The Inward Condition
Dismiss children for children’s ministry.
Is Christ your hope in life and death?
Open with me to Romans 2 as we continue to march through the first two chapters of Romans.
A young nine year old boy went to his class on a Wednesday night at his local church. It was a normal Wednesday night to him. He had memorized his verses for his class to recite and knew who Jesus was from attending church for nine solid years. He walked into his class recited his verses. It was business as usual. As he prepared to leave the class with his friend, his teacher asked have y’all been saved? Shocked by the question and knowing he had not been baptized or had a moment in which he prayed a prayer or anything like that responded “no.” His friend did likewise. Then, his teacher read John 3:16 to him which he had learned and could quote from heart. He knew that. He believed that. He then was talk he need to pray to be saved calling upon Jesus. The teacher led him through the sinner’s prayer. He recited every word. He went to his mom in celebration exclaiming, “I got saved.” He was baptized in the week’s to follow. Yet, as time would progress, he didn’t have any life change. He persisted in the same sins as did at 9. He constantly would cling to that prayer he prayed as proof that he was saved even though he did not live like. One summer, he got a new Bible. It was awesome because it was an army Bible that had the logo on the cover. He wanted to be in the army and had a Bible that reflected that desire. As he read, he began to realize the reality of Christ’s life and what Christ had done. And all of these thoughts and doubts entered his mind at age thirteen about how his life had not changed. A prayer was his only assurance and it fell short, because his life was still rooted in sin. He struggled and doubted his salvation because he was not saved.
That boy was me. It was at age thirteen that I realized that I was not saved because my faith was in a prayer and not Christ Jesus.
Today’s passage resonates with me deeply. We are prone to look to external happening or works as proof of our salvation when we should look to Christ alone. Paul has strong words for such failure to recognize that Christ alone is our salvation.
12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Main idea: God looks at the inward condition of the heart above outward signs.
As Paul continues to expound upon the desolate condition of mankind apart from Jesus Christ, he ensures that not one person is left out. We saw the immoral pagan in chapter one. Last week, we saw the sinful moralist that was entrenched in hypocrisy. This week, Paul is certain to speak to both the Jew and the Gentile; however, the primary thrust of this passage is geared toward the Jew.
God justifies the doers of the law.
God justifies the doers of the law.
Paul gives us a couple of statements that seemingly start off the tone of this passage of Scripture. Paul takes the Roman church to the law. Specifically, Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law that is contained within the first five books of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch or Torah. Remember, the Roman church consisted primarily of Gentile believers, and the church had began to experience some rising tension between the Jewish and Gentile believers. So, Paul seeks to help them both understand their condition apart from faith in Christ Jesus.
12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
Paul spoke about the judgment of God in the previous passage of Scripture toward the moralist. In closing out that passage, Paul stated in verse 11
11 For God shows no partiality.
God is impartial in His judgment. God does not look on the outward appearance or reputation of a person. He looks at the works of a person either in Christ or apart from Christ. Paul builds upon that reality in verse 12. He points to the Gentile. The Gentiles were those that were not Jewish. They were outside of the covenant people, the Israelites. The Israelites are God’s chosen people that had been given the Law of God in order for them to know God and His righteous standard. However, the Gentiles were outside of the chosen people and were without the Law of God. They did not have the law. Therefore, Paul writes an equalizing statement here. The Gentiles who are without the Law of God will perish without it.
The word perish in that verse speaks of eternal punishment or eternal condemnation. Likewise, those that do have the Law, namely the Jews, will be judged by the law. They had the Law of God as it had been given to them by God through Moses in the Old Testament. They knew the law and would be judged by it. Meaning, they knew God’s righteous standard that is contained in the 10 Commandments and other prescriptions recorded in the Pentateuch. Because of this knowledge, God will judge or evaluate their obedience to the law.
Paul expounds further in verse 13
13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Paul makes the judgment of God very clear here. The Jews who had the Law and were able to hear the Law in their synagogues weekly were not righteous before God simply by hearing the Law. The only right standing before God could be found in those who were doers of the law. In other words, only those that practiced what the Law demanded would be justified before God. This is the only way in which they could be justified. This was the only way in which they could stand before God without condemnation.
The word justified is a great Bible term that we cannot glaze over. It means to be declared righteous. In obedience to God’s Law, the sinner is declared righteous by God. But understand, no one can be a doer of the law up to the point of garnering his or her own righteousness. We must be declared righteous by God. We cannot declare ourselves righteous.
Likewise, Paul’s statement of being doers of the Law rightly echoes what James said in his Bible letter.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
Application: The call is for us to be doers of God’s Word. Paul is making clear that the doers of the law will be justified or declared righteous before God. Please understand also, we cannot do the Word or live in obedience to the Word apart from faith in Jesus Christ. That is the point of the Law.
