Wednesday, 20 February 2013
…but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. Romans 2:29
In our evaluation of verse 28, the question was asked, “Is a person a Jew if they are circumcised in the heart, but not of the line of Israel.” The answer is “no.” This will be explored in detail in the chapters ahead as well as in the other epistles, however, one could come to this conclusion if they were to take verses such as verse 29 out of context. Paul says that “he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” Does this in any way imply that gentiles are included in this statement? No. It simply means that a person born of the line of Israel who only outwardly reflects his nature is not counted as a true Jew. He must have an inward reflection as well.
Next Paul says that “circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter.” What this means is that having the sign of circumcision in the flesh, but not having the heart for what this means to God is of no value. Circumcision in the Spirit means that the Jew is internally convicted of his state and doesn’t live only by “the letter.” This term, “not in the letter,” is speaking of living by the precepts of the law without caring about the intent behind those precepts. Paul speaks of the Spirit and the letter in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 –
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
The “letter” is the law which actually condemns all people because they can never meet the demands of the law. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit who gives the inner testimony of God and which frees one from the condemnation of the law. This isn’t just a New Testament concept. David, who failed to meet the demands of the law, demonstrated his understanding of the letter versus the Spirit –
“Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:11
David knew that without the Spirit, there was only separation from God’s presence. It’s good to note that since Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, a believer cannot lose the Holy Spirit. Christ fulfilled the law and therefore its demands are met in those who call on Him.
Having discerned these things, the same question needs to be asked for the second portion of today’s verse. Paul says that “circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter.” Does this in any way imply that gentiles are included in this statement? Again, the answer is “No.” Just because a gentile may be circumcised in the heart and have the Spirit in no way implies that they are now Jews.
To understand this, let’s use the concept of being a patriot. We could say, “Being a patriot is an inward allegiance to the nation and not merely being a citizen of the United States.” There are many people who are citizens of the United States, but not all of them have an inward allegiance to the nation. In fact, many citizens have great animosity towards their country; they are not patriots. Therefore, being a patriot, like being a Jew, is not based on externals, but internals.
Now let’s consider those who have a great allegiance to the United States, but they are not citizens. Are they patriots? No. Because they are not citizens, they are not considered patriots. There were many foreigners who came to the aid of the patriots during the revolutionary war, who believed in the cause of the war, and who even died in support of America, and yet they were not considered patriots. Likewise, gentiles are not Jews simply because they bear circumcision of the heart and have the Spirit.
This is an immensely important issue, because if one believes he is a Jew when he isn’t, then his theology is garbled and confused. This confusion comes from misapplying verses such as today’s and other verses such as Galatians 3:28 which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Paul says “there is neither Jew nor Greek” which leads people to say that we are all the same; the Christians are now the Jews. But this is entirely wrong and is verifiable by the same verse. Paul says also that “there is neither male nor female.” However, it’s obvious that there are still males and there are still females. Nothing has changed. There very fact that Paul states “Jew” and “Greek” implies that there is, in fact, a difference just as by stating “male” and “female” implies there is a difference. Paul is speaking in a spiritual context – “We are all one in Christ.” Not that we are not distinctive entities in Christ.
Finally in verse 29, Paul says, “whose praise is not from men but from God.” The term “Jew” comes from the name “Judah” which mean’s “praise.” Therefore, Paul is making a pun on the term. He is saying that being a Jew is not something that comes from man (meaning ancestry) but it comes from God. In other words, not all Jews are truly Jews. Only those who live by God’s Spirit are the true Jews. Again, as has been noted twice already, this in no way implies that a gentile who has received God’s Spirit is now a Jew. It only negates those of the line of Israel who don’t qualify.
Life application: Don’t claim to be something you’re not. If you are in Christ, then names and titles mean far less than knowing you’re a child of the King.
Yes Lord! Thank You for accepting me as I am, a sinner saved by grace. Praise from man means nothing because I know I have received the gift of eternal life through Your shed blood. Be pleased O Lord to dwell in my praises. All glory belongs to You! Amen.