The Epistle of St. Paul
Second Bible Class
II. Justification, or, the Imputation of Righteousness (1:18--5:11)
A. Condemnation, or, the Universal Need of Righteousness (1:18--3:20)
The section before us reveals the desperate plight of the human race apart from Jesus Christ. God is absolutely righteous; His righteousness is revealed in the Gospel (1:17). He is undefiled and will have no fellowship with unrighteousness. But human beings are sinners by nature and cannot rid themselves of sin, let alone earn righteousness. They will remain separated from the Almighty unless God stoops down to provide a way out. The wonderful news of the Gospel, according to Romans, is that God has provided the righteousness that people cannot achieve.
Before people can fully appreciate the gospel they must understand the depths from which sinners have been rescued. In order to glory in the cross of Christ, they must recognize how pitiful and hopeless their original condition really was. Romans 1:18--3:20 is a bleak and frightening exposure of the natural heart in need of salvation.
1. The Revelation of God's Wrath (1:18)
An irrevocable law of God is that every sin ever committed merits and must receive judgment. All ungodliness and all unrighteousness may expect a visitation of wrath. Paul is about to describe unrighteousness, but he does so against the background of impending wrath. Notice, however, that the ungodliness is not merely a violation of the truth--people by their wickedness suppress the truth. When evil dominates their lives, then there is no longer any room to consider truth. People are the product of what they contemplate; and if they suppress the truth and do not respond to it correctly, this will lead to a loss of morality.
There are several ways that the term "wrath" has been interpreted in this verse: (1) a time of judgment that lies in the future at the end of the age; (2) judgment in nature (suffering), conscience (right vs. wrong) and word (judgment at the end); but most likely (3) what is said in the rest of the chapter--God gave the human race over in a judicial way. The history of the world is judgment; perversion in faith leads to perversion in life, and such evil brings ruin, both as natural consequence and divine visitation.
2. The Gentiles’ Need for Righteousness (1:19--2:16)
To demonstrate the world's dilemma Paul divides humanity into two parts, Gentiles and Jews, and in each case reveals their hopeless condition apart from Christ. The record of the Gentiles’ plight is a dreadful picture of raw sin.
a. The Gentiles (all mankind) have the light of nature (1:19,20). Here the apostle introduces the theme of general revelation: God has made plain to them what might be known about Him. From the very beginning the invisible things (His attributes) of the Godhead--his eternal power and divine nature (a supreme Being, a common term today)--have been clearly perceived in and through creation. Mankind has had more than the dim light of nature; they have had the bright light of all creation. In general, we can count on people having a sense of the existence of God; they don't need lengthening proofs and discussions. As a result, they are without excuse, for the glories of the creation were sufficient to make them aware that there is a sovereign Lord to whom they are accountable.
b. Their moral degradation (1:21--1:32). The people of the earth rejected the truth, spurned the light, and turned their backs on God. This is clear from the early portions of Genesis and from secular history of the pagan world of antiquity. The results of this rebellion remain.
Verse 21 describes their indifference to divine revelation. There is a change of tenses here; from now on Paul looks to the past to see how the world fell away from the truth. It is the religious history of mankind in a brief sketch; it is a record of devolution. They knew God, but they failed to recognize God and to render to God glory and gratitude due His worthy name. Their foolish hearts, that is, their rebellious wills, were darkened, that is, spiritually blind to the truth.
It seems that God gives all people a certain degree of light. If they respond correctly to the light that they have, He then sends more (see how God provided Peter for Cornelius in Acts 10); but if they fail to respond to it, or choose to pervert it, they become darkened and cannot see the light. This is a judicial blindness.
Verses 22-25 describe their idolatry that resulted in rejection of the one true God. Even though they were cold and careless toward the Creator, they felt the need to worship something, they still believed there were spirits or gods or forces that had to be respected and even manipulated in life. Their utter folly was to exchange the glory of the invisible God for images of people and animals. They elevated images to a position of superstition and prostrated themselves before them. They grovelled before their manmade images, thinking themselves pretty wise for being able to invent religious systems; but in reality they were revealing their folly by worshiping subordinate creatures over which God had commanded them to rule and have dominion. Every false god they worshiped was inferior, because each was something that the true Lord God had created.
