Romans 2:17-29: Justification by the Law of Moses results in Condemnation by Disobedience

Romans 2:17-29


Justification by the Law of Moses results in Condemnation by Disobedience

  1. Vss. 17-20 Jews’ hope in the Laws, the grounds for their law-based confidence
  2. Vss. 21-24 Rips off their mask of hypocrisy and exposes their own sinfulness
  3. 29-31 Circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, praise from God and not men


Justification by the Law of Moses results in Condemnation by Disobedience


  1. Romans 1 – Gospel is exalted as the eternal plan of God to save mankind (Romans 1:16-17).
  2. Judgment against the gentiles who had knowledge of God but were ignored it or used it to worship the created instead of the Creator (Romans 1:18-32).
  3. Romans 2:1-16 – Jews are warned that they are just as guilty as the gentiles because, the gentiles did not have the Law and stood condemned, the Jews had the Law and still stood condemned (2:5-8).
  4. Romans 2:17-29 No one will be saved by his relationship to the Law of God
    1. Gentiles will not be saved by their ignorance to the Law, which in fact they had knowledge of part of the Law.
    2. Jews will not be saved by their possession of the Law of Moses, because the only way to be saved was through perfect obedience, no exceptions.
    3. God makes no partiality, not a respecter of persons.
    4. Some Jews believed they were perfect Law-keepers, sinless even (Luke 18:9-14; Paul even realized and admitted that this was a lie even for him; Philippians 3:5-6).
      1. The Jews were not doers of the Law, as a matter of fact they were blasphemers of the very Law they gloried in!
      2. Their “golden ticket” shined as a spotlight upon their sins, thus being condemned instead of being justified.  (Romans 3:20)
  5. We, in the Law of Liberty should take heed and careful lest we become like the Jews (of Romans 2) desiring to become legalistic, or like the gentiles (of Romans 1) where we become unconcerned about the Law of Christ and live as if the Law of Liberty was the law of libertine.
  1. Vss. 17-20 Their hope was in the Law of Moses
    1. Vss. 17 If you call yourself a Jew…
      1. There was nothing wrong with calling themselves a Jew (Hebrew, Israelite)
      2. The problem was with the boasting/bragging
        1. They bragged that because they were possessors of the Law they were automatically justified.
        2. They felt they had grounds for boasting and by extension belittling the gentile.
        3. Instead of being confident in the Law they should have relied on God’s mercy (Romans 2:4).
        4. There is nothing wrong with “boasting in God,” when done in the right spirit:
          1. Jeremiah 9:23-24
          2. 1 Corinthians 1:31
          3. 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:3
      3. The problem with the Jews boasting in God was that it was selfish and exclusive.
        1. They felt as if they alone had a claim upon God (Romans 3:27, 29).
        2. Name-dropping>>Self-centered boasting in God for their own self importance
    2. Vs. 18 The proper function of the Law was to instruct
      1. The Jews had the ability to discern, they had received revelation, they had men inspired by God, they were without excuse.
      2. They knew God’s standard and were able to discern between right and wrong.
    3. Vss. 19-20 Jews were confident they were 4 things to the gentiles:
      1. (1) Guide to the blind, and (2) light to those who are in darkness: (Psalm 119:105; John 17:17)
        1. Confident/convinced that they were the answer to dispel the world of the spiritual ignorance: (Checklist)
          1. By how they lived
          2. By how they treated their neighbor
          3. By how faithful they were to God’s word
          4. By how they treated God’s prophet
          5. By preparing the way for the Messiah (accepting Him as Messiah)
        2. It was Israel’s great privilege and responsibility to be a “light for the gentiles” and to open the eyes that are blind.  (Isaiah 42:6-7; 49:6)
        3. Christ would be the direct source of this light (Luke 2:32; 4:18), but the Jews refused to accept their secondary role and took it upon themselves to be the ultimate source of light and revelation.
      2. (3) Corrector of the foolish and (4) teacher of the infants
        1. These are good roles, just like the previous ones, if done in the right spirit.  The foolish are the ones who lack the ability to reason, to think things out and need some help.
