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October 15, 2017

"THE ROMAN JEWS AND THE GOSPEL"

TEXT: Romans 2: 17-29
READING:  Psalm 147: 1-20

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SUBJ: The attention drawn to the Jews because of their unique position as a nation and as ones who had much experience in the things of the Law of God and so thought themselves sufficient.

AIM: That we might despair of anything regarding personal credibility that is separate from Christ no matter how religious and connected it might seem.

INTR: Having dealt with the matter of universal sin in chapters 1 and 2, Paul turns to a specific and unique case that would have been very personal to him – his people the Jews.
1. It is as this point that we might ask what this has to do with us. The answer would be found in seeing the nature of their sin and that it can occur in other situations as well.
2. The scriptures declare that no other nation ever had the privileges and were taught as were the Jews and that causes certain claims to be registered by them even today.
3. Yet, the message we would see in this passage is that those things held to in the absence of true faith in Christ our Lord provide only a veneer and fails on two counts: their ability to live up to that which they claim as special favor and that those even discover them they would seek to impress.

THESIS: The strictest of moral codes and the most diligent pursuit of outward religion avails nothing where such is not the product of a new heart and the putting away of the flesh in repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. A profession heard (vv. 17-20)
1. While we read in the Old Testament of the divine requirements for holy living and for passing of these truths from generation to generation it is evident that those to whom these things were given failed to live up to them.
2. It simply became a badge of honor to them as a people notwithstanding that faith was there in some.
3. Those things applied in a new heart rise to the level of honoring God in the person who does them.
4. The claim made and the manner of it reflect pride in human accomplishment
1) They knew the Law well and manifested a semblance of honor to it and proudly so
2) They understood, at least outwardly, in that much is easily related to life
3) They believed the instruction of the Gentiles was for them to do (it is evident that many made this claim when they witnessed the operations of the Gospel and perhaps others felt they should be reverenced for their knowledge and heritage.
4) After all they had been taught and were strictly teaching the same rituals and laws to their children – certainly a good example in that regard.
5) But, in fact, they professed in outward action what they did no profess inwardly.
5. Such are they who think themselves superior because of heritage, knowledge, or station.
6. Paul may have referenced to converted Jews who were reluctant to depart from their past religion and/or thought themselves to be superior Christians because of those things.

II. A provocation discovered (vv. 21-24)
1. The Jews had a long history of being in violation of the very things they professed to teach in the Law. This then was the challenge of Paul here and it is that to which we can bear witness in other venues.
1) Many who aspire to greatness in the eyes of men, for any reason, will often fall into the very things they preach – We have had some brought to our attention in modern times.
2) In the absence of a living relationship to Christ rationalization becomes a fatal deception.
3) Without stating it explicitly, Paul points to national pride and the thought that simply being Jews and possessing the knowledge was sufficient.
4) The things here called out are things that Christ had exposed in the Sermon on the Mount as being sins of the heart.
2. The world outside of the grace of God is constantly looking for justification apart from Christ and they often find it in observing the lives of the religious and sanctimonious.
1) Certain behaviors are quickly recognized as inconsistent and become causes to condone other things in themselves.
2) The vilest of sinners can spot a hypocrite and feel vindicated.
3. The most important thing to realize is that such behaviors fosters the blaspheming of the Name of God in the world.

III. A profound truth revealed (vv. 25-29)
1. Ritual circumcision is often mentioned as a distinguishing factor between Jews and Gentiles.
1) It was a sign given to Abraham that signified the putting away of the flesh.
2) It became a point of proud distinction with the Jews
2. Paul turns the thoughts to fact that neither avails apart from truly keeping the Law as a matter of eternal life rather than a fair show in the flesh. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. Galatians 6:15.
3. The things addressed here would equally apply to any outward form of religion that lacked the true elements of love, faith, and hope in Christ.
4. John Gill wrote: “But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, … Who has an internal work of grace upon his soul: who has not only an outward name, but an inward nature; not the law of God in the hand, but in the heart; not an external righteousness only, but internal holiness; and who is not a mere outward court worshipper, but a worshipper of God in spirit and in truth.”
5. The true putting off of the flesh is that which occurs when Godly sorrow leads to repentance.