Paul next returned to a discussion of hypocrisy, especially in the case of some of the Jews. He also continued on his theme of unrighteousness.
Romans 2:17-29 (KJV)
Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
In verse 17 Paul began the scenario of his discussion. The Jews definitely were God's chosen people. They had the Torah. No other group could say the same. Unfortunately, instead of understanding how blessed they were, they believed themselves better than the rest of mankind. They "rested" or relied on the Torah and they boasted of God, but what they had, became their means of believing they were superior to anyone else. They knew God's will and they knew the things that were more excellent, since they had been instructed from the Torah (verse 18). They were confident that they could be guides for those who were blind or in darkness spiritually (verse 19). They instructed fools and babes because they had the knowledge and truth of the Torah (verse 20).
Yet, although these Jews taught others, why didn't they teach themselves? Why did they preach to others that stealing was wrong, but were guilty of stealing themelves (verse 21)? They taught against adultery and idolatry, but they were guilty of the same (verse 22). They boasted of the Torah, but broke the laws of Torah and dishonored God (verse 23).
Paul was continuing to highlight how just knowing God and Torah were worthless without actions that resulted from that knowledge. The Jews were to not only have faith in God, but live according to the perfect standard of the Torah. Preaching one way and living another caused God's name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (verse 24). This was a quote from Ezekiel 36:20, 21 that spoke of the Jews' exile because of their sin against God. They had the Torah, but lived contrary to its teachings.
Ezekiel 36:20-21 (KJV)
And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.
But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.
As we claim to be Yeshua's followers, are we guilty of profaning His name by our actions? Are we righteously speaking His commandments, but living in opposition to them? Are we following Torah, or have we profaned His name by setting it aside?
In verse 25 Paul brought circumcision into his line of thought. Circumcision was valuable to the Jews who kept the Torah, but was virtually made "uncircumcision" if the Jews habitually broke the Torah, or lived in a manner characterized by sin (verse 25).
Conversely, if the Gentiles kept the Torah, didn't their uncircumcision count for circumcision (verse 26)? And although these Jews thought that they were qualified to judge the Gentiles because of their superiority based on having Torah, the truth was that the uncircumcised Gentiles who kept Torah (to the extent of their knowledge) were qualified to judge the Jews that failed to keep Torah (verse 27).
For the true Jew is not one who is merely circumcised in the flesh (verse 28), but one who is circumcised in heart (verse 29). In other words the true Jew was the person who followed (did) Torah. These are those who would receive praise from God.
Paul's words would have been sharp daggers for those Jews who rested in the Torah, but didn't necessarily live according to the Torah. Paul even seemed to elevate the Gentiles' status based on how they kept Torah, rather than the physical sign of circumcision. Yet, Paul has managed to make the case that all mankind is depraved, both Jews and Gentiles. Where would his thoughts go next?