MBS087 THE BOOK OF ROMANS AND THE JEWS
By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
One of the ways to outline the Book of Romans is to divide it into three sections. First, chapters 1–8 deal with the theology of righteousness in the three main areas of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Secondly, chapters 9–11 deal with God’s righteousness in relationship to Israel. And thirdly, chapters 12–16 deal with the practice of righteousness.
A previous study was an exposition of chapters 9, 10, and 11, but it did not contain all that Paul had to say about the Jewish people. The purpose of this study is to see what else he said about the Jewish people within the Book of Romans in five passages: Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9–10; Romans 2:17–3:9; Romans 15:8–9; and Romans 15:25–27.
I. ROMANS 1:16–17
The context of the first passage mentioning the Jews is found in Romans 1:1–32. Verses 1–7 contain the salutation; verses 8–15 contain the introduction; verses 16–17 spell out the theme of the book: the gospel that saves; and verses 18–32 point out that the pagan Gentiles have fallen short of God’s righteous standards.
The first mention of the Jewish people in the Book of Romans is in verse 16:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.Romans 1:16
A. The Procedure for Evangelism
Concerning this gospel that saves, it is to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. In this verse, Paul is giving the procedure for evangelism and for missions. The gospel, whenever it goes out and by whatever means it goes out, should go to the Jew first. It might be person-to-person, door-to-door, mass evangelism, radio or television evangelism; the point is always the same: the gospel is to go to the Jew first.
The Greek word that Paul used for first is proton, which means “first in time, in place, in order, and in importance.” The one governing verb in this verse is the word is and it controls the last two phrases. It is in the Greek present tense, which emphasizes continuous action. The point he is making is that the gospel is continuously God’s power to save. Some interpret this verse in the historical sense simply to mean that the gospel came to the Jew first, but that is no longer the case. However, if that were the correct interpretation, it would also have to mean that the gospel “used to be” God’s power to save, but it is no longer the case. If the gospel is always God’s power to save, then it is always to the Jew first. Again, the word is controls the last two phrases and must be interpreted in the same way: the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and it is to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. It is evident that the gospel is always God’s power to save, therefore, it is always to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Only if Romans 1:16 is understood in this way can one better understand Paul’s actions in the Book of Acts. While one must be careful not to develop theology from historical books such as the Book of Acts, historical books can be used to illustrate doctrine.
B. The Doctrinal Statement
The doctrinal statement of Romans 1:16 is that the gospel is to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. There are illustrations of this doctrinal point in the Book of Acts. Paul began his missionary work as of Acts 13:1–3. While he was commissioned by God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles in Acts 9, it was only as of Acts 13:1–3 that was he sent out by the Church of Antioch. As of Acts 13, the Apostle of the Gentiles went out to the Gentiles because Paul’s calling was to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Uncircumcision. Yet, regardless of specific, individual calling, the principle of Romans 1:16 still stands, as Paul’s procedure shows in the following examples:
And when they were at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.Acts 13:5
But they, passing through from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia; and they went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.Acts 13:14
And it came to pass in Iconium that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed.Acts 14:1
and from thence to Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a Roman colony: and we were in this city tarrying certain days. And on the sabbath day we went forth without the gate by a river side, where we supposed there was a place of prayer.Acts 16:12–13
This was a Sabbath prayer meeting, which meant it was a Jewish prayer meeting. When there was no synagogue, Jews often congregated by the riverside. Paul searched out this group before he preached elsewhere because he knew that the gospel must go out to the Jew first. There he found a little Jewish group in order to preach the gospel to them.
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2and Paul, as his custom was, went in unto them, and for three sabbath days reasoned with them from the scriptures.Acts 17:1–2
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Beroea: who when they were come thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.Acts 17:10
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he beheld the city full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with them that met him.Acts 17:16–17
These verses show exactly what Paul’s procedure was. When he came to Athens and saw the city given over to idolatry, he was provoked to preach to these worshipers of idols. But who worshipped these idols? Not the Jews, because idolatry ceased to be a Jewish problem with the Babylonian Captivity. It was the Gentiles who worshipped these idols, and to these Gentiles Paul was provoked to preach. The principle of Romans 1:16 had to stand, but he did not go to the idol worshippers first. In verse 17, he went to the Jew first, and then in verse 18 he went to the Gentiles.
