What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?…
The apostle, in the two preceding chapters, has now shown that both Jews and Gentiles stand on the same platform as regards their need of a Saviour. Both are alike sinners in God's sight. The Gentile, who has not the Law, if he does by nature the things contained in the Law, will be justified before God. "Shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?" (Romans 2:14, 26). The Jew's circumcision will profit him if it be a religion that affects the heart and the spirit (Romans 2:29). St. Paul, so quick to see the bearings of every statement, notices at once that a difficulty naturally arises here, and he is prompt to meet it. "What advantage, then, hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?"
I. THE DIVINE REVELATION A GREAT PRIVILEGE. Notwithstanding all that had been said about the sins and shortcomings of the Jews, the Jews were still a privileged people. Nothing could ever destroy the fact that they were the chosen people of God, the people chosen to be the channel of God's revelation to the world by the patriarchs and lawgivers and prophets, chosen also to be the channel through which the Divine Word become flesh and tabernacled among men - "of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came." The chief privilege which Paul mentions here was that "unto them were committed the oracles of God" (ver. 2). It is an advantage to have a Divine revelation entrusted to us. The possession and knowledge of God's Word is a privilege not to be despised or lightly esteemed. There are degrees of nearness to the kingdom of God. While the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," while there are such events as sudden conversions, yet there are some who are in a more favourable condition for receiving the gospel than others. St. Paul, though he was suddenly converted, bad a long and thorough training previously in the Word of God. The scribe who came to Christ, and whom the Saviour pronounced to be "not far from the kingdom of God," was one who had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, and who had been living a life of obedience to the Law of God. Such men were certainly more likely to be influenced by the personal power of Christ than those who had no previous knowledge of Divine truth. God works by miracles; but his ordinary method is to work by means. In these days of sensational evangelism it is well that we should not undervalue the importance of a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. Paul wrote to Timothy, "From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." They who are well instructed in the Holy Scriptures are, as a rule, more likely to become true and permanent Christians than those who, under the influence of sudden excitement or emotion, without any previous religious knowledge, profess their readiness to follow the banner of Jesus. There are exceptions, but this would seem to be the rule. And those who are so highly privileged incur a serious and solemn responsibility. If unto us are committed the oracles of God, if we have the Bible in our hands and its truths treasured up in our minds, terrible indeed will be our guilt if we disobey its precepts, reject its invitations, and neglect its warnings. "To whom much is given, of them shall much be required."
II. DIVINE FAITHFULNESS NOT AFFECTED BY HUMAN UNBELIEF. "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged" (vers. 3, 4). The promises of God will be fulfilled, even though there are some who do not believe on them. The Law of God will assert its claims, even though there are some who repudiate them. It will not save men from the punishment of their sin that they did not believe God's Word when it says, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." God's faithfulness is not affected by the unbelief of his own people. Some persons argue against the Bible because of the unbelief of those who profess to regard it as their guide. They argue against Christianity because of the inconsistencies of its professors. The argument is false. Christianity is to be judged by its own teachings and spirit, and not by the imperfect way in which even its professors have received and practised them. Christianity is the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, combined with the influence of his death upon the cross. No inconsistency of professing followers can ever mar the beauty and sinlessness of that perfect Example. No unbelief can ever do away with the inherent power that is in the cross of Jesus to save sinners. The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to them that are saved it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
III. DIVINE JUSTICE IS NOT AFFECTED BY THE CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN SIN. "But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man.) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?" (vers. 5, 6).
1. God judges not consequences, but character. He looks at the heart and at the motives. The Jews' unbelief was overruled by God for his own wise and gracious purposes. He brought good out of evil. But that did not make their unbelief the less guilty. In the eyes of the law, the guilt of a fraudulent person is not always estimated by the consequences of his acts. A man may forge his employer's signature to cheques; but the employer may receive such information as will enable him to stop the cheques in time, and prevent the loss which would otherwise have resulted. But the forger's guilt is not diminished because the consequences of his acts have been overruled. The law is not considered unfair or unrighteous if it punishes him, though his employer may not have suffered one penny of pecuniary loss. And even though the criminal's conduct served in some way to bring out more clearly the integrity or kindness of his employer, yet even this would not be regarded as any mitigating circumstance in his guilt. So it is right that I should still be judged as a sinner, even though the truth of God hath abounded through my lie unto his glory (ver. 7).
2. Man is not justified in using sinful means to gain a good end. From the fact that God overrules sinful actions for his own glory and the good of humanity, it might appear to be a natural inference that it matters not what the morality of the action itself is so long as its object or result is good. "Let us do evil, that good may come" (ver. 8). Stated in this broad way, the immorality of the principle is apparent. And yet it is a principle which is too commonly acted upon. If you oppose some method of raising money for religious or charitable purposes, you will be constantly told, "Oh! it is for a good purpose." That is, simply, it does not matter how you get the money so as you get it. It does not matter what the means are so long as the end is good. Now, it is time that the Christian Church and Christian teachers should set themselves resolutely against such demoralizing ideas. How can the Christian Church rebuke the dishonest practices too common in the commercial world, money-making by unfair or questionable methods, so long as its own hands are not clean, so long as almost any method of making money is considered justifiable if it is in connection with a Church bazaar? The end does not justify the means. Let us not do evil, that good may come. - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?