“But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Practice what you preach ye hypocrite!
We’ve all heard the proverbial cliche reminding us of our own moral and religious failures. In these verses, God, through Paul, condemns the Jews for their religious arrogance and ignorance to the purpose of the Law. The Jews were prideful but for all the wrong reasons. The Jews thought they were exempt from God’s judgment because of their position before God as His people who had been given possession of His law. They had also been given the responsibility to instruct the rest of the world concerning His law and His ways. They were called to be a guide to those who are blind and a light to those who are in the darkness. Because of this unique relationship with God, they boasted as if they were in some superior standing to others. What they failed to realize, because of their pridefulness, was their religious “superiority” did nothing to transform themselves from within. Behaving correctly on the outside did nothing to cleanse them on the inside. Paul, very similarly to Jesus in the sermon on the mount, cuts to the heart of the issue. While all Jews may not have stolen, may not have committed adultery, or may not have robbed temples, it is 100% certain all Jews had dishonored God by breaking the law to some extent. The law, in its entirety, was given to the Jews to display the holiness and righteousness of God and demonstrate their need for God’s salvation.
While few of us can claim to call ourselves a Jew, the heart of this passage is just as relevant for the Christian today. God has called us to be His people, through Christ, to be a light to the darkness and a guide to the blind. He has given us his Word and the Gospel to instruct and share the love of Jesus Christ with the rest of the world. The Gospel displays God’s holiness and righteousness and demonstrates our need for a Savior. Because God has chosen to impute His righteousness into our lives doesn’t give us the religious right to boast any superiority to others. When we measure our own lives next to the Gospel and the Law, we all fall eternally short. Our religion and morality do nothing to cleanse us on the inside or save us. Behaving correctly on the outside will do nothing to transform our wicked hearts on the inside. Our inner person is not worthy of salvation no matter how good or superior we think we are. We may not steal. We may not commit adultery. We may not lie or curse. We may not (fill in the blank), but we all dishonor God by breaking His perfect Law. We may look good on the outside but our hearts are just as evil and wicked as anyone else in this world. The beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus crowns us with His righteousness, adorns us with His love and grace, calls us His people, and gives us salvation in spite of all our failures and in spite of our moral turpitude. This is the light we shine to the rest of the world. We were given salvation and the Gospel not to point people to ourselves and how good we are (because we’re not) but to point others to how good God is.
Use the HEAR method as you spend time with today’s scripture.
Highlight – what words or phrases jump out at you
Explain – what does the passage mean?
Apply – how does the passage intersect with your life today?
Respond – how is God leading you to respond?