the jews & the law, romans 2: 17-29, nlt (emphasis mine)

17 You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. 18 You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.

21 Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”

25 The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God’s law. But if you don’t obey God’s law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. 26 And if the Gentiles obey God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? 27 In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it.

28 For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

* * * * * * * * * *

i’m pretty sure i can’t wrap up paul’s point of this passage any better than he already does in verse 29. above all, it is our heart that is the issue: it must be right with god, which can only happen by the spirit of god, and we must only seek approval from god and not others.

he also makes it clear in verse 23 that it’s not enough to know the law. haven’t we all been guilty of -rather, aren’t we all capable of- showing off, using lip service to boast ourselves and impress others with our knowledge of god…and then we excuse ourselves when we disobey his commands, as if we are somehow above them?

again, it’s not enough to know the law if we are not living out his commandments.

at the top of that list?

above all else, love god and love people.

can someone (ahem, melissa) talk about the jewish tradition of circumcision and how it relates to this passage? also, how does paul distinguish between the jew & gentile here? that is, what is the difference between us as it relates to circumcision and the law?

this post is part of our summertime discussion on grace as explained through the book of romans. click here to read earlier posts and, by all means, join in! we’re glad you’re here.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melissa
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 09:43:40

    Whoa…I just got called out.

    So first the research I found and then my thoughts.

    Genesis 17 Circumcision was the sign God told Abraham to keep for the covenant between Him and Abraham’s offspring. God said that if anyone in Abraham’s household was uncircumcised, it would be a sign of the people breaking the covenant with God.

    Deuteronomy 10-11 Shows God calling Israel to be faithful to the covenant as they walk in the wilderness. This is after Israel made the golden calf while Moses what up on the mountain. Here God tells them to circumcise their hearts. To hold to the covenant With a circumcision of the heart.

    So here I am thinking, Paul, as a Pharisee, knew the scripture from both Genesis Deuteronomy…by heart. Circumcision was to be done by the parents on their recently newborn child…keeping the covenant. To fail to circumcise is to break covenant. But circumcision is only a sign. It’s a physical sign of a inward, spiritual reality; “a matter of the heart.” Keeping the first commandment: Love the Lord Your God. And in loving God, loving others, and teaching others to love God, keeping the whole law.

    …personally because I am a learner, constantly getting new input, Ooo…pride can get me thinking I know something. Until something happens and I find that I’m doing anything but keeping the law, what I know in that situation. Not loving God or loving others. The first two commandments. God gives so much grace for the transgression, but there is also the calling back to God. To trust Him…that if He has given me knowledge there is grace to hold to it.

  2. Felipe Neumann
    Jul 19, 2011 @ 15:20:52

    A new fact about your brazilian reader here, MK: I’m jewish!
    Circumcision is, as a matter of fact, encouraged by many people in the health field because it can, eventually, prevent men from having a couple of issues with their friends down yonder!
    Spiritually speaking, in the jewish tradition, God commanded Abraham to get circumcised as well as do it to his sons and teach them to do it to their sons and so on as a sign of commitment to his commandments.
    Like Melissa said, it was a covenant made between Abraham, representing the whole hebrew people, and God. In other words, God said “I chose you, Abraham – you and your seeds – but I need you to choose me as well.”
    One’s efforts in following the jewish tradition can’t be fully interpreted as devotion and willingness to follow God’s commandments if the covenant wasn’t fulfilled in the first place.
    I myself interpret the “brit milah” ritual (circumcision) as saying “God, here I am and this is the sign of my willingness of follow your commandments and live in your grace”.
    Men who eventually have the intention of converting to judaism have to get circumcised as well before they can go through the “micvê” ritual – dunking time, basically, that’s hebrew for “baptism”.
    Hope I have helped!

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Jul 19, 2011 @ 15:27:12

      This is awesome, Felipe! Not sure I’ve ever met a Brasilian Jew before! :)

      I spent some time there several years ago, on missions in Sao Paolo. There is a special place in my heart for Brasil and her people.

      Thank you so much for the information. You will be such an asset to our study, if you’re open to contributing to the conversation.

      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  3. Felipe Neumann
    Jul 19, 2011 @ 15:36:27

    Well, I live like… 2 thousand miles away from São Paulo hahahaha I live in Rio Grande do Sul, at the very south of the country.
    I’m happy you had the chance of visiting Brazil though, of course it sounds suspicious coming from a brazilian man, but it’s an amazing country. I can’t imagine myself living somewhere else.
    I’d love contributing to your posts and community, anyway, anytime.
    I’m becoming a blogger-junkie pretty fast!

  4. Trackback: sarcastic paul. « beauty for ashes

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