Is There Any Advantage to Being a Jew? – Romans 3:1-8

Paul deals with a potential objection from his dialogue partner, a Jewish person who has tried to keep the Law but now discovers he is just as guilty as the Gentile. If the Jews have spectacularly failed to keep the Law and are enslaved to the “power of sin” in the same way the Gentiles are, what advantage is there to being a Jew?

If it is the case that God chose Israel as his people and gave to them the Law, then their failure may appear to make God’s plan in the Old Testament out to be a failure. This is a problem some readers will have when they read the Old Testament, Israel spectacularly fails in their calling to be the light to the Gentiles; they cannot even “save themselves.”

Image result for Jewish scriptureFor Paul, being Jewish is still of great advantage, Paul will return to this in Romans 9:4-5 in much more detail, here he only gives a short answer.

Paul says first, the Jewish people were entrusted with the “oracles of God” (τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ). The word translated “first” (πρῶτος) can mean first in a sequence. The ESV translates this as “to begin with…” implying the first of a series. There is no “second” item in the list, so commentators think Paul started the list, dropped it until chapter 9. But the word can also mean “of first importance.” In this view, the oracles of God are the most important advantage the Jewish people were given.

The oracles are sayings, but Acts 7:38 uses the same word for the law that was given to Moses (living oracles, λόγια ζῶντα). In Hebrews 5:12 the writer chides his readers for not having understood the “the basic principles of the oracles of God” yet. The phrase is used in 1 Peter 4:11 for words given through the Holy Spirit. In each example the logia of God are the “very words of God” given in the Law and Prophets (Kruse, Romans, 160).

Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? If the Jews were given the “very words of God” and failed to respond properly to them, perhaps God is not obligated to be faithful toward them.

By way of analogy, if someone acts rude and offensively toward you, sometimes it is socially acceptable to be rude back to them. Since they have broken politeness, you are no longer obligated to be polite. (Someone might react to a spouse who cheats by cheating themselves, since one covenant partner has been unfaithful, the other is released from their own commitment to faithfulness). (If you get pranked, the proper response to prank back?)

Paul’s response to this question is no, God is not released from his covenant with Israel because Israel was unfaithful. To use an analogy from Hosea and the marriage metaphor, Israel was an unfaithful partner who behaved abominably toward God’s loving kindness. Yet God has not divorced his unfaithful spouse, but is in the process of wooing them back to the relationship they had at the beginning in the wilderness.

Even though Israel was an unfaithful covenant partner, God is the ideal example of a faithful covenant partner and will fulfill his side of the covenant regardless of the rebellion of his partner.

In this verse he says only some Jews were unfaithful. Although Romans 9-11 indicates that Israel as a whole failed, there was always a righteous remnant that was faithful to the covenant. Yet even the righteous remnant failed to wholly keep the Law! Therefore Paul can conclude there is no one who can please God (Law-Keeping Jews or righteous Gentiles).

17 thoughts on “Is There Any Advantage to Being a Jew? – Romans 3:1-8

  1. God is faithful to His children whether they are obedient or not. On the other hand, God lovingly disciplines His children to help guide them back to the right path. According to TTP, “Nero set upon the Christians, blaming them for imperial subversion and the burning of the city” (TTP 173). The Jewish Christ-followers were often blamed for things that weren’t their fault just because they were “Christian” and people liked to pick on them. Despite the conflict the Jewish-Christians face, they still have their faith in Jesus, which gives them hope. TTP also says, “Perhaps as they were dying from their torture, some Christians recited words of comfort from Paul’s letters to them” (TTP 173). Paul spoke the gospel to everyone, which was comforting to the Jewish Christians when they were facing trials of difficulty.

  2. My personal opinion in today’s culture of America I don’t see any advantage to being a Jew. But while I was in Israel there was definitely a culture shift and being Jewish made you stand out and even respected more it seemed. Now, back then things were probably a lot different, I think worldly wise being a Jew had its advantages it came with some status in certain parts of the world, you were seen as clean and almost holy. While Gentiles were seen as lesser and unclean. But in a Godly way once Jesus came to earth and sacrificed himself for EVERYONE there is no advantage to being Jewish. “Paul wants to show that this story has significance not only for the circumcised Jew but also for the uncircumcised Gentile” (TTP, 181). Paul made it very apparent that no one was above the other. In God’s eyes everyone is loved by him and can learn to follow the law but it is not the way anymore to get to God.

