Study Through Romans: Lesson 9 :: By Sean Gooding

Chapter 2:17-29
Hypocrites and the Law

Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?

24 For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written. 25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

The book of Romans is raw and hits us (at least me) in the heart. The Holy Spirit, if we are listening, cuts right to the heart of the matter and convicts us. This is the whole point of the Law. It was never designed to save; rather it was designed to show us that we needed a Saviour. In Galatians 3:24-46, the Apostle Paul tells us this very thing:

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

There are still many who try to live by the Law. They don’t eat this, and think that only those who worship on Saturdays are saved. But if you follow the ministry of Jesus, you will see that He did a lot of healing on Sabbath days. He defied the conventional thinking about the Sabbath, yet He never sinned. There are some today who observe some of the Law but not all of it. The Bible says in James 2:10-11 this about the Law:

Whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

You cannot pick and choose which laws you want to keep and which ones you want to ignore. If you say that you want to live by the Law, then do them all is what the Bible says. Jewish men were not allowed to shave their faces; they had to wear blue tassels on their clothes to identify them as children of God in Israel. They could not wear clothing made of mixed fabrics; and on and on we can go. I dare say that many of the people who think they know the Law of Moses, don’t. One which is often overlooked is the law about travel. In Exodus 16:29-30 we see this command from Moses to the people, based on the law of God:

“‘See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore, He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day.”

Do not go out of your home. Over the years there came to be known the phrase “a Sabbath’s day’s journey.” This was the allowed distance to be traveled on the Sabbath day; the priest’s homes and the synagogues would have been a Sabbath day’s journey from the homes in the town. We see this phrase used in Acts 1:12, where Jesus took His disciples out about a Sabbath day’s journey before He was taken up before their eyes. There was to be no travel beyond this distance on the Sabbath. So people who pretend that they follow the Law, yet travel more than 2,000 cubits or about 3,000 feet, are breaking all of the Law. If you want to truly keep the Law, stay home.

  1. Hypocrites, verses 17-25

We are all hypocrites. Some less and some more, but all hypocrites nonetheless. Why? Because we do things that we tell people not to do, and we often make ourselves out to be more than we truly are. We put on an air of piety, and as people get to know us, they realize that we have a lot of chinks in our armour. Read the Gospels and pay close attention to the followers of Jesus; these men were fraught with doubts, they had internal fighting about who would be the greatest, they had unbelief and they had issues with faith. While we pick on Peter for denying Jesus that fateful night on His arrest, ALL of the disciples fled; they all forsook Jesus; only John and Peter followed Him.

One of the best parts of the New Testament is that we find the apostles and the disciples to be real people. They had real issues. Peter and Barnabas were challenged face to face by Paul about their Jewish hypocrisy:

Galatians 2:11-13 “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”

To some degree, this is the very heart of the challenge of Christianity. The fight between the old man and the new man is real and at times dirty. The gap between what we should be and what we all feel is like an uncrossable divide. The Apostle Paul has a remedy for that; and all through the epistles, he reminds us that he was and is a great sinner. The most famous of these declarations is in 1 Timothy 1:15:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Paul called himself the head, the chief of all sinners. Notice that he is addressing a young preacher named Timothy, and he is showing him how he should present himself: as a sinner, and not just a sinner but the chief of sinners. The Apostle John would tell us in his letter that if we say we are not sinners, we are liars; rather we are to confess our sins to God. We are to confess our sins one to another as well. While we are to teach that one is to be obedient to the Lord and that one should flee sinful actions and lusts, the fact of the matter is, we will sin and, sadly, sin often.

We are not to present ourselves as someone who has arrived, but rather as someone on the journey who was and is in need of more grace than anyone else on the journey. But, man, do we like to make ourselves out to be more than we are! We love the accolades of men, but sin is at the door, and it will raise its ugly head.

We do almost irreparable damage to the Lord’s churches when we make ourselves out to be something we are not. We set up people to get hurt and to be very angry with God, all because we put on some holier than thou attitude that was just a façade. This was the very hypocrisy that Jesus called out with the Pharisees. The self-righteousness that created a class structure in the local church. We all get to heaven the same way, clothed and covered in Jesus’s righteousness, not our own. No one has arrived in Heaven to fanfare for their own personal righteousness.

  1. The Law was Designed to Make you a Sinner, verses 25-29

No one has ever been saved by keeping the Law, no one. In Romans 7:7, Paul writes this:  

“What then shall we say? Is the Law sin? Absolutely not! Indeed, I would not have been mindful of sin if not for the Law. For I would not have been aware of coveting if the Law had not said, ‘Do not covet.'”

The Law told me what sin was, and showed me that I was incapable of keeping the whole Law. As such, I am guilty of the whole law, and the penalty for breaking the Law is death. We needed someone to come and fulfill, obey the Law in its entirety; and that is where Jesus came in. Hebrews 4: 14-18 tells us this:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus never sinned, not even once, even though He was tempted in ALL points like we are. He satisfied the need to be perfect for all of us, and it is in Him only that we can be saved. No one will be saved by keeping the Law; no one will go to Heaven because they only worshiped on the Sabbath; no one will go to heaven by not eating pork or shrimp or not wearing mixed clothing. In Galatians 2:20-21 Paul writes this:

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not set aside the grace of God. For if righteousness comes through the Law, Christ died for nothing.”

If righteousness came by the Law, then Jesus died for nothing. To say that you can get to Heaven by the Law is to negate the death of Jesus, to diminish what He did on the cross and make His bloodshed nothing more than a show, to say that we really do not need Him. But righteousness cannot come through the Law; it is only in Christ that we can become righteous.

Repent of your self-righteousness and fall on the grace and mercy of the Living God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

God bless you,

Pastor Sean Gooding

Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church