All Have Sinned (e) Sin is a Transgression  of the Law

Romans 2:17-24

The title of this study is based upon the answer to the 14th question in   the  Shorter  Catechism,   “What  is  sin?…Sin  is  any  want  of conformity  unto,  or  transgression  of,  the  law  of  God.”    It  is  to  be expected  that  in  this  section  of  the  epistle  which  deals  with  the  sin, Paul   would  bring  out  the  true  definition  of  sin,  that  which transgresses  God’s  law.    Yet  this  defining  of  the  law  would  come  as he  addresses  the  Jews  in  particular.    In  so  doing  he  is  continuing  to emphasise  that  they  were  in  need  of  the  Gospel  as  much  as  the pagan  world  they  despised.    Furthermore,  implied  in  this  passage  is the  inevitable  conclusion  that  the  Jews  on  account  of  their  position and pride were more sinful than the ignorant Gentiles.

1: The Privilege Denied

The Hebrew people had eight special privileges which they despised:

i. “restest  in  the  law”  –  they  were  custodians  of  the  law  as  it  was entrusted to them. ii. “makest  thy  boast  of  God”  –  this  was  no  idle  boast  as  they  had  a unique relationship with Jehovah.
iii. “knowest   his   will”   –  possessing   the   law   and   the   ancient scriptures they were not ignorant of God’s will.
iv. “approvest   the   things   that  are  more  excellent”  –  the  Jews accepted only the highest moral standards.
v. “a  guide  of  the  blind”  –  their  knowledge  of  the  law  enabled  them to teach the spiritually ignorant.
vi. “a  light  of  them  which  are  in  darkness”  –  the  truth  held  by  the Jews could bring light to those in the darkness of sin.
vii. “An  instructor  of  the  foolish”  –  again  the  responsibility  of  using the law to teach the wayward is established.
viii. “a  teacher  of  babes”  –  a  particular  feature  of  Judaism  is  their dedication in teaching the law to their children.

Despite   these  remarkable  privileges  the  Jews  still  sinned  and transgressed the law of God. 

2: The Proof Declared

Paul brings three charges against the Jewish people based upon their transgression of God’s holy law.  In  this he demonstrates that:

a)“thou that  preachest  a  man  should  not  steal,  dost  thou steal?” Stealing  is  often much  more  subtle  than breaking an  entry  and committing  burglary  or taking  items  from  a  shop without  paying. Lies  on the  tax return,  fraudulent  insurance  or benefit  claims, withholding payments  for services  and goods  or an  employer  not paying  the  minimum  wage  are  forms  of stealing.
b) “Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery?”  The biblical standard of morality is purity before marriage and faithfulness afterwards.  The liberal lifestyle approved by our liberal society in addition to the the many immoral media available are contraventions of the 7th  commandment.  Christ taught that this precept is broken by thoughts as well as actions.
c) “thou  that  abhorrest  idols  dost  thou  commit  sacrilege?”  Sacrilege literally   describes   the  crime  of  robbing  temples.    Paul  is  now focusing   upon   the   first   and   second   commandments   where commanded  to  (1)objectively   worship  God  alone  and  (2)  in  a manner  regulated  by  scripture.    We  can  be  guilty  of  breaking  these ordinances  without  raising  up  idols  of  wood  or  stone  and  falling down  before  such.    The  1st  commandment  is  contravened  when  we fail  to  make  God  the  first  love  of  our  hearts  and  when  his  will  is  not the  supreme  judge  of  all  our  actions.    The  second  commandment  is transgressed when we introduce innovations into worship which has no  scriptural  basis.    These  failures  are  in  essence  the  robbing  of God. The  first  and  last  questions  contained  in  this  little  section  sum  up the  argument.    These  Jews  who  claimed  to  teach  others  need  taught themselves  (v21)  and  although  they  boasted  about  the  integrity  of the  law  they  dishonoured  that  same  law  by  their  hypocrisy.    This resulted  in  the  Gentiles  blaspheming  Jehovah  as  they  were  poor ambassadors for his name.

This passage has three major applications for the church today:

a)Our  own  hearts  are  examined  regarding  our  faithfulness  to  the law.    Are  we  all  that  claim  to  be?    Certainly  we  are  reminded  that our depraved nature pulls us up short.

b)Hypocrisy  among  those  who  profess  faith  causes  the  greatest damage to the testimony of our Lord.

c)  Those who regard themselves spiritually superior, who have been exposed to the true Gospel but have never embraced Christ, will receive the greatest condemnation in the day of judgement.

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