  3. The Jewish people realized they were just as guilty as sinners as the Gentiles. However, there were still advantages to being a Jew according to Paul. Paul said that the Jewish people were trusted with the oracles of God: “then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Roman 3:1-2). Paul loved the Jews and the gentiles and wanted both of them to be saved. Paul prayed for the Jews in Romans “brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved…For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4). God does not want to “save [them] by [their] own righteousness but by an extraneous righteousness which does not originate in [themselves] but comes to [them] from beyond” (Longenecker, 174). The righteousness comes from God’s own righteousness, and is given to those who are faithful. God himself “reckons as righteousness when he considers the standing of those who believe in Jesus Christ” (Longenecker, 174).

  4. I look at it more as being held on a high pedistool to be a Jew. They were being held at a high level because God entrusted them with such oracles. I think you can look at it as both an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how motivated of a person you are. If you are looking at trying to hold yourself more highly than I think this could be an advantage. If you do not have the same morals than I think it could be a disadvantage. I also believe that you do not have to be a Jew to have the same values. Christ died so that we do not have to put ourselves on those high levels, but we should still try to live a life like Jesus. “But Scripture also shows that God has not only elected the ethnic people of Israel (specifically, to play various roles in salvation history), but has also called Gentiles to be among his people (9:24-29). With this, Paul sets out a discourse on the nature of obedience to God, in which faith lies at the heart of everything, regardless of ethnic identity (9:30-10:31) (Longenecker, 187).

  5. I find it incredible how God, in all of his mercy, wooed Israel back to himself. After being previously mentioned, the example of a husband and wife sticks in my mind. When an individual cheats on their spouse, it is highly likely for the spouse who was cheated on to leave the marriage. In today’s day, this scenario is not as taboo to talk about as was in previous years. Instead, it is almost an understood and justified situation. After thinking about this, I find it even more incredibly how God is faithful even when his children are not. A spouse deciding to stay with their cheating partner seems admirable. Even if they are not actively choosing to pursue the one who cheated on them, at least they have not yet left. God takes it one step further to not just leave ‘us’ sinful children, but rather completely fights for our lives, as if he could not stand to lose us.

    This reality makes me wonder: would the divorce rate be lower if spouses actively decided to woo their cheating spouse? How much love would be present in the world if every individual decided to follow God’s example

  6. Romans 3:1-2 says, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. Jews enjoyed privileges that the Gentiles might not have. The Jews have oracles of God and circumcision on their side if you will. Not many nations would receive the oracles of God.
    Although the Jews had the law and the oracles of God, they did not really receive or take advantage of it. Whether Jew or Gentile, God is steadfast and righteous no matter what. I think there probably were advantages to being a Jew, but no greater advantage than being a believer of Christ Jesus.

  7. Its interesting when we look at how bad the Jews messed things up and yet God still called them His chosen people. Though the Jews failed, that does not mean God did. The failures, in my opinion are what make the Jews the light because it allows the world to truly see God’s redemptive plan and His love. When the Jews were given the law, it was obvious that it was impossible for them to keep every single law, it was like setting them up to fail, however the law not only gave them a standard to live up to, but it also showed God’s holiness and His grace. Thus, this is revealed all throughout the mistakes of the Jews through the O.T. Christ is also way that God shines through their mistakes; even though the Jews were unfaithful, God himself came to earth as one of them to save the world. That alone is a testimony to gentiles about out God and is a advantage to being a Jew and a Christian.