Verses 26-32 describes the immorality that came with the idolatrous beliefs--lust, incest, pride, blasphemy--the categories of vices seem endless! The great folly of false worship is that it leads to false ethics amd morals. If people worship a higher being, they will elevate their ethics and morality to that level; but when the worship is base, the practice will be base. In fact, substituting anything for God alters one's ethics. A clear understanding of creation and the God of creation is the foundation or ethics and morality, as the Law makes clear; when people substituted the worship of the creatures for the Creator, a corrupt pattern of life could only follow, for human life was then allowed to run down with no remedial correctives. So this chapter paints a vivid description of the darkness of the race apart from God. Nothing but divine intervention could possibly lift the human race out of darkness and restore it to God. But not everyone is willing.
The way that these changes came about is described as judicial: Paul says, "Therefore, God gave them over" to their depraved customs (vv. 24, 26), and their depraved or useless minds (v. 28). In the Bible the mind is more than the intellect; it is the organ of moral reasoning and the capacity for choosing or willing. People who refuse to acknowledge God have this capacity blunted by sin and blindness, so that their minds are "disqualified" from being able to understand and acknowledge the will of God. People who have turned from God are fundamentally unable to think and decide correctly about God; they can certainly talk about God or spiritual things, but the substance is contaminated by their lack of spiritual discernment, or their willingness to explain away divine standards so that they may live the way they want. Only the work of the Holy Spirit renewing the mind will enable people make the correct choices and live in a way pleasing to God. God gave them up so that their wickedness would take its logical course down the dead-end highway of evil to destruction.
There are several ways that this verb "gave them over" has been interpreted. (1) In the early Church Chrysostom took it in a permissive sense, that God permitted them to be given over. But that is not the force of the verb; it is far more active than that. (2) Another view is what we call the privitive sense, that is, God did not impel them to believe but withdrew His restraining hand, and by withdrawing his restraint the effect appeared that he was giving them up. Again, that idea may satisfy some by softening the meaning, but it is still not exactly what is being said. (3) The full explanation goes a little further, that is, it is judicial (which includes something of the privitive); God actively abandoned the race to judgment because it rejected the light (see Mk. 4:12; Isa. 6). Throughout Scripture we learn that in God’s dealings with people there comes a time when he must take retributive action in judgment; for Israel, for example, after centuries of their defection he hardened their hearts and blinded their spiritual perception (Isa. 6) and declared that they were not his people and he was not their God (Hos. 1).
Note the emphasis throughout here how they rejected the truth: v. 19, "known of God"; v. 21, "knew God"; v. 28, "holding God in full knowledge"; and v. 31, "known fully the deadly guilt of evil."
When did such divine retribution take place? Is it broadly mankind's history, or were there events? We may say collectively it began at Babylon (Gen. 11) where the nations were scattered because of their pride and rebellion, God allowing that wars and conflicts and separate developments in paganism were less evil than collective apostacy. Having said that, however, we must also note that collectively the restoration of believers focuses on Jerusalem and God’s covenant program. These two centers are always antithetical in Scripture for what they symbolize.
But individually the judicial retribution would have begun in the Garden. The language of verse 23 in this passage is the language of Genesis. And, Romans 5:12 makes the direct reference to that beginning of judgment. Because Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they were expelled from the Garden to make their own way, until they realized that they needed divine recovery if they were ever to be truly like God.
In what sense then are the results today? The judgment reappears or manifests itself in every generation. Humans are fallen and perverted from birth. If they are allowed to express themselves in their natural instincts, they will be perverted in every form of life and every aspect of life, never measuring up to the design of the creator for human life. For example, the sexual union between the male and the female is by nature natural affection; it is established by God as the proper use of sex. Homosexuality is an offense against God; it is not a weakness, or illness; it is a sin. But all sin is forgiveable. Some might say that it is natural because they were born with that nature; but that is why Jesus said we have to be born again, by the Spirit. So what Paul is saying is that when you see and rebellion against God and His Word, whether a great evil, anarchy, wickedness, or alternative lifestyles out of the will of God, we are not to think that God is about to judge that society--the people are not in danger of judgment, rather, it has happened already. God has given them over to run their course to ruin, to self destruct, as long as they live in rebellion to His will. And they will self-destruct if they never respond to the light of the Gospel. This is not simply true of one sin that gets a lot of attention today, but all sin if persisted in will bring about ruin, and there comes a point when God lets it run its course. This is why Isaiah said, “Seek the LORD while he may be found.” There may come a time when His Spirit stops working with a person, and lets that person follow the broad way that leads to destruction. None of us know when that might be, and so we continue to pray for people and call them to repentance.