John MacArthur writes, “The doers of the Law, on the other hand, are those who come to God in repentance and faith realizing that His Law is impossible for them to keep apart from Him and that knowledge of it places them under greater obligation to obey it.”
The only way in which we can live in obedience to the Law and the Word is for us to repent and place our faith in Jesus Christ. The law reveals our sinfulness against God. Likewise, by simply knowing the Word of God, we do not earn ourselves justification or salvation. Intellectual assent does not give us salvation. It is personal descent to the point of repentance and faith in Christ that merits us salvation.
You see, the Jews were appealing to their hearing and possession of the Law as meritorious for salvation or right standing before God. It is easy for us to think that our church attendance is meritorious for salvation. We like to recount every worship service we have sat in where we hear the Word preached. Or, every Sunday School class where we hear the teacher teach the Bible. Understand that merely hearing the Word of God does not give salvation. It is hearing the Word of God to the point of understanding that apart from Christ you cannot live according to the Word. That is why James said that the hearer of the Word is like a man who looks in the mirror and as soon as he looks away he forgets who he is. If we are only hearing the Word, we quickly forget who we are, sinners in need of salvation. If we are doers of the Word, we will continually recognize our dependence upon Christ. In being obedient to the Word of God we recognize the reality that we cannot be completely obedient to the Word of God because of our sin-fallen nature. Therefore, we are constantly reminded of our need for Christ and our faith in His finished work that saves us from our sin. We must be doers of the Word living in constant obedience. In placing our faith in Christ’s finished work, we will be justified. We will be declared righteous because God will see the work of Christ instead of ours.
MacArthur further states, “God treated Jesus on the cross as if He lived your life so He could treat you as if you lived His.”
This is the immense grace of God toward us.
God is fair and right in His judgment.
God is fair and right in His judgment.
Paul has given the crystal clear command that only doers of the law will be justified. Now, Paul points to God’s judgment toward the Gentiles who are without the law.
14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
The Gentiles were without the law of God; however, they carryout what the law requires by nature.
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
In carrying out the law even though they did not have the law, they reveal that the Law of God is written on their hearts. They have the Law within them. For instance, they could know that murder is wrong or stealing is wrong. We see this in our own world. Unbelievers have a law among themselves even though the do not have the Word of God. Unbelievers can do ethically good things while condemning themselves by not placing their faith in Christ Jesus. They know ethical good because their conscience bears witness to it. As their conscience bears witness to the law, they should turn to understand that it is God who placed it there and cry out to Him in faith. However, by neglecting to do so, they are without excuse before God.
16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Then, the day will come for God’s judgment to be executed and He will judge men by Jesus Christ. He will judge every part of each person even the secrets of that person. He knows the thoughts, acts, and motives of each individual. Nothing will be unknown to God. He knows all things and will judge rightly. The Jew will be judged according to the law and the gentile will be judged according to the knowledge of the law that he had. Both will be condemned apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Every person is judged according to the Gospel. This is the fair and right judgement of God.
God is dishonored by religious hypocrisy.
God is dishonored by religious hypocrisy.
After addressing God’s right and fair judgment toward the Gentiles, Paul turns his attention directly to those who have the Law, the Jews.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—
He begins by stating, if you call yourself a Jew. Paul is going to advocate as we will see later that only those who have a changed heart by God’s grace are true Jews. Here, he is focusing his attention on those who are Jews in name only meaning that they are not obedient to the law that they possess. Notice, Paul points to the ways in which these individuals would identify themselves. They are knowers of God’s will, have instruction from the Law, a guide to the blind, light to those in darkness, instructors of the foolish, and teachers of children. This is how they would describe themselves. Paul gives them these descriptors before flipping the script on them in the next few verses.
21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
Paul has identified them with these admirable descriptors and now he turns to questioning them. They are teachers, yet do they teach themselves. Do they break the law by stealing, committing adultery, or falling into idolatry. Each of these examples can be found in the Old Testament whenever Israel would turn their back on God and turn toward sin. Paul is pointing to their hearing of the Law without being doers of the Law. They were hearing the Law without allowing the Law to permeate down into their soul causing life change. The Law was meant to reveal sin and draw them to God. Yet, They were boasting in their possession of the Law as though it merited them some advantage before God.
Thomas Schreiner points out, “It is important to understand that Paul’s aim is to show the Jews that possession of the law is not inherently salvific and constitutes no advantage over the gentiles.”
The Jews did not have an advantage toward salvation. They simply possessed the Law giving them knowledge about who God is. However, they were dishonoring God by breaking the law that He had given them. This breaking and dishonoring of God had drastic effects upon those looking from the outside.
24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
The Gentiles saw how the Jews did not honor God in obedience to the law. They saw how they were not obedient to the law. This display a lack of reverence for God. It displayed a lack of faith in God. It displayed to the Gentiles a lack of reason to believe in God. The result was that the Gentiles blasphemed or slandered God.
