Sunday, April 3, 2011
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 2: 17-29
(17) Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (18) And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; (19) And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, (20) An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. (21) Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? (22) Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? (23) Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? (24) For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (25) For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (26) Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (27) And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Verse 17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God. The charge of guilt is brought home to the Jew with great force from this 17th verse to the end of the 2nd chapter as the refuge of lies, under which he has been hiding, are swept away. Thus the necessity of the Divine method of justification is established to the race of all men, Jew and Gentile; those who had a revelation, and those who had none. The necessity of the Gospel that proclaims that “Salvation is of the Lord,” and that He saves all utterly lost sinners is unquestionably proclaimed for under the law of nature, providence, and conscience, under the Law of Sinai, under any form of law, the whole world is guilty (Rom. 3: 9-12). Apart from the sovereign, free grace of God in the saving of sinners that the true gospel proclaims, there is only universal condemnation.
Paul comes now to deal more particularly and expressly with the Jews, reciting their privileges, in which they trusted, and of which they boasted: and shows that they stood in as much need of the righteousness of God in Christ as the Gentiles. The moralists of the world, the religious men of the world, are now brought under the scrutiny of God’s gaze and are found wanting. These are those who are attached to form, ceremony, liturgy, religious professions, precepts and practices, and who are yet alien to the grace of God. They have ritual without redemption, works without worship, form of service without the reverential fear of a holy God, and this all falls under His condemnation (Rev. 20:12-15). Though this argument is against the religious Jew, in our day it matters not what name the religionists go by, the principle is the same. Today it would be against the fervent Fundamentalists, free will Protestants, zealous Catholics, dead Calvinists, etc., just as much as against the Jew in Paul’s day. The profession of religion means nothing, even the profession of truth is not enough if the one professing has not been brought to inwardly love the truth and his life totally transformed thereby.
In these first four verses (17-20) Paul deals with the privileges of the Jews in which they trusted and falsely entertained great assurance that they were in the favor of God. The first one is “You bear the name of Jew.” They boasted of being Abraham’s seed” and prided themselves as distinguished from all other nations and people. But many of the synagogue of Satan say they are Jews (Rev. 2:9) and a generation of vipers boasted they have “Abraham to their father” (Matt. 3: 7-9). The foolishness of their claim is shown by the fact that even in the Old Testament time being a part of the nation did not guarantee one that he was indeed a part of “Abraham’s seed” or in the grace of God (John 8:39). Esau was of that nation, and yet he was not in the saving love of God (Rom. 9: 8-13). Then the Holy Ghost tells us in the 28th verse that a true Jew is a spiritual Jew and that nationality does not constitute the make-up of a true Jew, the spiritual Israel of God (John 8:33). So by calling themselves Jews they avowed themselves to be the heirs of the covenant which the Lord had made with Abraham and his seed and they in total spiritual blindness rested in their false assurance of this. They were Jews by name, by nation, and by religion, but they were not spiritual Jews in God’s sight and were not justified before God. Instead of being brought to an extraordinary humility before the Lord, they were puffed up, with pride. True, saving knowledge of Christ humbles the real saint and brings us to a humble walk with our Lord and a daily, life-long seeking to “know Him” (Phil. 3:10) and to do His will (Eph. 6:6).
“You rest in the law.” It was not that they loved the Law, or obeyed it, or understood the purpose of it, or saw Christ as the end or goal of it for righteousness, but only that they were in possession of the Law and claimed God’s favor and blessings for that reason (Micah 3:11; Rom. 9:4). They took great pride in this just as so many do with their religious professions and programs in our day. Those who dare rest in the Law as the ground of their being in the state of grace simply do not know that Law. Paul in Rom 7:22 delighted in the Law, but he certainly did not rest therein. These hypocrites rest in the Law in their carnal security, and foolishly claim God’s blessing while in total blindness of their ruin (Vs. 21-24). They loudly “make their boast that God, the true God, is their God” (John 8:41), and they had come to the place where they thought that they had a patent on God, as if their profession, by virtue of the peculiar covenant that He made with Abraham and his seed, must entitle them to His favor. John Gill said, “The boasting here spoken of, was such that was not right; these men boasted of their bare external knowledge of the one God, when the Gentiles around them were ignorant of Him; of their being the covenant people of God, when others were aliens and strangers; and of their having the Word and worship of the true God, which other nations were unacquainted with; and, on these external things they depended, which were their fault.” They boasted of their supposed exalted, superior position and were void of that true inward knowledge of God spoken of in Jer. 9:24.
Verse 18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law. The superior discernment of the Jew and his mental approval of the Divine will were the results of his possession of the written Word of God (Psa. 147:19) in which he was instructed from childhood. There was no excuse for ignorance of the Divine will (2 Pet. 3:5); the things which God forbids us doing are as plainly stated in His Word as those which He requires of us. It shows how possible it is for hypocrites to have a great deal of knowledge in the will of God. This was their claim and that in which they did boast. Also, they boasted of their approving of “the things that are more excellent” or their distinguishing between good things and evil things. But there is a twofold approval — one of choice ( Phil. 1:10), when we embrace the good we approve; the other of judgment, by which the Jews distinguished good from evil, but by no means, strove or desired to follow. The Jews were so learned in the law that they could pass judgment on the conduct of others, but they were not careful to regulate their own lives according to that judgment. As John Calvin said, “As Paul reproves their hypocrisy, we may, on the other hand, conclude, that excellent things are then only rightly approved (provided our judgment proceeds from sincerity) when God is attended to; for His will, as it is revealed in the Law, is here appointed as the guide and teacher of what is to be justly approved.” Unlike the Psalmist, they failed to see that this light was given to guide their steps into the path of obedience (Psa. 119:105).
They claimed that they were “being instructed out of the law,” but their sinful blindness was manifested in their actions and proved that their hearts were corruptible cesspools of sin. Their Pharisaic interpretation of the Law was too literalistic. They taught people to tithe mint, anise, and cumin, but failed to see the great principles of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith. The Sadducees’ interpretation of the Law in that day erred in the other direction. Departing from the letter, they failed to grasp the great principles of the Law. They, however, did boast of this instruction, but even sound instruction in the truth is no sure ground for their cocky, false assurance that they were in the grace of God. Any professor, Jew or Gentile, who rests in indoctrination is “in the bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). Truth proclaimed in the power of the Holy Ghost drives the sinner from every area of false rest, destroys it, and drives the sinner to Christ.
