The Jews had been given the Word of God (the Old Testament) with its strong message of hope connected to the coming of the Messiah. Instead of doing that with which they had been entrusted by God, of sharing that message with the Gentiles, the Jews had focussed on rituals connected to their ceremonial requirements.
The message they brought to the rest of the world was not a message of hope. Although their message was contained in the Old Testament, it was not the message of the Old Testament. The message of the Old Testament was not that we should keep the law in order to be recognised as God’s people. So what the Jews were doing in stressing law-keeping was that they were hiding the real message of the Old Testament, which was that God would provide a Saviour for lawbreakers. And when we realise this we see how terrible their use of the law was.
The good thing is that their unfaithfulness did not cause God to change his mind about the message he had entrusted to them in the Scriptures. He remained faithful to it. And although the fact that his faithfulness now meant the gospel was preached, it did not mean that the wilful and wrong response of the Jews did not matter. They would be punished by him for their sins, says Paul, even though God’s other righteousness was now being declared. That is, unless they repented of their wrongdoing.
So what is the point of the law? It is to make people stop boasting about their own abilities, to remind them that they are accountable to God, and that it is impossible to have a right relationship with him through their own obedience or attainments. Instead the law reminds us that in our natural state we are lost sinners.
Paul here finishes, as it were, the dark background to the picture that he is painting. Now he commences to insert the details that he wants to highlight. And we can see from verses 21-26 that the beautiful and bright features are all connected to Jesus. What does he say? We will consider them tomorrow.