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Rom 2:17-29 ESV

(17) But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God
(18) and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from
the law;
(19) and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who
are in darkness,
(20) an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment
of knowledge and truth--
(21) you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against
stealing, do you steal?
(22) You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who
abhor idols, do you rob temples?
(23) You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
(24) For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because
of you."
(25) For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law,
your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.
(26) So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his
uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
(27) Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who
have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
(28) For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and
(29) But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit,
not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Remember that Paul is building a case for salvation by faith here in Romans. In the first
chapters he shows the deplorable condition of pagans that don’t know God at all. In
chapter two, he continues by showing that even religious Jews need salvation.

Notice the almost dry sense of humor that Paul uses when he addresses the Jews in vs 17-
20. One cannot help but be impressed by Paul’s debating skills here.

Romans 2:17-20
The boasting of the Jews reflects OT and Jewish teaching about the privileges and
responsibilities God gave to Israel. God gave his law to Israel, entered into a special
relationship with them, and commissioned them to be a light to the Gentiles (see Isa
42:6-7). Jews were not wrong to enjoy these blessings; their error was in failing to live up
to their privileged position.
NLT Study Bible

The following clip is a more indepth analysis of vs 17-24. If you are speed reading this –
you may skip it 

2:17 The apostle has a third class to deal with, so now he turns to the question: Are
the Jews, to whom the law was given, also lost? And of course the answer is, “Yes, they
are lost too!”
There is no doubt that many Jews felt they were immune from God’s judgment. God
would never send a Jew to hell, they thought. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were fuel
for the flames of hell. Paul must now destroy this pretension by showing that under
certain circumstances Gentiles may be closer to God than Jews.
First he reviews those things which a Jew prized as giving him an inside track with
God. He bore the name of a Jew and thus was a member of God’s chosen earthly people.
He rested on the law, which was never designed to give rest but rather to awaken the
conscience to a sense of sinfulness. He gloried in God, the only true God, who had
entered into a unique covenant relationship with the nation of Israel.
2:18 He knew God’s will, because a general outline of that will is given in the
Scriptures. He approved the things that are excellent, because the law taught him how
to assess moral values.
2:19 He prided himself on being a guide to the morally and spiritually blind, a light
to those who were in the darkness of ignorance.
2:20 He felt qualified to correct the foolish or untaught and to teach babes, because
the law gave him an outline of knowledge and of the truth.
2:21 But these things in which the Jew boasted had never changed his life. It was
simply pride of race, religion, and knowledge without any corresponding moral
transformation. He taught others but did not take the lessons to heart himself. He
preached against stealing but did not practice what he preached.
2:22 When he forbade adultery, it was a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” While he
did loathe and abhor idols, he didn’t hesitate to rob temples, perhaps by actually looting
heathen shrines.
2:23 He gloried in the possession of the law, but dishonored the God who gave it by
breaking its sacred precepts.
2:24 This combination of high talk and low walk caused the Gentiles to blaspheme
the name of God. They judged the Lord, as men always do, by those who professed to be
His followers. It was true in Isaiah’s day (Isa. 52:5) and it is still true today.
Believer's Bible Commentary

Paul, who knew Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, quotes from the Greek translation of the
OT – the LXX. Perhaps he knew the Romans who would be reading this letter were
more familiar with the LXX than the Tanakh or Targum.

Rom. 2:24 Because they violated the law, the Jews were exiled by God and were
therefore reviled by the Gentiles (Paul adapts phrases from the Septuagint translation of
Isa. 52:5; cf. Ezek. 36:20–23). This dishonored God because they were known as his
people. In Paul's time their sins did not lead to exile but still led Gentiles to dishonor the
God whom the sinful Jews claimed to follow. ESV Study Bible

Finally, Paul summarizes this chapter by addressing the issues of whether you follow
outward signs and rituals or whether there has been real change in the heart. Too many
of the Jews assumed they were ok simply because they were born Jews. No one, whether
born into a Christian home or not is automatically saved. All must believe for
2:29 Paul does not intend that national and ethnic distinctions are eliminated by the
gospel so that one no longer distinguishes between Israel and the church. Otherwise, Paul
would not have so lucidly affirmed a continuing place for Israel in the redemptive
purpose of God (9:4, 5; 10:1, 2; 11:1, 2, 25, 26). Rather, the apostle’s design is to provoke
Israel to recognition of its plight by warning that the true essence of being a Jew is
submission to God instead of national identity. It is an inward reality of the heart wrought
by the Spirit of God, not an outward marking of the flesh. Believer’s Study Bible


What can we learn from this chapter? No matter if you’re heathen, religious Gentile or
religious Jew – all men fall under the just wrath of God. No one’s heritage, culture or
ethnic group will exempt them. All men have sinned and all men require the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus.