The Jewish Need for God's Righteousness
Part Two

(Rom. 2:17-29)
The Jewish Need for God's Righteousness (Part Two)

Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs Godís Righteous Activity (1:18a)
    The Gentile Need for Godís Righteous Activity (1:18-32)
    The Jewish Need for Godís Righteous Activity (2:1-3:20)
II. Godís Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39)
    The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself (3:21-31)
    Abraham: OT Proof that God Makes Us Right With Him By Faith (4:1-25)
    Results of Being Made Right with God (5:1-6:23)
        (1) A Proper Relationship of Peace with God (5:1-2)
        (2) A Proper Understanding of Suffering (5:3-5)
        (3) Assurance in Judgment (5:6-11)
        (4) A New Race of Mankind (5:12-21)
        A Rejection of Lawlessness (6:1-23)
    Experiencing Godís Righteousness Daily (7:1-8:39)
        (1) The Way Not to Experience Godís Righteousness (7:1-25)
        (2) The Way to Experience Godís Righteousness (8:1-39)

(17) But if you bear the name "Jew" and rely upon the Law and boast in God (18) and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, (19) and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to thosse who are in darkness, (20) a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, (21) you, therefore, who teach another, do you now teach yourself? You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal? (22) You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? (23) You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? (24) For "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of your," just as it is written.

I was privileged to hear a Jewish Messianic rabbi speak about what Christians can do to lead Jews to the Lord. In his talk he said that we Christians misunderstand the Jew. He claimed that Jews like us believe that they are saved because of the grace of God (the lovingkindness and mercies of God) which led Him to choose them for their salvation). The Jews perform works only as acts of gratitude, nothing more. This rabbi may be right; however, when you read Rom. 9:30-33, do his claims harmonize with or contradict Paul's analysis of the Jewish situation?

According to Paul it is not what a person says which indicates what a person believes; rather what a person does is what indicates what a person truly believes. According to Paul the person who operates out of faith is saved by grace, while the person who concentrates on works is trying to be saved by the Law (Gal. 3:12; Rom. 4:16; 11:6). The lifestyle of the Jew proves he is trying to be saved by God's Law, not by His grace.

In these passages Paul once more is undermining the beliefs of the Jews in his day. The Jews listed several reasons why they claimed they were "right" with God. Paul is methodically picking off each of these reasons one by one.

Fill in the blanks to see the the reasons the Jews believed they were right with God:

"But if you bear the name __________________ and rely upon the _____________ and boast in _______________(18) and know His __________ and approve the things that are __________________, being instructed out of the _____________, (19) and are confident that you yourself are a _____________ to the ____________, a ______________ to those who are in _______________, (20) a ____________ of the ___________________, a ________________ of the _______________, having in the ____________ the embodiment of _______________ and of the ________________."

Now go back and insert words we as Catholics would use.

In verses 17-18 Paul is speaking about the relationship of the Jews to God, while in verses 19-20 he is writing about the relationship of the Jews to the Gentiles. Look at verses 19-20. Do you feel like the Jews were benevolent in their attitude toward the Gentiles, or on the basis of these verses do you feel like they were condescending or even hostile in that relationship?

Regardless of the way the Jew felt about the Gentile, the Gentiles during that first century were repulsed by the arrogant attitude of the Jew. To be sure they were impressed with the high moral standard the Jews set for themselves and for others; this standard and their claim to be in possession of God's Word (the OT) attracted many Gentiles to the synagogues; however, the Jews themselves in many cases proved to be real obstacles to the Gentiles for salvation.

When we compare this passage with passages in Acts we come to understand a major reason the Jews rejected Paul and Christianity. After the conquest of Alexander the Great, the Jews became increasingly dispersed through the ancient world. The city of Alexandria in Egypt itself housed a large group of Jews; in fact Jews served as chief librarians for the great library in Alexandria. As the Jews spread thoughout the ancient world, they spread the knowledge of the OT. For approximately 300 years the Jews had been successful in promoting themselves as the teachers of the Gentiles. (When James demands that Gentile Christians observe certain Jewish principles, he claims that these should not be new to the Gentiles since "Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him since he is read in the synagogues [in their cities] every Sabbath" (Acts 15:21).

