Romans Series (Pt. 7) – Romans 2:25-29

Paul bridges chapter 2 with its emphasis on God’s righteous judgment on sinners and chapter 3 with its emphasis on righteousness through faith with a brief discussion on circumcision.  While this may seem strange Paul does this because circumcision had become a point of contention regarding salvation.  In light of the argument that he was making Paul wanted to remove this as an obstacle to faith.  Was it necessary for gentiles to become Jews before becoming Christians?  (cf. Act 15:1-35, Galatians 5:6, 11-15).

Circumcision of the Flesh (2:25-27)

As Paul comes out of his discussion about God judging according to a righteous standard and moves into the issue of circumcision.  What is interesting in his treatment of the issue is that he begins to drive the issue of faith and salvation beyond the physical conformity to the Mosaic Law.  It was important for the Romans to understand that faith in Christ was more than external, behavioral conformity.  Paul, a pharisee and student of the Old Testament, alludes to the prophet Samuel’s mistake in looking at the outer appearance instead of looking at the heart (1 Samuel 16:1-13).  As experience has taught us, appearances can be deceiving.  This may be why Paul wants to move away from the appearance of a person’s compliance of holiness to the actual practice of holy living.

Circumcision of the Heart (2:28-29)

Paul goes so far as to say that there are some among the Jews who are not truly Jews.  The standard that determines whether a person is a Jew is that they “are one inwardly” [v. 29].  There will be an expansion of this idea of justification by faith in chapter 4 when the example of Abraham is examined.  This is a very astonishing statement from someone who was among the most devout and zealous observers of Jewish customs, culture, and faith [Philippians 3:3-6].  As Paul wraps up the second chapter he begins to firmly establish that faith is the measure and the means by which God will judge those who claim to be in Christ.  Paul established here that the proper order of any good work done by a Christian comes as a result of the heart transformation that has taken place because of salvation and not the other way around.

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