"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." Ps. 1:1, 2.
"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." Prov. 2:1-6.
Here we have the secret of the understanding of the Bible: study and meditation, coupled with an earnest desire to know the will of God in order to do it. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." John 7:17. Repetition_review_is one of the prime essentials to knowledge of the Bible. Not that any amount of study will compensate for lack of the Holy Spirit's guidance, but that the Holy Spirit witnesses through the word.
A Look Backward
In this study of Romans we wish to carry along with us as much as possible of what we learn. We will therefore take a view of the first chapter as a whole. We have found that it is naturally divided somewhat as follows:
Vss. 1-7, the salutation, containing an epitome of the whole gospel.
Vss. 8-15, Paul's personal interest in the Romans, and his sense of obligation to them and to all mankind.
Vss. 16,17, what the gospel is, and what it contains.
Vss. 21-23, the corruption of wisdom.
Vss. 24-32, the result of unthankfulness and of forgetting God.
A careful reading of the chapter shows that the main thought is that God has made himself known to every soul in his creation, and that even the most degraded heathen know that they are guilty and are worthy of death for their wickedness. "Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Vs. 32. So "they are without excuse." This leading thought of the first chapter should be well in mind before beginning the second chapter, for the second is a continuation of the first, and dependent upon it.
A Wider View Romans 2:1-11
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. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 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? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 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; 6 who will render to every man according to his deeds; 7 to them who by patient continuance in welldoing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile; 11 for there is no respect of persons with God.
Acknowledging their Guilt. The truth of the apostle's statement is easy of demonstration concerning the heathen and their deeds, that they know that they are worthy of death. When Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, they were afraid to meet God, and hid themselves. Fear is a necessary accompaniment of guilt, and a proof of it. "Fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are bold as a lion." Prov. 28:1. "But the fearful . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire." Rev. 21:8. If the heathen did not know that they were guilty, they would not expect punishment for murdering or stealing, and would not arm themselves for defense.
An Unanswerable Charge. There is wonderful shrewdness in the way that the apostle works up the charge made in the first verse. The first chapter is confined to the heathen. All will agree with the apostle's statement that they are guilty of most abominable wickedness. "They ought to know better," is the almost involuntary exclamation. "They do know better," is the apostle's reply, or, at least, they have a chance to know better, and they do know that they are not doing right. "They are without excuse." Whatever men may think about the responsibility of the heathen, all agree that their practices are to be condemned.
Then comes the crushing rejoinder: "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." We are caught, and can not escape. If we know enough to condemn the unrighteous deeds of the heathen, we by that very judgment acknowledge ourselves to be without excuse for our own misdeeds.
All Alike are Guilty. "Thou that judgest doest the same things." It is clear enough that anybody who knows enough to condemn evil in another is without excuse for his own sins; but all will not at once see that the one who judges another does the same things. Read, therefore the last verses of the first chapter again, and compare the list of sins with that found in Galatians 5:19-21, and it will be seen that the things which the heathen do, and for which we can readily see that they are guilty, are but the works of the flesh. They are the sins that come "from within, out of the heart of men." Mark 7:21-23. Whoever is included in the term "man" is subject to just such things. "The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works." Ps. 33:13-15.
All Are Self-condemned.Therefore, since all men are alike sharers in one common human nature, it is evident that whosoever in the world condemns another for any misdeed thereby condemns himself; for the truth is that all have the same evil in them, more or less fully developed; and the fact that they know enough to judge that a thing is wrong, is a declaration that they themselves are worthy of the punishment which they see that the other one deserves.
Sympathy, Not Condemnation.The robber often cries out, "Stop thief!" after some other man, in order to direct pursuit away from himself. So people condemn sin in others, in order that it may not be suspected that they are guilty of the same things. Often, too, people "Compound for sins they are inclined to by damning those they have no mind to," but of which they are actually guilty by reason of their human nature.
Since all flesh of man is the same, we ought to be filled with humiliation, instead of contempt, when we hear of a gross sin that is committed; for it is really a picture of what is in our own hearts. Instead of saying, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men," we should bear the burden of the erring, considering ourselves lest we also be tempted. Very often the man whose weakness we feel inclined to condemn, has not failed so badly as we should have done if we had been tempted in the same way, and to the same degree.
