The Uncircumcised Circumcised
Romans 2:21-29 (English Standard Version)
21(A) you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you(B) rob temples? 23You who(C) boast in the law(D) dishonor God by breaking the law. 24For,(E) as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed(F) among the Gentiles because of you.”
25For circumcision indeed is of value(G) if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26So, if(H) a man who is uncircumcised keeps(I) the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[a] as circumcision? 27Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law(J) will condemn you who have(K) the written code[b] and circumcision but break the law. 28For(L) no one is a Jew(M) who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one(N) inwardly, and(O) circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.(P) His praise is not from man but from God.
This week God has really spoken to me about doing a study through the book of Romans, but not just reading the book as I have done so many times before. We’ve all read the book of Romans. I mean study and meditate on the words contained in the book of Romans. As I was going through some dark places last week I began to really focus on Romans and Psalms. As I read Paul’s writing here, this was the first passage that really “jumped out at me”, which is a nice way of saying the Holy Spirit was really dealing with me on. So I pray that this will be my first of several posts on the impact that the book of Romans is having on my spiritual life.
This passage here is a rebuke/teaching on the importance of having a circumcised heart. Now before I really talk about what God impressed upon me when reading this, lets talk about the value of circumcision. I was having a devotion with Shawna (my wife) the other night and she had a difficult time understanding the significance of circumcision. I did too when I first began pursuing God. But lets think about it in modern terms. When someone makes the choice to follow or submit themselves to Christ they are prompted to be baptized. Baptism is an outward sign of what has happened to the follower on the inside. It is simply a ritual signifying what has happened in that individual spiritually. In much the same way, circumcision was a sort of “baptism” to the Jewish people. It was an outward mark of their inward devotion to following Yahweh (the God of the O.T.)
Now that we understand circumcision and it’s significance to the Jewish people, the above passage becomes one of such power. Paul opens the passage by calling us all to the carpet. Hey seriously, raise your hand if you’ve done something you’ve preached against doing. If my typing wouldn’t become ridiculously slow I would still be raising my hand.
Then Paul begins speaking of circumcision and this passage picks up real steam, or at least it did when the Holy Spirit was speaking to me a few days ago. It says, “For circumcision is of value if you obey the law.” Let’s make it relevant. “For your claim to faith is of value if you actually have faith.” Getting good. Paul then writes, “For if you break the law then your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” Again, in relevant language, “For if you abandon your faith, then your faith becomes faithless.” Wait, if that didn’t just cause you to scream a good, “oooohhhh” like you did during those school yard fights in high school when then one fighter got a good punch to the jaw, then you aren’t reading the same Scripture I’m reading. Let’s continue.
“If a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?” (I’m doing some paraphrasing to save copying and pasting every five seconds). Modern terms: “If someone doesn’t look like a church kid, smell like a church kid, dress like a church kid and speak Christianeese, yet they live a life devoted to God, are they not a Christian?”
“Then the one who is uncircumcised will CONDEMN you who have the circumcision yet disobey the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit.”
This is where Paul gives a nice hearty rebuke. If I were translating this for personal application, I would read this as, “No one is a Christian who merely looks like one, acts like one, or calls oneself one. It isn’t a physical thing. It is a matter of the heart.” Wow! Ummm, did you catch that?
I grew up in a small town in Louisiana. Everyone was a Christian. That’s just what you were. It’s the south. What else were you going to call yourself? You were a Christian because everyone else was. But if we look at what the word Christian truly means, I think it would leave many of us searching our hearts…
Christian: One striving to be like Christ.
That requires more than just circumcision (going to church and doing the physical things necessary to convince others you wear the title).
Now please don’t stereotype me as judgmental. Believe me when I say this passage held my feet to the fire as much as it should anyone claiming faith in Christ who reads this. But what a powerful passage? Thank God for His word which challenges us to be more like Him.