Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know His will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’ 25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. 28 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.”
As you read the passage, don’t forget that Paul had been addressing his readers on the judgement of God for all humanity. He’d been addressing those who had become depraved, the self-righteous moralizer, and the Jews who had taken confidence in their ethnicity and certain acts they had done to show they were separated from the rest of the world. Circumcision would have been one of those acts that separated them.
Circumcision was closely connected to the covenant God had made with Abraham and to Jewish identity. It was a huge hurdle for Paul to overcome with the Jews. Many Jews had an almost superstitious confidence in the saving power of their circumcision.
Paul wanted to make it clear that circumcision lost any value for a person if that person disobeyed the rest of the Law. His point was this: If the Jews’ possession and knowledge of the law did not exempt them from the judgment of God, neither did their circumcision. It showed that they disobeyed willfully because they knew the requirements of the Law and still broke it anyway. Simply put, the outward sign of circumcision did not reflect faithfulness in the inward life.
So if physical or outward circumcision doesn’t matter, what does? Paul said it’s a circumcision of the heart. He stressed that genuine faithfulness and devotion to God comes at a deeper level, it comes from the heart. To prove his point he alluded to the prophecy of Jeremiah, who warned the people of Judah to circumcise their hearts (see Jer. 4:4; Jer. 9:25–26).
Paul went on to say that this circumcision of the heart completely replaced the physical rite and did not merely complement it. Paul wanted us to know it is the work of the Spirit, not the written code, that matters. It’s an inward work of the Holy Spirit; this is something that could never be attained by external rites.
It would be easy for us to miss the gravity of Paul’s point; all this talk about circumcision seems to go over our head.
Maybe it would help if we look at it as if he were talking about baptism and being a Christian. The real Christian, like the real Jew, is one inwardly. The true baptism, like the true circumcision, is in the heart and by the Spirit. The visible sign (baptism) derives its importance from the invisible reality (washing from sin and the gift of the Spirit) to which it bears witness. It is a grave mistake to exalt the sign at the expense of what it signifies.
So, what’s the takeaway for us? To place our confidence in the work of Christ on our behalf, a work that is done in our heart, not all the rules we either do or don’t keep. We should always remember that God looks for inward sincerity and purity, not external actions.
*From what you have just read and considered: What is a personal implication/application for your life today?
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the good news today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Inspiration and insight for the devotionals came from the following books: Reading Romans with John Stott; The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today Series), Stott, John; Romans (The NIV Application Commentary Book 6) Moo, Douglas J.; Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) Moo, Douglas J.; Believers Bible Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Romans through Galatians.