        2. Infants are those who are spiritually immature.
        3. Jews probably considered all gentiles, even proselytes as foolish and infants, simple-minded and stupid.
    4. All of these elements of Jewish self-confidence was grounded in one thing>>>The Last (2 Timothy 3:16).  Their was mistake was arrogant assumption in that the scriptures were the only source of knowledge (Romans 1:18-25, 28, 32), as well as rejecting Christ as the ultimate source of authority.
    5. Application: Christians can fall in a similar trap
      1. Must be careful not to feel self-righteous because we have the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ.
      2. Our boasting should be in Christ, the cross and never in our own righteousness-as if it could save us!
      3. Sometimes we too, can make the same mistake of becoming boastful and arrogant in thinking that we have “arrived” and know it all, and everyone else is stupid, ignorant and infants.
      4. If we are called Christians it must be because we are living as Christians and bringing honor to the name of Christ and compelled by the love of Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
  2. Vss. 21-24 Ripping off the mask of hypocrisy and exposing their own sinfulness
    1. Vs. 21 You are prepared to teach others, yet you have not taught yourself?  You condemn stealing, but you steal.  Is that right?
      1. Psalm 50:16-20
      2. Matthew 23:3
      3. Galatians 6:13
    2. Vss. 22-23 Explicit examples:
      1. You teach do not commit adultery, you commit it
      2. You teach to hate idols, yet you rob temples (Dt. 7:25)
      3. You brag about having and knowing the Law, yet you dishonor God by breaking the Law of God.  (Psalm 119:92).  They believed that God only loved them (Romans 3:27, 29).
    3. Vs. 24 God’s name was blasphemed because of them! (Exodus 36:20-23; Isaiah 52:5).
      1. God was insulted!
      2. It also caused others to blaspheme God and make fun of Him (Isaiah 52:5).
    4. Christians ought to be aware and take heed, learn from Israel’s mistake.  We should never live in such a way that the name of God is blasphemed among the unbelievers.
  3. Vss. 25-29 True child of God is found in the heart and not in the flesh
    1. Vss/ 25-27 Circumcision would justify if the Jews kept the whole Law perfectly
      1. These verses are still speaking to the Jew about his relationship to the Law of Moses and their justification, not to the Christian’s relationship with the Gospel/Obedience/Grace.
      2. Simply, the Jew did not keep the Law, he was a hypocrite, he boasted and felt that by doing the externals, circumcision, tithing, festivals. etc., could save him.  But Paul very clearly says, “No.”  God wants the heart.
      3. The Gentile would become the assures of the Jew in the day of Judgment.
    2. Vss. 28-29 Inward/outward
      1. God was far more concerned with the heart and not with the outward signs, although He wanted both.
      2. The covenant Jew was far more concerned with receiving praise from men, rather than pleasing God and receiving praise from God.


  1. God has never been pleased when His children attempt to justify themselves by works.
  2. People of the Old Testament had the Law and knowledge that God wanted the heart, and how He wanted them to live.  They understood that God rejected a boastful heart and an arrogant attitude, as well as a hypocritical service.
  3. God has given us a way to be saved and a way to live.
    1. GOD’S PART
      1. The great love of God for man (John 3:16)
      2. He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior (Luke 19:10)
      3. Sent the Holy Spirit as a guide (John 16:13)
      4. Gave the Gospel as “the power” unto salvation (Romans 1:16)
      5. Provided atonement by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9)
    2. MAN’S PART
      1. Hear the Gospel. (Romans 10:17, John 8:32)
      2. Believe the Gospel (Hebrews 11:6, John 20:31)
      3. Repent of past sins (Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30)
      4. Confess faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10, Matthew 10:32)
      5. Be Baptized (Galatians 3:27, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38)
      6. Be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10)

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