2:17 Indeed you bear the name of a Jew, and rest on the law, and
glory in God,
2:18 and know his will, and approve the things that are excellent,
being instructed out of the law,
2:19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind,
a light to those who are in darkness,
2:20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of babies,
having in the law the form of knowledge and of the truth.
2:21 You therefore who teach another, don't you teach yourself?
You who preach that a man shouldn't steal, do you steal?
2:22 You who say a man shouldn't commit adultery, do you commit
You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
2:23 You who glory in the law, through your disobedience of the
law do you dishonor God?
2:24 For "the name of God is blasphemed among the
Gentiles because of you,"
just as it is written. (Isaiah 52:5; Ezek. 36:22)
2:25 For circumcision indeed profits, if you are a doer of the law,
but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has
2:26 If therefore the uncircumcised keep the ordinances of the
won't his uncircumcision be accounted as circumcision?
2:27 Won't the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfills
judge you, who with the letter and circumcision are a transgressor
of the law?
2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly,
neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh;
2:29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that
of the heart,
in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men, but
Jews Do Not Believe the Oracles
3:1 Then what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the profit of
3:2 Much in every way! Because first of all, they were entrusted
with the oracles of God.
3:3 For what if some were without faith? Will their lack of faith
nullify the faithfulness of God?
3:4 May it never be! Yes, let God be found true, but every man a
As it is written, "That you might be justified in
your words, And might prevail when you come into judgment."(Psalm
3:5 But if our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God,
what will we say?
Is God unrighteous who inflicts wrath? I speak like men do.
3:6 May it never be! For then how will God judge the world?
3:7 For if the truth of God through my lie abounded to his glory,
why am I also still judged as a sinner?
3:8 Why not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm
that we say), "Let us do evil, that good may come?" Those who say so are
Read this passage again substituting the words "Christian" in for
"Jew", the word "Baptism" for "Circumcision", and the phrase
"Christ's teachings" for "the law".
How does this affect your understanding of the application of this
For example, how is baptism analogous to Circumcision?
Is it possible for God consider you to be a Jew even though you
haven't been circumcised?
Is it possible for God consider you to be a Christian even though
you haven't been baptized?
What does Paul say is the advantage of being Jewish?
What similar advantage do those who are born to Christian parents
Does vs 3:3,4 mean that unbelieving Jews will be saved? (xref Romans
10:1-3; Romans 9)
How might you answer the skeptics questions in 3:5,7,8?
A Judgement of the Religious Elite
Rom 2:17-20 Now you, if you call yourself a
Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to
God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because
you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a
guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an
instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have
in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—
Jesus and here Paul speak of two classes of people - those who
consider themselves right with God based upon being "good" and those
who disregard God. Both need to be saved. But the common approach to
preparing "good" people for the gospel is to show that they are
sinners and thus need to be saved. Here Paul starts to really focus
on the religious elite, the self-righteous with the same kind of
tone Jesus used with regards to the religious elite to convict them
Today such is the case not only regards to Jews or Muslims, and even
among Christians there are those who rely upon the law to justify
them. That is today we could just as well replace the word "Jew"
here with "Muslim" or "Christian".
However here he is not saying that these attributes are bad. For
example with regards to bragging about one's relationship with God
it says, "Let not the wise man
boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the
rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about
this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who
exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in
these I delight." Jer
With respect to God's will it says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able
to test and approve what God‘s will is— his good, pleasing and
perfect will." Rom 12:2
With respect to being a light it says, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."2Cor 4:6
With regards to teaching it says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are
worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching
So all these activities of which he is speaking are commendable. But people who reckon themselves "good" are typically hypocrites.
