Who Is the True Jew? (Romans Sermon 12 of 120)
March 26, 2000 | Andrew Davis
True Israel, Blessing of Abraham
I. Review of Romans
Please turn your Bibles to Romans chapter 2. The other day, I was at a Christian play and they advertised a local church (I think it was), and they put in bulleted form some of their advantages to going there, and it talked about contemporary worship, and also "relevant preaching." And I just had to laugh as I looked at my sermon title today, "Who is the True Jew?" Now, how many of you got up this morning wanting to be a true Jew? I mean, does the heart desire... In your heart today, as you got up, "I want to be a true Jew"? Probably none of you. So I kind of have to make a case for the relevancy of what it is I'm going to talk about today to make it relevant preaching. But I guess the thing with me and relevancy is, how can I know what's relevant for you and for you, and you, and you, over a full year or 10 years or the rest of your life? The Word of God is relevant. And as we just keep hearing its message week after week and understanding what it has to say, even a message like "Who is the True Jew?" has its proper place in our understanding of Biblical doctrine.
Paul has been expounding the Gospel, and he's been explaining to us that this Gospel message, most clearly revealed in the Book of Romans, is the message that God has given for our salvation. It is the message that takes us from lost in sin and rebellion to standing in His presence full of glory, and blameless on that final day. And there is no other message that accomplishes that journey. No other message. And Paul has been laboring in these verses from verse 1... Or 1:18, and he will do so until 3:20 to show that all of us, every single person on the face of the Earth, needs this message. We all need this salvation, this great salvation, every one of us. And he's laboring to do that. And the reason he's doing that is that we don't think we do. We don't naturally believe that we need a savior. Whatever category we're in, wherever we're at in our walk of life, we don't need this. And Paul has to labor to show the relevancy of the Gospel. And so he does, for the Jew and for the Gentile. And so he's been working at that.
And he's going to do so today, in direct address to the Jews, beginning at verse 17 of chapter 2. "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew, if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God, if you know His will and approve of what is superior, because you're instructed by the law, if you're convinced that you're a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you strip God of His glory? Do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written, God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you, who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a law-breaker. A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly and circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.
II. Paul’s Purposes
Now, as I've been trying to understand where Paul is going in Romans, God showed me something that I had never noticed before. As we've been working through Romans 1 and 2 and 3, we start to see what Paul is doing. And I think that Paul is giving us a new understanding of sin, and also giving us an understanding of the universality of sin, how it applies to every single person. And in this way, I think there's a little bit of kind of scriptural arithmetic that will help us understand the whole message of Romans 1, 2 and 3 up through verse 20 of chapter 3.
Now if you look at Romans 1:23, look down on your Bibles, just a little bit lower to Romans 1:23. And there, he's talking, I think, primarily about Gentiles. Beginning at verse 22, it says, "Although they claim to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images." We've been talking about that, haven't we? That exchange of the glory of God for something else. Eventually, it works its way out in Gentile worship to be idolatry, but the exchange had already occurred. The glory of God removed from its central place and something else put in the midst. It's a sin against the glory of God. Glory of God removed, something else put in its place. Romans 1:23, speaking of the Gentiles.
Now look down at 2:23, which is in the middle of the passage we're looking at today. Romans 2:23, this time speaking to the Jews, asked this question. It says, "you who brag about the law." In the NIV, it says, "do you dishonor God by breaking the law?" Could I say, do you strip God of His glory by breaking the law? So, 1:23 says that Gentiles exchange the glory of God for an idol. 2:23 says Jews rob God of His glory by their disobedience. What does Romans 3:23 say? "For all have sinned and fall short of," or "lack," what? "The glory of God." 1:23 plus 2:23 equals 3:23. You see that?
Now, I want you to understand, the verse numbers came in in the 16th century, these are not inspired by God. And I can prove that to you in other places, if you'd like me to show you. But I think it's helpful for us to see the sum total of what Paul is getting at. A new definition of sin and the universality of sin is the main theme that he's getting at. 1:23, the Gentiles do it. They exchange the glory of God. 2:23, the Jews do it. They rob God of His glory by their disobedience. 3:23, all have sinned. There is no difference. No difference between what? Between Jew and Gentile. For all have sinned and lack the glory of God. Now if we keep that in mind, we'll understand, therefore, what salvation is: A re-establishment of the glory of God. And it's done in such a way that no one can boast. And so Paul has to address the Jews here, and he does it very pointedly, doesn't he? In verse 17, he says, "you then," or "you, therefore," the Jew. This is what the Word of God does to us. There's a "you, therefore" in Scripture, isn't there? It points right to us, wherever we are at. It speaks directly to our heart and that is relevant, isn't it? It speaks right to us. "You, therefore, who call yourself a Jew," that's the way it's written.
