CHAPTER 2 OF THE ROMAN LETTER
INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTER 2.
The Romans letter was addressed "to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints." This address includes all the Christians in Rome, both Gentiles and Jews. First century Rome was primarily a Gentile city. But Jewish people had dispersed from Palestine into all parts of the world including the city of Rome. The first Christians were Jews, of course, for the first preaching of the Apostles immediately after the day of Pentecost was to Jews. But the Holy Spirit had made it clear to Peter and the other Apostles that the gospel was to be preached also to the Gentiles. And Paul, the writer of the Roman letter, was designated by the Holy Spirit of Christ as an Apostle to go especially to the Gentiles. Apparently, no Apostle had yet preached in Rome at the time of the Roman letter. But Christians who had been converted in Jerusalem had gone to Rome and, at the time of the writing of this letter, the church of Christ was established in Rome with a membership of both Gentiles and Jews, many of whom were people Paul had met elsewhere during his journeys (Romans chapter 16).
Among the Jewish Christians in Rome there probably were some who did not fully accept the Gentiles as their brethren in the Lord for some of Paul's admonitions in the Roman letter seem to be addressed to that problem. Also, undoubtedly there were Jews in Rome who were not Christians but who continued to have close contact with those in the Jewish community who were Christians. Although Gentiles were then being urged to become Christians, Christianity was looked upon primarily as a Jewish religion. This was not an altogether improper view for Christianity was the fulfillment of the Jewish religion and the Christian gospel had been brought to the Gentiles by Jewish Christians as God had always intended.
The Old Testament Jewish background of the gospel of Christ and the abolishment in Christianity of the wall of division between Jew and Gentile were very important facts which Paul noted and used in the arguments and admonitions of the Roman letter. In chapter 1, verses 16 and 17 PauI made reference to the fact that the gospel was for everyone who believes, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek". In chapter 1, verses 18 through 32, Paul wrote of the sins of people "since the creation of the world", including multitudes of people who lived on earth before God set apart Jacob and his sons as a special people later to be known as Jews.
We must remember that God called Abraham and certain of his descendants to establish a nation of people separated from the rest of the world. God desired to utilize those people, later to be known as Jews, to carry out certain special purposes of God in behalf of all mankind. A few hundred years after Abraham lived God gave this separated people, through their leader, Moses, a special Law designed to make them more effective in carrying out God's purposes. But at the time of the giving of the Law of Moses, God made no change whatever with respect to his relationship with all the other people of the world. The rest of the people of the world, to become known as Gentiles, remained responsible to God through the things which God had made evident through His visible creation (Romans 1:19-20) and through law "written in their hearts" (Romans 2: 14-15).
The Old Testament reveals, concerning those people who lived prior to the time of God's designation of the Jews, that God often dealt with them through the "patriarchs" or head of families, Thus, we have come to designate God's "system" of dealing with the early peoples of the world as the "patriarchal system". At the time of the giving of the special Law of Moses to the Jews, God made no change in His system of dealing with the rest of mankind. Thus, when the Christian dispensation began on the first day of Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus, and the gospel of Jesus Christ began to be preached to all mankind, there were two systems of law in effect on earth, the Law of Moses for the Jews, and the "law written in hearts" for the Gentiles. As we study the Roman letter we will see that both of these systems of law were fulfilled by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and now, "in these last days God has spoken to us through His Son" (Hebrews 1:2).
Of course, when Paul wrote the Roman letter, his designation (in Romans 1:20) of all the people who had lived "since the creation of the world" included all the Jews who had lived up to that time. But Paul wisely understood that many Jews were not inclined to recognize themselves among the sinful people enumerated in chapter 1, verses 18- 32. Thus, in Romans, chapter 2, Paul made clear that the points made in chapter 1 were applied to the Jews as well as the Gentiles. The portion of the Roman letter designated as chapter 2 was directed specifically to the Jews of Rome with the apparent purpose of convincing them that they were guilty of breaking the Law of Moses just as the Gentiles were guilty of breaking God's law written in their hearts.
"(1) Therefore you are without excuse. every man of you who passes judgement. for in that you judge another. you condemn yourself. for you who judge practice the same things." Romans 2:1 NASV.
