Romans 2:17-3:8 the religious moralist

May 17, 2020 // By:Dave // No Comment

salvation is not only the process of being saved from something, 

but also being saved for something (faithful living)

Roman 1:16-17 is the summary of the entire book 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

5 primary themes

  • sin
  • salvation
  • sanctification
  • sovereignty
  • service

these organize into three sections in Romans

God righteousness:

  • revealed 1-8 (God’s plan of salvation)
  • vindicated 9-11 (how both jews and gentiles fit into the plan)
  • applied 12-16 (expression of his salvation in our daily lives)

Roman citizens were accustomed to watching world leaders—senators, scholars, soldiers, Caesars—move about their city in pomp and ceremony. In the coming days, a man of small stature would walk down these same streets, chained to a Roman soldier. “Probably a criminal on his way to judgment,” the few who noticed would imagine. Nothing about his appearance would suggest power or influence. Neither would those who heard him say, “I am a servant of Jesus Christ” suspect that he represented the Creator of the universe. Nevertheless, this unimposing man had a message for the world’s ills. Firm determination marked his face, and he would not be intimidated. He simply declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”

  • Romans, Justification by Faith – W. Lasley  Berean Bible Text BB215

Paul has built the legal case against two types of people so far:

  1. the ungodly (why are they guilty?)
  2. the moralist (why are they guilty?)

He built the argument for their guilt before their Creator despite any claims they might use as defense such as “I didn’t know” or “that’s an over-reaction”

He now builds a case against a third category of the unsaved …

the religious person (specifically, the jew)

General revelation (testifies against the ungodly and the moralist)

  • own conscience
  • creation’s testimony

Special Revelation (testifies against the jew and anyone else who reads the word or hears the words of Jesus Christ) (and the jew is already dealing with general revelation)

  • word of God
  • Jesus Christ

the religious

  • a group with which he is intimately familiar
  • a group similar to the moralist in that they 
    • hold to a standard of right and wrong
    • think they measure up to this standard
    • the difference is that they suppose to understand it is God’s standard

Some people disagree with the idea of God being angry against sin
(apparently a God of love cannot be angry)

anger against sin is an expression of His love.

If you see an animal attacking someone you love, how do you respond to that animal ?

What if you see your child about to run with a knife or get into a stranger’s car in a parking lot?

(would you not express a little anger to make sure they understand the danger)

God hates sin because it damages us and He is right to want to protect us from it.

picture a deep sea diver.  

  • Suit to protect him from cold and pressure of water. (damage from the environment)
  • two lines connecting him to the surface
    • air line to breath fresh warm 02
    • two-way radio line to communicate with the surface (instructions and help)

without those two lines, he cannot survive in the suit. The suit is designed to protect him from damage but it is not designed to provide what is needed to live.

the suit is like the law … keeps us from harm in this environment

  • it does not keep us alive, 
  • it does not sustain us
  • it does not provide for communication with the “guy on the surface”

that’s where the gospel comes in.

It replaces the two lines that were cut off the suit the first time we sinned in this life and separated ourselves from God.

Sin attacked the two lifelines to the surface

God wants to stop the attack and repair the lines

The religious person thinks 

they can use the deep sea diving suit 

without the air line or the radio line.

(as if they could provide their own air, warmth, assistance, and help)

Martin Luther states it well: in reference to righteousness vs works for justification:

“…It is the sequence that is significant. Human religious systems begin with good works and move to “righteousness.” God’s way is to begin with righteousness and move to good works. Here is the distinguishing cornerstone of authentic Christianity.”

17 ¶ But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God,

Paul continues to describe what a jew describes himself as…
listing the qualifications …
this is what the self awarded plaque reads as:

18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law,

19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,

20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,

approval/examine, test, interpret G1381a  δοκιμάζω  dokimazō

guide/leader, someone who knows the road G3595  ὁδηγός  hodēgos

light/illumination  G5457  φῶς  phōs

corrector/ discipliner G3810  παιδευτής  paideutēs

teacher/instructor 1437    διδάσκαλος, didaskalos,  teacher, instructor, one who provides instruction, implying authority over the students or followers

you claim to 

  • interpret , know, and prove the scriptures
  • be able to lead others on a path you say you know (and say that they do not)
  • be a source of illumination in the dark (discerning good from evil)
  • be an appointed source of discipline for God
  • appointed source of Scriptural instruction
  • have authority over all these people you lead, illumine, discipline, and teach

Paul now moves into the self condemnation of those living by and under the law

21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?