Outcry Against Sin. In Pilgrim's Progress when Talkative left Faithful to decide upon the subject of their conversation, Faithful proposed this question: "How doth the saving grace of God discover itself when it is in the heart of man?" And then Bunyan proceeds thus:
"Talk. I perceive then that our talk must be about the power of things. Well, it is a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you; and take my answer in brief thus: First, where the grace of God is in the heart, it causeth there a great outcry against sin. Secondly
"Talk. Why, what difference is there between crying out against and abhorring sin?
"Faith. O, a great deal! A man may cry out against a sin, of policy; but he can not abhor it but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit, who can yet abide it well enough in the heart, house, and conversation. Joseph's mistress cried out with a loud voice, as if she had been very chaste; but she would willingly, notwithstanding that, have committed uncleanness with him."
A keen perception of right and wrong, and a vigorous denunciation of sin, will never justify any man. On the contrary, they only deepen his condemnation. It is a sad fact that too many of the so-called reformers of the present day seem to think that gospel work consists largely in the denunciation of evil practices. A detective is not a minister of the gospel.
Judgment According to Truth. "But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things." "Hold," says one, "I am not sure of that." Well, you may very easily assure yourself of it:
No Escape. No one need think that he can escape the righteous judgment of God. It is usually the most enlightened who flatter themselves that they shall escape. It is so easy for us to think that our great knowledge of right and wrong will be counted for righteousness, to persuade ourselves that our condemnation of the sins of others will make the Lord believe that we could never be guilty of such things. But that only makes our condemnation the more clear.
The first chapter of Romans knocks all the props from under every man. If the lowest are justly held guilty, there is no escape for the "higher classes." "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Eccl. 12:14.
God's Goodness Leads to Repentance. "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." God is the perfection of purity and holiness; man is altogether sinful. God knows every sin, yet he does not despise the sinner. "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:17. Christ said, "If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not." John 12:47.
In everything that he said and did, he was simply representing the Father. God "is long-suffering to usward;" and "the long-suffering of our God is salvation." 2 Pet. 3:9,15. Now it is impossible that one should consider the goodness and long-suffering of God without being humbled and moved to repentance. When we consider how tenderly God bears with us, it is not possible that we should deal harshly with our fellow-men. And if we do not judge, we shall not be judged. Luke 6:37.
Repentance Is a Gift. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." Acts 5:30, 31. But it was not to Israel alone that God gave repentance through Christ. "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43. And so plainly did God make this appear that even the exclusive Jews were forced to exclaim, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Acts 11:18.
Incentives to Repentance. The goodness of God leads men to repentance. Therefore the whole earth is full of incentives to repentance, for "the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." Ps. 33:5. "The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy." Ps. 119:64. God may be known through his works, and "God is love." All creation reveals the love and mercy of God.
And we need not try to improve on the Scriptures, and say that the goodness of God tends to lead men to repentance. The Bible says that it does lead them to repentance, and we may be sure that it is so. Every man is being led toward repentance as surely as God is good. But not all repent. Why? Because they despise the riches of the goodness and forbearance and long-suffering of God, and break away from the merciful leading of the Lord. But whoever does not resist the Lord, will surely be brought to repentance and salvation.
Treasuring up Wrath. In the first chapter we learned that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Therefore all who sin are treasuring up for themselves wrath. It should be noted that in the judgment God is clear. Men receive only what they have worked for. God is not arbitrary. He has not fixed arbitrary decrees, and declared that whoever violates them shall be visited with vengeance. The punishment that will come upon the wicked is the necessary result of their own choice. God is the only source of life.
His life is peace. Now when men reject him, the only alternative for them is wrath and death. "For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." Prov. 1:29-32. Trouble and death are bound up in sin; they are what men choose when they refuse the Lord.
