*How is that the good news for this pastor is seen as bad news by so many?
*How is that the truth that has made him free is seen by many as a lie that puts people into bondage?
*Paul is intent on making sure the good news…is seen as news that is good…therefore he is intent on people understanding their condition apart from Christ…their need for him.
*In the passage we are going to read Paul is engaging in a dialogue with a representative Jew.
*Maybe he is thinking of his former self…maybe this is the “old” Paul being confronted by the “new” Paul.
*He knew how he used to think and how he would have seen his own arguments before he had encountered the gospel.
*I can imagine trying to discuss what is valuable and meaningful with my 18 year old self…40 years later…I know how I thought then and I know how I think now…I can only shake my head if I consider what that talk would be like.
*As I read this passage it might to help to imagine Paul is engaged in a dialogue with his pre-christian self.
Rom. 2:17 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.
*Remember in 1:18-3:20 he is giving the bad news before the good.
*All people of all types need the gospel because all people sin.
*He is building his case for the need of the entire human race…but his goal is not to be the bearer of bad news but the announcer of good.
*He starts with the problem…If I don’t believe I have a need…why would I be open to a solution?
*In this passage he is addressing the Jewish people and their two main sources of confidence…the Law, and Circumcision.
*They would not deny that all people sin but they would not see their need for the righteousness of God in Christ, because they believed their sin is taken care of through God’s covenant arrangement with them.
*They had God’s Word, a contract…and they had God’s symbol…circumcision…what more did they need?
*Well, they needed to act like they were actually in a love relationship with God
*Rather than doing whatever they wanted and putting their confidence in a book and a physical act.
*This is not, or should not have been new stuff for them…
*When Jeremiah was telling them (speaking for God) they were going to be taken off into captivity…they thought he was a heretic and traitor.
*After all they had no worries…they were God’s people…what they actually did, didn’t matter because God would take care of things regardless.
*But though God said he hates divorce (Mal 2:16) because it is the breaking of a covenant…look at what he says to Israel.
*Jer. 3:8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.
*Shocking…he hates divorce…yet he gives his faithless people a certificate of divorce because they gave themselves to other gods.
*Let’s turn this into a story of a couple:
-Imagine there is a woman, a wife (I use a woman because the OT uses a bride/groom analogy)who has a marriage license (a covenant), and a wedding ring (a symbol) of the covenant…who then goes out and chases other men…forsakes her husband.
-When asked if she is worried that she will lose relationship with her husband and all the protection and privilege that goes with it…she replies…”What do you mean, I have this license and this ring…this is my relationship with my husband.”
-Her response makes no sense…these things are the signs of the substance…a ring marks a commitment…the sign cannot take the place of the thing signified…relationship with a person.
*If there is no commitment…the symbol marks nothing and it means nothing.
*Then when the husband divorces the unfaithful wife who has already thrown away the relationship…she is foolish to cry out…”But I have a ring, I have a ring.”
*The ring is just a piece of medal, symbolizing nothing, signifying nothing…without relationship.
*The husband has not broken his covenant…but a covenant like this between two must be kept by both or it can be kept by neither.
*So Paul is going after the two main sources of confidence the Jewish people had…the Law and Circumcision.
2:17 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.”
*9 privileges the Jews enjoy: None of these are bad, in fact they are all very good things.
- They possess the name “Jew”
-This was originally a person from the region occupied by the descendants of Judah…it later came to be applied to Israelite people in general.
-By this time it signified a people, distinct from all others, whom God had chosen to be his own.
- They rely on the law.
-They were proud that they had been entrusted with this record of God’s character and will…rightly so…it was a precious thing.
- They boast about their relationship with God.
-Boasting is not always bad…in fact this is the one legitimate boast.
Jer. 9:23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me,
- They know God’s will…that’s a good thing
- The approve what is superior.
-Similar to 4 but could be translated “distinguish the things that really matter.”
6, 7. They are a guide for the blind and light for those who are in the dark.
-Two ways of saying the same thing.
-They are in a position to help others understand the truth of God.
8, 9. They are instructors of the foolish and teachers of infants.
-Again, two ways of saying essentially the same thing
-Refers to Gentiles as people without detailed knowledge of God…they have knowledge from creation and conscience…but this is not enough to know how to worship God.
-So without adequate knowledge they fall into wrong forms of worship and behavior.
*After listing the benefits they enjoy he demonstrates how they are not living in line with those privileges.
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.”
*Most of that is clear but one thing can be confusing: V.22: What does he mean by “robbing temples?”
*Most likely this refers to the practice of using precious metals melted down from pagan idols…this was seen as participating in idolatry by the Jews…yet they were doing it because it profited them
*So they were totally opposed to idolatry…but not so opposed to stealing idols in order to profit.
