Romans 2:29


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.

Romans 2:28


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; Romans 2:28

The Hebrew people were given the rite of circumcision in Genesis 17. From Abraham came Isaac and from Isaac came Jacob who is Israel. From Israel came the 12 tribes of Israel, the fourth being Judah. Judah, became the preeminent tribe of the Israelites and the term Jew (being derived from Judah) became synonymous with all the people of Israel. To this line of people was given the rite of circumcision which was to be an outward mark of what should be an inward trait – a separation from the world and a dedication to, and service of, the true God.

In today’s verse though, Paul removes the outward sign as the identifying mark of the Jewish people and thus strips them of their privileged status based on this sign alone. “For” is a conclusion resulting from the previous three verses. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly.” The word for “outwardly” is phanero and it indicates what is visible. A beard (well normally…) identifies a man. It is an outward sign of being a male. The circumcision was supposed to be the same. The outward mark identifies what the person is. But Paul strips this notion. Just as a woman could be born with hypertricosis and have a beard, or she could have a false beard to make herself look like a man, she is nonetheless a female. The same is true with the Jew. The outward sign does not make the person.

Paul then explains this – “Nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.” The circumcision of the foreskin on the male was to be an external display of the true circumcision which is reflected in the inward man. Jeremiah tells us about this many generations before Paul wrote his epistle –

“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.” Jeremiah 4:4

The people’s trust in the outward rite without the accompanying inward conviction would only result in harsh judgment. The true Jew is the one who lives in accord with the expectations of the outward sign, having the inward circumcision to accompany it.

Now that this has been discerned, one of the most vital distinctions of all must be made. Is a person a Jew if they are circumcised in the heart, but not of the line of Israel (the Jewish people?) The answer is a resounding “No.” This is a fundamental error in theology which will be carefully treated in the next chapter and throughout the entire New Testament. However, there are those who claim that it is the case. RC Sproul of Ligonier Ministries stated this in his Tabletalk Magazine –

“We’re not dispensationalists here….We believe that the church is essentially Israel. We believe that the answer to, “What about the Jews?” is, “Here we are.” We deny that the church is God’s “plan B.” We deny that we are living in God’s redemptive parenthesis.”

This type of error leads to confusion of what God is doing in and through history and it inevitably results in a denial that Israel, the land and the people of today, has a plan and purpose in God’s dealings with the world in which we live. In essence, they are some sort of aberration. This is not the case at all. Extreme care needs to be given to the issue.

Life application: Regardless of whether we are Jews or not, we are to have the inward circumcision of the heart. If we don’t live lives as Christians, then the name “Christian” has no meaning. Let us endeavor to carefully evaluate our internal person and have it align with our external appellation.

Heavenly Father, You are reminding us again in today’s verse that we need to live in accordance with the title we bear. If we call ourselves “Christians” and don’t live the life expected of the title, then are we really Christians? Help us to have the two mesh together so that we will be pleasing in Your sight and glorifying to You. Amen.

Romans 2:27


Monday, 18 February 2013

And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? Romans 2:27

Another question which demands a “Yes” answer is handed to the Jews of Paul’s day. Those gentiles (the physically uncircumcised) who fulfill the law will judge those who have the written code and circumcision (the Jews who have the law and the sign of the law) because of their failure to meet the law, of which circumcision is a sign.

It is obvious in and of itself that having the law and having the sign of the law is pointless unless one obeys the law they have. And so Paul has laid out the precepts to show us this. They involve the following thoughts –

1) Having the sign of circumcision without fulfilling the law which mandates the sign is lawlessness.

2) Those who fulfill the law, regardless of whether they have the sign of the law or not, will receive God’s praise. On the other hand, those who have the sign but who fail to fulfill the law may receive praise from man but not from God.

3)Those who do not have the sign but who keep the law are more pleasing to God than those who have the sign but don’t keep it.

4) Those who keep the law, regardless of having the sign, will judge those who do not keep the law even if they have the sign.

As before, we can simply insert the word “judge” into “those who have the sign of the law” to help us make mental images of what these points make:

1) Being a judge without fulfilling the law which mandates what he judges is lawlessness.

2) Those who obey the law, regardless of whether they are judges or not, will be secure in what the laws of the nation requires. On the other hand, those who are judges but fail to fulfill the law may receive praise from men (because they are judges) but not from the nation who has given the law.

3) Those who aren’t judges but keep the law are more pleasing to the nation who has given the law than those who are judges but don’t keep it.

4) Those who keep the law, regardless of whether they are appointed judges, will judge those who don’t keep the law even if they are appointed judges.

All this is telling us that being circumcised means nothing without obedience. What God asks for is that our heart is turned toward Him and that we are obedient to what He requires.

Life application: God has sent His Son into the world to fulfill the law which none of us can fulfill. Now, He asks us to accept what Jesus has done on our behalf thus allowing us to meet the impossible demands of the law through Him – vicariously. Let us apply this to our life by being grateful, from moment to moment, for the grace He has lavished upon us.

Lord God, I want to give You my praise today for the wonderful blessings You have bestowed upon me – food, family, friendships, and joy in my heart. But above all, I want to give You praise for the giving of Your Son to restore me to You. Thank You Lord for this wonderful, glorious blessing. Amen.

