One of the recurrent issues in the early church was Satan’s attempt to undermine the good news of salvation by insisting that only the Jewish people could truly be saved. But, as we saw in chapter 2, being Jewish isn’t so much about DNA as it is about having a heart that is right with God. So, asks Paul rhetorically in Romans 3:1, is there actually any advantage to being a Jew? Answer? Yes – great benefits. The most important of which is that the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God!
The advantage Jewish people have over everyone else is the history of God’s revealing himself to them and through them. But does that make them better people? No. In truth, some of the Jewish people were unfaithful. But God himself has always been and always will be true. Which doesn’t give us an excuse to sin. We’re not doing God a favour by sinning – as if his “goodness” needs the foil of our sinfulness to really shine.
Does being Jewish per definition make you a better person? No – Paul reminds us that everyone regardless of ethnicity is under the power of sin. We are all sinners of the worst variety (hint: there’s only one variety: sinner). In fact, Paul notes in Romans 3:19 that the law applies to those to whom it was given. And it was given to rob us of excuses, to show that everyone is guilty before God. I can’t be made right with God by doing what the law says – because I can’t do what the law says. All the law does is show my sinfulness.
What we need is another way; way that doesn’t involve my keeping the law – the way God promised time and again. What we need is God to save us. And that is the gospel: We are made right with God by placing our faith [trust] in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
And look in verse 25 for a definition of what it means to place our trust in Jesus: People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. To trust in Jesus is to believe that he has paid the price for us. And not just for us, but for all people across all time who put their trust in God.
So then – can I boast about my status before God – like some Jews did? Not at all! I’ve done nothing to be saved – my salvation is based on faith, on trust. And you don’t have to be Jewish to trust God. In Christ, there are no divides.
But does that mean I don’t have to obey the Israelite law? Actually, notes Paul – it’s only when we trust God that we really fulfil the law. It’s only when you start from a point of being right with God that you can truly obey God!
Thank you Father that you have made a way for me to be right with you. I know that I am a sinner. I know that I don’t deserve your love. But you do love me, and you have saved me. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Please, help me to live a life that pleases you. But keep me from boasting in what I do. Please keep reminding me that nothing I do can make you love me or save me any more than you already have. Help me to remember that I am just like every other Christian in the world: a sinner saved by your loving grace. And help me also to remember that those who aren’t Christians are just like I would be without you. Give me a heart to share your love with them, I pray.