The Jew, Paul tells them, did in fact possess tremendous advantage, chief among these being that to them were committed the oracles of God.  By “the oracles of God,” of course, Paul means the holy scriptures.  This, without question, was no small blessing.  The rest of the world lived in darkness, without a single word of revelation from God, while to Israel had been given prophets, kings, and wise men, who had penned those books which were now the sacred depository of divine truth in the world.  To them alone had been committed the writings of men who had written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, concerning the history of creation, the dealings of God with mankind, and particularly His chosen people throughout history.  To them were committed the prophecies of the Messiah, and all the identifying marks by which He would be known when He came.


Even granting that Paul is correct in saying that the Jew is a sinner in need of the grace of God fully as much of the Gentile, no one should be able to question the fact that the Jews possessed a tremendous advantage in that they had the holy scriptures, which spoke of the Saviour to come, and revealed the way of salvation.  The Old Testament scriptures themselves exulted in this advantage of the Jewish people, in passages such as Psalm 147:19, 20.  The rest of the world was left in blindness and ignorance for thousands of years, under a veil of darkness which only in Paul’s day was beginning to be lifted.


Deacons and their Wives

The office of deacon is distinguished from that of elder or pastor in that qualifications are given for the deacon’s wife as well as the man himself.  Of course, some have argued for a position of “deaconess” as well, which I attempt to show is not justified biblically.

This message, then, covers the requirements for the deacon’s wife, then the final set of qualifications for the deacon, and finally, Paul’s description of the reward of a godly deacon.

One of the apostle’s consistent methods throughout the epistle to the Romans, particularly in the doctrinal portion, is to take up an objection he knows some of his readers will make to what he has been teaching, and answer that question.  This is an excellent and very necessary way of teaching, particularly when such vital stakes are involved as the justification of sinners before God.  The apostle, by this time in his life a very experienced teacher, was familiar with every argument that men made against his cherished doctrine of salvation by the free grace of Christ.  He knew how indignant his doctrine of spiritual circumcision, and of the equality of the Jew with the Gentiles in their condemnation before God, made his Jewish brethren.  Doubtless every one of the many objections he mentions and disposes of throughout this entire epistle were ones he had dealt with many times throughout the course of his ministry.  We should thank the Lord for the wisdom he gave this mighty apostle, to answer many of the arguments still being made against the doctrines of free grace by the enemies of the Gospel, and sometimes too by honest inquirers, to this very day.

Having heard the apostle make the astounding argument that circumcision in the flesh was by itself useless, and that the true Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly, the Jewish hearer would quite naturally demand whether there was any advantage at all in being a Jew, since it gave them no inside track to the kingdom of God.  They delighted much in the covenant promises, the land of Canaan, and their natural descent from Abraham, and were sure this gave them advantages none of the rest of the world possessed.  To hear such arguments as Paul was making must have confounded them, and of necessity have raised this question which the apostle here poses: “What advantage then hath the Jew?  Or what profit is there of circumcision?”  This is, we must admit, a very legitimate question.  Since nearly the whole Old Testament deals with the people of Israel, and often praises God for dealing with them in marvelous ways that He had not done with any other people, was the apostle’s argument a valid one?  He will show that it is.


O how happy are they
Who the Savior obey,
And have laid up their treasure above!
Tongue cannot express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love.

That comfort was mine,
When the favor divine
I first found in the blood of the Lamb;
When my heart it believed,
What a joy it received,
What a heaven in Jesus’ Name!

’Twas a heaven below,
My Redeemer to know,
And the angels could do nothing more,
Than to fall at His feet,
And the story repeat,
And the Lover of sinners adore.

Jesus all the day long
Was my joy and my song;
O that all His salvation may see!
He hath loved me, I cried,
He hath suffered, and died,
To redeem such a rebel as me.

On the wings of His love,
I was carried above
All sin, and temptation, and pain;
I could not believe,
That I ever should grieve,
That I ever should suffer again.

I rode on the sky,
Freely justified I!
Nor envied Elijah his seat;
My soul mounted higher,
In a chariot of fire,
And the moon it was under my feet.

O the rapturous height
Of the holy delight,
Which I felt in the life giving blood!
Of my Savior possessed
I was perfectly blest,
As if filled with the fullness of God.

What, then, is true circumcision, and who are the true sons of Abraham?  Paul answers that vital question for the people of his time, and for those in our generation who have foolishly speculated that the people of Israel enjoy favor with God whether they obey His law or not.  Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, will have nothing to do with such a delusive fantasy.  The true Jew, or the one who truly has the favor of God, is he who is a Jew inwardly, that is, in the heart.  His heart has been renewed, and he enjoys communion with God by faith in Christ.  The uncircumcised Gentile who has trusted in Christ possesses the true circumcision, because his heart has been circumcised, the evil heart of unbelief cut away and cast aside by the powerful operation of the Spirit of God. 