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.
Circumcision: Given by God as a sign of his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17
Gen. 17:9 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.
*Circumcision was a normal practice in Israel from that time on.
*But during a time of crisis in 160 BC (200 years before Romans was written) when the Jewish faith was threatened with extinction through absorption and violence…circumcision was elevated to a new level of significance.
*At that time many Jews were adopting Greek ways of thinking and living and were abandoning their Jewish faith.
*At the same time a tyrant named Antiochus Epiphanes tried to eliminate the Jewish faith by force…he was aware of how important the symbol of circumcision was so he made it a capital offense to circumcise a child…obey God…you die.
*This led to an uprising of Jews who would rather die than defy the covenant…Called the Maccabean Revolt.
*So in response to the threat to their faith both through violence and through cultural absorption…the physical rite of circumcision became even more important…they must obey, they must stand apart from the culture around them…or all would be lost.
*Now jump to the Roman church…remember the backdrop.
*The emperor kicked the Jews out of Rome for a few years…during this time the Gentiles in the church were forced to take over leadership.
*Now the Jews were back and the church is trying to figure out what is what…
*Some Christian Jews believed strongly in the old rites…like circumcision…this lead to hot debates…one of which the book of Galatians is centered around.
*Specifically…must non-Jewish converts to Christ be circumcised…Paul said “No way!”
*This is the background for this discussion here in Rom. 2.
*They had strong confidence in the fact that they had God’s law (he gave it specifically to them) and in the act of circumcision…this had set them apart as God’s people for millennia.
*Paul says…I paraphrase “The wedding ring means something if you actually have relationship with your husband…but if not…its just a piece of metal.”
*On the other hand if a person without a wedding ring…were to live in committed relationship with her spouse.(this is hypothetical, because no one truly is able to do so on their own)..that person would truly be married…even if she lacked the symbol of marriage.
*If someone could keep the law, they would be regarded as circumcised (right with God, immune from judgment)…so clearly merely being circumcised does not offer protection.
*Being the people of God is not determined by physical birth, by cuts on our skin, or devotion to a particular book…it is an inward matter.
*True circumcision is of the heart…a heart set apart for God.
*And a heart set apart for God…will show up in a life pointed toward God.
*This is not something new either…Moses said “circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” Deut 10:16
*They had all the externals but their hearts were hard to God…stiff necked…meaning they were regularly saying “no!” to God.
*Isn’t Paul being a bit extreme…over generalizing here?
*Seems to be blasting the Jewish people in mass…no…that’s not what is happening.
*Remember Paul was a Jew himself…Jesus was a Jew.
*Paul is not describing all Jews…he is using an extreme illustration of the point he wants to make…he is not pointing to a specific person but addressing a specific attitude…a false approach to confidence with God.
*The law is of no value…if it is not lived, if it is not obeyed.
*That circumcision, the mark of the covenant, is without value if the law is not obeyed.
*Paul is not anti-Jewish…he is anti-earning…no one, Jew or non-Jew can earn salvation.
*And he is pro-substance over symbolism…without the substance of relationship with God…the symbols of covenant mean nothing.
*Some believe that the New Testament, and traditional Christianity is partly to blame…or largely to blame for the Holocaust (what Jews call the Shoah…the catastrophe)
*The NT is said to be inherently anti-Semitic.
*The NT is not anti-Semitic (against Jewish nation or people)
*It does contest the claim that the Old Testament is the final expression of God’s truth and that people can find eternal salvation through the Law and the sign of the covenant.
*The Gospel is exclusive in its claim to truth…but inclusive in its invitation to all people.
*The gospel does not allow us hate any person…but neither does it allow for the belief that anyone can be saved apart from Christ
*We don’t hate Arabs, or Persians because we don’t believe Islam can save.
*Or Asians because we doubt the validity of Hinduism or Buddhism.
*We don’t hate secularists because we don’t believe materialism is the final answer to life.
*We love all people.
*Early Christians (and Christians today) made and make exclusive claims and were and are punished for those claims.
*At the same time…they loved and blessed those who disagreed with them.
*So we hold to the twin truths…the exclusivity of the Gospel, and inclusivity of all people as valuable and loved in our hearts and lives.
*Side application: Not a main application.
-If Christians showed love and forgiveness to those who disagreed with them to the point of torturing them, taking their freedom, their possessions…their lives.
-How can those who claim the name of Christ show unkindness to those disagree with them on political issues?
*The national discourse is very uncivil right now…but whether we are Americans or some other nationality if we claim the name of Christ…we must act and speak like Christians.
