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Romans 2:29

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But he is a Jew - A true member of the Church of God.

Which is one inwardly - Who has his heart purified, according to what God has uniformly prescribed by his prophets; see above: for circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, εν πνευματι by the Spirit of God, who is the author of all spiritual affections and holy purposes: or, every thing here is to be understood spiritually, and not literally; for without holiness none can please God, and without holiness none can see him.

Whose praise is not of men - It has, with great probability, been conjectured that the apostle may here refer to the signification of the name Jew, or Judah, יהודה Yehudah, Praise, from ידה Yadah, he Praised. Such a one is a true Israelite, who walks in a conformity to the spirit of his religion: his countrymen may praise him because he is a steady professor of the Jewish faith; but God praises him, because he has entered into the spirit and design of the covenant made with Abraham, and has got the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul. Sentiments like these, on the same subject, may be found in the ancient Jewish writers. Rabbi Lipman gives the opinion of their most ancient and pure writers in these words: - "A certain Christian mocked us, saying, 'Women, who cannot be circumcised, cannot be reckoned among Jews.' Such persons are ignorant that faith does not consist in circumcision, but in the heart. He who has not genuine faith is not a partaker of the Jewish circumcision; but he who has genuine faith is a Jew, although not circumcised." Nizzachon, Num. 21, p. 19. It is a curious maxim of the Talmudists, That the Jews sit in the inmost recesses of the heart. Nidda, fol. 20, 2. This is exactly the sentiment of St. Paul: Circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit. In short, common sense, as well as their law and their prophets, taught every considerate man among them that God could be pleased with their rites and external performances no farther than they led to holiness of heart and righteousness of life.

  1. What the apostle says, in the preceding chapter, concerning the Gentiles doing by nature the things contained in the law, if properly considered, would lead certain persons from forming erroneous judgments concerning the Divine dispensations. We are not to suppose that God is not to be found where his written word does not appear; nor that the salvation of the nations yet unblessed with the light of the Gospel is impossible. God has never confined himself to any one particular way of communicating his salvation, any more than he has confined his saving grace to one people. His word is an indescribable blessing; but that word becomes effectual to salvation when accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was that Spirit which gave the word originally; and that same Spirit can speak without this word. It is through his influence alone that the Gentiles do the things contained in his own law; and it is not to be wondered at that the work is the same, both in the law and in the heart, when it has proceeded from the same Spirit.
  • God therefore will judge all nations according to the use and abuse they have made of this word, whether it was written in the heart, or written on tables of stone.
  • As he is no respecter of persons, all nations are equally dear to him; and he has granted and will grant to them such discoveries of himself as have been and will be sufficient for their salvation.
  • His Word is an infinite blessing; and he has given it to one people that they may be the means of conveying it to another. Europe, and especially Christian Europe, has got the Bible; and God requires Europe to send the Bible throughout the earth. If this be not done, through their neglect, the Gentile nations will not be destroyed by a merciful God; yet the Europeans will have a most solemn and awful account to render to their Judge, that they have hidden the heavenly light under their own bushel. Britain is shaking herself from the dust, and, by means of the British and Foreign Bible Society, is sending the holy Scriptures to every kingdom, and nation, and people, and tongue. The Gentiles are now learning from the written law more fully and savingly what the Spirit of God had before written on their hearts; and it seems as if the kingdom of God were now about to come with all-conquering power.
  • Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    But he is a Jew - He comes up to the design of the Jewish institution; he manifests truly what it is to be a Jew.

    Which is one inwardly - Who is “in heart” a Jew. Who has the true spirit, and fulfils the design of their being separated as a special people. This passage proves that the design of separating them was not merely to perform certain external rites, or to conform to external observances, but to be a people holy in heart and in life. It cannot be denied that this design was not generally understood in the time of the apostles; but it was abundantly declared in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Deuteronomy 10:20; Deuteronomy 30:14; Isaiah 1:11-20; Micah 6:8; Psalm 51:16-17; 50:7-23.

    And circumcision is that of the heart - That is, that circumcision which is acceptable to God. and which meets the design of the institution, is what is attended with holiness of heart; with the cutting off of sins; and with a pure life. The design of circumcision was to be a sign of separation from the pagan world, and of consecration to the holy God. And this design implied the renunciation and forsaking of all sins; or the cutting off of everything that was offensive to God. This was a work especially of the heart. This design was often stated and enforced in the writings of the Old Testament; Deuteronomy 10:16, “Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked;” Jeremiah 4:4; Deuteronomy 30:6.

    In the spirit - This is an expression explaining further what he had just said. It does not mean by the Holy Spirit, but that the work was to take place in the soul, and not in the body only. It was to be an internal, spiritual work, and not merely an external service.

