Romans Chapter 02

Romans 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Not only did vile men do these things, but we all have done them and therefore are no better that the ones mentioned here by Paul. This is an important point. It is a point that many Christians miss. Yes, many quote Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, and its corollary in Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged”. However, they do not quote the associated verses:

2 Chronicles 19:6 And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment.John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

We may judge others, but we must use righteous judgment. Our righteousness comes from God. We must therefore judge according to God’s will. When we use righteous judgment we are judging by God’s standards.

The Greek word translated “judgest” in this context, means to condemn. Therefore, let us not condemn others for their actions because we were also guilty of those same actions before we were saved. Because Christ died for our sins, we are no longer condemned. He took our condemnation upon Himself. When we condemn others, we are wrong because they also have an opportunity to become saved. So to put it in the terms above with what we know about the context, perhaps we would better understand it this way: “Condemn not that you be not condemned.” When we judge sin for what it is, let us not condemn but be mindful of the wickedness of the sin itself. Let us leave the condemnation to Whom it belongs, to God.

Paul is discussing how we perceive others in our daily life. We have a tendency in the flesh to look down on others we see or meet. Our tendency is to judge others as inferior to ourselves. Unfortunately, in our day-to-day lives even we Christians occasionally do this. I will give a personal example.

My wife and I visited a church one day when I was not engaged as a pastor at any church. We were looking for a church to call home. We sat somewhat toward the front of the sanctuary. Near the end of his sermon, the preacher invited those who felt the leading of the Spirit to go kneel and pray at the altar. I did not feel the leading of the Spirit to go to the altar myself. We were sitting near the aisle. One woman who had been to the altar was returning to her seat. She looked at me with such disdain that it was apparent that she felt herself better than me for going to the altar. She seemed to be thinking, “I am so spiritual because I went to the altar to pray and you did not. Therefore I am better than you.” I do not know that she was thinking such a thing for sure, but her look seemed to convey that idea.

The point of my narrative is to illustrate that even Christians at times look down on others as beneath themselves. My immediate reaction was to judge her as a hypocrite, so I also succumbed to the sin of unrighteous judgment. And it is a sin: Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: {17} A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, {18} An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, {19} A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” I know that I sinned and I feel like she sinned too, though I do not know for sure that she was looking down at me; it was only apparent.

Paul is speaking to this example precisely. We are to resist the tendency of our flesh to feel superior to others. He states that we, like those who have rejected God, were at one time also rejecters of God. We may recognize sin as sin and sinners as sinners, but that does not give us license to feel superior to them, for we were all that way at one time. Let us pray that God will give us His Wisdom to do the right thing when we are in such a situation. Let us also stop feeling superior to others; let us stop at the very moment we begin to condemn them and pray for them instead.

If they are non-believers then they need salvation and the Spirit may be working upon them at that very moment. If we act superior then the person may reject the Spirit because of our smugness. If they are believers, then our smugness might cause them to stumble in their faith, and that is something we are warned against: 1 Corinthians 8:10-12, “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; (11) And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (12) But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

Romans 2:2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

God is the sure Judge. He does not look upon the outward appearance of men, but on their hearts. 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” God’s judgment is true for He sees our hearts. He truly knows us completely. We can hide nothing from Him.

Romans 2:3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

We saw in verse 1 that such condemnation was a sin. If we sin, then we are subject to the Judgment of God as well. When we look at others in condemnation without the righteousness of God, we are sinning and we will be subject to the same Judgment. Nevertheless, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We sin when we judge with unrighteous judgment, but like all sin, if we are believers, we are forgiven. For Christ took all of our sins upon Himself.

Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

The rhetorical question is, “Do you despise the great goodness and righteousness of God as well as His restraint from judging you and His patience toward you?” Being in the indicative mood, the implied answer is yes. The second part of the question is “Do you not admit, or disregard that God’s holiness leads us to repent of our sins?” The implied answer is yes. To not know (αγνοων, hagnoōn) in this context, is to know but not admit to knowing, or to willingly be ignorant, that is, to disregard. The phrase is αγνοων οτι το χρηστον, hagnoōn hoti to chreston, disregarding that the goodness [kindness, benevolence, love]…”

The intent of God’s goodness, or grace is designed to lead us to repent of our sins, transgressions, and shortcomings, and not to lead us to be self-righteous, holier-than-thou judges.

