|Romans 2:27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps (PAPFSN) the Law, will he not judge (3SFAI) you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? (NASB: Lockman)|
Amplified: Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the Law will condemn you who, although you have the code in writing and have circumcision, break the Law. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God's law will be much better off than you Jews who are circumcised and know so much about God's law but don't obey it. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Moreover, is it not plain to you that those who are physically uncircumcised, and yet keep the Law, are a continual judgment upon you who, for all your circumcision and knowledge of the Law, break it? (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: And the uncircumcision which by nature is fulfilling the law will judge you who with the advantage of the letter and of circumcision are a transgressor of law. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and the uncircumcision, by nature, fulfilling the law, shall judge thee who, through letter and circumcision, art a transgressor of law.
|Romans — 3:21-5:21||Romans — 6:1-8:39||Romans — 9:1-11:36||Romans — 12:1-16:27|
Jew and Gentile
|Demonstration of Salvation|
|Power Given||Promises Fulfilled||Paths Pursued|
Restored to Israel
|Slaves to Sin||Slaves to God||Slaves Serving God|
|Life by Faith||Service by Faith|
Modified from Irving L. Jensen's excellent work "Jensen's Survey of the NT"
AND HE WHO IS PHYSICALLY UNCIRCUMCISED: kai krinei (3SFAI) e ek phuseos akrobustia:
Physically (5449) (phúsis from phúo = to bring forth) refers to a condition or circumstance as determined by birth and thus a natural condition. Phusis is the nature of something as the result of its natural development or condition.
Uncircumcision (203) (akrobustia from ákron = the extreme + búo = cover) means uncircumcised or uncircumcision and thus referred to the prepuce or foreskin. What Paul is picturing is that the physical rite of circumcision without any internal transformation equates with a foreskin! Akrobustia was also used as a term of scorn and derision by Jews, for they equated "uncircumcision" with being a pagan Gentiles. Can you imagine how a self-righteous Jew must have felt when he read Paul's argument!
He who is physically uncircumcised - This is another synonym for Gentiles in this verse. In the OT Gentiles are often referred to as "the peoples" (eg, Ex 15:14, 19:5, Lev 20:24 "separated you from the peoples", Lev 20:26 "set you apart from the peoples", etc) "the nations" (Ge 17:4 - Abraham would be "the father of a multitude of nations", Ge 22:18 - "in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed", Psalm 2:1, etc)
If a physically uncircumcised Gentile were to keep the work of the law within his heart, would he not be justified, instead of the physically circumcised Jew who did not keep the law? A Gentile who obeys what the Law requires, even though he does not know the Law (Ro 2:14) is in God’s sight similar to a circumcised Jew. This thought would be revolutionary for Jews who considered themselves far superior to Gentiles (cf. Ro 2:17, 18, 19, 20, 21).
Denny explains Paul's logic this way...
IF HE KEEPS THE LAW, WILL HE NOT JUDGE YOU: kai krinei (3SFAI) e ek phuseos akrobustia ton nomon telousa (PAPFSN): (Ro 8:4; 13:10; Mt 3:15; 5:17, 18, 19, 20; Acts 13:22; Gal 5:14) (judge: Ezekiel 16:48, 49, 50, 51, 52; Mt 12:41,42; He 11:3)
If he keeps - This is the proverbial "big" (impossible) if!
Keeps (5055) (teleo from telos = goal, an end, a purpose, an aim, a fulfillment, an achievement; See discussion of related words - Mature = teleios; Maturity [perfect] = teleiotes) means to bring to an end (e.g., Jesus finished speaking - see below) as one brings a process, a course, a task or an undertaking to the end.
It means to make an end or to accomplish and complete something, not merely by bringing it to end but bringing it to perfection, in the context of Romans 2:27 signifying that one keeps the law perfectly. And note the present tense which means one keeps the law continually, as one's lifestyle, which of course is impossible (unless you are Jesus!)