  8. I believe there’s an absolute advantage in being Jewish, for a few secular and spiritual reasons. Paul writes for Jew-Gentile Equality from what we would, in today’s society. consider to be a Messianic Jew’s perspective. That is to say, a person of Jewish ethnicity who accepts Christ as the Savior, rather than regarding Jesus as a prophet. I have discovered in my bi-weekly visits to shabbat that in modern day Judaic culture, Jesus himself isn’t thrown out the window, and my rabbi has said Jesus says some things he can get behind. There is, however, a difference in being saved. That’s the ideal that Paul hoped for, I believe. Between Jews and gentiles, both are sinners, and both can find that salvation.

  9. Paul begins Romans with a great point that we were/are enslaved to sin, and Jesus is the only one who can save us from our sin. Because of this, not only the Jews, but also the gentiles will never have a perfect/right relationship with God on this earth because we are unfaithful to God all the time. We abandon and reject God every day because of our sinful nature, yet that does not nullify God’s faithfulness! God will never abandon us even when we abandon him everyday, even in a “small” way. Because of God’s faithfulness, he will keep his promises to the Jews that he made in the Old testament. Even though some appear to not be fulfilled today, that doesn’t mean they will not be fulfilled in the future. We just don’t understand God’s timing because of our earthly human logic/timing. In this way, maybe there is a slight advantage to being a Jew because of the special promises waiting to be fulfilled, but gentiles should not be jealous by any means because there is Jew and gentile equality when it comes to salvation. We do not need to worry about rewards or promises that are not about us. All we should be concerned about is glorifying God in all we do while living on earth. However, Jew or Gentile, there is none that can fully please God because we both equally cannot keep the law and sin (in this we desperately need Christ). Therefore, being a Jew doesn’t make you more saved than a gentile, but there are still special promises talked about in the Bible regarding the Jews that will eventually be fulfilled.

  10. Throughout all of history, the attitude of people has always been give and take. The idea that if you do something to me, I get to do something to you. It is a relatively childish way of thinking, but when we see this translate over into the Christian culture, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me. It is the same when I see that they struggled with it during biblical times as well. Paul breaks this down when he tells them that they are no longer bound to their sin, but this doesn’t necessarily change the patterns of thinking of the people. They might know now that they are saved and free, but those patterns are still there. It is hard to break that mold. Paul encourages them to be faithful and let God handle whatever they feel like they should take care of themselves.

  11. It is an interesting point to ask is it more beneficial to be a Jew. Romans 1:16 ends by saying “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek”.So when the Jews get saved first? I wouldn’t say it quite like that. This is stated in the context that the Law was given to Israel first. They have always had the opportunity to be faithful to God. On the other hand, Gentiles did not have a covenant with God. The very words of God were given to them and even had prophets call them back to God Himself.

    Longenecker points out, “Paul ultimately excludes any suggestion that God has been unfaithful to his covenant people…” (TTP 187).

    When you first mentioned examples of would it be right to retaliate or be legally unbound from people who have been unfaithful I thought of Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil”. God will always be the better man. He will always lavish us with His love and affection. He has legal right and the authority to just get into a covenant with another people. But He doesn’t because He loves us so much and will never leave us. He loved us even though we were sinners! People who constantly break His heart!

    Gentiles, I think have a good advantage in that the never knew better. Israel did and turned away numerous times and even gave themselves to other false gods. Gentiles could potentially say they appreciate God more than the other, but there were faithful men in the Old Testament who devoted their love to God. I think it all comes down to is how aware of your sin are you? Because grace is only effective in our lives if we know we have a need for it. The religious leaders or Jews appear to have thought they had it all together. Gentile Christians, seem to have an appreciation but also a skewed understanding as to what faithfulness to God looks like. (such as the Corinthian believers and those of Rome still practicing their sins.).

  12. okay cool heavy deep comments here, notice how hebrew isn’t a language, hebrew is vowels, it’s ancient beyond shakespeare, why do you keep translating texts THAT ancient to english?

    • Hebrew is ancient, but it originally consisted of just consonants, not vowels. It pre-dates Shakespeare by 2500 years, and is easily translates since so much survives, and it is very much like Aramaic, a language with a massive literature.

      You translate languages into English so people who do not read Hebrew can read and understand the text (perhaps like you?)

      People translate much older texts, Sumerian and Akkadian, for example.

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