In Romans 1:18-32 Paul wrote about "men" in general, designating them simply as "they" or "them". But in chapter 2 there is a contrast in that Paul wrote not about "them" but about "you". Who did Paul mean when he wrote "every man of you?" As we read on in chapter 2 we see clearly that he was not referring to Gentiles but was referring to Jews. The reference in Romans 2:14 to the "Gentiles " who do not have the Law," indicated that Paul was writing specifically in this portion of the letter to Jews who did have "the Law." The Old Testament quotation which Paul restated in Romans 2:24, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you", indicates that Paul was addressing this portion to the Jews. And in Romans 2:17-21 Paul asked the question, "But if you bear the name Jew, do you not teach yourself?"
Paul did not start right out in verse 1 of chapter 2 with a clear statement that he was writing about Jews. Actually, the address was "every man of you" which could include both Jews and Gentiles. Anyone "who passes judgment" is without excuse whether Jew or Gentile. But it is clear as we read on in chapter 2 that Paul wrote especially of Jews who passed judgment upon Gentiles. He seems to have approached the subject of the sins of the Jews in as kind and tender way as possible so as not to lose their attention to the point he was making.
Here in chapter 2 Paul addressed those who were in the habit of passing judgment upon the Gentiles for the kinds of sins he had enumerated in chapter 1. Paul's argument to the Jews appears to have been: since you Jews condemn the Gentiles for their sins on the grounds that they have the means of knowing their duty, you who have been more favored of God than they also are without an excuse for the same sins.
Apparently, the Jews were quick to agree to Paul's lesson of chapter 1, that the Gentiles knew the ordinances of God, that they had broken them, and that they were worthy of the wrath of God. Many of the Jews of that day agreed with Paul concerning that. It appears that they were accustomed to expressing themselves freely and severely of the bad character and doom of the Gentiles to the extent that they passed judgment on them, or condemned them. When you condemn another you condemn yourself, for you practice the same things, Paul wrote.
"(2) And we know that the judgement of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things." Romans 2:2. NASV.
The "practice (of) such things" referred to the sins enumerated in chapter 1. The subject introduced in chapter 2, verse 1 was "passing judgment." "The judgment of God" was the only judgment that was righteous with regard to the sins of men. We are reminded that the theme of the Roman letter is "the righteousness of God revealed." One way in which the righteousness of God was revealed was in his judgment of men. Jesus had said, "Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2). This was exactly what Paul meant. The Jews judged and condemned the Gentiles. But they did the same evil things and they deserved the same condemnation.
Paul's meaning had been expressed to the Jews of Old Testament days in Deuteronomy 32:35-36, which later was quoted by the Hebrew writer to the Jews of the first century as follows: "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.'" The Hebrew writer added, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:30-31). The passing of judgments of condemnation by a Jew was a sinful breaking of the Law of Moses and placed him in danger of the wrath of God just as the sins of the Gentiles placed them in the same danger. God's rule that people were not to make judgments and condemnations of each other appears to have been a universal rule for all mankind not only under the Law of Moses but even before the Law of Moses was given. Certainly the rule continues in the Christian dispensation for all of Paul's admonitions against "passing judgment" are given in the context of the gospel of Christ. And, in chapter 2, verse 16 Paul wrote, "God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus."
"(3) And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?" Romans 2:3. NASV.
Apparently many Jews thought that they could sin with impunity but that the Gentiles could not. Paul told the Jews, just as he had told the Gentiles, that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." (Romans 1:18). The righteous judgment of sinners by God cannot be escaped, said Paul.
"(4) Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" Romans 2:4. NASV.
The Jews were aware of the kindness, forbearance, and patience of God toward them. However, it seems that they thought, erroneously, that God had a preference for them such that they could sin with impunity. They had not understood the impartial nature of God's righteous wrath and God's purpose to lead them away from that wrath through kindness, forbearance, and patience, to repentance and forgiveness of their sins. Paul asked, don't you know that God loves you and is trying to lead you to repentance?"
Paul here started to weave into the Roman letter God's plan of redemption. Since chapter 1, verse 18, the picture had been black indeed. The Gentiles had made themselves subject to the wrath of God by breaking God's law for them. The Jews also had made themselves subject to God's wrath by breaking God's law given to them through Moses. Of course, the loving God was not satisfied with letting mankind, Jew or Gentile, remain in that precarious condition! God loved them and wanted to save them from wrath. The unique righteousness of God was revealed not only in His wrath. It was also revealed in His kindness, forbearance, and patience which was to lead to the repentance of the sinner. As we study the Roman letter, let us note the many facets of the righteousness of God.