"According to his Deeds." Unbelievers often say that it is not just for God to condemn a man simply because he does not believe a certain thing. But he does not do so. Not a word can be found in the Bible about judging a man according to his belief. Everywhere it is said that all will be judged according to their works. "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Matt. 16:27. "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Rev. 22:12. He "judgeth according to every man's work." 1 Pet. 1:17.
The man who says that his work is all right, sets himself up as judge in the place of God, who says that every man is all wrong. God is Judge alone, and he judges strictly according to a man's work, but a man's work is decided by his faith. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." John 6:29. It is not for any man to judge himself, and say that his work is all right. It is for him simply to trust the goodness and mercy of the Lord, that his work may be wrought in God.
Immortality and Eternal Life. God will render eternal life to them who seek for glory and honor and immortality. Christ "hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." 2 Tim. 1:10. Life and immortality are two different things. Whoever believes on the Son of God has eternal life. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3.
We have eternal life as soon as we know the Lord; but we can not have immortality until the Lord comes, at the last day. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." 1 Cor. 15:51-53.
We are to seek for immortality; that of itself is proof that no man has it now. Since Christ has brought it to light through the gospel, it is evident that immortality can be found in no other way than through the gospel. Therefore those who do not accept the gospel will never have immortality.
Tribulation and Anguish.Those who sin are the children of wrath. Eph. 2:3. Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, are sure to come upon evil doers. But tribulation and anguish will have an end. The fact that none receive immortality except the ones who are Christ's at his coming, shows that all others will eventually cease to exist. There will be torment in connection with the punishment of the wicked, but the torment, however long it may continue, will come to an end in the utter destruction of the wicked. God's indignation will come to an end. "For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction." Isa. 10:25.
The call is: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." Isa. 16:20,21. "He will not always chide; neither will he keep his anger forever." Ps. 103:9. His anger will cease, not because he will become reconciled to iniquity, but because iniquity will come to an end with its workers.
"To Every Soul."Tribulation and anguish will come upon "every soul of man that doeth evil," and "glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good." None will be left out. There is not a soul so poor and ignorant that he will be passed by, nor one so wealthy and learned that he will be allowed to escape. Wealth and position will have no influence in that court. God has made the revelation of himself so plain that every man has had an opportunity of knowing him. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold down the truth in unrighteousness." Note well that his wrath is revealed against sin. Only those persons will suffer who cling to sin, and will not allow God to take it from them. In the final blotting out of sin, they are necessarily blotted out with it.
To the Jew First.This statement is sufficient to show that God is no respecter of persons. Indeed, the apostle states as a necessary conclusion that "there is no respect of persons with God." "First" does not always refer to time. We speak of a man as being the first man in the country, not because there were no men before him, but because he is the chief man. In school a certain one is the first one in his class because he is the best scholar. The Jew is the one who has had the greatest revelation made to him, and therefore it is just that he should be chief in the judgment.
The text shows, however, that God has no special favor to the Jew over other men. If glory, honor, and peace come to the Jew first, so also do indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. The question is not, "What is the man's nationality?" but, "What has he done?" God will render to every man according to his deeds, "for there is no respect of persons with God."
A few words may suffice to bring to mind what we have already studied. The first chapter of Romans may be briefly summed up as setting forth the condition of those who know not God, and the way in which they lost their knowledge, together with the fact that they are wholly without excuse. Then, just as we are ready to hold up our hands in horror at their wickedness, and to launch forth severe condemnation upon them, the apostle turns to us, and shuts our mouths with the stinging words, "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."
And so the second chapter proceeds to show that all will be subjects of God's righteous judgment, "for there is no respect of persons with God." Thus we are brought to a confirmation of the fact that God is impartial, by a comparison of the two classes in the Judgment.
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 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 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; 15 which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another); 16 in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Without Law, and in the Law.Although it is quite certain that when the Lord comes the second time there will be no people on the earth who have not heard the preaching of the word, it is a fact that thousands and millions have died without ever having seen or heard of the Bible. They are the ones to whom the apostle refers as "without law." Yet it is plainly set forth that they are not absolutely without law, but only without the written law. The fact that they have some knowledge of the law is stated in the verses following, and is proved by the fact that they are counted sinners; but "sin is not imputed where there is no law." Rom. 5:13.