These last three phrases sum up the entire matter.  Genuine heart circumcision is a matter of the spirit.  God is not so much concerned with who our parents are, as what our spirits are like.  A Gentile walking in humble faith and obedience is accepted with Him, while a Jew who enjoys the privileges of the covenant, but slights those privileges to live in uncleanness, is no friend of God.  The Jew thought it was a mere matter “of the letter,” or his outward conformity to the law of God.  Paul is showing them that by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in God’s sight.  External obedience is no substitute for genuine heart’s love, affection, and service.  The Jew by his external privileges and outward acts may earn the praise of his fellow men, but that is of no use.  It is the praise of God that the true believer seeks.  He whose heart has been circumcised, and who serves God with the spirit, will learn not to live for the praise of men, but for the praise of God, Who alone can give everlasting life.


And now Paul concludes his argument of the second chapter with an astounding statement, which I am sure many modern Christians would be shocked to find exists in the Bible.  The historically recent advent of Dispensationalism has given many people an unhealthy obsession with the Jews, by which I mean the people who say they are descendants of Abraham (whether their claim be true or not).  I have no quarrel with those who look for and expect a great revival among the Jewish people in the latter days; a strong biblical case can be made for such an event, as we shall observe in our remarks on the 11th chapter.  However, I have a very vehement quarrel with those who say that the people inhabiting the nation of Israel are in special favor with God, in many ways more so than the believing church of Christ, for no other reason than their lineal connection to Abraham.  It may well be that the time is coming when the people of Israel will turn to serve the Lord their God, and David their king; but there is no evidence that such is occurring at the present moment.  It is vain, and I go further to say it is wicked, to say that the nation of Israel, or any particular Jew, which rejects Jesus Christ, embraces secular humanism with all of its murderous and perverted practices and philosophies, is in favor with God.  Have they not learned that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from the very stones?  Hebrew blood buys no person favor with God.  Except they come unto God through Christ, they are as surely lost as the heathen Gentile.  Our blessed Lord and John the Baptist hammered upon the proud Jews of their day with that very lesson, and Paul is emphasizing it for the sake of the Jewish Christians in the church at Rome.  He wants them to know that it is not blood which counts, but what our hearts are like before God.


And so, having proven that an uncircumcised Gentile who keeps the law condemns a circumcised Jew who breaks the law, he shows that the true seed of Abraham are not his circumcised sons by blood, but the sons of the faith of Abraham.  The outward Jew is not the true Jew, after a spiritual fashion.  His circumcision and Abrahamic blood count for nothing in the courts of heaven.  Circumcision was given as a type of the putting away of the sins of the flesh, or we might say of regeneration.  The physical surgery was not the true circumcision in which God is most keenly interested.  Many a circumcised son of Abraham now inhabits the halls of hell.

On the other hand, if an uncircumcised Gentile, who was outside of the covenant, kept the law of God insofar as it was revealed to him, his uncircumcision would not keep him from being pleasing to God.  Though the Lord gave signs and ceremonies for certain purposes, His primary aim was always at heart obedience.  An uncircumcised Gentile, who believed and obeyed God, such as Naaman the Syrian, was more acceptable than a circumcised Jew, like Saul, who professed to love God, but in works denied him.  All in all, however, I think this contrast must be interpreted as being hypothetical.  Clearly, Paul is aiming to prove that neither Jew nor Gentile can satisfy God by their own goodness.  What he wishes to drive across to his Jewish brethren is the fact that their advantages are not nearly so great as they suppose, since an uncircumcised Gentile who sought to honor and obey God according to the light he had, was more acceptable to God than a circumcised Jew who had the mark of the covenant in his flesh, but lived a dissolute life of rebellion against the law.

He apparently also means to humble the Jews by showing them that in some cases they themselves are put to shame by the piety of certain Gentiles.  This we can gather from the 27th verse, where Paul says that the natural uncircumcised man, if he keeps God’s law, will judge the Jew, who has the letter of the law and circumcision, and yet transgresses the law.  Again, this is most likely a hypothetical scenario, but it should not escape our notice that throughout the history of God’s people there were occasions when ignorant Gentiles showed greater piety than the favored Jews.  Christ Himself instanced this to His fellow Nazarenes in Luke 4, when he pointed them to the examples of the widow of Sarepta and Naaman the Syrian.  In such cases, even the Gentile put the Jew to shame, and showed him how pitifully short of true meritorious obedience even the Jews fell.  God is always looking at the hearts, and examining without respect of persons.  A Gentile who is righteous in the heart is more acceptable with Him than a circumcised Jew who is wicked and unclean.