Romans Chapter 2 Christian Accountability

Aug 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Romans, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Romans Chapter 2 Christian Accountability

Rom. 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Using regular logic, we would normally say that “O man” is the unregenerate man in the world, but the answer is yes and no. Paul had just been talking about the unconsecrated, but now he was saying that manifestations of these traits can creep into the brotherhood itself, as the second half of the verse shows: “For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” Only the consecrated are being judged now. The unconsecrated will be judged in the next age. At that time, God will forgive the murderers and others, and He will treat them as He deems proper to handle the situation with retribution. However, Paul was not writing to the Roman populace but was writing to the brotherhood about the Roman populace and how the consecrated have to be on guard lest these traits and characteristics creep into the Church.

Comment: The Apostle John wrote, “Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds [the deeds of Diotrephes] which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church” (3 John 10). Here is an example of maliciousness in the Church.

Comment: We talk about the nominal system being worldly and lowering its standards when the same conditions can exist among ourselves too.

Reply: Yes, these conditions can very easily creep in.

Comment: Jesus said one should look at himself before judging others (Matt. 7:3-5).

Reply: Yes, Paul was talking about the tendency to judge others. Eventually, he would discuss a real problem that existed in the early Church between Jews and Gentiles. Paul began with the basics and then went into the nitty-gritty applications to the brotherhood.

Q: Was Paul saying, for example, “Let us assume that we are going behind someone’s back and maligning his character, yet we turn around and accuse that person of committing the same sin we are guilty of ourselves”?

A: Yes, that is what Paul was trying to show. He went into great detail to make sure he made everyone feel guilty so that the brethren would be less apt to be judgmental in the future.

When some people consecrate, they find they cannot seem to get rid of certain habits. A quick temper is one such trait. Several with this characteristic have said from the platform that when they get into this frame of mind, they count to ten. That way the old man does not come out of the box hastily and do things that the new creature is sorry for and that require amends. If, after counting to ten, the brother feels just as intense, then perhaps he is correct. Counting to ten puts a harness on the old man.

Rom. 2:2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

Rom. 2:3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

“The judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.” There are different perspectives in reading this statement. What are some of them?

Comment: God’s judgment is perfect; He does not make a mistake.

Comment: The invisible God sees everything we do. If we judge someone else, God knows all about our own conduct and the conduct of the other party. He knows the truth of the matter. God is no respecter of persons in judgment. Friendship is dangerous because it is harder to speak words of correction to a friend than to an enemy. God judges impartially according to the facts. Being two-edged, the Word of God, the sword of the Holy Spirit, must be wielded carefully lest it damage us (Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16). We get cut when we do the same things as the person we wield it against.

Comment: The Revised Standard reads, “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?”

Reply: God judges righteously because He knows all the facts. Being down here in the flesh, we are limited in our vision. If possible, we should try to get both sides of the story so that we will not make a hasty decision that is regretted later—and even years later.

Rom. 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Rom. 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

Paul was speaking to the brotherhood and saying that God leads them to repentance. Verses 4 and 5 tell of an ongoing and progressive repentance throughout our consecrated walk. To develop a Christlike character takes time; in fact, it is our life’s work. Very few have the character, disposition, and strength of will of Paul or Stephen, but Paul was specially kept on the scene because he was used to help others, whereas he could have made his calling and election sure much earlier. God kept him in the ministry to benefit the brotherhood.

Comment: With the concept of false love, which has made inroads into the true Church, some brethren have forgotten how to weigh justice in their dealings with other brethren who may have committed deeds that are displeasing to the Heavenly Father. Not only do they shut their eyes to grievous sin, but the subject is painful for them to talk about. Thus they would rather not know that evil exists.

Reply: For instance, some years ago a prominent brother wrote a tract on homosexuality. The title, “Homosexuality and Christianity, Compatible or Contradictory,” should have been an immediate warning. The sum and substance of the tract was to justify homosexuality as being a relationship that is as honorable and sacred as a heterosexual relationship of male and female.

