Religious People’s Excuse #1: “Examine My Religious Heritage”
Be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
In Romans 2, Paul revealed that everyone needs salvation that comes only through faith in Christ. Starting in verse 17, Paul named several excuses that religious people often use to say, “I do not need Jesus Christ.”
One excuse that religious people say is this: “Examine my religious heritage.” Romans 2:17 is addressed to those who “bear the name ‘Jew’ and rely upon the Law and boast in God.” The Jew said, “Look at me, I am a Jew. I do not need Jesus Christ.” The Jew thought because he was a descendant of Abraham that he ought to be okay with God. There are many Jews who think that today. They think it is their special relationship to Abraham that ensures their salvation. Now, in biblical times, there were benefits to being a Jew and belonging to God’s covenant people. In Genesis 12:3, God said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Being a Jew meant that you got to share in some of God’s national blessings to Israel. But being a Jew did not automatically make you a believer. Being a physical descendant of Abraham did not ensure that everything was okay between you and God. Over and over again, the New Testament teaches that it is not a Jew’s physical relationship to Abraham but his spiritual relationship to Abraham that makes an eternal difference.
Paul said in Galatians 3:7-9, “Be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” Salvation is not a result of a Jew’s physical relationship to Abraham but a result of his spiritual relationship to Abraham. Yet, as is still true today, many people thought that being an ethnic Jew, a religious Jew, made you right with God.
There are many people who believe that same thing today, not just about Judaism but about Christianity as well. Many people have the idea, “If you are born in a Christian home, then that makes you a Christian.” There are many Christians who embrace the idea that being in a Christian family makes you a Christian. But being in a Christian family does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car. Jesus said in John 3:3, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” You have to have an individual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what saves you.
Religious People’s Excuse #2: “Look at My Biblical Knowledge”
You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?
In Romans 2, Paul listed several excuses that religious people use to say, “I do not need Jesus Christ.” One excuse religious people use is this: “Look at my biblical knowledge.” But Paul said that knowledge alone is not good enough. He wrote to the Jews: “If you bear the name ‘Jew’ and rely upon the Law and boast in God . . .” (2:17). The Jews believe that everybody else might need to know Christ as Savior, but not them. Jews believe they have a special relationship with God that automatically makes them right with God.
Paul alluded to that in Romans 3:1: “Then what advantage has the Jew?” If Jews are not automatically saved, then what advantage is there to being a Jew? Paul answered in verse 2, “Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” The Jewish people were entrusted with God’s Word. But the reason they were entrusted with God’s Word was not just so they could share it with others, but so that they might obey it themselves.
Romans 2:18-24 says, “[Those of you who have been] instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ just as it is written.”
The Jews had fallen into a trap that many of us have fallen into as well. We equate knowing God’s Word with doing God’s Word. They are not the same thing. In Paul’s day, the Jewish rabbis said, “It is impossible to obey God’s law completely, so all you have to do is know it.” We laugh at that, but don’t we make the same mistake today as Christians? We equate biblical knowledge with obedience. We think, “As long as I believe that this book is the inerrant Word of God, then I am okay with God.” Let me burst your bubble. You get absolutely no credit with God for believing the right thing. You believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God–you do not get a check mark for that. All you get credit for as a Christian is how you obey God.
Do not misunderstand–beliefs and knowledge are important. It is impossible to obey that which you do not know, but unfortunately you can know a lot of things that you do not obey. The Bible says that it is not our knowledge of God’s Word but our obedience of God’s Word that makes a difference. The Jew said, “Look at my biblical knowledge.” Paul said, “That is not enough.”