We have to be on guard here because ironically the very thing Paul is talking about to the Jews, hypocrisy, can happen to us as we study this passage. We can be hypocritical by looking down at the Jews for being hypocritical, and the truth here is that Paul is indicting all hypocrisy. He is just using the Jews as an example because they had the Law and knew God’s commands on a more intimate level than those that only had creation and conscience and so forth.
Today we have the benefit of the Bible, and therefore Paul would be speaking to any of us today who are hypocritically self righteous, comparing ourselves to others (2 Corinthians 10:12) and especially back at the Jews (Romans 10:20-23), boast in Christ (Galatians 6:14). Anti-Semitism is rampant in the world as it has always been. How easy it would be to turn this passage into an ethnic slur. It is not that. Paul himself was a Jew, all the apostles were Jews, and Jesus was a Jew (Romans 9:3, 10:1). It is about the fact that all people need the gospel.
He has shown that the Gentiles aren’t good enough, he has shown the moralists that they aren’t good enough, and now he is showing the Jews that they aren’t good enough, that they of all people should be the most moral but that they too are still falling short of God’s standard. Like the Jews, we dumb down the standard to a level we think we make and then cast our eyes in scorn on those less than that supposed standard. But God’s standard is perfection. Applying this today we would say not to talk about how pious you are in the areas that you aren’t tempted in. “I’ve never said a word of profanity in my life.” Don’t fool yourself, you still spew slander, malice, hypocrisy and pride out of the same pure mouth; how about giving up your gossip?”
Now remember we talked extensively before from Romans 2:1-3 about judging, and we are supposed to judge, that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about self-righteous hypocrisy. We are to judge, and we are to realize that we have given ourselves to the Savior instead of giving ourselves over to sin: the good works that follow do not save us but they are a sign that we are saved; they are not the root but the fruit of our relationship with God. We may still commit acts of unrighteousness, but our lives are not characterized by an unbroken pattern of unrighteousness. Believers know that we need a Savior, it is those who think they are righteous and do not need a Savior and those who judge based on their own worth rather than Christ’s worth who will be in trouble. These people are fooling themselves, like the Jews were.
17 – They were called out people, and they acted like it. Now if you are a Jew, if you rely on the law, if you boast in the true God. If you are in the band, know the tune, and sing the song.
18 – they approve of what is excellent because they are taught; we know that Paul thinks this is good, because he prayed for others to be like this as well (Philippians 1:10). They know what is right. Knowledge is good. You’ve played the instrument before, because you’ve been to practice.
19-20 –They know they are right. Confidence is good. They knew what to teach, they had the truth, and they knew it. Teaching is good. You are sure you can teach others to play.
21-22 – Much of rabbinical Judaism of Paul’s day interpreted the law so that they thought they were completely justified by the law. When Paul asks these questions, some of the Jews would say no, they don’t do these things, but Jesus exposed the error of such interpretations (Matthew 5:19-48). God applies His law to both our actions and our attitudes. Sometimes we only want our attitudes evaluated, and sometimes only our actions. God will hold us accountable for both motives and actions. James 2:13 / James 4:17 / remember last time – no secret sins / Galatians 5:19-21 / 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – are you really walking in light? Don’t fool yourself.
Then how come your play so poorly, how come it sounds so bad, why do you hit so many wrong notes, why is your timing so off?
23-24 – the main point of our text today / Isaiah 52:5 / so you have the law, so what? If you have privileges that makes it worse not better if you do not use them as you should. You have the advantages but you are still falling short. You are fooling yourselves.
You talk about being a great musician, and how good this piece of music is, but you sound awful. You are an embarrassment to the composer and the conductor.
Paul is not trying to get them to be more moral, he is trying to get them to see that no one is without hypocrisy, some more so than others, of course, but all are guilty when it comes to doing what is right. We tell others what is right, and we actually believe what we say, but we also fall short. This doesn’t let anyone off the hook, though; just because everyone does it doesn’t mean its right, and it doesn’t mean that God excuses it, He does not. That’s the point, and we are without hope if we are without a savior.
