Be Right: A Study in Romans

Day 6 of 7 • This day’s reading

Devotional

"The Jewish World Is Guilty"

Yesterday, we saw God’s declaration on the guilt of the Gentiles. In these next few verses, God makes his declaration against the Jews. It would not be an easy task to find the Jews guilty, but Paul summoned four “witnesses” to prove the guilt of the Jewish nation.

2. THE JEWISH WORLD IS GUILTY! (2:1—3:8)

(1) The Gentiles (2:1–3). Certainly the Jews would applaud Paul’s condemnation of the Gentiles in Romans 1:18–32. In fact, Jewish national and religious pride encouraged them to despise the “Gentile dogs” and have nothing to do with them. Paul used this judgmental attitude to prove the guilt of the Jews, for the very things they condemned in the Gentiles, they themselves were practicing! One who reads the list of sins in Romans 1:29–32 cannot escape the fact that each person is guilty of at least one of them.

(2) God’s blessing (2:4–11). Instead of giving the Jews special treatment from God, the blessings they received from Him gave them greater responsibility to obey Him and glorify Him. In His goodness, God had given Israel great material and spiritual riches. God had patiently endured Israel’s many sins and rebellions, and had even sent them His Son to be their Messiah. Still Israel did not repent.

True saving faith results in obedience and godly living, even though there may be occasional falls. The fact that the Jews occasionally celebrated a feast or even regularly honored the Sabbath day did not change the fact that their consistent daily life was one of disobedience to God. God’s blessings did not lead them to repentance.

(3) God’s law (1:12–24). Paul explained that the Jewish law only made the guilt of Israel that much greater. God did not give the law to the Gentiles, so they would not be judged by the law.

The Jew boasted in the law, but Paul made it clear that it was not the possession of the law that counted, but the practice of the law. The Jews looked on the Gentiles as blind, in the dark, foolish, immature, and ignorant. But if God found the “deprived” Gentiles guilty, how much more guilty were the “privileged” Jews.

The Jewish people had a religion of outward action, not inward attitude. Our Lord’s indictment of the Pharisees in Matthew 23 illustrates the principle perfectly. God not only sees the deeds but He also sees the “thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

(4) Circumcision (2:25–29). This was the great mark of the covenant, and it had its beginning with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation (Gen. 17). To the Jews, the Gentiles were “uncircumcised dogs.” The tragedy is that the Jews depended on this physical mark instead of the spiritual reality it represented (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 9:26; Ezek. 44:9). A true Jew is one who has had an inward spiritual experience in the heart, and not merely an outward physical operation. People today make this same mistake with reference to baptism or the Lord’s Supper, or even church membership.

Paul’s summation (3:1–8). All of Paul’s four witnesses agreed: The Jews were guilty before God. In Romans 3:1–8, Paul summed up the argument and refuted those Jews who tried to debate with him. They raised three questions: (1) “What advantage is it to be a Jew?” Reply: Every advantage, especially possessing the Word of God; (2) “Will Jewish unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness?” Reply: Absolutely not—it establishes it; (3) “If our sin commends His righteousness, how can He judge us?” Reply: We do not do evil that good may come of it. God judges the world righteously.