Reflections on Romans
While studying the books of Galatians and Romans we come across the term Circumcision and circumcised. As a teenager if I or anyone else had thought I would be writing a post on circumcision, much less talking about it in any context other than child birth, they and I would have thought I was crazy. Yet, here we are, about to open a discussion on the subject.
What I have come to realize about Paul and his writings is that when he references the Old Testament in some way, he is expecting his reader to fully understand the passage from the Old Testament.
Many of us have a cross reference that runs down the middle of the page in our Bible. As we read a text, we often look to this cross reference to see where perhaps there are other texts talking about the same thing or where the writer pulled his thought from in the Old Testament. Often this cross reference indicates a verse or two, so we skim back to the passage referred to and then continue our study or reading in the original passage. An example would be Romans 2:27, 28 where Paul states “And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the Law judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are transgressors of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.”
There is actually more that Paul has to say on this for stopping with the word flesh does not actually finish Paul’s thought. It is actually a shame to stop in the middle of his thought for often the full extent of what Paul is attempting to say comes near or at the end of sentence, paragraph or chapter and often chapter lines are blurred because when the writer wrote his book, there was no chapter or verse designations. But for our purpose here we will stop. In the margin of my Bible there are several cross-reference texts listed from the New Testament. There is nothing that leads me back to the Old Testament, yet circumcision is clearly a teaching from the Old Testament.
This is where a concordance is good to have for now we can perform a word study on the words circumcision and circumcised.
Which brings us to our text of focus, Jeremiah 9:25 where the prophet Jeremiah pinned these words, “Behold the days are coming, “says the LORD, ‘that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised.’”
Those are pretty strong words, and one that leaves us confused when looking at our passage in Romans 2:27, 28. It helps our study if we ad one extra verse and that being Jeremiah 9:26, “Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.”
Paul is expecting that his readers will be well versed with the references to a particular item he is talking about by fully understanding each reference from the Old Testament.
So, let’s bring this all together. The subject Paul is bringing out is that circumcision is of no avail unless it is followed by a change of the heart.
He is echoing these words from Jeremiah where Jeremiah is literally saying, You may be circumcised in the foreskin, meaning that you feel you are holy and in tune with God, but your heart is not circumcised, then what good is the circumcision which is only an outward show of the covenant God wished to make with each household of His faithful people.
It is the same as someone today being publicly baptized and calling themselves “a born-again Christian” with there being no inward change of their heart. Outwardly they have shown they believe in God, but inwardly, there heart is unchanged for they continue to live as they did before. Their heart remains uncircumcised.
Therefore, when we study Paul, it is important when he references the Old Testament, that we fully understand what the Old Testament author was attempting to say. This will give us better understanding in what Paul is attempting to say to those he wrote to and for us today.
Blessings to each who takes time to study the word of God.