After these things he departed from Athens, and came to Corinth.Acts 18:1
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks.Acts 18:4
And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.Acts 18:19
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus.Acts 19:1
And he entered into the synagogue, and spoke boldly for the space of three months, reasoning and persuading as to the things concerning the kingdom of God.Acts 19:8
Finally, even in the last chapter, , Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner:
And it came to pass, that after three days he called together those that were the chief of the Jews.Acts 28:17
Because he was a prisoner, Paul could not go to the Jews of Rome, so he called the Jewish leaders to himself in order to proclaim the gospel to them.
In each instance in the Book of Acts, the Apostle to the Gentiles always went to the Jew first because of the doctrinal statement of Romans 1:16: the gospel, whenever it goes out and by whatever means, is to go to the Jew first.
This is true in both active evangelism and passive evangelism. Active evangelism is when a person is doing the work of an evangelist; as he goes out evangelizing, he is to go to the Jew first. These examples in the Book of Acts are illustrations of active evangelism. But the principle also holds in passive evangelism. This is when a person is supporting those who do the work of evangelism. An example of this will be seen later in this study.
C. The Nature and Efficacy of the Gospel
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel for two reasons. First, its nature is the power of God in verse 16. The second reason is given in verse 17:
For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.
The efficacy of the gospel is the righteousness of God that is revealed from faith unto faith. We begin in faith and we continue to the end of our lives in faith. Paul then quoted Habakkuk 2:4, showing that his teaching is not new; the principle of faith has always been evident.
II. ROMANS 2:9–10
The context of the second passage that mentions the Jewish people is found in Romans 2:1–16 where Paul pointed out that even the cultured Gentiles, such as Greeks and Romans, have fallen short of God’s righteous standards.
Within the context of the cultured Greek world, he again said something about the Jews. In Romans 1:16 Paul dealt with the procedure for preaching the gospel, but here he deals with the procedure for both curses and for blessings. In both cases, the principle is the same: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
A. The Procedure for Curses—Romans 2:9
tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that works evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek.
The reason the curses go to the Jew first is because of the principle of Isaiah 40:1–2 that Israel receives double for all her sins. When God punishes the Gentiles, He will punish them a certain amount, but when He punishes the Jewish people, He will punish them double this amount. Israel also receives double for all her sins because of the principle: to whom much is given, much is required. Because the Jewish people have been the recipients of greater revelation, they have greater responsibility. Failure to fulfill greater responsibility carries with it more severe judgment and punishment. So the procedure in the area of wrath and indignation will be tribulation and anguish … to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
B. The Procedure for Blessings—Romans 2:10
but glory and honor and peace to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
The reason that the blessing is to the Jew first is because of God’s covenant relationship with the Jewish people. Because God has a covenant with the Jewish people, that covenant relationship mandates that blessings will go to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
In Ephesians 2:11–3:6, Paul pointed out the relationship of the Jewish covenants to Jews and to Gentiles. God made four unconditional, eternal covenants with Israel: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. All of God’s blessings, both physical and spiritual, are mediated through these four Jewish covenants.
There was also a fifth covenant that God made with Israel which was a conditional and temporary one: the Mosaic Covenant. Among the many purposes for the Mosaic Covenant and the Mosaic Law was that it was to serve as a middle wall of partition to keep Gentiles away from enjoying Jewish spiritual blessings (Eph. 2:14). As long as the Law and the Mosaic Covenant were in effect, the only way a Gentile could become a participant in the blessing aspect of the Jewish covenants was to take upon himself the obligation of the Law by means of circumcision, and then live, practically speaking, as any other Jew. Gentiles-as-Gentiles could not enjoy the benefits of the Jewish covenants, only Gentiles-as-proselytes to biblical Judaism could enjoy them.
