Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
1901 ASV Translation:
1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision?
2 Much every way: first of all, that they were intrusted with the oracles of God.
There are no textual variations between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in 3:1-2.
April 12, 2005
- I. Paul, Having Demolished the Theological Position of the Self-Styled "Jew", Turns to the Obvious Question: What "Good" Was "Jewishness and Circumcision"?
- A. The question arises because Paul basically destroyed the claim that 'being a Jew' and 'being circumcised' gave a person an automatic "leg up" in things relating to God.
- 1. He did not really do that, for his argument was that true "Jewishness" was a matter of the "secret" issues within man and true "circumcision" was a matter of the "heart", not of the genitalia of a man. These true issues do give a person a "leg up" in things pertaining to God.
- a. The problem was that those who considered themselves superior because of their "Jewishness" and "circumcision" did not have Paul's concept of true reality in mind.
- b. Thus, Paul had to deal, not with his concept, but theirs.
- 2. But, he did destroy the self-styled "Jew's" sense of "superiority" [see 3:9 and following].
- 3. Thus, the question does arise: Is there any "benefit" to being a member of the genealogical nation of Israel and having the mark of circumcision in one's body?
- a. The two issues must be kept together (genealogy and the mark) because either one without the other pretty much negates the whole. He was not of the "genealogy" who was circumcised in his flesh alone (not born of Israel, but circumcised); nor was he of the "circumcision" who was of the genealogy alone (one born of Israel but not circumcised).
- b. Paul's question, thus, concerns whether there was any "profit" to being within the genealogy of Israel and being within the community of the circumcised.
- 1) Paul used two words to address this issue of "profit".
- a) He asked if there was any "advantage".
- i. The word so translated typically signifies an abundance beyond what is, strictly speaking, necessary.
- ii. The question, then, is a question of whether being "Jewish" has any automatic advantage created by establishing a beyond-necessity abundance.
- iii. The answer is pretty much automatic also: an abundance beyond basic necessity is always advantageous if it is properly handled.
- b) Then he asked if there was any "profit".
- i. The word so translated signifies a benefit that comes by reason of some kind of investment.
- ii. The question is whether being in a given condition is of any value. This is an advance on the prior question in that it addresses the profit that might be one's, who is within the community of the "Jews" and the "circumcised", just because of that position.
- 2) He used two words because he had addressed very similar issues by addressing "Jewishness" and "circumcision".
- B. Paul's answer was a definite "Yes".
- 1. He claimed that the "benefits" were "multitudinous" (much in every way).
- a. His phrase sets up a "standard" (every way by which advantage and profit might be measured).
- b. Then he claims that being a "circumcised Jew" was advantageous and profitable no matter how one looks at it.
- 2. Interestingly, though, he only goes on to address one: the "oracles of God".
- a. The word "oracles" signifies words that contain absolute Truth.
- b. Paul is addressing the entire issue of God transcending "actions that reveal" to provide the beyond-necessity, abundant profit of "words that explain".
- 1) Clearly, explanation is a benefit.
- 2) The greater the understanding of a matter, the greater is the experience of the benefit. There are many things that do not require "understanding" in order for a person to benefit (a person can profit from eating food even if he understands nothing more than chewing and swallowing: the benefit is built-in). But, there are also many things that only have a marginal impact without greater understanding (the Law consists of one commandment (Love God); but that was expanded to a second commandment (Love your neighbor -- because he that says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar) in order to enhance both clarity of meaning and greater participation in blessedness; and those two were then expanded into Ten; and those Ten were expanded into over 600 further explications of the One. And those 600 were expanded into 66 books of divinely inspired details of which not one jot or tittle will fail. It should be clear from this that the greater the understanding, the greater is the experience of the benefit.
- c. Paul is also clearly saying that the nation of Israel was "unique" in its possession of the "oracles of God" -- which means that any kind of "word" from God in a non-Jewish setting was very rare.
- 1) Biblically, even when "pagans" had "dreams" that were from God, they did not understand them until some "Jew" came along and was given an explanation from God to give to the "pagan".
- 2) Even the story of Cornelius in the book of Acts is a story of how God did not typically give legitimate "words" apart from His "community of the faithful".
- 3) Paul's description of the local church as the pillar and support of the Truth continues the presentation of how God has restricted the verbal expression of His truth to His community and it goes beyond that community only by proclamation by that community.
- 4) It is somewhat of a mystery that God has deliberately limited His verbal expressions to men so that the vast majority of them never hear from Him in a verbal way.
- 5) Thus, possessing the "oracles of God" is the greatest of all of the "advantages" that bring "profit". This has powerful overtones as to what the people of God ought to be committed to: understanding the words of God. Instead of asking whether a given activity is "permissible", we ought to be asking if it is established as edifying.
- 3. Paul says these "oracles" were "committed" to the "Jews".
- a. The issue here is definitely one of "restricted access".
- b. But, the issue is also one of "determined responsibility" -- i.e., God's "commitment of the His words" was "unto some purpose".
- 1) This, obviously, raises the question of "purpose".
- 2) This, also obviously, raises the issue of how the "community of the commitment" was to exercise its stewardship.
- 3) That this commitment did restrict the access of humanity in general to the truth about God is undeniable. That the "community of the committed" had responsibility in respect to dissemination seems also to be undeniable -- though not as markedly so. The only conclusion we can honestly draw is that God was not as concerned about the whole world as He was about His community. Thus, it seems that God is more concerned with the development of His people than He is about whether the whole world has "equal access" to His truth. This is not an either/or; it is a more or less. This is at least implied by the biblical concept of the elect of God. Thus, we can say that God's "purpose" has primarily to do with the development of the believing, not the broadcasting of the Truth to the unbelieving. In fact, the broadcasting of the Truth by the believing to the unbelieving is actually a part of the edification of the believing... thus reinforcing the fact that God is "into" edification. So what does this say about those "churches" whose goal is evangelism and who daily sacrifice the people of God by not providing for their edification?