c. A diatribe on the wrath of God (2:1-16). In the preceding section the apostle referred to the Gentiles in the third person ("they" and "them"). Had he meant the Roman Christians, he would have used the second person plural. Now in this section he begins using the second person, but it is not a direct address to the Church; rather the genre is a diatribe. In a diatribe the writer can get a point across by engaging in an imaginary debate with a student or opponent. He will often use posed questions and emphatic rejections. It appears that in this case Paul's main target would be the self-righteous Jew. So Paul is now beginning to turn to the sin of the Jews. He will deal with it in three stages: first this transition part where he declares that the Jews are no better than the pagan Gentiles and will likewise receive the wrath of God, then in a parallel way he explains how the Law condemns (2:17-29), and then, third, he adds a parenthetical response to possible misconceptions of what he has said (3:1-8). Romans 3:9 explains what he has done: he has charged the Gentile with guilt; now he charges the Jew.
So in the present section Paul will focus on the attitude of the Jew who would judge others as being evil, but who will not himself live up to the standard. The "therefore" at the beginning of chapter 2 is the strongest inferential particle in the New Testament. On the basis of Romans 1:32, you are inexcusable "everyone of you who . . . ."
The whole point of this section is that God judges according to righteousness--in truth (v. 2), according to works (v. 6), without partiality (v. 11). Contrary to popular Jewish belief, the sins of the Jews will not be treated differently than those of the Gentiles. Simply belonging to the covenant people avails nothing because the wrath of God is revealed against sin. Rejecting the truth (v. 8) is lack of faith--it is the sin of not believing! So here Paul is reasoning like James: faith without works is dead. And, as the basis of judgment, faith and works are inseparable. If God judges by works, or if he judges by their lack of faith, the decision is the same, for those who do not believe do not produce good works--they produce evil (v. 9). What we see in appearances can be misleading; many who look lovely to the world have done so out of selfish motives, or, as Paul has laid down, everything that the unbeliever has done is touched by his depravity. The Bible elsewhere will affirm that without faith it is impossible to please God.
In verses 12 and 13 Paul affirms that those who sin apart from the Law will be judged apart from the Law and those who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law. In a parenthesis (vv. 14,15) he explains that the conscience forms a kind of law within; the conscience most of the time accuses, once in a while excuses, on the same basis that the law prescribes right and wrong. No person living is without this warning voice within. But does this inner voice provide the Gentiles with the righteousness they need to have fellowship with God? No, they still need specific revelation that leads to faith in Jesus Christ.
The point of the discussion about judgment begun in verse 12 is then completed in verse 16 as Paul affirms that "God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." Jesus Christ is the Judge. Paul is not saying that God will judge according to his gospel (some translations sound that way); rather, he is saying the fact that Jesus is Judge is in accordance with my gospel (he wanted the expression "through Jesus Christ" at the end for emphasis). Jesus Christ will judge Jew and Gentile alike, according to the three previous principles: truth, works, and impartiality. So these principles provide a picture of true justice: God will judge according to reality, to truth, and cannot be deceived; God's judgments are universally proportionate to what people deserve, and no one can protest; God's judgments are completely unprejudiced, for apart from Christ's righteousness all will receive their just deserts; and God's judgments relate to mankind's innermost motives--inner thoughts and outward actions are both clear to this Judge.
Paul is still laying the foundation in his argument that both Jew and Gentile need the righteousness of God. Neither the pagan apart from the law or the Jew under the law is righteous enough to escape God's judgment. We may recall here Psalm 130, what Luther called the most Pauline Psalm: "O Lord, if you should mark iniquity, who could stand; but with you, O Lord, there is forgiveness of sin, in order that you might be feared."
3. The Jew’s Need of Righteousness (2:17--3:8).
The Jews had higher moral and spiritual standards than most of the ancient world, due to their ethical monotheism with its strict laws. With the greater privileges of such specific revelation came greater responsibility as well.
a. Their great privileges did not suffice (2:17-29). In verses 17-24 Paul discusses the first great privilege of Israel--the Law of God. The commandments given to Moses were forever the unique and priceless possession of the chosen race. They prided themselves in the Law and "rested" in it as though it was adequate to meet all their spiritual needs. But even though they had the truth revealed to them, knew it and taught it, they themselves failed to obey it, either in the letter of the law or its spirit.