Among the many accomplishments of the death of Yeshua (Jesus) was that the Law was abolished and this middle wall of partition was broken down. Now, on the basis of faith, Gentiles-as-Gentiles become partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings. They do not become “takers-over,” they become partakers, for the spiritual blessings still belong to the Jewish people. This point will be brought out when this study discusses the Romans 15 passages.
Paul also brought out this point in Romans 11 when he stated that the olive tree represents the place of blessings that are rooted in the Jewish covenants. This olive tree, Paul said in verse 24, is their own olive tree. While the Gentile believer does not participate in the physical blessings of the Jewish covenants, he does become a partaker of the spiritual blessings. But these covenants still belong to the Jews; they are Jewish covenants. The olive tree belongs to the Jewish people, not to the Gentiles, nor to the Church. Because of this covenant relationship with the Jewish people of which the Gentiles are only partakers, it is therefore natural that when God pours out His blessings that are mediated through these four covenants, they will naturally go to the Jew first.
A Gentile believer should not become resentful of this. If Gentile believers resent the fact that God brings His blessings to the Jew first, they should also become offended over the fact that the curses are to the Jew first as well. But if there is no objection when God curses the Jew first, there should be no objection when God blesses the Jew first. This is the natural order.
In Romans 1 and 2, there are three things that go out to the Jew first: the gospel is to go out to the Jew first, in both active and passive evangelism; secondly, when God sends out wrath and indignation, the results are tribulation and anguish … to the Jew first; and thirdly, when God gives glory and honor and peace, that, too, will go out to the Jew first.
The principle of Romans 1:16, then, operates in three areas: in the proclamation of the gospel, in the distribution of punishment for evil, and in the distribution of blessings for good. The greatest good, of course, is to believe on Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah.
III. ROMANS 2:17–3:9
The context of the third passage that deals with the Jewish people in the Book of Romans is as follows: 2:1–16 points out that even the cultured Gentiles, such as Greeks and Romans, have fallen short of god’s righteous standards. In verses 17–3:9, he deals with the fact that the Jewish people have also fallen short of God’s righteous standards. This is followed by 3:10–20, where Paul draws his conclusion: both Jews and Gentiles alike have fallen short.
This passage can be divided into three main units: the peril of the Jew, the promise of the Jew, and the conclusion.
A. The Peril of the Jew—Romans 2:17–29
Four points can be made in the first unit of this passage: the privileges of Jewishness, the claims of personal superiority, the practices of the Jew, and the position of the Jew.
1. The Privileges of Jewishness—Romans 2:17–18
But if you bear the name of a Jew, and rest upon the law, and glory in God, and know his will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law.
The privileges that the Jewish person has are fivefold. First, he bears the name of a Jew. The word Jew comes from the name Judah, which means “praise.” It is an honorable name that carries within it the concept of the praise of God. Secondly, he rests upon the Law. The Law was given, not to the Gentiles, but to the Jews. The Law carried the greatest revelation of God up to that time, so the Jew had revelation. Thirdly, he gloried in God. Only Jews worshipped the one true God. Both pagan Gentiles and cultured Gentiles worshipped a number of deities, but the Jews alone worshipped the one true God as a nation and gloried in it. Fourthly, they knew His will. The article the is found in the Greek text, and reads: “that they knew the will,” signifying that the Jews had a knowledge of the divine will. That, too, was a privilege. And fifth, they approved the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the Law. The Law taught them what superior things were.
Again, privileges carry with them greater responsibilities. Even though the Jewish person had these five privileges, the privileges themselves are not the basis for righteousness.
2. The Claims of Personal Superiority—Romans 2:19–20
Having the five privileges of verses 17–18 led to claims of personal superiority in verses 19–20:
and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light of them that are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having in the law the form of knowledge and of the truth.
These privileges were based upon the Law. In other words, having these privileges should have made the Jews evangelists among the Gentiles. But instead of going out to evangelize the Gentiles, the tendency was simply to claim a position of superiority.
