Romans 2:17-24
No Exceptions

Marrieds with a Ministry Sunday School Class
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, TN, USA

For Sunday, 17 March 2002

Handout: No Exceptions


Green: on hand out

Ink: to be filled in on hand out

Bright blue: term from text (to be defined or discussed)



Paul is here expounding the law, not the gospel. "The first principles of justice" (Hodge)

The one thing in the whole world we most need is to escape God's wrath.

"...are you any less a thief, merely because you condemn stealing? less an adulterer, because you condemn adultery? or less a blasphemer, because you abhor sacrilege? ... This superior knowledge, instead of extenuating, only aggravates your guilt." - Charles Hodge1 (extenuate: to lessen the magnitude or seriousness of, especially by providing partial excuses2)

The Jews falsely relied for escape from God's wrath on

  1. Covenant relationship (Church membership)
  2. Superior knowledge (Church attendance)
  3. Circumcision (Baptism)

v. 17

" call yourself a Jew, and rely on (the) law, and brag about your relationship to God..." - William Hendriksen's translation3

The name "Jew" is a title of honor designating the people of God.4 For us, the name of false hope is "Christian." Neither Jewish heritage nor church membership and attendance will protect the sinner from God's wrath.

Resting on the law means being confident that you will escape God's wrath through participation in the Mosaic system (Jews) or in the church (Christians).5 [v. 13 (Murray)] Church attendance, baptism, taking communion, singing in choir, or serving as a deacon - none of this will earn brownie points with God. Micah 3:11.

Boasting or glorying in God is to rejoice in Him as a source of honor or profit to ourselves. We may do so either because we recognize our own emptiness and God's surpassing excellence and have faith in His promises, or because we think ourselves to be His favorites.6 "God won't let anything bad happen to me because I'm a Christian." God doesn't play favorites. Our only refuge is in Christ.

"Boast in God": shows "how close lies the grossest vice to the highest privilege and how the best can be prostituted to the service of the worst." - John Murray7

Glorying in the Lord is commendable, but we must not think that our relationship with God removes our accountability for our deeds.

The problem is not with glorying in God but in placing one's confidence for justification in the hope that God will make an exception for you because you have the privilege of involvement in His covenant community.

v. 18

It is an advantage to know God's will through His Word. But with greater privilege comes greater responsibility. This is not to say that we will be held to a higher standard. We all will be judged according to the absolute standard of God's holiness, and there is no higher standard than that. However, the greater the knowledge of right and wrong, the greater the punishment for falling short.

The law is good but it cannot vindicate.

"His" is in italics. The original reads "the will,"8 assuming that the reader understands that God's will is the supreme will in the direction of the universe.

vv. 18-20

The Jews had a superiority complex.9

Paul grants to the Jews that "to be the people of God, to have the law, to know the divine will, were indeed great advantages."10 But the advantage is greater light by which to avoid evil and pursue good, not exemption from judgment when failing to do so.

The Jews considered themselves qualified to teach by virtue of mere knowledge, even while failing to practice the truth themselves.

Knowing Scripture is essential, but Bible knowledge will not clear us of wrongdoing.

vv. 21-23

"It was not their moral judgments, but their moral conduct that was in fault." - Hodge11

Theft, adultery, and idolatry are the core sins addressed by the Ten Commandments.12

"To obtain acceptance with God on the basis of obedience to His law, such obedience must, of course, be perfect." - Hendriksen13

"Do you rob temples?" Malachi 3:8, 1:6-14 - bringing God the leftovers.

v. 24

Two ways the Jews were the cause of Gentile blasphemy:14

  1. Their immoral behavior seemed to show YHWH permissive.
  2. Their subjection to their enemies seemed to show YHWH weak.

Not only were the Jews not a light and teacher to the nations, they were a stumbling block.15

Commentaries used for this lesson:

David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL