Romans 2:17-29

In his letter to the Romans, Paul laid out the expression of God’s love and grace towards all men in providing the atonement for man’s sin in Christ’s death on the cross. It was necessary that his audience understand that justification before God could not be found in human efforts at ‘being good’, or ‘following the rules’, because only a perfect record could be considered righteous. Instead, because no man was or ever will be perfect, God established a means by which imperfect, sinful men could be reconciled to the God they had offended by their sin, through the covering of our penalty by Christ’s death, and our access to its effects by faith in Him:


Romans 2:17-29

“Behold, you are called a Jew and rest in the law and boast in God, and knowhis will and prove (discern) the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the aw; and are persuaded that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having the form of knowledge and of the truth in the Law. You then who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who proclaim not to steal, do you steal? You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you commit sacrilege? You who boast in the Law, through the transgression of the Law do you dishonour God?

For the name of God is blasphemed through you among the nations according as it has been written!

For circumcision indeed profits if you do the Law, but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.

If therefore the uncircumcision keeps the righteousness of the Law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And the uncircumcision by nature, fulfilling the Law, shall judge you who with the letter and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law. For not he that is one outwardly is a Jew, neither is that which is outwardly in the flesh circumcision, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart and in the spirit, not in the letter, the praise of whom is not of men but of God.”


A common misconception was that God approved Jews because they were Jews, that their possession of the Law and circumcision, the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, was sufficient to earn them favour in His eyes, no matter what they thought about Him or how they lived. Paul declares to those Jews who believe their favour with God is based in outward signs, that God is concerned not with the form, but with the person. What good is it to know the rules if you break them? What good is a symbol if it does not represent the reality of one’s heart? If a man insists upon his identity based on outward things that he has no control over, but lives in contradiction to the defining terms of that identity, whatever his protest, he is not what he claims.

However, a man who lives consistently with the defining terms of any identity, regardless of what superficial signs may be lacking, he is ultimately more rightly so identified than the man living contrary to the identity in question.

A Jew was a citizen ofJerusalem, the city of God’s peace, or a native of Judah, the land of God’s praise. If he neither knows God, nor trusts Him, nor honours Him through obedience, he neither resides in God’s peace nor His praise. Whatever else he may be, a man is not a Jew before God because he was born into a family, or bears the physical sign imposed by his parents, or has knowledge of the rules and history of the Jews. Rather he is a Jew when he lives as a man who knows God, loves God, and lives faithfully according to God’s purpose.