Friday, 8 February 2013
Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, Romans 2:17
Paul now names the people he’s been directing his thoughts to since verse 2:1, the Jews. He has laid out his argument concisely concerning the nature of judgment for those with the law and those without the law. Now he gives three points which concern the Jew’s attitude.
1) You are called a Jew. The term Jew is applied as a general name for the people of Israel. Abraham was a Hebrew and the name was applied to those of the line of promise even to Paul’s time (Philippians 3:5). However, the people are also called “Israelites.” This is the group and nation of the people. But even this was further refined to “Jew.” The term comes from the tribe of Judah, of whom Jesus descends. Judah became the prominent tribe of the people of Israel and after the Babylonian exile, the term Jew became synonymous with any person from any of the tribes of Israel. Being called a Jew was considered an honor because they were the stewards of God’s oracles and his chosen people.
2) You “rest on the law.” Just as some people “rest on Catholicism” or “rest on their good works” or “rest on their blessings as evidence of God’s favor” the Jews rested on having the law. It became an end in and of itself. “Not only are we God’s chosen, but we have the law and thus are in right standing with God.”
3) You “make your boast in God.” The one true God revealed Himself through the promised line which eventually became the Jews. They had His law and His name rests on them – Israel means “He struggles with God.” Not only did God place the name “El” on them, but He also revealed His other names – “I AM,” “Jehovah,” “El Shaddai,” and etc. They could boast that this God, who has revealed Himself though their oracles and to their people, was surely on their side.
However, Paul has already shown that all men, both Jew and Gentile, need more than a name to be in favor with God. They also need more than the law to be in favor with God. And they need more than knowing God’s name and character to be in His favor. James explains this quite well in his epistle. Note how he brings in all three points – Abraham being a Hebrew; works of faith rather than merely having knowledge; and having a correct knowledge of who God is and yet not being right with him –
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” James 2:18-22
Life application: Again and again we see in Scripture that what God desires is faith. Our family, our denomination, or our nation of birth is irrelevant to a right standing with Him. Having a Bible in our house and even being a teacher of that Bible means nothing without faith in what it states. And knowing all about God in our heads means nothing if we don’t have a relationship with Him. Let us strive to put aside all externals and focus on what is inside – a heart and attitude which demonstrates our love for Him.
Lord Jesus, please keep my heart humble and my thoughts properly focused on You. All the knowledge in the world about who You are means nothing when I am disobedient to You. So Lord, help me to mix my knowledge with faith. And then help me to instruct others wisely based on that knowledge. All this I pray to Your glory. Amen.