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  • The Spritual Jew: An Exegetical Dialog on Romans 2

    With all this talk about Israel recently I thought it would be a good idea to hone in on the particular passages from which the differing opinions gain their steam. We're going to have to get a bit more involved in all of those texts we appeal to if we want to make any progress here. I figure Romans 2:26-29 comes up as much as any passage when talking about Israel, so that's where I'll set up camp!

    In the last verse Paul says that "he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter..." What does the Apostle mean? Is he actually suggesting that a Christian Gentile could appropriately be called a "Jew"? Or is his discussion here restricted to actual ethnic Jews, those who are saved and those who are not? Or still, is this all just a hypothetical straw-man that Paul is merely building up to tear down later? Attempting to answer this and come out with a clean exegesis of Romans 2 is the purpose of this thread. I invite all to contribute.

    An introductory word: It must be assumed that, if indeed the term "Jew" and its equivalents were applied to Gentiles by Paul or any other of the NT writers, it wasn't at all meant to infer that there are now no such things as actual ethnic Jews, that in Christ people no longer hold distinctive qualities such as race and gender. That would be absurd! It would be only natural to take it as speaking of citizenship; that through Christ Gentiles become a part of the spiritual commonwealth of Israel, as Paul says in Ephesians 2. This must be clearly maintained if we are to have sensible dialog on these important passages.

    Now for Romans 2: There’s a contrast made consistently throughout this passage between unsaved ethnic Israel and believing Gentiles, between the “circumcised” and the “uncircumcised”. Since the beginning of the chapter Paul has been advancing an argument against non-messianic Judaism, focusing in particular on the civil law and its fundamental inability to produce Torah-faithfulness within the nation. This is the whole point of the series of rhetorical questions to the self-proclaimed “Jew” in vv. 17-24.

    In as early as vv. 14-15, however, he introduces another party into the discussion, a party who, though they are physically uncircumcised and do not possess the law, are actually bearing fruit to God and thus (this is more implicit in v. 15 and 29, but it becomes abundantly clear in chs. 5-8) stand as a testimony that He has renewed the covenant, writing His law on the hearts of His people by the power of the Spirit (cf., Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:26). This contrast between the unfruitful Jew and the fruitful Gentile resounds in vv. 25-29. The Jew, though he is physically circumcised, still remains a breaker of the law (v. 25); but the Gentile, though he is physically uncircumcised, astoundingly keeps the heart-level requirement of the law (vv. 26-27).

    The fact that Paul’s point in vv. 25-27 is posed through a question does not imply that the Gentile law-keeper is merely a hypothetical rhetorical devise that could in fact never be, as many suggest. The whole point of the argument rests on the fact that there actually is a renewed company who are carrying forth God’s redemptive purpose in the power of the Spirit. More on that shortly.

    It’s important to note also that the singular “Jew” who is the subject of this polemic stands for unsaved Israel corporately; it isn’t aimed at an individual. This becomes clear as Paul moves into ch. 3, where he refers back to the same singular noun with the pronouns “them”, “us” and “we”. The reason that's important is because it makes it clear that this isn’t a wholesale old covenant vs. new covenant contrast, as if no one could be justified under the old covenant, or as if they were justified by a different means than in the new. The example of Abraham in ch. 4 obviously negates such a conclusion. (Incidentally, 3:25-26 gives the key to reconciling the tension of the old covenant’s weakness and inability to justify with the fact that there was a faithful remnant prior to the Christ event.)

    But Paul is definitely saying that the old covenant was imperfect, that the nation of Israel could not be redeemed and the cosmos could not be restored through dry-road adherence to the “written code”. He makes it abundantly clear that God needed to act on Israel’s behalf. Thus the contrast is between “law” and “grace”, between the impotency of Israel’s civil ordinances and the power of the Spirit to produce true law-keepers.

    Now, with all of the above in mind, especially the Jew/Gentile contrast of vv.25-27, notice the “for” that Paul begins v. 28 with. That conjunction links the argument he has been mounting in the previous three verses with the conclusion he draws in the next two. So then, the “Jew who is one inwardly” must be referring to the same company that has been the positive side of the contrast consistently throughout the chapter, namely uncircumcised Gentiles. This is confirmed once more by what Paul goes on to say in 3:1 (“what advantage then has the Jew?”); because ethnic Israel’s position of honor wouldn’t even be called into question if the contrasted subjects of 2:28-29 were both of Jewish decent, as many suggest.

