Rights and Privileges (Lent 7-2013)

How can you tell the difference between rights and privileges?  Which did the Jewish people of Jesus’ day have: rights, privileges, or both?

First for the Jew, then for the Gentile was a repeated theme in the passage from yesterday,  First for the Jew was a right by the Covenant promises.  God covenanted with Israel, saying “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” (Isaiah 59:20) and God’s covenants stand forever.  But then yesterday’s conclusion was that a Jew is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly.  The promised Redeemer was to those in Jacob who repent of their sins.  If one can be a Jew inwardly and access the covenant promises by repentance,

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?  Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:1-2)

The Jewish people were the chosen ancestry for our Messiah Jesus Christ–Scripture is clear on that.  The traditions, the Law, and the Covenant promises belonged first to the Jewish people–their promised right to guard.  But it was also an inheritance privilege to be shared widely to those who repent, as a reflection of the grace of God in giving the Law.  The right to have the Messiah come through the Jewish people could never be taken away.  Sharing the Messiah with others was a privilege and privileges can be withdrawn.

Picture it this way:  When my kids were in high school, they cherished driving privileges.  Our children did not have ownership rights to the car, only permission to drive it.  As parents, the most effective punishment we could issue was withdrawal of driving privileges.  We did not take away their driver’s license —just our car keys. 

Similarly, the Jewish people are elder siblings of Gentiles.  When the Messiah came to the Jews first–by right of prophecy–their privilege was to share Him with Gentiles, showing us who God is because they had been rightful stewards of the Word of God.  When they failed to show us Messiah, God temporarily withdrew sharing privileges, giving the keys to Gentiles who had now come of age.

Both Jew and Gentile remain children of God, but sharing privileges aren’t rights based upon nationality.  They’re privileges based upon faithfulness.  Jesus’ first disciples were Jewish ones.  Today, Jesus’ disciples come from many different backgrounds, both Jewish and Gentile.

The question becomes what are we doing with privileges we’ve been given?


Give It Up for Lent: Anti-Semitism and Treating Privileges as Ownership Rights


For further study:  read our full passage (Romans  3:1-8) which are among the hardest verses to understand.


  1. Romans 3:3 states, “What if some did not have faith?  Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”  This is asking whether God has not been faithful since some of the chosen people—the Jews—did not believe Jesus is the Messiah.  Read Isaiah 59:20-21 , part of which is quoted above.  How might our understanding of rights versus privileges speak to this? 
  2. Romans 3: 5 reads, “But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us?”  When God suspends privileges, it demonstrates His authority.  Does this ever justify our deliberately rebelling so that His authority will be showcased?  How would you react as a parent if your children said the only reason they were sassing back to you was so that you could demonstrate your parenting skills?
  3. Jeremiah 23:5-6 states, “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”  Is God still reaching out to the Jewish people?   In what ways?  We will talk more about God’s plan for the Jewish people when we get to Romans 9-11.

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on February 20, 2013

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