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Romans 2:17-29



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 are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are 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 dishonour God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

(verses 17-24)

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Paul is writing to those from Jewish background who were so proud of their heritage (looking down on those who were non-Jews), that they ended up riding on ancestral coat-tails, assuming their own status with God, and blinded to their own shortcomings.


The point is two-fold. First, everyone is actually in the same boat. Regardless of ethnic background and heritage, all are in desperate need of salvation, for (as we’ll be reminded in the next chapter) “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But second, the Jews did indeed have a heritage they were called to live up to. They’d received the law and knew God’s will, so they had a responsibility to live it out. They wouldn’t do it perfectly, sin would still intrude, but they were called to take seriously the responsibility entrusted to them through God’s revelation. Otherwise, this statement drawn from the scriptures would come true: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (verse 24).


Do you hear the immediate application to us as followers of Jesus?


We’ve been given the gift of forgiveness and salvation and new life in Christ. We’ve received “righteousness from God … a righteousness that is by faith from first to last” (Romans 1:17). It’s not our effort, it’s his gift; not earned by our good behaviour; not dependent on own achievement. That being said, having now been saved, we are Jesus’ disciples, called to follow him. He intends for us to be salt in a world that desperately needs preservation, and light in a world that desperately needs to see the way. Indeed, we are Christ’s ambassadors, as Paul will say elsewhere (2 Corinthians 5:10).


That’s a responsibility. It’s meant to be joy-filled, not onerous, empowered by the Spirit. But it is indeed a responsibility.


How often I’ve heard people testify that they’ve seen exactly the opposite. They’ve found themselves alienated from Christian community, and faith itself, because of disillusionment with an individual or group who claimed to be followers of Jesus, but whose lives didn’t display it. There were unkind words, judgemental attitudes, mean-spirited gossip, dishonest business dealings, self-centred focus, lack of integrity, discrimination, intolerance, together with un-truth, un-grace, un-peace, un-forgiveness. In other words, Christ followers who were very un-Christlike.


It’s often said that we may be the “only Jesus” people will ever see. If that’s the case, will they truly see Jesus at all?

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O Lord, please fill me afresh with your own Spirit, that his fruit might be borne in my life, that I might display more of your own likeness. I know it’s an ongoing journey. I know I will stumble and fall. Keep me humble, but pressing forward. For the sake of your honour and glory. Amen.

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Reflect:

Take a moment to ask the Lord if there is any area in your life where you have gotten lax in discipleship, anything (big or small) that would cause his name to be dishonoured among unbelievers. Listen attentively. Interact with the Lord over anything he brings to mind.

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Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

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