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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 29
Verse 29. But he is a Jew. He comes up to the design of the Jewish institution; he manifests truly what it is to be a Jew.
Which is one inwardly. Who is in heart a Jew. Who has the true spirit, and fulfills the design of their being separated as a peculiar people. This passage proves that the design of separating them was not merely to perform certain external rites, or to conform to external observances, but to be a people holy in heart and in life. It cannot be denied that this design was not generally understood in the time of the apostles; but it was abundantly declared in the Old Testament, De 6:5; 10:12,13,20; 30:20; Isa 1:11-20; Mic 6:8; Psa 51:16,17; 50:7-23.
And circumcision is that of the heart. That is, that circumcision which is acceptable to God, and which meets the design of the institution, is that which is attended with holiness of heart; with the cutting off of sins; and with a pure life. The design of circumcision was to be a sign of separation from the heathen world, and of consecration to the holy God. And this design implied the renunciation and forsaking of all sins; or the cutting off of everything that was offensive to God. This was a work peculiarly of the heart. This design was often stated and enforced in the writings of the Old Testament. De 10:16, "Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." Jer 4:4; De 30:6.
In the spirit. This is an expression explaining further what he had just said. It does not mean by the Holy Spirit, but that the work was to take place in the soul, and not in the body only. It was to be an internal, spiritual work, and not merely an external service.
And not in the letter. That is, not only according to the literal, external command.
Whose praise, etc. Whose object is not to secure the praise of men. One of the main characteristics of the Jews in the time of Christ was, a desire to secure honour among men, as being exactly scrupulous in the performance of all the duties of their religion. They prided themselves on their descent from Abraham, and on their regular conformity to the precepts of the law of Moses, Mt 3:9; 6:2,5; Lu 18:10-12; Mt 23:23.
But of God. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart," 1 Sa 16:7. The praise of God can be bestowed only on those who conform really, and not externally only, to his requirements.
The remarks which are made here respecting the Jews, are also strictly applicable to professing Christians, and we may learn—
1. That the external rites of religion are of much less importance than the state of the heart.
2. That the only value of those rites is to promote holiness of heart and life.
3. That the mere fact that we are born of pious ancestors will not save us.
4. That the fact that we were dedicated to God in baptism will not save us.
5. That a mere profession of religion, however orthodox may be our creed, will not save us.
6. That the estimate which men may put on our piety is not the proper measure of our true character and standing.
7. It is an inexpressible privilege to be in possession of the word of God, and to know our duty. It may, if improved, conduce to our elevation in holiness and happiness here, and to our eternal felicity hereafter.
8. It is also a fearful thing to neglect the privileges which we enjoy. We shall be judged according to the light which we have; and it will be an awful event to go to eternity from a Christian land unprepared.
9. Whatever may be the destiny of the heathen, it is our duty to make preparation to meet God. The most wicked of the heathen may meet a far milder doom than many who are eternally moral, or who profess religion in Christian lands. Instead, therefore, of speculating on what may be their destiny, it is the duty of every individual to be at peace himself with God, and to flee from the wrath to come.
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