Daily Devotional

November 5, 2019

Daybreak: Romans 2:10 through 3:20

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:9-10)

Recently a friend drew my attention to the wording on three T-shirts. The first shirt was imprinted with the words, “Oldest Child: I Make the Rules.” The second read, “Middle Child: I’m the Reason We Have Rules,” and the third, “Youngest Child: The Rules Don’t Apply to Me.” She laughed and commented that the words on the shirts were totally applicable to her three children.

That caused me to reflect on our family, and I quickly realized that the T-shirt wording rang true regarding our kids as well. Our oldest daughter always felt it was her privilege to boss her siblings, and all of our older children insist that the youngest child in our family, another daughter, enjoyed multiple advantages they never had.

Perceptions of “privilege” and “advantage” are probably as old as mankind itself. Sometimes such perspectives are completely faulty, but at other times they are partially or entirely valid. In our text today, the Apostle Paul recognized that the Jews did indeed have a unique advantage among the peoples of the earth. They were God’s chosen nation: the ones to whom He had revealed details of His nature and His requirements for human behavior.

However, the unique advantage of the Jews had produced in them a feeling of superiority. Because they were recipients of a fuller knowledge of God and His ways, they deemed all Gentiles as “heathen.” They were confident that they were well equipped to be “a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish” (Romans 2:19-20). Yet, they had failed lamentably to apply their knowledge of God’s requirements to their own lives.

In our focus verses, Paul forcibly asserted that despite the Jews’ privileged position, they were still guilty before God. Although they knew the Law well, that did not make them righteous. Along with the Gentiles, they stood condemned before God because they had rejected Him and failed to follow His commandments. There is no partiality with God!  

Many people today feel that their religious actions and activities make them better than their contemporaries who make no pretense of interest in religion. However, that assumption is as faulty as the Jews’ assumption of superiority. Empty ritual will never suffice in God’s sight. There is only one answer to human guilt — we are justified only when we come to God in humility and genuine repentance.

The message that Paul proclaimed to the Romans is still valid today. God in His great mercy has made a provision for our sins through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But we must come to Him in His way!

Background

The word “law” appears many times in this portion of Paul’s epistle. In some instances, the Apostle was referring not only to the Mosaic Law but to the whole previous revelation of God which made known God’s will as to man’s conduct.

Today’s text begins with Paul’s statement that the righteous would be rewarded with glory, honor, and peace (in contrast to the previously described retribution which would befall the ungodly). The Apostle went on to assert that God’s moral law applied to all (verses 11-16). He then pointed to the guilt of the Jews who assumed they were accepted by God because they were recipients of the Mosaic Law, in spite of their breaking it (verses 17-29). In verses 1-8 of chapter 3, the Apostle anticipated arguments against his teachings and offered rebuttals. Finally, in verses 9-20 he restated a key principle of the Gospel: that all mankind is sinful and while the Law brought a knowledge and understanding of sin, no one can be justified by works.

The word respect in Paul’s statement, “There is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11), could be defined as “partiality” or “favoritism.” Paul was pointing out that God does not adjust His dealings with man based upon whether the individual is a Jew or Gentile. Although the Gentiles did not possess the Old Testament instruction, moral principles were written upon their consciences. Condemnation was not based upon race but upon revelation, and Jew and Gentile alike would one day stand before God in judgment.

Paul pointed to the guilt of the Jews in Romans 2:17-29. The term “Jew” as used in 2:17 is synonymous with “Hebrew” or “Israelite.” However, the designation “Jew” typically refers to the religion of the descendants of Jacob, while “Hebrew” is a racial designation and “Israelite” is a nationality. Paul made clear that in spite of the religious practices of the Jews, they were breaking the commandments of God and thus were guilty; this substantiated his point that true religion is not found in observance of outward rituals but in moral obedience.

Having shown the dangers of assuming privilege, Paul posed hypothetical questions in Romans 3:1-8 to ensure that his readers understood there were, in fact, some advantages to a Jewish heritage. The primary advantage was that “unto them [the Jews] were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). The word “oracles” referred to the Scriptures, which were delivered initially in a verbal form. Paul responded to each of his theoretical questions, beginning two of his responses with an exclamation of recoiling abhorrence, “God forbid.”

Verses 9-20 restate that all of humanity is sinful. After delineating at some length the differences between the Jews and Gentiles, Paul declared that in spite of distinctions of nationality, belief, and culture, all mankind is “under sin.” Under in this case means “to be dominated by or subjugated to the authority of,” so Paul was making it clear that without exception, the human race is dominated and controlled by the sin nature. Verses 9-20 have the sense of a legal accusation, with verse 20 introducing two new pieces of information about the Law: the impossibility of man being “justified” by self-effort, and the fact that the Law reveals the true nature of sin.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    God’s plan of salvation
    A.    The need: the human race is universally guilty
        3.    God’s law applies to all (2:10-16)
        4.    The Jews are guilty (2:17 — 3:20)
            a.    Knowing the Law, they break it (2:17-29)
            b.    Having the advantage of the Law, they did not believe (3:1-8)
        5.    Recap: all are guilty (3:9-20)

A Closer Look

  1. What did Paul say bore witness to the Gentiles regarding the “work of the law written in their hearts”? Romans 2:15

  2. Why do you think Paul stressed so strongly that every person is sinful and condemned before God?

  3. Perhaps those who grew up in Christian homes could be compared to the Jews of Paul’s day in that they are religiously privileged. What are some ways to check and be sure you are living up to what you know?

Conclusion

No matter how an individual or group of people sees themselves, the human race without exception has a predisposition to evil and rebellion against God.

Reference Materials