“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest His will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the 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.” —Romans 2:17-20
As we looked at Romans 2:17-24 within its historical framework last time, we should also realize that this text actually has a tremendous application for us today; not only as local congregations in the body of Christ, but also as individuals within the local church. “The Word of God is alive, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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” (Hebrews 4:12); and therefore, 2000 years of time, thousands of miles of distance, and hundreds of generations of cultural change cannot separate us from the relevance of these truths.
“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God” (Romans 2:17). So, we likewise call ourselves Christians, holding to the truth of God’s revealed Word in Scripture, and rejoicing in God.
“And knowest His will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law” (Romans 2:18). And we have knowledge of God’s revealed will from Scripture because we have a proper Biblical hermeneutic, interpreting the text consistently for doctrinal, practical, and experiential application.
“And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness” (Romans 2:19). Since our view of Scripture is of the utmost integrity and sincerity, we are very sure of ourselves that we have light for those in darkness and truth for those who are deceived.
Yet, the Holy Spirit corrects this arrogance in Romans 2:20: “…a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and of truth.” The whole counsel of God, the Scripture (the law), is the embodiment or expression of knowledge and truth, but not the very Being of all-knowledge and truth, which is God. The law is the picture of knowledge and truth but not the very Person of all-knowledge and truth, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life;” for in Him dwells all the fullness of deity in bodily form.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit asks us some rhetorical questions in Romans 2:21-23 because He already told us that we are guilty of doing the same things as the God-hating, Christ-rejecting suppressers of truth in Romans 1, according to Romans 2:1. God is not asking to get a yes or no response from us. He’s getting us to think about our sin in light of the truth of the Scriptures we place so much emphasis upon, and the doctrines of grace that we embrace so tightly.
“Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?” (Romans 2:21). When we teach the total inability of fallen man to save himself, do we understand our own total depravity? When we preach against robbing God of glory by denying His sovereignty, do we boast in our own efforts and our own actions in preaching grace or holding to particular redemption?
“Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?” (Romans 2:22). When we expose the idolatry broadcasted from pulpits across the land, do we make an idol of our doctrines and give them greater place than the blessedness of loving God in Christ. worshipping our heavenly Father through Christ?
“Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?” (Romans 2:23). Well, there’s no doubt about that; since we gloried in the doctrines of grace and relied upon our consistent hermeneutic, then when we sinned it only brought dishonor to God. We claimed to represent truth, which is good and holy; for the entire Word of God is good and holy because it came from a good and holy God. Yet, in our transgression against God’s commands, we were suggesting with our teaching and behavior that sin is acceptable to a holy, good and just God….
“[And for that reason] the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (Romans 2:24). Unbelievers see clearly the hypocritical inconsistency of our lives despite every effort we make to consistently interpret Scripture.
We must always and ever keep in mind that we trust upon Christ and His righteousness alone; and in His righteousness, coming boldly before the throne of grace, we will find mercy for help in time of need. If God’s merciful hand is upon you and I, He will equip us, enable us, and empower us, by His grace, to strive to keep His Word unto His glory; and trusting upon Christ, not only for the salvation that has justified us before a holy God, but also trusting upon Christ in our execution of God’s good and holy Word in our lives, to the best of our abilities for His glory– for the best that you and I can muster until He has taken us home to glory, are as filthy rags and an unclean thing, always falling short of God’s glory.
Read the previous article in this series, “Background in the Law” (Romans 2:17-24).