Paul must strip Jews of self-confidence, or they will never seek grace in Christ
Now, here, Paul is not acting, believe me, he's not acting as an anti-Semite, trying to knock the Jews down. Anti-Semitism has been a plague in human history since the beginning of the Jewish people, and so-called Christians have taken their part to our shame. But Paul is not acting here in an anti-Semitic way. According to Jesus Christ, salvation is from the Jews. Paul was a Jew. He's doing this because he wants his people to be saved. And they will not be saved if they hold on to their false understandings of salvation. And so he's got to work on them, and he does. Paul actually had an incredibly courageous passion for his own people. Incredibly courageous. You look in Romans 9, Paul said he was willing to trade his own salvation so that his people could be saved. Willing to exchange it. Now for people not well-acquainted with what that would mean, that wouldn't be much.
But Paul knew fully well that he was talking about eternity in Hell under the wrath of God. He knew what that meant. And he said, "I'd make it in a heartbeat if that were the will of God. I'd do it, because of my love for my people." Paul was no anti-Semite. And he proved it in every town he went to. You who have been studying with us in the evenings, in the book of Acts, what did he do in every town? First place he went was the Jewish synagogue. To the Jew first, and then to the Greek, was Paul. And in every place he went. And he knew what was waiting for him in every place: persecution, arguments, strife and conflict, trouble in every place. He knew it, but he did it anyway. And why? It was worth it to him so that the Jews might be saved. And some of them were. When he would go in there, some of them would believe.
But here, he's got a deep burden for his own people. He is concerned about them. He is anxious over them because there's some dangers to them here. And he wants to open their eyes to the dangers before it's too late. There's a danger of hypocrisy, for example, of preaching one thing and living a different way. Of holding up a standard and then living, secretly, a different way. There's also a danger of formalism. Of the outward motions of religiosity without the true heart within. "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me." That's a danger for the Jews. And then there's a danger of self-righteous superiority. "Hey, I'm a child of Abraham. I'm fine. I don't need that. I'm okay. I'll teach the rest of the world, but I'm fine." Is that a danger for the church today, those three? Hypocrisy, formalism, self-righteous superiority? Is that a danger today? Oh, yes. So this is a message for us as well as for the Jews.
III. False confidence #1: The Law and Jewish Identity (verses 17-24)
And so Paul has to remove false confidences. And the first false confidence he works on in verse 17 through 24 is the law. The law. In verse 17, he says, Now you, "if you call yourself a Jew." It's kind of like, "I wear this banner. I am a Jew. A child of Abraham." There's a sort of self-identity thing here. This is how they identify themselves, they were Jews. And they bragged, it says, in verse 17, about their relationship to God. They boasted about God. It's a good thing to boast in God, isn't it? Let him who boast, boast in what? In the Lord. But it's not that kind of boasting going on here. There's a self-righteous boasting happening here, a dangerous one. Now, it's true the Jews were God's chosen people. We just had an international class, and one of the Chinese students said, "Why did God choose the Jews and not the Chinese?" I didn't have an answer for that. I don't have any idea why God chose the Jews.
Who can say? I don't really know. But He did choose the Jews, didn't he? And He chose them for a purpose. They were to be His light in that dark world. Remember God's original purpose in creation? The earth will be filled, with what? The knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. He wanted His glory everywhere and human beings were to do it, and I think He raised up the Jewish nation to accomplish that as well. And He gave them the law. But the sad thing is, as we're going to see in the Scripture, they actually, instead of leading the Gentiles to honor and to glorify God, they actually led the Gentiles to blaspheme God. Oh, what a tragedy. And so Paul has to address them here and show them what's happened. And in verse 17, he says, "if you rely on the law." The Greek literally says, "if you rest in the law," as with an easy chair. Is the law an easy chair? What do you think? Is it a comfortable place to rest? I think not.