    But aside from denying that the true "Jew" here is actually a Gentile, some still maintain the old Lutheran notion that the Gentile who fulfills the law in this passage is merely a hypothetical rhetorical device, and that such a thing is in fact impossible. In this way they feel justified in avoiding Paul's point. This view stems from an over-generalization of what Paul's point really is in this section of the letter, reducing the many-sided argument of 1:18-3:20 to one line: "all have sinnned".

    But as I hinted already, it's extremely doubtful that Paul is just being "hypothetical" here about something that is in fact "impossible", for many reasons, the greatest of which is that Paul insists in this very passage that it is possible, "in the Spirit" (v. 29), when a renewed people have "the works of the law written in their hearts" (v. 15), just as Jeremiah and the other prophets foretold (Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:26). Paul isn't just interested in saying that all have sinned. If that was the case he could have proved that in much fewer words. On the contrary, one of his main points here, in support his overall goal of placing Israel in the same boat with unsaved Gentiles (together in need of an outside agent of redemption), is to show that being in the covenant is not a matter of possessing Torah, but rather it is a matter of inward transformation, and that comes about by the Spirit, not by the written document. When one is transformed by the Spirit, he fulfills Torah.

    The fact that Paul doesn't elaborate on that point in no way suggests that it isn't true. Rather it simply means that he has a greater point at this juncture which he doesn't want to get sidetracked from. Later on, in the midst of an extended contrast making exactly the same point as 2:25-29, he declares triumphantly, having laid the foundation of what the advanced redemption of the Messiah means in chaps. 5-6, that through Jesus God has made it possible that "the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh (like unsaved Israel in 7:5-25) but according to the Spirit" (8:3-4). Through Jesus’ sacrifice and vindication by God, all those “in him” are delivered, both from the power of sin which held them captive and therein from the futility of trying to overcome sin through their unrenewed effort. In contrast to the past (very personally portrayed in 7:7-25), they are now, through his redemptive act and by the power of the Spirit, those who fulfill Torah (8:1-17). They are thus the “first fruits” of an entire restored created order (8:18-23).

    Structurally speaking, this all makes perfect sense. In offering 7:7-25 as the first side of an extended contrast, and 8:1-17 as the second, Paul is able to bring to climax the theme he began developing in 2:25-29 but could not treat in detail there. Such a reading also comports with what follows in chapters 9-11, seeing in those chapters an expansion of the cord struck in 3:1-8. Just as the question “what is the advantage of being a Jew?” is the natural response to what Paul said of the believing Gentile being a “Jew inwardly”, and his response is a balanced though incomplete answer to that question (note that, speaking of Israel’s advantage in 3:2, he says “first of all”, implying that there is more to come), so 9-11 comprises the complete response to the same question, which would naturally again arise after his filled-in presentation of what the distinguishing marks of this new covenant community are in chapters 5-8.

    Now, it's beyond argument to say that Gentiles stand on the positive side of Paul's contrast in 2:26-27. This considered, as well as all of the above, it seems hard to avoid granting Gentiles the title of "Jew" in 2:28-29. Still, I'm sure many will contest this, so let the dialog begin!
    Last edited by Matthehitmanhart; Oct 2nd 2008, 02:57 AM. Reason: clarity

    - Hitman


    "Test all things; hold fast what is good." - Advice from the Apostle Paul


  • #2
    It's not just a matter of whether a Christian Gentile is a spiritual Jew. It's the inverse as well: it means a non-Christian Jew is not a Jew at all. A Jew must be one inwardly.

    Acts 3:22 For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'

    Comment


    • #3
      I think you will find that Chapter 2 verse 17 puts the subject of "spiritual Jew" into context for us. Paul is speaking to actual physical Jews (living in Rome at that time) who were zealous for the Law of Moses.

      Rom 2:17 But as for you who have the name of Jew, and are resting on the law...

      Gentiles were never "resting on the Law" because that particular Covenant was never given to them. Once we understand the targeted audience, it puts things greatly into perspective.

      Paul's message throughout a good portion of the book of Romans was not specifically targeted for Gentiles - in fact, it is not until chapter 11 verse 13 that the focus changes from the Jew, back to the Gentiles.

