A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Jew Under the Sentence of Condemnation
His Birth Cannot Save the Jew
Paul turns to that in the third section and deals with that very question: "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter" (2:28-29). Paul shows that there is such thing as being a Jew merely in outward form. But God demands an inward reality and would not recognize any man as a Jew unless he has that. Some people think this statement teaches that every Christian is a Jew, but what it really teaches is that every Jew is not a Jew. No man can be a Jew unless he is born outwardly as a son of Abraham, and also inwardly in spirit; therefore, a man born only outwardly of Abraham is not a true Jew.
Notice these contrasting word pairs: outwardly - inwardly; flesh - heart; spirit- the letter; man - God. Those two verses are similar to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to Nicodemus. He was a Jew outwardly. He had everything outwardly. The Lord Jesus Christ said o him, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). That matter of heart circumcision was not anything new; the Old Testament is full of it. No Jew could deny that Paul was on safe ground when he talked about circumcision of heart (see Jeremiah 4:4).
By the way, these two verses solve a difficult question raised later (see 11:26), where Paul says that all Israel shall be saved. People ask, "Is it possible that every Jew from the beginning of time is going to be saved?" Yes, every one of them, but "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly." The Jew, in order to be a real Jew had to be born of God. The new birth is not a distinctively Christian doctrine. It belonged to the Jew as an Old Testament revelation. Nicodemus should have known it. Christ said, "Art thou a teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things?" (John 3:10). God demanded the inward reality, not merely the outward shell of profession that the Jew had.
Paul is dealing with this inward and outward profession. Look back at the seventeenth verse and you will see why he uses a peculiar expression there. He says: "Behold, thou that are called a Jew." They are just called Jews. There is a wholesome lesson here for us. Perhaps we may paraphrase the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth verses in this manner: "For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, neither is that baptism which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Christian which is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God." That does not mean that we are not emphasizing the importance of the outward rite, but we are saying that the outward rite is a worthless thing apart from the inward reality in our own lives.
The Jew does like sinners do today - he takes refuge in argument. If a man is uncovered, he will flee to another refuge and hide; finally he is entirely uncovered and convinced that he has no place to flee from the indictment and he is a sinner. It is then that he will resort to argument. That is what the Jew does. First he had taken refuge in the law; then in circumcision; then in Jewish birth. Now he takes refuge in argument! This is frequently the refuge of the sinner. Show him that he is a sinner, and he will begin to raise objections. Answer his objections and he will leave them and object to your answers. Often he will just keep on doing this.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 27 - "Argument Cannot Save the Jew")