Romans 2:5-6 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; (6) Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

Understand this. Those who do despise His great goodness, forbearance, longsuffering and benevolence are storing up God’s wrath as a capacitor stores up a potential electric charge. When a capacitor is fully charged with stored electric potential, it will spark brightly if its poles contact one another. A large enough capacitor has the potential to electrocute when fully charged. When the wrath of God, which has been stored until the Day of Judgment, is poured out, no one can escape it. God will render His wrath upon all according to their works. This discharge is deadly. None who are in its path will escape it. All will be cast into the lake of fire.

Without Christ, no man’s works are righteous; they are all evil. God’s stored wrath will be directed at those without Christ. If you are not a believer in Christ-if you are not a true Christian-then His wrath will surely be discharged upon you. No one can escape such Wrath.

But, praise God, His son, Jesus the Christ, a perfect individual, a victim without spot or blemish, died in your place. He took the sins of those who would believe in Him, when he died in our place on the Cross. If you believe on the Only Begotten Son of God, you will be saved from the wrath of God. The capacitor is empty; it was emptied upon Christ when He died on the cross. There is no wrath stored up, and no wrath to be discharged upon you on Judgment Day. You will pass through judgment without condemnation and enter into your rest.

You, Christian, have not despised the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering of God. You have not disregarded the goodness of God and have been led, through your belief in Christ, to repentance.

Romans 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life:

They, whose deeds are righteous, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, will receive eternal life. “Patient continuance in well-doing” is steadfastly doing good works. Since all of our works, in our selves, that is, in the flesh, are as soiled menstrual cloths in God’s sight (see Filthy Rags), they cannot be good works. We are only able to do good works with the righteousness of Christ, which is credited to our account the moment we believe in Christ. Hence, once saved, we are able to do good works. It is our unwavering commitment to do good works as children of God that proves to the world that we are Christ’s. By doing those good works, we show that we seek the glory and honor, of eternal life, which God bestowed upon us as a free gift because of our faith in Christ. The saved will do good works. The saved will receive eternal life. For the unsaved, it is a different story-read on:

Romans 2:8-9 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (9) Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

The contentious are those that will not obey the Truth. As Pilate asked, “What is truth?” The Truth is simply God’s will. We find His will in the Scriptures, and in Christ. The will of God in Scripture is given in essence in the two commandments of Christ: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). God’s will in Christ is to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). God wills that we love Him with all our heart, that we love others as ourselves, and that we become saved through His Son. Of course He wills other things for us, but they are all covered by the two commandments of Christ. We will find His will fully revealed to us in the Scriptures. The contentious are those away from God. The Greek word is “away from” or “out of”. They are rebellious and will not turn to God. They are away from God and away from His Truth.

When will the indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish come upon those who do not obey the Truth? As we were told in verse 5, it is Judgment Day.

Paul made doubly sure that everyone who read his epistle would be aware that he spoke to them. The Jew of this day may not admit that he was away from God because he was a child of Abraham, according to him. Because the Jew obeyed the law of Moses, he may not have believed that he would suffer the wrath of God. But Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee, said that all who were away from God would receive these unpleasant things, including Jews. He did not leave out the non-Jews, or Gentiles (Greeks-—ελλενος, hellenos) as he wrote here. The KJV gets the sense right here when it says Gentiles. Paul referred to all Jews and non-Jews, or Gentiles when he wrote Greeks. All who are not in God’s will, who are not saved by the blood of Christ, will suffer this indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish.

Romans 2:10 But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

Conversely, everyone that does good works, which are works done in the righteousness and the will of Christ, will receive glory, honor, and peace in the New Jerusalem, which is Heaven. Those who do good works are those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Their names are written in the Book of Life because they have believed in the Name of the Only Begotten Son of God. In the New Jerusalem, all who have done these good works, that is, all of the saved, will live in the New Jerusalem where “God will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). This includes men, women, and children “of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9). All who believe, both Jew and Greek (Gentile), will be written in the Book of Life and will receive this glory, honor, and peace.

Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

God does not respect persons. He gives equal opportunity for salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. God knows the heart. For Example, when Samuel was attempting to choose one of Jesse’s sons as king, God told him in 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” All of Jesse’s older and stronger sons were rejected in favor of his youngest son upon whose heart God had already looked and knew that David was “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

It does not matter to God if you are a Jew or a Gentile, rich or poor, aristocracy or bourgeoisie, elite or humble, ruler or subject, Baptist or Pentecostal, etc. Your race, class, denomination, financial status, education level, social status, etc. have nothing to do with it. The only thing that matters to God is whether or not you are righteous. Let us remember that “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and that any righteousness we have is imputed to us because of our belief in Christ. Romans 4:22-24: “And therefore it was imputed to him [Abraham] for righteousness. {23} Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; {24} But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead“.