      Rom 11:13 But now I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles...

      If a Jew has been converted or "circumcised" inwardly through the power of the Holy Spirit, then he is a spiritual Jew and so likewise if a Gentile's heart has been "circumcised" that doesn't mean that person becomes somehow Jewish (because he simply was never a Jew to begin with) but rather he too, like the Jew, becomes spiritual inwardly ... but as a Gentile.

      Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, ... for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by MailmanGuy View Post
        I think you will find that Chapter 2 verse 17 puts the subject of "spiritual Jew" into context for us. Paul is speaking to actual physical Jews (living in Rome at that time) who were zealous for the Law of Moses.

        Rom 2:17 But as for you who have the name of Jew, and are resting on the law...

        Gentiles were never "resting on the Law" because that particular Covenant was never given to them. Once we understand the targeted audience, it puts things greatly into perspective.
        Hitman is absolutely right.

        I think you need to read on and see where Paul was going with his argument, instead of selectively pulling one verse out and terminating your quote before you actually got to his point. The reading continues on to say in Romans 2:25-29: For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit (pneumatic).”

        Here it is! This reading couldn’t be clearer. It starts off with Paul establishing an absolute fact: physical circumcision or Jewishness means nothing. This cannot in anyway be denied. It is clear and definite. The whole thrust of this passage then surrounds Paul determining of who the real circumcision (or Jews) are. Is it natural Jews or spiritual Jews? Is it the physically circumcised or spiritually circumcised? This was an obvious issue in the early church with the move from the old to the new arrangement. The natural Jew based salvation and the favour of God upon his physical birthright and obedience to a set of religious rules, regulations and ordinances. One of the most prominent signs of esteem the Jew advanced was physical circumcision. Paul here – a Hebrew of the Hebrews – blows this fallacy apart and explains what a true Jew is today under the new covenant.

        This is crystal clear: Jews in our day are classed as Gentiles and Gentiles as Jews. This is a spiritual application. The context is obvious. The dogs are the unsaved (a term once exclusively related to natural Gentiles). The circumcision or Jews (terms once exclusively applied to natural Israelite) are the redeemed.
        "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

        http://www.evangelicaltruth.com/

        WPM

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by MailmanGuy View Post
          I think you will find that Chapter 2 verse 17 puts the subject of "spiritual Jew" into context for us. Paul is speaking to actual physical Jews (living in Rome at that time) who were zealous for the Law of Moses.

          Rom 2:17 But as for you who have the name of Jew, and are resting on the law...

          Gentiles were never "resting on the Law" because that particular Covenant was never given to them. Once we understand the targeted audience, it puts things greatly into perspective.

          Paul's message throughout a good portion of the book of Romans was not specifically targeted for Gentiles - in fact, it is not until chapter 11 verse 13 that the focus changes from the Jew, back to the Gentiles.

          Rom 11:13 But now I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles...

          If a Jew has been converted or "circumcised" inwardly through the power of the Holy Spirit, then he is a spiritual Jew and so likewise if a Gentile's heart has been "circumcised" that doesn't mean that person becomes somehow Jewish (because he simply was never a Jew to begin with) but rather he too, like the Jew, becomes spiritual inwardly ... but as a Gentile.

          Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, ... for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
          Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you were correct that Paul's target audience in Romans 2:28-29 is only ethnic Jews. How does that mean that what he said only applies to them? Don't we find elsewhere the apostles speaking to Jews specifically and telling them about the new status of Gentiles? Here is an example:

          Acts 15
          7And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
          8And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
          9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

          Peter's target audience here was Jewish believers, yet he was explaining to them that God had put no difference between them and Gentile believers.

          How would Romans 2:28-29 be any different even if, as you are trying to claim, the target audience was Jews? I don't doubt that he was mainly making the points he was making in Romans 2:28-29 to the Jews. Why? To show them that being an ethnic Jew and being circumcised of the flesh was not what made someone a true Jew.

          Instead, it has everything to do with being circumcised of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter. Are Gentile believers not circumcised of the heart, in the spirit? I believe he is making the same point here that he makes elsewhere in passages like Ephesians 2:11-22, Galatians 3:26-29 and Romans 11. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile believers. We are all one in Christ Jesus in the same one body/olive tree/church/household of God. In Christ, race or nationality means nothing. We are all true/spiritual Israel and true/spiritual Jews together.