Some brethren did not see that the tract was wrong, whereas the title should have been an instant red flag. An appropriate title would have been “The Incompatibility of Homosexuality with Christianity.”

In the Reprints, we see the heart and soul of the Pastor in regard to character development. We can see the nobility of his thinking, but many revere him so much that they do not realize the Bible is ten times more holy than his comments. For instance, many issues in life can only be addressed by what the Bible teaches. The Pastor was concerned with the plan of God and the fact that the world will have an opportunity. The First Volume proves the existence of an intelligent, loving Creator, who has a plan for all people. All of these topics are good and have done much to influence us and help us to bow down and kneel before our Heavenly Father,

but no one can word the nitty-gritty understanding of His will better than God Himself in His Word. Therefore, a lack of familiarity with the Bible creates problems, and brethren need to be immersed in the Bible itself, as well as in the dispensational truth brought forth by the Pastor. What the seventh messenger wrote should whet our appetite to want to know the Bible better.

To be like God and His Son—to think and talk like them—we need to listen to His Word.

Verse 4 mentions “the riches” of God’s goodness and His “forbearance and longsuffering.” The fact that God called us out of darkness into His marvelous light should have an influence on us, giving us patience in regard to His dealings with others who have taken the same step of consecration.

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day  of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Instead of instructing us to lay up treasure in heaven, verse 5 describes laying up judgment and wrath, telling us what not to do. Paul was saying that history will justify God and reveal His righteous judgment. Jesus said, “Wisdom is justified of her children” (Matt. 11:19). History will reveal the facts as they really are. Of course the holy angels know the direction in which things are flowing.

Rom. 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

The righteous judgment of God “will render to every man [Jew and Gentile] according to his deeds.” In other words, the sword of truth is double-edged, with its principles applying to all— to self as well as to others. Paul mentioned the Jews in chapter 1 and also the Greeks and the Barbarians (Rom. 1:14). Although he did not bring the Romans by name into that equation, the term “Greeks” included them. This seeming omission is interesting because when Alexander the Great died, the Grecian Empire was divided into four parts, with one of his four generals being assigned to the Roman segment of the society that existed at that time, around 300 BC (Dan. 7:6). Thus the Grecian influence predated the Roman influence. Even though Rome was on the calendar about 776 BC, it did not really affect history until approximately 100 BC, when it began to supersede the influence of Greece. In Paul’s day, the Greek language was used extensively by the Romans and other peoples of the empire. Therefore, the Greek and Latin languages were predominant in the empire. Of course there were three languages in Israel: Armenian (Jewish), Latin (Roman), and Greek. From AD 100 on, Israel began to fade from significance, whereas Greek and Latin remained in the picture.

Rom. 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

Comment: Verse 7 refutes the concept of “once in grace, always in grace.” Paul said, “By patient continuance [or persistence] in well doing,” we seek for glory, honor, and immortality.

Reply: Yes. The thought is, “To those who patiently continue in well doing, seeking for glory, honour, and immortality, God will give eternal life.” Eternal life is the gift to all faithful believers, whereas glory, honor, and immortality are the reward for the elect few.

Rom. 2:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

Verse 8 is a contrast with verse 7. Those who are contentious and disobedient will receive indignation and wrath.

Comment: The Diaglott has, “But indignation and wrath to those who are factious [of ‘a party spirit’—see interlinear], and obey not the truth but obey unrighteousness.”

Reply: The “party spirit” in Rome was the Gentile versus the Jewish Christian. A problem existed between these two main divisions. Being more familiar with God’s Word, the Jews felt superior to the Gentile converts and thus adopted a superior mode of behavior and speech. Of course the Gentiles resented this attitude, and the two divisions were automatically set up against each other. Paul was trying to ease that situation. As a Jew with outstanding qualifications—being a Pharisee of the Pharisees—he first wanted to win their confidence.

Verses 7 and 8 applied to both Jews and Gentiles. For both groups, a contentious spirit was not commendable, and glory, honor, and immortality were the reward for more than overcomers.

