The end of Romans chapter 2 and beginning of chapter 3 is a very hard text to understand. We are dealing here with this question: What is the difference between a spiritual Jew and being a Jew by birth?
Does God still care about Israel as a nation, or has the believing church today replaced Israel?
This text begins to unlock the answers to that question.
Romans 2:28-3:2 reads as follows: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that 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 from men but from God. What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”
Wait a minute?? Didn’t Paul just say that being a true Jew and true circumcision is “of the heart and in the Spirit and not in the letter?”
Rom 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 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 from men but from God.
Now he is saying that being born a Jew and being circumcised a Jew is a great advantage. How are we to understand this?
We see throughout the Scripture that the Lord has chosen Israel to be His people, a light to the nations to lead them to God.
Deut. 33:29 29 Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places.”
God has often spoken with a great deal of respect and blessing for the Jews. They are described as: a holy nation, a peculiar treasure, the seed of Abraham His friend. He instituted circumcision as a badge of their covenant relation to Him.
How is it now that after what Paul just said at the end of Ch. 2 that these things are still meaningful? Is circumcision now a dishonor and a fruitless insignificant thing? Certainly not! There is much significance and honor in being a circumcised Jew, but the point here is that these things are not infallible and do not save.
God is just and will bring judgment and wrath on all who sin, both Jew and Gentile.
The door to salvation is open to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, but the Jews have a fairer way up to this door, by way of their covenant-privileges, which are not to be undervalued, though many that have them perish eternally for not living up to them.
Paul discusses many of the Jews’ privileges in Romans 9; but here he mentions only one: that unto them were committed the oracles of God, that is, the scriptures of the Old Testament: The types, promises, and prophecies, which relate to Christ and the gospel. The scriptures are the oracles of God: they are a divine revelation, they come from heaven, are of infallible truth, and of eternal consequence.
God’s Word was committed to the Jews; the Old Testament was written in their language; Moses and the prophets were of their nation, lived among them, preached and wrote primarily to and for the Jews. God’s Word was committed to them as trustees for succeeding ages. The Scripture was deposited in their hands, to be carefully preserved pure and uncorrupt, and so transmitted down to posterity.
The Jews were entrusted with that sacred treasure for their own use and benefit in the first place, and then for the advantage of the world. The Jews had the means of salvation, but they did not have the monopoly of salvation.
Psa 147:19-20 He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. 20 He has not dealt thus with any nation”
Why this special and peculiar affection and love from the Lord?
Deu 7:7-8 explains this clearly “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 “but because the LORD loves you”
He loves them because He loves them.
So why should we be any different?
Should we not be like God in this peculiar attachment?
Should we not give them the same place in our heart that God gives them in His heart?
Where is our love for the Jewish people?
Where is our longing to see them saved?
We see in Romans Chapters 1 & 2 this message of “the Jew first”. We see that the Gospel is for “the Jew first”
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ1, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
The power of God unto salvation should be preached to “the Jew first.” We also see in Romans 2 that judgment will begin with “the Jew first.” The Jews will be the first to stand forward at the bar of God to be judged.
Rom 2:5-9 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds1“: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness– indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;
So when the dead small and great stand before God, and the books are opened, and the dead are judged out of those things that are written in the books, Israel—poor blinded Israel—will be the first to stand in judgment before God.
We also see that glory, honor, and peace will be to the Jew first
Rom 2:10 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Why? Because they have received more light than any other people. “To them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2)
God’s Word was given chiefly to Israel. Every prophet was sent first to them; every evangelist and apostle had a message for them. Messiah Jesus came to them.
We see this in the gospels.
Mat 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus sent the disciples to the Jews first.
Mat 15:22-24 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Jesus taught that He was sent to the Jews first.
Act 1:4 And being assembled together with them, He (Jesus) commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit)
Why not leave Jerusalem? The Holy Spirit was not bound by space and time to only appear in Jerusalem was He? Certainly not! They were to remain in Jerusalem because the Gospel was to go to the Jew first then to the nations.
Act 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The apostles were not all from Jerusalem. They were given specific instructions to remain there and to preach there first rather than returning home make disciples.
When Peter preached in Solomon’s portico he said this to the Jews:
Act 3:25 “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, `And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 26 “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
Paul and Barnabas when preaching to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia said this: Act 13:46 “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
We see throughout the book of Acts that the Apostles first preached to the Jews in the Synagogues of the towns they evangelized, then to the Gentiles.
So in our text we see that “first of all” or “chiefly” the benefit of being a circumcised Jew is that they were entrusted with God’s Word. This is the first in a list of many reasons that being a circumcised Jew was an advantage. Paul continues the list in Romans 9-11.
Romans 9:3-5 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is Jewish!
Our job now as Gentile believers, according to Romans 11, is to provoke unbelieving Israel to jealousy, and in doing so that some may be saved.
Rom 11:11-15 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Zec 8:23 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: `In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”‘”
This has never been fulfilled; but, as the word of God is true, this is true. The Bible tells us here that here is great advantage in being a circumcised Jew, but it will not save you.
Don’t hear me incorrectly. The Bible does not say to preach to the Jew alone, but to the Jew first.
We are to go and make disciples of all nations. Let’s follow the biblical imperative and offer it to “the Jew first.”