In most television dramas, the conclusion to a courtroom scene is usually very dramatic. During a final cross-examination, the prosecuting attorney will successfully provoke the accused to break down and confess to the crime. But in real life that dramatic courtroom conclusion rarely happens, cases are often settled through plea bargaining, where lawyers broker a deal outside of the courtroom.
In today’s passage, Paul continues to focus on those who think they can be made righteous by observing the law of Moses. He questions them with the force of a television prosecutor. The verses in today’s reading describe the self-perception of those Paul has in view. They are Jews who “rely on the law,” know and approve of God’s will and are convinced that they possess the truth (v. 17). They believed they were qualified to provide spiritual guidance to others.
The implied answers to Paul’s questions show that they were guilty of the very sins they condemned in others. Given the high view these moralists had of themselves, it seems unlikely that they would have agreed with Paul’s assessment. That is why the apostle brings forward an irrefutable witness to testify against them: God Himself! In verse 24, he quotes the last part of Isaiah 52:5 from the Greek translation known as the Septuagint (a similar thought is expressed in Ezekiel 36:20–23). Paul’s point is that even the biblical record shows that those who have the law do not necessarily obey the law. If anything, biblical history provides ample evidence that even those who affirm it prove themselves to be sinners, just like the rest.
>> The question we should consider today is this: Who can claim to have a relationship with God? The answer? Only God can make someone a child of God. It is not a question of your parent’s religion or your ethnicity, but a spiritual relationship between you and God, your “circumcision of the heart by the Spirit” (v. 29).
We confess that we are powerless to save ourselves, whether through inherent righteousness, good works, or birthright. Lord, we are your children because you have adopted us, and we owe everything to you.