Now the answer is not to stop preaching against stealing, lying, hypocrisy and sin, just because we have done it or are doing it, the idea is to preach against it but also to preach Christ as the answer to it. Why do we still preach against the very things we have been guilty of? Why, because God wants us to that’s why. Because these things are wrong that’s why. Because we all need help and we need to know that we can’t make it without Christ, that’s why. Because we should be reminded that these things are not in the character of God, not in the will of God, and not what God wants for us and that we should be ridding ourselves of these things, that’s why. It is not like you have to be perfectly morally pure in order to speak out against sin, what you need to be is on Repentance Road, and using the standards of the Word of God, that person has the authority to speak to issues. I may not be perfect, and I may have had certain sins, and I may still have much sin, but I can and should and must still speak out against sin. If you are on the repentant road, you have the right, and the obligation to preach about sin. Just make sure you preach Christ as well.
Paul said he was not perfect, that he had not arrived, but that sin was still exceedingly sinful, and that he was forgetting what was behind and pressing on to Christ. These Jews of Paul’s day were looking around saying, “yeah society stinks, they are all rotten and on the road to hell”, to which Paul is saying back to them, “yeah, you are right, but hey, you guys, you have the law, the right moral code, and yet you do some of the same things too, so what does that make you, it is actually a little worse isn’t it? Today, many claim the name but they dishonor and shame, and with the lives they lead they show they aren’t led. Don’t fool yourself.
As Christians we are often the same way they were. Trying to change society without changing men’s hearts is hypocrisy. Most just talk about how good we are and how bad society is, or just talk about how bad society is, which is still implying the same thing, that we are not. Well they are not regenerate, what do you expect them to do, they may have common grace, so it is not as bad as it could be, but they do not have saving grace, they are not regenerated, they are not born again, and that is what they need. We don’t need reformation we need transformation. Efforts at social harmony should not neglect the importance of changing human hearts. Trying to change society without renewing our own minds is hypocrisy as well. Don’t fool yourself.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use our votes to try and change the political landscape; it means that we need to be realistic, and spiritually minded as to what ultimately are the most important things. What is more important, the Ten Commandments and prayer in schools, or going out and witnessing to someone, and living the gospel yourself? Yes, we need to preach sin, judgment, hell, and all that, and this is indeed what Paul is doing, but amidst the bad news, we must also give the good news of the gospel, which is where Paul started and where Paul is headed.
Yes, Paul sure does spend a lot of time on why we are all so bad, but he will spend much more time on why Christ is so good. You know, don’t you just get sick and tired of people who point out all the problems of society but don’t give any answers they just blame “the other guy”? Well that is what Paul is saying not to do, don’t be like these Jews and moralists, and those like them today that just point out the evil, point them to the good, and it isn’t you, it is Jesus. Lets not be like the rest of the world, lets not just point at the problem without offering a solution, and the ultimate solution, and indeed, the only solution for your salvation is Jesus Christ.
To some Paul would say, “You say you are giving God the glory He is due but by your actions you do not.” The cause of Christ suffers in a sense because you don’t live the gospel, and live as Christ would have you live, and live as you will in heaven. You don’t try, you don’t care about sin in your own life, and you defile the name of Christ and treat salvation as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29-39). Some aren’t doing all the immoral things, but they aren’t giving glory to God, either. They are not humbled before the Master. Rebellion Road has all kinds of moral people on it. Paul is saying that we need to be holy, yes, but we must also be humble. We need to have the right sort of confidence, not in ourselves but in God, and this sort of confidence acts in accordance with what Christ has done, and what Christ would have us do, which is to lead increasingly holy, and yet increasingly humble lives. Don’t fool yourself.
The Jews were fooling themselves. Knowledge of God rightly understood brings humility, not pride, which is what was happening to certain Jews and moralists. We are brought low so that God may be brought high. When you see the depths of our depravity compared with the heights of His holiness, then you can begin to see the measure of God’s love to us. Holy and humble, we must be both: don’t fool yourself.
Labels: Church, Paul, Romans, Sermon, Think About It