Rom 2:21,22 you, then, who teach others, do
you not teach yourself? You who preach against
stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should
not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob
Hypocrisy is what is used against allegedly "good" people to convict
them of sin. Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the
Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do
everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do
not practice what they preach." Mt 23:1-3
Now consider also he says of them, "all their works they do to be seen by men"Mt 23:5a But if this is the case
then how can they get away with doing evil and yet be reckoned
"good"? How do "good" people get away with doing evil? Primarily
they do it privately or legally. For example the chief priests
planned behind closed doors to have Jesus legally executed. And even
more privately one could commit adultery through the fact "that anyone who looks at a woman
lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Mt 5:28 But legally they could
also do evil publicly, which is where lawyers get their well
deserved reputation. "Woe to
you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’
houses" Mt 23:14a
The issue about robbing temples is about covetousness. Consider a
golden idol in a temple. While one may claim to abhor such an idol,
one may lust for the gold. In fact such literally happened in the
case of Achan in Joshua chapter 7 in which the city of Jericho and
all in it were to be devoted to the Lord, yet he stole some gold
bars for himself, and was condemned. Hypocrisy causes Blasphemy
Rom 2:23,24You who brag about the law, do you
dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God’s name is
blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
One of the most common excuses people give in rejecting the gospel
is their pointing out the hypocrisy of Christians. Consequently the
Bible warns Christians to behavior appropriately. To give a couple
of examples, it instructs of young women, "to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own
husbands, that the word
of God may not be blasphemed."Titus 2:4,5 And of bondservants, "Let as many bondservants as are
under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and
His doctrine may not be blasphemed." 1Tim 6:1
"But there were also false
prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers
among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even
denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift
destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of
truth will be blasphemed."2Pet 2:1,2
While it's not a legitimate excuse for one to blame God for the
behavior of those who claim to know God, in what way may your
behavior hinder others from becoming a Christian?
Don't Make too much of Ceremony
Rom 2:25-27Circumcision has value if you
observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as
though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not
circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded
as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised
physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though
you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker
Much like water baptism is the ceremony identifying that person as a
Christian, so also circumcision is the ceremony identifying a person
as a Jew. But with regards to covenants, neither is dependent on
mere ceremonies. Under the Old Covenant Jews were reckoned righteous
if they kept the Law of Moses, one commandment of which was
circumcision. But if they broke the Law, they had broken that
covenant and as such were as if they were not circumcised?
The Law was not intended to be about ceremony. Jesus said, "in everything, do to others what
you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the
And he said, "’Love the Lord
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all
your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the
second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law
and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Mt 22:37-40
During much of Jesus' ministry we note that he teaches a great deal
about the superiority of following the spirit of the law over that
of the letter as reflected in the particular regulations, such as
with regards to the observance of the Sabbath. Sadly much of the
Christian community throughout history has failed to learn this
lesson. Even among popular historic Christian figures not just among
Catholic, but also among Protestants - like Calvin and his cronies killing of
Servetus, the murdering of multitudes of anabaptists by the
those in Reformed camp like Zwingli who said, "if any presume to
re baptize those who were baptized before, they should be
drowned;" Or Bullinger (1561), "We condemn the
Anabaptists,who deny that newborn infants of the faithful are to
be baptized." So
let's keep things in perspective. "For the letter kills, but
the Spirit gives life."2Cor 3:6bWho is the True Jew?
Rom 2:28,29 For he is not a Jew who is one
outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of
the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not
from men but from God.
Being circumcised in heart should not have been a new concept for
Jews. The Law of Moses itself says, "Therefore
your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer" Deut 10:16 And concerning a
foreshadowing of the New Covenant he says, "the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and
the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all
your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." Deut 30:6, which Ezekiel also
prophecies, "I will give you a
new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart
of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."Eze 36:26
Much of the later chapters of Romans will speak to this issue of
true Judaism. But the point here is that God is not concerned with
mere ceremony, nor ethnic boundaries. Yet today is not just Jews who
make much of their Jewishness in contrast to actual behaving as the
people of God should, but many Christians are likewise God's people
in name only.