When you read Acts, you see Paul teaching in the synagogues to Gentiles as well as Jews. The only reason the Gentiles were not Jews is that they didn't want to be circumcised. When Paul preaches in the synagogues, he finds tremendous success among the Gentiles. This upsets the Jews because all of a sudden after several centuries, they are no longer considered to be the great teachers of the Gentiles. Paul said jealousy is what caused the Jews to reject him and his gospel (see Acts 13:42-51).

In verses 21-23 Paul lists the ways the Jews were inconsistent in what they taught and in how they lived.

    In verse 21 what does Paul claim they preached against? Yet what did the Jews themselves do?

    In verse 22 what did the Jews say people were not supposed to do? Yet what did they do?

    Again in verse 22 what did the Jews abhor? Yet what did they do?

By preaching one thing and doing the exact opposite, the Jews were dishonoring the Law. Ultimately though what were they dishonoring?

Paul quotes what OT verse to back up his claim?

It is one thing for us Christians to bring shame and dishonor upon ourselves. It is quite another thing though for us to bring shame and dishonor upon God. When we live inconsistently with what we preach, how do our actions bring shame and dishonor upon God?

Paul is very concerned about this issue. For example, one of the qualifications Paul lists for priests is that they have a good reputation outside the church (1 Tim. 3:7). This is important because if we alienate the community, we lose the pool of people from which to draw converts to Jesus.

When we mess up miserably, we don't necessarily lose our salvation; however, we definitely affect our witness. When our witness is affected, then the very people we are trying to reach for Christ will be turned off not only to us but also to our message. Unfortunately there are going to be a lot of people who will not enter heaven because Christians did not live like Christians. Gandhi stated as one of the reasons he was not a Christian, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Although each person is ultimately responsible for his or her own choices in life, many "Christians" are going to share partial responsibility for others not entering heaven.

Just a thought question. Does your life draw people to Christ or turn people away from Christ? To answer that question honestly, look around you. Are people coming to Christ because of your life? If not, your life is turning people off of Christ.

(25) For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. (26) If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? (27) And will not he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? (28) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. (29) But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter, and his praise is not from men, but from God.

In this set of verses Paul claims that the Jews are relying upon one thing in particular to make them right with God. What is it?

In order to understand the importance of circumcision, read Gen. 17:9-14. God made his covenant of salvation with Abraham and his people (descendants). According to these verses what did a person have to do in order to be a part of Abraham's people? How important was this? It was so important that although you could not do other kinds of work on the Sabbath, you could always circumcise children. This was one work which superceded the Sabbath.

On the other hand, if an uncircumcised Gentile keeps the Law, what will God consider his uncircumcision to be?

In other words, according to Paul what is essential: being circumcised or keeping the Law?

Paul's next statement would have really shocked the Jew of the first century. According to Paul (v. 27), if the uncircumcised Gentile keeps the Law, what will he do to the Jew?

The Jews believed that one day the Messiah would come, destroy the enemies of the Jewish people, and along with the Jewish people rule ("judge") the world from Jerusalem. Jerusalem with the Jews in control would be the center of the world. Paul is blowing this theology right out of the tub. Yes, Christ is going to come, destroy His enemies, and rule from Jerusalem with His people at His side ("Christians"); however, the Jew is not automatically included in this arrangement. He is included only if he accepts Christ as Lord and Savior along with everybody else.

In verse 28 Paul says that outward circumstances like circumcision are not what make people Jews. According to verse 29 what makes a person a Jew?

Why is Paul focusing on the importance of being a Jew? When Paul uses the word "Jew" here, he is using it to describe the people of God. It's another way to say a person is part of God's people. Gentiles can be part of God's people (that is, a Jew) if he is right with God; in the same way a person born of the Jewish nation according to Paul is not part of God's people (that is, a Jew) if he is not right with God. A life of faith alone appropriated the sacramental benefits of circumcision.