Chapter 1 discusses the depravity of the human race, especially the Gentiles, who were without God and were given to idolatry and all kinds of false worship. Unfortunately, these traits infiltrated the Jewish belief, for as Jews departed from God, they adopted some of the heathen practices (Jer. 10:1-15). Thus both Jews and Gentiles were involved in the debauchery. Paul then commended the Gentiles who accepted Christ, saying that the startling faith of the Romans was known throughout the world (Rom. 1:8).

“Wrath” in this context does not necessarily mean utter destruction but God’s displeasure and indignation. Jews had the standard of the Law, and Gentiles had nature and the light of conscience. Certain types of vices seemed to afflict Jews and Gentiles equally, whereas other sins were not as much a problem to the Jew because of the training of the Law. Nevertheless, since a person who disobeyed one part of the Law was guilty of the whole Law, all were guilty before God regardless of the degree of seeming moral deportment (James 2:10).

Those who are factious, contentious, and self-willed are not obeying the truth, the thinking of God, in regard to principles. We should not be either hypercritical or hypocritical.

Rom. 2:9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

Rom. 2:10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

Rom. 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

When Paul said, “To the Jew first, and [then] also to the Gentile,” he was not saying “To the Jew more, and what remains to the Gentile.” Rather, he was speaking of a time element. God is no respecter of persons, Jew or Gentile, who come into Christ. Shortly after Paul’s decease, the Jews received “tribulation and anguish” when millions were put to death in the trouble of AD 69-73. The wrath being stored up would occur in just a few years from the writing of this epistle. Later on, the Gentiles received “tribulation and anguish” in the fall of Rome and other catastrophes. At the end of the Gospel Age, judgment will come on everyone, Christian and non-Christian, in the great Time of Trouble. “Judgment” will come on every individual from the standpoint of inspection. Thus verse 9 is prophetic. Incidentally, in the Kingdom Age too, the principle will be “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.”

The pageantry of the heavens declaring the glory of God, plus the conscience that is in man, are a twofold witness that God is just in judging the Gentiles, who do not know God’s Law.

Gentiles are condemned by nature and by the conscience that God originally implanted in Adam, which still exists in a fragmentary state. Paul started chapter 2 in broad terms. Now he was speaking about the natural inherited characteristics of the Jews whereby they felt superior to the Gentiles. At this point, he was not getting into the high level of consecration and sanctification. First, Paul was using common sense; later he would speak like a theologian. He was saying that Jewish and Gentile converts had both been trained as natural men by the influences that are common to man. Just as the Jew back there had more of a veneer of righteousness, so today, in both the nominal Church and the true Church, education is giving a veneer of righteousness. It is difficult to rid oneself of that influence or environment.

Rom. 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Rom. 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Rom. 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

The Gentiles, who “have sinned without [outside the] law shall also perish without [the] law,”  and the Jews, who “have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” Paul was beginning to put in the clutch and come more to the consecrated element.

Next, in verses 13 and 14, Paul made a distinction between the nominal Jewish believer and even the nominal Gentile believer. “The [nominal Jewish] hearers of the law” are not “just before God.” In other words, it was easy to say, “I am a Jew,” but how many were “doers of the law”? In Jesus’ day, the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees was, “Who are you to condemn us carte blanche? Aren’t we the children of Abraham?” (Matt. 3:9 paraphrase). In fact, they even implied that Jesus was illegitimate: “Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God” (John 8:41).

When Jesus said, “The doers of the law shall be justified,” he did not mean those who obeyed the Law perfectly, for no man can be justified by the Law (Gal. 3:11). However, one who tried to obey the Law was more than a hearer. A Jew who was trying to live a life pleasing to God, and to obey the Law to the extent that he could, certainly manifested a better attitude than one who claimed to be a Jew but committed all kinds of sins contrary to the spirit of the Law.