All Sin Punished.Whether we have had the written law or not, all are alike counted sinners. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Rom. 1:18. The heathen are declared to be without excuse; and if they who have not the written law are without excuse, they who have the law in their hands are of course far more inexcusable. God is just. "We know that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things." Yet all who sin, whether in the law or without the law, are to be punished.
This is sufficient to show that "without law" does not mean without any knowledge of God. The first chapter settles that. The trouble with too many who read this statement that all shall be punished, and who think that it does not seem just, is that they forget, or are ignorant of, what is contained in the first chapter. It is a great mistake to take any single verse of the Bible and separate it from its connection.
They Shall Perish.That is declared to be the fate of the wicked. The apostle Peter tells us that the world is "reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." 2 Peter 3:7. What is meant by "perish?" It means just the opposite of living forever. On one occasion some people told Jesus of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, and Jesus replied, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:1-3. Again we read, "The wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." Ps. 37:20. Therefore the statement that those who sin shall perish means that they shall die, that they shall be utterly extinct, that "they shall be as though they had not been." Obad. 16.
Strict Impartiality.That means strict justice. Sinners will be punished, whether they live in heathen lands or in so-called Christian lands. But no one will be judged by that of which he knew nothing. God does not punish men for violation of a law of which they knew nothing, nor does he hold them accountable for light that they have not had. It is very plain that those who have the law must know many things that are not known to those who do not have it in written form. All men have light enough to know that they are sinners; but the written word gives those who have it a knowledge of many particulars of which those are ignorant who do not have it.
Therefore God in his justice does not hold the latter accountable for many things for which the former will be judged. "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." The man who has rejected light, whether it be little or much, is obviously guilty.
The Root of Sin.To some it seems unjust that those who have had but comparatively little light should suffer death for their sins, the same as those who have sinned against the greatest light. Their difficulty arises from the fact that they do not consider what sin really is. God alone is good. Luke 18:19. He is the source of goodness. Whatever goodness ever appears in man is only the working of God in him.
But he is also the source of life. With him is the fountain of life. Ps. 36:9. God's life is righteousness; therefore there can be no righteousness apart from the life of God. Now it is evident that if a man rejects God, he effectually cuts himself off from life. It matters not that he has had but comparatively little knowledge of God, if he rejects that light he rejects God, and thus rejects life. And by rejecting the little that he has seen of God, he shows that he would reject God in any case. Sin is simply separation from or rejection of God; and that means death.
"Thou Art the Man" Romans 2:17-24
17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18 and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest they boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
A Professed Jew. Are professed Christians to throw away this portion of the book of Romans as not applicable to them, since it is addressed to a professed Jew? By no means. Professed Christians are the very ones who are meant by the apostle. Read the description: Thou "restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 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."
Whom does he address? Every one who professes to know the Lord, no matter by what name he is called; every one who thinks himself fully qualified to instruct others in the way of the Lord.
"Called a Jew." It should not be overlooked as a trifling matter that the apostle does not say, "Behold, thou art a Jew," but, "Behold, thou art called a Jew." People are not always what they are called, nor what they call themselves. Beginning with the seventeenth verse the apostle settles the question of who are Jews. Before we have finished the chapter it will seem that by using the word "called" he meant to intimate that the one addressed and described in the following verses is not really a Jew, and is not considered so by the Lord.
VClaiming to Be Jews. In Revelation 2:9 we read, "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." And again, "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Rev. 3:9. From this we see that to be a Jew indeed is so high an honor that many will falsely claim it. Yet the people called Jews have been held in contempt by the greater part of the world, for many hundred years.
At no time and in no part of the world, since the New Testament was written, has it ever been an object for anybody to claim that he was a Jew, in the common acceptation of the term. The Jews as a class have never been in such honor that it would benefit one's prospects to be called one. But it has been and is very often an advantage for a man to be known as a Christian, and very many have falsely made the claim, in order to better their business prospects.
