The Book of Romans
Salvation a Condition of the Heart
People respond differently to the sense of guilt and the need to find hope! Some respond by resorting to idolatry and corruption, (1:18-32). Others attempt to justify themselves with a self-righteous morality, “I’m a good person” (2:1-16). The text reveals a third group that finds a place of safety in their own minds through formal religion. This group is willing to pay any price by outward worship.
The text deals with the formal religion of the Jews who practice an outward religion based on the practice the Mosaic Law and the identification found in circumcision but their worship was void of an inner Spirit. The text has a much broader application than just the Jews because all humanity is guilty of sin. Therefore, the text is an indictment against all sinners who count on their religion to save them!
I. Sincerity of the Religious, Vs. 17-20
- The Jews were sincere in their religion. They were God’s chosen people. They considered themselves as having a moral superiority over the Gentiles because they possessed knowledge of God’s moral law. They were confident that God had called them to be a guide, light, instructor, and teacher to the Gentiles.
- The Jewish people had a religion of outward action. They thought that they were free from judgment because they were God’s chosen people. But the real question that needed to be addressed was the condition of their heart. God’s judgment is based on the “thought and deeds of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
- The knowledge of the Jews was correct but their deeds were evil. Knowing God’s will is not the emphasis but doing God’s will. Deuteronomy 4:1, Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. Deuteronomy 5:1, And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. Deuteronomy 6:1, Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: The emphasis is on doing and keeping God’s commandments.
II. Indictment of the Religious, Vs. 21-27
- V 21, Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? The indictment that Paul made was “do you practice what you preach?” Paul’s indictment was based on the Mosaic Law and focused on stealing, adultery, and idolatry. These sins were sins against others, the family and society, and God. The indictment was “you preach against these sins but in fact you commit such sins.” Paul did not mean that every Jew committed these sins but that all transgressed the law and lack the righteousness to enter into God’s presences. The history of the Jewish nation reveals unrighteousness acts. Acts 7:52, Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: The religious leaders of the nation of Israel were instrumental in putting Jesus to death and the Sanhedrin was instrumental in the stoning of Stephen. Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount taught it was possible for a Jew to be guilty of theft, adultery, and idolatry even if no one saw them commit these sins outwardly because the sins can be committed in the heart.
- V 24, For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. Instead of glorifying God among the Gentiles the Jews were dishonoring God. The Gentiles had daily contact with the Jews in business and other activities and the gentiles were not fooled by the Jew’s devotion to the law. The very law that the Jews claimed to obey only indicted them.
- V 25, For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Circumcision was an outward sign of a covenant that started with Abraham. Genesis 17:9-11, And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. The tragedy was that the Jews were depending on this physical mark instead of the spiritual reality it represented. Deuteronomy 10:16, Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. Jeremiah 9:26, Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart. Ezekiel 44:9, Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel. A true Jew is one who has an inward experience in the heart and not merely an outward physical operation. Today many are making the same mistake by depending on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and church membership for their salvation.
III. Verdict of the Religious, Vs 28-29
God Judges according to the heart. Romans 2:16, In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. God is not impressed with outward formalities. “In the spirit, and not in the letter.” The change of heart that Paul describes with the image of internal circumcision is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the result of external obedience to the law. God condemns external observance if it is not the product of a righteous heart.
Many are willing to pay any price by trusting in formal religion to get them to heaven. The text deals with the formal religion of the Jews who practice an outward religion based on the practice the Mosaic Law and the identification found in circumcision but their worship was void of an inner Spirit. The text has a much broader application than just the Jews because all humanity is guilty of sin. Therefore, the text is an indictment against all sinners who count on their religion to save them! Salvation is a condition of the heart!
Created and Researched by Pastor Dennis Baker
Zion Baptist Church
3485 New Baumgartner Rd. - St. Louis, MO 63129 - Phone: 314-846-1867