In fact in contrast to making much of the flesh Paul writes, "Though outwardly we are wasting
away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2Cor 4:16 and note his prayer, "I pray that out of his glorious
riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your
inner being"Eph 3:16
Likewise in contrast to the whitewashed wall behavior of religous
hypocrisy which is only about the outward appearance, those
genuinely born of God produce fruits naturally, from the Spirit who
lives in them.
of the Jews
Rom 3:1,2What advantage, then, is there
in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much
in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the
very words of God.
By "first of all" he means "primarily". Today those raised
in a Christian household have this same advantage if not
more so. The advantage being access to the Word of God - the
Bible. In fact given the internet such is more so worldwide than
in the past. But with greater access come greater
accountability. Though Jews have largely failed in their
stewardship of the Word of God, let us Christians not fail in
our stewardship of the Word of God. Paul writes, "we have been approved by God
to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as
pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts."1Th 2:4
But concerning the Jews, Jesus, himself being a Jew, said to the
Jews of his day, "Fill up,
then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes!
You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to
hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and
teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you
will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And
so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been
shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood
of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the
temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come
upon this generation. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill
the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have
longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her
chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your
house is left to you desolate."Mt 23:32-38 Though such
rhetoric we hear from the Jewish messiah would be categorized
today as anti-semitic, and yet the prophets themselves used such
rhetoric throughout the Old Testament. The problem was the Jews
were largely circumcised on in flesh and not in heart, and did
not have the Spirit.
Paul says, "Watch out for
those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the
flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship
by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put
no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for
such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put
confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the
eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for
zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness,
faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss
for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a
loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I
consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" Php 3:2-8 God is Not Accountable for Misbehavior of His People
Rom 3:3,4 What if some did not have
faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?
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." (Ps 51:4)
"Hear, O heavens! Listen, O
earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I reared children and brought
them up, but they have rebelled against me."Is 1:2 God is not
accountable for the behavior of his people. In fact the quote
from Ps 51 is from a prayer that King David said after he had
committed murder and adultery. "Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in
your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and
justified when you judge."Ps 51:2-4
Now, lest there be those who misinterpret this to mean the
unbelieving Jews are automatically saved, "Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to
God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can
testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their
zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the
righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish
their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness." Rom 10:1-3 and there are
many like verses even that which I quoted previously concerning
the Jewish religious elite, "How will you escape being condemned to hell?" Mt 23:31b And likewise of
alleged Chistians, "If we
are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." 2Tim 2:13. There is no
guarantee of salvation for those who don't remain faithful.
Rom 3:5-8But 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.) Certainly not! If that were so, how
could God judge the world? Someone might argue, "If my
falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his
glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?" 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.
Apparently these kind of hypothetical questions were floating
around in Paul's day as also today, though they are not well
thought out. For example the first claims that God would be
unjust in exercising justice. For what is justice but to judge
the wicked. Would not God be reckoned unjust by not judging the
wicked? The human argument is by analogy that light is seen most
clearly in a dark room. And the response by analogy is that
light would not be light at all if it did not dispel darkness.
So if God did not exercise justice, there would be no contrast
between God's righteousness and our unrighteousness. And
likewise with regards to the second objection concerning truth
Conversely one could say that God's righteousness brings out our
sinfulness more clearly by way of contrast. But does that mean
that by doing so God is condoning sin? Paul asks this question
rhetorically of Peter, "If,
while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident
that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ
promotes sin? Absolutely not!" Gal 2:17
Concerning the phrase "Let us
do evil that good may result", this is a slanderous
accusation not uncommonly made against Christian theology
concerning salvation. For example such people would misread Paul
in his saying later in Roman
was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin
increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin
reigned in death, so also grace might reign through
righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our
Lord." While it is good for God to deal with sin, it is
not good to sin. While God's grace and justice is revealed by
His dealing with evil, such would not be revealed if God simply
overlooked sin. And, no, God doesn't overlook sin. That is not
the sense in which God forgives sin, else Christ's death would
have been unnecessary to satisfy God's judicial nature.