17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
1901 ASV Translation:
17 But if thou bearest the name of a Jew, and restest upon the law, and gloriest in God,
In verse 17, the Textus Receptus has the equivalent of "Behold" and the Nestle/Aland 26 has, instead, "But if". The difference is that the Nestle/Aland 26 has the Greek letter epsilon in the text before the iota that is in both texts. That extra letter, plus a different way of dividing the lettering, creates this difference.
I. With 2:17 the apostle begins to take on the self-righteousness (see 10:3) of what he calls "a Jew".
A. In view of 3:9, we know that it is his intent to demonstrate the "under sin" condition of all men except those who belong to Christ.
B. Given this intent, and given the propensity of the "Jew" toward self-righteousness (Romans 10:3), Paul determines to first address the "self-concept" that was prevalent among those he says "call themselves 'Jews'".
1. The first issue he addressed was the "confidence" they claimed in the face of the Day of Wrath on the basis of their physical connections; i.e., their "Jewishness".
2. The second issue he addressed was the "confidence" they claimed in the fact of the Day of Wrath on the basis of their "soul" connections; i.e., their "resting upon the Law".
II. The Third Issue of the Verse: "Boasting".
A. The essential parts of "boasting"...
1. First, there is the fact that it is a "response" to a "need". In our context, the "need" is for a way to escape condemnation in the Day of Wrath.
2. Second, there is the fact that the word used (translated "boasting") is often used in the New Testament to refer, not to an action of the lips, but to an inner feeling of exulting because of the combination of love and faith as they give a strong sense that one is extremely valuable.
3. Third, there is the fact that the word is also often used in reference to the actions of the lips as a "methodology" of man to do either of two things...
a. To express the inner sense of exultant joy...a sense already possessed and seeking an outlet in expression.
b. To try to obtain that inner sense of exultant joy...an attempt to acquire what is not there.
4. Fourth, there is the fact that "boasting" typically refers to the spirit of man in light of the fact that it is almost always associated with "performance" issues, which are the realm of the spirit as the "energizer" of performance.
B. "Boasting" is, typically, a function of the spirit of man as he attempts to establish himself as "of value".
1. Sometimes this is a very grave evil because it sponsors all manner of conflict between the one who wishes to be "exalted" and those who will be "victimized" by his "exaltation".
2. Sometimes, this is not evil at all because it only sponsors a distinction between the one wishing to be "exalted" and those who will not share his "position".
a. It is without debate that being exalted to the position of "child of God" is not a desire that is seen in Scripture as an evil thing.
b. Likewise, to be extended the high priviledge of the position of "child of God" is to be granted a significant distinction from the "children of wrath".
C. "Boasting" is also typically a function of the spirit of man as he attempts to establish his value on the basis of his achievements.
1. This is, since Genesis 3, a pervasive evil.
2. The only "boasting" that is allowed in Scripture is that which is based upon the grace extended to a person by the God Who has exalted him for His own reasons and to accomplish His own purposes [Note carefully 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 4:7]. This absolutely rejects the foundation of one's own achievements as a basis for "boasting". It puts him into the "humility zone" that guards him from sponsoring the evil toward others that boasting of one's accomplishments always creates.
D. "Boasting in God" is also a complex issue.
1. There is nothing more dangerous than answering the question: Who is God?
a. The danger exists because a wrong answer puts the absolute-ground of all of life into falsehood and makes the entire life that is built upon that foundation a lie.
b. The danger also exists because a wrong answer that makes all of life a lie puts the "liar" on a direct, eternal, collision course with the True God.
c. The danger also exists because a wrong answer, which makes life a lie and a future collision with the True God inevitable, also sponsors a life of deep and abiding commitment to the "God" and even the consideration that one might be wrong tends to be seen both as an insult to the "God" but also a denial of "faith". This makes "conversion" an extremely difficult "event" because of the upheaval involved in jerking the foundation stone out from under the entirety of the life that has been built upon it.
d. The danger also exists because there is only a very small step from the "answer" to the "attitude" that follows...and if the "attitude" is evil, the "answer" is wrong even if the words are right [The Jews' claim that their God, as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was the True God was true in the words, but the pride in the attitude signaled the reality of "drawing near with the lips while maintaining a great distance in the heart"]. The True God is not the sponsor of evil attitudes.
2. There is nothing more necessary than answering the question: Who is God?
a. This is not an "optional" necessity (man cannot "not" answer the question because he must have a foundation to build life upon).
1) Even atheists do not escape this necessity by their "denial" that there is a "god" because they invariably fall back upon some "argument" which establishes the presence of "authority" in their lives (whatever establishes the "truth" of their arguments is their "god"). The essence of the definition of "god" is "authority" and it is an inescapable fact of all existence.
2) Agnostics are a bit more "honest" in that they look at the task of trying to ferret out the identity of the True God and declare it too large for their abilities. But, they are not, by this form of "honesty", exempted from the necessity of the answer: man cannot live without "authority" in his existence.
b. This is not a necessity of "convenience" that can be easily "decided" just to get on with the process.
c. This is the foundation of existence as it relates to man as a living, feeling, choosing creature in a cause/effect universe with a destiny in view of the Day of Wrath.