How about Galatians 3:10? "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.'" Does that sound like a comfortable easy chair? A curse hangs over disobedience, at any point. And this is what, for this reason, what Peter said at the council when the Gentiles are coming to Christ, they're coming to put faith in Christ and the question was, "Should we circumcise them? Do they literally have to become Jews in order to be saved?" They're wrestling with that question. Acts 15, Peter stands up and says, he calls the law a "yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear." Do you get the image of an oxen just bowed down by this weight on the shoulders, the yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? That's what the law is. Is there comfort there? Are you going to find comfort there?
I can't help but give you the word of comfort right now, I always want to do this. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," said Jesus. "Take My," what? "My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find," what? "Rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." I think that's in direct contrast to the law. You're not going to find rest and comfort there. You find it in Jesus alone. And that's what Paul is trying to do here, isn't he? Point them away from the burden of the law to the freedom of Christ that Jesus can give.
Now, there were some positive effects to the law. The Jews did have advantages, benefits. Paul's going to get to that more in chapter 3, the next sermon. Verse 18, it says, "Because you're instructed by the law, if you know His will, and approve of what is superior because you're instructed by the law," so there are some benefits to having the law. There's some good things that come out of it. The word "instruction" there in verse 18, that "you're instructed by the law," katēkhéō, we get our word "catechize" from that. It means if you are systematically well-instructed by the law, which they were. Didn't they go to the Synagogue week after week? Didn't they hear good instruction from the rabbi? They heard clear exposition of the word. Was there benefit in that? Oh, yes, there was great benefit in that. And look at the benefits. It says there that they know His will, and they approve of what is superior. Is that good? Obviously, it's good to know God's will. And it's good to approve of what is superior.
And what a contrast to the Gentiles in Romans 1:28, Paul says, "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." Literally, the Greek says, "Since the Gentiles did not approve of having the knowledge of God and themselves." They didn't want the knowledge of God, they shoved it away. They don't want it. They pushed it away. But the Jews went that way. They approved of having the idea of one God, a creator God, in their mind. They liked that, and they approved of it, of what was superior. So there were benefits.
But the Jewish knowledge of the law did not carry them far enough, there were negative results as well, and we see that in the following verses. We see here, I think, emerging a self-righteous self-confidence. I put "self" in there twice. The focus is on me. The focus is on what I'm doing with the law. Self-righteous self-confidence. Verse 19, if you convince yourself that you were all these good things, you convince yourself that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the darkness. An instructor of the foolish or teacher of infants, that's what you convince yourself about yourself. Now there's nothing wrong in the law, in verse 20, it says, "Because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth." Is there anything defective with the law? Could God have written a better law, maybe, to have a different outcome? No, there's nothing wrong with the law. It's perfect, and holy, and righteous, and good. The problem is with what the law is working on: This flesh weakened the law, so we couldn't obey.
And so the Jews, they missed the whole point. They convinced themselves that they are all these good things. Look at the fourfold arrogance here: They're a guide for the blind, light for those in the darkness, corrector for the foolish, teacher for infants. So the Gentiles, and I might say, some Jews, the Pharisees and all that called them the "mob" or the "rabble," maybe they were the shepherds that never took time to read the Word. They were not well-instructed. They were the rabble, the mob, "this mob" they were called. Okay? They are as follows: The blind, those in darkness, the fools, and the infants.
Okay, well, what is the self-righteous Jewish person? Well, he's a guide, he's a light, he's a corrector, and he's a teacher. You see the whole problem here? He's missing the point. And so Paul brings the Jews through some diagnostic questions, verse 21 and 22. In effect, if you're a professor, have you enrolled in your own seminar? Have you taken your own course? Verse 21, "You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?" Have you enrolled in your own course? Do you practice what you preach? Do you live it out? "You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" Now this is, I think, a suggestive list. The law has more than this. For example, coveting, Paul talked about it in Romans 7. Can we survive that kind of scrutiny? Can anyone? And so they could say, "Well, I actually don't steal. No, I actually haven't committed adultery, and I've never even been in an idol temple and I certainly wouldn't steal if I were there, so I'm alright!" Is that the point? I could put other things in here, and you wouldn't survive that, either. The point is, do you practice what you preach, and if you preach the law, do you live up to it?
