Sermon – June 13, 2021

Romans 2:17-29 – Misplaced Faith in External Trappings (mp3)

Paul has been making his case that no one, on their own, is righteous before God. He has spent time focused on the unrighteousness of the Gentiles, and in the first half of Romans 2 began to turn his attention to the Jews. Now in our passage this morning, he turns his focus explicitly on the Jews. The Jews had great faith that the outward trappings of their religion would guarantee them safety from God’s judgment, but they neglected the deeper reality that was meant to be signified by these exterior marks. Paul is going to argue two main points to shatter the Jews’ misplaced confidence:

1. The Law has value when performed not merely possessed
Paul’s diatribe continues, now focusing on the good of what the Jews possessed. Their name, reliance on the law, boasting in God, approval of what is excellent is rightly praised. Yet, when it is not married to the consistent and true practice of the law, it turns from boasting in God (v. 17) to blaspheming the same (v. 24). They have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, but in reality such must be put into practice. Do we do the same? Do we care to truly listen to the knowledge and truth of Scripture, now even more fully revealed?

2. Circumcision has value when it is internal not merely external
It is not simply what is outside that matters, but what is inside. The sign of the covenant that the Jews possessed, circumcision, was only as good as it was a sign of a kept covenant. What they truly needed was not an external sign, but an internal reality; not the circumcision of their flesh that might keep them in God’s grace, but the circumcision of their hearts so that they might love God and keep his commands. We must face the same reality: all of our prayers, decisions, and confirmations of the truth do not matter if they are not rightly matched with the daily pursuit of right living through a changed heart. Do your works match your confession?