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. (Romans 2:17-29 ESV)The warnings here from Paul in Romans 2 are surely not merely for the Jew who rested in his circumcision as salvation... let's hear what Paul is saying to the church. A couple of messages I think the Apostle is giving us:
1.Be careful in judging the law-breaking of others, or of thinking of yourself as a guide for the blind - those who need a leading hand. When you know what is right and proper, it is easy to become judgmental about those whom you deem to be less mature in the ways of the Lord, and see yourself as an instructor for them. How easy this trap is to fall into! And, listening to the Apostle, how dreadful is the state of us who go here. When I am tempted to think ill of those professing Christians who struggle with heart (and other) sins - or of the world as the world sits in the swamp of sin the world exists in. My thoughts ought not to go (whether judged rightly or wrongly) to a comparison of their actions with God's Law, but to my own heart and my own actions. Am I guilty of the very thing that I accuse them of? Am I blind to my own violations of God's precepts? Much more profitable are those thoughts than my own judgments of others - and how much harder. It's terribly tempting to draw my eyes off myself and place them on others whom I can tread down in order to feel better about my own failings.
2. Baptism. How often is baptism trusted in - or the 'day of conversion' held up as the thing to trust when one is challenged through circumstances, doubts or otherwise, to think about his or her standing before God? Of what use is baptism if one has no concern about daily repentance and living with a view to serving the Lord each day and walking with Him? Baptism can be every bit as much an outward and useless ceremony as circumcision could be to the Jew of Christ's day and before. Where do we falsely trust in "things" while rejecting the only source and ground of trust? How do I make my baptism unbaptism by walking awry? We must always renew our repentant hearts, and cling to Christ and His Cross alone for salvation - and never place our faith and trust in acts and ceremonies. The temptation to place faith in walking the aisle or being baptized is strong... it's always easy to take the objective mark as the thing to which to cling - and that is a dangerous temptation indeed.