"(5) But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Romans 2:5. NASV.
In chapter 1 Paul stated that mankind was without excuse and in danger of the wrath of God for disregarding the obvious truths of God which were evident to all. Paul implied that the truths of God called for an obedience to certain obvious requirements of that truth. One obvious requirement was repentance for breaking God's law by disregarding God's truth. Many people, since the creation of the world, had been unrepentant (Romans 1:32), and were, therefore, without excuse before God's wrath. Now in Romans 2:5 Paul stated that "you" Jews, just like "they" of Romans 1, will receive the wrath of God if "you" do not obey the truth. The words, "stubbornness and unrepentant heart," give us a picture of proud mankind, natural descendants of proud and stubborn Adam. The Jews were no different from the Gentiles in respect to their "stubbornness and unrepentant heart."
The phrase "wrath of God," which Paul used in Romans 1: 18 became the "righteous judgment of God" in Romans 2: 5. God is the only source of "righteous judgment." The two English words "righteous judgment" were only one word (DIKAIOKRISIA) in the original Greek language of the New Testament. This word was used only once in the New Testament. It was unique, attributed only to God.
"(6) Who will render to every man according to his deeds. " Romans 2:6. NASV.
In this verse Paul quoted from Psalms 62 where David declared that only God can be a refuge from the sinful world and that God desires to supply to mankind the loving kindness which is absent from the world. In Psalms 62:12 David finally declared, "For Thou dost recompense a man according to his work." David set this statement in the context of a world of evil people perpetrating sins against other people and against God, much like the sins enumerated by Paul in Romans 1. But David's main point was that God had loving kindness toward all people and offered to them salvation from the recompense due the evil people of the world. Thus, David's statement, "For Thou dost recompense a man according to his work," carried great meaning for people who sought salvation as well as for those who continued to reject God's salvation. In Psalm 62 David used this statement primarily as a promise to those whose "work" showed that they respected God's truth and wanted to avail themselves of the promise, inherent in God's truth, of hope, refuge, and salvation which God offered all people as a gift. The statement also served inevitably as a warning to those whose "work" showed that they did not respect, but rejected God's truth, and continued in the sins of falsehood, cursing, vanity, oppression, and robbery enumerated in the Psalm. Although David did not define in words what the "recompense" would be for people whose "work" was evil, the whole context of the Old Testament taught that the "wrath of God" was revealed as "recompense" for the breaking of God's law.
Does David's mention of "recompense" according to a man's "work" indicate that David believed God to offer salvation in Old Testament times in accordance with a man's work of merit for that salvation? Definitely not! The whole context of the Old Testament presents God's system of salvation by grace through faith offered to all people "since the creation of the world," to both Gentiles and Jews. The Hebrew writer reminded us of that fact when he referred to the "faith" of the men of old by which they "gained approval," or were saved. Reference was made in the Hebrew letter to the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and many others. This illustration of God's system of salvation by faith, rather than works of merit, spanned all time since the creation of the world and was given in the Hebrew letter to show the continuity of God's plan of salvation through out the ages even into our own Christian age.
In David's reference to God's recompense to a man according to his '"work," David evidently used the word "work" in much the same way that the New Testament writer James used it. "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself ... I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2: 17-18) .
It is important for us to realize that Paul used the Roman letter to clearly link the principles of God's plan since the creation of the world, through all the ages of mankind, with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these last days. In the Roman letter Paul gave the "big picture," showing the unchangeable nature of God's basic plan for the salvation of mankind. The principle reiterated by Paul in Romans 2:6, that God "will render to every man according to his deeds", had been true since the creation of the world. And it was a principle essentially about the faith of mankind rather than a principle concerning works of merit. The "works" of verse 6 were works of faith. This statement of verse 6 was a development of the theme that "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'But the righteous man shall live by faith.'" (Romans 1:17).
Some of our Muslim and Buddhist friends, seeking to develop friendship and find commonality between their respective religions and the Christian religion, have taken Romans 2: 6 out of context to try to show that the Bible teaches basically the same principle of salvation as do their religions. That principle is that salvation will be awarded for, and in proportion to, works of merit. Indeed, many nominal Christians of the Western World believe and try to live by the principle of eternal reward for works of merit. Travelers from the Western World, especially those from Europe and the Americas, are inevitably looked upon by the citizens of the Eastern World as Christians. This writer has witnessed a group, consisting of American (Christian) , Pakistani (Muslim) , and Thai (Buddhist) , heartily congratulating each other at the "discovery" that they each subscribed to the common principle of "salvation by works of merit!"
