ROMANS 2:17-24
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Rom. 2:17 “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law,
and makest thy boast of God,. . .”

“Orthodox,” an adjective which means “of the right opinion,” refers to those who agree with the established traditional doctrines of a particular religion. We would describe as “Orthodox” any who agree with a church’s basic teachings and who are faithful in attendance.
Our text was initially written as an indictment against Orthodox Jews, but the principles enunciated against them still apply today. The warning might apply to a committed Baptist, an exacting Fundamentalist, or a devout Catholic. Our text warns the faithful to beware of three things:

I. PRIDE IN RELIGION

Rom. 2:18-20 “And knowest his will, and approvest the things that
are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And
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.

The Jews had become vain and smug due to their religiousness. This temptation ever faces the Orthodox. Many fine religious people are going to miss Heaven because their trust is in religion rather than in God. A false security is rampant among church members, and it is based on two treacherous pillars:

A. Knowledge

The Jews knew what was right (v. 18) and were proud of it. The Orthodox are always tempted to harp on their knowledge. They know more than others. Hence, they begin to see themselves as guides, lights, instructors, and teachers–all self-praising terms. The less Orthodox are viewed as blind, in darkness, foolish, babes–all defaming terms.
Paul had captured the true attitude of those who trust in knowledge for salvation. They hold high esteem for themselves and a low regard for others. However, a man may be well-trained in the theologies of religion and yet be a stranger to the power of godliness.
With regard to salvation and one’s everlasting destiny, the issue is not what you know or how much you know, but rather Who you know. Possession of knowledge is nothing: possession of Christ is everything. Instead of information, one needs transformation. We do not need to be taught again, just born again.

B. Denominationalism

It is alarming to imagine the multitudes of people who are placing their trust for salvation in a particular denomination. Multiplied thousands, yea, even millions, believe they will go to Heaven by being a member of the right denomination, or by following its rituals.
In other words, all that is necessary is to wear the right label or have the right name. This cannot be. Even the most sinful practices can be hidden under the best names:
* “Abraham is our father” is a very good denominational label, but it was the boast of the generation of vipers that killed Jesus.
* “Jews” was the label under which at least one synagogue of Satan worshipped (RV 2:9).
* “For the glory of Jesus” was the banner under which the Spanish Inquisition thrived.
* “Human rights” is written on the mask which covers abortion.
Had a particular denominational label been the way to salvation, the Bible would have told us so.
Some will argue the label is not enough; one must meticulously follow the prescribed rituals. Infant sprinkling and confirmation have given many a false sense of security. Countless thousands shall go to hell because their confidence is in these things.
Religious symbols which point to the God of salvation often become seen as the salvation of God. Ceremonies, creeds, form, liturgy, rites, sacraments, and other things are often trusted in for salvation. Yet these things are useless apart from being born again. The only hope is righteousness received by faith from Christ. Otherwise, one merely has ritual without redemption, form without faith, liturgy without life, and ceremony without salvation. This sad state of affairs is exactly what is happening in much of so-called Christendom today.
Even the best works, when they become a source of trust for salvation, become an abomination to God. Put your trust in Jesus’ death alone.
The Jews had pride in religion. They felt it would in and of itself carry them to the bosom of Abraham. They were wrong. Learn from their mistake.

II. HYPOCRISY

Romans 2:21-22 Thou therefore which teachest another, teach-
est thou not thyself? thou that preachest
a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou
that sayest a man should not commit adultery,
dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhor-
rest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

Since the Jews based their security on what they knew, and what they were by birth, they often were lax in applying their teachings to everyday living. They were not careful to keep practice up to the level of profession. The same is still true of the Orthodox today.
Many have divorced God’s laws from everyday living. Since trust is placed in rituals for salvation, obedience is not really important. Hence, the Bible becomes a couch rather than a goad. One of my cousins works with men who are vile, vulgar, and profane. Yet at the same time, they give up meat during Lent. Their religion has become a salve to soothe the conscience so sinning can be more comfortable. Instead of a stimulus to good living, it becomes compensation for bad living. For many, religion is an insurance policy to cover all bases after sin.
Hypocrisy can be a subtle thing, capturing us not only in open, blatant matters, but also in the “small” things of life. We can see scantily dressed women lewdly dancing and not be appalled. We can hear cursing and not be moved. The other day I saw one of our church members in a public place and began to move that direction to say “Hello.” As I approached, I heard the person use profanity. I just slipped away before being noticed.
Our faith must become a part of the warp and woof of our lives. Otherwise, we can find ourselves bragging on the law, and at the same time breaking it. God is not interested in praise for His words at the expense of obedience to it. Are we really practicing what we preach?
Before I leave this point, let me say three things to those who enjoy condemning us for our hypocrisy:
1. Most of the ones you delight in calling a hypocrite are people who are truly sorry for their sins. The very fact that we come together regularly is an expression by us of our need for help. We are not spiritual giants. We are simply pilgrims passing through a strange land. Our desire is help from God. We, more than anyone else, realize we are sinners saved by grace.
2. To hide behind hypocrites is a poor reflection on your own self. In order to hide, an object larger than yourself must be found. To hide you effectively, the object must be larger than you. Therefore, if you seek cover behind hypocrites, you confess that you are a smaller person than they are.
3. To shun Christianity because you do not like being around hypocrites is supreme folly. The worst hypocrites are going to hell, the very place you are headed. Therefore, you are shunning hypocrites temporarily on earth so you can live with them forever in hell. Strange indeed!
Now let us return to our comments to the Orthodox.

III. BLASPHEMY

Romans 2:23-24 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through
breaking the law dishonorest thou God? For the
name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles
through you, as it is written.

Since you bear the name of Jesus, you reflect on Him in all you do. God has staked His reputation on you. Give Him a good reflection. You are the only Bible some people read.
Every outward sin is a double sin, for it includes blasphemy. This provokes God because it brings dishonor upon His name. “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain” (EX 20:7).
Jesus taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Thy name.” We need to match this prayer with proper living.
We need to live a godly life to magnify the Power possessed within. Ungodliness tears down with our lives what we would build up with our preaching. Bad lives contradict good doctrine. And it is the Lord who receives the negative press.
The biggest detriment to the Christian faith is the unchristian conduct of her members. It is sad that there are those who inside the church-house worship so gloriously that it is a pity they should ever come out, and yet outside of the church-house they live so ill that it is a pity they should ever come in. Ghandi said, “I would be a follower of Christ if it were not for Christians.” We have met the enemy, and it is ourselves. We need a fresh cleansing from above, a renewed sensitivity to sin.