(17) Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (18) And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; (19) And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,(20) 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
Yesterday we discussed how that many of the Jews found security in their Judaism as evidence of being right with God. We pointed to verse 17 for this case. The second thing they put their security in was the law. Not only did they find their security in their heritage, they also found security in their privileged position of having the moral law given to them by God. They boasted in the revelation of the law they received from God.
Certainly having the law was a point of great privilege for the Jews. It has given them incredible advantages. A culture that more closely obeys even just the 10 commandments, much less the other parts of the law, is at an advantage over cultures that did not follow these commands. Less murder, less adultery, less theft, honor for parents, and laws that serve as a check to greed and dishonesty would facilitate a more workable society.
But of course, for the Jews, it wasn’t just a social construct. They believed their laws came from God, which of course they did. The problem is that they thought that since they were Jewish, and since they “kept the law” they were by definition accepted by God. Many of them thought that because they had the law, and strived at times to do what it said they were OK with God. More than that, many of them saw themselves as those who “knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.” Paul goes on to say that they “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.” They viewed themselves as not just secure, but superior to others because of their law keeping.
Paul is making the case in these verses that everyone stands guilty before God. As we’ll see in coming days, the law does have advantages, but the law is not sufficient to save. It shows us where we fall short, because no one can perfectly keep the law.
Not much has changed today. Many people think that by keeping a set of rules they will be right with God. When you ask the normal American if they are going to heaven when they die, most will answer with a “yes” or “I hope so”. When you follow up with asking for a reason why, they will often tell you “I’m a good person.” They may say, “Well, I don’t hurt people. I try to be kind.” etc. Some even attach religiosity to their doing good, much like the Jews, thinking the combination will make them right with God.
The truth is that neither our heritage, nor our keeping the law, will make us right with God. We stand before God guilty, unable to perfectly keep the law. What the law teaches us is that it can not be kept.
- Do I think God is lucky to have me because I keep the law well?
- Do I think I’m right with God because of the good things that I do?
- We must stop thinking this way.
- It is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that I’m accepted by God!