Verses 17-20 extol the privileges that Israel had by virtue of the Scriptures; they were instructed, guides, lights, instructors, teachers. It is a marvelous list. But verse 17 begins a condition (called protasis--“if”), and the apodasis (“then”) is not until verse 21--“you then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” In other words, if in the light of all this privilege this is the way you (Jews) live, then you are without excuse. Paul ends the section with a citation from Isaiah and Ezekiel, namely that God's name was being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of Israel. That meant that because they disobeyed and were sent into captivity, the reputation of the LORD was placed in jeopardy--their sin drew God's name down.
Verses 25-29 record the discussion of the other great privilege of Israel that went awry--circumcision. Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant; it was performed on the foreskin of a Hebrew baby boy when he was eight days old, to signify that the little lad was accepted into the covenant community (not that the child was sealed forever in salvation--that required personal faith).
But Paul's point here puts this in perspective: it is not enough to be a Jew, circumcised as a member of the community; one must practice the Law. The Law itself had declared that true circumcision was of the heart, that is, a changed will set apart to serving God (Deut. 30:6). And Jeremiah, always the prophet of reality, foresaw the punishment on national Israel, that is, on those who were only circumcised in the flesh (9:25). Circumcision without the reality of a living faith is uncircumcision; but Paul will add that uncircumcision (=Gentile people) that keeps the Law (righteous people by faith) is true circumcision (of the heart). Note Paul's points in this paragraph:
1. The rite without reality is really unrighteousness (v. 25). There was only value in being a circumcised Jew if the Law was being kept (evidence of a living faith). Keeping the Law refers to the fulfillment of the condition of faith; it was the carrying out of the precepts of faith. As with any religious ritual (today, baptism, or holy communion), circumcision meant nothing if there was not a genuine faith to live out what the ritual was designed to signify.
2. Reality without the rite is righteousness (vv. 26, 27). Paul goes so far as to say the obedience of faith is the essence of righteousness, whether there was the rite of circumcision or not. Paul's words would have upset many of the circumcision who placed such great stress on the rite; he was affirming that it was far better to be an uncircumcised (physically, so a Gentile) believer trying to obey the Law than to be a circumcised (Jewish) unbeliever. The life of the believer condemns those who have the Law and the rite, but who break the Law and deny the rite.
3. The reality of a living faith is praised by God, but the empty rite is praised by mankind (vv. 28, 29). The man who is only outwardly a Jew by circumcision is not the true Jew, but the one who is a Jew in the inward man, by faith, whether he has the rite or not, is the true Jew. That is, the truly circumcised person--the believer--is one who by faith is set apart to God, circumcised in the heart to give witness to the meaning of the circumcision--set apart to God.
There is a wonderful word play here in this section. The Hebrew word for "Jew" is yehudah, literally, "may he be praised" (the verb yadah means "to praise"). So in Hebrew “praise” and “Jew” would be essentially the same. Paul is writing in Greek, of course; but when using the Greek word for “praise,” epainos, he undoubtedly knew what he was doing. His line has a double meaning: "such a man's praise is not from men, but from God," or "such a man's Judaism is not from men, but from God." The truly “spiritual” circumcision received praise from God because there was a reality of faith and not empty ritual to the claims.
So the point Paul has made in this section is that in spite of the privileges that Israel had, they disobeyed God and therefore stand in need of divine righteousness just as the Gentiles do. The probable response of the Jews to this point was that Paul was wiping out any Jewish-Gentile distinctions with the Gospel. What about those special promises to the Jews? And so Paul will attempt to balance the picture with a discussion of God's faithfulness in spite of Israel's unbelief.
b. God remains faithful and righteous (3:1-8). The section begins with the question of the value of the circumcision (an expression of sign for being a faithful Jew, faithful to the faith of Abraham). Paul's affirming "Much in every way" lets the reader know right away that in spite of Israel's failure (meaning the vast majority of Israelites) the covenant program was not a mistake. Paul will develop this theme more fully in chapters 9--11.
