The Hypocrisy of the Jews


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January 25, 2015

Romans 2:1-3:8

Sin- Hearing the Bad News First in Order to Get the Good News: “The Hypocrisy of the Jews” Paul’s letter to the Romans is addressed to two groups of people, those who are Jewish and those who are Gentile. At the time Paul wrote this letter there was a great deal of animosity between these two groups. The church in Rome was predominately Gentile but it is obvious from reading this letter that there was a substantial constituency of Jews in the church who were also following Jesus. Because Paul himself is Jewish he knows quite well the mind of his Jewish readers. He knows their history in terms of how the Jews often viewed the Gentile world. He knows what the Biblical text says. He knows that in the OT God’s plan to save a people from all the nations of the earth began with Abraham, the first Jew. God called Abraham and promised him that through his offspring he would “bless all the nations of the earth.” He also knows the Psalms and the preaching of the prophets in the OT that so frequently talked about God saving a large number of people from all the nations of the earth. Because Paul knows the Scriptures he knows that God’s choosing of the Jewish people was for the greater purpose blessing and saving the Gentile nations of the earth. Yet Paul also knows how the Jewish people struggled with this calling and fought against it. Because of the problem of sin, human beings like to get into holy huddles with others just like themselves and exclude those who are different from them. Paul knows well the Jewish disdain for the Gentiles and he knows the arrogant superior attitudes they held toward them. He knows these things because he knows the sinful human nature of man. (BTW the problem Paul is fixing to attack in the Jewish people is not exclusively their problem; it is a universal human problem. Certainly there were Gentile cultures, such as the Greco-Roman culture, that thought of themselves as being superior to all other cultures.) None the less, Paul, knows exactly what the Jews were thinking when they were reading the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. Hypocrisy What they were thinking when they read Romans 1 was “amen.” “Those Gentiles are dirty rotten sinners. You are exactly right Paul, all they do is make idols and worship them. They worship the creation and not the One who created the world. They worship their bodies and use them in degrading ways in all kinds of sexual immorality, even unnatural kinds of sexual immorality. You are exactly right Paul, those Gentiles are dirty rotten disgusting sinners. They are filled with greed, envy, murder, and malice. They hate God and they hate their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, and stupid. Not only that, those nasty Gentiles even have the audacity to cheer people on who do such things.” “Right on Paul! You tell it like it is! Those Gentiles are going to hell!” That’s what Paul’s Jewish readers were thinking when they read about the judgment of God on the Gentile people. But then Paul suddenly changes course and drops the hammer on his Jewish readers.

Paul basically says to his Jewish audience in our text today, “Look, you guys are amening everything I am saying, but look at you! You’re reveling in God’s condemnation of the Gentile people yet you do the same things. You are hypocrites! You actually think you are a light for the blind because you got the law but you need to start teaching yourselves. “You who preach against stealing, why do you steal? You who say you should not commit adultery, why do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, why do you rob temples?” You got a big fat log in your own eye and the only thing you are doing is rejoicing in the speck in the eye of your Gentile brothers. Stop it! Don’t you know that you are bringing God’s judgment upon yourselves when you do the same things they are doing? In fact, your judgment is going to be worse than theirs because you Jews have received more revelation from God. The Gentiles did not receive the written Law of Moses, they only had God’s revelation through the witness of creation and the human conscience. But you Jews not only got God’s revelation from creation, and His revelation in your conscience, you also got God’s revelation in His written Word through the Law of Moses. You should know better so quit reveling in God’s condemnation against the Gentiles and clean up your own act. Or “Do you, a mere man, really think that you will escape the judgment of God when you do the same things they do? Will you continue to show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is meant to lead your toward repentance?” One day God’s patience will be exhausted and you will be judged, so you need to wake up now and repent! Our Situation Today We who are here today are very much in the same position as the Jews to whom Paul originally addressed in Romans because we Christians today are the recipients of not only the witness of God in creation, the natural law of God written on our hearts, and the written law of Moses in the OT but we also have the fullest revelation of God made known in His Son Jesus Christ through the NT teachings of Holy Scripture. We got it all and we got a lot of it. We have churches on every corner in this country, we have more Bibles in our homes than anybody else, it’s all over the radio and TV, and we are still free to practice our faith in this nation. We truly have it good and because we do we will have more to answer for on the Day of Judgment, just like the Jews to whom Paul was addressing. The fact that we have so many Bibles in our homes and so many churches in our neighborhoods does not make us faithful Christians. Nor does the fact that we might have been born into a Christian family, become a member of a church, or have been baptized or gone through confirmation make us a faithful Christian either. In this text Paul says to his Jewish readers that just because you were outwardly circumcised (which was Jewish custom given in the OT meant to identify them as a part of Abraham’s family) doesn’t mean that you were a faithful Jew. A faithful Jew is one who has been circumcised on the inside; meaning there has been an inward transformation of the heart by God in the life of the Jew. If you have been outwardly circumcised but still living in rebellion against God, then what good was that?

Likewise, Paul says the same thing about the Law. What counts is not that you were the recipients of the Law (as the Jews were) but that you were a doer of the Law. If you only hear the law but don’t obey the One who gave it to you then you are lost. Paul even says that some Gentiles are closer to God than are the Jews because some Gentiles have actually kept the precepts of the Law that was written on their conscience, even though they had not received the written Mosaic Law. So what matters to God is not the fact that you were privileged to receive the Law but that you keep the Law in your heart and in your actions. So what we see here in this text is that the Jews are even more than the Gentiles because of their extra revelation they received. And their chief sin is not so much their disobedience of the Law of God but their hypocrisy and what makes them hypocrites is not so much that they broke the Law of God, because we all do that, but their chief sin was the fact that they thought they were superior to the Gentiles morally and spiritually and they were also more concerned about the sins of the Gentiles than they were their own. I think what God is telling us this morning in his Word is first we ought to be humble and realize that we are sinners who are saved by the grace of Christ and we should not think of ourselves as being better than anyone else. Second, we need to concern ourselves first and foremost with our own battles with sin, as we seek to grow in God’s call to live a life of holiness and sanctification unto the Lord, more so than we should be concerned with the sins of others. This does not mean that we do not address the problem of sin. If that were the case then the gospel could not be preached, nor could we hold one another accountable in brotherly love. But it does mean that when we address sin in the lives of other people we do so having first examined ourselves concerning our own failures, so that when we address the sins of others will do so with humility and not self-righteous arrogance. We become hypocrites not necessarily because we have sinned; we become sinners because we have sinned. Instead, we become hypocrites when we fail to examine ourselves and then self-righteously think that we are better than others. He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.