About Us Services MinistriesSermon Message Bible StudyChurch Calendar Contact Us


Statement of Faith

The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell You

Listen to this week's message!

Map to the Church

Prayer Requests

Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!

Bible Study Archives


"Inside-Out Religion"
Romans 2:17-29

Wednesday PM Home Bible Study
June 11, 2003

In this larger section of Paul's letter to the Romans (1:18-3:20), he is outlining a crucial aspect of his gospel. It is that aspect in which he presents each man and woman with their helpless guilt before a holy God, and persuades them to confess their need for the great theme of his letter - "justification by faith". So far, he has spoken of the horrible sins of the God-rejecting pagan (1:18-32). But as the unbelieving Gentile moralist listens on - shaking his head and 'tsk-tsking' at the sins of others - Paul pulls a fast one on him and shows that as the moralist condemns others, he also condemns himself. He who condemns does the same things (2:1-16).

Meanwhile, in Paul's argument, the Jewish man looks on and thinks how grateful he is that he is outside the loop in all this. He thinks that, because he is distinct from the Gentile world, he is also distinct from their hopeless condition in sin. But that's when Paul catches the Jew unawares in our passage this evening (2:17-29), and shows that he too stands condemned before God. By the time Paul is through, no one is left innocent; and all are forced to recognize their desperate need for a Savior.

As you hopefully can see, there's no 'anti-Semitism' in any of this. Far from it, in fact. Paul - himself a Jew - clearly recognizes the great advantage that the Jew has (3:1-2; 9:3-5; see also Deut. 4:5-8). But even for those to whom there could be no greater external advantage of religion, there is still the same absolute essential need - the need that is true of all of fallen humanity - "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Paul's words regarding the Jew in this evening's passage have application to everyone who trusts in the externals of religion without being inwardly transformed by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

We see, first, that ...


A. We can have all the 'outside' (external) features of religion and boast in them (vv. 17-20). This was certainly true of the one who:

1. Was called a "Jew" (that is, identified with God's chosen people - the name Jew being taken from Judah, the tribe of the sons of Jacob through whom the Messiah would come. "Judah" itself means "Praise"; and so, it was a boast to be called one who lived to the praise of God).

2. Rested on the law (that is, who possessed it, studied it, copied it, and were the esteemed trustees of God's self-revelation to the world; thus taking confidence in their relationship to God's law).

3. Made his boast in God (that is, could rightly call himself a member of God's chosen people - the apple of God's eye, as it says in Zechariah 2:8).

4. Knew God's will (that is, could discern what God required of people for godly living - something they could know through the possession of His written precepts, judgments and instructions).

5. Approved the things that are excellent (that is, could through the Scriptures genuinely discern what was true from what was false; what was right from what was wrong; what was important from what didn't really matter - thus having a clear sense of things as they truly are).

6. Could be confident that he was a revealer of God's truth to the world, making him:

a. A guide to the blind.

b. A light to those who are in darkness.

c. An instructor to those who are foolish.

d. A teacher to those who are babes.

7. Was uniquely blessed in that he had the form of knowledge and truth in the law.

B. Truly, no people group has been more blessed and has had a greater advantage toward God than the Jew. But if the 'outside' features of such things are all that we have, then those things will only bring us condemnation (vv. 21-24). For the Jew, his possession of the law - that which was his boast - brought condemned upon him because:

1. He taught the law, but did not teach himself.

2. He preached that a man should not steal, but then stole.

3. He said that one should not commit adultery, but then committed adultery.

4. He abhorred idols, but then robbed temples (probably a reference to doing business with those who people who robbed temples, and then profiting from the association; but may also have been a reference to actually stealing from temples - see Acts 19:37. Deut. 7:25-26 seems to describe the idea of taking idols out of temples and melting them down for their gold.)

5. He made his boast in the law, but then dishonored God by breaking the law - thus giving the Gentiles cause for blaspheming God (See Mal. 3:8; Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20).

What a terrible condemnation!! Outside religion that only results in unbelieving people blaspheming God!! This leads us to the confession that ...


A. The 'outside' features of our religious expressions lose their value if our 'inside' is not transformed (vv. 25-27). Paul certainly recognized the value of the chief "symbol" that identified the Jew - circumcision (v. 25; see Gen. 17). The Jewish man counted on this outward display of religion as a sign of his covenant relationship with God. But Paul also argues that this outward display did the Jewish man no good at all if he didn't also fully keep th law. He argues that, if even an uncircumcised Gentile kept the law (a hypothetical situation, since no one ever has kept the law), then the uncircumcised Gentile would be in better standing before God than the Jewish man who was circumcised but who did not keep the law (vv. 26-27).

B. Paul argues that an 'inside' transformation is of more value to God than an 'outside' religion (vv. 28-29). The Jewish man who trusted in the externals didn't realize that what God was looking for was a heart that was right before Him. That is, God was seeking:

1. An inward "Jewishness".

2. A circumcision of the heart (Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 9:26).

3. A religiousness in the spirit, not through strick, rigid obedience to the letter of the law.

4. The kind of man whose praise is not from men (who can only see the outside), but from God (who can see the heart).

* * * * * * * * * *

In closing, consider how William R. Newell paraphrased this passage for us who call ourselves "Christians". "Thou who gloriest in the gospel, through thy disobedience to the gospel, dishonorest thou God? The name of God is blasphemed among non 'church-members' because of you! Church-membership indeed profiteth if thou be an obeyer of the gospel; but if thou be a refuser of a gospel-walk, thy 'church-membership' is become non 'church-membership.' If therefore a non 'church-member' obey the gospel, shall not his non 'church-membership' be reckoned for 'church-membership'? And shall not non 'church-members,' if they obey the gospel, judge thee, who with the letter and 'church-membership' art a refuser of a gospel-walk? For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, nor is that 'church-membership' which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly; and 'church-membership' is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God." (Wm. Newell, Romans: Verse by Verse [Chicago: Grace Publications, Inc., 1938], pp. 70-71.)

The point of all this is to drive us to despair of our own self-made righteousness; so that we confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior, and turn to Jesus Christ by faith for salvation. Has this message from Paul had that effect upon you? Has it renewed in you a gratefulness to God for His free offer of 'justification by faith'? Has it renewed in you a passion to tell others?

Printable Version
Bethany Bible Church, 18245 NW Germantown Road, Portland, OR 97231 / 503.645.1436

Site Map | Privacy Policy | Copyright Information