First, Israel was entrusted with the oracles of God. This expression refers to utterances or divine communications in written form. It often refers to specific passages in contexts, or, not the Scripture per se, but specific parts of the Scriptures. Paul probably is singling out passages that are revelations about the Messianic promises. The Messianic revelation of the covenant and the promises to the Jews will be unfolded beginning in chapter 9 to show that they have a future. God is righteous, meaning, God will be faithful to do what He has promised.
“But,” some will object, “Israel failed.” They were disobedient. Here is answered a basic error of many modern theologians--disobedience does not cancel the promises, it postpones them (or better, shows that they were not to be fulfilled at that time, that is, without us). Or, to put it another way, God's covenant promises are sure, but individual participation in them depends on faith and obedience. Paul is saying, "Their unbelief shall not void the faithfulness of God, shall it?" No, disobedience cannot do that. The promises rest on the divine character of God. Their disobedience only seems to affect when and how the promises are fulfilled, or who has a share in them--but not if they will be fulfilled. God has sworn to it and will not repent--the gifts and callings of God cannot be repented of. If we cannot believe that the promise to Abraham rests on God's faithfulness and not on collective obedience of the nation, then how can we believe the promise of John 3:16, for the people of the new Covenant have been anything but faithful. No, God is faithful to keep his promises, even if we are unfaithful, for he cannot deny himself.
“Let God be true and every man a liar!” If everyone, not just some, did not believe, God's word would still be true. This point is then backed up by a citation from David's great confession of sin (Ps. 51:4). In that context David was throwing himself on God's mercy, and having confessed his sin he was ready to accept whatever verdict came. If God sentenced him to death--that would be righteous; if God granted him mercy, that would harmonize with His nature. God was righteous whether David acknowledged this or not, and God could do as He pleased whether David confessed or not. But David in his confession was submitting to the will of God, and acknowledging the righteousness of God. David wanted the world to know that God was righteous; and his sin displayed it all the more.
But this might suggest to some that God was unrighteous in condemning people if by their sins His righteousness is displayed. Or, they might say, “If I have the opportunity for the greater glory of God, how can I be judged a sinner?” This kind of reasoning simply shows that there is something wrong in the person’s reasoning. The greater the evil is it might indeed show the greater that His righteousness is, but the evil is still great. People were merely trying to justify their evil and escape divine wrath.
4. Human depravity reaches every aspect of human life (3:9-20)
Paul's conclusion of the matter is that all are sinners and in need of the righteousness of God. According to verse 9 he is saying, “Well then, if we as Jews have such advantages due to God's choice of us, do we then excel--no, we are still sinners.” Paul is saying, “We may excel in that there is yet a future for believing Israel, but we are all sinners.”
Paul has charged the Gentiles with guilt in chapter one, charged the Jews with guilt in chapter two, but now summarily proves all are guilty in chapter 3:10-18 when he quotes Scripture. What does the Bible say? Here is the real force of the argument, the indictment. This practical method of the New Testament writers is still unsurpassed; it need not be modernized. Paul was comfortable stringing together a long list of biblical texts that made the point. If people did not agree, then their argument was with God, and not with him.
Note also that in verse 19 he will say this is from the Law. The passages are clearly not in the Pentateuch, but the Old Testament as a whole, here the Psalms--that is the Law of God as much as the Commandments of Moses. The citations are introduced with the standard Rabbinic formula, “As it is written,” meaning, as the Word of God the Scriptures remains forever binding. The first part of the series comes from Psalm 14 and 53 (the two psalms are almost identical). The psalm is a contrast between the fool (nabal) who says in his heart there is no God, and the Word of the LORD that declares there is none righteous, not one single person.
Verses 13 and 14 focus on their speech. The poetry of the Psalter is rich: what they say brings ruin and destruction ("their throats are open graves"). They are deceitful, destructive, and hurtful. If ever there was a question about the extent of depravity, one need only examine the things people say. And much of it is an inherited ability.
Verse 15 and 16 list conduct as murderous and treacherous. Human beings are murderers from the beginning. "Their feet are swift to shed blood" captures the ease and the eagerness with which they design the death of other people. Because of human nature, ruin and misery characterize our lot in life.
