Romans 2:17-29 “Spiritual Jews rather than fleshly Jews”
have looked at the proclamation of the main theme, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and
then looked at those who have disdained God’s truth and opposed His law for the
sake of opposing it, consequently being rejected by God. Last week we looked at
those who thought, that as God’s people, they were more privileged than those Gentile
sinners. As true hypocrites, they condemned such sins in others that they excused
in themselves. They were, after all, the Jews, God’s people! But their judgement
Romans 2:1 – Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art
that judgest: for wherein thou judgest
another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
When the Gentiles sinned, they were
guilty, yet when the Jews committed the same sins, they retained the privileges
of being God’s people!
we get to how the law is really applied, to the spiritual man and spiritual
obedience. Instead of being a good Jew outwardly, it is required that he be a
good Jew inwardly. As such, the Christian is being labelled here as a spiritual
Jew, and Paul compares Christians with being the spiritual sons of Abraham in the
Galatians 3:1-9 – 1O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye
should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently
set forth, crucified among you? 2This only would I learn of
you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now
made perfect by the flesh? 4Have ye suffered so many things
in vain? if [it be] yet in vain. 5He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among
you, [doeth he it] by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 6Even
as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7Know
ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of
Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would
justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, [saying],
In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9So then they which
be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
– 17Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest
thy boast of God, 18And knowest [his]
will, and approvest the things that are more
excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19And art
confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are
in darkness, 20An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of
babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
Here is where Paul openly states that he has been
talking about the Jews in the first 16 verses of this chapter. They are proud of
being Jews, proud that they have “The Law”, proud that they are God’s special
people, proud that they know what God has called them to be – His special
people. They are confident in their ability to approve what is good (and thus
rejecting that which is not good) because they have a special knowledge of The
Law of Moses (they sit in the seat of Moses)…
Matthew 23:1-2 – 5Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying,
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
Paul says that the Jews are these proud people (Vs 17 –
“thou art called a Jew”). Not only have they
confidence in their understanding of God’s law, they claim to be instructors in
the law, and, according to Jesus, they have even made up their own version of
15:9 – And
in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines
the commandments of men.
And they forced the people of Israel to follow their law
or be condemned by God. (Yes, they not only believed that their law was the
true law, but that they were also judge, jury and executioner!) They were
confident in their knowledge of the law (their law!), able to lead the
blind, and in this case the spiritually blind are indicated.
– Let them (the
pharisees) alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads
the blind, both will fall into a ditch.
The Jews, especially the pharisees, considered
themselves people of the light, shining lights as beacons to those Gentiles
living in darkness around them. Note that God’s people are indeed to be lights
shining in the darkness.
– 14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men
light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth
light unto all that are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Note the prophecy of Zachariah (father of John the
Baptist) concerning the coming of Jesus.
Luke 1:79 – To give light to them that sit in darkness and [in] the
shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
that those who were without God’s light were considered to be living in
darkness, because it provided cover for their evil.
3:19 – And this is the condemnation, that light is come into
the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were
And the whole world lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19)
under satan who maintains blindness over those who are his in order to keep
them in the darkness.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
– 3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them
that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded
the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of
Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Our passage today in Romans talks about the Jew in
general, but in particular it describes those who are using the law of man
(teaching it as the commandments of men – Matthew 15:9) to gain and maintain
their position in their society. Not all Jews of Paul’s day were such, but the
pattern was clearly seen when Jesus was crucified. The pharisees cried out for
His crucifixion, and the people cried out with them likewise. The pharisee
considered himself to be ultra-wise, noting what Paul said about this.
