VERSE  21:
“Thou therefore which teachest another teachest thou not thyself?  Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?”–
Paul now proceeds, to the end of this chapter, to convince the
Jews, that they were equally in a sinful and wretched condition with the despised Gentiles, and therefore stood in need of Jesus Christ to justify them by His grace. And because the Jews  were so exceeding apt to dote upon, and rest in, their external privileges, he has in the foregoing verses, recount and reckon up the several privileges which they enjoyed: 

“Thou therefore which teachest another”
Literally: “Then the (one) teaching another.” He who is a teacher of others may be expected to be learned himself. They ought to be found to be possessed of superior knowledge; and by this question Paul reproves them for their ignorance.

         In our vernacular: “You who are the teachers of others…”  Paul suddenly breaks off the long sentence that began in verse 17 and starts over again with a phrase that gathers it all up (“teachest”) and drives it home (“therefore”) on the Jew (“thyself”).  He now begins to hit the Jews with some pointed questions.
         The form of a question is chosen because it conveys the truth with greater force. He puts the question as if it were undeniable that they were grossly ignorant (see Matt. 23:3—“They say, and do not,” etc.) Having just described the proud claims of the Jews, Paul next inquires how their practice corresponds. He who teaches others how to live, does he teach himself how to live?

“teachest not thyself”
Literally: “do you not teach yourself?”  Paul goes on an emphasizes that it is a poor teacher who does not teach himself; who does not practice what he teaches.

In our vernacular, Paul would be saying, “You who are teaching others, do you teach yourselves?” or, “Why then, you teachers of others, don’t you teach yourselves?”   

“thou that preachest”
Literally: “The (one) proclaiming.” This word rendered as, “preache” means, “to proclaim in any manner,” whether in the synagogue, or in any place of public   teaching.   

“Dost thou steal?” 
Literally:  “do you steal?”  Perhaps it cannot really be proved that the Jews were
extensively guilty of this crime. It has probably been introduced partly to make the inconsistency of their conduct more apparent. We expect a man to set an example of what Paul means by his public instruction. The preaching was fine, but what about the practice?    Paul’s accusation is simply, “You who preach against stealing, don’t you yourselves steal?

    STEAL:  (Grk.–kleptō)–The is the root word for our English word “kleptomaniac.”

That the Jewish priesthood was exceedingly corrupt in the time of Paul, and that they were so long before, is fully evident from the sacred writings and from Josephus. The high-priesthood itself was a matter of commerce, and was bought and sold like other commodities.  Josephus gives many examples of this. The rapine of Eli's sons descended to several generations.  All these things are referred to by Paul.  It is a sad fact that the Jewish doctors were notoriously guilty of the very same things they publicly preached against; and of most of these things they were accused by our Lord Jesus Christ.  According to Josephus the lower ranks among the Jews were much given to theft and rapine, and the priests and rulers to rapacity.
1.      They said and did not; and laid heavy burdens upon others, which they would not touch with their own fingers (Matt. 23:3-4).
2.      They made the House of God a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13; John 2:16).
3.      They were guilty of theft, treachery, adultery, sacrilege, rapine, and murder.
According to Josephus, Wars of the Jew,  l. vi. c. 26,  And Josephus adds, that new ways of wickedness were invented by them; and that of all their abominations the temple was the receptacle.

In his Antiquities of the Jews, lib. xx. c. 8, Josephus says: “The servants of the high priests took away, by violence, the tithes of the priests, so that many of them perished for want of food.  Even their own writers acknowledge that there were great irregularities and abominations among the rabbins.

“Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery?  Thou that abhorest idols, dos thou commit sacrifice?”

We might word this as saying::  “You teachers who are saying that a man should not commit adultery, don’t you commit adultery yourselves?  And you who say that you abhor idols, don’t you turn around and rob temples?

“dost thou commit adultery?”
Literally:  “Do you commit adultery?”–We migth say::  “Don’t you yourselves commit adultery?  There is no doubt that this was a sin that was prevalent among the

They were guilty of such things as adultery by unjust divorces (Matt. 19:9).   Their polygamy was scandalous: even their rabbis, when they came to any place, would exclaim, “Who will be my wife for today?”  In spite of the strictness of their decalogue (Torah) and moral code, the lax divorce practices of the Jews permitted adultery (Matt. 19:8,9), and the Talmud says that some of the most celebrated rabbis were guilty of the same sin.

“Thou that abhorest idols”
Literally:  “The (one) detesting the idols.” As we would say it:  “You who say that you abhor idols.”  And to be far about it, the Jews did abhor idols after their Babylon captivity,  though they very much worshiped them before that captivity.

As to idolatry, they were perfectly saved from it ever since the Babylon captivity but to this succeeded sacrilege, as is most evident in the profanation of the temple by their commerce transacted even within its courts; and their teaching the people that even their aged parents might be left to starve, provided the children made a present to the temple of that which should have gone for their support. 

            ABHOR:  (Grk.–bdelussō)–“To render foul; to cause to be abhorred.”  Vincent, in his Word Studies in the N.T., says, “The verb means originally ‘to turn away from a thing on account of the stench’”  This Greek word is used only here and in Rev. 21:8.