If you are saved, which means that you believe in Christ as Savior, then the righteousness of Christ is credited to your account. When God looks upon your heart, He sees the righteousness of Christ in you, and that is what counts. If God sees that righteousness, you will receive glory, honor and peace. If He does not see that righteousness, then indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish will be upon you. He looks for that righteousness no matter what your, class, denomination, financial status, education level, social status, etc.

Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

The law was given to the Israelites through Moses. Those Israelites, who have the law, who commit sin are condemned and will perish. The Gentiles who did not have the law given by Moses, and who commit sin, even though they did not have the law, are condemned and will perish. Paul is explaining verse 11. It matters not whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, with the law or without the law, if you are a sinner, you will perish. God does not care whether you are Jew of Gentile; He only cares if you are a sinner or not. Yes, we are all sinners, but those who believe in Christ as Savior are forgiven and God does not see our sins. Again, all that matters is if you are a believer in Christ or not. If not, then your sins are ever before you. If so, then your sins have been forgiven. They are covered by the blood of Christ and cast as far as the east is from the west; in other words, they are removed from you. But woe is unto you if your sins are not forgiven. You will receive harsh judgment at the hands of an Almighty God.

Romans 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Verses 13-15 are a parenthesis, or commentary explaining verse 12. Let us remember that there were no verses when Paul wrote. The chapter and verse numbers were added by Robert Stephens in AD 1551. Therefore, let us say the parenthesis explains Paul’s statement that is now verse 12. In order to be saved by the law, just hearing and thus knowing it are not enough.

You must obey it to be justified. You must obey it in its entirety every second of every day of your life. If you fail to obey it just once, you have broken the entire law and are not justified by the law. (James 2:10, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.“) Hence, no one is justified by the law for no one is able to do it completely without fail for their entire lives. All of us have transgressed the law in our lives. When you disobeyed your parents you broke the law (Fifth Commandment). When you took that paper clip from work without permission, you broke the law (Eighth Commandment). When put all of your trust in your own abilities, job, bank account, etc. you broke the law (First Commandment). When you looked lustfully at someone besides your spouse, you broke the law (Seventh Commandment). You can apply all Ten Commandments to your life. The majority of us have broken each one, including murder (Matthew 5:21-22, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: {22} But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire“). We are all guilty of breaking the law; most of us have broken all of the commandments. No one will be justified by the law, for no one is a doer of the law in the sense of perfect and continual adherence to it.

Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

Here Gentiles comes from εθνη, ethnay, the plural of εθνος, ethnos, translated nations or Gentiles. They did not have the Law of Moses, but had their own laws, which basically covered the same elements of it. Their law included adherence to deity, property laws (covetousness, theft, etc.), and relations between individuals. The Code of Hammurabi is just such a law. The Greeks had their system of jurisprudence as did the Romans. In fact, every civilization in history had a code of laws of some sort. The laws dealt with similar themes: religion, rulers, property, and relations between citizens. Note that I said religion. Religion was an important part of every civilization. There were laws in every code dealing with the subject, just as our own Constitution deals with religion in the First Amendment. The Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans all had their pantheon of gods. After the Advent of Christ and His resurrection from the tomb, western civilizations had laws dealing with Christianity. They all had laws.

The point is, like we have seen before, that in the subconscious of every human born on earth is a need for a relationship with God. We all have an innate yearning for God built in to us from conception. However, many seek God in incorrect ways. Some believe in gods, goddesses, and mythological deities. Others immerse themselves in helping humanity. Still others join the environmental movement to satisfy their yearning. There are dozens of other worldly ways men and women seek God. But not a one of these activities results in truly filling that need for God. Only a real relationship with God Himself through His Only Begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, will fill that need.

Paul is making the statement that, even without the Law of Moses, the nations had their own laws that were similar in nature to the Law of Moses. They naturally followed those laws. By following their own laws, which were similar in nature to God’s Law, they actually followed the same laws the God gave the Israelites. He brings it together in the next verse.

Romans 2:15 Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Since all nations and civilizations had a code of laws, most of them written, then all people everywhere had the law of God written on their hearts. That deep yearning that is in our psyches that points us toward God is that same hunger that drives men to write and obey laws. Their own consciences cause them to act according to the law. Their thoughts that were shared between themselves, causing them to either accuse or excuse each other based upon those laws written upon their own hearts. Since all nations have their own set of laws that were basically the same as the Law of Moses, then in order for them to be justified, they had to obey every law without fail for their entire lives.