Verse 19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness. The Jews were “confident” in their high conceits of who they thought they were, what they thought they had in themselves, and of their own supposed holiness. They, like multitudes in present day religion, think highly of their attainments in religion, when comparing themselves with others. They have these vain thoughts of themselves, that they are eminent saints, and that they consider themselves to rank very high among the saints, and think that they have distinguishingly good experiences. The secret language of each of their hearts is “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men” (Luke 18:11), “I am holier than thou” (Isa. 65:5). Hence such are apt to consider themselves as above and beyond even true believers, taking a high seat among them, and presenting themselves as very eminent Christians. But, they do what Christ condemns in Luke 14:7-11 and take the highest room. They are puffed up with their proud egos and they take the chief places, to guide, teach, direct, and manage; “they are confident that they are guides to the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, instructors of the foolish, teachers of babes.” In their arrogance they nominated themselves as preachers and teachers of others, that it belongs to them to do the part of dictators and masters in matters of religion; and so they implicitly affect to be called of men “Rabbi”, which is by interpretation Master, as the Pharisees did, Matt. 23:6-7, i.e., they are yet apt to expect that others should regard them, and yield to them, as masters in matters of religion. Unfortunately, this describes far too many of our present day ministers. The Jews were confident and did arrogate all of this and what follows unto themselves, and were sure with great conceit that they had all the points of the Law in their breasts, and full knowledge of all the secrets thereof (Matt. 15:14; 23:16-24).
Verse 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Having shown in the last part of the first chapter that the Gentiles were under sin, by setting forth the exceeding corruptions and horrid wickedness that overspread the Gentile world, and then through this second chapter he shows the same of the Jews, that they are in the same depraved circumstances with the Gentiles in this regard. The Jews had a high, proud thought of themselves, because they were God’s covenant people, and circumcised, and the natural children of Abraham. They despised the Gentiles as polluted, condemned, and accursed; but looked on themselves, on account of their external privileges, and ceremonial and moral righteousness, as a pure and holy people, and the children of God, as the apostle observes in this second chapter. It was therefore strange doctrine to them, that they were also unclean and guilty in God’s sight, and under the condemnation and curse of His holy Law.
They considered all others as ignorant and as mere babes in comparison with themselves and their knowledge. But it is not every kind of knowledge, even the truth of God and His Christ that is effectual and saving. There is a form of knowledge, as well as of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5), which is destitute of the power of God — “which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.” The Jews were instructed in the Scriptures and considered themselves well qualified to teach others; but the truth had not been written on their own hearts by the Holy Ghost. A form of knowledge shows that there was a model of it in their brains, a head-knowledge by which they were able to discourse freely and fluently upon the things of God, yet they were without the life of God in their souls. A. W. Pink has said, “O how many have a knowledge of salvation, yet not a knowledge unto salvation, as the apostle distinguishes it in 2 Tim. 3:15 — such a knowledge as the latter must be imparted to the soul by the miracle-working operation of the Holy Spirit.”
Verse 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? In verses 21, 22, and 23 the apostle Paul reveals the Jews hypocrisy and he establishes more firmly that though the Jews had the Law, they did not practice it, and, though they boasted of their knowledge of the Law, they were ignorant of its spirituality and therefore condemned themselves. The apostle seems to have in mind here the words of Psalms 50:16-18: “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statues, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentest with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.” In their hypocrisy they taught others, but failed to teach themselves: “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matt. 23:3); they preached against stealing, but stole themselves, an act that the Jews were infamous for: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows houses” (Matt. 23:14). The Holy Ghost through His servant Paul is here accusing the Jews of theft, adultery, and sacrilege, and, therefore, the Jews are found guilty of the very sins they professed to abhor in others.
Verse 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? The sin of adultery is another that the Jews were greatly addicted to for “They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife” (Jer. 5:8). They condemned adulterous acts of others, but they committed them themselves. They did “abhor idols” after their captivity, though bent on them before. But they professed great reverence for God in eschewing idolatry; and yet, in other forms, they were guilty of the greatest irreverence. The Jews were hypocrites and they boasted not only of circumcision (vs. 25), but were notorious for boasting of their moral righteousness. They were admirers and followers of the Pharisees, who were full of their boasts of their moral righteousness; as we see by the example of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11-12, which our Lord Christ gives as describing the general temper of that sect: “God (boasts the Pharisee), I thank thee, that I am not as other men are extortioners, nor unjust, nor an adulterer.” The works that he boasts of were chiefly moral works: he depended on the works of the Law for justification; and therefore Christ tells us that the publican, that renounced all his righteousness, “went down to his house justified rather than he.” We read of the Pharisees praying in the corners of the streets, and sounding a trumpet for attention when they did alms. But those works which they so vainly boasted of were moral works; what the apostle in these very verses before us is condemning the Jews for is their boasting of the moral Law (Rom. 2: 21-22). The Law here mentioned that they made their boast in was that of which adultery, idolatry and sacrilege were the breaches, which is the moral Law. This is the boasting which the apostle condemns them for, and therefore, if they were justified by the works of the Law, then why did he say that their boasting is excluded (Rom. 3:27)? And besides, when they boasted of the rights of the ceremonial Law, it was under a notion of it being a part of their own goodness or excellency, or what made them holier and more lovely in the sight of God than other people, and if they were not justified by this part of their own supposed goodness or holiness, yet if they were by another, how did that exclude boasting? Their boasting was excluded along with the exclusion of all their supposed goodness or excellency. Whatever advantage the Jews had over the Gentiles, they were, notwithstanding, in the same condition before God — unrighteous, ungodly, intemperate and consequently subjected to the same condemnation. They are guilty of the charges that the Lord makes against them, that they made no attempt to practice what they teach and preach. They were extremely proud of the fact that they knew what truths should be preached and knew enough to preach them but such brings the more severe damnation when the practice of such a one manifest hypocrisy.
Verse 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? The Jew boasted because they were favored of God in His giving the written revelation of His Holy Law. While they should have been humbled thereby, they, due to their sinful hearts, were made proud. And, instead of keeping it and rendering loving obedience to the Lawgiver, they as John Trapp said, were breaking it “By shooting short, or beyond, or wide of the mark; by omission, commission, or failing in the manner.” They were lawless (1 John 2: 3-4), Antinomians as they boasted of their soundness in doctrine and exhibited no holiness in their lives, without which “no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Our Lord is glorified by the good works of His people, when rightly performed, — we were before ordained thereto by Almighty God — but He is dishonored by evil works, for His authority is thereby trampled upon and despised. The Jews warped and twisted Gods Holy Law to justify their own sinful lives while showing their contempt for the Lawmaker and His Law. Their glorying was only empty boasting, showing that their profession to be God’s people was an empty one, as it was not from the heart. Sin is defiance, a contempt of the authority of God as expressed in and through His Law (1 John 3:4). Obedience is the loving response of the heart to the heart of God, bowing in obedience to His will, which the Jews did not.
Henry Mahan has well said, “Here is a man who says he is one of God’s chosen people, who has received and approved of the Law, whose boast is in God, who knows His will, approves of the excellent things, who teaches others that they should not steal, lie, commit adultery or worship idols. Surely this is a man of God! He would have you believe that he is. But under this mask of hypocrisy is a thief, an adulterer, a blasphemer and an idolater, who makes a mockery of the Law by continually breaking it.”