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature [by conscience] the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.” What was Paul saying? The Jews were criticizing the Gentiles for not being schooled under the Law, yet those Gentiles were exemplary in trying to please God. Instead of marveling at the change that was taking place among the Gentiles, the Jews were prejudiced. Therefore, Paul was saying, “What is the matter with you? Can’t you see the remarkable change that has taken place? That change should stop your criticism and make you think twice.” After receiving the vision of the sheet coming down from heaven with clean and unclean animals in it, the Apostle Peter reasoned, “When I baptized Cornelius and other Gentiles, they got the Holy Spirit, so who am I to fight God?” (Acts 10:9-16). Gentiles wanted to be baptized, and Peter, having observed the change, properly reasoned, “I couldn’t say them nay.” However, the attitude of the Jews in Rome was, “We are the only ones. A person must first go to the Pharisees and be schooled. Then, when he attains a certain level, he can have the privilege of becoming a proselyte.” How different is the process of coming into Christ! First, one has to repent. Then the repentant sinner who accepts Jesus as his personal Savior and gives his heart to God is welcomed into Christ, being adopted into the Christian Church with full status.

Comment: Proverbs 20:27 reads, “The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.”

Reply: The New Testament says that the Word of God searches even the marrow of the bones (Heb. 4:12). The Holy Spirit of the Lord works deeply.

A misdeed is a misdeed—period! However, the measure of guilt is another matter. God is impartial in judgment. If the heart is right, the punishment will be less, but all unrighteousness receives retribution. Though God’s judgments are just and severe, His promises are sure, and we can count on both.

With both Jew and Gentile, a sin is a sin. The cliché that ignorance is bliss is not true. Just because the Gentiles were not under the Law was no excuse. One is not free of guilt and judgment if he willingly and/or willfully avoids more knowledge in an attempt to avoid more responsibility. If one disobeys conscience regardless of his state, he errs.

Rom. 2:15 Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

If these Gentiles did wrong, they acknowledged it. If they did what was right according to the Law of God, they had confidence. While they had a conviction of heart and were trying to do what they had learned of the Law and the gospel, justification is by grace, not by the works of the Law. Nevertheless, they were to be commended for their efforts. Paul was undercutting the attitude of aloofness and superiority of the Christian Jew. For Jewish converts to sincerely accept Christ was one thing, but it was hard for them to unlearn their former heritage and training under the Law. In other words, it was harder for the Jew to unlearn certain things than it was for one without such training to learn and develop under the Christian religion.

Paul concentrated so much on the negative aspect with regard to the Jew that afterward he said, “I am not trying to say that being a Jew is a disadvantage. The disadvantage is with the individual whose heart attitude is wrong.” Receiving the truth of the gospel in humility makes the difference. Gentile Christians felt very keenly the Jews’ contentious, superior attitude toward them.

Apparently, many of the Roman Gentile Christians were not too learned, but they could understand common sense. Fortunately, one does not need an education to have common sense. Paul tried to use common sense with both Gentile and Jewish Christians. In fact, he devoted several chapters to the Jews in an effort to change their attitude of superiority. To undermine their confidence, he used one point after another. Around chapter 11, he felt he had said enough and began to draw general conclusions. By then, the Jewish Christians would be in a more humble state of mind and thus be more amenable to his reasoning. First, Paul tried to wean them from their prejudices, and then he tried to encourage them.

The Gentiles had “the law written in their hearts,” and their consciences bore witness to the fact. While they admitted their wrongs, Paul did not want their humility to prevent them from realizing they were doing some things right. Educated common sense informs a person when things are wrong and also when improvements are made. From time to time, the Christian should examine himself to make sure he is in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). As he gets in a reflective mood, he should look back and try to see not only what his pitfalls and weaknesses have been but also, as an encouragement, what his strengths and remarkable accomplishments have been, especially those that were not in his nature to start with but that occurred because of God’s influence in his life. It is helpful to reflect on times when we know we did the right thing because God gave us the courage and the strength.

Rom. 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

God will “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” according to Paul’s gospel. In this age, Jesus is our High Priest, walking in and out amidst the seven candlesticks, trimming the wicks and supplying the oil (Rev. 2:1). At God’s behest, he instructs the Church and is no doubt directing the guardian angels in a quite intimate manner.

