Sunday, July 17, 2016

Matching Words with Actions

Scriptural Reading: Romans 2:17-29
Devotional Reading: 1 Peter 1:13-23

We are in Unit II – “A World Gone Wrong” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first lesson of a four-lesson study looking at Paul’s words to the church in Rome about the need to turn from ungodliness, wickedness, and corruption and to move toward the realization of the creation God intended: a loving, obedient relationship with God through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

Just recently in our society we have witnessed the greatest massacre in the United States. Although there have been, unfortunately, many other mass shootings, not all have been labeled terrorists acts. Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, an extremist group, and mentioned the Boston bombing in a 911 call before killing 49 people and wounding dozens of others in a horrific attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016. We have witnessed 3 suicide bombers which have caused over 40 deaths and dozens of injuries in Turkey. It is believed that Isis is responsible for this massacre also. Are the actions of all our witness matching the Word of God? Jesus predicted at Mark 13:7 “when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet.” (NKJV) There is so much ill in the world reflected on the television, I do not wish to turn it on. But I will continue to hold on to my God’s unchanging hand and be at peace. Ps 104:33-35 writes, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD. May sinners be consumed from the earth, And the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!” (NKJV)

In the earlier part of Romans 2 Paul had stated that God was not a respecter of persons and it is not the hearers of the Law before God who are justified, but it is those who are the doers of the Law who are justified. (Rom 2: 11, 13). Paul applies these great truths to the Jews. They were a peculiar people who boasted of the knowledge of God’s Word. He stated in Rom 2:17-18, “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law,” (NKJV) True membership in God’s people depends on more than belonging to the nation or receiving God’s law. Why did they boast? That is an outward identity. They thought that as the chosen people they were also bags of chips desired by everyone. God would never send a Jew to hell. They felt they had it all going their way, unlike the Gentiles who were destined to go to hell. What about the Jews’ inward identity? The Scriptures gave an outline as to how the Jews were to live inwardly. They believed they were righteous simply by obeying the Law which taught them the will of God, rather than in the way of the pagan world (Gentiles). “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV emphasis added).

The Apostle Paul continued in his attack against the Jewish pride in their special relationship with God and against the Gentiles. He writes at Romans 2:19-20, “and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.” (NKJV) As teachers of the Law the Jews felt they were surrounded by people who were ignorant of God and His Law. They felt superior, overconfident, full of pride and arrogant in teaching the Gentiles. In effect their light had become dark to those who surrounded them. Instead of being a guide to the blind, they were blind guides that had been condemned as hypocritical by Jesus. These Jews only have a form of knowledge and truth in the Law.

Paul turns his description from the Jews who claim a privilege as God’s nation to their hypocritical failures. The Jews were given a high calling. However they betrayed that calling. They did not practice what they preached in the Law in which they boasted. They dishonored God. The Apostle describes their failures in Romans 2:21-23 where he indicates they did not measure up. “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” (NKJV) Although they were teachers of the Law, they were unrighteous hypocrites as Paul points out in a series of questions. They sinned against their knowledge and profession. By this hypocrisy they must stop teaching. Paul gave three examples: i.) Stealing “When thou saw a thief thou consent with him.” Psalm 50:18a; ii.) Adultery “Thou has been partakers with adulterers.” Ps 50:18b iii) Sacrilege “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me. But you say, in have we robbed You? In the tihe and he offering! You are cursed with a curse; for you are robbing Me, the nation, all of it” Mal 3:8-9 It is good to teach the foolish and ignorant, but without Christ our teaching is in vain. It is written at James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (NKJV) Teaching is not a game or something to put on your resume. It is a calling by God. They gloried God by boasting in the Law and His Name and dishonored Him by breaking everything sacred to Him.

As a result of their disrespect, God’s Name was brought to shame. “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, as it is written.” (Rom 2:23 NKJV). Israel’s failure to obey God in the some of the key points above created an excuse for the Gentiles not to accept their God. The walk of the Jews did not match their talk and it certainly did not match the talk of the Word of God.

The Apostle Paul now focuses on the issue of physical circumcision (Gen 17:1-14). It was originally given by God to Abraham to show that He would keep all His promises if the nation of Israel obeyed their commands. Each Jewish male would have a minor surgical operation performed on the skin. This expressed the separation of the Jews from the world. It is written at Rom 2:25-27 “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumsion? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?” (NKJV) To receive God’s circumcision without keeping God’s law was meaningless. Most Jews insisted the only way to be part of God’s people was to be physically circumcised. But the true sign is not lineage but obedience to God’s Law knowing something is written on their heart to follow and obey. Even though they had never been given the Law, they will judge the transgressors of the Law who did have the written code.

God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7), the inward spirit, for spiritual circumcision. Paul then concludes his message to the Jews at Rom 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (NKJV) Most Christians in Rome claimed a privilege because of their Jewish identity. But God knows the inner world of everyone. We all have inner closets that are visible to our God. That inner life, the heart, will be the reason for your praise from God. Jesus came to fulfill the Law as it had flaws. He gave His life that we may have a chance at eternal life and access to our Father God. Only the Holy Spirit is able to help us change our heart, the inward man. Let our hearts rule our words that they match our words to be pleasing to God.
Written by Deborah C. Davis

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