Verse 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. The “name of God” is Great (Josh. 7:9), Secret (Judg. 13:18), Glorious (Isa. 63:14), Everlasting (Psa. 135:13), Excellent (Psa. 148:13), and Holy (Isa. 57:15), and it reveals His being, nature, character, and perfections, such as His holiness, omniscience, and omnipotence. It was the religious perversity of the Jew that caused the Gentiles to blaspheme God, denying and speaking evil of Him, His Holy Law, and forms of true worship instituted by Him. This was the final and damning indictment against the Jew for their conduct — claiming to be God’s special and only people — led the Gentiles to judge of their God as evil and unworthy, and thus they denied Him. The apostle denounces those who bring reproach on the name of our Lord by boasting in circumcision and in an intellectual knowledge of the Law while failing to show the life or love which must mark those who are really bound to God by the eternal covenant of grace and the ties of genuine faith. All outward signs like circumcision, baptism or church membership are only degraded tokens of fraud and deception unless God’s all piercing eye sees in our hearts the real evidence of love, loyalty and obedience to Him.
“It was written” by the prophets — many of the prophets — that wherever you go among the Gentiles, your conduct and behavior cause them to mock the name of God (See Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20-23; 2 Sam. 12: 13-14). In our own day we find that the name of God is blasphemed because of church members and religious professors who have “a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1). The searchlight of God’s Holy Word identifies the hypocrites throughout our world, under any name or sign which men have adopted. There are multitudes of counterfeits, those who may be of high character and moral attainments, their lives may seem to be exemplary, but they are not vitally, savingly joined to the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
Verse 25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. The Jew had one last crutch left upon which they did lean for salvation, and that was his unbounded confidence in circumcision as a sufficient security against condemnation. But they had no reason to rest on this sign. The true character of circumcision was a spiritual promise, which required faith; the Jews neglected both the promise as well as faith, but continued in their wickedness and foolish confidence. Paul proceeds to demolish this false hope by showing that they are sottish, scurrilous persons, who do scornfully and contemptuously trample under foot all holy instructions, reproofs, and admonitions tendered unto them out of the Word of God. This rite distinguished the Jew from other nations, and it was a symbol of the Lord’s covenant and a sign of all the advantages enjoyed by the Jews. They foolishly thought that circumcision itself was sufficient to obtain righteousness. John Gill wrote, “The apostle allows that circumcision was profitable, before the abrogation of it, for since, it is not profitable but pernicious; and then it was only profitable, in case the Law was kept: that is, perfectly; for circumcision obliged persons to keep the whole Law. Now the circumcised Jews did not keep it in such sense; wherefore circumcision was of no use to them, but, on the contrary, was an hand writing against them.” However, the Jew placed his reliance upon his physical descent from Abraham, and he trusted in the Law of Moses (Matt. 3:9; John 8:39). In effect Paul only mentions the possibility of keeping the Law in order to dismiss it for he had already shown that the Jew was a hypocrite, a Law breaker. The arrogant, blind Jews looked for their deliverance in the Law, but in reality it sealed their doom (Rom. 5:20; 10:5; Gal. 3:19-22). The apostle corrects the carnal confidence and hypocrisy of the Jews, who stood in wicked confidence of themselves upon the account of this outward ceremony, and though it sufficient to be circumcised in the flesh. But as a breaker of the Law it is not counted circumcision; it is of no avail at all; such a person was as an uncircumcised Gentile, and uncircumcised in a spiritual sense (vs. 29). But now, in the times of the Gospel, circumcision in the flesh is abrogated (See Gal. 5:2, 6). It is always true that those who dare to pit their own righteousness, their own merits, against the glory of God, glory more in outward observances than in inward good and holiness; for no one who is seriously touched and moved by the fear of God, will ever dare to look to self for acceptance by a Holy God, for being shown his true self he strives after true righteousness (the righteousness of Christ), the clearer he sees how hopeless his true condition is. But as the Pharisees, who were satisfied with imitating holiness by outward show, it is no wonder that they so easily deluded themselves. So Paul leaves the false professing Jews nothing as he takes away their empty pretense of justification by circumcision.
Upon this verse we believe the JFB commentary gives the most correct interpretation and therefore we give the following quote therefrom: “Two mistaken interpretations, we think, are given of these words. First, that the case here supposed is an impossible one and put merely for illustration (Haldane, Chalmers, and Hodge). Second, that it is the case of the heathen who may and do please God when they act, as has been and is done, up to the light of nature (Grotius, Olshausen, &). The first interpretation is, in our judgment, unnatural; the second, opposed to the apostle’s own teaching. But the case here put is, we think, such as that of Cornelius (Acts 10)) who, though outside the external pale of God’s covenant, yet, having come to the knowledge of the truths contained in it, do manifest the grace of the covenant without the seal of it, and exemplify the character and walk of Abraham’s children, though not called by the name of Abraham. Thus, this is but another way of announcing that God was about to show the insufficiency of the mere badge of the Abrahamic covenant, by calling from among the GENTILES a seed of Abraham that had never received the seal of circumcision (see Gal. 5:6), in this interpretation is confirmed by all that follows in the remainder of this chapter.”
Verse 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? The “uncircumcision” (Rom. 3:30; 4:9) here means the Gentiles, and “circumcision” the natural Jews who were circumcised in the flesh (Eph. 3:11; Col. 3:11). Abraham (who, when called by God was a Gentile) was justified by faith long before he was circumcised, thus receiving the seal of the covenant (Rom. 4:10-11) and showing that it was possible to be one upon whom God had exercised free Sovereign grace which was signified by this sign — justified apart from the sign itself. Conversely, it is evident that it was also possible to possess the sign without being a partaker of that righteousness which it was intended to represent, as Paul proves is the case of the natural Jews. As the apostle wrote, multitudes of uncircumcised GENTILES were showing that they were true members of the true Israel (spiritual Israel) of God (vs. 28 & 29), for they were true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who had fulfilled all righteousness on their behalf (Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 6:15-16).
Verse 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? This is the application of the truth just established in the previous verse that the “uncircumcision” (Gentile) shall sit in condemnation of the “circumcised” Jew. The Gentiles, that the Jews despise because uncircumcised, if they live moral and holy lives, in obedience to the moral Law, shall condemn you though circumcised. The Law engraved on tablets of stone finds no accomplishment in a stony heart of unbelief (Rom. 2:5), and its unfulfilled commands thus become a swift witness against the transgressor (2 Cor. 3: 6-7). As the highest form of obedience is faith in the Christ of the Gospel, it follows that the acme of disobedience is the refusal to believe Him and His Word (1 John 2:23). It is only through true believing in the Lord Christ that the holy Law of God is transcribed upon the “fleshly tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2).
