17. If you have the title “Jew” and place confidence in the Law and boast in God,
18. and know His will and agree with essentials, because you have been taught from the Law,
19. and are sure that you can guide the blind and be a light in the dark, Matthew 15:14,
20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the child, have the truth and knowledge from the Law,
21. don’t you teach yourself as you teach others? Do you tell others not to steal and do it yourself?
22. Do you tell others not to commit adultery and do it yourself? Do you hate idols, but rob temples? James 2:10-12
23. Is it dishonoring to God when you boast in the Law and then break it?
24. It is written that “the Gentiles blaspheme God’s name because of you”. 1 Peter 2:9-10,
25. If you follow the Law circumcision is useful, but if you break the Law it is useless. Luke 3:8 Isaiah 64:6
– Show quoted text –
26. If the uncircumcised man keeps the Law is he not considered as circumcised?
27. Won’t the one who keeps the Law, though physically uncircumcised, judge you, who are circumcised and have the Law, but don’t follow it?
28. For being a Jew or being circumcised is not an outward thing.
29. But being a Jew is an inward thing and circumcision is in the heart of the Spirit, not by the letter, and then the praise is not from men, but from God. Philippians 1:1-8, James 1:25, Ephesians 6:6
Outline– Religious Rituals Fall Short
I. The Jew’s Pride (17-20)
II. The Jew’s Hypocrisy (21-24)
III. The Real Jew (25-27)
In the last week’s we have learned about sin, judgment, the shortcomings of good deeds, and education, what “bridge” do we learn about today? (Religion or Religious rituals)
What is the Law?
Who does Paul focus on in this passage?
What was Jesus’ warning about those who guide the blind? In this context, what does “blind” mean?
Who are the “foolish” and “immature” people here?
Were the Jews religious? Did they know a lot in the Law? Did this save them?
Why might this passage include specific examples of what they would tell others to do while the last passage was more general? (Because they had the Law and each of these a specific command in the Law.)
What problem did the Jews have?
What’s the difference between the Jews who pass judgments on others and don’t keep them and the Gentiles who do the same?
Could any Jews actually keep the whole Law?
Why would they boast in the Law?
How is God’s name blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them? What does it mean to blaspheme? What kind of testimony were they supposed to have to these foreign countries? How about the church today?
If they were very religious, how come they still deserved judgment (they were sinners, couldn’t be perfect.)
What was most Jews’ attitudes towards circumcision? What was the original purpose of circumcision? What did it become to most Jews?
Could it save them?
Can circumcision be reversed by keeping the law or not keeping the law? Then what does that tell us about it (it is a symbol)?
What is most important to God?
Is circumcision necessary today?
What parallel to circumcision is there fore believers? Does baptism save us? Then what is the purpose of baptism?
What should professing Christians take out of this passage? If more religion or rituals doesn’t help, then what is Christianity and what should we do?
Verse by Verse Commentary
Intro: The Jews were extremely religious people. Most would have been far more religious than we are. They had all kinds of rituals to follow and then followed most of them. They made sacrifices; they performed cleansings and washings; they were circumcised; they wore special clothes; they went to meetings; they went on yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem; they memorized large sections of the Old Testament; they held debates on doctrine; they tried to make proselytes of the Greeks (Matthew 23:15). If there was ever a religious group, the Jews were it. But their religion, even though much of it was given to them by God, couldn’t save them. In this passage Paul shows us that trusting in religion our our own religious efforts cannot save us. He breaks down the “bridge” of religion after breaking down the bridges of good deeds, good morals, and education in the preceding passages. We probably don’t view ourselves as the irreligious pagan clearly rejecting God at the end of chapter one. So this passage will probably strike closer to home. Don’t view it only as a condemnation of religious Jews, but of any person who is trusting in his religion and religious acts rather than God. We should examine ourselves to evaluate whether our lives are just like the Jews Paul was condemning here.
1. The Jews were very prideful about their religious heritage, their knowledge, the Law, and their ability to teach and enlighten those who were in the dark. They were spiritually prideful. Look at each of the areas they were prideful in.They looked down on others who weren’t religious as they were. They viewed themselves as better than everyone else. Many “Christians” today are guilty of the same thing. We think we know the Bible, we know God’s will, we can guide others, we can teach others. Sometimes, like the Jews, we get too focused on straightening out others instead of teaching ourselves. We look at others under a microscope, but look at ourselves through a telescope. We should never become prideful spiritually. Why? Because WE didn’t do anything. It is all a gift of God and how can you be prideful when you have received a gift? A gift by its nature is undeserved. The Jews forget this important lesson and so do many “Christians” today.
