Authentic Jewishness is Inward, Romans 2:17-29

I hope you’re enjoying summer. Mine has been a flurry of baseball games, swim lessons, kid chauffeuring/refereeing, and gardening. Although my weeds are persistent, they don’t argue. 🙂

Speaking of arguments, Paul continues his to the Jews in this passage: Everyone, including Jews, stands guilty before God.

Jewish Advantages and Pride

In verses 17-20 Paul parallels the Jews’ pride with their advantages:

  • You call yourself a Jew (vs. 17). The Jews were proud of their heritage. 2 Kings 16:6 records the first mention of the term Jew.
  • You rely on the Law (vs. 17).
  • You glory in (brag about) your relationship to God (vs. 17).
  • You know His will (vs. 18). The full revelation of God’s will was given to the Jews through the Law before Jesus entered earth’s scene.
  • You approve what is superior (vs. 18). Because of the Law they knew right and wrong.
  • You are convinced you are a guide for the blind, a light for those in darkness (vs. 19-20). This reveals the Jews’ high esteem for themselves and low regard for the Gentiles.
The Jews’ Inconsistencies

In verses 21-24, Paul strikes out the Jews’ hypocrisy when he expands on his previous charge in Rom. 2:3:

"So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

“So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

Paul’s curve ball comes in the form of five high-thrown questions, dropping over home plate with a pronouncement to each.

  1. You who teach others, do you not teach yourself (vs 21)?
  2. You preach against stealing, do you steal (vs. 21)? This refers to the eighth commandment.
  3. You say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery (vs.22)? This refers to the seventh commandment
  4. You who abhor idols, do you rob temples (vs. 22)? This also refers to those who act irreverently in or against a holy place.
  5. You who brag about the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law (vs. 23)? Hollow praise—bragging about the Law without obeying it—insults God.
Obedience to the Requirement of Circumcision (vs. 25-29)

As a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male. Although this was practiced by other males in ancient times, it held special meaning for the Jews. However, Paul countered that a real Jew was one inwardly, not by the external tradition. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. Instead of mechanically observing the written code, it involves cutting away the old sinful nature.

Questions to Chew On
  • Why does Paul show the Jews’ inconsistencies?
  • What do God’s judgments tell us about Him?
  • What does circumcision of the heart accomplish that observing the Law cannot?
  • How does any of this relate to us today, especially if we are not Jewish?

Paul’s Heartache, Romans 9:1-5

7be436a74462fa1e28f0486de8bffc62

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish  in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” – Romans 9:2-4 (NIV)

After Paul writes of overwhelming victory in Romans 8, his mood turns somber as he reflects upon Israel and its rejection of Jesus the Messiah.

Chapters 9-11 are best presented as a unit. Each of these chapters start with a lament, but end with a doxology.

Shepherd’s Notes observes: Paul’s stance regarding Israel was similar to that of Moses when Israel sinned by creating the golden calf. “But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou has written!” (Exodus 32:32, NASB)

Although Paul’s primary mission was to the Gentiles, his heart ached for the salvation of his Jewish brethren.

The Jewish Advantages

Verses 4-5 show how tragic the Jews’ rejection of Christ the Messiah was in light of their many advantages:

  • They were Israelites.
  • They received adoption as sons.
  • They experienced God’s glory.
  • They received God’s Law.
  • They were given God’s special covenant.
  • They were given responsibility of Temple worship service.
  • They were descendants of the patriarchs.
  • They had God’s promises.
  • They were Jesus the Messiah’s ancestors.
 So What?

Paul’s concern for his Jewish brothers demonstrated great love and compassion. Like Christ, he was willing to sacrifice in order that they might find eternal life by placing their faith in Him.

Are we as concerned for those who haven’t placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Paul was?