The Jews had become accustomed to God’s favor. After thousands of years of being God’s chosen race, they wrongly assumed that possession of the Mosaic law gave them favor before God – which was true – but only as a means to reveal their sin and need for repentance – the law was NOT to be used as a means to judge other nations.
The Jews erred by placing emphasis on the external signs of the covenant – like possession of the law and circumcision. But Paul forces their eyes inward to reveal that true Judaism has always been about the internal state of the heart…
…no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Romans 2:28).
In essence, Paul had to reframe all of Jewish history in the context of grace. The Jewish nation did not earn God’s favor by observing the law…No! They only brought the wrath of God on themselves because they could not observe the law perfectly (Romans 3:10-18). When did the people receive God’s favor and blessing? When they repented and turned to God in humble reliance!!!!
Consider today’s story from 2 Chronicles 20. What was Jehoshaphat’s response when confronted with a great enemy? He gathered the people (with their wives and children) to the house of God and prayed. He humbled himself and called out to God for help! And what was God’s response?? Grace. God showed up in a mighty way and delivered His people from the hand of the enemy. But. God did have one requirement… faith. He told the people to “go down against them” but “you will not have to fight this battle.” In other words, the people had to confront their enemy with faith that God would keep His word. God’s deliverance came through repentance and faith!
This is the gospel at work. This is grace at work.
Paul goes on to teach at the end of Chapter 3 that the Jews were never justified by works – only by faith (3:21-24). He even argues that God endured the sin of the Jewish nation only by looking forward to Christ’s death on the cross which satisfied the wrath of God on their behalf (3:25).
We must not fall into the old sins of the Jewish nation. We must never think that our good words earn us favor before God! Rather, we must cling to the truth that God’s kindness toward us is undeserved – and has one purpose – one extremely important purpose…
…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)
Let Jehoshaphat’s prayer be our example… Let us humble ourselves in absolute reliance on our God. And may His kindness produce in us… repentance and faith!