Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who needs the Gospel? The Jew (Church Goer) Needs the Gospel

This is Part three of the Sermon Series: Who Needs the Gospel?

The Jew needs the Gospel

Reading: Romans 2:17-3:8

In our earlier discussions, we have looked at the Gospel and its power. We have seen the heathen in his abandoned state and his need for the Gospel to lift him up. We have looked at the double standard of the moralist and his need for salvation. In all of these, only the Gospel offers a ray of hope. It is the “power of God unto salvation” Today we want to move ahead to look into the Church: Does anybody inside the Church need the Gospel? When Amos was delivering his message to the religious congregation in Israel moving towards Jerusalem for religious festivities, it was good message when he spoke of the transgressions of Damascus, Tyre, Ammon, Moab etc. God would pour out His wrath on those heathen nations. But when he said: “for the transgressions of Judah and Israel”, the message became sour. When Jesus asked His Disciples “Who do men say that I AM?” It was easy to answer but when He asked them “Who do you say that I AM” the answer was slower in coming. So today, does anybody in our Church need the Gospel?

First let us look at the passage: 

What class of people is the Holy Spirit dealing with in this section? Look at verse 17: “Behold, you are called a Jew”; verse 28 “For he is not a Jew”; verse 29 – “But he is a Jew” and 3:1 – “What advantage then has the Jew?”, Four times the word Jew appears. 

Certainly, that identifies the group to whom he is addressing the argument. 

When Paul started to condemn the world, the Jew claimed to be exempt on three grounds. Paul himself was a Jew, so he knew all the grounds. 

1.  Because he was a son of Abraham – Look at the reply of the Jews to Jesus Christ in John 8:33 – “We are Abraham’s seed” 

2.  Because he had the law - The Jew rested his hope on possession of the Law. 

3. Because he was circumcised. Old Rabbinical writings contained such statements as “No circumcised man will be lost.” It was even said in the days of Paul that Abraham stood at the gates of Hades or hell, seeing that no circumcised man was ever cast into Hell. 

Paul dealt with all the three claims. Three words are the key words in this section.

In the first section the emphasis is on the law. “Rests in the law” (v.17); instructed out of the law (V.18); the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law (v.20); and “you that make your boasts in the law, through breaking the law you dishonour God (V.23) 

In the second section, the emphasis is on circumcision – “circumcision verily profits ... your circumcision is made un-circumcision” (v.35) See also verses 26 and 27.

The third section emphasizes lineage: “He is not a Jew ... (v.28), but he is a Jew (v.29). 

So Paul is saying: 
Vv 17-24 – The Law cannot save the Jew 
Vv 25 – 27 – Circumcision cannot save the Jew 
Vv 28 – 29 - Birth cannot save the Jew.

So, let us with Paul examine the three things the Jew would rest his hopes on.

The Law Cannot Save the Jew

The Apostle first states the position of the Jew in verses 17-24. In that passage we find five advantages upon which the Jew based his hopes. Let us compare these with the claims of many Christians today:

His name: The name "Jew" is from Judah and that means “one who is praised”. The Jew was proud of that name believing anyone who bore that name was praised of God. “Whose praise is not of men but of God?” (v.29) Paul no doubt was thinking of the meaning of the name here. Compare that with the name “Christian” (Christ one) which many in our Churches answer without being a “Christ one”.

His Trust: He trusted in the Law. He trusted that the law would save him. The Bible is still the best-seller. Many buy them to put them under their pillows and to carry on their trips and to decorate their shelves and tables. They trust that in emergency, the Bible would become a charm. They do not read it and do not believe it.

His Boast: The Jew boasted that the God of the Jews was the true God. Certainly He is. That is an Old Testament doctrine. In Isaiah 45:25 – The Jew is commanded to glory in God. But there is a boasting in God which is good, and there is a boasting in God which is nothing less than blasphemy! Can we not say the same of many of our Christians today?

His Knowledge: Verse 18 reads: “And knows His will, and approves the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the Law” The will here is the divine will. A great knowledge, isn’t it? The same as Christians today claim to know!

His Confidence: The confidence of the Jew involves four roles he believed were his – “a guide for the blind”; “a light of them which are in darkness”; “an instructor of the foolish” and “a teacher of babes” (2:19-20) Paul’s words carry just a touch of sarcasm. “You are confident” he says to the Jew. Paul knew the religious Jew and that is how he felt those days. In the same way as we, the religionists today feel. The Jew thought that the Gentile was blind, in darkness, and that he was a fool and did not know anything. The Gentile was considered immature only a babe. The Pharisee believed he had to get the blind Gentile, and guide him, enlighten him and instruct him. Is it not how we feel about those outside the Church?
Every one of these five aspects of the Jew’s role revolves around the Law. The Jew’s name came from the Law. His trust was in the Law. He boasted in the true God, who was revealed in the Law. He knew the will of God; it was shown in the Law. The Jew was confident that he was a teacher of the Law. 

