paul’s day, don’t let out a sigh of relief and think, “Well, I can take a nap for the rest of the morning since this doesn’t apply to me.” Paul did single out the Jews, but remember, the Jews were the religious people of his day. Who are the religious people of our day? Ahhh, we are the “Jews” of our day are we not? Of course we are. I pray that you will begin to see this as we work our way through this study.

As Paul addresses the religious people of his day he is very familiar with their thought processes. Paul can only imagine what was going through the minds of those Jews who were listening in as his letter was being read. In the minds of the Jews the indictments that Paul has covered so far just didn’t apply. They weren’t immoral. They didn’t worship idols. They went to “church,” they believed in God, they were religious people, not pagans. Paul wants them to know that they are as guilty of suppressing the truth about God as the most committed pagan.

In Romans 2:17-20, Paul lists what the Jew would see as their advantages over the rest of society. What are the advantages that the Jews possess? There are five advantages that I can put my finger on. Here we go.
* God had given them His Law.
* They had a unique relationship with God.
* They knew God’s will which He had revealed to them.
* They were able to discern between good and evil because of the Law that God had given them.
* Last of all, they were given the responsibility to teach and guide other people in God’s ways.

All of these things were true of the Jewish people. We have already discussed God’s unique relationship with the Jewish people, the “chosen people of God.” God didn’t choose the Jews so that they would be a privileged people who would sit back and look down their noses at the other people of the world as being somehow inferior to themselves. God had revealed Himself to the Jews. He had given them His Law. He had called them into a covenant relationship so that they might be a nation of godly people called to minister to the rest of the world. We can see this in the last of the advantages that I listed earlier for us. God had given them the responsibility to teach and guide other people in God’s ways.

As I have studied this Scripture this past week I have thought about the advantages that you and I have once we became a follower of Jesus. Aren’t our advantages even greater than the advantages of the Jewish people? We have not only the Law, but the entire Word of God. We have a unique relationship with God through our Savior, Jesus. We know God’s will for us as He has revealed His will through His Word. Paul wrote, later in Romans,

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

Last of all, we have been given the responsibility to teach others, to guide others, in God’s ways. Jesus told His disciples, in Matthew 28:19-20.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

We have been given an even greater advantage in that we have been given the Holy Spirit to lead us to God’s Word and through this life. Jesus said, in John 16:13-15.

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:13-15 NIV)

We, who are followers of Jesus, have been given such an incredible advantage in life. God has called us from darkness to light. He has made Himself known to us. He has delivered us, filled us with His Spirit, and called us to go back into this dark world so that His light might shine through us. What a blessing! What have we done with such a wonderful blessing as this?

Let’s turn our attention back to Romans 2 and see if we can see any more parallels between us and the Jews to whom Paul was writing. In Romans 2:19-23, Paul begins to turn the tables on the Jews. Paul says, “You who have been given such great advantages–what are you doing with those advantages?” Read along with me from Romans 2:19-23.

19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? (Romans 2:19-23 NIV)

Paul, in effect says, “If you agree with all of the advantages that have been listed before you, then what have you done with them?” Notice how Paul lays it out. He says, “You are a guide for the blind, a light for those in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants. You are these things because you have, in the Law, the embodiment of knowledge and truth.” Can’t you just envision their chests swelling and their chins rising like the morning sun? In the very next sentence Paul asks a question, “You who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” Do you “do” what you instruct others to do? Are you a “Follow in my steps” kind of teacher or are you a “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of teacher?

After Paul asks this general question he gets more specific. Paul asks four more questions of the Jews and with each one the heat gets turned up in the kitchen. Paul asks,
* 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 brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?

The first of these questions is actually a question regarding the eighth commandment. In Exodus 20:15 we read, 15″You shall not steal.” The second question is actually a question regarding the seventh commandment. In Exodus 20:14 we read, 14 “You shall not commit adultery.” The third question has caused a lot of discussion by Bible teachers.

James Montgomery Boice says that this question is rooted in the first and second commandments. The first commandment is found in Exodus 20:3 where we read, 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NIV) The second commandment is directed against making idols to worship in God’s place. You can read the second commandment in Exodus 20:4-6.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6 NIV)

This question is different from the others because the second half of the question doesn’t fit the first half. In the other questions Paul asks, “You teach against stealing.” “You teach against adultery.” Then he goes on to ask, “Do you steal?” “Do you commit adultery?” In the third question he asks, “You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” So the first part of the question does coincide with the second commandment, but this question is really not about idolatry. The question is really about robbing pagan temples.

John R.W. Stott and F.F. Bruce say that this might have to do with the misappropriation of funds intended for the temple. They say that the Jewish historian, Josephus, tells a story that illustrates just such activity taking place. In 19 A.D. four Jewish men from Rome, led by one man who taught the faith to Gentiles, persuaded a noble Roman lady to make a contribution to the temple in Jerusalem. When she gave them the money they used the money for their own purposes. When their crime became known, Emperor Tiberius ran all of the Jewish residents out of Rome. The incident brought shame and scorn to the Jews. (Josephus, Antiquities 18:81-84).