Application: Our obedience to the Word matters. Our obedience to God displays our viewpoint and reverence of God. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves in the very same state as the Jews here. They did not revere God by keeping His commands. They were holding to their status as God’s chosen people thinking it was enough. They were holding to their possession of the Law as merit for right standing before God. Sometimes, we come to the point of attending church without ever understanding why we attend. In fact, my chief concern with the church today is that it has become so entertainment driven that we think we come to church to be served. We come to church to serve Jesus Christ and Him alone. In coming to church to be entertained, that is when we begin to complain about the music or the length of the sermon. But, when we come to church to serve because of the Jesus Christ who came to serve to the point of death on a cross that is when we cannot get enough of the worship music and the preached Word. It is because our heart has been changed toward loving and revering God and being fully satisfied in Him. Jesus Christ has saved us to the point of not only hearing the Word and worshiping but also faithful obedience to Him.
Our lives should not be that of hypocrisy but that of total dependency upon Christ Jesus to the point of constantly striving for obedience. Our language changes from that of disparagement to encouragement. Our motives change from that of building ourselves up to making Christ known. Our morals change from obedience to the world’s ever failing viewpoints to God’s never changing truth. Our mindset changes from what is best for me to what most glorifies Christ. When each of these things change, the watching and criticizing world will notice. Understand, the world watches the church with a critical eye. When the church looks like the world, the world points out its hypocrisy. But when the church looks like Christ, the world notices the difference and points out our faithfulness with persecution. The world never looks kindly on the church. That is why the church must never conform to the world. As world sees The Church at River Mills, may they see Christ. In seeing Christ, they will either surrender in obedience to the Gospel or persecute in obedience to the ruler of this world, satan. May we be a church that is not known for our hypocrisy but a church that is known for our obedience to the Word. In doing so, we will see our church flourish biblical and stand on the frontline against the persecution of the world.
We cannot seek to appease the culture. We must always seek to please the Christ.
God looks to the inward condition of the heart.
God looks to the inward condition of the heart.
Paul has pointed to the significance of faithful obedience. Now, he closes out the passage by speaking of the significance of the inward condition.
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.
Circumcision was the outward distinguishing mark of the Israelites. It identified them as God’s chosen people. Circumcision was given to those who by faith committed themselves to God and obedience to His Law. However, circumcision became a religious practice and outward sign of being a member of the covenant community without inward holiness or faith being evident. Jews would use their circumcision as evidence of their right standing before God. However, Paul almost insults the Jewish person by saying that if they break the Law they are uncircumcised. What he says is true. If they are not being obedient to their law then they are breaking the entire point of their circumcision.
26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
Paul further states that the Gentile or uncircumcised person who keeps the law will be considered circumcised by his obedience. In keeping the law in uncircumcision, that person condemns the one who has the law and breaks it. He is doing what the law requires without the distinguishing mark. God is less concerned with the outward marking as He is with the inward condition of the heart.
28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
The child of God is the one with true circumcision which is circumcision of the heart. This is Paul’s point. Circumcision is not an outward marking. The outward sign should reflect the inward condition. Circumcision is of the heart. It is a changed heart. This change has been brought about by the Holy Spirit. There is no marking or practice that we can cling to for salvation. There is only the work of Jesus Christ that saves us. The Jews were holding to their circumcision as proof of their salvation. They were clinging to this work for their salvation.
Application: We can find ourselves holding to outward signs as proof of our salvation. Maybe this morning, we are clinging to a prayer you repeated as proof of your salvation. The sinner’s prayer has led many to a false assurance of salvation. Our assurance of salvation is not in a prayer. Our assurance of salvation is our faith in Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, we can find ourselves holding to our church membership, baptism, prayer, giving, and even our attendance as evidence of right standing before God. Those that cling to these things, when you ask them about their salvation, hostility is found as though you are questioning whether they are saved. When someone asks about our salvation, it should be welcomed as we have the opportunity to share about Christ’s work in our lives and give Him all the glory. Just as the Jews were prone to cling to their circumcision, we are prone to cling to this outward identifiers of faith.
You see, God gave us His Son to change our inward condition because there was and is nothing that we can do to change it ourselves. Nothing changes our condition except for the work of God in our lives by the Holy Spirit.
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
He works on our inward condition taking our heart of stone that is hardened toward God in our sinful condition and replaces it with a new, soft, heart of flesh and His Spirit. Then, we are able to call upon the name of Jesus Christ.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
We are drawn to call upon the name of Jesus Christ in faith by the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus came and lived and died for you to be raised to life for you and raise up upon His return on the last day. All of this is brought about by God as it was His predetermined plan to save you brought about in time. And now, through this salvation and new heart, we are able to be doers of the Word because our inward condition has been changed by the Savior and He reign as Lord of our lives. Take the bread of life, Jesus Christ, and have Him change your inward condition.
Today, are you inwardly changed by the God of the universe?