A Matter of the Heart

What makes you a Christian, and how do you know if you are one? This message will answer these questions from the second chapter of Romans.

Romans: The Glory of the Gospel, part 7

A Matter of the Heart – Romans 2:12-29

Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Oct. 8th, 2017



  • Let’s remember together the thought process leading up to the passage we are focusing on this morning.
  • This book was written “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” Rom 1:5 ESV
  • Paul also declares that he is “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Rom 1:16-17 ESV
  • People can be saved by grace through faith in the Righteous One; the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • After this, he goes on to say, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Rom 1:18 ESV and describes why this is so and how sin progresses.
  • Next, in chapter 2, Paul addresses self-righteous people, who hard heartedly judge other people’s hard hearts. He compares this to God’s kindness, patience and forbearance with people, giving them time to repent before the day of wrath when his final and just judgment is revealed. In the final judgment, people who do evil will receive their just punishment, and people who do good will receive their just reward, first to the Jew and then to the Greek, without partiality.
  • Today in the passage we are examining, Paul looks to the subject of how God judges and deals with both those who have been given the written word of God, compared to those who have not and what the heart of matter really is.


The condemnation of all


Rom 2:12-16 ESV

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.


  • Whether you hear the gospel or not, you are still a sinner worthy of condemnation.
  • Those who hear the law, are judged by the law
    • It is not the “hearing” that counts, but the “doing.” The only way that you can be transformed from a “hearer only” to a “doer” is by a heart transplant by the Spirit of God. That why James writes to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” and that we are “blessed in our doing” (James 1:22-25).
  • Those who don’t have the written word of God have still broken the law of God that has been encoded in our nature and written on our hearts. Eccl 3:11 ESV “He has put eternity into man’s heart.” We know in our nature that there is “a right and a wrong.”
  • Our conscience bears witness to our actions and motivations. God gave us a conscience as a witness, that on the final judgment it will accuse us or try to excuse us when God judges the secrets of our hearts by Christ Jesus. All have sinned (regardless if you know what the Bible teaches or not) and have fallen short of the glory of God.
  • Paul then turns and specifically addresses Jews, or those who have the word of God


The consequences of hypocrisy


Rom 2:17-20 ESV

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—


  • These are people who have the word of God, make boasts about God, and know the will of God. These are Bible-instructed people.  They also share the word of God with others. However, they do not share as a fellow learner, but as one who sees himself as superior. It could be reread this way (re-read this with replacing “Jew” with “Christian” and “law” with “bible”) . . .


Rom 2:21-24ESV

21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”


  • Having the truth, knowing the truth and teaching the truth while not living the truth is hypocrisy. It is a ditch that we are prone to fall into. This is a “head knowledge” not a “heart knowledge.” Those of us who know the Bible and claim Christ and Christianity have to be extremely careful that our “Christianity” is only expressed in an outward appearance (like something we put on). Other people see, and internally, we are something or someone quite different.
  • Jesus was always the hardest on the religious (and the religious were always the hardest on him). There is an entire chapter of the Bible coming down on these people.  (See all of Matthew chapter 23.)


Matt 23:27-28 ESV

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.


  • Why was Jesus the hardest on the religious? Because they dishonor and oppose God . . . and give Him a bad reputation among other people that keeps them from coming into the kingdom. I am grieved by the sinfulness of the world, but I am grieved to a much greater degree about the sinfulness of those who claim they are Christians where the gospel has only reached our head but has not penetrated and transformed our hearts.
  • God’s goal for us is to “conform into the image of His son” (Rom 8:29) and the goal of His book is “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom 1:5 ESV). When we are not living in line with our faith, we end up with “the disobedience of faith for the disgrace of his name among all the nations.”  If the living word is not truly living in our hearts, the nations and the neighbors look at God’s people and think little of our God . . . Therefore, being truly and internally “righteous of heart,” looking to please God is what really matters vs. just having an outward Christian appearance to impress others.


The righteous of heart


  • Before we read the next section, I want to give you some background information so you can make sense of the meaning of this passage.
  • Paul uses the issue of circumcision to further drive home the point of the absolute importance of having a changed heart.
  • After God made a covenant to Abraham, circumcision (the removing of the foreskin on a male) was given to him as a sign of the covenant, and it was to be passed down through all generations. So being circumcised meant that you identified yourself with the people who had covenanted with God and were chosen by Him (Gen. 17).  It was to be an outward expression of an inward faith and commitment to God (much like baptism today).  To some of the people, it was what it was intended to be.  However, with others, it was just an outward act that did not represent what had happened in their heart. They relied on it as evidence of their inclusion in the kingdom and people of God (even though they were told they need to be “circumcised of the heart” in the Old Testament (Duet 10:16, Deut 30:6-7, Jer. 4:4).  This is what Paul is addressing in this passage.


Rom 2:25-29 ESV

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.


  • Just because you have been circumcised, or baptized, or confirmed does not mean that you are a believer, God “circumcising your heart” is what makes you a believer and a member of the covenant community of the kingdom of God. And this is done by the spirit when we truly believe the truth, put our trust in Jesus, are forgiven of our sin, and commit to follow Him as our Lord  (not just know about Him, but know him . . . not just working for him but working with him)
  • What really matters is that God has truly changed our hearts. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” Gal 5:6 ESV
  • Out of a changed heart, we seek the praise from God from the obedience that comes from faith working through love, rather than looking for praise from people. Love uses truth to bless others; sin uses truth to exalt self.
  • We become pharisaical hypocrites when we desire the praise of people rather than the praise of God. We must be aware not to fall into this trap as we are taught the Christian faith in churches and Christian schools, etc.


Matt 7:21-23 ESV

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  23  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’


  • What is the “will of the Father”


Matt 22:37-40 ESV

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  38 This is the great and first commandment.  39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”


  • We can only do this after we have been “circumcised of heart” and have become a “true Jew.” Ones who live to please and glorify the Father.



  • What is the solution? Be a lover of truth and don’t deceive yourself.  Pray and examine yourself with the help of the lord (2 Cor. 13:5).  Who are you trying to please, who are you trying to impress?  Humble yourself before Him and walk in humility and repentance.
  • Repent, weep, morn, ask for mercy, ask for His Spirit to give us a new heart.
  • Pray for others, as well, that they will indeed have a “heart after God.”


Questions for the week ahead:

  1. What “big truth” did you learn from the teaching today?
  2. How are you going to walk in this truth and live it out in your daily life?