Romans 2:28-29 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Paul now defines who is a “Jew.” There are people who are descendants of Abraham physically or even politically but are not part of the new Israel. Paul introduces here an idea that he will develop at length in chs. 9-11. The type of circumcision that brings one into the people of God is not outward. It is “circumcision of the heart.” This is done by the Holy Spirit who takes the old heart and transforms it into Christlikeness. The old heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh that interacts with the Holy Spirit in relationship. This is what it means to be “in Christ.” The Jews has misunderstood the purpose of circumcision and had let it become an identity marker that designated those who were “in” and those on the “outside.” Circumcision became the dividing wall between people (see Ephesians 2). The Gentiles were on the outside. Paul has a new definition of God’s people: those who put their trust in Jesus Christ as their savior (Romans 3:24). This is a matter of grace and not human achievement or effort at obeying a set of laws. The laws of God are written on the heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34) by the Holy Spirit who gives us a heart transplant. Circumcision of the flesh was a preparation historically for circumcision of the heart. The Jews had missed this and so Paul is trying to help them understand.
For older posts, click here.