Lesson 70: "The Name of God is Blasphemed Among the Gentiles Through You. . ." (Romans 2:42)
Welcome to lesson #70. Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. The book of Romans is a great book. As the apostle Paul uttered the words that Tertius penned on to that scroll in the home of his host, Gaius; Paul's mind undoubtedly sliced through large sweeps of experience and insight into the Jewish mind and cut across vast portions of Gentile philosophy as it existed in that big Woman world encircling the Mediterranean Sea that overflowed with wickedness in the first century. Just like today, untold numbers of souls were passing into eternity, hour by hour. If only the Christians at Rome and those Jews and Gentiles they taught and associated with, day by day, had a better perspective in terms of god's righteousness and the great power in the gospel to save; surely, surely some could be led to accept God's grace and escape such great wrath as is revealed from heaven against those who hold the truth in unrighteousness (1:18). Not all gentiles were crass and immoral in the most gross sense. Just like today, some professing themselves to be wise (1:22) became vain in their imaginations. Some, just like today, seeing the need for good moral, decent, honorable and ethical conduct had developed their own schools of philosophy; thus, trying to benevolently guide the masses to a better lifestyle. But, the missing ingredient was the gospel, the power of God unto salvation (1:16). Without the gospel they were lost and undone. A plan was revealed in the gospel by which God makes men righteous. Righteousness is not imputed on the basis of moral performance; but, on the basis of faith. The highest degree of morality is required in God's children; however, that morality comes as a result of faith in God, Jesus Christ and the gospel. To be righteous is to be free from guilt. And remember now, to have faith implies obedience. "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:20,26). Faith is counted for righteousness (ROm. 4:3). Paul said some "going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." (Rom. 10:3). Homemade righteousness is a forgery in God's system of faith. Homemade righteousness cannot pass through the security of heaven's portals. Man must develop faith (an obedient faith) and then God will impute righteousness; that righteousness that will freely pass through the portals of heaven "by patient continuance in well doing..." (2:7). Both Jews and Gentiles were lost without the gospel.
Paul recognized his own people freely passed judgment upon the crass immorality of the Gentiles which justly deserved to be condemned. However, as the Jews were heaping blame upon the Gentiles they themselves were not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. They were manufacturing their own righteousness, home righteousness, which was a form of the same sin for which they condemned the Gentiles. All were sinners and needed the gospel of Christ to be saved. The Jews had reached a point where they taught much and practiced little. Jesus had made this point over and over. Jesus most often used the word: "hypocrite." For example, Matt. 7:5, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of they brother's eye." So, Paul approached his prejudice Jewish brethren from the blind side. He began his discussion with the immorality and the sins of the Gentiles (1:18-32). As the Jews began to gloat in this dark picture of the Gentiles; Paul turned his placard around and demanded self-inspection. Paul's placard read: "Thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgement of God?" (2:3). In v.4-16 of ch. 2, that we covered in our last lesson; the apostle drew the noose of self-inspection tighter and tighter, God "will render to every man according to his deeds" AND "there is no respect of persons with God." (V.6 $ 11). God had given the Jews the Mosaic code at Mt. Sinai and thus the Jews that lived under that law would be judged by that law, a more rigid standard and a higher standard than would be applied to the Gentiles, of the same period. But, God would judge the secrets of both Jews and Gentiles by Jesus Christ (v.16). Simply having a law and being a hearer of that law would not justify (v. 13). One must be a doer, not a hearer only. They must realize: God has replaced that law by the gospel in these last days and that all, both Jews and Gentiles, were/are subject to the gospel. As the apostle continued to reason "of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come: (Acts 24:25); he here drew a portrait of his Jewish people in the verses that follow. So, let's read! Let's read v.17-19, the rest of chapter two. Have you got it? V.I7, here wego:
"Behold, thou art called a jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the thins that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, doest thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. There, if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision"? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision does transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but 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."
Alright, go back to v.17 and re-read v.17-18-19-20 which makes up the first sentence of what we just read. Paul here gives a profile or silhouette of the most arrogant Jews, their zeal and their ego. That law they boasted and bragged about DID come from God at Mt. Sinai. Ths, it was true the jews were not in the same classification with the Gentiles from Moses to the time of the cross. But, don't forget now, Paul is writing to members of the church at Rome: "to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints." (Rom. 1:7). Thus, it is obvious to me that some Christians were arrogant enough to trust in their Jewish blood and ancestry as offering righteousness hi the sense it gave them a spiritual edge of superiority over their Gentile brethren. First of all, they were simply relying upon a broken stick. There was no truth or basis of fact in such conceited confidence. Secondly, to flaunt such pretentious and vain deportment had a negative effect upon the Gentile world in general, "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you..." (V.24). If one does not practice what he preaches; it has a negative effect upon his hearers. Now, I do not infer here that Paul had in mind a person (or group of persons) to which he was referring. Remember, Paul had never been to Rome and apparently had no involvement in establishing the congregation at Rome. Thus, the dilemma in which Paul was trying to abolish in his brethren was wide spread and deeply ingrained over the empire. This, of course, did not indict each and every Jewish Christian. Paul's questions in v.21,22,23 and the questions on circumcision in v.26-27 are designed to say in effect; you can't even square such conduct with the law of Moses, even if it were still in force. Then, study the conclusion in v.28-29: "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but 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." The word "letter" here in v.29 has reference to the law of Moses, as if that law was spelled out a written code in book form. All of this is said in an effort to compose perspective with respect to Jews and Gentiles and to encourage truth in practice as a mans of eradicating the dilemma as it existed, even in the churches over the empire at that time. And coded into this discussion is a great lessen for us on the topic of prejudice and arrogance. Paul did not say this to his brethren to put them down as a race of people. Paul himself was a Jew. Otherwise the Jews had every right to be proud of their ancestry, their race and their nation. And Paul swung the pendulum far enough, at the beginning of ch. 3, to concede that God DID give the Jews an advantage through committing his oracles to them, as a people. But, to receive an advantage also logically brings on greater responsibility. The Jews charged the Gentiles with grossly disobeying God; but, Paul charged the Jews were doing the same thing. They claimed to be a guide to the blind and a great light to them in darkness (v.19). But, Paul asked the question (v.23), "Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou god?: The bottom line comes down to a refined form of Jesus' charge of hypocrisy. Jesus said, "if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (Matt. 15:14).
