Romans- Session 3- Insufficient

Text: Romans 2:17-29

Resources:

 

Subject:  Law

Central Theme: Insufficiency of the Law

Objective Sentence:  Three terms describe why the law is insufficient to save us from our sin.

Keyword:

Term #1- Hypocrisy.  V.17-24.

Term #2- Disobedience.  V.25-27

Term #3- Heart.  V.28-29

 

Introduction:

Connection:

  • My first experience doing vocational ministry was in the summer of 2002 in Port Charlotte, Florida.
  • I was in Bible college and wanted some ministry experience during the summer.
  • So I worked for a pastor named Bill Bales.
  • He gave me a lot of ministry projects to do that involved evangelism, discipleship, and teaching.
  • But he also gave me a project to put in a sidewalk across the back of our whole auditorium.
  • He also gave very little instruction.
    • Pastor: “Put in a sidewalk right from here to there.”
    • Ben: “Yes, sir.  How?”
    • Pastor: “Well what is there now?”
    • Ben: “Grass”.
    • Pastor: “Well, the grass can’t be there when you put in the sidewalk.”
  • It wasn’t rocket science I know, but I was young, inexperienced, and didn’t know what to do.
  • It was good to learn that ministry was hard work, and of course this was the lesson that he was trying to teach me.
  • So I started in with the shovels and wheelbarrows by myself. Then I thought, “could I ask some others for help?”  So I asked the pastor.  “Sure” he says.
  • But the work was still going slow.
  • I was working hard in the Florida summer heat, but it was slow. The shovel and the wheelbarrow weren’t the greatest tools for the job.  Neither was I the best man for the job.
  • And then I learned about tool rental.
  • Pastor took me down to the Home Depot rental place and we rented a sod cutter.
  • A couple of passes with the sod cutter, and a few more teenagers coming to help with the promise of a Pizza Hut lunch buffet and the job got done a lot quicker.
  • The shovel and the wheelbarrow were not sufficient to get the job done with the expectations that were there.
  • The wheel barrow and shovel weren’t bad. They were just not sufficient to accomplish the task on time.

Tension:

  • This is an ok illustration but not a complete illustration of the law.
  • Paul is making the case in Romans that we stand guilty before God.
  • Knowing that God had revealed the law to mankind through the nation of Israel, Paul knew that some would object to his argument stating that God had given the law and chosen Israel. In doing this they believed that the law is how that they were right with God.
  • In today’s text Paul makes the case that the law is not sufficient for salvation.
  • And this is where my previous illustration breaks down. You see, although my wheelbarrow and shovel were insufficient for the job, with enough time and enough effort I could have gotten the job done with those tools.
  • But when it comes to being right with God, the law will never get any person there.
  • The law is insufficient to make us right with a Holy God. The law is insufficient to save us from our sin.  It just can’t do it.

Three terms describe why the law is insufficient to save us from our sin.

Term #1- Hypocrisy.  V.17-24.

Romans 2:17- (17)  Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

 

Explanation:

  • Last week we studied the beginning of Paul’s case for the sinfulness of mankind in Romans 1.  He continues to make that case in chapter 2.
  • He makes the case at the beginning of Chapter 2 that mankind is inexcusable in their deeds.  All men stand guilty before God, who “will render to every man according to their deeds”.
  • This truth could have been unsettling to a jewish audience if they believed it.
  • Why?  Because they lived in a jewish culture who had placed their security for being right with God in several different realities.
  • The first reality that the jews placed their security in was their nationality.
    • Paul mentions this in verse 17, today’s highlighted verse.  “Behold, thou art called a jew…and makest thy boast of God”.
    • The jewish people are God’s chosen people, but this did not mean that every person who is nationally/ethnically jewish stands justified before a Holy God.
    • Paul made this clear previously in Romans 2:9-11, where he said,

Romans 2:9-11

(9)  Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;  (10)  But glory, honour, 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.

