Introduction Romans 2:17-24
The name of God is discredited, it is dishonored, it is brought into disrepute by Christians! Yes by you and me who call ourselves Christians. We dishonor God. The world looks at us as Christians, and they laugh at our God. They say what kind of God is this, who allows His own children to behave in a manner that contradicts what He has commanded them. The world calls us hypocrites who live contrary to what we preach. What we say and what we do as Christians contradict what we preach from the scriptures. Instead of being the light and the salt to this world, we have become just the opposite.
The main theme of this message is about Christians whose lives contradict scripture, and thereby dishonor God. Christians like you and me. Yes you reading this message.
The above is exactly how the Jews of Paul’s time were behaving. In this message, we will see that the Jews claimed to have special status and ability, because of God who gave them the law. We will also see how despite having the law and claiming special status and ability, their conduct contradicted the very law they possessed, and lastly, we will see how this conduct led to God being blasphemed. We will then ultimately see that the special status and ability that they claimed, was not good enough to protect them from God’s wrath as they thought.
Context of Romans 2:17-24
Our passage for this message falls within a portion in Romans that begins in Romans 1:18 and ends in Romans 3:20. In this portion of scripture, Paul tells us that God’s wrath, i.e the condemning outflow of His holy anger, stands over all sinners and justly so, because God has made Himself known to all people through creation. When people turn away from God to idols, that renders them without an excuse (1:18-32). Even less excusable are the Jews who had a clear and detailed statement of God’s will in the law that God gave them. However, the mere possession of the law and bearing the mark of circumcision, which is the mark of the covenant God has with the Jewish nation, is not good enough to protect the Jews from God’s wrath,since they don’t obey the very same law (2:1-3:8). Our portion of scripture for this message, Romans 2:17-24, falls within this specific portion (2:1-3:8). From 3:9-20, Paul concludes that all people, Jews and Gentiles, are helpless slaves of sin and cannot be brought into a relationship with God by anything they might do themselves. This should give you a picture of how our passage Romans 2:17-24, fits into the whole book of Romans.
The Main Point of Romans 2:17-24
In this portion of scripture, that is in Romans 2:17-24, Paul shows the Jews that the mere possession of the law without obeying it, will not protect them from God’s wrath. He has already shown in Romans 2:1-16 that God will judge them on the same basis as the Gentiles and by judging the Gentiles, they judge themselves. The Jews were under the impression that because God gave them the law, they had special status and ability, which will protect them from God’s wrath. This was a false sense of security and Paul proves this to them in our passage.
Background of Romans 2:17-24
Paul is writing to the Jews and Gentile Christians in Rome probably around 57 or 58 AD. He appears to be in Corinth and is near the end of what would be his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:15). He tells the Christians in Rome of his plans to make a trip to Jerusalem, to deliver the offering that was collected for the poor among the saints, after which, he will visit them in Rome, on his way to Spain. He did go to Jerusalem but was arrested (Acts 21:17-33), and when he did go to Rome, he was in chains (Acts 28:16). It is not clear why Paul wrote Romans. Scholars have come up with many different reasons and three seems to be prominent:
- Paul wrote to set the record straight with regards to the gospel he was preaching, so that those in Rome, hopefully accept it and can therefore support him on his trip to Spain
- Paul is writing to the Romans what he plans to say in Jerusalem in defense of his gospel
- Paul wrote to reconcile Jews and Gentile Christians in Rome
As I have indicated before, the main theme of this message is about Christians whose lives contradict scripture, and thereby dishonor God. I have divided this message into 4 headings:
- The claim of Special Status by the Jews (Rom 2:17-18)
- The Claim of Special Ability by the Jews (Rom 2:19-20)
- The Contradictory Conduct of the Jews (Rom 2:21-22)
- The Consequence of the Conduct of the Jews (Rom 2:23-24)
Let us take a look at the first heading…..
The Claim of Special Status by the Jews (Romans 2:17-18)
Romans 2:17-18 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; (ESV Strong’s)
Paul starts this verse with a conjunction “but”. With this conjunction, he is about to contradict the status of the Gentiles whom he discussed in verses 14-16, who had no written law, with the Jews who did have the written law. Notice that after the conjunction “but”, Paul starts an “if – then” clause. The “then’ part of this “if-then” clause, is implied in verse 21. Therefore from verses 17 to 20, Paul is making conditional statements, which, by the use of the Greek grammar, he shows us that he takes them to be true. Therefore, Paul is about to list 5 claims that the Jews had for themselves, which he Paul, agrees with.