          Eric

          Comment


          • #6
            But notice how in Romans 3 Paul talks about the advantages of being a natural Jew... so while we can claim the Messiah and become a part of it... that does not make us the literal nation of Israel... they still have a distinct identity within the Body of Christ... and we do too... and we have to encourage each other in our separate roles within the same body
            The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you,And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,And give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

            Comment


            • #7
              Of course, I don't buy into the assumption made in the introduction:

              An introductory word: It must be assumed that, if indeed the term "Jew" and its equivalents were applied to Gentiles by Paul or any other of the NT writers, it wasn't at all meant to infer that there are now no such things as actual ethnic Jews, that in Christ people no longer hold distinctive qualities such as race and gender. That would be absurd! It would be only natural to take it as speaking of citizenship; that through Christ Gentiles become a part of the spiritual commonwealth of Israel, as Paul says in Ephesians 2. This must be clearly maintained if we are to have sensible dialog on these important passages.
              I explained elsewhere why I disagree with this assumption; these kinds of paradigms make it difficult for both sides to dialogue at all, as we end up speaking two different languages - as I thought BroRog pointed out eloquently in the other thread on this topic.
              The Rookie

              Twelve is the number of government. Thus, it is quite apropos that I am on my way towards wielding the power of twelve bars - each bar like, say, a tribe.....or a star.....or, maybe an apostle. A blue apostle. Like apostle smurfs. Does anyone remember smurfs? And all the controversy about them being from the devil? It's probably bad that I juxtaposed "apostle" and "smurf" in the same sentence. But then, I probably lost you at "blue apostle". Yes, my friends, this is what "rare jewel of a person" is actually implying. "Rare Jewel of a Person" really means, "Potentially Insane".

              Comment


              • #8
                that does not make us the literal nation of Israel
                Just because something is spiritual, that doesn't make it not literal. Quite the contrary: spiritual is as literal as it gets. It's the physical that is the symbolism.

                Hebrews 8:5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by timmyb View Post
                  But notice how in Romans 3 Paul talks about the advantages of being a natural Jew... so while we can claim the Messiah and become a part of it... that does not make us the literal nation of Israel... they still have a distinct identity within the Body of Christ... and we do too... and we have to encourage each other in our separate roles within the same body
                  Where does scripture teach that Jew and Gentile believers have separate roles within the body of Christ?

                  Gal 3
                  26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
                  28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
                  29And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise

                  Acts 15
                  7And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
                  8And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
                  9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

                  Rom 10:12
                  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

                  Col 3:11
                  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

                  Eph 2
                  11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
                  12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
                  13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
                  14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
                  15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
                  19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by the rookie View Post
                    Of course, I don't buy into the assumption made in the introduction:



                    I explained elsewhere why I disagree with this assumption; these kinds of paradigms make it difficult for both sides to dialogue at all, as we end up speaking two different languages - as I thought BroRog pointed out eloquently in the other thread on this topic.
                    That's fine. I didn't say you had to agree with it, and I knew many wouldn't; that's precisely why I qualified, "if indeed the term 'Jew' and its equivalents were applied to Gentiles..." Of course this assumption would only need to be accepted if "Jew" and "Israel" and "circumcision" and the like actually do sometimes include Gentiles, which is the question the OP seeks to address.

                    But if they do I think this is an important distinction to uphold, so that we don't collapse into a completely homogeneous church that denies any sort of diversity within its unity. That was my point in that paragraph. I see many on the one side of this argument quoting Galatians 3:28 and taking it to reactionary extremes which Paul never intended, which forces the other side to deny altogether what I believe Paul actually is saying both there and in many other similar passages, and that is what, IMO, is causing much of the unnecessary squabbling over semantics.
                    Last edited by Matthehitmanhart; Oct 3rd 2008, 04:59 PM.

                    - Hitman


                    "Test all things; hold fast what is good." - Advice from the Apostle Paul

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      In this thread it has been suggested that the man of verse 26 is not hypothetical but actual, given that a man can keep the law "in the spirit." On this point I would disagree.