To bring this parenthesis to its logical conclusion, all men and women, Jew or Gentile alike, were condemned by the law, whether it was the Law of Moses or their own written codes. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).

Romans 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Let us put it all together. Leaving out the parenthesis, we get, For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. God will judge all, including those who have the Law and those who do not. He will do so because the Jews have The Law and the Gentiles have a law similar in nature to The Law, covering the same concepts. He will judge their hearts where the law is written and their secrets reside. Their secrets shall be made manifest at judgment. He will judge them on the Judgment Day by His Son, Jesus the Christ. Jesus will judge according to Paul’s Gospel, which states that those who believe on the Lord Jesus in their hearts will be saved and therefore justified, and then glorified (Romans 8:28-29, 10:9). Thus, those whose faith in Christ has saved them will be adjudicated not guilty, which means they will be justified (Romans 5:1). This verse (16) sums the statement in verse 12 and the parenthesis in verses 13-15.

Romans 2:17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

Verses 17-20 form one sentence and one thought. But let us break the thought into the verses so graciously provided us by Robert Stephens. That way we can fully comprehend the Spirit’s meaning. Paul was speaking to his fellow Jews. It would be difficult to apply these verses to any other group than the Jews, yet we may certainly apply them to that Christian who requires obedience to certain traditions, church doctrines, or liturgies in order for one to be considered by him to be saved. There are plenty of Christians and especially those unsaved who play church, who would have you follow the dictates of their particular brand of Christianity. There are an abundance of “churches” that require you to not drink beverages with caffeine in them, to worship only on Saturday, to eat only clean foods, to never use a musical instrument in worship, to only use the Name Yeshua instead of Jesus, to reject a particular race, and all sorts of other inane requirements. To each of these we shall apply these verses.

The Jews, meaning all Israelites in Paul’s time, were given the Law by God through Moses. They put their final faith in the ability of the Law to save. They were comfortable in their belief that they were justified by the Law. God had proclaimed Himself to be the God of the Israelites. As such He had showered them with blessings. But instead of being thankful for these things, they boasted about them, lifting themselves above the other nations. This is like the Pharisee that stood on the street corner and prayed for all to hear, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” (Luke 2:11-12) Yet the publican, the hated tax collector, prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said that the publican was justified and the Pharisee was not. The very idea that the Pharisee had supposedly kept the law and publican had not caused the Pharisee to be justified in his own eyes. According to Paul, it was the same with the Jews. They boasted that God was their God instead of thanking Him for His mercy.

Romans 2:18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

They knew the law and distinguished the things that the Gentiles had no knowledge of. As Barnes said, “The Jew would pride himself on the fact that he had been taught by the Law to make these distinctions, while all the pagan world had been left in ignorance of them. This was one of the advantages on which he valued himself and his religion.” They were able to make these distinctions because they were taught the law from childhood. The Gentiles had no such learning.

Romans 2:19-20 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.

They thought that they had all that God would offer and this put them in a better position than the Gentiles, whom they deemed to be in darkness and in need of guidance that only they could give. They thought that they had exclusive access to God that no other nation possessed. Similarly, they thought they had exclusive knowledge of the truth in the Law.

Romans 2:21-23 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 dishonorest thou God?

The rhetoric here is that one should not teach and expect others to act in a certain way and then, as teachers ourselves, act contrary to what we teach. Though Paul was speaking to the Jews, this has universal application. Many of the Jews expected everyone to do as they taught according to their law. However, they did not always practice what they taught. Paul was telling them that they were hypocritical. They taught the Gentiles, but did not learn for themselves what should be taught. They preached against theft while they were thieves. They spoke against adultery and idolatry while they themselves were adulterers and idolaters. They boasted that they had the law (instead of being thankful to God for giving it to them) yet they broke that very law. These things dishonored God. This aside is all a part of the lesson that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, including the Jews, God’s Chosen People. Here Paul is talking about those Israelites that broke the laws they claimed to uphold. By doing so they were hypocritical.

Romans 2:24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

When explaining “as it is written [in the scriptures]”, many commentators make reference to these verses:

Isaiah 52:5, “Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.”

Ezekiel 36:2212:14

“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I 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.”

Those verses fit because the Israelites blasphemed and profaned the name of God. However, is it not more likely that Paul was referring to David’s sin with Bathsheba because he was hypocritical? David blasphemed God: “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (2 Samuel12:14). David claimed to be a Godly man and to uphold the law. Yet he broke four commandments: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t bear false witness against your neighbor, and don’t covet your neighbor’s wife. You could say he broke all five second tablet commandments because you could say he stole Uriah’s wife. Stealing is breaking the eighth commandment. So, technically, David broke commandments 6-10.