These claims were also fivefold. First, he became confident that he was a guide of the blind. Secondly, he claimed to be a light to those who lived in darkness. From the Old Testament, those who dwelled in the darkness were the Gentiles, so the Jew claimed to be a light to the Gentiles. This is what he should have been, but it was also one of the failings of the Jews. Thirdly, he considered himself to be a corrector of the foolish. In the Old Testament, the fool was a person who said there is no God. In the Greco-Roman world, there were many who claimed to be atheists, and the Jew felt himself to be “a corrector of atheism.” Fourthly, he felt that he was a teacher of babes. Those Gentiles who did become proselytes to Judaism were being taught by the Jews. And fifth, he had in the law the form of knowledge and of the truth. The Law aimed at knowledge and truth, and indeed he was correct in saying that the Law contained the truth. The trouble was that it had been so terribly reinterpreted through Pharisaic Judaism it no longer carried the teaching it was intended to carry.
3. The Practices of the Jew—Romans 2:21–24
In this passage, Paul listed the practices of the Jewish people that caused them to fall short of God’s righteous standards. In describing the practices of the Jewish people, especially those in the Diaspora, Paul showed that by these actions they had fallen short of the righteous demands of the Law itself. He did this by asking five rhetorical questions, all of which required positive answers. By asking these questions, Paul sought to show that the responsibility, which came with these privileges mentioned in verses 17–18, had not been fulfilled. He was not denying that the Jewish people have these privileges; indeed they do. But privileges carry with them responsibilities that they had failed to fulfill.
In the Greek text, the form of these rhetorical questions demands that all of them have affirmative answers. By implying affirmative answers, Paul showed that the Jewish people, just like the pagan and cultured Gentiles, have fallen short of God’s righteous standards. By these questions, their claims of special status were refuted.
The first question is in verse 21a: you therefore that teach another, teach you not yourself?
“You who teach others, do you not teach yourselves?” While mentally they were teaching themselves, by application they were not carrying out what was demanded.
The second question is in verse 21b: you that preach a man should not steal, do you steal?
“You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?” The answer has to be “Yes,” some were guilty of stealing.
The third question is in verse 22a: you that say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?
“You who say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” The answer is “Yes,” because adultery is not merely an act; one violates the righteousness of the Law merely by lusting. Jesus taught in Matthew 5–7 that the demands of the Law were not merely external conformity, but also internal conformity. So while one does not violate the letter of the Law until he commits the act of adultery, he does violate the righteousness of the Law merely by lusting.
The fourth question is in verse 22b: you that abhors idols, do you rob temples?
“You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” Gentiles often kept their money in the temples of idols, and this money was supposed to be guarded by the idols. Some Jewish people, in order to prove that idols were nothing, would take the money out of the temple, showing that these idols were worthless. It was Jewish responsibility to show the worthlessness of idolatry, but not in this way.
And the fifth question is in verse 23: you who glory in the law, through your transgression of the law dishonors you God?
“You who glory in the Law, do you by transgression of the Law dishonor it?” Again, the answer is “Yes.” It is one thing to glory about having the Law, but it is quite another to fulfill it. They were guilty of transgressions the Law.
Verse 24 declares the result: For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, even as it is written.
Here Paul quoted Isaiah 52:5 from the Septuagint translation to show that, as a result of Jewish practice in the Diaspora, the God of the Jews is being blasphemed among the Gentiles. This was not true of all Jews, but it was true of some. Again, he emphasized that the Jews are also guilty.
4. The Position of the Jew—Romans 2:25–29
a. The Contrast Between Outward and Inward Conformity:
As he made a contrast between mere outward conformity and inward conformity, Paul dealt with the position of the Jewish people. Much of what Paul said here is based upon Ezekiel 36:20. Paul was dealing with the Pharisaic concept that only one who was circumcised would definitely make it into God’s Kingdom. So Paul cited privileges that come along with circumcision. Circumcision did not establish the covenant, rather, it was only the sign of the covenant that was already established. Circumcision did not establish the covenant, but brought blessings that were dependent upon obedience.