Verses 17 and 18 look at the thoughts. Here Isaiah is cited as well as Psalm 36:1. These two ideas form a climax to the list. The way of peace--as Isaiah meant it--is foreign to human nature. It is, as Jesus explained, not as the world gives. Psalm 36:1 essentially means "there is no dread thing from God before their eyes." In other words, God has not slapped them down or punished them yet, and so they live as the fools they are, concluding that he must approve.
The listing by subject matter is a typical rabbinic method of building groups of texts. This is a clear, biblical description of human nature apart from faith in the LORD. The race is unrighteous; and left to themselves they become vile and destructive, leaving a trail of misery and ruin. Only common grace has kept them alive and in as much harmony as there has been.
In his conclusion (v. 19) Paul says that the Law speaks to those who are under the Law, that the whole world might be found guilty. The Jew was representative of the human race in God's dealings with people. God tested one element of the race, the one with the most light given to them, and discovered it was sour; thus, he pronounces judgment on the whole race and no one can protest. The point is clear from verse 20: no one can be declared righteous by keeping the Law, because there is no one who can keep the Law. The race is corrupt. Here Paul seeks to destroy the Jews’ last stronghold--much as Jesus did when he challenged those who claimed to have kept all the commandments. The Law had many purposes; but salvation by keeping it was not one of them. Paul affirms that the Law pointed out sin--it showed our need. In this sense the old saying is true that the Jews' death warrant has been written in their birth certificate. The Law was a great heritage for them; but it condemned them, and all of us as well.
Things to Consider
This entire section is the most unpleasant section of the book, dealing with condemnation; but it is most necessary. If there is no sin, if the race is not lost, then what in the world is the Gospel all about? So as you think through some of the current debates, you should be able to explain these:
1. How would you define or describe total depravity? You may not particularly like the expression, but it has stood the test of time. What was meant by it? What does that say about theories like universalism?
2. How should we define sin? Perhaps you could write a composite description from the various ideas presented in this section.
3. Can anyone plead ignorance to God in the day of judgment? How would Paul answer that question?
4. What are some of the dangers of growing up in a religious community with all the Scriptures, rituals, and traditions?
5. Sometime privately think through your own "righteousness"; how does it measure up to the standard, and how would it stand under the kind of scrutiny Paul declares God's judgment to have?
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name;
On Christ, the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the 'whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
Of course believers in Christ understand that for them the wrath has already been poured out--on the Son of God who bore its weight and agony in the place of sinners. Now, "being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Rom. 5:9).
The expression is often used in translations "depraved mind." This terminology gives the impression that everything that such an individual thinks or imagines is only evil continually (cf. Gen. 6). And, of course, that may be true. But the term really means "useless." Likewise, when we speak of the doctrine of total depravity we do not mean that unbelievers only do evil continually; rather, the doctrine of total depravity means that absolutely nothing that an unbeliever does is meritorious before God. This is why the apostle will say that without faith people are dead in trespasses and sins.
 This, of course, does not apply to the remnant of true believers in the land, people like Isaiah and Hosea themselves; it applies to the people who had rejected Yahweh and turned to worship Baal and other false gods. Paul will tell the Roman Church that not all Israel was Israel--they might have been born into an Israelite family, but they were not the spiritual seed of Abraham.
Neither can you change the plain meaning of the words to suggest that for the homosexual the natural affection is to someone of the same sex and to force heterosexual compliance would be the sin. That merely twists the meanings of the words of Scripture to justify a life-style that the Bible nowhere condones.
Here is another part of the moral argument for the existence of God begun in chapter 1. General revelation reveals the invisible attributes, and the human conscience can respond to what is right and wrong.
Or, "as my gospel declares."
As C. S. Lewis has expressed it, if people do not believe in Christ and submit to Him, saying "Thy will be done," then in judgment the Lord will say to them, "Thy will be done."
 To call the Jews God’s chosen people does not mean that they are any more righteous than others, or that God made special concessions for them. It means God had chosen them for a particular task, and such a choosing brought higher standards for them to follow.
Ezekiel records how the LORD would regather Israel, not because they deserved it, but because God's reputation as trustworthy demanded it. Likewise in the LORD's Prayer is the chief concern with seeing the name of the LORD hallowed.
Paul's comments on circumcision can be easily applied to other religious groups. In many churches infant baptism carries much the same significance for entrance into the covenant community as did circumcision for the Jews. People grow up not living the faith. But with a false security that they were baptized as an infant. Without faith it is impossible to please God.