Christ, The End Of The Law
The Jewish Problem Observed

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 47b of 83

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:1-4).

[In our previous instalment of this study, we noted how the apostle Paul deeply desired the salvation his own country-men despite their antagonism against him. In this second instalment we must consider Paul’s observation of the reality that has befallen them. —JJL

2.  The Jewish Problem 
in Paul’s Eyes

Paul was earnestly praying for the Israelites not only because they are his kinsmen according to the flesh. Something in his knowledge about them encourages him to pray for them with greater zeal (v. 2):

2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

The Jews were a very zealous people. They were religiously fervent. “They have a zeal of God.” They had God as the goal of their zeal.

But their zeal was an ignorant zeal. Their zeal of God was “not according to knowledge.” They had some knowledge (γνῶσις, gnōsis), but they lack correct knowledge and they lack the appreciation of true knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις, epignōsis).

Paul ought to know. He was himself one of them. In his speech before king Agrippa, Paul confessed:

“I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9).

Indeed, Paul was exceedingly mad against the saints. He tried to destroy the Church of Christ. He persecuted the Christians even unto strange cities, punished them in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme the name of Christ (Acts 26:9-11).

Most of the Jews might not have been as zealous as Paul. But they were zealous nevertheless. They were zealously trying to gain God’s approval with their lives. But they were doing so in ignorance.

The other day, I was walking by an MRT station and there was a basker performing with his 6 or 7 year old son. This man who looked like a foreigner was zealously doing what he was doing. He was screaming out some song and his son was hoping around according to the beat. He was trying to entertain. Perhaps he thought that the louder he screamed and the harder he strummed his guitar, the more the people would be pleased. Little did he realise that he was making a nuisance of himself.

Such were the Jews. They were trying to please God in ignorance.

They were like the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel who were leaping around in frenzy and cutting themselves hoping that their god would take notice and hear their prayers.

They were like Martin Luther whipping himself at 4 am in the morning hoping that he could eradicate sin from his body.

They had zeal without knowledge.

 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

God has made it clear that no one can attain unto a righteousness that is acceptable to Him by his own good works. And not only so, but God has provided His own righteousness as a gift for His children.

Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God took on human flesh; and as the God-Man, lived, suffered and died for His people.

Those who are united to Christ by faith are covered by the righteousness of God that is purchased by Christ for them. That is God’s children are justified or accounted righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ. Those who believe in Christ are assured of this righteousness.

Now, we must pause for a moment before proceeding again with the Jewish problem. Let us consider for a moment our own zeal or lack of zeal.

The Jews had a zeal that is without knowledge. What about us? There are many who are held captive in false religion and many who are professing Christians who are religiously zealous, but without true knowledge.

These will perish in their sin if they remain unrepentant. What about you? Are you living in ignorance? You can be very zealous for the Lord, but yet perish in your sin if your zeal is without knowledge. If you know you are ignorant and many of us are, what are you doing about your ignorance? Are you eagerly learning the Bible as eagerly as you learn your text books in school?

This is the first question that you must ask yourself as you compare yourself with the Jews.

But secondly, it is necessary also for you to ask yourself: “Am I zealous for the LORD?”

·        How sad it is if you claim to have knowledge but is cool as cucumber unto the LORD.

·        You ought to be on fire for the LORD, but are living as if Christ deserve only 2 hours of your time every week. How sad!

·        You ought to be running for LORD, striving to win the crown of glory, but you are as disinterested as a slug at low-tide. How sad!

Oh beloved brethren, I wish I have the eloquence and power to stoke you into flames for the LORD. But the LORD says: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zec 4:6).

Oh will you not repent of your lethargy and begin this day to consider what you ought to be doing for the LORD, and how you ought to be living for Him, for all that He has done for you.

But let us consider now Paul’s evaluation of the Jewish problem vis-à-vis their zeal and their rejection by God

…to be Continued, next issue

—JJ Lim