It was shown that if a Jewish person pleaded exemption from judgment because he was a member of the covenant nation as shown by his circumcision, then the only way judgment could be alleviated was by keeping the Law. The mere act of circumcision does not exempt the Jew from judgment if he fails to keep the Law. So circumcision avails only if the Law is kept, but mere ritual will not bring justification.
Just as baptism by itself does not save any Gentile, Paul pointed out that circumcision by itself will not save any Jew. Jeremiah himself taught that circumcision without reality is uncircumcision. In these verses, Paul taught the other side of the coin; uncircumcision with reality is circumcision.
Paul spells out the principle in verse 25:
For circumcision indeed profits, if you be a doer of the law: but if you be a transgressor of the law, your circumcision is become uncircumcision.
The principle is: a rite without reality is unrighteousness. A Jew cannot be saved by his circumcision since he could not keep the Law anyway.
Verse 26 points out that reality without rite is righteousness:
If therefore the uncircumcision keep the ordinances of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be reckoned for circumcision?
So if a Gentile did keep the Law but lacked circumcision, the lack of circumcision would not condemn him.
Verse 27 states that, in fact, the righteous uncircumcision will judge the unrighteous circumcision: and shall not the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge you, who with the letter and circumcision are a transgressor of the law?
The morality of the uncircumcised Gentile can judge the immorality of the circumcised Jew.
b. The Contrast Between Outward and Inward
Having pointed out that circumcision cannot save because ritual does not bring justification, he showed why circumcision itself does not avail in verses 28–29:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.Romans 2:28–29
Mere physical birth cannot save. Circumcision is only outward, that is in the flesh, while God demands reality, a circumcision of the heart. So inward Jewishness is the key, not mere outward Jewishness. Circumcision of the flesh meant only outward circumcision, but circumcision of the flesh and heart meant both outward and inward circumcision.
Then verse 29 states: whose praise is not of men, but of God. Here Paul played upon the meaning of certain words. The term “Jew” has the root meaning of praise. Therefore, verse 29 can be paraphrased “whose Jewishness is not of men, but of God.” Mere outward circumcision is a Jewishness only of men, but inward circumcision is a Jewishness of God. Heart circumcision is inward Jewishness. The real meaning of Jewishness is the praise of God. Therefore, a “true Jew” is a Jew who is one both outwardly and inwardly. That is why many Jewish believers call themselves “completed Jews” in that they have two circumcisions, both outwardly, in the flesh, and inwardly, of the heart.
What these verses do not teach is that Gentiles become “spiritual Jews.” Jews who become believers in the Messiahship of Jesus are spiritual Jews; Gentiles who believe in the Messiahship of Jesus are “spiritual Gentiles.” Remember, Paul dealt with the Gentiles in Romans 1:18–2:16; beginning in Romans 2:17–3:9, he dealt with the Jews. What he did in verses 28–29 is the same thing he did in chapters 9, 10, and 11; he distinguished between Jews who do not believe and Jews who do believe. This is not a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, but between the Remnant and the non-Remnant, between the Jewish believer and the Jewish non-believer.
He is showing that a Jew who is not a believer, whose Jewishness is merely outward, is not exempt from divine judgment, because he has fallen short of the righteousness of God. He has had greater revelation, which carried with it a greater responsibility to the Law. His failure to keep the Law shows that he is not living up to the righteous standards of God. Therefore, he, like a Gentile, has fallen short of God’s righteous standards, and like a Gentile, is under divine condemnation of sin.
He pointed out that a true Jew is not a Jew who has only outward circumcision. A true Jew is a completed Jew, a full Jew, one who has had both types of circumcision: outward circumcision in obedience to the Abrahamic Covenant and inward circumcision of the heart as an act of obedience to the New Covenant. These verses must be kept in their context, which is that he is dealing with Jews and making a distinction between Jews who believe and Jews who not believe. He is not teaching that every Gentile believer is a spiritual Jew. Rather, he is teaching that not every Jew is a full Jew.
