the jews & the law, romans 2: 17-29, nlt (emphasis mine)
17 You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. 18 You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.
21 Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”
25 The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God’s law. But if you don’t obey God’s law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. 26 And if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? 27 In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it.
28 For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
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i’m pretty sure i can’t wrap up paul’s point of this passage any better than he already does in verse 29. above all, it is our heart that is the issue: it must be right with god, which can only happen by the spirit of god, and we must only seek approval from god and not others.
he also makes it clear in verse 23 that it’s not enough to know the law. haven’t we all been guilty of -rather, aren’t we all capable of- showing off, using lip service to boast ourselves and impress others with our knowledge of god…and then we excuse ourselves when we disobey his commands, as if we are somehow above them?
again, it’s not enough to know the law if we are not living out his commandments.
at the top of that list?
above all else, love god and love people.
can someone (ahem, melissa) talk about the jewish tradition of circumcision and how it relates to this passage? also, how does paul distinguish between the jew & gentile here? that is, what is the difference between us as it relates to circumcision and the law?
this post is part of our summertime discussion on grace as explained through the book of romans. click here to read earlier posts and, by all means, join in! we’re glad you’re here.