For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: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..Romans 2:28-29
Paul has been arguing in the first two chapters of Romans, that both Gentile and Jew are sinners, and liable to the wrath of God. Having a highly developed moral sense is not the same as being Righteous before God. Knowing the law, being taught of God, and being religious as opposed to being godless has its advantages, but before the bar of God’s justice all fall short.
Paul addressed the false confidence that the Jews in particular held, “resting in the Law” , and confident that they “were guides to the blind and ignorant”, not realizing that knowing the Law, and presuming to be the guides of the ignorant heathen, only increased their guilt, because “it is not the hearers of the law who are just before God, but the doers of it”.
The Law of God, according to the prophets was designed to produce the opposite effect, than the false confidence Paul charges Israel with. A true fruit of the Law of God properly understood, should produce the fruits of “contrition”, “brokenness”, and “trembling at God’s Word”.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.(Psalm 51:17)
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.(Isaiah 66:2)
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.(Isaiah 57:15)
This is the true spirituality that knowledge and immersion into the teaching of the Law was supposed to engender. Not “confidence in the flesh”, ie lineage or circumcision. Rather, moral and spiritual affinity with Abraham and Moses.
Moses himself preached this same message as did all of the Hebrew prophets. Circumcision is to be “of the heart” as well as of the flesh.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee. And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 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, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.(Deut 30:4-6)
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.(Jeremiah 4:4)
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;(Jeremiah 9:25)
Paul is only the latest in a long line of prophets calling Israel unto the circumcision of heart. The Law should have broken the hearts of Israel , by revealing the depth of sin, it was supposed to turn them unto the only one who could save them from their sins.
Would a physically circumcised Jew, who has no regard for God, no love,fear or sense of need for God, have any advantage over a gentile pagan, uncircumcised in body, but who has heard the gospel, and has a heart broken over his sins, and overflowing with gratitude to God for His redemption? This is the question Paul is raising.
What is a real Jew anyway? I am not denying that the physical seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are special to God, and that there is a Divine destiny for these people. God has brought them back to the Land because of His promises, and that in spite of their unbelief, as Ezekiel foretold,
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD;saI do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:22-27)
Jew is not just physical , it is moral and spiritual affinity. The very name “Jew” from Jahudah, means “I will Praise the LORD”. Who is it that lives to praise the God of the Bible? What matters, the Letter of the Law of God or the Spirit? What does it matter if strict Kosher is kept, yet the one keeping it is contentious against God himself, or when God calls there is no real answer?
What is the goal and summation of the Law of God anyway, but this-
“Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, and all of thy soul and all of thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself.”