[Romans Study 7-3]
The True Jew And True Circumcision [Romans 2:17-3:8]
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Understand God’s Heart: Special Choosing Comes With Special Duties
1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
Israel had the Torah: a fountain of revelation from God. It was said that whoever drank of its contents would be healed. Paul says that it was a huge advantage for the Jews to have such a glorious revelation from God directly. It is true that the Law is not enough to save, but it is still a very wonderful thing to have. We can parallel the situation to one where a child is born today into a Christian family. Although that child is not saved because of his or her parent’s faith, but it is still a very good thing and an advantage for the child’s faith to be born of sincere Christian parents.
3 What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” 5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)
To help us comprehend Paul’s argument more easily, let us look at the passage in the New Living Translation: “True, some of them were unfaithful, but just because they broke their promises to God, does that mean God will break his promises? Of course not! Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is not. Do you remember what the book of Psalms says about this? That God’s words will always prove true and right, no matter who questions them. “But,” some say, “our breaking faith with God is good, our sins serve a good purpose, for people will notice how good God is when they see how bad we are. Is it fair, then, for him to punish us when our sins are helping him?” (That is the way some people talk.)”
Man in his wicked and twisted mind may ask if his sins will serve the good purpose of displaying God’s goodness more clearly. To this question, Paul clearly answers:
6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say— as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.
One might as well argue that it is a good thing to break a person’s heart, because it gives that person a chance to show how much he or she loves you. It is the argument that only a callously insensitive man would ever use. When a man does sin, the need is not for ingenuity to justify the sin, but for humility to confess it in penitence and in shame. A person who truly loves and knows that he is being loved will have fear that his sin may hurt his loved one rather than taking advantage of that love.
Paul always revered the Jews and the special position they had in front of God. The difference between Paul’s reverence and the pride that many other Jews had, however, was that Paul understood that special position to also be one of special responsibility. Some Jews believed themselves to be in a position of special privilege, while what God entrusted to the Jews was commandments, not privileges. He said to them, “You are a special people; therefore you must live a special life.” He did not say, “You are a special people; therefore you can do what you like.” He did say, “You are a special people; therefore you must do what I like.” This special choosing of God brought special duty, not special exemption from duty. It is vital to understand that God’s special choice is one of special duty.
1. Based on today’s message share your reflection on this statement: “Man cannot hide himself from God’s demand either behind his theological and biblical knowledge or his Church membership and his participation in its sacraments.”
2. Jesus warned of the great sin of causing another believer’s fall: “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”(Matthew 18:6) Share your experience of being tempted because of another believer’s influence or if you’ve been a poor influence yourself.
3. Share your reflection on this statement which sums up Chapter 1:18 to Chapter 2: “Are you saying, ‘I don’t like the idea of wrath; I believe that God is good and loving and kind and forgiving’? “If you believe that, says Paul, has it led you to repentance? It is no use saying, ‘I believe that God is love’—what effect has it had upon you? Has it made you turn to God and live entirely to His glory and to His praise? To say these things is of no value, it does not help you at all. And he works it out in still greater detail by showing quite clearly that whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we are under the law or outside the law, we all have these ideas and we have all got consciences; and they condemn every one of us. We shall be judged not by our professions, our ideas, or anything else, but by our total living and our total relationship to God.”
4. Define a true meaning of a Jew and circumcision.
Dear Lord, may we never forget that we are saved only because of your unfathomable love and grace that accepted us even though we are sinners. We confess that many times we forget your love. Many times we cover your grace with man-made formalities. Help us to deeply reflect on our sin of failing to give thanks for your love.
Lord you have lavished your love on us. Whether we are sinners or righteous, Jews or Gentiles, Greeks or barbarians in high or low positions, your love is the shining on all of us just like the sunlight. The distance between you and each of us is the same.
Let us heed Paul’s warning not fall into spiritual hypocrisy but connect with You deeply, heart to heart, and look at Your great love. Let us strive to first have a right relationship with you, a relationship of faith and love, and help us to touch the lives of others with this love for the glory of your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Republished with permission from Dr. Christy Tran, the author of “The Epistle to the Romans: Paul’s Love Letter from God.”