Romansby David Cook
While Paul has the Jews in view as he pens Romans 1–2:16, he now has the Jews specifically in mind.
God entrusted the Jews with the law. However, Paul makes it clear that mere possession of the law does not qualify one to be a guide, a light, an instructor, or a teacher (vv. 19–20). If the law is not lived, God is dishonoured (vv. 21–23). Verse 24 is heavy in its condemnation that “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles” because of the lawless lives led by the Jews, God’s people.
Paul then turns from the law to the issue of circumcision and its inner, spiritual meaning. He argues that just as mere possession of the law is no protection against God’s condemnation, circumcision is of value only if it indicates a circumcised heart. A non-circumcised Gentile who keeps the law and lives as though he were circumcised, will condemn the disobedient, circumcised Jew (v. 27). Jewishness is not outward and physical; it is inward and spiritual. It is a circumcision of the heart (see Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 9:26; and John 8:39–45).
Thus the Jew who depends on the superiority of having God’s law and the mark of the covenant in his flesh is in for a big surprise. Unless these outward signs are matched by inward experience and integrity, they are empty. (Paul illustrates this truth later in the case of Abraham, 4:11.)
The application to the issue of sacraments is obvious. Sacraments are empty signs if they are not matched by the inner reality they symbolise. Baptism, the initiating rite, is a symbol of our new birth, our death with Christ, and our resurrection to new life. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of the foundation of our right relationship with God through the work of His Son on the cross. Unless these truths are real in our experience, participation in the sacraments is of no use.
Paul’s concern is to show how Jews are lost. Jews are lost because of their disregard for God’s lordship in their lives. No amount of religious activity can compensate for that before God.
What about your heart? Is it right with God? This is an important question to answer today!
Think about how you may be tempted to put your faith in doing good things, even things like this Bible reading time, rather than in Christ for a relationship with God.