The word “judged” speaks of condemnation; God’s displeasure towards those He is not reconciled to, but looks on as offenders, impenitent sinners, and enemies, and holds as the objects of His wrath. He speaks of condemnation with reference to sin, as what comes by sin, and as a condemnation to death, a terrible capital punishment of eternal damnation (Matt. 23:33).
“Circumcision,” like the New Testament ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, was of Divine appointment, yet there was never any value in the “outward and visible sign” unless an “inward, special work of God’s pure grace” in the heart did precede it. The God of the Bible will not accept the least iota of will-worship which abounds when men refuse to be ruled by His Holy Word! (Col. 1:18-23).
Verse 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh. “The name of ‘Jew’, and the rite of ‘circumcision,’ were designed as outward symbols of a separation from the irreligious and ungodly world unto holy devotedness in heart and life to the God of salvation. Where this is realized, the signs are of full significance; but where it is not, they are worse than useless” (David Brown). The people of the Old Covenant were vainly confident of their “knowledge” and their national privileges. They foolishly expected the reward of earthly glory on the sole account that they boasted a natural birth from Abraham and knew not that HE WAS NOT A JEW. Paul, following Christ in the Spirit, utterly demolished and abolished in these two verses Jewish praise and pretension. For “he is not a Jew;” a right, true or Biblical Jew in God’s sight — he is not heir to the promises made to the fathers (Matt. 3:9; John 8:39; Rom. 9:6-7; Gal. 6:15; Rev, 2:9). The apostle removes the claim of favor by the Jews for they are not ascertained by natural descent, name, nature, nation, religion or profession. These characteristics described merely make one — not a child of God, but a child of Hell. Their “crutch” of circumcision was not even true circumcision, which God principally requires, for it was the mere cutting away the flesh of the foreskin, but not the carnality of the heart. This equates to nothing, it is not the true spiritual “heart” circumcision which our Lord commanded — for the people were everywhere commanded to circumcise their hearts (Deut. 10:16), and this is precisely what the Lord promised to do in the elect (Deut. 30:6). True circumcision is not something outward, but it is an inward work of grace in the heart.
We give the following quote from the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary: “It is a sad mark of depravity when all that is designed and fitted to melt only hardens the heart. . . . As no external privileges or badges of discipleship will shield the unholy from the wrath of God, so neither will the want of them shut out from the Kingdom of God such as have experienced without them that change of heart which the seals of God’s covenant were designed to mark. In the sight of the great Searcher of hearts, the Judge of quick and dead, the renovation of the character in heart and life is all in all. In view of this, have not all baptized, sacramented disciples of the Lord Jesus, who ‘profess that they know God, but in works deny Him,’ need to tremble — who, under the guise of friends, are ‘the enemies of the Cross of Christ’.” In our day there are multitudes that claim by their profession, by what may be called outward Christianity, to be true Christians, but outward Christianity is not true Christianity. They make their claim and think themselves real because of outward practices without real heart work. There are millions whose so-called Christianity consists in nothing more than attending Church, but their lives show plainly that they have not been called out of the world to Christ. Others consist only of words for they hold firmly to a theory of the Gospel and sound doctrine, but they know nothing of practical godliness. They are like these Jews in this chapter of Romans; for they have a name but they are not truthful, loving, humble, honest, kind, gentle, or unselfish. Speaking of these Jews, a man could be a physical descendent of Abraham, circumcised, a keeper of all the feasts, a regular worshipper in the temple, and yet in God’s sight not be a true Jew. In the same way, someone may be a Christian (?) by outward profession, baptized, a regular attender of Church, believe much truth and yet miss Christ — in God’s sight not a Christian at all. In Isaiah 1: 10-15 God declares that the sacrifices of the people were useless, an abomination, and He hated their feasts. Even though these feasts and sacrifices had been appointed by Him, He is declaring that His own ordinances of worship are worthless when they are not observed from the heart. No, they are worse than worthless: they are offensive to God, and He hates them.
J. C. Ryle wrote as follows: “Listen now to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He said to the Jews of His day, ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship me’ (Matt. 15: 8-9). He repeatedly denounced the outward religion of the scribes and Pharisees, warning His disciples against it. Jesus always had a word of kindness for the worst of sinners, and held a door open to them. But He exposed those who had an outward appearance of religion in the severest language.”
Verse 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Paul has crushed the false hope of the natural Jews by telling them they were not “Jews” in the sight of God and now he says that the true Israel is made up of Jews who by God’s grace become spiritual and Gentiles who by free grace are made spiritual as well. So the spiritual Jews then are made up of the elect, both Jew and Gentile. He is a true and real Jew, an Israelite indeed, that hath the foreskin of his heart taken away (Jer. 4:4); that is cleansed from all corrupt affections, and hath laid aside all superfluity of evil activities; that worship God in the Spirit, rejoices in the Lord Jesus Christ, and hath no confidence in the flesh. Such, and such only, are the circumcision and Jews indeed (Phil. 3:3). Paul’s conclusion, which astonished the Jews, along with those who embrace the theory of Premillennialism and Dispensationalism with their false interpretation, was the exact opposite of the Jew’s estimate of himself. A man is a true Jew who has a work of redeeming grace in the heart, who has renounced his works and looked to Christ, who has not the Law of God only in his hand, but written in his heart, who has not a mere outward external righteousness, but internal holiness, who worships God in Spirit and in truth, and whose praise is from God and not from men (Psa. 34:18; 51:17). This name “Jew” is not confined to a mere race of people, but it belongs to all such who truly fear and worship God. All are Jews in God’s estimation who are spiritually “circumcised.” These experience a cutting off — a cutting all around — a severance from the world, consecration to God, and the knife’s application to all that is of the flesh. Figuratively it stood for the cutting off of the old life. This circumcision of the heart is the distinguishing mark of God’s spiritual children. John Calvin says, “He calls the outward rite, without piety, the letter, and the spiritual design of this rite, the spirit, for the whole importance of signs and rites depends on what is designed; when the end in view is not regarded, the letter alone remains, which in itself is useless. And the reason for this mode of speaking is this, — where the voice of God sounds, all that He commands, except it be received by men in sincerity of heart, will remain in the letter, that is, in the dead writing; but when it penetrates into the heart, it is in a manner transformed into spirit.”
The name “Jew” means Praise and we see in it a declaration of the truth that the real Jew is one not by natural generation (“of men”) but by spiritual generation (“of God”), and this name (Jew) also passed on to the true people of God, as appears in these verses, 28 and 29. These true Jews, spiritual Israel, the elect, saints of God, must not expect praise from men, who esteem only outward things, but this praise comes from God, who searches and knows the heart.