But Romans 2:6 must be taken out of its context of meaning in the Roman letter in order to force that interpretation. Indeed, this entire section of the Roman letter teaches that eternal salvation comes only by the grace of God to those who confiscate it by faith. The only works that can be associated with salvation are those that are brought about by the "obedience of faith" of one already saved as he seeks to "bear fruit for God."
"(7) To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: (8) but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (9) There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, (10) but Glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, (11) for there is no partiality with God." Romans 2:7-11. NASV.
Paul started the Roman letter with the optimistic statement that the gospel is the power of God for
salvation. But immediately thereafter, from chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 2 verse 6, he painted a
pessimistic picture of a stubborn and unrepentant mankind in danger of receiving a judgment of
condemnation under the wrath of God. But in chapter 2 verse 7 he began to bring in the possibility of
man's escaping the wrath or righteous judgment of God. He has pointed out that all people have done evil,
but he has also indicated (in Romans 2:4) that people can turn away from evil in repentance. Then, in
verse 7 he said that people can receive eternal life if they "do good" (or have "patient continuance in well
doing," KJV). In verse 10 he said, in a parallel way, the man who "does good" (or "worketh good," KJV)
will get "glory and honor and peace."
Note some of the actions that sinful, law breaking people were called upon to take in these verses of chapter 2. The first three were stated from a positive standpoint in verse 7. The last four were stated from a negative standpoint in verses 8 and 9.
2. Persevere (or patiently continue, KJV) in doing good.
3. Seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.
4. Obey the truth.
5. Do not be selfishly ambitious (or contentious, KJV).
6. Do not obey unrighteousness, wrath, and indignation.
7. Do not do evil.
These are and always have been the universal objectives for which God wants His people to strive. They are called forth from people by their observation of the "kindness, forbearance, and patience" (grace) of God and by the development within them of "faith" in God to save them. These objectives require continuous action in people's lives. There is no sense in which the actions can be completed and, therefore, dropped from the active lives of people. Everyone continuously "misses the mark" of God's desire for him, and, therefore, is never completely sinless in his actions. So "repentance" is continuously necessary. "Perseverance in doing good" carries the idea of patience continuance in doing good throughout all life on earth. The word "seek" includes the idea of a continual desiring, requiring, and questioning. The infinite truths of God are never fully known to anyone of us, but will be progressively revealed to us as we continuously seek. Thus, there must be continual "obeying of truth" in one's life as the requirements of truth become progressively clear to us.
This universal plan of salvation based on God's grace and the faith of the individual has been set down by God within the various systems of laws and covenants that God has made with the peoples of the world down through the ages. For instance, in the days before the Christian dispensation, the universal plan was applied differently to the Gentiles than to the Jews. Gentiles were never required to live under the Law of Moses as were the Jews. Gentiles had different laws governing their lives. But the universal plan of salvation was the same for both Gentiles and Jews. Within the context of different unique laws, salvation still was granted only by the grace of God to those Gentiles and/or Jews who lived lives of faith in God. So also now in the Christian dispensation, God's universal plan of salvation is still the same.
As we study further into the Roman letter we will learn that God based His universal plan of salvation upon His intention to provide a "propitiation in His (Christ's) blood through faith" for the sins of mankind. All down through the ages even before the sacrifice of God's Son, "in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously comitted." (Romans 3:25). God always knew in His omniscience that the "propitiation" was as good as done. Just exactly how God would provide the "propitiation" so that "He might be both just and the Justifier" (Romans 3:26) was a mystery, but "the anxious longing of the creation (waited) eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19) all down through the ages until Jesus, the Christ, appeared.
Now, in this Christian dispensation much more of God's truth has been revealed through Jesus Christ. God's purposeful "sting of death" contained in the old system of laws now has been fulfilled and removed not only in prospect but in fact for those people who render "obedience of their faith" in the completed sacrifice of Christ. Today all people, both Gentiles arid Jews, are required by God to approach Him with faith which prompts acts of obedience to Christ's desires that we repent, confess His name, and be baptized. Certain of these steps (such as baptism) are quite different from the steps which the Gentiles and Jews of past ages were called upon to take. How these steps are called for by God to clearly start us on lives of faithful obedience in our service to "bear fruit" in our lives for Him.