Both Dr. Stott and F.F. Bruce then go on to say that Paul is probably talking about pagan temples and not the Temple of God. I hope you will remember our rule for trying to gain understanding in areas where we lack clarity–seek understanding from God’s Word. There is a story in Acts 19 that might shed some light for us. In the story Paul and his friends were dragged before the city clerk of Ephesus for supposed crimes against the pagan temple to Artemis. Read along with me beginning in verse 34.

34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. (Acts 19:34-37 NIV)

As you can see from our Scripture, Paul and his companions were not guilty of robbing the pagan temples or blaspheming the goddess of the Ephesians. Evidently some Jews, as well as others, were guilty of doing such things in Paul’s day. Maybe if we go further in our study we will learn why this was such a horrible crime.

Paul’s last question to the Jews was, “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” I bet the last time you broke the “law” you didn’t even give a thought to the fact that you were dishonoring God, did you? Did it break your heart and grieve your soul the last time you told a lie? Were you moved to sorrow the last time you coveted something your friend or neighbor had that you wanted?

We don’t view breaking laws as dishonoring God. We just do what we want to do and don’t even give God a thought for the most part, unless we get caught. When we get caught our thoughts turn to God, but not to the fact that we have dishonored Him–we plead for Him to get us out of trouble. The sad reality is that this is how godless people live.

We who have been given such great advantages because of God’s glorious grace dishonor God when we live hypocritical lives–when we don’t practice what we preach. Not only do we dishonor God, but we lead a godless society to blaspheme God. In Romans 2:24 we read,

24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:24 NIV)

This verse is taken from two Old Testament passages that we need to take a look at this morning. The first is found in Isaiah 52:4-5.

4 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. 5 “And now what do I have here?” declares the LORD. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the LORD. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. (Isaiah 52:4-5 NIV)

The second verse is found in Ezekiel 36:22.

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. (Ezekiel 36:22 NIV)

God’s name was being mocked because of the faithlessness of His people. How much was the day of Isaiah and the day of Ezekiel like our own day today? The last time you heard of some high profile preacher messing up and committing some sexual sin or bilking people out of money, you also heard the chorus of skeptics chime in with their cynical and snide remarks didn’t you? I’ve got news for you. It’s not just high profile preachers that God is concerned with. He is concerned with the sin of my life and your life that leads an unbelieving world to mock His holy name.

Let’s turn to our last section of Romans 2 for this morning. Read along with me beginning in verse 25.

25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 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. 28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:25-29 NIV)

The advantages that the Jews possessed were really no advantage because of their willingness to live lives that were not in line with the will of God. Paul now turns to another aspect of Jewish life which the Jews saw as a visible sign of their superiority over the other people’s of the world–circumcision. Circumcision was a gift from God, a reminder of the Covenant that God had “cut” with His people. We read about it in Genesis 17:9-11.

9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. (Genesis 17:9-11 NIV)

Instead of seeing circumcision as a sign of God’s grace and mercy, a sign of the Covenant God had established with His people, the Jews used circumcision as a badge of pride to separate themselves from all others. Jewish rabbis only added to the problem. They taught things like, “Circumcision saves from hell.” (Jalkut Rubeni, number 1) In the Medrasch Tillim, we read, “God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised should be sent to hell.” (fol 7, col. 2)

How do you recognize a true Jew? Is it circumcision? No way! Paul says that a true Jew is one who is one inwardly, not outwardly. This leads me to another question: “How do you recognize a true Christian?” Is it baptism? I’ve heard folks say, “I was baptized when I was young” as an answer to the question, “Are you a Christian?” We really have to guard against this type of thinking. Baptism, like the sign of circumcision, is a sign, a symbol, but it is only a sign. How do you recognize a true Christian? A true follower of Jesus is one inwardly. A true Jew or Christian is one who lives a life of obedience towards the Lord. A true Jew or Christian is one who has had their heart circumcised. In Deuteronomy 30:6 we read,

6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. (Deuteronomy 30:6 NIV)

The people of Jeremiah’s day had the same problem that we have–they knew God, they had the Law, but their hearts were dark and hard. The LORD spoke to His people and said,

3 This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done– burn with no one to quench it. (Jeremiah 4:3-4 NIV)

I want to show you one more thing before we go today. In Romans 2:29 we read about the circumcision of the heart. Read along with me.

29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:29 NIV)

How can we have our hearts changed? How can we have the hard, dark, outer shell of our hearts removed? Only by the Spirit of God, not by having the “written code.” The Spirit of God is at work in this sanctuary right now working on your heart and mine. He is calling us to surrender our lives of disobedience, defiance, and religion so that we might walk by the Spirit and live a life that is pleasing to God. If we will heed the Spirit’s call this morning then we will recognize that the praise and affirmation we are seeking is from God and not from people. Won’t you heed the Spirit’s call this morning and repent of your sins as you ask Jesus into your heart?

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
July 2, 2013
mike@brittonchurch.com

Are You The Real Deal?
Romans 2:17-29