The Letter to the Romans
COLLEEN MOORE TINKER
8. The Spirit circumcises
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 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 the circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God. (NIV)
Circumcision of the Heart
In the previous seven verses, Paul has emphasized the point that Jews who have the law have been blaspheming God by their flagrant disregard for the law in their own lives. They have been doing the very things they teach others not to do. Now he addresses the "sacred cow" of Judaism: circumcision, the sign of belonging to the people of Israel. Circumcision implied belonging to God, being holy and set apart for him.
1. Where did circumcision originate, what did it mean, and what did it pledge? (see Genesis 17:3-14; 19-21; Leviticus 12:3)
2. Why did breaking the law nullify circumcision? (see verse 13; Galatians 5:3; Jeremiah 4:4; 9:25,26)
3. Even in the Old Testament, circumcision was not primarily about a physical mark. What did circumcision represent? (see Genesis 17:11; Leviticus 26:40-42; Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 6:10; Ezekiel 44:7-9)
Law-Abiding but Uncircumcised
4. If people keep the law without being circumcised (without having the law), what motivates or informs this obedience? (see Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16)
5. Circumcision was the sign of God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants. What was the sign of God's covenant with Israel when he made them a nation? (see Ezekiel 20:12)
6. To the Jews, circumcision was the sign of belonging to God's people. The Sabbath was the sign of God's covenant with them as a nation. To many of us, Sabbath has seemed to be the sign of belonging to God's chosen people today. What did the two signs have in common? (Genesis 17:13; Exodus 31:12-13, 16-17)
7. Both of these signs were commands of God. Both were required as signs of obedience and were required for God's blessings on Israel. In the new covenant, what is the role of these everlasting signs? (see 1 Corinthians 7:17-20; Colossians 2:16-17)
8. How and why will uncircumcised law-keepers condemn circumcised law-breakers? (see Matthew 12:41-42)
9. What is the new covenant definition of circumcision which Paul declares is its true meaning? (see Philippians 3:2-4; Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6)
10. Observance of the physical sign of God's covenant with Abraham yielded certain results. Acceptance of the spiritual reality of that sign yields a different result. Compare and contrast those two results. (see v. 29; John 5:44; 12:42-43; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 10:17-18)
Application and Commitment
11. About what growth or accomplishment in your life do you feel spiritually proud?
12. What victory or good work do you need to surrender to God, asking him to circumcise your heart and to be your strength instead?
13. Ask God to reveal to you the blind spots in your experience and to protect you from deception. Ask him to be your righteousness and to protect you from arrogance and ego. Praise him for providing himself to be your salvation and your redeemer!
Copyright (c) 2003 Graphics Studio, Redlands,
CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted June 14, 2003.