Judging the secrets of men is manifested by Jesus’ attribute of a penetrating gaze. His eyes like “a flame of fire” can read our innermost feelings and thoughts, which are also open to God (Rev. 1:14).

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

For the Jewish Christians to “rest” in the Law means that they were overconfident and that they boasted over the Gentile Christians in one way or another—by conduct, inference, or words. One can boast and feel superior inwardly as well as outwardly.

As a principle, we should not shut out everyone who does not measure up to our mental standards. One with less light might walk up to a higher standard. We should favor the one who obeys up to the amount of knowledge he has—regardless of what amount that is. We should favor one who is conscientious, not one with a lot of knowledge who is complacent.

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

The Jewish Christians knew God’s will and approved the things that were “more excellent, being instructed out of the law.” Feeling that they were familiar with God’s Law, they assumed the posture of a teacher when dealing with the Gentiles. Of course Gentile Christians were at a disadvantage from the standpoint of the Law, but the teachings of the Jewish Christians could be at considerable variance with the true teachings of the Law.

Paul thought very highly of the characteristic of trying to know and do God’s will. The quality of having that hunger was superior to just having more information at one’s fingertips.

Rom. 2:19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

Rom. 2:20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

Jesus voiced this principle with the scribes and the Pharisees: “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14). The Christian Jews were confident they were “a guide of the blind, a light of them [Gentile Christians] which are in darkness.” What a superior attitude!

They took pleasure in enlightening others, feeling that they were “an instructor of the foolish” Gentile Christians, “a teacher of babes.”

Instead of concentrating on the nominal Church as babes, we should look at ourselves, for many of the same problems can occur in our midst. Inspection should start with oneself and those immediate to us, and then go a little further out and still further out. The lesson is usually  at home. We are living in the Laodicean period, and the Laodicean church embraces both the nominal Church and the Truth movement. All are part of the Laodicean church—the sincere and consecrated true Church, the consecrated in the nominal Church, and in a secondary sense, the tares, who never dedicated themselves to God or Christ.

Rom. 2:21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Verse 21 shows the penetrating thinking of Paul. The Lord must have specially chosen the individual in the ecclesia at Rome to read this letter initially, for to read in a monotone would vitiate its power. To the contrary, reading this epistle with understanding and inflection would help the hearer to better understand its theme and contents. Then, as one got interested in what he was hearing, he would ask for a copy to read and study for himself, the principle being, “he that hath an ear, let him hear” (Rev. 2:7). “It is given unto you [the class with hearing ears] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11). And again, “If ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come” (Isa. 21:12).

Rom. 2:22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

Rom. 2:23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

Rom. 2:24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

Since Paul was speaking exclusively to the Jews in these verses, some have trouble seeing this epistle as consisting of instructions for all Christians at Rome. However, Paul’s initial intent was to write to both Jew and Gentile, as stated in Romans 1:7. The Gentiles were in a better position to receive education, for it is harder to talk with those who have prejudiced minds with regard to truth.

By using a question format in verses 22 and 23, Paul did not give a carte blanche condemnation of the Jewish Christians. For those who were guilty, these searching questions raised their consciousness in regard to the problem. God is no respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of deeds, that is, whether or not one is honoring God.

As written in the Old Testament, the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles through the hypocrisy and disobedience of the Jews (2 Sam. 12:14; Ezek. 36:20). Even as exiles in Babylonian captivity, they brought a reproach on the name of God, for to travel from Egypt to Lebanon, people had to go through the barren ruins of the uninhabited land of Israel, which reminded them that a curse had come upon the Israelites because of disobedience. The heathen recognized the punishment as a curse because the Jewish prophets had warned of judgments to come. Thus the heathen said that the God of Israel was displeased with the nation. In verses 17-24, Paul gave a strong message to those Jews who confidently boasted in the Law and wanted to lead others because they had a better understanding of God. That was fine—but only if they remained humble and obedient! Before instructing others, they had to be sure they themselves were obedient to righteousness. Paul did not downgrade the Jew for his background and knowledge. Pride and a lack of obedience were the problem. God chose the Jews, and not vice versa. Therefore, they should be grateful and not boast of their relationship.