Jew and Christian. It is not straining the text at all to say that when "Jew" is used in these verses, it means what is now known as "Christian." This will be apparent if we consider what a real Jew is. We may quote enough to show that from the beginning a true Jew was one who believed in Christ. Of the head of the race the Lord Jesus said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad." John 8:56. He believed in the Lord, and it was counted to him for righteousness; but righteousness comes only through the Lord Jesus. Moses, the leader of the Jews, esteemed "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." Heb. 11:26 The rebellious Jews in the wilderness tempted and rejected Christ. 1 Cor. 10:9. When Christ came in the flesh, it was "his own" that received him not. John 1:11. And to crown all, Christ said that no one could believe the writings of Moses unless he believed on him. John 5:46, 47. Therefore it is evident that no one is or ever has been a real Jew unless he believes in Christ. He who is not a Jew indeed is of "the synagogue of Satan."
"Salvation Is of the Jews." Jesus said to the woman of Samaria at the well of Jacob, "Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews." John 4:22. Christ himself was "made of the seed of David according to the flesh," and was therefore a Jew; and there is no other name than his "under heaven . . . whereby we must be saved."
No other people on earth, besides the Jews, have ever had so high a name. No other people have been so highly favored of God. "For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" Deut. 4:7,8.
Resting in the Law. As stated in the verse last quoted, the Jews had committed to them the most perfect law in the universe, God's own. It was called "the testimony," because it was for a witness against them. They were not taught that they could get righteousness out of it, although it was perfect, but the contrary. Because it was so perfect, and they were sinners, it could have nothing but condemnation for them. It was designed only to drive them to Christ, in whom alone they could find the perfect righteousness that the law requires. "The law worketh wrath" (Rom. 4:15), and Christ alone saves from wrath. But they "rested in the law," and therefore rested in sin. They "trusted in themselves that they were righteous." Luke 18:9. They found no righteousness, "because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." Rom. 9:31, 32.
Boasting of God. This is something different from making one's boast in the Lord. Ps. 34:2. Instead of rejoicing in the Lord's salvation, the Jews boasted over their superior knowledge of God. They did indeed have more than others, but they had nothing that they had not received, yet they boasted as though they had not received it. They glorified themselves, rather than God, for the knowledge that they had; and therefore they put themselves in the condition of the heathen who "when they knew God, glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations." Whatever reader is inclined to censure the ancient Jews for their vain boasting, let him remember how he himself has often felt on comparing himself with the inhabitants of heathen countries, and with the "lowest class" in his own land.
God's Will His Law. The apostle says that the Jew knows the will of God, because he is instructed out of the law. This is sufficient to show that the law of God is his will. Indeed, no argument should be needed on this point. The will of any government is expressed in its law. Where there is an absolute ruler, his will is always law. God is an absolute ruler, although not an arbitrary one, and as his will is the sole rule of right, it follows that his will is law. But his law is summed up in the Ten Commandments; therefore the Ten Commandments contain a summary statement of the will of God.
The Form of Knowledge and Truth. Although the Ten Commandments contain a statement of the will of God, which is the perfection of wisdom and truth, they are only a statement, and not the thing itself, just the same as a picture of a house is not a house, although it may be a perfect picture. Mere words written in a book or graven in stone have no life; but we know that the law of God is life everlasting. Only in Christ can the living law be found, since he is the only manifestation of the Godhead.
Whoever has the life of Christ dwelling in him, has the perfect law of God manifest in his life. But he who has only the letter of the law, and not Christ, has only the form of knowledge and of truth. Thus, the law is often rightly said to be a photograph of the character of God. But a photograph or other picture is only the shadow of the reality; it is not the very substance. He who has Christ has both the form and the substance, since one can not have a thing without also possessing its form. But he who has only the statement of the truth, without Christ who alone is the Truth has the form of godliness without the power thereof.
Hard Questions. In verses 21-23 the apostle asks some hard questions." Let each soul that has been wont to pride himself upon the correctness of his life answer these questions for himself. It is easy and natural for a man to pride himself upon his "morality." Men who are not Christians comfort themselves with the thought that they live "moral" lives, and that therefore they are as well off as though they were Christians. Let all such know that there is no morality except conformity to the law of God. Everything that is in any respect below the standard of that law is immorality. Knowing this, let them see if they have perfectly kept that law.