Teleo means to accomplish an obligation or demand in the sense of to bring about a result by effort. The idea is to achieve a goal or to conclude it successfully. This meaning is especially poignant in the context of Jesus' life purpose which was to die on the Cross, the purpose He pointed to and which He accomplished ("It is finished" John 19:30). This same meaning of fulfilling or bringing about the completion or achievement of a goal or objective is also a prominent meaning in the Revelation (e.g. Re 11:7-note; Re 17:17-note)
Teleo in some contexts (Mt 17:24, Ro 13:6-note) means to pay, and in the NT uses refers to payment of obligatory taxes or tolls.
Secular uses of teleo include the idea of carrying out instructions, of fulfilling obligations and religiously of carrying out religious acts including consecrating initiates (as into a mystery cult). This latter sense is not used in the NT but is used in the LXX translation of Numbers 25:3, 5 where Israel joined themselves to (consecrated themselves) the pagan idol Baalpeor.
Here are the 28 NT uses of teleo...
Teleo is used 14 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Nu 25:3, 5; Ruth 2:21; 3:18; Ezr. 1:1; 5:16; 6:15; 7:12; 9:1; 10:17; Neh. 6:15; Ps. 106:28; Dan. 4:33; Hos. 4:14)
Law (3551) (nomos from némo = divide among, parcel out, allot) is etymologically something parceled out, allotted, what one has in use and possession; hence, usage, custom.
Judge (2919) (krino) primarily signifies to distinguish, separate or discriminate and then, to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, without necessarily passing an adverse sentence, though this is usually involved. Krino means to sift out and analyze evidence. Passing judgment, by implication, means condemning.
A Gentile’s humble obedience to the law should serve as a stern rebuke to a Jew who, in spite of his great advantages, lives in disobedience. Circumcision (or baptism - or any ritual in itself) doesn't save anyone; Egyptians circumcised their boys, and Ishmael, the son of the flesh, was circumcised
Paul is not saying that uncircumcised Gentiles can keep the Law, but rather that if they do they will be reckoned as "circumcised" in a spiritual sense. Moreover, they then could be called to bear witness in judgment against the circumcised who have transgressed the Law. Paul’s argument was devastating! One of the greatest insults in Judaism was to call another Jew “an uncircumcised one,” and this is what Paul had done in no uncertain terms. Circumcision alone does not justify a man. His actions must be in keeping with his profession of faith.
In applying this truth to ourselves, all we have to do is substitute for the word “circumcision” any of the following: Church membership —baptism— confirmation— Methodist— Baptist— Presbyterian— and so on. The great mistake of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews when asked about their relationship to God is to cite their religious affiliation as evidence of their relationship.
“Are you a believer?” “Of course. I’ve been a member of First Church for twenty-five years.”
“Are you a believer?” “I’m a ____(name of denomination)! Does that answer your question?”
“Are you a believer?” “Why yes, I was baptized right here in Christian Church.”
There are as many answers as there are affiliations and rites, but none will convince God—they are all outward "circumcisions" so to speak.
WHO THOUGH HAVING THE LETTER OF THE LAW AND CIRCUMCISION ARE A TRANSGRESSOR OF THE LAW: se ton dia grammatos kai peritomes parabaten nomou: (Ro 2:20,29; 7:6, 7, 8; 2Cor 3:6)
Peritome 36x in the NT --Jn. 7:22, 23; Acts 7:8; 10:45; 11:2; Ro 2:25, 26-notes, Ro 2:27, 28, 29-notes; Ro 3:1-note, Ro 3:30-note; Ro 4:9, 10, 11, 12-notes; Ro 15:8-note; 1 Co. 7:19; Gal 2:7, 8, 9, 12; 5:6, 11; 6:15; Ep 2:11; Php 3:3, Php 3:5; Col 2:11; 3:11; 4:11; Titus 1:10.
There are only 4 uses in the Septuagint (LXX) - Ge 17:13; Ex 4:25, 26; Je 11:16.
Transgressor (3848) (parabates from from pará = beyond or contrary to + baíno = to go) (see study of related word parabasis) describes one who goes beyond and thus is a violator of the law. A transgressor is one who goes beyond the line. So, also, trespass, which is transpass, from the Latin trans, across, and passus, a step.
