Romans 2:17-3:8 – Part 3

Romans 2:25-29, “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 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? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 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.”

Circumcision in the Bible is something many people do not understand the importance of.  Since it is spoken of frequently in the Old and New Testaments it is necessary to come to working knowledge of its importance and implications. Circumcision was the sign of a covenant between God and His people.  God first gave this sign of covenant promise to Abraham.  You can read about it in Genesis 17.  It is something that has been generally kept through history by the Jewish people as a sign of the covenant and gives them comfort of having a special relationship with God.

The Apostle Paul was a circumcised Jew.  In this passage, he brings an accusation against his people.  The accusation is that many were only Jews physically by circumcision, but they were not Jews inwardly.  The reason is that they did not keep the law’s requirements.  He goes even farther by stating that Gentiles who kept the law were more Jewish than Jews who did not keep the law.  God is more concerned about what is inside of a human than his outward appearance.  Paul’s language here is much stronger in the Greek than it comes across in English.  When he says “your circumcision has become uncircumcision” it really reads, “your circumcision has become “foreskin”.  You can imagine the shock this would have been to some of his readers who assumed they were acceptable to God based in large part on their circumcision.

Verse 29 is very important.  Unfortunately most translations give the word “spirit” a capital “S”.  The Greek word is the same for “Spirit” or “spirit”.  I believe Paul is talking about the “spirit of the law” here not the Holy Spirit. Instead of being focused on the minor details and man-made additions to the law, the people should have been focused on the heart of the law (See Mark 7:1-23). Paul is stating that regardless of whether a person is by birth and circumcision a Jew or Gentile, that by having a circumcised heart a person is a “Jew”.  The word “Jew” comes from the word “Judah”, which means, “praise”.   So we observe Paul is using a play on words in the last phrase, “Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”

This passage should cause us to ask two important questions:

How can I have a circumcised heart before God? We will answer this fully in coming posts.
Am I concerned about receiving man’s praise or God’s praise?