The great Apostle Paul turned on his fellow countrymen whom he felt would cast aspersions to the Gentile race because they felt the Gentiles were on a dark spiral downward. He made it clear to the Jews that they would be clowns if they thought they were better than the Gentile race when it comes to the issue of spirituality. No, they were not as Paul begins to spell out where they had also missed the plot. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection of your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds us to what we’ve done.
They had placed the Gentiles under judgment not knowing that God had been patient, kind and tolerant with them in their sins and proclivities. They never knew that God had held back on judging them because He wanted them to turn back from their sins. They were stubborn; they refused to turn from their sins, they were storing up terrible punishment for themselves. They were oblivious about the day of anger that was coming – God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. God will judge everyone according to what they have done.
The Jews knew their heritage was in their father Abraham who believed in God and through him, the nation of Israel was formed. The promise was that through the seed of Abraham, God would make a people who will be strangers in a foreign land (Egypt). God had also used the vehicle of circumcision to distinguish His people from other people on planet Earth; their sons were circumcised on the eight-day as a covenant between God and His people. They became strangers in the land of Egypt as God said to Abraham; from within God raised up Moses who became the deliverer in accordance to the will and purpose of God.
It was Moses that God sent back to Pharaoh when it was time for His people to be set free from the bondage they had been in. Of course they were delivered from Egypt and their taskmasters and had to move to the Promised Land. On their way to the Promised Land, they got to a mountain where God commanded Moses to come up so that He could deliver to him the commandments, which the New Testament calls the Law. The children of God had to conform to some particular ordinance and legislation. The Nation of Israel having been formed needed some sort of guidance and as such the form of guidance had to come from their King and maker.
The Jews were at that time judged by these two things: the CIRCUMCISION and THE LAW or COMMANDMENTS. The irony of these two was that, one had to keep the two or else one was seen to be in violation of the commandments of God; the end of which was death (for the wages of sin is death).
The Apostle in his presentation was able to prove to the Jews that unlike the Gentiles, they had a law and all were going to be judged by how much work they had done in keeping the law; as God will render to every man in accordance with how much they have done (their works). He was able to show that the same principle applies to the Gentiles – they had no revealed and written law but in their case, they kept the things contained in the LAW; they became a law unto themselves in their conscience and moral sense. This will go on to prove that the essential principles of the LAW are written in their hearts, meaning their conscience testifies to the distinctions between “good and bad”, “right and wrong”, proving that they have a moral sense.
The Apostle made it clear that Jesus would be the judge at the end and pressed on to clarify that the judgment would be based on using this GOSPEL that Paul is preaching as the benchmark. The Gospel will either save or condemn anyone depending on how they choose to apply it. He also had to make clear the reason why they will need the GOSPEL by the sins they had committed. How?
It was God’s divine plan to choose Israel as His representative here on planet Earth with the purpose of teaching all other nations His ways. They knew they were the apple of God’s eye and while they boasted about this, they relented and failed in their duties. They failed in their profession, they felt they had it together: Paul said, “If you’re brought up Jewish, don’t assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you’re an insider to God’s revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of God, informed on the latest doctrines!” They had fallen short, hence the reason why Paul made statements like, “there is no one righteous, no, not even one.”
Because they knew God’s revealed Word inside and out, they felt qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God. While they guided others, they were trespassing the LAW. While they preached at others, like, “Don’t steal!” they were robbing the people blind. There was no one to judge or suspect them. They got away with almost anything and everything. The problem with them wasn’t going to disappear and the more reason the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles: they make the religion, which God has revealed despicable among the heathen.
Their customary (the Jews) behavior was to fall back on circumcision thinking that without keeping the LAW, they could escape the wrath of God. Circumcision was made meaningful when they kept the LAW. The one who breaks the LAW was no better than the one who isn’t circumcised. The one who isn’t circumcised on the other hand but decides to keep the LAW is still better than the one who is circumcised. So, he made it clear to them that circumcision, which was an outward cutting with the knife isn’t enough to make them God’s people without the LAW. They became a Jew by who they were (by character, through keeping the LAW). It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, that makes one a Jew.
Their eyes must have popped out of the socket coupled with some quietness as they listened to the Apostle. They couldn’t make fun of the Gentiles because they knew they must have broken the LAW one-way or the other. They knew they were not perfect; they were sinners who deserved to be waged with the recompense of breaking the LAW.
This was such that, when the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus, He stooped down, wrote something on the sand (or clay, as it were) and said to all standing before Him, “Let the one who has no sin cast the first stone at the woman”. They all left the place knowing that they had broken the LAW and deserved to be stoned to death as well. This is the same in this case with the Jews; they were no different from the Gentile race. They knew so well that they deserved to die because of their trespass. They were in the same boat as the Gentiles.
Paul concluded by saying that “For all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God.” We need to accept this Gospel that brings salvation, albeit Jews or Gentiles.
C.H Spurgeon said, “When God asked, “Where art thou?” humanity was surely lost. Men by their sins have forfeited all claim upon God; they deserve to perish for their sins—and if they all do so, they have no ground for complaint.”