Verse 13 had said to us, "It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." It's not having the law, knowing the law, teaching the law, preaching the law; it is obeying the law that declares righteous.
IV. How Disobedience Dishonors God
And so we come to a devastating conclusion, verses 23-24. And this is devastating. Look at it. "You who brag about the law, do you strip God of His glory through your disobeying of the law?" Do you rob God of His glory because you don't do what He says? That is devastating. The Jews were meant to be a light in a dark place. They were meant to be all of those things. An instructor for the foolish, teacher of the blind, all that, guide for the blind, but they weren't because they were disobeying the very words that God had committed to them. And so there's a tragic end here. In verse 24, as it is written, look at it, "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." God's name isn't held up in honor because of your life; it's blasphemed because of you. That's devastating. That's not what God chose Israel for. God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.
Now, the question we have to ask is, how does disobedience strip God of His glory? How does disobedience dishonor God? Verse 23, "Do you dishonor God by breaking the law?" Now, the central issue of life, I believe, is living the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Get two people at a table, both eating the same food, both drinking the same drink, same quantity, same everything. One of them eats for the glory of God, one of them does not. "Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." It's the central issue. Now, this particular verse says, "Do you dishonor God by breaking the law?" Now the word "honor" in the Greek actually refers to price, value, the worth or value, a price of something.
Have any of you ever had a yard sale? I'm sure you have. Right before we went out as missionaries to Japan, we had the biggest yard sale I hope to ever have in my life. We sold everything except our clothes and the few things we were bringing. You remember that? Everything we had: Two cars, furniture. I remember, when the changing table, Nathaniel's changing table, went, there was grief, deep grief. I'll never forget that, little tears coming down from the eyes. And as we did this yard sale, we went... And to each item, we weighed a certain value. And we assigned a value with a price tag and put it on our stuff. It was very sobering, very interesting to go through that process as you look at all your stuff and put a value on it.
Okay, well, this verse says that the Jews did that with God, and what price tag did they put on God? Real low. They stripped God of His value. What price tag would you put on God in your life? What honor, what value, what price, for God? Well, how do they strip God of His glory? By disobeying Him. By not doing what He commanded that they should do. Now, realize, the essence of worship, the essence of worship is worth-ship, the proper assigning of worth and value to God. That all of our heart and our mind should be involved in that process and we say, "God! God is glorious! God is worth everything. He is the center of my life." That's the value of God. That's assigning a price tag to God. That's worship. "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." Isn't that worship? That's worship. We're assigning a value to God. The Jews did that, and they assigned a bad value through their disobedience. And they had a long history of it, Old Testament disobedience.
Malachi 1:6, the prophet said this, "A son honors his father, and a servant honors his master, but if I am a father, where is the honor due Me? If I am a master, where is the honor due Me? Where's My honor if I am these things for you, O Israel? You strip Me of My honor." And then in the verse I cited earlier, Isaiah 29:13, Jesus quoted this about Israel. Oh, how it must've broken his heart! "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me." "They worship Me in vain. Their teachings are just rules made by men." They have stripped God of His honor and His value. And when Jesus came, the embodiment of knowledge and truth physically, God incarnate, did they honor Him properly? No. At one point, they said that He was demon-possessed. Can you believe that? The incarnate Son of God doing all these miracles and they say He's demon-possessed?
Jesus said this. "I'm not possessed by a demon, but I honor My Father and you dishonor Me." Do you feel that, the weight of that? "I honor My father and you dishonor Me." And they continued to dishonor Him. The ultimate valuing or dishonoring there happened by Judas, remember? Judas sold Jesus, for what? For 30 pieces of silver. And Zechariah, you have to look it up, Zechariah 11:12, this is what he says about it. He talks about the 30 silver coins, "that magnificent price at which the people of Israel valued me." Do you feel the pain in that? That "magnificent price," 30 pieces of silver? What value are you going to assign to God? What price tag will you put on Him in your life?