Truly. God 's universal plan of salvation is succinctly summed up in the phrase which appears to be the theme of the Roman letter, "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith."
Many people in the world today express a personal belief that God will save them if they just "do good." They usually mean that they "feel" that they should repent of the bad and try to do good. Very often they have the human "feeling" that good consists of works of merit that somehow override the bad in their lives and earn for them a vague salvation. Many "feel" that they don't have to "join a church" or get involved in "organized religion," or have a clearly defined "faith," or be baptized. A religion based on human emotion and human wisdom is widely embraced today. People do not realize that such a man-made religion is the result of the deceitful influence of Satan. It is based on some elements of truth, but truth taken out of context.
But the New Testament teaches that one must believe, repent, and be baptized into Christ after which he must lead the Christian life within the family (or church) in which God has placed him because of his obedience of faith. Where in God's universal plan of salvation, as presented in Romans 2:7-11, are the specific steps of belief, repentance, confession, and baptism called for?
God's universal plan clearly Shows that there is something more involved than just the limited human concept of "doing good" in order to receive a merited wage. God's concept of "doing good" intimates that there is something to be sought and found. It intimates that the truths found will require acts of obedience. In fact, there is an intimation that the idea of "doing good" and the idea of "obeying the truth" may be tantamount to the same thing. There is always more of God's truth to be learned requiring more specific steps of obedience. The Roman letter will show us that even beyond "baptism" and the "new birth" there are other steps of obedience to be taken to the truths that God unfolds to us as Christians.
For instance, the Gentile man, Cornelius, (Acts 10) went about "doing good." But he also sought for more
truth. God then led him to find something more and revealed the truth of the gospel of Christ for him to
obey. So in this Christian age, as we "seek" through perusal of God's "word of truth" in which Christ
speaks to us, we find that "faith" is necessary as well as "repentance" and "doing good." We find that
"doing good" encompasses many acts of obedience starting with "baptism" which conducts us into new
life in the church which Christ has organized and now heads. So, in obeying truth, we become a part of
Christ's organized Christianity with a basic purpose of "bearing fruit" for God.
All of this is brought to light in the Roman letter. In fact, it reveals that the "seeking for truth" and "obeying of truth" must not stop with baptism. Our "obedience of faith" is not over after baptism. The Roman letter was addressed to Christians at Rome who had already been baptized. Romans 6:4 reminded the Roman Christians that "we have been buried with Him through baptism ..." A major lesson for Christians in the Roman letter is that there is a lot more "seeking" and "finding" and "obeying" in the Christian life after baptism. It is a time for growth in preparation for entry into the wholly spiritual realm of eternal life.
Verse 11 of chapter 2 sums up that God sees Gentile and Jew alike in their sinfulness and need for salvation. The wrath of God will fall on all sinners alike, whether Gentile or Jew. But, salvation also is offered to all alike, Gentile or Jew, with no partiality. Although God chose certain tribes of people to become a nation (the Jews), and gave them a special Law to help them better serve His special purposes for them, He did not neglect His other people, the Gentiles. In fact, the special purposes for which God utilized the Jews were all purposes concerning the salvation of the Gentiles. There has never been any partiality with God in the application of His "law of sin and death" nor in His offering of His grace for salvation to men of faith.
"(12) For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law. and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law." Romans 2:12. NASV.
In this verse Paul took note of the worldly view that there were two categories of sinners and pointed out that there really was but one category with respect to sin and judgment. The word Law, used four times in this verse, referred each time to the Law of Moses. Remember that in this 2nd chapter Paul addressed especially the Jews of Rome. He wanted them to know that they were sinners under the possibility of the judgment of condemnation just as the Gentiles were. Thus, the phrase, "all who have sinned without the Law" referred to the Gentiles who were not obligated to keep the Law of Moses. The phrase, "all who have sinned under the Law" referred to Jews. A main point for the Jewish recipients of the letter was that they could not claim exemption from the judgment of condemnation by reason of the fact that God had favored them with the unique Law of Moses.
The Gentiles were referred to as sinners even though they had not sinned by breaking the Law of Moses. Paul wrote later in Romans 3:20 that "through law comes the knowledge of sin." Knowing this, we can see that there Nas an intimation in this phrase that those (Gentiles) who had sinned without the Law of Moses had become sinners by breaking some other law of God. We shall soon see that this thought was clearly brought out by Paul as he developed and wrote the Roman letter. This verse is a part of Paul's developing argument to make clear that all people, whether Gentile or Jew, whether under a law written in their hearts or under the Law of Moses, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).