There is much of deep importance in these 2 verses yet they are little understood today, especially by those who espouse the heresy of dispensationalism. Their method of interpretation differs drastically from that of the Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is sad as well as serious for this doctrine has saturated our Churches over the last 150 years. Dear reader, we must be very careful here for the Scriptures themselves demand that we understand the Old Testament the way the New Testament writers saw it and understood it and that was in a spiritual way. The Jews demand a literal (material) interpretation and the dispensationalists agree with them. But the Apostles and the Lord Christ did not and this is what got our Lord crucified, Stephen stoned, James decapitated, Paul disenfranchised and John exiled. As an example look at how the Lord Christ interpreted the Old Testament (Luke 24: 13-27, note verse 27). Woe is the man or system that ignores or denies the method of interpretation by Christ and His apostles.
Understanding what Paul is saying here in Romans 2:28-29, we must ask the question of Scripture, “who is a real Jew or Israelite?” In 1970 one of the leading Rabbis was teaching a class on prophecy and said, “to be a Jew in the Biblical sense you must have 3 things; (1) Nationality (i.e., be a descendant of Abraham); (2) Tora (law); (3) Land (Israel in Palestine).” But there was another Rabbi in the first century, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee from the school of Gamaliel, called by sovereign grace, Paul of Tarsus (Phil. 3: 5-7), and he defines a real (spiritual) Israelite:
First, a true Israelite (Jew) is a matter of having a God-given, God-wrought faith, and not just being from the right race of people. “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture (Gen. 12:3; 17:1-7), foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (the Gentiles) through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:6-9). Paul is simply stating that an Israelite is not necessarily a person who descends from a bloodline, but a person who has the true kind of faith as Abraham had. That special quality of Abraham’s faith was that he could see Jesus by inward revelation. Christ said, “your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). If you, Jew or Gentile, are living by the faith of the Son of God you are a spiritual Israelite. If you are living as a supposed Jew because of your bloodline you are blind, for the Holy Ghost here says you are not a Jew.
Secondly, a true Israelite has his heart circumcised, putting away the flesh and certainly not trusting in circumcision of the flesh for verses 28 and 29 clearly declares that the real Jew is circumcised in the heart by the Holy Ghost, not outwardly in the flesh. Paul, in Romans 4: 1-12, goes into great detail to show that Abraham was circumcised as a seal of his faith which had previously been reckoned to him for righteousness, or credited to Abraham as righteousness as verse 9 states. Verse 10 declares that this took place before, not after he was circumcised (Gen. 15). Verses 11 and 12 plainly assert circumcision (which took place in Gen. 17) was a seal of the covenant relationship between Abraham and God. Therefore, “he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Rom. 4:11-12). Paul strongly argues that if you only have circumcision the whole idea of salvation is mockery and nonsense. The outward mark means nothing unless you have the gift of God’s faith on the inside. Without faith, circumcision has nothing to represent. In Colossians 2:10-12, Paul parallels circumcision in the old covenant to water baptism in the new covenant. That is, both occur after the fact of faith and repentance as a covenant symbol of a relationship already entered into. Baptism without faith and repentance is an empty, meaningless ritual.
“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2: 11). This idea is not just New Testament. Deut. 10:16 reads: “Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart and be no more rebellious.” Deut. 30:6, “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart . . .” True (spiritual) circumcision is not an external but an internal act; the cutting away of the old heart and its affections, in order to love the Lord. A true Israelite, then, is one who has faith like Abraham and who loves the Three-One God because his heart has been circumcised. If you are truly circumcised in heart you are a spiritual Israelite.
Thirdly, a true Israelite descends from Abraham through Isaac who is a symbol of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Gal. 4:21-31, Paul states that Abraham actually had 2 sons, Ishmael of a slave woman, Hagar, and Isaac of his wife, Sarah. He likens the Jews by race and religion to the son of the slave woman who was cast out, and Isaac to the spiritual Israel born of the free woman, which represents heaven. We read in Rom. 9:6-8, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac (though Abraham had an older son, Gen. 21: 9-12) shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Then in Gal. 3:14, 16, & 29 we read, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Very simply stated — a person who by faith is savingly brought to Jesus Christ the Lord is Abraham’s true (spiritual) seed. “They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Now dear Reader, who does the New Testament Scriptures say is true spiritual Israel. We have seen that the New Testament unequivocally presents the spiritual Israelite as anyone who: (1) has demonstrated faith like Abraham — Gal. 3: 6-9; (2) has been circumcised in the heart — Rom. 2:28-29; (3) belongs to Christ, Abraham’s true seed — Rom. 9: 6b-8; Gal. 3: 14, 16, & 29.
In the natural realm there is the Jew and the Gentile. In the spiritual realm of God’s true Kingdom there is only the spiritual Israelite, also known as the Church, bride, body and, in the Old Testament, the remnant. Neither the New Testament, Christ, nor the apostles made a distinction between the Gentile Church and the Jewish Church, for there is none. Paul fought many battles over this issue. Many evangelicals, full-gospel preachers, and television and radio preachers, as well as multitudes of Church members, declare that not only are Israel and the Church two different programs, but that Israel is superior to the Church; but be assured the Scripture knows nothing of such an erroneous position. Where then did it come from? It originates from a total misunderstanding of the blessing to Abraham’s seed. Gen. 12:1-3 states, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” God made this promise to Abraham and to his children; all are agreed upon that. But who are Abraham’s children or seed as the Bible says? The dispensational school answers “every Jew,” but the Scriptures do not say that. Abraham had 2 sons, Ishmael of an Egyptian slave woman whose natural descendants are known today as Arabs, and Isaac of Sarah whose natural descendants are known today as Jews. On this there is basically no disagreement. But how does the New Testament interpret Ishmael and Isaac? Please, dear reader, go to Gal. 4:21-31 and read it thoroughly and carefully. And keep in mind when reading it that Paul is writing to the Gentiles here, not Jews. Note verses 21-25. Abraham had 2 sons, one of a slave woman and one of a free woman. It is very important that we listen, not to men, but to the Scriptures when asking the question, “Who do these two women and their sons represent?” Verse 24 answers that by stating they represent two covenants or testaments: (1) The son of Hagar, the old covenant, the law from Mt. Sinai is bondage and corresponds to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. Nothing could be clearer. Paul is referring to natural Israel. (2) The son of Sarah, the new covenant, from Jerusalem above is free (given by grace). Paul is clearly referring to those redeemed by the sovereign grace of God. Verse 28, “Now we, brethren (Gentile Christians), as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”
Is Abraham’s blessing then to be extended to natural Israel — Israel of Sinai (where the law was given), of bondage, of law, of Jerusalem? The apostle answers that in verse 30, “Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bond woman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” Look, dear reader, at what the Scripture is saying as it declares that being a biological son of Abraham is not enough to be Abraham’s heir and receive Abraham’s blessing. Even if this biological heir keeps the covenant of Sinai it will only deepen the bondage. So who then is the recipient of the blessing of Abraham? The answer is found in verses 26-29 and 31. Please read it again and listen as God speaks. “Now we (Paul, a regenerated Jew, and the regenerated Gentiles, you and me), brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). The uniqueness of Isaac is found in the fact he was the offspring of faith, just as is every true believer. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3: 28-29). It is clear, dear reader, that it is not nationality nor bloodline, but IT IS TRUE BELIEVERS, ALL THOSE IN CHRIST, WHO ARE THE SEED OF ABRAHAM AND THE RECIPIENTS OF THE BLESSING AND HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE.
