A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Jew Under the Sentence of Condemnation
Paul put his finger on a terrible inconsistency of the Jew (2:22). The Jew would shudder righteously if he saw an idol in a temple, or in speaking of idolatry; and yet he was willing to deal, as a merchant, in the very plunder that men stole out of those temples!
Not every Jew was guilty of all that Paul names here. Not every Jew was an adulterer nor a thief, but there was one respect in which every Jew failed. The first thing Paul asks is "Teachest thou thyself?" Every Jew failed to teach himself, and the Jews are not peculiar in that respect. We might put that question to the church and a good many Bible teachers today. "Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, doest thou steal?" What a man says is worth nothing unless it has come into his own life and been worked out there in righteousness and service for God.
Paul stops asking questions and makes a direct charge: "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." And then he adds, "as it is written." The Jew trusted in the law (or what we call the Old Testament), and Paul says in effect, "This charge is not mine. The very law in which you trust condemns you and proves that you have blasphemed the name of God through your life among the Gentiles" (see Isaiah 52:5). Jesus made a similar statement: "Think not that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, on whom ye have set your hope" (John 5:45). The prophet Ezekiel was told by God: "They profaned my holy name; in that men said of them, these are the people of Jehovah" (Ezekiel 36:20). When the Jews lived among the Gentiles, the Gentiles looked at them saw how they lived, and said, "If this is the people of Jehovah, what kind of God must Jehovah be!" That is the charge.
In Paul's own words, they were "Instructed out of the law" (v. 18), "having in the law the form of knowledge and of the truth" (v. 20), he made his boast in the law (see v. 23), and yet he broke it. Paul's conclusion: the Jew dare not take refuge in the law, because he had broken that law, and that same law now condemns him.
What will be the Jew's answer? He will say, "Perhaps that is true, therefore I cannot take refuge in it, but I am circumcised, and circumcision is the mark of God upon His own. No circumcised can be lost."
His Circumcision Cannot Save the Jew
"Circumcision indeed profiteth, if thou be a doer of the law: but if thou be a transgressor of the law, thy circumcision is become uncircumcision (2:25). It can be summed up in a sentence: Circumcision could not save the Jew because he had not kept the law.
"If therefore the uncircumcision [the Gentile] keep the ordinances of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be reckoned for circumcision?" (2:26). Lack of circumcision would not condemn a Gentile just as the possession of circumcision would not save the Jew. The whole question rests upon the law. The Jew cannot be saved by his circumcision, because he has not kept the law; but if the Gentile did keep the law, lack of circumcision would not condemn him. And furthermore, the morality of the uncircumcised Gentile will judge and condemn the Jew who is circumcised. The very fact that the Jew was a circumcised man would only heighten his guilt in the eyes of God, because it showed he had the law.
This situation has a parallel among religious people today, too. The man who trusts in the rite of baptism, in membership in the Christian church will face a heightened guilt and condemnation in the eyes of God. His conduct with the doctrines of Christianity increases his responsibility.
The conclusion here is that circumcision could profit a man if he kept the law. But the Jew had broken the law; therefore it was worthless to him as a means of salvation. The Jew's answer would be: "Perhaps I have broken the law, and perhaps that divinely appointed rite, the seal of God, is worthless to me, but I am still a Jew. I am a son of Abraham, and God has made certain promises to the sons of Abraham and the Jews, that He dare not break. That will save me."
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 26 - "His Birth Cannot Save the Jew")