RELIGIOUS OUTWARDLY BUT NOT INWARDLY
In Romans 2: 28,29 the apostle Paul made a rather puzzling statement when he said, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men, but of God.” Now, that is quite a statement; blessed indeed are all who understand it. It delivers the important truth to both Jews and Christians that true religion can be accepted in two ways, outwardly and inwardly. It is possible to be religious outwardly, but not inwardly. On the other hand, it is possible to be religious both outwardly and inwardly, and this is the only religion that is acceptable to God.
First, Paul discussed outward religion and inward religion as it related to Jews who lived under the law of Moses when it was the valid law of God for some 1500 years. He informs his fellow Jews that a man is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, and a real Jew has not been circumcised if he has been circumcised only outwardly in his flesh. A Jew is not a Jew? Paul didn't say that exactly.. What he said was, “He is not a Jew if he is only a Jew outwardly, if he is only a Jew on the outside. He is not saying he is not a Jew in no sense. If he is a descendant of Jacob, a citizen of the nation of Israel, if he was circumcised as commanded in the law of Moses, he most certainly is a Jew in some sense, and Paul does not deny that. What he means is, that man is not a Jew in the fullest sense of the word. He is not the kind of Jew who will stand in the last day with God. He is a Jew for sure, but he is not a Jew who meets God's approval, nor will he be among the Jews who will go to heaven.
To be a Jew outwardly or simply on the outside, is to be a Jew only by having the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments as their law, and the distinguishing mark of circumcision as God's chosen people. To be a Jew outwardly is to be a Jew in name only without being obedient to the Law of Moses and without loving God with all their heart.. He may be a Jew, but he is not the Jew, in the fullest sense of that name. Under the law of Moses the word Jew stood for a chosen person, a person close to God and approved by God. In like manner, this passage says a Jew has not been really circumcised, if it is only in the flesh and not inside also. There is an outward circumcision and also an inward circumcision, and God will not accept one without the other. Outward circumcision alone would not save a Jew. Circumcision is of value only when the law of God is kept. But when God is not loved, reverenced and His laws are not kept, circumcision is of no value. What a brilliant commentary on the meaning of the words Jew and circumcision. during the Mosaic age of the world.
In spite of the fact that the Jews had a supernatural divine revelation
and a divinely appointed worship, yet God charged them down through the centuries with being Jews outwardly but not inwardly. In 700 B.C. God said to the nation of Israel through the prophet Isaiah, “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandments of men, therefore behold , I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder. For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden”(Isaiah 29:13,14). Jesus referred to this very statement in teaching the Jewish leaders. He said in Matthew 15:7-9, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you saying, These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” The commandments of men were the teachings of Jewish Rabbis that disagreed with the teachings of Moses and the prophets. Commentators are not agreed on what this marvelous work was which God would do for the nation of Israel. Some think it was delivering Israel from Babylonian captivity, and others think it refers to the coming of Christ and the wonders worked by Christ and the apostles in the bringing in of the Christian religion. I believe that to be the meaning of the prophecy. Christ is the only person who has made the wisdom of Jewish Rabbis to perish and has hidden the wisdom of the prudent thinkers among the Jews. Who is that Rabbi who can be compared to Jesus Christ, the greatest Teacher this world has ever heard? Such was Paul's teaching on Jews who were Jews outwardly, but not inwardly.
Secondly, Paul speaks of Jews who were Jews, not only outwardly, but also inwardly. “He is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”(Romans 2:29). The spirit refers to the human spirit, the inward man, and the word letter refers to the outward man of the flesh. The inward Jew loves God with heart, mind and soul and delights to do His will. He has a circumcised heart, that is, a heart forgiven, removed of sin and purified by God. He has a clean heart as well as a clean body. Those who were Jews inwardly are the Jews who will be saved when they lived under the law of Moses. It is those who are children of God inwardly that God delights in. To what does the word inwardly refer?.. The reference is to the human spirit, the heart, the soul, and the mind. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” They alone are the people who will see God, and they will see Him, whether they formerly lived under the law of Moses or now live under the law of Christ. It is one who is a Jew inwardly, and not the outward Jew , who will abide with God.
Finally, does all Paul teach in this passage apply only to Jews who lived on earth from Moses to Christ? By no means!. He wrote this letter to Christians who lived in Rome. Some in the church were Gentiles and some were Jews. In the Christian age of the world, there is but one religion for all Jews and Gentiles, and that is the Christian religion. God has made one great brotherhood out of the obedient part of mankind, uniting Jews and Gentiles into the one New Testament church. God reconciled both classes of people to Himself through His divine Son. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.” All men refers to Jews and Gentiles. The human race is now divided into a threefold classification: the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church of Christ or Church of God.
Everything Paul said of Jews in this passage is equally true of Christians. He is not a Christian who is one outwardly. Baptism is not that which is outward in the flesh. Christians have been circumcised with the circumcision not made with hands, by the circumcision of Christ. Christians were circumcised inwardly in New Testament baptism, which forgives all sins of the past life. Outward circumcision was only a cutting off of some of the flesh, but the circumcision of Christ is the cutting off from the soul all the sins of a man's life. Water Baptism is a baptism of the heart, of the soul. A true Christian is not one who has only been baptized and added to the church. Such a one is indeed a Christian outwardly, but not necessarily inwardly. He is a Christian who loves God with all his heart, soul and mind. He is a Christian who says like David, , “O, how love I thy law. It is my meditation all the day.” He is a Christian who keeps the law of Christ and walks with God. One who is a Christian inwardly wears the name of Christ honorably and does not bring reproach upon it. If in any way he suffers because of that name, he is not ashamed, but glorifies God in that name.
We should not speak of “a Christian,” but of “the Christian.” That name stands for a person close to Christ, faithful to Christ and devoted to Christ. That is “the Christian.” That name stands for far more than just a penitent, baptized believer. One can be a penitent baptized believer and never go to heaven. The Christians who will be saved are those who are Christians inwardly. The gospel or good news of Christ is God's power to salvation. God saves in no other way. In other words the power which God exerts to save people is in the teachings of Jesus Christ and His religion. The Churches of Christ invite your investigation. Why not attend the services of the Church of Christ in your area next Sunday? You will be a welcome guest. Look in the yellow pages of the Telephone book under the heading, “Churches of Christ.” If you have any difficulty call 1 (818) 361-5966 for assistance.