"Dost Thou Steal?" Most people will say, "No; I am honest in all my dealing." Very well, but let us not decide the case offhand. Let us examine the Scripture. It says, "The law is spiritual." Rom. 7:14. "The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb. 4:12. No matter how correct we are in our outward acts, if in spirit or thought we have transgressed, we are guilty. The Lord looks at the heart, instead of the outward appearance. 1 Sam. 16:7.
Again, it is just as wrong to steal from God as to steal from man; have you given God his due? Have you dealt in a perfectly honest way with him? Hear what he says: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation." Mal. 3:8, 9. Does this mean you? Have you rendered to God that which is his due in tithes and offerings? If not, what will you answer when the word of inspiration asks, "Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?"
"The Law Is Spiritual." In the fifth chapter of Matthew the Saviour has set forth the spirituality of the law. He says that unless our righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, we can not enter the kingdom of heaven. What was their righteousness? He said to them, "Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Matt. 23:28.
Therefore, unless we are righteous inwardly, we are nothing. God desires "truth in the inward parts." Ps. 51:6. Following on in the fifth chapter of Matthew, the Saviour shows that one may break the sixth commandment, which says, "Thou shalt not kill," by the utterance of a single word. He also shows that we may break the seventh commandment which says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," by a look and a thought. The same principle of course obtains with all the commandments. This being the case, it becomes one to be very careful about saying that he has perfectly kept the law.
Some have said that the Ten Commandments are a very low standard, and that a man might keep them all and still not be worthy of admission into respectable society. Such know nothing about the law. As a matter of fact, a man may break all the commandments, and still figure as a shining light in the "best society."
The Name of God Blasphemed. "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written." Who has done this? The one who teaches the law, and who says that one who teaches the law and who says that one should not take the name of the Lord in vain. When David sinned in the case of Uriah's wife, God said to him, "By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme." 2 Sam. 12:14. That is, he was a professed follower of the Lord, and by his violation of the law of the Lord he had given unbelievers a chance to say, "There, that is a specimen of Christianity."
Who is there that can say that as a professed follower of the Lord he has always correctly represented the truth? Who is there that must not admit to himself and God that either by his words or actions he has very often misrepresented the truth which he professed? Who is there that has not by his failures, either in teaching or acting, given people a miserably inadequate idea of what true godliness is?
In short, who is there that must not say yes to the apostle's question, "Through breaking the law, dishonorest thou God?" And since thus the name of God is blasphemed through professed Christians, who is there that can declare himself guiltless before God's law?
In these verses we have had some sharp questions to those who are "called Jews," that is, who profess to be followers of the Lord. Mere form and profession do not constitute one a proper teacher of the truth of God. He who does not exhibit in his life the power of that which he professes, is only a detriment to the cause. In the verses now before us we have a brief but explicit statement concerning
Circumcision and Uncircumcision Romans 2:25-29.
25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law; but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 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.
Definition of Terms.The two terms "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" are here used not only to indicate the rite and the absence of it, but also to designate two classes of people. "The uncircumcision" evidently refers to those who were called Gentiles,those who worshiped other gods. This use of the terms is very plain in the following passage: "When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter (for he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles); and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision." Gal. 2:7-9. Here we find that the terms "uncircumcision," "Gentiles," and "heathen," all refer to the same people.
Just what was the profit of circumcision, we are not told in this chapter. The statement of the fact was enough for this place, for the only point in the mind of the writer was to show what circumcision is, and who are the really circumcised. A great deal depends upon these few verses. They should be studied carefully, because upon them depends the proper understanding of a large portion of the prophecies of the Old Testament.
If these verses had received the consideration that they ought to have by professed Bible students, there would never have been any "Anglo-Israel" theory, and the unprofitable and misleading suppositions about the return of the Jews to Jerusalem before the coming of the Lord would never have been made.
What Is Circumcision? This question is answered in plain language in Romans 4:11, where the apostle, speaking of Abraham, the first one who was circumcised, says: "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised." To the question, "What is circumcision?" the answer must therefore be, The sign of circumcision is a seal of righteousness by faith.