Salvation occurs first with a proper valuing of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1, he says, "You know that you are not saved with gold or silver or anything perishable, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ." Precious blood. Same Greek word. Value, honor, the precious blood. And then in chapter 2 of 1 Peter, it says, "For in Scripture it says, 'See, I lay in Zion a stone, a precious and tested cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.' Now, to you who believe, the stone is precious," but to those who do not believe, it is not precious. It's got no value. Jesus has no value. Salvation comes when you put a proper valuing on God and on Christ. The Jewish disobedience, they dishonored God because the law was given to bring blessings and curses. And they dishonor God in that they didn't believe either one. They didn't believe blessing would come from obedience to the law. "I have a better way. I know a better kind of life Now, God says don't do these things, but I see a shortcut to true, lasting joy and happiness. I think I'll take it." They didn't believe God for blessing, did they? They thought they had a better way.
Neither did they believe God for curses. They didn't think God would do anything. Look at all the bad things that people do all the time. "God never does anything. He's not even there. He doesn't see, He doesn't care. And He certainly won't call me to account." And so they dishonor God through the curses as well. They dishonored God through their disobedience. And in this way, they stripped God of His glory. And so Paul has to show them that the law is a false confidence for them, and he's pulling away that false confidence.
V. False Confidence #2: Circumcision and Jewish Identity (vs. 25-27)
And secondly, he has to work on circumcision. The law and circumcision, the two great pillars of their self-confidence, verses 25-27. "Circumcision has value if you observe the law." The Jews designated the entire world into two different categories. There were the circumcised and then there were the uncircumcised. That's how they defined the world, either circumcised or uncircumcised, Jew or Gentile. That's how they saw it. And they kind of boasted about this. And they realized that their covenant blessings were in Abraham, and circumcision was the sign of their relationship to Abraham as a child or a descendant of Abraham. Now, those Gentile dogs want to come into this blessing, they need to become Jews.
The funny thing is, they're not far from the truth. If you get later on in Romans, Romans 11. In Romans 11, Paul says that there is an olive tree, a living olive tree, and there are natural branches that did not believe and they were stripped off and discarded. They were unbelieving Jews. Then they were wild olive branches, those are the Gentiles, grafted into the same Jewish tree. That's where the blessing is. So you see how relevant it is to be a true Jew? There's no salvation apart from it. You need to be a true Jew. Maybe you'd never use that language. Maybe it's troubling to you, "I don't want to be a Jew. I'd like to be a Christian." Okay, but understand what Paul is saying: The blessings are in the house of Abraham. And by faith in Jesus Christ, a Jewish Messiah, you have been engrafted there by faith.
The natural branches that believed, they stayed, but the ones who did not believe were stripped off. It's a Jewish tree. But yet it's possible for Jews to be circumcised and yet disobedient. "Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you become as though you were not circumcised." What's the Jewish word for not circumcised? "Gentile." You've become a Gentile if you disobey the law. So then who is the true Jew? We all disobey obey the law, do you see? Paul's going to get to that. He'll tell you who the true Jew is. But it's possible to have the law, circumcision, and disobey it. But then there's these Gentiles in verse 26, "If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?" This is strange. How is it possible to keep the law and yet disobey circumcision? Could it be that there's a new understanding of the law emerging here? Wasn't circumcision a part of the Old Testament law? "On the eighth day, your boys would be circumcised." There was a command.
But now we've come into a new understanding of the law, there's a new law, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself." It's a new understanding, spiritually-fulfilled law. And there are some Gentiles, guess what, who are obeying that law now. And how are they doing it? By the power of the Holy Spirit. And guess what's going to happen, Jews? On Judgement Day, they're going to stand up and by their lives, by their faith in the God of Abraham, by their obedience to that law, they're going to condemn you just by their example. And they're going to put the Jews to shame because of their faith. And so in Christ, there's a new definition of circumcision, and a new definition of what it means to be a Jew. Look at verses 28-29, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor his circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, not by the law, the written code."
Physical circumcision, folks, now means nothing. Nothing, spiritually. Do you understand that? Galatians 6:15 says it straight out, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. How much more plainly can we say it? It doesn't mean a single thing to be physically circumcised, spiritually. Doesn't mean anything. What counts, says Paul in Galatians 6:15, is a new creation. That's what matters, is a new creation. Well, what is this new creation? Well, the new creation here in Romans 2 is a circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit. It is a moving inwardly by the Holy Spirit. It's a new birth. It's being born again by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus puts it in John 3. It's a transformation from within out, where everything changes. A circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit.