If you substitute the Jew with the Christian and the Law with the Bible, you get a very clear picture of what we are saying about the crowd in the Church who know the Bible but not the God of the Bible. 

From verse 21 Paul begins with a series of searching questions. He first affirms the Jews roles: “You therefore which teach ... you that preach ... you that say ... you that abhor ... you that make your boast...” On the basis of these attitudes and actions the questions begin to roll out “Do you teach yourself? Do you steal? Do you commit adultery? Do you desecrate temples? Do you break the law?” Paul is not accusing him of doing these things, he is only asking him to ask himself. Paul did not say: “You are a thief”, Paul says “Are you a thief?”. He arouses the conscience of the Jew by those questions. Verse 22 is a terrible inconsistency in the Jew. The Jew would shudder to see an idol in the 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, but there was one aspect in which every Jew failed - Collective responsibility

The first thing Paul asks is: “Do you teach yourself?” Every Jew failed to teach himself. We might put that question to the Church and a good many Bible teachers today. “You that teach another, do you not teach yourself? You that preach that a man should not steal, do you 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 to God. 

Paul stops asking questions and makes a direct charge “For the name of God is blasphemed amongst the Gentiles because of you.” And then he adds; “as it is written”. Paul is here making reference to the law which the Jew trusted. He is saying 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 (Isaiah 52:5). Jesus made a similar statement in John 5:45 when He said: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuses you, even Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” (Moses represents the Law) 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?” This is Paul’s charge. This is also true of many Christians today. 

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 (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 the Jews answer? Well, perhaps that is true, therefore I cannot take refuge in it, but I am still circumcised, and circumcision is the work of God upon His own. No circumcised Jew can be lost.

Circumcision Cannot Save the Jew

In verse 25, Paul states “Circumcision indeed profits, if you are a doer of the Law; but if you be a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision is become un-circumcision.” It can be summed up in a sentence: “Circumcision could not save the Jew because he had not kept the Law” According to v.26, lack of circumcision would not condemn a Gentile just as the possession of circumcision would not save the Jew. The whole question rests on 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 the religious people today.

 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 contact 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 of circumcision, 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 God dare not break. That will save me” 

Birth Cannot Save the Jew

Paul now turns to the third section and deals with the question of birth (See verses 28 -29). Paul shows that there is such a thing as being a Jew merely in outward form. But God demands an inward reality and would not recognize any man as a Jew unless he has that. Some people think that this statement teaches that every Christian is a Jew, but what it really teaches is that every Jew is not a Jew. No man can be a Jew unless he is born outwardly as a son of Abraham, and also inwardly in Spirit; therefore. A man born only outwardly of Abraham is not a true Jew.

Notice the contradicting word pairs – outwardly, inwardly; flesh, heart; spirit, the letter; man, God. These two verses are similar in content to what Christ said to Nicodemus in John 3:3; “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. Nicodemus was a Jew outwardly, he had everything outwardly, he needs an inward circumcision of the heart (Jeremiah 4:4). These two verses help to answer a difficult question that Paul would raise latter in (11:26) where Paul says “that all Jews shall be saved”. Is it possible that all Jews shall be saved? The answer is yes, every one of them, but “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly”

The Jew, in order to be a real Jew had to be born of God. God demands an inward reality, not merely the outward shell of profession that the Jew had; hence Paul described them as “Behold, you that are called a Jew” (v.17). They are just called Jews. This is very much like what we find in our Churches today. There are many who are just called Christians. Let us paraphrase verses 28 -29 to see how it applies to our Church situation.

For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, neither is that baptism which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Christian which is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart; in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God

Outward rite without inward reality profits nothing.

Now I will add a fourth section. 

Argument Cannot Save the Jew

The Jew behaves like some of the Christians in our Churches today – he takes refuge in argument. If a man is uncovered, he will flee to another refuge and hide; finally he is entirely uncovered and convinced that he has no place to flee from the indictment that he is a sinner. It is then that he will resort to argument. This is what the Jew does. This is what many people you confront with the Gospel do. This is frequently the refuge of the sinner. Show him that he is a sinner, and he begins to enumerate his achievements – his Church membership, his baptism, his confirmation, his membership of Church organisations, then he begins to raise objections. Answer his objections and he will leave them and object to your answers. Often he will just keep on doing this.

In the first eight verses of Chapter 3, we find a kind of dialogue:

· Verse 1 - Objection
· Verse 2 - Paul’s answer
· Verse 3 - Objection
· Verse 4 - Paul’s answer
· Verse 5 - Objection
· Verse 6 - Paul’s answer
· Verse 7 - Objection
· Verse 8 - Paul’s answer

Paul had been a Pharisee once and knew the pattern of their thinking. In all the arguments, there is only one real objection and that is in the first verse; and when Paul answered that, the Jew squirms and varies his objection slightly, though Paul had already answered him.