                      One can hardly dispute that had the uncircumcised man set about to keep the requirements of the law he would have gotten himself circumcised. To keep the "spirit of the law" inwardly means that a man has committed himself to the rational and moral basis behind the written statute. He agrees with that basis; he agrees with the implications of it; he attempts to structure his life around it. However, for a man to actually keep the "requirements" of the law, he needs to obey the actual statute.

                      I believe the central focus of Paul's argument here centers around a man's covenant commitment. If a man has agreed to the covenant and has committed his life to it, what he wears on his body, i.e. a circumcision should reflect his inner commitment to that agreement. Otherwise, he says, what value does it have?

                      By "value" here, he assumes the reader will understand the significance of being physically marked. The sign is supposed to represent something real. If it doesn't, then it has no value. Just as we recognize a fireman by his uniform, we recognize a father's commitment to the covenant in the circumcision of his son. If a fireman walked around in uniform all day, but never put out any fires, we would doubt his commitment to being a fireman. And, in Paul's view, the net effect would be as if the Fireman wasn't wearing a fireman's uniform.

                      A "True" fireman actually puts out fires. If a fireman out of uniform put out a fire, the net effect to the home owner would be the same as if he was wearing his uniform. A man represents himself as a fireman with a uniform, but his uniform has no value to anyone if he doesn't actually put out any fires.

                      That's what Paul means to say when he says that circumcision has value if the circumcised man practices the law. Practicing the law under the covenant is what it's all about and truly represents a man's commitment to his father's deal with God. If a man doesn't practice the law, the sign that represents this fact, is a meaningless sign. Whereas, if a man without the mark of circumcision were to practice the law, he would be doing what the sign of circumcision represents.

                      Paul's argument doesn't depend on whether such a man exists. His point is well taken because it rests on the logic and implications of how a sign works to indicate meaning to us. Whether an actual uncircumcised man kept the requirements of the law is beside the point. He merely argues that IF such a man existed, the logical implications would be thus-and-such. If 'a' then 'b'.

                      While the uncircumcised man remains a hypothetical contrast to the circumcised man, the reality of the circumcised man who transgresses the Law is real. And Paul is correct to point out that such a man is acting as if his father never cut him. A transgressor is acting as one having no commitment to the covenant what-so-ever.

                      Some set up the outward reality against the inward reality as an artificial duality. I see no duality in Paul's argument. He points out that a man's sign of circumcision is meaningless if the man remains a transgressor of the law. But isn't it fair to point out that transgression of the law is as much an outward reality as the cutting of the skin? The inward and the outward aren't exclusively distinct categories. In Paul's argument with the circumcised man, the outward obedience to the law serves as a better signal than the outward cutting of the skin, but we must admit that Paul's uncircumcised man continues his outward expression of his commitment to the covenant. He keeps the requirements of the law -- outwardly.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by wpm View Post
                        This is crystal clear: Jews in our day are classed as Gentiles and Gentiles as Jews.
                        I respect your opinion, but can you provide chapter and verse that specifically states this?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by timmyb View Post
                          But notice how in Romans 3 Paul talks about the advantages of being a natural Jew... so while we can claim the Messiah and become a part of it... that does not make us the literal nation of Israel... they still have a distinct identity within the Body of Christ... and we do too... and we have to encourage each other in our separate roles within the same body
                          That is definately not what the Bible says. The Bible says there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek(Romans 10:12), there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28), and there is neither Greek nor Jew” (Colossians 3:11). Christ has assuredly “put no difference between us and them (Acts 15:9), us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Romans 9:24), because by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

                          There is no division in the body on ethnic grounds – none. This is essentially a Dispensational concept that has become popular and has taken on many other various forms today within Premillennialism. Whether you modify it or not, this belief is flawed at its very foundations.

                          Whether we are Jew or Gentile, we who trust Jesus are equal and have one common faith. Acts 10:34-35 confirms, God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

                          Romans 3:22-23 speaks of the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
                          "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

                          http://www.evangelicaltruth.com/

                          WPM

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MailmanGuy View Post
                            I respect your opinion, but can you provide chapter and verse that specifically states this?
                            Let us start with Romans 2 which you failed to address in my post and the thoughts I attached to it.
                            "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

                            http://www.evangelicaltruth.com/

                            WPM

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by BroRog View Post
                              In this thread it has been suggested that the man of verse 26 is not hypothetical but actual, given that a man can keep the law "in the spirit." On this point I would disagree.