The commandments can be broken down into two sections, those honoring God and those that deal with relations between people. Since God wrote the Decalogue on two tablets of stone, it is very possible that the first five were on one tablet, and the second five on a second tablet. First tablet commandments, then, are those honoring God and second tablet commandments are those dealing with relations between people.

It was the entire second tablet that David broke. He claimed to be a man of God; a king that upheld the law and was a great example to the people. Yet he sinned. He was a hypocrite. Paul made this statement to show the hypocrisy of the Jews who demanded the Gentiles’ obedience to their 613 laws yet they themselves did not do so. Christian, do not demand that other Christians, especially those younger in Christ, do as you say and not as you do. If you have freedom in Christ, then do not expect others to be in bondage. Don’t put rules on them that you do not follow.

Romans 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

What is circumcision? Of course the question does not refer to the physical aspects, that is, the removal of the foreskin from the male reproductive organ, but to what is symbolized by it. Let us take a look at the scriptures explaining it.

Genesis 17:10-14 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. (11) And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and you. (12) And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. (13) He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. (14) And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

Circumcision was a token, or a symbol of the covenant between God and the Israelites. The covenant that Abraham and successive generations were to keep was stated in Genesis 17:1: “walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Circumcision was a token, or symbol, engraved in the flesh of every Israelite male, that they would walk with God and be perfect. If they kept the law, which was impossible (hence the sacrifice of animals), then they would be keeping the covenant of being perfect. But if they did not keep the law, they broke the covenant. Therefore their circumcision was no longer a token, but simply a disfigurement of the flesh. The surgery amounted to nothing if they did not keep the law. It was simply a choice.

To be circumcised or not to be circumcised, that is the question. As Hamlet oscillated between the choices of fortune and trouble, life and death—and the choice was his—so does the choice to be circumcised or not belong to one who does not keep the law. It makes no difference to God either way. Circumcised without obedience to the covenant means nothing to God. If one obeyed the covenant, then the circumcision that symbolized it meant something. Without obedience it meant nothing. If a Jew broke the law then his circumcision may as well have been uncircumcision. It mattered not either way.

Romans 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

Here the uncircumcision refers to the Gentiles, who were, for the most part, uncircumcised. Circumcision had no place in their religious belief system. The Jews, or the circumcised, looked down on the uncircumcised as beneath themselves. If the Gentile, who was uncircumcised, kept the law (their own law, see verse 14 above) then was he not righteous and should not he be counted as one of the circumcised? After all, since circumcision was a token of keeping the covenant, then should not the Gentile who kept the covenant be considered equal to one who was circumcised? Should not his uncircumcision count the same as the Jew who was circumcised and kept the covenant? Of course it should.

Romans 2:27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

Since the uncircumcised Gentile in this supposition kept the law then should not he be one to sit in judgment of the circumcised Jew that did not keep the law? Yes. That was the purpose of Paul’s rhetoric concerning the judgment of others in verses 1-4 and 17-23. If you are a doer of the law; if you do righteous acts, then you are in the position to judge those who do not. Those who do not are in no position to judge others, but those who are righteous are in every way able to judge others. The truth is that Christians will judge unbelievers (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

The ethnic Jew is a Jew outwardly, that is, he is a Jew by birth. But that is not what the covenant was all about. It was not about outward appearance. To all appearance, every Jew by birth seemed to be righteous because his nation was given the covenants, the scriptures, the commandments, and the Messiah. The true circumcision is not the removal of the foreskin. That is only an outward appearance. Remember that God sees the Heart.

Romans 2:29 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.

The true Jew is the person whose heart is right with God. His inward appearance is pleasing to God. His belief and his righteousness are what make him a true Jew. The true circumcision is that of the heart and not that of the flesh. If you wish to be circumcised or have your son circumcised, that is your choice, but it has nothing to do with the state of your heart. Many circumcised men will be rejected by God at judgment because their hearts were not right. The true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. It is not the letter of the law that makes Him righteous, it is the righteousness of Christ, which the Christian has in him. One is circumcised in the spirit and that is what God recognizes and honors.

This is not an anti-Semitic statement. Paul was a Jew by birth. This is not saying that Jews are not really Jews. Racial Jews are still Jews. Paul is not speaking of racial Jews, he is speaking of covenant Jews who believe in God and walk perfectly before Him. The only way they can do that is to believe on the Lord Jesus, thus receiving His righteousness. So Paul was speaking about Christians—Jews and Gentiles alike who believe on Jesus.

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