Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. (Romans 2:17-24)
In this section of Romans, God indicts the Jew, that is, the religious Jew. In reality, this indictment holds true against any religious person who relies upon his/her religion for salvation. But first, a definition is in order:
The religious man herein indicted is a person who trusts in a religious system to save him; he believes in this system, with all of its rites and traditions, and is convinced that following the religion closely will keep him from judgment. The religious man is trusting in a system, rather than in God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To establish the sinfulness of the religious man, God points to the inconsistency between his profession and his practice. He professes honesty, but he steals. He professes marital fidelity, but commits adultery. He is a functional hypocrite, not living up to the religious demands he imposes upon others. He is not honest about his own failures; therefore his life is a blasphemous statement against God’s name.
The religious man:
- Rests in the law
- Makes his boast in God
- Knows God’s will
- Approves excellent things (having learned them from the law)
- Is confident in his role as a spiritual guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness
These characteristics, in and of themselves, are honorable. But again, the problem with the religious man described in this section is that he trusts in these things to save him; he believes that following his religion closely will keep him from the judgment of God. In other words, he is not trusting Christ, he is trusting in his religion and in his ability to adhere to its tenets.
But he is a hypocrite, and does not live up to his own religious standards. Instead of repentance, he decides to pretend that he’s doing everything correctly.
God sees through the charade, and calls him out. He is a sinner. And everyone but he himself knows that.
For Further Review
1. If you have a personal religious history prior to coming to Christ, how did you come out of it? How has your testimony become a blessing to others?
2. What do you think? Is a true Christian who stumbles or sins a hypocrite? Why or why not? What characterizes a hypocrite?
3. According to today’s passage, what great damage is done as a result of religious hypocrisy or insincerity? What do you think is the proper way to respond to it, from your personal vantage point?