DEVOTION OF THE HEART
Sovereign Lord, I’m thankful that You are with me each day. I trust for whatever lies ahead.
Read ROMANS 2:17–29
The Jews and the Law
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”[a]
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the[b] written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’1
In the church at Rome there were both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Forging unity between these traditions was one of the major challenges of the early church. Some teachers saw Judaism as the senior partner and insisted that Gentile converts should in effect become Jews by being circumcised. Paul opposed this and insisted that faith in Christ rather than adherence to religious practice was what identified the church. This made him a controversial figure, with some accusing him of overturning the Jewish way – as indeed he was, in certain respects. When he referred in verse 16 to ‘my’ gospel and then in verse 11 declared that ‘God does not show favoritism’, he shows his distinctive grasp of the international nature of the Christian movement.
This underlies his challenge to Jewish Christians in verses 17–24. In effect, he is saying, ‘Don’t look at the outward. Look for what is inside’ – and be true to it yourselves. Being a true Jew is a matter of the ‘circumcision of the heart’ (v 29), not the flesh. This points to the inward working of God’s Spirit. Although this was offensive to many (and probably still is to some) it is entirely in line with what Jesus taught,2 and He himself was entirely in line with the prophets3 and with the expectation that God would give a ‘new heart and … a new spirit’ to His people.4
Paul was not saying that Jews should give up their traditional practices or surrender their identity. He was, however, relativizing these markers, making it clear that they should not be required of Gentiles who came to believe, and so displaying the inner spiritual realities that such markers symbolized. What united people in Christ was the devotion of the heart, a shared participation in the life of God. This was the essence of the Christian movement.
Now offer up your heart to God today through Christ.
Holy Spirit, my Counselor, thank You for enabling me to take my sins and failures to the cross. I praise You that my sins are forgiven, forgotten, forever.
1 Ps 51:10 2 eg., Matt 5:19; 9:13 3 eg., Hos 6:6 4 Ezek 36:26,27; Jer 31:33
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