Away with the man-made theories of dispensationalism, heralded by pen or in person in our day by such men as Scofield, Chafer, Larkin, Darby, Lindsey, Walvoord, Pache, Kirban, LaHaye, Bloomfield, Copeland, and many others, too numerous to name. Trash their books and marry yourself to your Bible and search diligently the Lord Christ’s teaching throughout the Gospels and the apostle’s teaching in the epistles for the true interpretation of Scripture, proving their theories to be false. They speak such falsehoods as the following: (1) God postponed the Kingdom of God because the Jewish leaders rejected the Lord Jesus as the Messiah (The truth is our Lord rejected them, Matt. 21:43). (2) God brought the Church (Gentile Christians) into existence as an alternate plan when Israel rejected Christ (We shall see this folly fully exposed when we look at Eph. chapters 2 and 3). (3) Biological sons of Abraham are more highly favored in God’s sight than a saint cleansed by the blood of the Son of God (Again Ephesians will prove this to be a man-made falsehood, as does Romans 2:17-29). (4) The church, body and bride is a totally separate entity and program from the nation of Israel, and (5) In order for a Gentile to receive anything from God he must be cleansed by the blood of Christ, have true faith in Christ and be a caller upon the name of the Lord, and walk in obedience to the Word of God. But they say, on the other hand, for a natural Jew to be blessed of God, all he has to do is NOTHING, for Abraham did it all. God will bless them because of Abraham, not because of Christ.
This, dear reader, is another gospel, a bloodless religion void of the atoning Substitutionary work of Christ on the Cross. It makes the Incarnation unnecessary, the crucifixion a waste, the resurrection and ascension of Christ a joke, and Heaven a farce. It denies the song of the Lamb (Rev. 5: 9-10) and the testimony of them in Heaven (Rev. 12:11) for their theory would make it read: “We overcame Not by the blood of the Lamb, Not by the word of our testimony, BUT by the seed of Abraham.” But the Word of our God says there is only one Lord (for both Jew and Gentile), one faith (like Abraham’s for both Jew and Gentile sinners), one baptism, one God and Father of us all (Jew and Gentile), one Spirit and one body (Eph. 4: 3-6). Oh, the miracle of God’s grace — Jew and Gentile one in Jesus Christ — Abraham’s true seed! “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:9).
Paul was the most persecuted apostle in the New Testament because he saw by Divine revelation and proclaimed that God had brought the believing Gentiles into one body with the true believing Jews (Gal. 1:11-16; Eph. 3: 1-8)! And in Eph. 1: 9-11 he states that the Church of Jew and Gentile was the will and purpose of our Predestinating God: “Having made know unto us the mystery of his will . . . That in the dispensation of the fullness of time he might gather together in one (body) all things (Jew and Gentile) in Christ.” The state of the Gentile before conversion is described as: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Ah! Look at the 13th verse and the words BUT NOW: “But now (when? Now!) in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” and that precious blood (1) broke down the middle (dividing) wall of partition between Jew and Gentile and (2) made them both one body in Christ (Eph. 2:14). Reference here is to the walls that separated the Gentile court from the Jewish courts in Herod’s temple (the temple standing in our Lord’s day). Originally Solomon’s temple had no such segregation and Gentiles who wanted to worship Jehovah became Jewish proselytes and were accepted into the temple. Therefore the wall that separated Gentile worshippers from Jewish worshippers was a man-made ordinance, not God ordained. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). Too, our Blessed Redeemer abolished in His own crucified flesh the hatred between Jew and Gentile caused by the decrees and ordinances by annulling them (Eph. 2:15).
What was the source of the hatred and division between Jew and Gentile? The Law and our Lord satisfied it in Himself. Paul in Romans 11:13 declares that the believing Gentiles (wild branches) have been grafted into Christ with the believing Israelite good branches). Note: Paul is referring to the believing, spiritual Israel, not apostate natural Israel. He is also referring to believing Gentiles, not just all Gentiles. The Holy Ghost reveals there that God cut off the natural branches from the olive tree and grafted in the wild branches (Rom. 11: 17,21). Verse 21 tells us which branches he cut off — the natural branches. The natural branches rejected Christ as Messiah because they depended on their nationalism (being Jew) and genealogy (being sons of Abraham) for salvation. God never cut away the spiritual branches of Israel — those who were savingly joined to Him through and in Christ (Rom. 11:1).
In the first century each Jew individually had to answer the same question Peter had to answer, “Who do you say that I, the son of man, am?” The true Israelite, the sons of believing Abraham said: “Thou art the Christ,” as they rejoiced to spiritually see the Son. However, the overwhelming majority refused to bow to Christ as Lord, rejected Him as Messiah, so that as a nation they rejected the very Son of God. Thus our Sovereign God broke off the natural, Christ hating branches only and savingly looked to the Gentiles. Not on a national basis but on an individual basis. It is the Gentile sinner who is spiritually married to the Lord Jesus Christ that is grafted into the olive tree of God. Thus the very life of God in Christ Jesus flows through both believing Jews and Gentiles and results in His creating of these twain one body, “one new man” (Eph. 2:15): the Israel of God!
Dear reader, the Scripture has told us plainly who is a real Jew in God’s eyes, who is spiritual Israel, God’s elect, God’s true Church (Eph. 2: 19-22). Let God be true and every man a liar. RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 2: 17-29.
Verse 17. It is clear that the Jewish dispensation was to end in an outpouring of the wrath of God upon that people; that they were to be nationally exterminated, and the survivors scattered all over the earth; and that their land was to become a desolation, and their city and temple were to be utterly destroyed. All this was to come upon them because, though they had “received the law by the dispensation of angels” (Acts 7:53), they had not kept it. — Philip Mauro (1859-1952).
To be deceived by another is bad enough; but to deceive ourselves is a thousand times worse. — John Flavel (1628-1691).
But no one observed all things which the Law required; nay, so far were they from obeying the Law, that, deriving from its very commands incentives to sin (Rom. 7: 8-11), they practiced all manner of wickedness (Rom. 2:17, and so became dead in trespasses (Col. 2: 13), and in sins (Eph. 2: 1,5). Hence they failed is securing God’s approbation (Rom. 3: 23), and had to fear Divine punishment (Rom. 2: 12; Col. 2: 14), being under a curse (Gal. 3: 10, 22). For it is of the nature of law to threaten punishment (Rom. 4: 15; 2 Cor. 3: 8). The punishment was eternal death (Rom. 5: 16, 18, 21; 7: 13; 8:6), as introduced by the first sin of Adam (Rom. 5: 12). — John Brown of Edinburgh (1784-1858).