– 4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man
thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5Circumcised
the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6Concerning
zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law,
blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, those I counted
loss for Christ.
an instructor of the foolish
etc – Paul, as a pharisee, once considered himself blameless, perfect according
to the law of the pharisee. They were the most educated of Jews, the most
learned. To become fully wise, you had to sit at the feet of a pharisee. Note
that Paul sat at the feet of one of the most wise,
Acts 22:3 – I am verily a man [which am] a Jew, born in
Tarsus, [a city] in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of
Gamaliel, [and] taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the
fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
The pharisee considered himself to be the teacher (rabbi)
and those whom he taught were the foolish who hoped to be wise one day. They
were the instructors of the foolish, and the teachers of babes (= childish,
hast the form of knowledge –
They pretended to be such wise people, knowing so much, and understanding so
much truth in the law. In particular, this is the way they liked people to
think of them!
Matthew 23:6-7 –
the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7And
greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
truth in the law – When Jesus came up
against the ‘truth’ of the pharisees, He had one word for it – lies!
John 8:44-45 – 44Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts
of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not
in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh
a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and
the father of it. 45And because I tell [you] the
truth, ye believe me not.
Today the Jewish people (not only the counterfeit Ashkenazi
Jew but even many of those who are actually genuine Jews) are largely bound by
the Kabbalah, esoteric writings (connected to the Babylonian Talmud) that make
the Jews to be more than God Himself, making themselves to be the rulers and
the law of the world, much like the pharisees, only many times worse and
heretical. These writings came from Babylon and corrupted the teachings of
those returning from the exile in Babylon. This law of theirs places them (in
their minds, that is) over all the other nations of the world, naming all
non-Jews as goyim (cattle) under the control of their rulers, the Jews. The law
is therefore applied to the goyim (non-Jew, Gentiles), not the Jews who are
exempt because they alone are God’s people! The Jews thought that as God’s
people they alone had the “light” to lead all other nations! Talk about the
blind leading the blind!
Romans 2:21-22 – 21Thou
therefore which teachest another, teachest
thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not
steal, dost thou steal? 22Thou that sayest
a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
the Jews are being called hypocrites. They tell others what to do, but do they
do it themselves? Do they practise what they preach? It appears that Paul is
somewhat cynical in his statements about them here. It is likely that he is
really saying that they do teach what should be done or not done, yet disobey
it themselves, like Jesus’ condemnation of the pharisees in the following
Matthew 23:3 – All
therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do
not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
They don’t practise what they preach! They are
Romans 2:23 – Thou that makest thy boast of
the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou
You boast that the law is everything, that you are
people of the law, but are you above the law yourselves? Do you think that the
law is only for common people and the Gentiles? Do you think you have special
privileges that allow you to break the same law you preach to others?
Clearly the Jew (especially the pharisee) put on a show
of holding the law in high esteem. However, as God’s people, they also clearly
felt that they could manipulate the law to serve themselves; they were God’s
special people (by covenant) after all! Note Asaph’s Psalm 73.
Romans 2:24 – For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles
through you, as it is written.
This could refer to Isaiah
52:5-6 – 5Now therefore, what have I here, saith the Lord, that my
people is taken away for nought? they that rule over
them make them to howl, saith the Lord; and my name continually every day [is]
blasphemed. 6Therefore my people shall know my name:
therefore [they shall know] in that day that I [am] he that doth
speak: behold, [it is] I.
How you treat someone is a measure of how important that
person is to you. If God is so important, then they would treat Him better,
obey Him better. Instead they act as though He isn’t worth listening to, that
their opinion of what God thinks is more important than what God actually does
think. This lack of respect (the Bible would call it lack of the fear of the
Lord) shows up in how they revealed their God to the people around them. Thus,
to make little of obeying God properly, to lack respect for God’s sovereignty,
is to blaspheme His name. If you despise your God, then your religion will also
be despised. What we think about God will be shown by how much priority we give
to obeying His will. As it is said, that which is most important in your life
is your god! Psalm 111:10a – The fear of the Lord [is] the beginning of wisdom
Romans 2:25-26 – 25For
circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law:
but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26Therefore
if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the
law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
Paul is actually saying that circumcision was useless as
a sign if you didn’t keep the law as per the covenant. It’s a bit like baptism.