So a true Jew, a full Jew, or a spiritual Jew, is a Jew both outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly, he deals with the issues of the flesh, the Law, and the mind. Inwardly, he deals with the issues of the heart, the spirit, and God. Outwardly, it is the circumcision of the flesh; inwardly it is the circumcision of the heart. Outwardly, they are concerned only with the letter of the Law, external conformity to the Law; inwardly, they deal with the spirit of the Law, concerned with internal conformity to the righteousness that the Law demands. Outwardly, they are concerned only with serving the Law with the mind; inwardly, they serve God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
B. The Promise to the Jew—Romans 3:1–8
In the second portion of this unit, Paul discussed the promise to the Jew and he anticipated the possibility of objections. If what Paul said in Romans 2:17–29 is true, that the Jews are also under condemnation for they have fallen short of God’s righteousness, it would then seem that all distinctions between Jews and Gentiles have been wiped out. If the sinful Jew is on the same level as the sinful Gentile in regard to the wrath of God, what remains of the privileges that God gave to the Jewish people?
Paul gave a very brief answer here, but he gave a more detailed answer in Romans 9, 10, and 11. Basically, the answer is that Paul is not teaching that all distinctions between Jews and Gentiles have been erased, although in the area of salvation there is no distinction. Jews are sinners as well as Gentiles. Both Jews and Gentiles have fallen short of God’s righteous standards. Both are in need of salvation in the same way: by grace through faith in the substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. In other areas, distinctions do remain, but not in the area of how one is saved.
In this unit, Paul deals with a total of three objections, each followed by an answer.
1. The First Objection and Answer—Romans 3:1–2
What advantage then has the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision? Much every way: first of all, that they were intrusted with the oracles of God.
The first objection is in verse 1, “What happened to the Jewish covenant position? Have they lost their privilege as a covenant nation?” The answer is, “No, there are still many privileges in being Jewish.” Paul said the privileges are: Much in every way, for the promises of God to the Jew are still valid.
At this point he mentioned only the main privilege, but more are listed in Romans 9, 10, and 11. The chief privilege is that the oracles of God were committed to the Jewish people. God has chosen to reveal Himself through the Jewish people only. That is why every writer, including Luke, had to be a Jew. The oracles of God contain promises to the Jews which have not as yet been fulfilled.
As pointed out earlier, the material blessings are still exclusively owned by the Jews. While Gentiles have become partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings, they have not become partakers of Jewish physical and material blessings. So there are still privileges in being a Jew. There are distinctions between Jews and Gentiles even within the Body of the Messiah in other areas outside of salvation, but as far as salvation is concerned, there are no distinctions.
2. The Second Objection and Answer—Romans 3:3–4
For what if some were without faith? shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God? God forbid: yea, let God be found true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That you might be justified in your words, And might prevail when you come into judgment.
The second objection is in verse 3, “Has not Jewish unbelief canceled out the promises of God?” In other words, “Has their want or lack of Jewish faith rendered the faithfulness of God inoperative?” Notice that Paul clearly said that not all Jews were without faith, but some were. There will always be Jewish people who will come to saving faith. But has the unbelief of some Jews canceled out the faithfulness of God?
Paul then gave a very sharp answer, using the strongest Greek form of negation in verse 4: God forbid or more literally “May it never be!” “Perish the thought!” God’s faithfulness is not dependent upon man’s unfaithfulness. In fact, God’s faithfulness is proved by man’s unfaithfulness, for God is faithful to His promises still. Using this strong negation, the picture is of one recoiling in horror over what is suggested. One should recoil at any suggestion that God’s promises to the Jews are canceled out because some were without faith.
Paul stated: yea, let God be found true, but every man a liar. The phrase let God be found true relates to God’s keeping His promised Word. Let every man be a liar relates to any man who teaches that the promises to the Jewish people are not going to be fulfilled. So the theologians who say that God is through with the Jews are liars. God will fulfill His promises to the Jews.
