17 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— 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.” (Romans 2:16-24 (ESV)
“But if your call yourself a Jew and rely on the law….. the name of God is blasphemed among Gentiles because of you.”
I still remember one of the first conversations I ever had as a young pastor, a man helping his mother out at the church. I asked him why he had quit coming. He told me he wanted to go to a church that practiced what they preached. I thought that was odd. I said, well we preach forgiveness, and I really do try to practice that, doesn’t always come easy. “Yeah, but pastor we were attending this Lutheran church and then we learned that the members were all having affairs, and some of them were drunks, others were doing drugs. So we decided to go to a real church where the people followed the law.” Well good luck with that. It was all I had to say. I may have been young, but if I knew anything it was this. You can’t let your salvation hinge on the guy sitting next to you in the pew and how well he keeps the Ten Commandments. Don’t let it ride on your pastor either. He’s as much of a sinner as you are.
Paul knew this, he counted himself as chief of sinners, and when he did so he wasn’t speaking in past tense. He understood the nature of sin in the human heart and the working of the law. He understood that those who accuse others of sins are just as guilty as them. That isn’t to say there isn’t a time and a place to correct an erring brother or sister in Christ, perhaps draw attention to particular sins in their lives, but don’t bet your salvation on them mending their ways.
No, you don’t find “the true church” by seeing to it everyone in the pews are minding their ps and qs. It won’t work. Take a look at yourself, do you honestly hold up to your standard? That would have to be an awfully low standard, and it isn’t the standard of the law. When this sort of thing happens, the name of God is blasphemed among gentiles, among unbelievers because of you. Because it was the name of God that was given to you when you were sanctified, not by your brother in Christ’s ability to resist internet porn or other forms of adultery, not by your sister’s ability to stay dry and sober, not by your brother’s ability to make an honest living and never cheat in a business deal, but by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world when you were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.