When Circumcision Is Made Uncircumcision. This being the case, it is evident that where there was no righteousness, the sign of circumcision was worthless. So the apostle says, "If thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision." As in the previous verses we learned that the form without the fact amounts to nothing, so here we are told that the sign without the substance is of no account. It is very easy for a poor man to put out a sign advertising boots and shoes; but to fill the shop with goods requires capital. If he has the sign, but has no boots and shoes, he is worse off than if he had no sign.
The Mistake of the Jews. The Jews made a mistake of supposing that the sign was sufficient. They finally came to hold the idea that the sign would bring the reality, just as many professed Christians in these days suppose that the performance of certain rites will make them members of the body of Christ. But circumcision of the flesh alone could represent no righteousness, but sin. See Galatians 5:19-21. As a matter of fact, many of those whom they despised as "uncircumcised" were thus in reality "circumcised," while they themselves were not.
Circumcision of the Heart. Real circumcision is a matter of the heart, that is, of the inner life, and not at all of the flesh. The apostle plainly declares that what is outward in the flesh is not circumcision, that is, which consists only in outward form; but "circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter." This is stated as a general truth.
This was not a new departure in the days of Paul, but was the case from the beginning. In Deuteronomy 30:6 we read the words of Moses to the children of Israel: "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." All true Jews recognized that true circumcision was only of the heart, for Stephen addressed those who rejected the truth as "stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears." Acts 7:51.
Righteousness in the Heart. The psalmist says, "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts." Ps. 2:6. Mere outward righteousness is nothing. See Matthew 5:20; 23:27, 28. It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness. Rom. 10:10. When Moses, at the command of the Lord, rehearsed the law to Israel, he said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart." Deut. 6:5,6. There can be no righteousness that is not the real life. Therefore, since circumcision is but a sign of righteousness, it is evident that there can be no real circumcision except circumcision of the heart.
Circumcised by the Spirit. "For we know that the law is spiritual." Rom. 7:14. That is, it is the nature of the Holy Spirit, for the word of God is the sword of the Spirit of God that can put the law of God into the heart of man. Therefore true circumcision is the work of the Holy Spirit. Stephen called the wicked Jews uncircumcised, because, said he, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." Acts 7:51. It seems evident, therefore, that, although the word "spirit" in Romans 2:29 is not spelled with a capital "S," it refers to the Holy Spirit and not merely to the spirit of man. (Of course in the Greek there is nothing to indicate any difference, just as in English the word is spelled the same whether it refers to the Spirit of God or the spirit of man).
If we remember that circumcision was given as the seal of righteousness by faith, and that the inheritance promised to Abraham and his seed was through the righteousness of the law (Romans 4:11,13), we shall see that circumcision was the pledge of the inheritance. The apostle also says that we obtain the inheritance in Christ "in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." Eph. 1:10-13. The possession promised to Abraham and to his seed was assured only through the Spirit of righteousness; therefore, from the very beginning there was no real circumcision that was not of the Spirit.
Circumcision through Christ. "Ye are complete in [Christ], which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." Col. 2:8-11. Circumcision must have meant as much when first given as it ever did. Therefore from the very beginning it meant righteousness through Christ alone. This is sufficiently shown in the fact that circumcision was given to Abraham as the seal of the righteousness which he had by faith, and that "he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Gen. 15:6.
Who Are the "Circumcision"? This question is answered in Philippians 3:3: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." And this is but saying in other words what we have in our text, "Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." Nobody therefore was ever really circumcised who did not believe and rejoice in Christ Jesus. That is the reason why Stephen called the unbelieving Jews "uncircumcised."
The Meaning of Circumcision. We have not space to go into this question in detail, but the above texts put us on the track. A careful study of the chapters in Genesis which speak of God's covenant with Abraham will also help to clear up the matter.
We learn in Genesis 15 that God made a covenant with Abraham on the basis of his faith. The sixteenth chapter tells how Abraham listened to the voice of his wife instead of the voice of the Lord, and sought to work out the promise of God through the flesh and made a failure. His son was to be born of the Spirit, and not after the flesh. See Galatians 4:22, 23, 28, 29.