Rom. 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

Rom. 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

Rom. 2:27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

Paul continued his powerful reasoning. We can imagine the healthy effect this epistle would have had when it was circulated, even if it caused division. The Lord does not want hypocrites, so for any who were offended, that was their problem.

Comment: Even the unconverted Jew could not argue with this logic.

Reply: That is true, for much of Paul’s reasoning was common sense. He was saying in effect, “Does not common sense teach you this? Does not common sense teach you that?”

“For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law.” When Paul used these arguments, he was saying, “I am not against the Law of Moses. I find fault not with the Law but with those who profess a high regard for Moses and the Law, yet by their conduct conspicuously differ from the precepts of that Law. By their actions, those Jews become blasphemers of God’s Law.

Such importance was attached to the rite of circumcision that the Jewish Christians no doubt asked the Gentiles, “Has that rite been performed on your men?” If the answer was no, then the Jews, who were confident in the Law, gave sermons on the necessity of circumcision for salvation. Circumcision was considered a mark that one was for God. However, Paul reasoned that circumcision was ceremonial. Sometimes traditions and ceremonies are profitable in assisting in understanding, but that is not true when they lead to high-mindedness and feelings of superiority or self-righteousness. Meanwhile, the Gentiles were doing everything to please God as they understood His Word.

Q: Wouldn’t the Gentiles naturally gravitate toward the Jews because Jesus was a Jew who came to the nation of Israel first?

A: Yes, but anyone who wanted knowledge had to be very careful he did not get man’s version of the Law rather than statements of the Law itself. The Talmud and other books are automatically equated as equal to the Law of God. Thus traditions, written by Jewish sages, are wrongly considered a valid part of the Law of Moses. Similarly in the Roman Catholic faith, the ceremonial aspect seems to prevail. The doctrines of the Catholic Church, the pope’s teachings, are regarded as equal to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This type of reasoning is quite pervasive in the Western world.

Rom. 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

Rom. 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

For one to be a true spiritual Israelite is commendable. There is true natural Israel, and there is true spiritual Israel. There is nominal natural Israel, and there is nominal spiritual Israel. To be approved of God, “a Jew … is one inwardly,” in “the heart, [and] in the spirit.”

Comment: With such a clearly stated principle of being a true spiritual Israelite, it is surprising there is such a blockage on the minds of many Christians when they read chapter 7 of the Book of Revelation. Verses 5-8 list 12,000 of the Little Flock for each of the 12 spiritual tribes of Israel, which consist of both Jews and Gentiles.

In many of these reasonings, a word is frequently used that may not be clear in our English translation of the Greek. For example, Paul said that a Jew “is one inwardly” and that true circumcision is “of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter [only],” yet we have to study the “letter” of the Word in order to get the spirit. A superficial knowledge of Scripture is different from a spiritual understanding of Scripture, but we have to hear the letter to get the spirit.

Many say, “I know that I love God, and I try to please Him,” but then they put the Word aside and try to use their own reasoning as to what God’s will is. They do not desire instruction.

A true spiritual Israelite’s “praise is not of men, but of God.” A natural human desire is to be recognized by fellowman, but how much better it is to receive praise and recognition from God. The praise of men is superficial and can be very misleading. The one who really obeys receives praise from God; outward obedience is only to please men.

Q: Did Paul have a particular purpose in adding the clause “praise is not of men, but of God”?

A: Contention existed in the church in Rome, and Jewish Christians took the role of being teachers. As others listened to the instruction of these enlightened(?) Christians and became interested, they began to praise the instructors. However, they were teaching wrong doctrine. Some were amenable to the false, hypocritical teaching, and others resented it. Paul was trying to help both sides see the fundamental teachings of Scripture—the bottom line of the gospel of Jesus Christ—and not take the high road of intellect. Later on in this epistle, Paul used some superlative, inspirational thinking that is not in any of the other epistles.

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