9 March 2012

Romans 2:25 - 3:18

"What then? Are we any better off? No, not all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: 'There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God." (vv. 9-11)


The argument begun yesterday at Romans 2:12, opposing the idea that just by being Jewish meant you were right with God, is furthered in the passage today. Circumcision was instituted by God as a sign of the binding promise with Abraham. It was for all Abraham's male descendants. Other cultures also used circumcision, but for the Jews it signified a relationship with God and that Israel was set apart for God. It was a sign that had come to be understood as a physical guarantee of a right standing with God. Yet in itself circumcision is an outward mark that is also personal and private. Only the man themself or the person's most intimate would be aware of the sign of their bond to God. In a similar way Paul argues that true circumcision (ie the sign of your bond to God) is also hidden; it is spiritual and a matter of the heart. This was an often repeated theme among Old Testament prophets, that for the rite to have any meaning it must include a circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6).

Paul starts with a list of the advantages of being a Jew in chapter 3 verse 2, but does not seem to get past point one as it leads him in to the rest of the letter! The "oracles of God", meaning the scriptural writings that the Jews had, were seen by Paul as a big advantage for the Jews in their knowledge of God.

In verse 4 Paul quotes Psalm 51:4 to show that punishment of wrongdoing highlighted God's holy character. However he slams the possible twisting of his words by some, saying this would promoting more wrongdoing. For Paul the end of glorifying God could never justify doing any kind of wrong.

Paul completes his damning assessment of the state of humans with a series of quotes from Hebrew Scripture in verses 10-18. These are put together to support the case powerfully, that no one, either Jew or non-Jew had any claim to being right with God, because of the pervasive and insidious nature of sin in human lives.

To Ponder

What outward marks do you have or wear that are meaningful to you? Does it help to have the outward symbol? Why?

To what extent can the goal of doing good to protect or even liberate people justify using means that may be terrible in their consequences?

Are you ever complacent about sin in your life?

Bible notes author

Dr Andy Dye

Andy Dye is a mission partner for the Methodist Church in Britain serving with the Methodist Church in Grenada, South Caribbean. He has a background in science, science teaching and mission work.