God condemns the self-righteous

Romans 2:17-29

Jerry A. Collins




o       Does a religious person get a break with God?

o       Can I earn my way into God’s favor?

o       What constitutes spiritual success in eyes of God?


Growing up in my hometown neighborhood, my friend, Brad Clark, always assumed a superior attitude toward the rest of us. His family drove ford automobiles and they were superior to the Chevy’s  we drove. Their house and yard was superior to ours and anyone else’s because of how well-kept it was. Their bikes, their sandbox, their ice rink, their seawall, their  stuff was always superior. None of us could ever measure up to their privileged position. According to our passage, a group of people assumed the same kind of thing about themselves. They assumed a superior attitude over others because of their privileged position before God. They were the Jews Paul was writing about in Romans 2. They did have legitimate advantages over Gentiles and he enumerates them here. But their boasting about this and their hypocrisy offset these advantages. Their privileged position before God is no guarantee that they will remain that way without trust and obedience toward God. The Jews assumed their status with God in two ways. They had the advantage of being given the Law of Moses (17-24) and the rite of circumcision (25-29). Self-righteous people assume that they have an advantage with God that others do not possess. But is this true?


In the case of the Jews their possession of the Law was not sufficient grounds of acceptance before God. Evidently, these self-righteous Jews were referred to as the ones who were passing judgment on others from verse 1. There he had not specified them by name but now he does! They have condemned themselves he says in verse 1. But how? He lists a handful of ways they were hypocritical. Here is the basis of their boasting and also of their hypocrisy. People enjoy boasting about their supposed privileged status before God. Today they may measure that status by the baptism they have received. Or possibly the good works they have done. Or the money they have given.  For these Jews it included: (1) Reliance on the Law 17. They had placed the confidence and security of acceptance before God in the fact that God gave the Law to them. They assumed this fact proved they were on good terms with God. 3 purposes of the Law: First, to establish a relationship between God and His people. Law was not for salvation since salvation for Israelites preceded the Law (Abe Gen15; Israelites Ex 14). But God’s people prone to wander so God provided sacrificial system as means to repent and remain in fellowship. Second, to make Israel distinct from all their neighbors. Lined up with all neighbors they looked alike and spoke alike but the Law is what separated them from all the rest. Third, to evangelize the world. God was reaching the world before the NT. OT the strategy was inward—others see Israel keeping Law and be attracted so as to have rela with their God. Instead Israel became like others.  (2) Bragging about their rela with God 17. The fact that they were in a special covenantal rela with God like noone else. (3) Awareness of God’s desires and plan 18. They had an understanding of what was more or less important to God. (4)Determine what is more excellent 18. They have insider information about what is really best, that which is important to follow. (5) Because they are being instructed by this Law 18. This instruction was constant and they were diligent to hear and receive it in their religious regimen. Now, inherently, there does not seem to be anything wrong with these advantages except we depend upon them for righteousness. We feel we have a special standing with God because of them. (6) Persuaded of certain things about themselves in rela to Gentiles 19-20a. Their confidence about themselves demonstrated in four ways:  First, they were a guide to the blind. Today we are always ready to correct anyone around us, to preach truth to those unfortunate people who have not learned anything yet. Second, felt they were a lite to ones in darkness. People who take pride in their knowledge of the last things, decrees of God, will of God, views of atonement. Third, Instructors of the foolish due to ignorance. Lecturing others about what is and what is not proper because they know the scriptures. Fourth, felt they were teachers of   infants who had so much to learn. (7) Because having Law meant they had knowledge and truth 20. All they assumed themselves to be, rested in this. But using a series of rhetorical ?’s holes are poked in the self-righteous Jews hypocritical facade 21-24. First, continually teaching others do you not teach yourself? Like playing church basketball or eating at a Bible smorgasbord. Never take a shot for yourself. Second, don’t steal—you steal 21. Third, don’t do adultery—you do 22. Fourth, hate idols—you rob heathen’s temples. Each of which self-righteous Jew guilty of doing after preaching to others not to do those things. The result: (1) Jews hypocrisy dishonors God. (2) Neighbors saw inconsistency and turned away from God because of you. This OT verse backs up this claim (Isa 52:5). The same is true today. Think about how often God’s name being blasphemed by the world and in the world because of the contradiction the world sees in our lives between our claims and our conduct! Our falseness, insincerity and pretending.


Next to Law of Moses Jews boasted in their rite of circumcision vs 25. First, it is only profitable for doers of the Law not all Jews. We could substitute baptism, confirmation, church membership where people rest upon these rites as a sign that they belong to God! A Jewish lawbreaker stands before God as unbeliever. The Jewish rite of circumcision counts for nothing. Second, the opposite is also true. If, true for sake of argument, one uncircumcised keeps law reckoned by God as circumcised vs 26. Third, Gentiles who obey this Law condemns Jew despite his having both the letter of the Law and rite of circumcision vs 27. The conclusion is 28-29—God say that no possession or religious rite makes you a Jew. One becomes a Jew when his heart is changed like with Abe and Jacob. What makes you part of Abraham’s blessed family is not the culture from which you came, the ritual thru which you have gone, the ancestry from which your born but fact that you know Jesus Christ (Gal 3:29). This true Jew receives his praise not from men, as the Pharisees had, but from God who sees peoples inward natures and discerns their true heart condition.

1. There is no significance in any mechanical act. God looks only at the heart, the attitude, the motive. Man wants to view the act. God views the heart.

2. Watch out for inconsistencies in your life between what you know is true and where you may not be living that way. Don’t give up here. You may have to fite all way to grave. Some sin like that but don’t quit.

3. Do what is closest to heart of God not what you can get away with.