In Rom. 3:29-30, Paul makes a second argument for the unity of all Jesus-followers in the Roman church.
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith (NIV).
Paul is going right to the heart of Jewish identity here, building his argument on the Shema—the prayer / confession that Jews uttered in the morning and evening. It comes from Deut. 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
It’s a confession of God’s absolute uniqueness and universal supremacy. The God of Israel is without rival and has no equal. The gods of the nations are mere pretenders while the God of Israel is the Most High God, highly exalted above all gods.
The Psalms contain variations on this central tenet of Israel’s faith, mentioning constantly that the God of Israel is the “Great King over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2), and that “he is exalted above all gods” (Pss. 95:3; 97:9).
These notes emphasize that the God of Israel is not merely a regional deity, ruling over the little sliver of land called “Judea.” He is, rather, the Creator God who rules over the whole of creation, and he is on a mission to reclaim all of it for the glory of his name.
Paul draws upon the Shema in vv. 29-30 to address the Jewish Christians’ claims to privilege. He puts the question to them in v. 29: “is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?”
He’s asking them whether God’s sovereignty extends to non-Jews as well as Jews. The answer is obvious—of course it does!
Paul is implying here that the Jewish Christians in Rome unintentionally are betraying a fundamental aspect of Israel’s faith. Because God is the Great King over all the earth, Jews do not have priority with God.
That is, claiming that Jews have an inside track with God is, ironically, affirming that the God of Israel is not the Great King over all the earth.
The God of Israel, however, is not a regional god. He is the Creator God, sovereign over Israel and the nations. Because of this, salvation has no reference to one’s ethnic identity. Justification before God is enjoyed by everyone and anyone who is “in Christ,” participating in the faithfulness of Jesus by faith.
This argument—along with the one in vv. 27-28—leads naturally to Paul’s point in v. 31 about “establishing the law.” Because he builds his presentation squarely on the Scriptures of Israel, there is no ground whatsoever for the Jewish Christians in Rome to object.
The unity of Jew and non-Jew among God’s people in Rome flows directly from the identity of the God of Israel and a reading of the law in line with the aims of the Spirit.
Romans is not an abstract systematic theology but a vigorous pastoral letter to a multi-ethnic church struggling to maintain unity in the face of emerging divisions. Reading Romans as Paul meant for its first recipients to hear it sheds light on how practical it was then and how relevant it is now.
In the racially and socially divided cultures we inhabit and in which we minister, such a reading of Romans has the potential to powerfully transform our still-segregated churches so that we truly can make manifest that God is not the God of any singular group. The God of Israel, the Father of Jesus, is indeed the Great King over all the earth.