Paul's circumcision discussion that begins in v.25, dealing with the value or profit of circumcision, simply touched another area of conceit and arrogance that ensnared many Jews. Paul's argument went something like this: God did NOT command circumcision of the Gentiles, referred to as "the uncircumcision." (V.26) Thus, the Gentiles who obeyed God would be accepted without circumcision; yet the Jews to which God gave his oracles did not keep his law, i.e. faithfully. So, v.27, some uncircumcised had fulfilled God's law, i.e. the law to which the Gentiles were answerable; while those to whom the law of Moses (were called the "letter", v.27) and to whom also circumcision was given; had transgressed that law. Now, some commentators point out that some, using Paul's circumcision argument (just covered); some have argued that God will this accept one without baptism if such a one should obey in every other way. This conclusion is erroneous; because, God has in these last days commanded baptism of all. Peter said, "everyone of you" on Pentecost ( Act 2:38). Jesus said, "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved..." (Mark 16:16). But, you see, in Paul's example the Gentiles were never commanded to be circumcised. So, don't be misled on that one.
Now in the moments we have left; let's read a little. I would like for us to read v. 1-2 of ch. 3 and then skip down to v.9 and read one sentence there which takes us through v.9-10-11. The reason for this is simply that in v.3-8 Paul does a little tangent discussion and then comes back to his point. Thus, in our reading v. 1-2 and skipping down to 9-10-11 we will read through his main points without (being for the moment, at least) distracted by the intervening discussion. Are you ready? Please put your eyes on the text; now, don't lazy-out on me. I ready, you read, we both read together. Are you ready? Beginning in 3:1. Here we go: "What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. [now skipping down to v.O]...What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written. There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."
O.K. back to v. 1, which is really two questions. First, Paul asked: did the Jews have any advantages over the Gentiles/ Secondly, what about circumcision? Then in v.2, Paul answered these rhetorical questions. He said; the Jews did have an advantage. Yes! Why? God had dealt more directly with the Jews. Not only in terms of the law of Moses; but, Jesus, the messiah came through the Jews. Thus, the gospel came to the Jew first and then also to the Gentiles. Sin, through the law, had been defined more precisely for the Jews. Now, down in v. 9, another rhetorical question: did this make the Jews better than the Gentiles? Again Paul answered his own question with an unequivocal "NO!" Absolutely not! Jews and Gentiles are NOW both in need of the gospel, "all are under sin." None are righteous, neither Jew nor Gentile, no not one. "All are under sin." All need the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the gospel is the righteousness of God revealed (1:17). Righteousness is imputed to those that have faith. Faith cometh by hearing (10:17). None are righteous by their own works and by their own deeds. The quote from v.10 is from Psalm 14. Thus, the bottom line of Paul's point, there was/is absolutely no basis for arrogance and conceit on the part of the Jews. Now, let's back up and read the verses in between (3:3-8). Put your eyes on it! Beginning in v.3!
"For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of god without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightiest be justified in thy sayings, and mightiest overcome when thou are judged. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God for bid: for then how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just."
In v. 1-2, Paul conceded that the Jews were given some advantage. God had promised to bless the Jews. If the Jews were not faithful; would that ruin God's plan and make God"s promises false? Of course not! God's promises were conditional. God would bless the Jews, if they were faithful. The quote in v.4 is from Psalm 51:4. The point is (v.4): don't start reasoning that God made a mistake. Paul is saying, in effect, you need to get David's point of view, here. That's the reason for the quote (Ps. 51:4), one of David's Psalms. Then (v.7-8), some were undoubtedly turning Paul's doctrine around, in derision and mockery, and (I would infer) saying something like this: the Jews were blamed for the murder of the messiah, i.e. for killing Jesus; but, Paul claims it is through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that one receives atonement for sins. Therefore, GOOD came out of this evil act, they were saying. Thus, they were undoubtedly asking in sarcasm: would it be fair for God to punish them for bringing about good? This was their version of Paul's gospel, i.e. what some were falsely reporting Paul said. Notice, (v.8) Paul said, "whose damnation is just." This is saying have a good day.