Here are the 5 uses of parabates - Ro 2:25, 27; Gal 2:18; Jas 2:9, 11.
Paul speaking of the letter of the Law writes
See Related Resource: Moral, ceremonial, and judicial law - a brief study
Amplified: For he is not a [real] Jew who is only one outwardly and publicly, nor is [true] circumcision something external and physical. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: I have come to the conclusion that a true Jew is not the man who is merely a Jew outwardly, and a real circumcision is not just a matter of the body. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: For, not he who is so in an outward fashion is a Jew, nor even that which is in an outward fashion in flesh is circumcision. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: For he is not a Jew who is so outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in flesh;
FOR HE IS NOT A JEW WHO IS ONE OUTWARDLY: ou gar o en to phanero Ioudaios estin (3SPAI): (Ro 9:6, 7, 8; Ps 73:1; Isa 1:9-15; 48:1,2; Ho 1:6, 8, 9; Mt 3:9; Jn 1:47; Jn 8:37, 38, 39; Gal 6:15; Rev 2:9)
Hebrews, with regard to their language and education, to distinguish them from Hellenists, i.e., Jews who spoke the Greek language.
Israelites, as respects their sacred privileges as the chosen people of God. "To other races we owe the splendid inheritance of modern civilization and secular culture; but the religious education of mankind has been the gift of the Jew alone."
Outwardly (5318) (phaneros from phaino = give light; make to shine or to cause to appear) pertains to that which is clearly and easily known and thus is manifest, plain or apparent. In other words being a true or genuine Jew is not a matter of outward or external things that are clearly seen (such as wearing phylacteries, paying tithes, or being circumcised).
Dr. Barnhouse's paraphrase
They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel! In other words, not all the physical descendents of Abraham are automatically "spiritual" descendents. (cf Gal 3:29). As John the Baptist had pronounced many years earlier, God could raise up physical descendants of Abraham from stones if He so chose (Mt 3:9).
Be careful who you read in any commentary (including the one you are reading!). Below is a comment from the well known commentary by Adam Clarke regarding who the "Jew" is in this passage. Clarke writes that the Jew is...
Now this may be an application but it is not the correct interpretation. Can you see the error he has made and which so many still continue to make? His mistake was to interpret the passage in light of what he had been taught to believe about Israel and the Church and not let the text speak in context - Paul's context in Romans 2, especially in the last section, is clearly directed primarily at the Jews. Clarke "replaces" the Jew with the Church (a false theology referred to as "replacement theology"). The point is that one must be a Berean, (Acts 17:11-note) when reading the commentaries, no matter how well known the commentary is. A safe rule in inductive study is to always carefully observe the Scriptures and allow the context to guide the interpretation.
Now by way of application one might ask how do we see this truth today? And it might be some who say they are saved by having godly parents and knowing what they taught them, or because they have been faithful members of the corner church all their life, or because they have received water baptism as an infant, a child or an adult. In each of these situations they are in need of a circumcision of their hearts by God's Spirit Who alone births new life from above. Let us warn those around us (in love) to flee from the wrath to come lest they be deceived as so many of the Jews in Paul's day were. We must each consider the question, "Where does our confidence lie?" Does it rest on our knowledge of God’s Word, our religious affiliation, our experience of baptism, etc? If so, we are deluded, dead and doomed to eternal destruction unless we come to repentance and faith in the Gospel! True salvation and eternal life is a matter of the heart. God’s Word is surgical. It is meant to pierce hearts (He 4:12,13-note; Heb 4:13-note). If God has spoken to you and revealed your need and your heart is troubled, there is hope for you. Now receive the Word implanted which is able to save your soul (James 1:21).
J. C. Ryle has some pithy comments from his sermon entitled Formalism (click for entire sermon):
"[I.] We learn, first, that formal religion is not true religion, and a formal Christian is not a true Christian in God's sight.
[II.] We learn, secondly, that the heart is the seat of true religion, and that the true Christian is the Christian in heart.
[III.] We learn, thirdly, that true religion must never expect to be popular. It will not have the "praise of man, but praise from God....