Baptism on its own is useless too; it’s only an outward sign of what should
have already taken place inside the person. Baptism without salvation is a sign
that points nowhere. Likewise circumcision was a sign
that pointed nowhere if they (the Jews trusting in the circumcision) didn’t
obey the law.
1 Corinthians 7:19
– Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is
nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God (is what matters).
– For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor
uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
Galatians 6:15 –
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creature.
connects circumcision to baptism; without faith in Christ it is nothing.
2:11-14 – 11In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision
made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the
circumcision of Christ: 12Buried with him in baptism, wherein
also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God,
who hath raised him from the dead. 13And you, being dead in
your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with
him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the
handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and
took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
God made a covenant
with Abraham, setting Abraham apart from the rest of the nations, in order to
become the start of the nation of God, Israel. The sign of this covenant was
17:11 – And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and
it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
that there was indeed a special advantage in being named a Jew, a special
people of God who would accept them as His people and He would become their
God. There were privileges attached to this, and the outward sign was that they
were to be a circumcised people. However, merely being circumcised and
disobeying the law was of no benefit at all. Just because someone got
circumcised didn’t guarantee a special position with God. It was always an
outward sign of inward trust in God’s law by His covenant with Abraham. That
they had the law was little use to them, as useful as circumcision on its own,
in fact, unless it was put into action!
James puts it
1:22-25 – 22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,
deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the
word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a
glass: 24For he beholdeth himself,
and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But
whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful
hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
It was the
act of obedience to the law, not circumcision, that made them Jews. It is the
act of obedience that Paul is talking about here. The circumcision represented
their covenant with God to obey His law. Without that obedience, their
circumcision was useless. If they broke the law, they might as well have been
Then, in Vs
26 above, Paul says that if an uncircumcised person obeys the law, his
uncircumcision will be considered as circumcision. In other words, physical
circumcision as per the covenant with Abraham was not the issue, Rather, it
applied instead to the purpose for which the circumcision was originally
applied – as an outward sign of their inward acceptance of the law of God.
your obedience, and those who deliver this obedience are the ones who belong to
God’s covenant. It was better to be an uncircumcised yet obedient Gentile than
to be a circumcised Jew who disobeyed the law of God!
Romans 2:27 – And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision
dost transgress the law?
Paul teaches that the physically uncircumcised (Gentile)
who obeys the law, will be better suited to judge the circumcised (Jew) who does
not obey the law. In particular, if those of the circumcision (the Jews) didn’t
obey the law, after having all the advantages of knowing the written law, every
jot and tittle, they would be judged by the Gentiles who obeyed the law. In
practical terms, it appears that the law-abiding Gentile would be an example of
holiness to the law-breaking Jew. In other words, it was better to be a
law-abiding Gentile than a law-breaking Jew! This has some application in the Gentile
Church being wild olive branches grafted onto the natural olive stock after the
natural branches (the Jews) were pruned off (see Romans 11:15-25).
Romans 2:28-29 – 28For he is
not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which
is outward in the flesh: 29But he [is] a Jew, which is
one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and]
not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God.
is saying that even if you were circumcised, you couldn’t be a real Jew if it
were only physical. To be born a Jew may have been an advantage, but unless
that Jew obeyed the covenant, fulfilling the law which God had revealed to them,
then God would reject that person from being a Jew (or one of His people). (Remember
Jesus came to fulfil the law, not to destroy it.) It was the inward change in a
person’s life that made that person a real Jew, even if that person were born a
Gentile! Paul emphasises the spiritual circumcision over the physical. Those
merely physically circumcised sought the approval of men, while those who were
spiritually circumcised sought the approval of God.
As we saw at the beginning, the true son of Abraham was the one
who was spiritually renewed through faith in God and His gospel of salvation
through Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:7 – Know ye therefore that they which
are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
The Christian, therefore, is a spiritual Jew, a spiritual child of Abraham, far better than just a physical descendant of Abraham without obedience to the covenant.