22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?


(Isaiah 52:5 mirrors this but)

Ezekiel 36:20 “But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, wthey profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’

Ezekiel 36:23 “And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. aAnd the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”

Jesus called the pharisees blind guides: (back then He is using the same exact greek word as Paul uses here in Romans

Matthew 15:14

*Matthew 23:24

Matt. 23:23 ¶ “aWoe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and 1cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Matt. 23:24 “You ablind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

wrap cloth around mouthpiece to prevent a gnat egg from touching their lips

(smallest unclean animal ) but swallow a camel (largest unclean animal)

Matt. 23:25 ¶ “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ayou clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full 1of robbery and self-indulgence.

Matt. 23:26 “You blind Pharisee, first aclean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Matt. 23:27 ¶ “aWoe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

Matt. 23:28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Matt. 23:29 ¶ “aWoe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,

Matt. 23:30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

Matt. 23:31 “So you testify against yourselves, that you aare 1sons of those who murdered the prophets.


hypocrites (16x)  G5273 (18x) Here interchanged with blind guide

[NIV Greek]

5695   [5273]   ὑποκριτής, hypokritēs, n.  [5679 + 3212]. hypocrite (an extension of an actor in a play, not found in the NT), implying arrogance and hardness of heart, utterly devoid of sincerity and genuineness

[Bible Words]


The Greek words hypokrinomai (appears once in the NT), hypokrisis (6 times in the NT), and hypokrites (20 times in the NT) denote someone acting out the part of a character in a play. In Greek drama the actors held over their faces oversized masks painted to represent the character they were portraying. In life, the hypocrite is a person who masks his real self while he plays a part for his audience.

What characterizes the religious hypocrite? In Matthew’s Gospel (where 16 of the 27 occurrences of these Greek words occur) we note these things:

1. A hypocrite does not act spontaneously from the heart but with calculation, to impress observers (Mt 6:1-3).

2. A hypocrite thinks only of the external trappings of religion, ignoring the central, heart issues of love for God and others (Mt 15:1-21).

3. A hypocrite uses spiritual talk to hide base motives (Mt 22:18-22).

Jesus gives this warning that to the hypocrites of every age: “Woe to you” (Mt 23:13,15,16,23,25,27,29).

this brings new depth to the biblical context of blind guide:

  • not just someone who is a bad path finder
  • it’s someone who knows they don’t know the path but calculatingly pretend that they do and continue to act out a part, a role (they know is only pretending)

the religious person is guilty before God because

  • they know what standard God wants
  • they know they can’t measure up to it
  • pretend that they can
  • pretend that they have authority over others because their acting is believed

25 ¶ For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.

26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.

29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Romans 3

1 ¶ Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?

2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?

4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, 



5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)

6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?

7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?

8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.


(Romans 2:17-18)

1. They are called Jews.

2. They rely on the Law.

3. They glory in God.

4. They know God’s will.

5. They have a right standard of values.

6. They are instructed in the Law.

“You call yourself a Jew” (v. 17)

“You rely on the law” (v. 17)

“You…brag about your relationship to God” (v. 17)

“You know his will” (v. 18)

“You…approve of what is superior” (v. 18)

“You are instructed by the law” (v. 18)


(Romans 2:19-20)

1. A Guide to the Blind

2. A Light for Those in the Dark

3. An Instructor of Fools

4. A Teacher of Infants

5. A Possessor of Knowledge and Truth

“You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind” (2:19)

“A light for those who are in the dark” (v. 19)

“An instructor of the foolish” (v. 20)

“A teacher of infants [the young or immature]” (v. 20)

“Because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth” (v. 20)

What does this suggest to us Christians about our attitude? Have we received great advantages and privileges? Jesus made this very point: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” 

(Luke 12:48). To whom much is given, much is required!

what parallels do we see between the jew’s view of his role before gentiles and our view of ourselves before unsaved ?

you claim to 

  • interpret , know, and prove the scriptures
  • be able to lead others on a path you say you know (and say that they do not)
  • be a source of illumination in the dark (discerning good from evil)
  • be an appointed source of discipline for God
  • appointed source of Scriptural instruction
  • have authority over all these people you lead, illumine, discipline, and teach

the religious person is guilty before God because

  • they know what standard God wants
  • they know they can’t measure up to it
  • pretend that they can
  • pretend that they have authority over others because their acting is believed

what common mistakes are made ?


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