Paul specifically talks to the Jews in this passage, and as he does, he’s trying to get them to understand one key thing. If you’re going to claim you’re right before God based on his law, it’s not enough to just know it. You need to live it as well. And so he tells the Jews,
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 dishonor God by breaking the law? (17-23)
In other words, “You guys are so proud of yourselves because you have the law. You’re so proud of yourselves because you’re God’s ‘chosen people’ and he has given you his truth. You think of yourselves as those who know it all. And if anyone wants to know about God and how to live, they need to come to you because, ‘You know.'”
“But are you practicing what you preach? Or are you saying one thing and doing another?”
He then tells them,
As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (24)
I have to admit, as a teacher of God’s word, this passage scares me. Because I don’t want to have God’s name blasphemed because of me. I don’t want people to blaspheme God because I’m a hypocrite.
And yet, often times, I do fail. I am a hypocrite sometimes. And sometimes I really struggle to do what is right. Worse, I struggle to do what I preach. So often, when I preach or write these blogs, I’m talking to myself.
In the end, all I can do is fall on my face at the throne of God and ask for his mercy.
And that’s the whole point. All of us need God’s grace. Because if we are going to claim righteousness based on God’s law, we need to keep that law perfectly. And none of us can.
How about you? Do you realize just how much you need God’s grace in your life? If you’re thinking, “I’m pretty good. I’m much better than a lot of people I know,” then you need to take a much closer look at your life. Because none us of are as good as we’d like to think we are. And until we truly understand that, we will never really understand our need for God.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?