The first claim was that the Jews were proud to be Jew. This is found in verse 17(a) which reads: “But if you call yourself a Jew”. What was so special about being a Jew? This was because to be a member of the Jewish race, was to enjoy certain religious advantages over other nations. Therefore to call oneself a Jew, was to classify yourself among the privileged nation.
The second claim was that the Jews relied on the law. This is found in verse 17(b) which reads: “and rely on the law“. Not only did they call themselves Jews and therefore claiming special privilege but, they also relied on the law. This means that the law was the basis of all the Jewish hope, and they did not see the law as their accuser, but proof that they had favor with God, since He gave them the law.
The third claim was that the Jews were proud of their God. This is found in verse 17(c) which reads: “and boast in God“. Not only did they rely on the law but, they also boasted in God. This means the Jews saw God as having a special regard for them as Jews because He gave them the law, and they took pride in Him. Note that they boasted in God Himself and not about their relationship with God.
The fourth claim was that the Jews knew the will God. This is found in verse 17(d) which reads: “and know his will“. Not only did they boast or take pride in God but, they knew His will. The Jews knew God’s will because they had a clear and detailed statement of God’s will in the law, that God gave them.
The fifth claim was that the Jews were able to discern what is morally excellent. This is found in verse 17(e) which reads: “and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law;“.Not only did they know God’s will, but they also approved what was excellent, because they had been instructed from the law. This means they were able to differentiate between what is morally excellent or superior and what is not, because they had been instructed or educated in the law.
In summary, the Jews called themselves Jews and claimed special religious privilege, the law was the basis of all their hopes, they saw God as having a special regard for them and they took pride in God, they knew God’s will because they had the law, and lastly, they were able to differentiate between what is morally excellent or superior and what is not, because they had been instructed in the law. All this was what the Jews claimed, and from the grammatical construction of the “if-then” clause that Paul used, Paul doesn’t disagree with their claim of having a special status as a nation. In Romans 9:4, Paul shows clearly that he agrees with the claims of the Jews: Romans 9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. (ESV Strong’s).
As I indicated above, the Jews believed that the above claims, gave them special status that will protect them from God’s wrath even if they did not obey the law. This was a sense of false security as we will see later. Later we will also see how they also believed that this special status also gave them special ability which also meant that they will escape God’s wrath even if they did not obey the law.
How does all of this apply to us today? Just like the Jews of Paul’s time, if you call yourself a Christian, you also claim special privilege. You claim that God chose you before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4). You claim that God decided before you were even born that you will be adopted as His child (Ephesians 1:5). You claim that Jesus Christ died for your sins in accordance with the scriptures, He was buried and He was raised from the dead in accordance with the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).This is a claim of very special privilege to be part of God’s family. Just like the Jews, you also rely on God’s revealed word, which is the Bible. Although this reliance is not for your salvation but for your sanctification. You also take pride just like the Jews, in the relationship with God who has redeemed you by His blood (Ephesians 1:7). Like the Jews, you also claim to know God’s will because He has revealed it to you in the Bible. Lastly, just like the Jews, you claim also to be able to differentiate what is morally excellent or superior because you have been instructed from the Bible. Therefore the claims made by the Jews are similar claims made by you as a Christian.
With all these claims and others, that you make when you call yourself a Christian, are you obedient to the word of God? Are you walking in a manner worthy of calling yourself a Christian (Ephesians 4:1). Does your life reflect someone worthy of calling himself a Christian? or Are you calling yourself a Christian, thinking that just by calling yourself a Christian, you will escape God’s wrath even if you do not obey? I can tell you that you have placed your trust of escaping God’s wrath on false security. Being a Christian involves repentance and placing your trust in Jesus Christ. It involves accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, meaning that you accept that He has authority over your life and you must obey what He commands, and He has saved you from God’s wrath. Simply calling yourself a Christian and failing or refusing to repent and obey, will not save you from God’s wrath. I urge you to repent today and live a life of obedience.
In the next message, we will see how these claims that the Jews could correctly make, translated into them having special abilities that they claimed.
to be continued…
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