Thou Art Called a Jew Rom 2:17-20 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
Paul now deals with Jewish pride, hypocrisy and circumcision to show each Jew that he isn’t righteous just because “thou art called a Jew.” Circumcision and a vague knowledge of the law don’t make him righteous. An uncircumcised Gentile who by nature fulfills the law is better than a circumcised Jew who doesn’t. Consider:
A Religious Jew’s Pride – Rom 2:17-20 – religious Jews who are not saved, pride themselves on the things Paul points out in these verses. However, they don’t live up to their boasting. Thus, Paul’s comments are sarcastic. In reality, they are none of these things. They say that:
- They rest in the law – they don’t; they rest in tradition [Mk 7:7-13]
- They are God’s children – they aren’t; they are children of the devil [Jn 8:44]
- They know his will – they don’t; they are self-willed [Mk 3:35; Jn 7:17]
- They approve things that are excellent – they don’t; they didn’t approve Jesus [Gal 3:24]
- They are instructed out of the law – they aren’t; they violate the law [Mk 7:10-12]
- They are a guide of the blind – they aren’t; they are blind [Matt 23:16, 17, 19, 24, 26]
- They are a light to those in darkness – they aren’t; they are in darkness [Jn 3:18-20]; they believe that Is 42:6 and Is 49:6 refer to them
- They are an instructor of the foolish – they aren’t; they are fools [Matt 23:17, 19]
- They are a teacher of babes – they aren’t; the Father is [Lk 10:21]
They just have a FORM of knowledge and of the truth of the law [like 2 Tim 3:5]. They don’t really know the truth of the law. If they knew the truth of the law they would know that Jesus is their Messiah [Jn 5:46-47].
A Religious Jew’s Hypocrisy – Rom 2:21-24 – religious Jews, that is those who depend upon their own good works to save them, are hypocritical, like the Pharisees were. They are not taught by the rules they teach. Like all religious hypocrites, they break the law that they profess to be following. Notice:
- The law says thou shalt not steal – they are thieves [Matt 21:12-13]
- The law says thou shalt not commit adultery – they are adulterers [Matt 12:38-39]
- The law forbids the worship of idols – they are idolaters [Lk 16:13-14; Col 3:5]
Men apply the scripture one way in dealing with others’ sins and another way when dealing with their own sins. They boast in the law but they dishonor God by breaking the law they profess to uphold. And not only that, worse yet, they blaspheme the name of God among the Gentiles [compare 2 Sam 12:14].
A Religious Jew’s Circumcision – Rom 2:25-29 – Jews pride themselves in circumcision. That is as long as you are circumcised you are righteous by the law. But unless a Jew keeps the law, circumcision is of no profit [1 Cor 7:19]. A Jew who doesn’t keep the law is just like a Gentile who violates his conscience. He may as well be uncircumcised [Rom 2:25]. And as for Gentiles who have not been circumcised, if they keep the righteousness of the law, then it’s as if they have been circumcised [Rom 2:26]. A Gentile who by nature fulfills the law will judge a Jew who transgresses the law [Rom 2:27; see Matt 12:41-42].
Circumcision, therefore, if it is just outward, doesn’t make a Jew. He is only a Jew when his heart and spirit are circumcised [Rom 2:28-29]. Paul, here, is not referring to the spiritual circumcision of the new birth. He is referring to the circumcision of Deut 10:16 and Jer 9:25-26.
Conclusion: Paul makes a good case that Gentiles get in on God’s mercy when they keep the righteousness of the law and Jews who don’t keep the righteousness of the law don’t. See the Old Testament cases of the widow of Sarepta and the Syrian, Naaman [Lk 4:25-27]. And consider what Jesus said after the Centurion believed him [Matt 8:10-12]. Paul is simply establishing in this passage that a Jew cannot automatically claim righteousness just because he has been circumcised and he is called a Jew. He is setting them up to preach to them about righteousness in Jesus Christ.