Two hundred years have passed away since a mighty Puritan preacher said, "Formalism, formalism, formalism is the great sin of this day, under which the whole country groans. There is more light than there was, but less life; more profession, but less holiness." (Thomas Hall, on 2Ti 3:5 [see note] the year was 1658). What would this good man have said if he lived in our times?"
NEITHER IS (physical) CIRCUMCISION THAT WHICH IS OUTWARD IN THE FLESH: oude e en to phanero en sarki peritome: (Jer 9:26; Ro 4:10, 11, 12; 1Peter 3:21)
Circumcision (4061) (peritome from perí = around + témno = cut off) (Click study of peritome) refers literally to cutting and removal of the foreskin. (See related discussion on Circumcision) In this particular verse however Paul is referring to a figurative circumcision as mentioned several times in the Old Testament (click), so this is a truth concerning which the Jews should not have been ignorant.
Here are the 36 uses of peritome in the NT --Jn. 7:22, 23; Acts 7:8; 10:45; 11:2; Ro 2:25, 26-notes, Ro 2:27, 28, 29-notes; Ro 3:1-note, Ro 3:30-note; Ro 4:9, 10, 11, 12-notes; Ro 15:8-note; 1 Co. 7:19; Gal 2:7, 8, 9, 12; 5:6, 11; 6:15; Ep 2:11; Php 3:3, Php 3:5; Col. 2:11; 3:11; 4:11; Titus 1:10
There are only 4 uses in the Septuagint - Ge 17:13; Ex 4:25, 26; Je 11:16;
Flesh (4561) (sarx) (Click study of sarx) is used 147 times in the NT and has a range of meanings but in the present context refers to the physical part of the human body. Paul contrast their physical circumcision with circumcision of the heart, a teaching which should not have been "new" to any Jew well-schooled in the Law and the Prophets.
God had instituted circumcision as a mark of His covenant with Abraham and his descendants, declaring that “every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations” (Ge 17:10, 11, 12). Many commentators feel that this "surgical procedure" was symbolic of the sinfulness of man that was passed from generation to generation (by the seed of man), so that the very organ needed to be cleansed of a covering. So man at the very center of his nature is sinful and needs cleansing of the heart. This graphic symbol of the need for removing sin became the sign of being a Jew. But as important as circumcision was as an act of obedience to God and as a reminder to Jews of their covenant relation to Him, the rite had no spiritual power and was only an outward symbol. And rather than freeing Jews from God’s law, circumcision made them even more responsible for obeying it, because that ritual testified to their greater knowledge of sin, of God, and of His will in regard to them.
Amplified: But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and [true] circumcision is of the heart, a spiritual and not a literal [matter]. His praise is not from men but from God. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: The true Jew is one who belongs to God in heart, a man whose circumcision is not just an outward physical affair but is a God-made sign upon the heart and soul, and results in a life lived not for the approval of man, but for the approval of God. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: But he who is so in the sphere of the inner man is a Jew, and circumcision is of the heart, in the sphere of the spirit, not in the sphere of the letter, concerning whom the praise is not from men but from God. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: but a Jew is he who is so inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in spirit, not in letter, of which the praise is not of men, but of God.
BUT HE IS A JEW WHO IS ONE INWARDLY: all o en to krupto Ioudaios: (1Chr 29:17; Ps 45:13; Jer 4:14; Mt 23:25-28; Lk 11:39; Lu 17:21; Jn 4:23; 1Peter 3:4)
Inwardly (2927) (kruptos from krúpto = keep secret) means hidden, concealed, and thus secret where one cannot be seen by others. The phrase "en to krupto" literally reads in the hidden part and thus inwardly.
