Summary: Expository sermon challenging the congregation to live what they believe.
This morning we continue from where we left off in the book of Romans, which is chapter 2 and verse 17. So far we have heard the apostle Paul laying out the principles by which God is going to judge the world, and how because of this, the Gentiles stood condemned. Paul now moves to the second part of his argument which is, how this all applies to the Jews. Let’s take a closer look, and see how what is said this morning, may apply to us…
Vs. 17, 18, 19, 20- Up until this point and time, the Jews could hear what Paul was saying about the Gentiles, and agreed whole heartedly. Yes God is going to judge the world, and yes, the Gentiles do stand condemned. Beginning in verse 17, Paul starts listing all of the privileges that the Jewish nation enjoyed, and these privileges included:
(1.) “Call yourself a Jew”- The Hebrews considered being called a Jew a great honor, and placed immense value on it. The origins of the name however, are not known for certain. They were called the children of Israel until the time of Rehoboam. When the ten tribes were carried into captivity, only two remained the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The name Jews was evidently given to denote those of the tribe of Judah. The reasons why the name of Benjamin was lost, were probably:
a. Because the tribe of Benjamin was small and without much influence or importance.
b. The Messiah was to come from the tribe of Judah according to Genesis 49:10, and the tribes importance would be proportionate to the significance of that event.
The name of Jews would therefore be one that would suggest the facts that they were saved from captivity, that they had received miraculous protection from God, and that the Messiah was to be sent to that people. This being the case, it is not surprising that they should regard it as an honor to be a Jew, and particularly when they added to this all of the other favors connected with their being the special people of God. As a result, the name “Jew” came to denote all the miracles and special favors of their religion.
(2.) “Rely on the law”- The word “rely” here is evidently used in the sense of trusting to, or leaning upon. The Jew leaned on, or relied on the Law for acceptance or favor; on the fact that they had the Law, and on their obedience to it. It does not mean that they relied on their own works, though that was true, but that they leaned on the fact that they had the Law, and as such were distinguished above others.
(3.) “Relationship to God”- You brag, or glory, that you have the knowledge of the true God, while other nations are in darkness. On this account the Jew felt himself far superior to all other people, and despised them. Now, It was true that only had the true knowledge of God, and that he had declared himself to be their God, Deu_4:7; Psa_147:19-20; but this was not a ground for boasting, but for gratitude. This passage shows us that it is much more common to boast about privileges than to be thankful for them, and that it is no proof of holiness for a man to brag of his knowledge of God. We should have a humble, passionate thankfulness that we have that knowledge, and it should cause us not to despise others, but to desire that they may have the same privilege - this is evidence of holiness.
(4.) “Know His will”- The will or commands of God. And how do they know it? This knowledge they obtained from the Scriptures; and of course in this they were distinguished from other nations.
(5.) “approve of what is superior”- The Greek word translated “approve” here is capable of two interpretations. It can either mean to distinguish, or to approve. The word is usually used to describe the process of testing or trying metals by fire. As a result, it comes to be used in a general sense to try or to distinguish anything; to determine its nature, or quality; Luk_12:56. This is probably its meaning here, referring to the intellectual process of discriminating, rather than to the moral process of approving. If the interpretation of the word “approve” is correct, then this word translated “superior” here means those things that differ from others. This reference then, is to the rites and customs, to the distinctions of meats and days, etc., that were prescribed by the Law of Moses. The Jews would pride themselves on the fact that they had been taught by the Law to make these distinctions, while the entire pagan world had been left in ignorance. This was one of the advantages to which he valued himself and his religion.