    And not in the letter - That is, not only according to the literal, external command,

    Whose praise … - Whose object is not to secure the praise of human beings. One of the main characteristics of the Jews in the time of Christ was, a desire to secure honor among men, as being exactly scrupulous in the performance of all the duties of their religion. They prided themselves on their descent from Abraham, and on their regular conformity to the precepts of the Law of Moses; Matthew 3:9; Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:10-12; Matthew 23:23.

    But of God - “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart;” 1 Samuel 16:7. The praise of God can be bestowed only on those who conform really, and not externally only, to his requirements.

    The remarks which are made here respecting the Jews, are also strictly applicable to professing Christians, and we may learn,

    1.That the external rites of religion are of much less importance than the state of the heart.

    2.That the only value of those rites is to promote holiness of heart and life.

    3.That the mere fact that we are born of pious ancestors will not save us.

    4.That the fact that we were dedicated to God in baptism will not save us.

    5.That a mere profession of religion, however orthodox may be our creed, will not save us.

    6.That the estimate which people may put on our piety is not the proper measure of our true character and standing.

    7.It is an inexpressible privilege to be in possession of the Word of God, and to know our duty. It may, if improved, conduce to our elevation in holiness and happiness here, and to our eternal felicity hereafter.

    8.It is also a fearful thing to neglect the privileges which we enjoy. We shall be judged according to the light which we have; and it will be an awful event to go to eternity from a Christian land unprepared.

    9.Whatever may be the destiny of the pagan, it is our duty to make preparation to meet God. The most wicked of the pagan may meet a far milder doom than many who are externally moral, or who profess religion in Christian lands. Instead, therefore, of speculating on what may be their destiny, it is the duty of every individual to be at peace himself with God, and to flee from the wrath to come.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    No forms, ordinances, or notions can profit, without regenerating grace, which will always lead to seeking an interest in the righteousness of God by faith. For he is no more a Christian now, than he was really a Jew of old, who is only one outwardly: neither is that baptism, which is outward in the flesh: but he is the real Christian, who is inwardly a true believer, with an obedient faith. And the true baptism is that of the heart, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Ghost; bringing a spiritual frame of mind, and a willing following of truth in its holy ways. Let us pray that we may be made real Christians, not outwardly, but inwardly; in the heart and spirit, not in the letter; baptized, not with water only, but with the Holy Ghost; and let our praise be, not of men, but of God.
    Ellen G. White
    The Acts of the Apostles, 204

    As a precautionary measure, Paul wisely advised Timothy to be circumcised—not that God required it, but in order to remove from the minds of the Jews that which might be an objection to Timothy's ministration. In his work Paul was to journey from city to city, in many lands, and often he would have opportunity to preach Christ in Jewish synagogues, as well as in other places of assembly. If it should be known that one of his companions in labor was uncircumcised, his work might be greatly hindered by the prejudice and bigotry of the Jews. Everywhere the apostle met determined opposition and severe persecution. He desired to bring to his Jewish brethren, as well as to the Gentiles, a knowledge of the gospel, and therefore he sought, so far as was consistent with the faith, to remove every pretext for opposition. Yet while he conceded this much to Jewish prejudice, he believed and taught circumcision or uncircumcision to be nothing and the gospel of Christ everything. AA 204.1

    Paul loved Timothy, his “own son in the faith.” 1 Timothy 1:2. The great apostle often drew the younger disciple out, questioning him in regard to Scripture history, and as they traveled from place to place, he carefully taught him how to do successful work. Both Paul and Silas, in all their association with Timothy, sought to deepen the impression that had already been made upon his mind, of the sacred, serious nature of the work of the gospel minister. AA 204.2

    In his work, Timothy constantly sought Paul's advice and instruction. He did not move from impulse, but exercised consideration and calm thought, inquiring at every step, Is this the way of the Lord? The Holy Spirit found in him one who could be molded and fashioned as a temple for the indwelling of the divine Presence. AA 205.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Fundamentals of Christian Education, 399

    Christ's prediction regarding the destruction of the temple was a lesson on the purification of religion, by making of none effect forms and ceremonies. He announced Himself greater than the temple, and stood forth proclaiming, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He was the one in whom all the Jewish ceremony and typical service was to find its fulfillment. He stood forth in the place of the temple; all the offices of the church centered in Himself alone. FE 399.1

    In the past, Christ had been approached through forms and ceremonies, but now He was upon the earth, calling attention directly to Himself, presenting a spiritual priesthood, and placing the sinful human agent at the footstool of mercy. “Ask, and it shall be given you,” He promised; “seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it. If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: ... and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.” FE 399.2

    These lessons Christ gave in His teaching, showing that the ritual service was passing away, and possessed no virtue. “The hour cometh,” He said, “and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” True circumcision is the worship of Christ in spirit and truth, not in forms and ceremonies, with hypocritical pretense. FE 399.3

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