                              One can hardly dispute that had the uncircumcised man set about to keep the requirements of the law he would have gotten himself circumcised. To keep the "spirit of the law" inwardly means that a man has committed himself to the rational and moral basis behind the written statute. He agrees with that basis; he agrees with the implications of it; he attempts to structure his life around it. However, for a man to actually keep the "requirements" of the law, he needs to obey the actual statute.

                              I believe the central focus of Paul's argument here centers around a man's covenant commitment. If a man has agreed to the covenant and has committed his life to it, what he wears on his body, i.e. a circumcision should reflect his inner commitment to that agreement. Otherwise, he says, what value does it have?

                              By "value" here, he assumes the reader will understand the significance of being physically marked. The sign is supposed to represent something real. If it doesn't, then it has no value. Just as we recognize a fireman by his uniform, we recognize a father's commitment to the covenant in the circumcision of his son. If a fireman walked around in uniform all day, but never put out any fires, we would doubt his commitment to being a fireman. And, in Paul's view, the net effect would be as if the Fireman wasn't wearing a fireman's uniform.

                              A "True" fireman actually puts out fires. If a fireman out of uniform put out a fire, the net effect to the home owner would be the same as if he was wearing his uniform. A man represents himself as a fireman with a uniform, but his uniform has no value to anyone if he doesn't actually put out any fires.

                              That's what Paul means to say when he says that circumcision has value if the circumcised man practices the law. Practicing the law under the covenant is what it's all about and truly represents a man's commitment to his father's deal with God. If a man doesn't practice the law, the sign that represents this fact, is a meaningless sign. Whereas, if a man without the mark of circumcision were to practice the law, he would be doing what the sign of circumcision represents.

                              Paul's argument doesn't depend on whether such a man exists. His point is well taken because it rests on the logic and implications of how a sign works to indicate meaning to us. Whether an actual uncircumcised man kept the requirements of the law is beside the point. He merely argues that IF such a man existed, the logical implications would be thus-and-such. If 'a' then 'b'.

                              While the uncircumcised man remains a hypothetical contrast to the circumcised man, the reality of the circumcised man who transgresses the Law is real. And Paul is correct to point out that such a man is acting as if his father never cut him. A transgressor is acting as one having no commitment to the covenant what-so-ever.

                              Some set up the outward reality against the inward reality as an artificial duality. I see no duality in Paul's argument. He points out that a man's sign of circumcision is meaningless if the man remains a transgressor of the law. But isn't it fair to point out that transgression of the law is as much an outward reality as the cutting of the skin? The inward and the outward aren't exclusively distinct categories. In Paul's argument with the circumcised man, the outward obedience to the law serves as a better signal than the outward cutting of the skin, but we must admit that Paul's uncircumcised man continues his outward expression of his commitment to the covenant. He keeps the requirements of the law -- outwardly.
                              I already addressed this. I think you need to read on and see where Paul was going with his argument, instead of selectively pulling one verse out and terminating your quote before you actually got to his point. The reading continues on to say in Romans 2:25-29: For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit (pneumatic).”

                              Here it is! This reading couldn’t be clearer. It starts off with Paul establishing an absolute fact: physical circumcision or Jewishness means nothing. This cannot in anyway be denied. It is clear and definite. The whole thrust of this passage then surrounds Paul determining of who the real circumcision (or Jews) are. Is it natural Jews or spiritual Jews? Is it the physically circumcised or spiritually circumcised? This was an obvious issue in the early church with the move from the old to the new arrangement. The natural Jew based salvation and the favour of God upon his physical birthright and obedience to a set of religious rules, regulations and ordinances. One of the most prominent signs of esteem the Jew advanced was physical circumcision. Paul here – a Hebrew of the Hebrews – blows this fallacy apart and explains what a true Jew is today under the new covenant.


                              This is crystal clear: Jews in our day are classed as Gentiles and Gentiles as Jews. This is a spiritual application. The context is obvious. The dogs are the unsaved (a term once exclusively related to natural Gentiles). The circumcision or Jews (terms once exclusively applied to natural Israelite) are the redeemed.
                              "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

                              http://www.evangelicaltruth.com/

                              WPM

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