Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed out that there are at least 6 ways that we, like the unbelieving Jews of Paul’s day, can subtly hold onto a supposed self-righteousness. Reflecting on the teaching of Romans 2:1–11, Lloyd-Jones wrote:
(1) “Sin introduces, or can introduce, a prejudice into our listening to the Gospel, or into our reading of the Gospel. … We come to the Scriptures, pick out what we like and do not notice what we do not like. This is exactly what these Jews had done…
Some of us, sometimes, tend to read the Scriptures, not so much to be enlightened and to be taught, as to confirm our own theories, our own ideas, and our own prejudices. … We are all guilty of it.
(2) So many tend to make us put ourselves into special categories and compartments. That is the outcome of the first, is it not? ‘I am a Jew. He is a Gentile.’ We are all given those labels. … We tend to put ourselves into categories and compartments and then, of course, we go on doing what I have already been saying – we find statements in Scripture to confirm us and to buttress our position.
(3) ‘Quite right,’ we say, ‘These abominable sins!’ We see them as we walk along the streets … We read about them in the newspaper, and we are impatient with those people. We feel they all ought to be blasted out of existence. We see it so clearly as it applies to others, but never in the case of ourselves. We tend to be blind to our own sins.
(4) We are all experts at running away from [the gospel] …we run away from the doctrine of justification through faith alone when we rely upon anything or anyone except the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect work. I do not care what it is! If you rely on your country, if you say, “I must be a Christian, I was born in…—a Christian country,’ if you are relying on that kind of thing, you are denying justification by faith, as the Jews did. If you are relying on the fact that your parents were Christians or saints; if you have any reliance upon your birth and ancestry; of if in any way you are relying on any form of moralism, on your good life, and your respectability, and your good works; if any of these things is true of you, you are denying justification by faith.
(5) [When we] separate doctrine from life. The Jew, you see, did not take daily living into consideration at all, either in the case of the Gentile or in his own case … The Jew seemed to say, ‘It does not matter what I do. I am a Jew, and because I am a Jew I am alright. As for the Gentile, of course…’ That is separation of doctrine and life. It is a terrible danger and a most subtle one. It does not matter whether you have little doctrine or much doctrine, it is equally dangerous.
(6) Lloyd-Jones concluded his argument by saying that there is “a persistence with which we tend to defend ourselves. We start with one position,” he wrote, “then the argument knocks it down, and we jump to another. The Jews started with the position that they were Jews then they relied on the goodness and mercy of God, then on the law, then on ceremonial. We will clutch at any straw.”