True Religion is not being born into the right family or inducted into the right church or native of the right country, but by being the subject of a spiritual birth whereby we enter the family of God, are made members in the church which is His body, and see and enter His spiritual, Heavenly and eternal Kingdom, John 3: 3-8. — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
Verse 18. It is deeply to be regretted that the catechetical form of instruction of the mature as well as of the young, once universal in the Scottish churches, has in many cases nearly, if not altogether, disappeared. — John Brown of Edinburgh (1784-1858).
If it is good, why do you not practice it? — Matthew Mead (1629-1699).
HOLINESS is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what he hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man. — J. C. Ryle (1816-1900).
Verse 19. That faith which is never assaulted with doubting is but fancy. Assuredly that assurance which is ever secure is but a dream. — Robert Bolton (1572-1631).
I think the first essential mark of the difference between true and false assurance is to be found in the fact that the true works humility. — A. A. Hodge (1823-1886).
Cost what it may, to separate ourselves from those who separate themselves from the truth of God, is not alone our liberty but our duty. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
“And art confident that thou thyself” . . . Being vainly puffed up in, their fleshly minds, they were strongly persuaded that they were very fit persons to be “a guide to the blind” — but miserable guides were they, whether to their own people, or others; blind guides of the blind. Gospel ministers best deserve this title: “a light of them that are in darkness”: so Christ, John the Baptist, the Disciples of Christ, and all Gospel ministers are; but these men, who arrogated such characters to themselves, were dim lights, and dark lanterns. — John Gill (1697-1771).
Verse 20. No one is made strong in God but he who feels himself weak in self. — Augustine of Hippo (354-430).
“Having the form of knowledge” . . . For they professed to be the teachers of others, because they seemed to carry in their breasts all the secrets of the Law. The word “form” is put for model (pattern); but he intended, I think, to point out the conspicuous pomp of their teaching, and what is commonly called display; and it certainly appears that they were destitute of that knowledge which they pretended. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
NO ANTINOMIAN; NO DEAD FATALIST — I believe in free-grace justification of the elect — but this precious truth cannot be my rule of life. This is God’s work. I believe in the absolute predestination of all things — but God’s secret decrees cannot be my rule of life. “Known unto the Lord are all His works.” Ever and anon, the rule of life for the believer must be the things God has told us in His precious Word. Mind you, I say not the Ten Commandments as a coded Law — and I say not the Sermon on the Mount or The Golden Rule, as such — but the whole Word of God, EXPERIENCED, RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD, and SPIRITUALLY ADHERED TO, must be my RULE OF LIFE. — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
Verse 21. We are too often filled with righteous indignation against the sins of others, while blind to our own! Real need has each of us to solemnly and prayerfully ponder the questions of Romans 2:21-23. Self-flattery makes us quick to mark the faults of others, but blind to our own grievous sins. Just in proportion as a man is in love with his own sins and resentful of being rebuked, will he be unduly severe in condemning those of his neighbors. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
There are three kinds of lies; a lie told, a lie taught, a lie acted out. — Joseph Caryl (1602-1673).
The sum of the charge here made is that of gross inconsistency between profession and practice, with the aggravation of a wicked life following sufficient knowledge. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
If covetousness, overreaching, false weights and measures, extortion, usury, bribery, oppression, cheating, embezzling, unfaithfulness, holding back wages fairly earned, and like acts, which are clearly in violation of the whole spirit of the 8th commandment, are referred to, there is abundant evidence that these sins were often sadly prevalent, particularly in the latter days of the Jewish commonwealth. — Anonymous.
Have you ever noticed the difference in the Christian life between work and fruit? A machine can do work; only life can bear fruit. — Andrew Murray (1828-1917).
Verse 22. To profess to love God while leading an unholy life is the worst of falsehoods. — Augustine of Hippo (354-430).
The word [Hypocrisy] is only the English form of a Greek term which originally denoted a stage-player — one who assumes a character not his own. This odious sin is condemned again and again in the New Testament (Luke 12:1). It may deceive men, but it cannot impose upon God. After all, it is easier to be than to seem. There is constant toil and terror in keeping up appearances when there is no reality. — John Eadie (1810-1876).
A painted harlot is less dangerous than a painted hypocrite. — William Secker (d. 1681).
After their lengthy captivity in Babylon the Jews were delivered from their love of idolatry, so that the Spirit said “thou abhorrest idols” (Rom. 2:22). Many there are who hate injustice and oppression, unmercifulness and cruelty, lying and dishonesty. . . Israel mourned after their worship of the golden calf (Exo. 33:4) and “mourned greatly” (Num. 14:39) after they had sorely provoked the Lord, and yet continued in their provocations (verse 44) . . . and were unregenerate. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
The hypocrite sets his watch, not by the sun, that is, the Bible, but by the town clock; what must do, that he will do. Vox populi (voice of the people) is his vox Dei (voice of God). — William Gurnall (1617-1679).
Verse 23. If any man thinks he can keep the Law of God and stand on his own record in the day of judgment — if he thinks he can be saved by his own character and conduct, then let him build his pyramid of air, let him build his house of bubbles, and he will find himself in Hell in spite of all his efforts. . . The Law of God cannot be pushed aside and ignored. The Law has to be reckoned with in salvation. Divine justice will see to it that the Law of God is enforced and the penalty of sin paid. Now the question is: “How can the Law be satisfied? And who is able to satisfy the Law and live?” There are two ways and two places where the Law is satisfied: ONE IS AT CALVARY, THE OTHER IS IN HELL. The sinner can satisfy the Law by suffering eternal punishment in Hell. This will be the second death in the lake of fire. And this will be defeat and not victory. The other way to satisfy the Law is for the sinner’s Surety and Saviour to satisfy it. This is what Christ has done for His people. Christ satisfied the Law by His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. Gal. 3:12; 2 Cor. 5:21. — C. D. Cole (1885-1968).
Men borrow the luster of Christianity, but counterfeit masks will be burned in the Day of God! — Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661).
Under the Law, if you offend in one point you are guilty of all, and are under the curse. — William Tiptaft (1803-1864).
Churches today are heavily loaded with people who make their own rules to live by. — Rolfe Barnard (1904-1969).
Verse 24. God’s name is His revealed character. — (Anonymous).
God’s name is God Himself in His revealed holiness. — F. J. Delitzsch (1813-1890).
