17 Indeed are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law,
Paul now turned to the moral Jews. He directly addressed them in 2:17-29. They had seven peculiar privileges in verses 17 and 18:
God’s favor specially rested on the Jews by His entering into special covenants with the Jews (v.17a).
They understood the principles of Scripture and applied them to experience (v.17b).
The Jews rejoiced in the unique, exclusive God of the universe (v.17c).
They knew the will of God (v.18a).
They could distinguish between what was false and what was true from God’s viewpoint (v. 18b).
They had a missionary prerogative (vv.19-20a)
They understood the scheme of Scripture (v.20b).
In this section (2:17-3:20) Paul called for a different kind of righteousness, a righteousness based on God’s righteousness, not self-righteousness.
Indeed [assertion of certainty] you you are called a Jew,
The first advantage for the Jew was that he had special covenants (contracts) from God. The address here is to those who are truly Jews and not Gentiles (non-Jews). These people possessed special identity with God.
and rest on the law,
The second advantage of the Jew was that they understood and applied Scripture to experience. Jews relied on the law by putting confidence in the fact that God gave special revelation to them, the chosen people. The law was the foundation of their faith. The verb “rest on” means to lean upon. They believed in an inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God. They could put their trust in a document like that.
and make your boast [rejoice] in God,
The third advantage of the Jew was that he rejoiced in his unique relationship with God. Jews rejoiced about their special relationship to the true God.
and know His will,
The fourth advantage of the Jew was that he knew the will of God. He knew God’s plan and purpose by God’s revelation.
and approve [to test with a view of approving] the things that are excellent,
The fifth advantage of the Jew was that he could distinguish between what is false and what is true from God’s viewpoint. They knew the things God approved and what He did not approve.
The word “approve” means to test for approval. They applied the test of revelation to what they knew about the Bible. They keenly examined Scripture. The “things that are excellent” are things that hold distinction—the content or truth of the Word of God. They put priority on the things of greatest importance in Scripture.
being instructed [orally] out of the law,
The Jews could put priority on the things of greatest value because they received instruction from the Word.
It is possible to be uniquely privileged with knowledge of the Word yet live a life devoid of applying its principles.
it is possible to have the advantage of knowledge of the Word of God without it making an impact on our lives.