Paul then quoted Psalm 51:4, which refers to God’s being pronounced righteous in His judgments by man. When God does fulfill all of His promises through the Jews, He will indeed be declared righteous by man.
3. The Third Objection and Answer—Romans 3:5–8
But if our righteousness commends the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who visits with wrath? (I speak after the manner of men.) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
The third objection is in verse 5, “If what Paul has just said is true, that God’s faithfulness will be shown through the unfaithfulness of others, why does God judge man’s sin? Why shouldn’t man just be allowed to practice sin so that God could be proved more faithful still?”
Once again, Paul answers in verse 6: God forbid. The answer is that man will still be judged. The reason is because what Paul said under the second objection and answer is not grounds for disobeying God; it is not grounds for practicing license. From the God-ward side, the answer is in verse 6, “May it never be!” If this argument were followed to its logical conclusion, God would never be allowed to judge anyone. This contradicts the clear revelation that God will judge the world. The Jews all agreed that God will judge the Gentiles, but in Romans 2:9–10 he has already pointed out that when judgment does come, it will come to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, Gentile. So from the God-ward side, the answer is that the objection cannot be true because, followed logically, God would not ever be allowed to punish sin and sin must be judged.
The man-ward side is in verses 7–8: But if the truth of God through my lie abounded unto his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? and why not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil, that good may come? whose condemnation is just.
Because he taught righteousness apart from the Law, some had accused Paul of antinomianism, which means “against the Law.” He now repudiates this accusation. From the man-ward side, the question is, “If sin magnifies God’s grace, why not commit more sin so that God can be more gracious still?” The answer is that the man who practices evil because of antinomianism is going to be judged, just as much as the man who tries to keep the Law is judged when he falls short of it. So the answer is that God will judge sin. While God is shown to be more faithful through man’s unfaithfulness, this does not excuse the unfaithfulness; therefore, God must punish sin.
C. Conclusion—Romans 3:9
What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.
The question is: are we better than they? meaning, “Are Jews, in light of their advantages, better than the Gentiles who do not have these advantages?” The answer is, “Not at all.” For it is now clear that all, both Jews and Gentiles, have fallen short of God’s righteousness. Therefore, all need to be saved in the same way: by grace through faith.
IV. ROMANS 15:8–9
In the fourth passage, Paul explained the means by which Jews and Gentiles are brought together into one Body, the Body of the Messiah. The context of this passage is found in Romans 15:4–13 and contains the principle of glorifying God through unity.
A. The Messiah’s Ministry to the Jews—Romans 15:8
For I say that Christ has been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given unto the fathers.
In this verse, Paul dealt with how the Jew enters into the Body. Paul pointed out that, when Yeshua came, He was made a minister of the circumcision. The term circumcision refers to the Jews just as the term “uncircumcision” refers to the Gentiles. This means that He had a ministry to the circumcised, Jewish people. For the most part, the earthly ministry of Yeshua was limited to Jews (Mat. 10:5–6; 15:24). Jesus clearly said that He did not come but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. During the Gospel period when the disciples were sent out to proclaim the good news about the Messiahship of Yeshua, they were ordered not to go to the Samaritans, nor to the Gentiles, but only to the House of Israel.
The content of His ministry was for the truth of God, and the truth was that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. The reason why His ministry was largely limited to Jewish people was so that he might confirm the promises given unto the fathers. In other words, Yeshua came to carry out the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. The sign and seal of the Abrahamic Covenant was circumcision. So the Messiah became One who ministered in relationship to the blessings promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. To confirm the covenant meant that He Himself had to submit to its obligations, and that is one reason why Jesus Himself was circumcised when He was eight days old. To fulfill the promise meant that He must fulfill the covenant in His Person and His work. Since the Abrahamic Covenant was made with Israel, He therefore had to minister to Israel almost exclusively. In that way, He became a minister of [and to] the circumcision.