“Dost thou commit sacrilege?”            
Literally:  “do you rob temples?” Not, as some excellent interpreters, “dost thou rob idol temples?” but more generally, as we take it, “don't you profane holy things?” (as in Matt. 21:12-13, and in other ways).

Simply stated:  “You who say you abhor idolatry, don’t you commit sacrilege by plundering things from heathen temples?”  Paul here refers to practices which dishonor God among the Gentiles.

            SACRILEGE:  (Grk.–hierosuleō)–Literally:  “to plunder shrines; to rob temples.”

         Sacrilege is the crime of violating or profaning sacred things; or of appropriating to common purposes what had been devoted to the service of religion. In this question, Paul shows remarkable tact and skill, he could not accuse them of idolatry, for the Jews, after the Babylon captivity, had never fallen into it.

          But then, though they had not the activity, they might have the spirit of idolatry. That spirit consisted in withholding from God that which was His due, and bestowing the affections upon something else (see Malachi 3:8-9).  This sacrilege the Jews were doing by perverting from their proper use the offerings which were designed for His honor; by withholding that which He demanded of tithes and offerings; and by devoting to other uses that which was devoted to Him, and which properly belonged to his service. That this was a common crime among them is apparent from Malachi 1:8,12-14.  It is also evident, from the N.T. that the temple was, in many ways, desecrated and profaned in the time of our Savior.

“Thou that makest thy boast of the Law, though breaking the Law dishonorest thou God?"
Or as we might say it: “You who are always bragging about the Law, don’t you dishonor God by breaking the Law”?--Many expositors believe this verse is a summary of the claims of the Jews as given in 2:17-20; the last part is a decisive answer, in an interrogative form, of the four reproachful questions just asked (2:21-22).  Through the whole passage privilege and practice are contrasted.

“Thou that makest the boast of the Law”
Literally: {You} who boast in Law.” That is, “You who are always bragging about the Law.”   To boast in the Law implied their conviction of its excellence and obligation. The Jews boasted that they had a written law, while the Gentiles did not have any.

“dishonorest thou God?”
Literally:  “do you dishonor God”–“Don’t you dishonor God?”  By boasting of the Law, they proclaimed their conviction that it was from God.  But by breaking it, they denied it.

And as actions are a true test of men's real opinions, their breaking the Law did it more dishonor than their boasting of it did it honor.  This is always the case. It matters little what a man's opinions does to honor it. It is this life and conduct,  and not just the profession of the lips, that does real honor to the true religion. There is an old saying that says, “Lips and lives must agree.”  Alas, what relevance and force may this question would have if asked of many who call themselves Christians !

“For the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written”

“For the Name of God is blasphemed”–The Name of God; The name and true character of God is blasphemed; that is, “The name of God is being spoken evil of because of your actions.”

           BLASPHEME:   (Grk.–blasphēmeō)–Literally: “to to speak injuriously of; to speak evil of; slander; insult.”

         That is, your conduct is such as to lead the heathen world to blaspheme and reproach both your religion and its Author. I am reminded of what the prophet Nathan said to David regarding David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of Uriah, the Hittite. Nathan said, “…because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme…” (II Samuel 12:14).
         By your hypocrisy and crimes the pagan world is led to despise a religion which is observed to have no effect in purifying and restraining its professors; and of course the reproach will terminate on the Author of your religion–that is, the true God.  As a result of the actions of the Jews, the Heathen could say, “If this is the best Jehovah can do for His chosen race, we may as well hold on to our own religion.”       

“’Now therefore, what have I here,’ saith the LORD, ‘that My people is taken away for naught?  They that rule over them make them to howl’ saith the LORD, ‘and My name continually every day is blasphemed’” (Isaiah 52:5).

A life of purity would tend to honor your religion and its Author; a life of impurity does the reverse.  There is no doubt that this was actually the effect of the deportment of the Jews.  They were scattered everywhere; everywhere they were corrupt and wicked;  and everywhere they and their religion were despised.

Moed katon, fol. 17. 1. In Sohar Levit. fol. 31, col. 122, it is said:—
“On three accounts the Jews are obliged to remain in captivity—

2.       Because they openly reproach the Shechinah—
3.       Because they profane themselves before the Shechinah—
4.      Because they turn away their faces from the Shechinah.”

“among the Gentiles”
Literally: “Among the nations.”–In the midst of whom many Jews lived. The holy Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles on account of the actions of the Jews.  They failed to realize that to bear the name of God is a sacred trust; and to violate that trust has sever results. 

They make the religion which God has revealed contemptible among the heathen. They brought judgment upon their own religion by the scandalous conduct. Outsiders always judge a religion by the conduct of its votaries. The members of the Essene Qumran community were cautioned to be careful with their dealings with Gentiles, lest they blaspheme.

“through you”
Literally:  “By means of you,” or, “because of you.”  This is really a free quotation from the LXX (Septuagint) of Isa. 52:5. The Jews were jealous for the Name of God and would not pronounce the Tetragrammaton  (yhwh) and yet at the same time they acted in such a way that caused the Gentiles to blaspheme that Name.

