by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 February 1, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(096)Thesis:The smugness of being "right" is a huge stumbling block to being able to genuinely relate to God.
Introduction:This evening we are going to begin to look into Paul's third "salvo" against man in his sin as we turn our attention to Romans 2:17-29. What we are going to look at is the question of how a person's self-concept affects his relationship to God.
I. The Background.
A. In 1:18-32, Paul addressed the "general" condition of unredeemed humanity.
1. He accused "them" of being arrogant against the knowledge of God (1:22) by "claiming" something that was not true.
2. His conclusion regarding "them" was that they spitefully do evil (1:32).
B. In 2:1-6, Paul addressed a somewhat smaller subset of unredeemed humanity.
1. He was not moving to a different "kind" of person in the sense that he would admit that there are some unredeemed human beings who are not spitefully evil.
2. He was moving to a more "developed" group of persons in the sense that, in the face of "knowing the judgment of God...that they who do these things are worthy of death...", there will always be some who want to distance themselves from their guilt.
a. This is an impossible task: the guilt is real.
b. But, the consequences of real guilt are enormously destructive, and there are many who do not want to face them.
1) The humiliation of being judged "unworthy" is a severe wound.
2) The fear of being "rejected from a relationship" is a severe wound.
3) The pain of being "subjected to physical violence" is a severe wound.
c. So, the effort of men to distance themselves from their guilt does two awful things...
1) It compounds the guilt.
2) It makes them more resistant to the only solution available.
a) This "developing resistance" is manifest in a "greater" foolishness than 1:22 in that thinking one can escape the judgment of God by being a critic is more foolish than thinking oneself to be "wise".
b) Being a "critic" hardens a person toward any admission of being a failure.
C. In 2:17-29, Paul moves to the "inner circle" of unredeemed humanity: those who attribute to themselves qualities of the highest order in order to escape the reality of their sin.
1. From a cursory reading of 2:17-20, it is as plain as can be that Paul is addressing a group who make some profound claims for themselves.
2. From a cursory reading of the rest of the paragraph, it is also as plain as can be that Paul rejected the claims as inordinatelypreposterous.
3. In the larger context, Paul has not moved away from, but into the center of, man's baptism into sin.
a. In this inner core, the arrogance is the greatest.
b. In this inner core, the evil is the most subtle.
c. In this inner core, the resistance to the Truth is of the highest form.
d. From this inner core, there are only a few who ever escape...a fact to which Paul's doctrine of the remnant attests...because the blindness is at its peak.
II. The Claims.
A. The first claim: I am a "Jew".
1. The textual transmission problems need to be clarified.
a. Paul did not write "Behold..." (ide), but "Now if..." (ei de).
b. Nor did he write "...thou art called a Jew.../...you bear the name...", but "...you call yourself a Jew...".
c. Paul is saying that "Jew" is the first "line of defense" that these folks have erected for themselves to handle the accusation that they are unworthy of God's approval, acceptance, and material care.
2. The essence of the claim needs also to be clarified.
a. By the first century, it was common for Israelites to call themselves "Jews" as a consequence of the developments of history.
1) In the development of history, Jacob (renamed Israel) fathered twelve sons from four women, and these became the seedbed of the entire nation of Israel.
2) As things progressed, this nation of twelve tribes became corrupted so that it was eventually split into two nations -- one of which retained the original name "Israel" and the other adopted the name "Judah"...the progenitor and his fourth son.
3) Then, as the mystery of iniquity continued to develop, that nation which had retained the original name became so apostate that YWHW spewed it out of its national lands; this left only "Judah".
4) Then, through the process of heavy divine discipline, Judah also was removed from the land -- but only for 70 years and then was "regathered". It retained its name of "Judah".
5) Judah is the root of the word "Jew".
b. By the first century, it was also common for these Israelites to have completely lost their "Jewishness".
1) The name's origins were rooted in a "lesson" that was to have been learned.
2) The "lesson" was that "favor cannot be earned".
3) The subsequent conclusion was supposed to have been that "praising Yahweh" for His "unearned favor" meant that one "praised Yahweh", not because he had become morally superior to his fellows, but because Yahweh had dismissed the problem of total moral corruption by grace.
4) And this conclusion was to have resulted in Yahweh's "praise" of those who do not resist the humiliation of their failures, but embrace Yahweh's great grace.
5) So "Jews" were supposed to be "praising Yahweh" (Genesis 29) and they were supposed to only be interested in being "praised" by Yahweh.
6) But, instead, there was an entire host of people who were "calling themselves" "Jews"...
a) There are only two reasons for anyone to "call himself" something...
i. To benefit the hearer of the claim...
ii. To seek a benefit for the speaker of the claim...
b) The self-proclaimed "Jews" were not interested in seeking to produce true benefit for others (see Matthew 23:15).
c) That only leaves one option: they "called themselves Jews" so that they could obtain the praises of men -- thus denying that they were "Jews" at at.