B. The Messiah’s Ministry to the Gentiles—Romans 15:9
and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
In this verse, Paul dealt with how the Gentiles enter into the Body. The Gentiles were brought in when Yeshua fulfilled those parts of the covenant that included the Gentiles. As Jews and Gentiles are brought into one Body to glorify God, even so the unity was the carrying out of God’s promises. Already within the framework of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12:3 was the promise that the Gentiles would some day benefit from the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants.
So the Messiah ministered among the Jews because a covenant was made with and for them. He also fulfilled the Gentile blessing aspect in that the Gentiles were brought in when the Messiah fulfilled those parts of the covenant that included them, which were the spiritual benefits. For that reason, the Gentiles are partakers of the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants (Eph. 3:5–6).
To summarize the point of Romans 15:8–9, the concentration of the Messiah’s ministry to the Jews was for the truth of God and had in view two distinct but related ideas: first, to confirm the promises to the fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and secondly, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
The basis for the inclusion of the Gentiles was because the Abrahamic Covenant had already predicted a time when they would benefit from the spiritual aspects of the Jewish covenants. The Jews were brought into the Body of the Messiah on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant and because of their covenant relationship. The Gentiles were brought in on the basis of God’s mercy. For both, it was by grace through faith, and the content of faith was the Messiah’s death. The Gentiles did not have a covenant; however, there was already promised a time of blessings for the Gentiles as far as spiritual blessings are concerned. On the basis of God’s mercy, they, too, were included into this Body. This particular passage in the Book of Romans emphasizes on what bases both Jews and Gentiles were brought into this one Body.
V. ROMANS 15:25–27
The context of this passage dealing with the Jewish people is found in Romans 15:22–33, which deals with Paul’s plan for the future. In verses 22–29, he describes his desire to come to them, and in verses 30–33, he asks for their prayers.
A. Paul’s Immediate Plans—Romans 15:25–26
but now, I say, I go unto Jerusalem, ministering unto the saints. For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem.
As Paul came close to the end of his letter to the Romans, he spelled out his immediate plans. In verse 25, he explained why he could not come to them immediately. While he had had a long-term desire to go to Rome that he expressed in chapter 1, his desire was subject to his duty, which was to collect an offering and to take it to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. This special offering was spoken of in 1 Corinthians 16:1–4 and 2 Corinthians 8–9.
In verse 26, he named the contributors and the recipients of the offering. The Gentile believers of Macedonia and Acacia had given the money specifically for the poor Jewish believers of the City of Jerusalem in the Land of Israel.
B. Gentile Indebtedness to the Jews—Romans 15:27
Yea, it has been their good pleasure; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to minister unto them in carnal things.
Paul clearly stated that Gentiles are debtors to the Jews and then gave the reason: it is the Jews who brought the gospel to the Gentiles. Earlier in the Book of Romans, Paul taught that the Gentiles have become partakers of spiritual blessings, but these are Jewish spiritual blessings that are mediated through the Jewish covenants. So the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things. Having been made partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings is the very reason that the Gentiles are in debt to the Jews. According to this verse, the way they pay their indebtedness is to minister to them, that is, to Jewish believers, in material things.
As mentioned in the discussion under Romans 1:16, the principle of the gospel going to the Jew first applies in both active evangelism and passive evangelism. Active evangelism is when one does the work of an evangelist, and throughout the Book of Acts, Paul did just that in his active evangelism. But it is also true in passive evangelism, when one is supporting those who are doing the work of evangelism. Here is one example. Gentile believers are indebted to Jewish believers and they ought to pay their debt by sharing their material things. One reason why every Gentile believer should make it a point to support a Messianic Jewish ministry is so that every Gentile believer is indebted to support some Jewish ministry. Because the Gentiles have been made partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings, Gentile believers are now indebted to Jewish believers and they owe it to them to minister in material things.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BIBLE STUDY, DR. FRUCHTENBAUM RECOMMENDS:
Our series on Iraelology.