  • Paul is not making the case in verses 9-11 that those who do more good than bad will go to heaven.
    • We know this because he goes on to make the case that everyone is guilty and in need of a Savior.
  • What he is saying is that blessing or punishment from God isn’t exclusively based on being a jew or a gentile.  It’s not as if jews are guiltless and gentiles are guilty.
  • When it comes to whether or not we stand guilty or justified in the eyes of God, nationality has nothing to do with it.  Why?  “For there is no respect of persons with God.(Romans 2:11)”

Romans 2:17-20

(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.

 

  • The second thing they put their security in was the law.
    • Not only did they find their security in their heritage, they also found security in their privileged position of having the moral law given to them by God.
    • They boasted in the revelation of the law they received from God.
    • Certainly having the law was a point of great privilege for the Jews.  It has given them incredible advantages.
      • A culture that more closely obeys even just the 10 commandments, much less the other parts of the law, is at an advantage over cultures that did not follow these commands.
      • Less murder, less adultery, less theft, honor for parents, and laws that serve as a check to greed and dishonesty would facilitate a more workable society.
      • But of course, for the Jews, it wasn’t just a social construct.  They believed their laws came from God, which of course they did.
    • The problem is that they thought that since they were Jewish, and since they “kept the law” they were by definition accepted by God.
    • Many of them thought that because they had the law, and strived at times to do what it said they were OK with God.
    • More than that, many of them saw themselves as who “knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.”
    • Paul goes on to say that they “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.”  They viewed themselves as not just secure, but superior to others because of their law keeping.
    • Paul is making the case in these verses that everyone stands guilty before God.  As we’ll see in coming verses, the law does have advantages, but the law is not sufficient to save.  It shows us where we fall short, because no one can perfectly keep the law.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

(Rom 2:21-23)

  • In these verses we get to the heart of why the law does not make us right with God.
  • He asks the jewish person that boasts in their heritage, and in the moral law if they are practicing the things that they are teaching.
  • They boasted in the law, but are they keeping the law that they boasted in.
  • They taught the law, but are they keeping the law that they were teaching.
  • Look at the specifics of what he asked them:
    • – Do you steal?
    • – Do you commit adultery?
    • – Do you commit sacrilege?
  • This is exactly what Jesus asked, and He went further.  When Jesus talked about the law in the Sermon on the Mount, He taught that God expected inward conformity to the law and not just external conformity to it.  Notice what He said in Matthew 5:27-28.

 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

(Mat 5:27-28)

  • If you were to ask the typical jew if they had ever committed adultery, the vast majority would say no, and from the perspective of having had an affair physically with someone they would have been honest.
  • But according to God’s standard, if they have ever looked with lust they had committed adultery.
  • The same was true about murder.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

(Mat 5:21-22)

  • “Do you practice what you preach?”, Paul says.
  • The reader best not answer too quickly.
  • Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes God’s case that we do not.  The only One who ever did is Jesus Christ, Himself.

 

Application:

  • The point of this passage is to point out that no one does perfectly practice what they preach.  We all are sinners.  Every person holds others to a standard that they themselves do not perfectly keep.  This is why we need a Savior.  We are guilty before God.
  • For those who understand this, and have called on the name of the Lord to be saved, we stand forgiven.  We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit to help us to align our beliefs with our behavior.  So, the question for us is this.  Is there any area of your life where your words and your beliefs do not match your behavior?  If there are, repent, and seek the Lord for His help in doing the right thing.

 

You see Paul was pointing out that the law was insufficient to save as evidenced by the hypocrisy of every person that teaches the law.  The people teaching the law can not live up to the demands of the law.

Which leads to the second term that describes the laws insufficiency.

 

Term #2- Disobedience.  V.25-27

 

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 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?

(Rom 2:25-27)

 

Explanation:

  • One may argue with Paul, as he’s been reasoning in these verses, by asking him, “Well what about circumcision?”.
  • Paul has been arguing that just being a Jewish person isn’t enough.  He has also been arguing that posessing the law isn’t enough.  The law must be obeyed.
  • So the natural question for the Jewish person might be, “Well, Paul, I’ve kept all the cermonial law.  I’ve been circumcised!  What was the point of all of that?  Doesn’t that make me right with God?”