God has always been more interested in the inward than the outward...even as He explained to Samuel declaring
A true Jew in the fullest sense is one who is a physical Jew but who by faith in Christ has become a child of God (Jn 1:11, 12) and is now not just a physical descendant of Abraham but now is the true spiritual seed of Abraham. (Ro 4:16, Gal 3:29). All who do not have this "mark" are "uncircumcised" [Jer 9:25,26 Acts 7:51]
Note: Paul does not intend that national and ethnic distinctions are eliminated by the gospel so that one no longer distinguishes between Israel and the church. Otherwise, Paul would not have so lucidly affirmed a continuing place for Israel in the redemptive purpose of God (Ro 9:4, 5; 10:1, 2; 11:1, 2, 25, 26). Rather, the apostle's design is to provoke physical, unregenerate Israel to a recognition of its dire plight by warning that the true essence of being is an inward reality of the heart wrought by the Spirit of God, not an outward cutting of the physical flesh. The physical Jew who believes in his Messiah for salvation becomes part of the remnant of born again Jews who compose what Paul termed the true Israel of God (Gal 6:16), a phrase which many misinterpret as "the church" (see topic Israel of God)
AND CIRCUMCISION IS THAT WHICH IS OF THE HEART: kai peritome kardias: (Dt 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; Col 2:11,12) (See Torrey's Topic Character of the Renewed Heart)
Note that circumcision is used in three senses in this passage: (1) it stands for the Jews (notice that the "uncircumcised" in Ro 2:27 means Gentiles; see also Ge 17:10); (2) it indicates the physical rite commanded in the law (Ro 2:25a and Lev. 12:3); (3) it represents, as here, a life that is separated from the flesh and unto God (Ro 2:27 and Dt. 10:16).
For the purposes of applying Paul's teaching in these verses note that in the place of "circumcision", one can substitute a number of equivalent activities such as baptism, confirmation, church membership, communion, mother's prayers, godly family, etc. Just as literal circumcision does not bring about present salvation nor guarantee future salvation, neither do any of these activities unless accompanied by a heart circumcised by the Spirit (i.e., regeneration, salvation)
Ray Stedman writes...
BY THE SPIRIT, NOT BY THE LETTER: en pneumati ou grammati: (Ro 2:27; 7:6; 14:17)
By the Spirit - The necessary dynamic that Jesus explained to Nicodemus declaring...
Jesus' declaration and Paul's affirmation are both a fulfillment of God's prophetic promise in Ezekiel 36 where He declares...
See also the passages on Circumcision in the preceding table most of which speak of a circumcision by the Spirit and not by the Letter (the Law).
Not by the letter - Not by trying to keep the law.
In a passage which parallels Romans 2:29 Paul writes...
Salvation is all of God and results from the work of His Spirit in a dead, "uncircumcised", lifeless heart and is not based on men's efforts in the flesh (fallen flesh at that) to conform to God's law.
Writing to the church at Philippi Paul explained that believers now...
AND HIS PRAISE IS NOT FROM MEN BUT FROM GOD: ou o epainos ouk ex anthropon all ek tou theou: (Jn 5:44; 12:43; 2Co 10:18; 1Th 2:4; 1Peter 3:4)
Praise (1868) (epainos from epí = upon + aínos = praise) is an expression of high evaluation. It is excellence spoken of a person, object or event. It refers to the the act of expressing admiration, approval or recognition.
Not from men but from God - This is a further description of inward (man centered) religion as Paul rebukes the vainglory (excessive or ostentatious pride especially in one’s achievements) which prompted so much of the outward religion of the Jews (e.g., see Jesus' parable describing the two men praying in the Temple - one a proud Pharisee and the other a tax-gatherer - Luke 18:9-14; cp the scribes and Pharisees who did all their deed to be noticed by men - Mt 23:5). Only that which obtains praise from God will be what men long to hear ("well done" Mt 25:21, 23,)
Jesus in explaining to His disciples that He had not come the first time to wear a crown but a cross told a story that illustrates future praise of those with circumcised hearts...
Paul alluded to this future praise in his letter to the Corinthians exhorting them...
Those who thus combine the outward sign and the inward grace receive God’s praise, if not man’s. There is a play on words in this last verse that is not apparent in the English. The word “Jew” comes from “Judah,” meaning praise. A real Jew is one whose character is such as to receive praise from God.
William Newell says that we should apply this same teaching to Christianity today writing...
William Newell (Romans 2) summarizes Romans 2 with