Romans 2:26


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? Romans 2:26

Another question which is actually an affirmative statement now comes from Paul. A man who hasn’t been circumcised and yet keeps the law will be considered as one who was circumcised. As previously noted, Abraham believed God and was counted as righteous in Genesis 15. His circumcision, the sign of the covenant, didn’t come until many years later in Genesis 17. The sign in no way added to his state of righteousness.

Paul is teaching through his words that God’s approval of man does not in any way depend on the external appearance of the individual, but rather on the condition of one’s heart and their actions which are aligned with a right heart condition. He finishes this verse with “will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision.”

The term “be counted” is the Greek word logisthesetai (from the verb logizomai) which means to “consider” or to “reckon.” This verb is used in Romans 4:3 where Paul quotes the account of Abraham from Genesis 15 – ” For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'” God imputed righteousness to Abraham because of his faith. There were no deeds attached to the faith, but simply an acceptance of what God had said was true.

The word is also used in Luke 22:37 when Jesus was counted, or reckoned, as a transgressor even though He had done no wrong –

“For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.'”

The idea of imputed righteousness permeates both testaments of the Bible and is realized in the work of Jesus. He was circumcised and He also met the strict demands of the law perfectly. Now, by faith in Him and in His actions we too can be counted righteous by mere faith, just as Abraham was. Our “uncircumcision” is counted as “circumcision” because He was circumcised as a Jew. Also, we can now meet the righteous demands of the law through Him as well. His work can be “counted as” accomplished for us.

Life application: As you read the Old Testament, particularly the 613 commandments of the law given through Moses, reflect on the precepts that you have failed to meet – there will be a lot. Then realize that meeting these perfectly is the standard God demands. But don’t forget that despite your failure to meet them, Jesus prevailed. If you accept His work, it will be imputed to you. And the suffering He felt at the cross… that was your punishment being transferred to Him. Apply this to your life by demonstrating a grateful heart to the Lord.

When I think of all that You have done for me Lord, I am just overwhelmed by it all. You accomplished what I failed to do and instead of holding that over me in laughter, you laid it upon me in love. Who am I, Lord, that You would do such a thing for me? How I love You, O Lamb of God. Amen.

Romans 2:25


Saturday, 16 February 2013

For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Romans 2:25

Paul turns to the ancient rite of circumcision to justify the comments he has previously made. “For” tells us that what was stated leads to this conclusion. “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law.” The rite of circumcision was given to Abraham in Genesis 17. However, he was declared righteous by God in Genesis 15 many years earlier. The rite was a sign of the declaration, not the other way around. Therefore, if one keeps the law (which was later instituted through Moses, a member of the promised line who received the rite), then the circumcision has profit. If not, then it is entirely without merit.

In order to understand this, think of a person who was not of the covenant people. If he was circumcised, perhaps to be a spy against Israel, what good would his circumcision do in regards to the law? Nothing; it would mean nothing. The circumcision needs to be accompanied by a belief that what the law is proclaiming is also worth living out.

Paul then gives a validation of this by turning the premise around – “But if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” If the law was given and circumcision is a sign attached to those who have received it, implying that it is binding upon them, then when the law is broken, the sign means nothing. Suppose you are the citizen of a nation and you are given an oath as a sign of that citizenship – “I promise to defend the constitution of…” As a validation of that, you are given a uniform with stripes and a flag of your nation on it. If you ship off to war and become a traitor, the uniform means nothing. “Your allegiance has become non-allegiance.”

An outward sign must be accompanied by an inward compass or the sign means nothing. This is true within a family, within a work environment, or in any other group or organizational context. Without this inward conviction, the outward sign has no point or purpose. Moses realized this when he spoke to the nation after their 38 years of desert wanderings in Deuteronomy 10:16 –

“Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.”

In the very next sentence, verse 10:17, Moses says that the Lord “shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.” “No partiality” is tied directly to “circumcision of the heart.” It is an internal conviction, not an outward sign, which demonstrates a person is in right standing with the law. This is especially true because Paul (in fact the entire Old Testament as well) shows that none can meet the demands of the law perfectly. Therefore, all are guilty before the law and the sign of circumcision is of no value unless accompanied by faith in what the law provides when the law is broken – mercy and forgiveness through conviction and repentance (such as the Day of Atonement ritual).

The importance of “uncircumcision” is of such weight and moment to Paul that he will use the term 19 times in his letters. Only one other time is it used in the New Testament – in the book of Acts. Understanding this connection between the inward change and the rite clearly shows us that baptism is not a New Testament equivalent of circumcision. Infant baptism carries with it the same inherent flaw as what Paul speaks of. To understand the fault of tying infant baptism in with circumcision, you may wish to take time and watch this sermon where I discusses the issue in detail –

Life application: If you are relying on an external sign, rite, or affiliation in order to please God, you have made an error in your thinking. The holiness of God demands that all who enter His promised heaven must be perfect in all ways. Nothing can be added to an imperfect being to make him perfect. Instead, there must be a complete change in the person – moving from unrighteousness to righteousness. This can only come about by faith in what God can do, not man; this can only come about through Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus today.

Heavenly Father, may You continue to remind me that the external things of my life – my denomination, my church attendance, my giving, and my title of “Christian” can only have meaning if my heart is directed to You. And then Lord, give me the willing desire to pursue You and thus prove that the externals really reflect what is inside me. Amen.