Here the discussion concerns:
1) The Jews have received the law of God and the sign of circumcision
Trust and obedience are important.
These verse echo the rebuke of the Gentile found in 1:18-32
Both in chapter 1 and in the first half of chapter 2 Paul is talking about people who knew the truth but rejected it.
The Jewish attitude in 2:17-20 is also found in Jewish writings from the first century.
Although the Jew is the subject of these verses the application is for all who are religious: the churchgoer, the Fundamentalists,
Methodist, Baptists, Catholics, the righteous conservative.
Paul continues his dialog with his imaginary discussion partner.
Paul uses irony here as he first builds the Jew up then tears them down.
The Jews had many advantageous and opportunities but had squandered them and ended up fruitless.
The Jewish claims and conduct did not line up.
The Jews advantages:
1) called a Jew
2) have the law
3) relationship to God
4) know God’s will
5) approve the superior way of the Law
6) a guide to the blind Gentiles
7) a light for those living in darkness
8) an instructor of the foolish
9) a teacher of infants
10) having knowledge and truth
The Jewish Failure:
1) do not teach themselves
2) they steal (8th commandment, Ex. 20:15)
3) they commit adultery (7th commandment, Ex. 20:14)
4) they rob temples (1st and 2nd commandment Ex. 20:3-6)
5) they break the law
6) Gentiles blaspheme God because of the Jew
The terms used by Paul are terms used by the Jew for the Gentiles in their darkness:
a) the blind
b) in darkness
But, in both chapter 1 and 2 Paul has shown that the Gentiles also have a light and have knowledge.
And, that is without the Jewish revelation.
Paul is hoping to cause the Jew to reconsider his position and realize they still have a need.
“God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Quoted from Isaiah 52:5.
“ ‘And now what do I have here?’ declares the Lord. ‘For my people have been
taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,’ declares the Lord. ‘And
all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.’”
God’s name is mocked among the nations because
The nations do not think God could protect his people.
“I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according
to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was
said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name,
which the house of
Circumcision was also an area of distinction and pride for the Jews.
When the Jew classified people into two groups of circumcised or uncircumcised it was the same as when Christian
put people into two groups of baptized or unbaptized, or saved or not saved.
Circumcision was the sign of what is on the inside.
It is a law that labels on bottles have to accurately describe what is on the inside.
To violate the law means circumcision is useless. Without circumcision the Jews are like the Gentiles and outside the covenant.
Circumcision is useful only if you fully obey the law.
Here Paul identifies the doing the law and being perfectly obedient
We find two different aspects of the relationship with God:
These two were mixed in Judiasm. Paul is making a break in these two.
One being possible while the other is impossible
If a Gentile who is not labeled with circumcision obeys the law anyhow is he not still considered genuine?
Surely a circumcised Jew who does not obey the law is not genuine.
Paul goes on to say that not only is the Gentile genuine but the Gentile who obeys the law will condemn the Jew
who has the knowledge and the label but is not genuine.
Verses 28 and 29 are the conclusion of the discussion concerning the law and circumcision.
Even in the Old Testament circumcision was to be more than a physical sign.
True circumcision has always been circumcision of the heart.
“He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you
more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. The Lord your God will circumcise your heats and the hearts of your
descendants, so that so may love him with all you heart and with all your soul, and live.”
yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you men of
break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done.”
Jeremiah 9:25, 26
“ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh – Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon,
and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.’”
1 Samuel 16:7
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
The written code or letter of the law refers to the Law of Moses. It does not refer to literal interpretation of scripture.