Rom 2:17-20 “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.”
Later on in this letter, Paul asks the question “What advantage hath the Jew?” The Jews supposed they were greatly advantaged over other people, but they thought so for the wrong reasons. They had great pride of name and lineage. Moses was their lawgiver, and they were of the seed of Abraham.
The Jews took great comfort in knowing what the law had to say. They relied on the law to settle disputes. But more than that, they relied on the law for their justification. Their righteousness, in their minds, stemmed from their ability privilege of having the law given to them.
They were quick to boast about God. Their boasting was not really about what God was doing, but about them being so special that God fought on their side. Who was there to better know God’s will than them? After all, they were God chosen people.
Others needed to listen to them, because they knew the best ways. Their manner of living was superlative to that of other men. They read from the law and the prophets on a regular basis. There was no better instruction than what they perceived from the law.
They had great confidence in themselves. They had great confidence in their ability to open the eyes of others. Surly, there were none more fit to counsel sinners. They could certainly show men the best way to live, and they deserved to be recognized for that.
These Jews deemed themselves able to teach the ignorant and unbelieving. They deemed themselves able to teach those they considered immature and simple minded. As far as they were concerned, they had all the answers. If they did not know it, then it was not worth knowing.
Then Paul called them to face reality. They had the appearance of knowledge, but not the depth of it. They appeared to have the truth of the law. In fact, it was all show and formality because they did not give God the glory nor honor the truth of grace in Christ Jesus.
The form of a thing is never as good as the real thing. There is an old black and white photo of me when I was about three years old holding a little plastic guitar. Except it was not really a guitar; it only had the form of one. There were no real strings on it and no way to tune it.
There are those today who, like the Jews that Paul was addressing, trust in their own strength. They have a form of church, but they do not truly rely on God for guidance and direction. They deem themselves worthy because they have been a recognized congregation for 200 years or their pastor is the fourth generation of his family to be a preacher.
Beloved brothers and sisters, we need to be careful not to fall into pride of place or lineage. We need to guard against an attitude of expecting others to follow us or be persuaded by us just because of the name we go by. We cannot know God’s will, instruct others, or be a light because we have been members of a congregation all our lives. If we truly want to be a guide, then it needs to be from the standpoint that others see us diligently following Jesus Christ in our church and our daily manner of living.
May God grant us the grace to never fall prey to only having a form of loving God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Ghost our guide!