         “as it is written”
         Literally: “as it has been written.”-To what place Paul has reference cannot really be determined with absolute certainty.

         There are two passages in the O.T. which will bear on the case, and perhaps he had them both in his view (Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20, 23).  The meaning is not that the passages in the O.T. referred to by the phrase “as it is written,” had any particular reference to the conduct of the Jews in the time of Paul, but that this had been the character of the people, and the effect of their conduct as a nation, instances of which had been before observed and recorded by the prophets.
         The same thing has occurred to a most melancholy extent in regard to professed Christian nations.  They have not often been real Christians. They have been intent on gain; and have to a melancholy extent been profane, and unprincipled, and profligate men. Yet the heathen have regarded them as Christians; even fair specimens of the effect of the religion of Christ. As a result of such actions, they have learned to abuse the name of Christian, and the Author of the Christian faith as actually encouraging and promoting such ways of living.

“For circumcision, verily profiteth, if thou keep the Law; but if thou be a breaker of the Law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.”

“For circumcision verily profiteth
Literally: “For truly circumcision profits.”–That is, if the inward reality corresponds with the outward sign.

Circumcision was the peculiar rite by which the relation to the covenant of Abraham was recognized; or by which the right to all the privileges of a member of the Jewish commonwealth was acknowledged. The Jews of course affixed a high importance to the rite.  

    PROFITETH: (Grk.–ōpheleia)–Meaning: “advantage; benefit; useful to.”  Circumcision is truly a benefit; or is an advantage; but notice that Paul is not saying that circumcision justifies.  The meaning is, that their being recognized as members of the Jewish commonwealth, and introduced to the privileges of the Jew, was an advantage (see 3:1-2).   

            The importance of circumcision for the Jews cannot be too strongly stated.  It was the single clearest distinguishing feature of the covenant people. Some rabbis even considered circumcision to be a guarantee of salvation.  In the previous verses Paul has shown that the possession of the Law alone did not grant the Jews any position of privilege.  He now begins to teach the same things about circumcision being unaccompanied with observance of the Law.
            The Jew was wont to fall back on his circumcision, as some still do on some outward ordinance. His answer to Paul is, “Are we not the circumcised? Are not the circumcised the people of the covenant?”  Paul’s reply, “I admit that circumcision does avail, if one keeps law. The outward observance profits if one be a law-doer; that is, complies with its moral commandments. But if he fails to do this, his circumcision is as worthless as though he was uncircumcised.”  The effect of habitual transgression is to annul the covenant.
           Paul was not denying that they possessed this advantage, but he does tell them why it was a benefit, and how it might fail of conferring any favor. Notice that Paul does not use the word justifies.  How far it profited will be shown in the third and fourth chapters.  

“if thou keep the law.”
Literally: “If you practice {the} Law.”  The mere
sign can be of no value; it must be followed with practice.  This is the condition under which the circumcision is profitable.

          KEEP:  (Grk.–prassō)–Literally:  “practice; act; do.”  Many expositors are divided over whether by “practice the Law” it meant (1) a sincere attempt to obey the Law or (2) perfect conformity to everything the Law required.  The second interpretation denies any real value in circumcision because the Law cannot be perfectly obeyed.

The mere fact of being a Jew is not what God requires. It may be a favor to have His Law, but the mere possession of the Law cannot entitle to the favor of God.  Likewise, it is a privilege to be born in a Christian land; to have had godly parents; to be amidst the ordinances of the Christian faith; to be trained in Sunday Schools; and to be devoted to God in baptism: for all these are favorable circumstances for salvation.  But none of them entitle to the favor of God; and unless they are improved as they should be, they may be only the means of increasing our condemnation, (II Cor. 2:16).

“if thou be a breaker of the Law”
Literally:  “But if you are a transgressor of Law.”  If you do not observe the conditions of the covenant, the outward sign is both without meaning and without effect.  This was a maxim of the rabbis themselves; for they allowed that an apostate or ungodly Israelite must go to hell, regardless of his circumcision.

                        BREAKER:  :  (Grk.–parabatēs)–That is, “transgressor.”           

“thy circumcision is made uncircumcision”
Literally:  “Your circumcision becomes uncircumcision”  Your circumcision, or your being called a Jew, is made of no value. You will have no more benefit by it than if you had never received it.  The very same observation holds with regard to Christian baptism or church membership or serving in a church, etc..

          IS MADE:  (Grk.–gegonen)–A perfect tense verb meaning, “has become with the result that the resulting state is a settled one.”

Your circumcision will not distinguish you from those who are not circumcised. You will be treated as a heathen. No external advantages, no name, no rite, or ceremony will save you. God requires the obedience of the heart and of the life. Where there is a disposition to render that, there is an advantage in possessing the external means of grace. Where that is lacking, no rite or profession can save. This applies with as much force to those who have been baptized in infancy, and to those who have made a profession (but without possession) of faith in a Christian church, as to the Jew.