And what comes out of that? Well, in Romans 8, it's very clear that then the Holy Spirit then brings you back to the law and says, "Here is My way, walk in it." You see? He brings you back and then you begin to obey the law, not for salvation, not for justification, but for obedience's sake, out of love for your Savior. From within, there's a circumcision, a new transformation, and then by the Spirit, you walk in the way of the law. That's salvation. And if that walking in the way of the law is not occurring, then the circumcision hasn't occurred yet. Hasn't happened yet. So we see a new definition of circumcision and a new definition of what it means to be a Jew.
Paul says the same thing in Philippians 3:3, "For it is we who are the circumcision." Who's the "we"? "We who worship by the spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh." We're not saying, "Hey, look at what I can do with the law. Give me a law, I'll follow it. Give me lots of laws, I'll follow them all." We don't do that. We put no confidence in... We have a whole history of disobedience. We turn our back on that. Instead we turned to Jesus Christ and His light yoke. We turn to Christ and His death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice, and we turn to Christ and the Holy Spirit, which He alone can give to enable us to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, fully met in us. We do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.
VI. Living for Praise From God (verse 29)
Verse 29 describes that kind of a person, "Such a man's praise does not come from men, but from God." Oh, that's a sweet verse. Do you see that, verse 29? "Such a man's praise does not come from men, but from," who? "God." I didn't know that the eternal, the immortal, the invisible God was in the habit of praising flesh and blood like us. You can read it. It's right here in verse 29. "Such a man's praise is from God." It's incredible. Religious hypocrisy, I believe, has only one motive. Praise from men. Do you see that? You stand on the street corners and make long prayers. What are you looking for? Not answers; you're looking for praise from men. You give lots of money and make a big show of it. What are you looking for? You're not looking for eternal treasure; you're looking for praise from men. You fast and tell everyone how hungry you are and what a pious man you are. What are you looking for? Praise from men. No, this person circumcised in the heart is not looking for that. Looking for praise from God. And do you see how God forces the choice? John 5:44, Jesus says this, "How can you believe, if you accept praise from one another and make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the one, the eternal God." You can't believe unless you make that exchange, where you don't care anymore what people say about you. What matters is what God says through the Gospel. You can't believe any other way.
And now see the beautiful symmetry. We put God's glory at the center of our lives. We put His glory right at the center, and God will glorify us with His glory. We live for the praise of God. We praise Him every day, and then He will praise us on Judgement Day. Isn't that incredible? What a Gospel. It's incredible! 1 Corinthians 4:5, it says, "At that time, each will receive his praise from God." "At that time," what time? Judgement Day. And then John 12:26, "My father will honor the one who serves Me."
VII. Summary and Application
Now, today, in summary, as we've looked, we've seen that Paul has been working on the Jews, and he's trying to strip them of false confidence, false confidence in the law, false confidence in circumcision, trying to pull that out from under them. Does he leave them feeble with nothing to stand on? No, he wants to put them on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, crying out to Him for grace and mercy and forgiveness. That's solid. That will last on Judgement Day. Not the righteousness that comes from the law. That is nothing, it's going to be shredded on Judgement Day. Nothing good will come from that.
And he's got to sting them in order to bring them to Christ. He's got to say, "The Gentiles are blaspheming because of the way you're living. You're not obeying God; you're stripping God of His Honor and His glory through your disobedience." And then he defines what it means to be a Jew. "You want to be a Jew? You want truly to be a child of Abraham? Believe the God of Abraham, trust in Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Turn to Him through repentance, and allow the Holy Spirit to circumcise your heart from within. Let Him give you that heart of flesh instead of the heart of stone, and let Him allow obedience to the law to flow out from you by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Now, in application, what is this saying to you? Just look at verse 29. Is this true of you? "Such a man's praise does not come from men, but from God"? Will God praise you on Judgement Day? Will He say, "Well done, good and faithful servant," to you? You trusted in Jesus and said, "My father will honor the one who serves Me." Did you love Jesus? Did you believe in Him? Did you follow Him? Did you obey Him? Is your praise from God, or are you looking for something here on Earth? Which is it? I pray that by the power of His Word and His Spirit, He may circumcise your heart from within, that you may walk in the newness of life that He alone can give. Let's close in prayer.