Then the seventeenth chapter shows the revival of Abraham's faith, and the renewal of the covenant, with circumcision as the seal. A portion of flesh was cut off to indicate that he was to have no confidence in the flesh, but was to expect righteousness and the inheritance only through the Spirit of God. The descendants of Abraham would thus have a continual reminder of his mistake and would be admonished to trust the Lord and not themselves.
But they perverted this sign. They regarded it as indicating that they were better than other people, instead of looking upon it as an evidence that "the flesh profiteth nothing." But the fact that the Jews perverted and misunderstood the sign does not destroy its original meaning.
Who Are Jews? We have seen in a quotation from the second chapter of Galatians that the term "uncircumcised" refers to those who do not know the Lord, or who are "without God in the world." See Ephesians 2:11, 12. The Jews are "the circumcision." But only those who rejoice in Christ Jesus are the circumcision, who have no confidence in the flesh. Therefore the real Jews are none other than [believing] Christians. "He is a Jew, which is one inwardly." There never was a real Jew in the sight of God who was not a believer in Christ. And every true believer in Christ is a Jew in the Bible sense of the term. Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, rejoiced in Christ. See John 8:56.
A Mark of Separation. Many have entertained the notion that circumcision was given as a distinguishing mark between the Jews and the Gentiles. The fallacy of this idea is sufficiently shown by a study of the giving of circumcision, and by the statement of the apostle Paul of what it really signified. Others suppose that it was given to keep the Jews separate, so that the genealogy of Christ could be ascertained. This also is simply an unfounded guess. Christ was to come from the tribe of Judah, but as all the tribes were circumcised, it is evident that circumcision could not by any means preserve his genealogy. Moreover, circumcision in the flesh never did make any separation between the Jews and the Gentiles.
It did not keep Israel from idolatry, and it did not keep them from joining the heathen in their idolatrous practices. Whenever the Jews forgot God, they mingled with the heathen, and there was no difference between them and the Gentiles. Circumcision did not separate them.
Still further, God did not wish the Jews to be separated from the Gentiles in the sense that they were to have no dealings with them. The object of his calling out the Jews from Egypt was that they should carry the gospel to the heathen. He did wish them to be separate in character, but outward circumcision could never effect this.
Moses said to the Lord, "Wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth." Ex. 33:16. The presence of the Lord in the heart of men will separate them from all others, although they live in the same house and eat at the same table. But if Christ is not in the heart of a man, he is not separated from the world, though he may have been circumcised and may live a hermit.
Literal and Spiritual Seed. Much of the confusion that has existed in regard to Israel has arisen through a misunderstanding of these terms. People suppose that to say that only those who are spiritual are really Jews is to deny the literalness of the seed and of the promise. But "spiritual" is not opposed to "literal." That which is spiritual is literal, and real. Christ is spiritual, but he is the real, literal Seed. God is spiritual, and is only Spirit, yet he is not a figurative Being, but a real, literal God. So the inheritance of which we are heirs in Christ, is a spiritual inheritance, yet it is real.
To say that only those who are spiritual constitute the true Israel is not to modify or turn aside the Scriptures, or to weaken in any way the directness and force of the promise, because the promise of God is only to those who have faith in Christ. "For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." Rom. 4:13. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29.
Faith in a lie will not have a sanctifying influence upon the life or character. No Error is truth, or can be made truth by repetition, or by faith in it. Sincerity will never save a soul from the consequences of believing an error. Without sincerity there is no true religion, but sincerity in a false religion will never save a man. I May be perfectly sincere in following a wrong road, but that will not make it the right road, or bring me to the place I wish to reach. The Lord does not want us to have a blind credulity, and call that the faith that sanctifies. The Truth is the principle that sanctifies, and therefore it becomes us to know what is truth. We must compare spiritual things with spiritual. We must prove all things, but hold fast only that which is good, that which bears the divine credentials, which lays before us the true motives and principles which should prompt us to action. Selected Messages Bk2, pg. 56
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