Romans 2:20



Monday, 11 February 2013

…an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. Romans 2:20

This is the final portion of the idea which began in verse 17. Those who rested in the law, the Jews, made their boast in God because they knew his will from the law. Because they were the law’s stewards, they could make value judgments about what is morally right. This resulted in a confidence that they could guide the blind and illuminate the darkness of those without the law. This allowed them to become “an instructor of the foolish” and “a teacher of babes.” They believed they were so qualified because they had “the form of knowledge and truth in the law.”

In Scripture, the word “foolish” is normally associated with one of two types of people – the first is one who is uneducated in a matter and the second is someone who is morally deficient or wicked. In this verse, Paul is speaking of the first – someone lacking the form of knowledge and truth in the law.

The term “a teacher of babes” is the literal meaning of the words, but it symbolically means someone who is as ignorant about a matter as a baby. To the Jew, everyone else who lived without the law would fall into this category – “We know as adults; your knowledge is that of an infant.” Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2 uses terminology which reflects this type of understanding –

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.”

The same concept is expanded on by the author of Hebrews –

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Having seen this in real applications, we now turn to 1 Peter 2:1, 2. There we see that although solid food, which adults eat and which represents development in wisdom, is important, it is not the entire picture. Peter shows that the Bible is actually something meant for all, but is considered “pure milk.” This is something for babes as well as adults –

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” 1 Peter 2:1, 2

What is being conveyed is that the Bible is pure spiritual milk – acceptable to all people of all ages. But increased knowledge of it moves one from being a spiritual infant to a fully developed person. The problem Paul is addressing in these verses, and which will be explained in the verses to come, is that having all of the Bible knowledge in the world doesn’t necessarily lead one to maturity. Only when it is properly applied and acted on does this occur. The Jews Paul speaks of had the knowledge to impart to others, but they didn’t apply it to themselves.

The Geneva Bible states the situation this way, “As though he said that the Jews under a pretence of an outward serving of God, attributed all to themselves, when in reality they did nothing less than observe the Law.” Mere observation of the law accomplishes nothing without an internal change in the person. Therefore, like Peter stated, the Jews – as all of us – need to “desire the pure milk of the word.” By searching the purity of the law, we will naturally be led to a close and personal relationship with the Lawgiver, our glorious Lord.

Life application: Head knowledge is great and we need to increase our knowledge of the word every day. As we do, we become spiritually mature. However, we need to continually search out the intent behind the knowledge – a personal walk with Jesus. Let our hearts be aligned with our actions so that we will be pleasing vessels, ready for the Lord’s use.

O God, what a beautiful and perfect word you have given us. Please continually fill me with an understanding of what it says and also the desire to adhere to its precepts. But let me not merely do these things as a means of lifting myself up above others, but rather let me grow so that I may become closer to You. This I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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