Pauls Footsteps #250

In Rom.2:28 Paul begins to redefine what it means to be a Jew, when he states that “you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or have gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision.” (NLT).

Paul teaches here that neither birth nor formalism is the key to being part of God’s true people. Nor do they enable anyone to pass the final judgment. Most importantly, they are not the key to salvation. Religion, Paul is telling us, is not an external matter. Rather, he will reveal in v29 that it is a matter of the heart.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the daily round of being religious, doing the right thing, or going to church, while at the same time neglecting the inner aspects of our daily experience. Paul sought to overturn their priorities, maybe he needs to do the same for you. Are you externally religious or inwardly spiritual? Genuine religion is a matter of the heart.

Paul did not invent the concept of heart circumcision. Moses spoke of it in Deut.10:16, 30:6 and Lev.26:41. There is a difference between the outward sign and the inward condition. Using NT terminology, we would say that they hadn’t been converted, they needed a new heart and mind, and that they must be born again. That conversion experience, as Moses indicates, would be accompanied by confession and repentance and the heartfelt love for God that stands at the very foundation of the law of God.

To be a Jew, Paul notes in v29, a person must have an experience beyond the legalisms of the “written code” of Moses. Rather, they need the converting power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Jesus told Nicodemus that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John.3:5).

Religion has always been a matter of the heart. Paul is calling his Jewish readers (and us) back to that eternal truth. He wants us to experience the real thing rather than the cheap imitation that seems to satisfy so many church folks.

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