*Christian often denotes merely a cultural heritage or a theological position…but for those who take the gospel seriously it means “Christ follower”
*Our actual words as well as the tone of our discussions should resemble that of a follower of Christ.
*This is no underhanded rebuke to anyone…I don’t look at Facebook or Twitter…so I don’t know what is being said or not said…I just know of the general tone that is out there…its harsh…we must not join it.
*If God divorced Israel why wouldn’t he do the same to me? I’m not consistently faithful either.
*Its not about how faithful we are to the covenant…its about whether we are in Christ or not.
*The New Covenant is initiated and kept by God…he puts his Spirit in our hearts…they are changed from the inside out.
*Go back to Jeremiah
31:31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
*And then Jesus.
Luke 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you
*This covenant is initiated by God and kept by God.
*It is not external to us…a law, a physical ceremony…it is internal in us.
*He has given us changed hearts.
*Once again…we do not have to obey in order to maintain relationship…but we want to obey because we have relationship.
*My ring marks my commitment, a commitment I made in 1983…but my ring, a sign…is not to be confused with the thing signified…a covenant relationship with my wife.
*In addition Christy and I have marriage “laws” that we keep…but we do not see them as burdens or bondage…but as freedoms…privileges that protect what is most precious to us…our love.
*The sign of the covenant (circumcision or baptism) must not be confused with the thing signified…covenant relationship.
*Likewise the Word of God…is not to be confused with God who gave us his Word.
*Its purpose is to point us to relationship with him.
John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
*A talisman is an object that is believed to contain certain magical properties which would provide good luck for the possessor or offer protection from a possible evil or harm.
*There are many people who believe having a Bible in their home, or in their uniform pocket will somehow protect them…even quoting verses will protect them.
*The Bible is not a talisman.
*The Bible is a written account of God’s character, purposes, activities.
*It offers no magic protection either by having a copy or even by reading it.
*It points to God…who he is, who he is not…what he wants, values…what he does not.
*If understood, then applied…it does change our lives because it aligns us with what is real and true…it directs us to relationship with God.
*If I quote 1 Peter 3:7 daily and wear it engraved on a medal near my heart…I will not have a better marriage if I do not do what that verse says I should do…”be considerate as I live with my wife.”
*Likewise…if you have John 3:16 on your license tag, on your wall, on your arm it will not save you…however if you do what John 3:16 says to do…transfer trust from self to Christ…then you will experience the reality that John 3:16 refers to.
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.
*Where does the blessing come from? Who is the blessed person here….the doer of the word.
*Doing what is in Scripture is living in line with the truth of God…a life lived in line with the reality of God is a blessed life.
*Orthodoxy has one objective =orthopraxy…to know God’s truth in order to live that truth in order to honor God with our lives.
*There is no magic outcome from reading the Bible and having no idea what it means or what to do with it.
*If you read a set number of verses as a part of a plan and have no idea what you read or what to do with it…you may be gaining from the discipline of doing something as a discipline…but there is no larger spiritual benefit.
*”But I don’t understand what it means”…God has given the church men and woman who have given their lives to understanding the language, culture…its really not cheating to use help when you need it.
*There are resources available to understand it…I read a number of commentaries to help me understand Romans.
*But much doesn’t need interpretation…just application…Phil. 2
*However there is a lot that requires effort, help…there is some gold laying on the ground and some gold that has to be mined.
*Look to scriptures to know how to live…”But Terry I want to feel God, to experience him in deep ways.”
*Good…then make sure you understand who he is and what he wants and doesn’t want…so you can experience and feel the God who actually exists.
*God is not a cold pragmatist…hard, unfeeling…only concerned with what “works”
*God is a “warm pragmatist” he feels things deeply, he loves beauty…it flows from his nature…but what matters most is what is ultimately real…what is real works, what is not real doesn’t.
*Israel felt safe because they had received the covenant and the sign of the covenant…but in reality they didn’t pay attention to the content and meaning of either of them.
*Become resolute…you want to know what is real…regardless of what you feel about it or how you want things to be.
*Read the bible, study the Bible to employ it in your life…to show you what needs to be different or what you need to keep doing or start doing.
*As we know the God who is there…we will think more deeply, feel more deeply, live more deeply…because our thinking, feeling, and living will be tethered to the reality of God himself…there is no subject that is deeper than that.
*The video we began with…a man who whose heart was tethered to the word of God…which allowed him to live in reality as a free person…to do so when most voices around him are saying…”You are not free, you are not free…join us.”
*He was able to say…”My heart is tethered to the Word of God, here I stand…here I live…free.”
*If you want to go deeper in the scriptures…make sure you understand what you are asking or desiring…
*Depth is not how much of the Scriptures you have mastered…it is how much of you the Scriptures have mastered.