2. The Jews were very religious, but still unsaved. Many people today, even professing Christians, are very religious, but still unsaved because they rely on themselves and their religion. Could their religion save them? Why not? It couldn’t save them because they couldn’t follow all these rules perfectly. They relied on themselves instead of on God. They had a lot of knowledge. They did a lot. But they could never do all they knew they should do. The core of man-made religion is to something to compensate for your sins. Every religion has a set rules its adherents should follow. Many are good morals, but some are special like pilgrimages, prayer at certain times, denying yourself certain pleasures, etc. Because we can’t keep all of these rules, we can never save ourselves no matter what dramatic ways we try (remember what Paul said about even giving our body to be burned without love is nothing). Describe the religious zeal of the Filipinos for Easter. This problem of expecting to be saved because you identify as a Christian or go to church is widespread. Describe the situation in America. No matter how good your church attendance record is, how much you have given, how many times you have been baptized, how much you pray, or how spiritual sounding your prayer is, doing these things cannot save you.
3. The Jews were hypocrites just the same as the Gentiles without the Law in the first part of the chapter. They knew and taught the Law, but didn’t keep it. Matthew 23:13-23, Matthew 23:3. They fall short by the same standard that the Gentiles did. No one anywhere can be saved through his own efforts. Like we discussed last week, it means we should evaluate ourselves more, not be too hasty to correct others, and rely on God by being quick to repent of sin.
4. In the first part of the chapter, it doesn’t mention the specific things the Gentiles passed judgment on because it could include anything. Here it mentions the specific things the Jews passed judgment on and taught because these are specific Laws. They told others to follow them and then didn’t keep them themselves.
5. Instead of being a light to the nations, they brought dishonor to the name of God with their evil, prideful, and hypocritical conduct. Isaiah 42:6. 49:6, 60:3. The Jews were specially chosen and blessed by God. Part of the purpose of this was to be a light to the nations. Their example of obedience, devotion, and divine blessing was to attract the attention of the whole world so that others would want this same relationship with God. The Jews as a nation failed this divine task (Jesus fulfilled it). Their continuing sin and disobedience and subsequent judgment did not make others interested at all in God. Instead their haughty and hypocritical behavior brought dishonor to the name of God. Their actions caused the Gentiles to curse God rather than believe in Him. Isaiah 52:5. Why would their behavior cause people to blaspheme/curse God?
Do you think the “church” has sometimes had this same effect through history? When? How about now? Give example of guy who killed abortion doctor. Give example of Alex’s condo neighbor. Give example of militia group in Ohio. Now obviously these people were not really saved just as the Jews in the 1st century mostly weren’t. But unbelievers cannot differentiate (or choose not to) from real believers and this kind of person. All of them go to church and all of them call themselves dedicated Christians. It is “Christians” like these who give God a bad name, not only in America, but everywhere around the globe. We are supposed to bring glory to God’s name through our actions, but instead are often a bad testimony and influence people to reject God. If we are prideful or rude or hypocritical it will have this effect. Hypocrisy is probably the number one given reason why unbelievers are not willing to go to church in the US and a lot of times it is a valid complaint.
6. Circumcision was a symbol separating them from other nations and acting as a mark to show their covenant relationship with and obedience to God.
7. Circumcision had become an empty religious ritual of pride for most of the Jews. Luke 3:8. They trusted in this symbol to save them rather than what it was supposed to be a symbol of.
8. Salvation has only come by faith, demonstrated through obedience. Circumcision cannot and never could save anyone. Obedience to the Law is what is important to God. There are no “magical” rituals you can do which can save you. And since you cannot obey every single commandment all the time, you can’t earn salvation through obedience either. Just as circumcision couldn’t save then, neither does baptism, going to church, fasting, praying, reading the Bible, sharing the gospel, singing Christian songs, attending fellowship or any other Christian act save someone today.
9. Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart. True circumcision is of the heart, a heart that is set apart to God and devoted to God. The same is true about baptism. Baptism doesn’t save anyone. Real baptism is of the heart. Our old self has died to sin and we are living a new transformed life.
Jew- The Jews thought that since they were children of Abraham they were above everybody else. They placed confidence in their ancestors and their high position instead of in faith in God.
Law- God gave His law to the Jews. It was intended to show the failure of human’s to follow God’s requirements.
Circumcision- Can be compared to works. The Jews thought that their outward works could save them. Paul is telling them it is the inside, not the outside, which is important to God.
20. The Jews had the knowledge in the Law, but like the man in James they walked away and forgot what they looked like. I am often like that as well. I read my Bible and make applications, but sometimes forget them and never carry them out.
25. Good deeds are useless for salvation unless we can be perfect. But we can never reach this standard so all of our attempts to please God fall short and are as nothing.
29. The real way to salvation and a life set apart for Christ is by dedicating our hearts to Christ. We must let Him change us from the inside out. It is not the good deeds that save us. It is faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, which will bring us into God’s family and shape us into His people.