 

  • Here is Paul’s response in these verses.
  • Sure, it was important to obey God in the ceremonial law if you are Jew.

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

  • If one perfectly kept the rest of the law, then keeping the ceremonial part would have been profitable.
  • If they would have been perfectly righteous, never violating any of God’s commands, then keeping those commands would retain their perfect record.
  • But in terms of standing righteous and guiltless before God, being circumcised doesn’t undo the guilt that a person accrues by breaking the rest of the law.
  • This is what he means when he says, “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law; but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumsion.”
  • He even makes the argument that those who are uncircumcised (gentiles), if they were to keep the moral law perfectly, would be right with God despite being uncircumcised.

Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 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?

(Rom 2:25-27)

  • He even says that the fact that there are uncircumcised (gentiles) who are more moral than some who are circumcised and possess God’s written law says something about the Jew.
  • This is a judgement on the Jew, and reveals that the point is not to posess the law, or to conform to some ceremonial standard to outwork your law breaking, but rather to obey the law.
  • This is the problem, because in breaking one law the whole law is broken.
  • Here is the summary statement:  Keeping the ceremonial law is not enough to make you guiltless before a Holy God.

 

Application:

  • In the context we live in people rest in all kinds of religious activity as symbolic of their right standing with God.
  • They may claim baptism, church membership, observing communion, or doing any number of “good works” as what will get them to heaven.

 

  • While there is merit to being obedient in these areas, none of these or any other religious activity will get you into heaven by making you right with God.

 

  • So if the law points out my hypocrisy, and my disobedience means I won’t be saved, is it possible to be so disciplined externally that I could be right with God by my works?

 

Term #3- Heart.  V.28-29

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

(Rom 2:28-29)

 

Explanation:

  • The person who has been accepted by God and is right with God, and therefore has a secure position with God is not one who has primarily dealt with exterior conformity to the law alone, but rather has transformed inwardly in the inner man.
  • This is not exclusively a New Testament concept.  This idea of “circumcision of the heart” was spoken in Deuteronomy 30:6.

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.

(Deu 30:6)

  • God has never been content for people to just externally conform to a set of rules without any inner transformation of the heart.  This is Paul’s argument.

Application:

  • External conformity to rules tends to make other men the audience, while inner transformation of the heart forcuses on the Lord.
  • Don’t be confused.  This does not mean that God has no opinion on the external.  Of course God wants us to be obedient externally.
  • His desire though is that their obedience is motivated by an inner transformation that God has done in the heart.
  • This means that doing the right thing flows from a right relationship and worshipping of God on the inside, and not just an outward conformity to the rules borne of a motivation of duty to God or conformity to men.

Response:

  1. Have you had the inner transformation that happens when you accept Christ as Savior?
  2. Are there any “rules” you are keeping for the wrong reasons?
  3. Take some time to check your heart attitude today, and ask God to continue to work on you.

Conclusion:

  • So let’s review…

Three terms describe why the law is insufficient to save us from our sin.

Keyword:  Terms

Term #1- Hypocrisy.  V.17-24.

  • If I am relying on my heritage, tradition, and do goodedness and at the same time violating the law, I stand guilty before God.

Term #2- Disobedience.  V.25-27

  • Not even obedience to outward tradition and godly rituals counts towards my salvation if I am disobedient to the law.

Term #3- Heart.  V.28-29

  • Even if I do the right thing but do it for the wrong reason with the wrong heart motivation I stand guilty before God.
  • The law is insufficient to save because none of us can keep the law.
  • This is the bad news.
  • The good news is coming in the rest of Romans and it is this.
  • The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • He became sin, who knew no sin, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.
  • If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
  • For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

1 thought on “Romans- Session 3- Insufficient”

  1. AMEN!! I need to be reminded of these powerful truths constantly so I can act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my Beloved Lord.

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