Romans 2:17-24 Commentary and Application
17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
Paul now turns his attention back to the Jew that would seek to establish his righteousness through observing the law. Paul wants to show the hypocrisy that is evident in anyone that seeks to establish that they will attain eternal life through their own good works. When we preach against certain sins and seek to establish our own righteousness we are very likely to have either committed the very sin we preach against, or have committed other sins that would condemn us as unrighteous.
As an example we may seek to establish our own righteousness by saying we have never stolen anything and therefore we are worthy of eternal life. We need to realize though that God’s law also condemns those who have lied, and there is no man on the face of the earth that can say they have never lied. So when we preach and condemn those who have stolen something as unrighteous we should realize that we are just as condemned under God’s law as a sinner because we have lied; therefore we cannot establish that we are worthy of salvation by works. In fact our preaching about others being condemned while we ourselves are righteous makes us hypocrites. In our hypocrisy those who observe us will blaspheme our God because we establish our righteousness on false pretenses in His name.
Paul wants to get this point across to the Jews of his day, you can in no way establish yourself as righteous before God under the law, and if you try to you are nothing but a hypocrite. You are just as in need of a way of salvation as the Gentile who does not have the law of God. After showing the Jew and Gentile that they both stand condemned Paul will go on to show them that God has not left them without a way of salvation, a way only found in Christ’s righteousness, apart from the law.
1. We should not read this section as a purely historical argument pointed at the Jew of Paul’s day. We can also read this as a warning to us after we have become a Christian. It is easy for us to become Christian and fall into a legalistic approach to life. We can start to become self-righteous and always point out the short comings of others while we are blinded to the areas of our life where we ourselves fall short. In a sense a Christian must be careful that after we are saved by faith we do not seek to establish our own righteousness in the law. This does not mean we are not to strive for a holy life, to seek to please God, but it does mean that we need to always remember that the only difference between us and the unsaved is CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS and NOT OUR OWN. If it was not for God’s sovereign choice, His choosing us, regenerating us, sanctifying us, and ultimately glorifying us IN CHRIST (Eph 1:3-14, 2:1-9) then we would be on the way to hell the same as everyone else. Do you see areas in your life where you seek to establish your own righteousness and not Christ’s?
2. The Christian church must walk a fine line between the law and grace. We are to call sin for what it is, sin, but we must do this in a way that shows that we understand that we too are sinners worthy of hell. It is only the grace of God shed on us, through the righteousness of Christ that saves. When we condemn sin in the world we must also build that bridge to the sinner that we understand what they are going through, we ourselves are sinners as well, and although our sin may have been different than their is, it is no less worthy of condemnation before a righteous and holy God. We must use the law as a means to bring people to Christ.
Paul uses the law in a perfect manner in Romans 1-3, he uses it to establish that NO ONE is righteous, not even himself, and then in chapter 3 he shows that God has made a way for all of us sinners to be given a right standing with Him. Do you use the law to show people that all, including yourself, are worthy of God’s wrath? Do you often times judge others as more worthy of God’s wrath because their sin is different than yours? Can you see times where your witness has been damaged because you sought to show others how sinful they were yet did not include yourself in that same group of being worthy of wrath apart from Christ? How can we use the law to point to Christ as a need for everyone, including us?