Who is a Jew? Another way to ask the question is who are the elect or who is a child of G-d? Paul makes it very clear who is a Jew at the end of Romans 2. Why is this important? Why is Paul making this claim in Romans? We do not know for sure. We only have Paul’s response to whatever the issue(s) were. We can make an educated guess based on the letter though.
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from G-d. Romans 2:28-29
We have already gone through the previous verses in Romans 2 and seen from verse 12 through now that Paul was basically speaking to the Jews in this congregation. Previously, in Romans 1 through verse 12 in chapter 2, Pauls address’ the gentiles. Paul’s argument is about following Torah. Whether you have it and follow it or don’t have it, but still do what is in the Torah, it does not matter. The Torah must be on their hearts. Paul was telling the Jews that they cannot depend on their birth, physically being a Jew, or on their external signs, circumcision. He tells them their external circumcision can become uncircumcision in the sight of G-d if their heart is not circumcised.
Now Paul goes into who is a Jew and says the same thing he has been saying throughout this chapter. One is a Jew, not by flesh, but by heart. If you are uncircumcised in the heart your election does not matter.
Just to make sure that you are aware, the circumcision of the heart is nothing new. Moshe and Jeremiah both told the people they must be circumcised in the heart. Right after the rewriting of the tablets Moshe says:
So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. Deut 10:16.
Near the end of Moshe’s life he tells them again:
Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. Deut 30:6
Right after this in verse 8 he tells them they will again obey the Lord and all His commandments.
Jeremiah is a little more descriptive…
“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, And remove the foreskins of your heart, Jeremiah 4:4
So you can see that circumcision of the heart is nothing new and has always been taught. It is with this circumcision of the heart that one becomes a member of the household, a child of G-d’s.
Paul’s focus is not whether one should be physically circumcised. His intent is to show that one must become circumcised in the heart to receive salvation. Following the commandments without the internal circumcision will benefit you none.
Until next time….kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is HaShem!