17 Suppose you call yourself a Jew. You trust in the law. You brag that you know God. 18 You know what God wants. You agree with what is best because the law teaches you. 19 You think you know so much more than the people you teach. You think you’re helping blind people. You think you are a light for those in the dark. 20 You think you can make foolish people wise. You act like you’re teaching little children. You think that the law gives you all knowledge and truth. 21 You claim to teach others, but you don’t even teach yourself! You preach against stealing. But you steal! 22 You say that people should not commit adultery. But you commit adultery! You hate statues of gods. But you rob temples! 23 You brag about the law. But when you break it, you rob God of his honor! 24 It is written, “The Gentiles say evil things against God’s name because of you.” (Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel 36:22) 25 Circumcision has value if you obey the law. But if you break the law, it is just as if you hadn’t been circumcised. 26 And sometimes those who aren’t circumcised do what the law requires. Won’t God accept them as if they had been circumcised? 27 Many are not circumcised physically, but they obey the law. They will prove that you are guilty. You are breaking the law, even though you have the written law and are circumcised. 28 A person is not a Jew if they are a Jew only on the outside. And circumcision is more than just something done to the outside of a man’s body. 29 No, a person is a Jew only if they are a Jew on the inside. And true circumcision means that the heart has been circumcised by the Holy Spirit. The person whose heart has been circumcised does more than obey the written law. The praise that matters for that kind of person does not come from other people. It comes from God.
Paul is really challenging the Jewish people in this passage of Scripture. He takes a swipe at their long held beliefs of privilege associated with being born a Jew and their knowledge of God’s law. The Jews pride themselves on their knowledge of God’s law but do they really know God? Do they put God’s laws into practise? Paul goes as far as saying if you are not obeying God’s laws then you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. This must have truly incensed the Jewish people!
The final couple of verses are even more challenging as Paul goes onto explain that merely obeying God’s law is not enough. Paul goes onto talk about a change in one’s heart produced by God’s spirit. A person touched by God’s spirit aims to please God and not man.
I found myself asking many a question as a result of this passage:
- Is my heart right with God?
- Am I looking to please God first and foremost or look good in the eyes of those around me?
- Am I obeying God’s word?
The things Paul put to the Jews thousands of years ago still challenge us as Christians today. It is a clear reminder about the dangers of religion and hypocrisy. If we diligently allow God’s spirit to touch us and change us we will avoid these pitfalls.
Dear God, by the power of your Spirit help me to lead a life that is right before you. Please enable me to seek your praise above the praise of man. Amen.
Written by Ainslie Woods