Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.
For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Wow. Paul moves from speaking to all (Jews and Gentiles), to focussing on the Jewish people of the time – specifically those who ‘take pride’ (make your Boast in God) in being of the Jewish faith. Whilst this is directed at them then, it can be easily applied to anyone who has ‘been a Christian’ for some period of time.
How then? The first, is that this group of people ‘made their boast in God’ – ie, they were ‘God’s chosen people’ – not only do they know the law, but they claim to keep the law, and even have the outward sign of circumcision upon them. It could be said that they then have reason to ‘boast’ in God. But truth be known – they are sinners too.
Many of us could boast in the same ways – I have been a ‘Christian’ for many years, I have studied the Bible, I have even spent time at Bible college, I have worked in ministries at churches, I have done many things. But let me tell you this – I am still a sinner. I cannot boast of these things – for it is God’s Grace that sustains me, and guides me, and provides for me. It is God who gives – and God who takes away. I am just His servant, and truly have no right to boast, and I know it!
I think it is summed up in verse 29 – whose praise is not from men but from God. It is not from men that we seek praise – it is from God. It is not from men that we should seek recognition – it is from God. For God knows our hearts, and is the final judge and reckoner of all that we do.
So first – examine yourself. Do not claim to teach the things that you do wrong yourself (do as I say, not as I do). Seek God, and seek to do the right things before Him, that He may give you praise. Seeking praise before men is not going to do anything useful at all – in fact, it will probably do more to harm you than anything. We have all seen Jesus words towards the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the time) – and none of it was nice – yet these people are the very ones that claimed their boast in God, but looked towards men for praise.
Lord God, help us to do the right thing by you. Teach us not to boast in ourselves, in our works or anything else that is of us, but teach us to look to you and seek what is right before you, that we might receive your praise. In Jesus Name. Amen.