The Jews and the Law
17Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”[b]
25Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the[c] written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
What I love about this particular set of verses is how painstakingly Paul works to tell Jews that lip service is not good enough. Knowing what is right and true and actual actions, should all work together. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem for the Jews of Paul’s day – it’s a continuing problem today. People who try to do the right things and say the right things, but unfortunately, their hearts are not in the right places. Or maybe does the reverse work – is it possible that your heart is in the right place, but your actions are not? Either way, for the Jews, circumcision was an outward act of obedience to the laws that God gave them. If you are circumsized, that isn’t the “get out of jail” free card – disobedience is disobedience.
This makes me think of how often I am disobedient. Saying to God, “Well, I flipped a guy off and ran over a dog today, but I went to church on Sunday” does not count. And ok, my life is not that extreme, but the fact of the maatter is, sin is anything that removes me from God and puts road blocks in my relationship with Him. Being a good person and making good decisions is something that I should be doing – it does not count as payment for my other transgressions. There is only ONE act that pays for any and all of my sins, and that is Jesus’ death and rising.
I love when Paul sends it home by saying that being Jewish isn’t a summation of outward signs, but rather indicated by a radical, supernatural imprint on our hearts. The Jews are used as an example, but it could be any of us today who try to skate by in life by doing all the “right” things and not matching it with our hearts, or saying we believe something with our hearts, but not living a life that reflects those beliefs.
Anyway, I hope everyone had a great Wednesday. Almost to the weekend – yay!