BLASPHEMY (Col. 3:8). The word in its original use denotes all manner of detraction or calumny, such as is expressed by the terms rail, revile, speak evil, &c.; but in the restricted sense of the Scriptures, and of common use, it denotes reproachful, irreverent, or insulting language concerning of any of His names or attributes (Lev. 24: 10-16). Whoever thinks of the character of God as infinitely holy, just, and good will not be surprised that this offence is regarded as very heinous, and is so fearfully punished. It is the highest form of impiety. As lying is willful falsehood, so blasphemy is willful, wanton profanity. And there is also no reason to suppose that the sin of profane swearing, so common at this day, is less odious and offensive to God than it was in the times of Moses. — John Eadie (1810-1876).
Indifference in religion is the first step to apostasy from religion. — William Secker (d. 1611).
Verse 25. I believe that the root of almost every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has ever suffered has been the effort of men to earn, rather than to receive, their salvation. — R. L. Dabney (1820-1898).
Legalism is an abuse of the Law; it is a reliance on Law-keeping for acceptance with God, and the proud observance of Laws is no part of the grace of God. — Ernest F. Kevan (1903-1965).
Legalism is self- righteousness. It is the belief that God is satisfied with our attempt to obey a moral code. — Erwin W. Lutzer. (b. 1941).
The uncircumcision here refers to the Gentiles, and Paul is not saying that the uncircumcision can be saved by keeping the Law — that is not what he means. What he is saying is that a moral Gentile, even though he is not circumcised, excelled the immoral Jew who is circumcised. Circumcision is only a sign, and Paul is saying that righteousness without this sign would be better than the sign without the righteousness. When you think of keeping the Law as an end to salvation, you must think in terms that the whole Law must be kept. There can be no exceptions, no substitutions, no falling short, no mercy, but absolute conformity to the Law. Now this is impossible for a son of Adam to do. — L. R. Shelton, Sr. (1898-1971).
Verse 26. Circumcision looks to the Law, and must therefore be inferior to it: it is a greater thing to keep the Law than circumcision, which was for its sake instituted. It hence follows, that the uncircumcision, provided he keeps the Law, far excels the Jew with his barren and unprofitable circumcision, if he be a transgressor of the Law . . . It must be added — that no one ought anxiously to inquire what observers of the Law are those of which Paul speaks here, inasmuch no such can be found; for he intended to simply lay down a supposed case — that if any Gentile could be found who kept the Law, his righteousness would be of more value without circumcision, than the circumcision of the Jew without righteousness. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Paul is making it very clear that if you have the sign, it will profit you nothing unless you have the righteousness with the sign. This is true today. No matter what form religion takes today, the vast majority of professed Christians are resting in a sign. It is either baptism, church membership, or a decision, or a vision or experience, and they make much of that. They put the emphasis upon the sign, thinking God will judge them according to the sign, when God actually judges according to the heart. They are resting in a sign, just as the Jew rested in the sign of circumcision without the righteousness of the Law fulfilled in their heart. — L. R. Shelton, Sr. (1898-1971).
Verse 27. This verse teaches the same as that next preceding with the additional declaration that such a case, if found, would condemn the Jew, who fell short of the requirements of the Law he professed to receive. It is true no such case was found. For both Jew and Gentile are guilty before God. But the great object of the apostle in these verses is to destroy the confidence of the Jew in his Law, nationality and rites as means or even as pledges of salvation, if he were found, like other men, to be a sinner. He next announces that religion is internal and spiritual and that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
I refer what follows, “And what is by nature uncircumcision shall judge thee, etc.” not to persons, but to the case that is supposed, according to what is said to the Queen of the south, that she shall come, etc., (Matt. 12:42), and of the men of Nineveh, that they shall rise up in judgment, etc. (Luke 11:32), for the very words of Paul lead us to this view — ‘The Gentile,’ he says, ‘being a keeper of the Law, shall judge thee who art a transgressor, though he is uncircumcised, and thou hast the literal circumcision.’ — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Paul is not saying that the Gentiles can perform all the Law, but he is showing the Jew that because he has the Law he is no better than the Gentile who has not the Law. Also, he is showing the Jew that he has sinned against more light than the Gentile; therefore is more guilty than the Gentile, and is under greater condemnation than the Gentile. — L. R. Shelton, Sr. (1898-1971).
“By the letter and circumcision,” is a construction which means a literal circumcision . . . they continued, though they had the outward rite, to neglect the spiritual worship of God, even piety, justice, judgment, and truth, which are the chief matters of the Law. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Verse 28. Christians are not just nice people. They are new creatures. If you are what you have always been you are not a Christian. — Vance Havner (1901-1986).
The essence and reality of things do not consist in names or external signs; and when nothing more is produced, God will not consider a man who possess them as a true Jew, nor his circumcision as true circumcision. He is only a Jew in shadow and appearance, and his is only a figurative circumcision void of its truth. — Robert Haldane (1764-1842).
We believers . . . are the library of Christ’s doings . . . At present we are a poor edition, but the great Bookbinder has promised to bring out a new edition on indestructible paper and clear type with no errata, imprints of the Son of God, bound in His likeness. — Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960).
Salvation is promised to those who have the graces of the Spirit, but not to those who have merely the extraordinary gifts. Many have these last, and yet go to Hell. — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
Verse 29. Regeneration is essentially a changing of the fundamental taste of the soul. By taste we mean the direction of man’s love, the bent of his affections, the trend of his will. — Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921).
Till the heart is circumcised, we have no spiritual life. This spiritual circumcision is regeneration — a new spiritual title whereby we begin to live to God. Thus we are made meet for the service of God, for communion with Him, and for the inheritance of the saints in light. But this life which brings meetness for glory is not our title to it. Christ alone is our justifying righteousness. — John Berridge (1716-1793).
Regeneration is a mighty and powerful work, wrought in the soul by the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit, wherein a vital principle, a new habit, the law of God and a Divine nature are put into and framed in the heart, enabling it to act holily and pleasing to God, and to grow therein to eternal glory. — Stephen Charnock (1628-1680).
Following are some of the principal verses in which experimental salvation is described. “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart” (Deut. 30:6): an operation painful to the soul, in removing its filth and folly — its love of sin — is necessary before the heart is brought to truly love God. This figure of circumcising the heart is found also in the New Testament (Rom. 2:29; Phil. 3:3). Omnipotence must be exercised “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Psa. 110:3) ere the elect will voluntarily deny self and freely take Christ’s yoke upon them. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
They professed to be “Jews” — the symbolic name of God’s true people — but they were not. Since the Cross of Christ, it takes more than the name and outward profession to make one a “Jew”. (See Rom 2:28-29 and 9: 6-8). — Philip Mauro (1859-1952).
We are warned of some who sought the honor of men rather than God only. If we please God, He will honor us, but if we disregard His honor, He will neither honor us nor our work. Depend upon it! The evil and perilous days are upon us — shall we play the coward? Shall we keep our mouths shut when we should speak? It is not enough even to refrain from following the wicked, but we are commanded “rather to reprove them.” — W. J. Berry (1908-1986).