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©Laura Haverkamp

Chapter 2:17-29 (ESV)

Posted on December 13, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 2:17-29 (ESV) -  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.”

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Question to consider: What are some things we may do which cause those outside of the church to blaspheme the name of Christ?

Pointing out the sins of the Gentiles was easy— just as it is easy to point out the sins of people who are outside of the church. The ancient culture as well as the modern one elevates activities and philosophies that emphasize personal happiness and pleasure over love of neighbor and the love and worship of self over that of God. Why wouldn’t they? In their way of thinking, the self and the present are the only things that really matter when all you have is this life. Everything beyond that is done to help maximize personal utility. So you can see where the Jewish Christians would fully agree with Paul’s statement, “Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them,” as it relates to the Gentiles, but he surely didn’t think his fellow Jews would fit that description as well?

Since this wasn’t some interactive message board where he could immediately respond to objections, Paul anticipated their reaction with today’s passage. Today’s passage also reinforced the idea that Paul wrote this letter to resolve leadership disputes that occurred when the Jews returned from their banishment from Rome and deemed themselves a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of spiritual children and those who knew the will of God.

Paul’s response was to say that their version of a debased mind looks like someone who knows and teaches the Law while violating all of the things they teach. Which is worse, to be ignorant of God and live selfishly or to know God and speak in His name while making Him an object of ridicule among the nations by your hypocrisy? 

Circumcision was the sign and seal of the covenant of Moses. To take the mark of circumcision was to align yourself with that covenant and dedicate yourself to keeping it in its entirety. Paul was saying that there were Gentiles in the church that embodied this idea better than them because their inward holiness exceeded the external holiness of those who bore the mark. Truthfully, Christ’s circumcision on the eighth day of His birth is credited to everyone who belongs to Him just like every other aspect of the Law He fulfilled so there is no need for the external mark.

Today, we no longer mention whether someone in the church is considered a Jew or a Gentile. Most people assume they descended from Gentiles merely because modern-day Jews say they are goyim (the Yiddish word for Gentile). Because of this, it is actually difficult to engage with modern Jews regarding the scriptures. They feel like becoming a Christian would force them to deny their heritage when in fact, it should be viewed as a fulfillment of it. Now all of their personal traditions could be given deeper meaning because they could recognize how they all point to Christ.


Dear heavenly Father, please give us a desire to seek Your praise rather than the praise of other people. May Your word help us to see that our lives are now hidden in Christ so that we seek those things that are from above and eternal rather than those of this world that are perishing. Amen.