A Journey Through Romans (5) – Romans 2:17-3:20

This section continues to address the third reason for not being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” The guilt of the Gentiles has been established thus far. Now this “Hebrew of the Hebrews” turns his attention to the Jews and their guilt.

Romans 2:17-20; Advantages of Jews (5)

A name: Behold thou art called a Jew. This tribal reference, singled them out as the best of Israel. But it is sadly possible, like Thyatira, to have “a name that thou livest” and be dead. “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Do we bear the title worthily of Christ our Leader, or lethargically shelter under its banner?

A platform: resting on the law. The letter of the law became the crutch for the Jew, without spiritual power. However, what avails in Christ Jesus is faith energized by means of love (Gal 5,6), and that faith being displayed in our works, characterized by godliness and righteousness.

A confidence: making their boast in God. The Jew was called upon to constantly “remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt,” designed no doubt to maintain a humble attitude, despite God’s favors to them. A fleshly arrogance connected with spiritual things is distasteful to all. Whereas the believer is called upon to “be clothed with humility”. Even when giving a “reason of the hope that is in you” we are to speak with “meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

A knowledge: The Jew’s condemnation was that they knew God’s will, but did not do it. How much more are we responsible who possess the complete revelation of His will! “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).

An understanding: of God’s standard of excellence. The law was a statement of spiritual and moral excellence. So the Jew tried the things that were more excellent. This shows the degree to which the law trained the Jewish conscience. Romans 7 shows the agonizing weakness that resulted from this illumination. The law did not give the Spirit to its subjects, who must await the bestowing of grace.

A teaching: “being instructed out of the law.” How difficult it is for a Jew to accept that their teaching is in any way lacking since it is Jehovah’s law. But the Book of Hebrews showed that it was a temporary “shadow” of good things to come, and Paul taught that it was their schoolmaster leading them to Christ (Gal 3:24).

A role: The Jew, by these blessings, became a leader, a guide, light, instructor and teacher, but the leader must be a role model and guide others by example (1 Pet 5:3).

A possession: What the Jew possessed in the law was a sketch or outline (form) of the knowledge of the truth. Knowledge and truth is a “mould” into which Christians have been delivered (Rom 6:17). Knowledge for the believer in Christ is “full-knowledge”, centered in One in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Chapter 2:21-24 Accusations against Jews (6)

v21A Teaching without self examination,

v21B Preaching without practicing,

v22A Moralizing without morality,

v22B Religious talk without righteousness,

v23 Religious pride dishonoring God,

v24 Gentiles stumbled through a bad example.

What a solemn lesson for all those who take a leadership role among the people of God! Ezekiel cried, “0 ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord … I will require my flock at their hand…” (Ezek 34:9-10) To Timothy, after exhorting him, Paul wrote, “These things command and teach,” and appealed to him, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in behavior, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). In 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and Hebrews 13:7, where shepherds are referred to, the word means “to stand before,” conveying the thought of a role model or pattern to follow.

Appeal for Spiritual Power in Contra-distinction to Technical Compliance.

v25: Every believer who considers himself (herself) spiritual should take heed to the timeless principle herein. Outward religious adherence (eg circumcision) must be accompanied by loving obedience to the Word. Conversely, disobedience to the word disannuls outward religious adherence.

vs26-27: Paul rebukes Jews by using the example of Gentiles. Gentiles who naturally meet the law’s standards exhibit the spirit of circumcision and thereby condemn the physically circumcised Jew who transgresses the law. The spirit of the word is primary, the letter of the word is secondary The Word of God is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, that the hearer might obey it.

vs28-29: True Judaism (what will bring praise from God versus praise from men) is doing the will of God. It is not found in profession or in external show, or in adherence to the letter merely, but rather in inward reality~ heart devotion, spiritual power. Standing for truth must be done in spiritual grace and power or it will ultimately fail and be rejected (Rev 2:1-5).

Ch 3:1-20 Universal Condemnation by God’s Law: All are Under The Judgment of God.

vs1,2,9: Having argued so strenuously for the universal guilt of Jew and Gentile and the whole world, Paul raises questions, no doubt, to his critics (vs 8). What is the advantage and profit that Jews have over Gentiles? And have these advantages made Jews better than the Gentile? The advantage and profit are real and focus mainly on the law of God given to the Jew. But the fact that “no” is the answer to the second question shows an unchanging principle: Blessings do not make a person better, only more responsible. Spiritual blessings do not necessarily mean that we are godly or moral. Spiritual riches must be laid hold of, obeyed and pursued to result in godliness and morality. However, though this principle stands, grace has wrought much more deeply than the law’s affect, so that if a NT believer is genuine in faith, it is normal and to be expected that godliness and morality follow.

vs3-4: The awful reality of Jewish unbelief and disobedience to God’s word does not mean that God’s faithfulness in giving His word has been rendered useless. God is not frustrated in His purpose. God is always right in doing what He does, or saying what He says. Whether any respond rightly to His word does not alter the moral value of what God has said or done. God’s works and words are always the standard of morality. “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

vs5-8 Evidently Paul’s critics (Jewish?) argued like this as they heard of the wonders of God’s grace: “If God has responded to man’s sin (our unrighteousness, my lie) in rich provisions of grace, then let’s keep sinning so that grace will keep providing”; “Let us do evil that good may come”; “Let us continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom 6:2). They were charging that God’s grace is an excuse for sinning. Paul analyzes the awful implications of this ancient Satanic argument that mounts an attack against God’s throne, questions His right to rule, and displays a dark, twisted mind that mocks at His grace. Notice his defense is in reverse logical order to emphasize the personal attack on God.

(1) Is God unrighteous in executing His wrath?

(2) How can God judge the world?

(3) Why am I judged as a sinner?

That is,

(1) If grace has been occasioned by sin, why does God judge me for sinning?

(2) And if He must not judge me for sinning, He cannot judge the world.

(3) And if He must judge the world, He is unrighteous in executing His wrath on it. The apostle tersely replies, “Whose judgment is just.”

vs9-18: Here in six Old Testament quotations, the apostle has all the earmarks of an attorney wrapping up a case as he waxes eloquent against the accused – the world. They confirm universal moral corruption, bondage, unrighteousness, darkness, ungodliness, waywardness, unprofitableness and badness. They affirm man’s speech to be rotten, deceitful, poisoned and bitter. They find his ways to be murderous and destructive, his heart troubled and his vision godless.

vs19-20 And as the attorney rests his case, one can hear the clank of the prison cell in these verses as the law does its completed work.

(1) universal silence and guilt before God, and

(2) universal weakness and conviction of sin. This part of the doctrinal section ends with the thunderings and lightnings of Mount Sinai. What follows is the blessed way of approach to God because of Calvary.