THE RELIGIOUS but LOST
…Need a Righteousness from God!
Romans 2:17 – 3:20
(This study is the THIRD in a series of studies on God’s Righteousness.)
“Behold, thou art called a Jew” (vs. 17). The name “Jew” is what we would call a nickname for “Judah” who was one of Jacob’s sons and means “a praise to God.” It is used to identify all Israelites. However, sometimes it was used with a narrower and negative meaning referring to the Jews who were hostile toward Christ (Jn. 5:16, 18; 6:41, 52; 7:1). Sometimes it was used in a narrow but complimentary way when referring to any person who pleases God, whoever he may be; believing Jew or Gentile (Rom. 2:28-29). And, sometimes, as in our text, it was used as a self-righteous boast going back to the root meaning of the name Judah – “a praise to God.” There were those who claimed that because of their knowledge of God, His Law and His will, they were qualified to be guides to the blind and instructors of the unlearned. They thought that they were a real “praise to God” and possessors of His righteousness through their external show of religious rituals and laws. The boastful and self-righteous Jews were ignorant of the righteousness that comes by faith in God’s provision of righteousness (Mt. 23:23-35; Rom. 3:10). They had, as the Apostle Paul says, “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5). They are the representatives of all men of all dispensations—men who are religious…but lost!
Paul puts five pointed rhetorical questions to these religious but lost men in Verses 21-23. All the implied answers being a resounding, “Yes!” In verses 24 through 27 Paul formally charges them with blasphemy and hypocrisy. The Jews had based their justification and righteousness on the ritual of circumcision. In Verses 28 and 29 he establishes the fact that salvation (imputation of righteousness and justification before God) is a matter of faith, the heart and spirit, not of ritual and ceremony and observance of external forms. Only those thusly declared righteous before God may lay claim to being a Jew; meaning …a praise to God.
Note: There is no justification whatsoever, either here in this verse or anywhere else in the Scriptures, to claim that members of the Body of Christ (believers of this Dispensation of Grace) are spiritual Israel. It is spiritual robbery for any to claim Israel’s name or blessings based on this verse. Israel still has a future and will receive much blessing in the day they believe (Rom. 11:25-27). The believer today can lay claim to being a Jew only in one way and that is if he understands the name in a non-racial or non-religious sense and only as a synonym for “praise to God.” It is only the person who has cast aside every work and ritual and believes that God alone is the “just and justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” who is a “praise, not of men, but of God” (vs. 29).
Now in Chapter 3:1-8, Paul answers some of the questions that these religious men were asking:
Questions: “What advantage hath the Jews?” “What profit is there of Circumcision?”
Answer: “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” As the apple of God’s eye; the head nation; and the chosen people, the Jew had a head start over the rest of the peoples of the world. In Romans 9:4 Paul said, “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises.” Oh! What privilege. What blessing!
Questions: “What if some did not believe?” “Will man’s unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?”
Answer: No, indeed, “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” God will be true though all others be false. Count on this always, make it a principle of life, take it into your every day experiences.
Questions: “If our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say?” “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?”
Answer: “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?”
Question: “If the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto His glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?”
Answer: Man’s sin does give God the occasion to display His marvelous grace. At the same time, it must be remembered that it is impossible for God to be unfair or unjust (Gen. 18:5). Furthermore, it is not right for the clay to judge the potter (Rom. 9:21). Sin is sin and guilt is guilt. Both remain just the same, and call for punishment. A lie, even if told by the president or the king can never be justified, no matter what the consequences or circumstances may be. Sinners can be thankful that “Grace reigns,” and it reigns “in righteousness.” God deals with us on the basis of Calvary.
Chapter 3:9-20 closes the trial. The books are closed and the verdict is in: “all under sin.” The religious man is no better than the immoral man. “Every mouth is stopped, and all the world is guilty before God.” It is not a pleasant picture. Read these verses slowly. It is not hard to see our wicked heart and guilty state to which we were born in Adam reflected in the Holy Spirit’s diagnosis of our wicked and deceitful heart.
A personal question to any whom may not yet know the freedom and joy of sins forgiven and the hope of eternal life. Do you want to be saved? Do you want the righteousness that only comes through faith in the blood of Christ? Remember, feeling guilty, confessing your sin, promising to keep the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule or even praying will not save you. You are saved by believing, by believing that Christ came into the world to save sinners. He was your substitute. He died in your place. He paid your sin debt (Col. 3:13-14). “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25). Friend, you are not only guilty but you are helpless to deliver yourself. Throw yourself on His mercy and by grace receive the gift of salvation by faith in Christ alone.
I must needs go home by the way of the cross.
There is no other way than this.
I shall never get sight of those gates of light.
If the way of the cross I miss.