Don’t Fool Yourself
Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written.
25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. NKJV
Someone turns to their horoscope to find out what they day will be like. Another goes to the palm reader for advice about marriage. Another calls the physic hot line to ask about her future. But these are not the only ones who are fooling themselves with false hopes and vain trust.
Especially in the religious world people get a false sense of security from their beliefs and actions. The Jews of Paul’s day were no different. They thought they had something that they did not have. They thought they were privileged when they were cursed.
But even in our day people embrace false teachings. These make great promises that will never happen. They used to sell tonics that would cure everything from warts to baldness. Regardless of how firmly a person believed in what they were buying they found that what they believed in only let them down.
In our text today Paul is dealing with the false security of the Jews. But believing a rope will hold you is only more disastrous if you are wrong. Although the Jews had a distinct advantage over the Gentile it also brought more responsibility.
The principal grounds of dependence on the part of the Jews were, 1. Their covenant relation to God. 2. Their superior advantages as to divine knowledge. 3. Their circumcision. Hodge
I. The Jew’s Religious Pride
A. Their Name Indeed you are called a Jew,
1. The term Jew is mostly a NT term, not found in the OT except Esther
2. Means praise
3. Comes from the tribe of Judah
4. Is used to designate all Israelites after the time of the captivity because they settled in Judah.
B. God’s Law and rest on the law
1. The law here means the whole Mosaic system, the civil and religious polity of the Jews. Hodge
2. Unlike the Gentiles who had no revelation since the days of Abraham the Jews were the caretakers of the law given to Moses as well as the rest of the Old Testament writings often referred to as the Law and the Prophets.
3. They put much effort into knowing the law.
4. They taught it to their children.
5. They had a translation made into Greek in the second century B.C.
6. They synagogue was used to teach and keep alive the law of God.
C. Acquainted with God
1. and make your boast in God
a. They could laugh at the pagan gods because they knew the real God as revealed in their scriptures.
b. They took pride that their God was the true God.
c. Like someone who knows the truth while everyone else believes a lie, they were smug in their faith.
2. and know His will,
a. Not only did they know God but they of His attributes.
b. They knew the things that God was pleased with and also displeased with.
3. and approve the things that are excellent,
a. They KNEW what was right and wrong.
b. They knew how the true God was to be worshiped.
4. being instructed out of the law,
a. All these blessings they had as a result of having the law.
5. and are confident that you yourself are
a. a guide to the blind,
b. a light to those who are in darkness,
c. an instructor of the foolish,
d. a teacher of babes,
(1) all these things God had intended for His people.
(2) God had intended them to be a light to the world.
(3) God had intended them to be a blessing to others.
(4) So it is with the Christians today. God intends us to be a light to the world but if we ourselves live in darkness, we can never be a light to others.
II. Their Empty Religion having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.
A. All the things in the Jewish faith that were meant to show them their need for a Savior were only empty forms.
B. There was only the letter, doing it by the book.
C. There was no spirit, the desire of the heart.
D. Even today it is true.
1. If we follow religion by the letter and not the spirit it is dead and powerless.
III. Hypocritical Religion
A. Paul lists the indictments against them
1. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?
2. You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?
3. You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery?
4. You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
5. You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?
6. For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written.
a. The closing of this sentence is a quote from Isa 52:5
B. Jesus had said of the Jewish leaders "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. Matt 23:2, 3 NKJV
A. Forms are empty without Relationship
1. For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law;
a. but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
b. All this proves that an external rite can, in itself, have no saving power; because God is a Spirit, and requires and regards spiritual obedience alone. This principle is stated, first negatively, he is not a Jew who is such in profession merely, v. 28; and then affirmatively, he is a Jew who is one inwardly, v. 29. Hodge
c. What most commentators fail to follow thru on is in most protestant denominations baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of the covenant.
(1) But the problem is that if circumcision did a person no good in and of its self, then why do they put such an emphases on baptism, even baptizing babies.
(2) But then too, many Baptists could also take a lesson here, that is that baptism means nothing unless the inward work is already done.
2. The Form is not as important as the relationship.
a. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
(1) Paul expects an answer of NO! From the Jews
(2) But the answer is yes.
(3) A religion that has lost its power relies on forms.
(4) This was so true of the Jewish faith of Jesus and Paul’s day and is true of the 21st century church throughout the western world.
b. And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?
(1) This is not that lost men will judge other lost men.
(2) Rather it is that those Gentiles who lived a better life than did the Jews who had all the privileges would stand as a condemning example of what the Jew should have been and more.
(3) The truth is that a bad Jew was worse than a good pagan
B. The Inward voids or sustains the Outward
1. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly,
a. Being a Jew was twofold, first it was ethnic and it was also religious.
b. What Paul is saying is that a person born into a Jewish family might not be a true Jew which was essentially a religious designation.
c. Christian is truly never ethnic, although in many nations today it is.
d. But one cannot be born a Christian, they must be born-again a Christian by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
e. So therefore today a Christian is not one who is one outwardly with all the trappings that come with religion, but a Christian is one who is one inwardly by the operation of the Spirit of God.
2. nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
a. Acceptable religion is never outward but always inward.
b. Jesus told the woman in John 4 who want to argue over religious forms that God desired those who would worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
3. but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter;
a. So we could say of baptism.
b. Paul was not saying that the Jewish people should stop circumcising their children, but he is saying that there must be a God work in their lives or else circumcision means nothing.
c. So it is with baptism; without the work of the Spirit in the heart means nothing and is better left undone.
d. Taking a placebo might make a person feel better but it will never have a true affect as the real thing.
e. Betting baptized might make a person feel better, but if there is no inward work of the Spirit of Christ, then it is only a placebo.
4. whose praise is not from men but from God
a. Men see the outward while God sees the inward.
b. Here Paul uses a play on words.
c. He refers to them being Jews, which means praise, but here he says the praise that is best is that which God gives and not men.
The Jews who prided themselves on their religion were just as lost, just as condemned as the pagan Gentiles. They were all guilty in God’s sight. Without the Gospel work in their lives they had no hope.
Hope is only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.
Do you know Him today?
Or are you relying on the forms of religion, an empty hope.