on Romans 2 :29
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, Numbers 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
on Romans 2 :29
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; Psalm 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.
on Romans 2 :29