Romans 3:1: “What advantage then has the Jew? Or what is the profit of circumcision?" What advantage is there in being a Christian, if all you say is true Paul? If we are condemned with the rest of the world, what good is it to be a Christian?

Romans 3:2: Paul answers “Much in every way, first of all, that they were entrusted with the oracle of God” 

The Jew somehow thought that by being a Jew, he could escape the judgment of God. But nevertheless there is an advantage in being a Jew (See 9:4-5) A great deal, but Paul is not going to discuss all the various reasons; he is just going to take one – “the oracles of God – Scripture”. The word oracles singled out a certain element in Scripture – the prophetic element – the promises concerning Jesus Christ. Was that not a tremendous advantage for the Jew to have? That in his hands God committed the oracles that told of the coming of the Messiah? The Jew ought to have known Christ when He came. The very advantage that the Jew had was the very thing that condemned him, because he did not believe in the Messiah when He came. He did not make the most use of his advantage. Is it not the same as the many Christians in our Churches today? They have the Bible which speaks of Christ and the salvation He gives yet they spurned the Bible and Christ and the salvation. 

The Jew knew that this was a good answer. But he side-steps the answer by objecting to something in it

Romans 3:3: The Jew knew that he had not believed those oracles, and so he says “Well, what if some of us did not believe, shall our unbelief cancel out the faithfulness of God?” What the Jew is saying is “supposing that God back in the Old Testament did promise the Jews a Messiah; supposing that He came and some of us did not believe; would not God have to keep His promise to the Jewish nation anyway?” He is arguing that God must keep His promises whether the Jew is a sinner or a righteous man. 

Romans 3:4: Paul’s answer is sharp “God forbid! God’s faithfulness cannot fail – it cannot be made ‘of none effect’. Yea, let God be found true, but every man a liar”. If every man in the world becomes a liar, God will remain true. The Psalmist seems to be saying the same thing when in Psalm 51:4 he says – “That You may be justified when you speak and be clear when You judge.”

Romans 3:5: The response of the Jew is equally clever but very wicked. The Jew took the Scripture, twisted it out of shape, and made a terrible thing. He said “But if our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God, what shall we say, is God unrighteous who visits us with wrath?”. The word commend means render conspicuous or bring out in a clearer light. In other words: “If our unrighteousness makes clearer the righteousness of God, He would be unrighteous to take advantage or vengeance on us!” 

Romans 3:6: Again, Paul’s answer is very sharp and forceful: “God forbid; for then how shall God judge the world?” Every Jew believed that God would judge the world. Paul is therefore saying, if God cannot judge the sinner because his sin makes the righteousness of God more conspicuous, then He cannot deal with any sinner. That sort of reasoning would clear the slate for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews, and it would get rid of all judgment. 

The Jew makes a further step in the objection

Romans 3:7: “If the truth of God through my lie abounded unto His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?” This argument is very much like the last. The Jew is somewhat pressing that there ought to be a way of escape. This new reasoning is clever but fallacious. It is an attempt to escape the real issue and serves as a present refuge of sinners, and the Jew was one such. 

Romans 3:8: Paul’s answer is not as direct this time as in earlier cases. He rather took it in a roundabout way. He said, okay, if you fellows are going to say that, then let us press that argument to its logical conclusion and see just exactly where it leads us, - the logical conclusion is “Let us do evil that good may come” – the end justifies the means. It does not matter what you do, as long as the end is good. “Let us do evil that good may come”. Paul says that is exactly what they say about us, and it is slanderous! 

There are two very solemn lessons from this.

The strictest legalism leads to the worst licence.

Many well-meaning people want to keep the Law today. They want to impose it on us Christians. They say, “If you do not teach the Ten Commandments, soon your folks will be sinning, and they would not care what they do. They say if you teach eternal salvation, then the people will sin, knowing that whatever they do, there is no loss of salvation". That is wrong. Shall we continue in sin, in wrong teaching and false doctrine, so that good may come?

There no refuge for a sinner in keeping the Law

Just as the Jew trusted in his Law, his circumcision, and his birth, so those who are born of Christian parents and christened when they were babies keep the Ten Commandments, (which they do not really keep), and think God will let them by. They need to read this passage and realize that there is no refuge for a sinner in keeping the Law, in Church membership and Church ordinances, in mere human birth, no matter how good the family may be from which they come, Both the Jew and the Gentile are “all under sin” (v.9) 

From the argument of this passage, is there no reason to praise God that He has made a way of escape from the condemnation He has brought upon the world? But this privilege gives us a responsibility – they, the Jew, and the ‘Christian’ need the Gospel. Many of them are in the Church under false protection. They need to be reached with the Gospel – “the power of God unto salvation”. “Who will go for us and who shall we send?” This has been God’s question since the days of Isaiah. It is still today. Can He depend on you?

Read the rest of the series Who needs the gospel?

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