"(13) For not the hearers of the Law are just before God. but the doers of the Law will be justified." Romans 2:13. NASV.
This was a statement of universal principle given here by Paul to convince the Jews of Rome that they could not be justified from their sins just because they were Jews and had been given special attention by God under the Law of Moses. It was a universal principle in that it actually reminded the Romans that any law always speaks only of reward or promise to "doers" of the law. In this verse Paul was in the midst of his argument to convince the Jews of Rome that they were "law breakers" who could not reap the reward of justification from sins by being "doers" of the Law of Moses. The Jews could claim only to be "hearers" of the Law of Moses. They could not claim to be "doers".
"(14) For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law are a law to themselves, (15) in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (16) on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ .Jesus." Romans 2:14-16. NASV.
These verses were a part of Paul's special argument to the Jews of Rome who were Christians, or were called to become Christians, alongside Gentile Christians. The Jews needed to understand clearly the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews and their relationship to the Gentiles in Christ. The Jews felt that they previously had been favored of God over the Gentiles in many respects. The New Testament writings revealed that many Jews had developed feelings of superiority over the Gentiles. But the gospel of Christ indicated that in the final analysis, with respect to sin and God's possible judgment of condemnation, they really had no advantage over the Gentiles. Paul was here trying to convince the Jews of just that. Paul said in these verses that the Gentiles were under law just as the Jews were under law, although the Gentiles' law was not the Law of Moses.
The phrase in verse 15, "the work of the Law written in their hearts", indicated that God's law had its desired effect through the "heart's" direction of a person in "work." Paul's argument was that it mattered not that the Jews had a special Law written on stone and in books, the Gentiles were found to have elements of the same law of God implanted directly in their hearts. Thus, the Gentiles were directed by God through law just as were the Jews who had been favored with a special written Law. The thought that law became effective to carry out its purpose only after it was accepted in the "heart" of am person, whether Jew or Gentile, was developed further by Paul in chapter's 2, 3, and 4 of the Roman letter.
In Romans 1:19 Paul said that there always had been something known about God by every person because "God made it evident to them". After the Jewish nation of people came into being, God made all necessary things "evident" to the Jews through the Law of Moses. In Romans 2:14-15 Paul revealed more details of how God made all necessary things "evident" to the Gentiles who did not have the Law of Moses. "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law (of Moses) do instinctively the things of the Law (of Moses), these, not having the Law (of Moses), are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law (of Moses) written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them."
The Gentiles never had been without a law of God to govern their 1ives and lead them to repentance before God. Their law was m"written" in their hearts by God. Basically it was not un1ike the Law of Moses because God made it to "instinctively" bring to Gentiles "things of the Law" of Moses. Whereas God wrote the Law of Moses on tablets of stone, and later through His prophets on rolls of parchment, and gave them to the Jews to read, He wrote "the work of the Law" directly in the "hearts" of Gentiles. Gentiles were then influenced by God's law through their God given "consciences" which bore witness of the law within the person of each Gentile. The actions of Gentiles' lives were either approved or disapproved by the witness of their consciences. And their consciences bore the imprint of the "writing" of God.
In this way the Gentiles knew and were held responsible to observe God's standard of right and wrong. The Gentiles knew by subliminal messages from their own consciences when their actions broke or when they upheld God's laws, for their consciences brought to them thoughts which either "accused" or "defended" their actions. Through this explanation Paul made it even more clear how Gentiles were "without excuse" when they broke God's laws.
The Old Testament book of Jonah reveals how God dealt with Gentiles in days of old. The prophet Jonah was called upon by God to "go to Nineveh the great (Gentile) city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." (Jonah 1:2). Jonah eventually arrived in the city of Nineveh and preached the message God had given him, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown". "Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it." (Jonah 3:4-10).
Although the Gentiles of Nineveh were not held responsible to God under the Law of Moses, they were held responsible to God under the law which God had "written" in their hearts. When Jonah called them to repentance, their "consciences" undoubtedly witnessed to them concerning their sinful condition before God and brought them to an understanding of their dangerous situation. It may truly be said that the faith of the people in the grace which God offered, saved them from "the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them". Thus, the book of Jonah illustrated the working of God's universal plan of salvation.
As we continue to study chapter 2 we will see how Paul developed the idea introduced in verse 15, that the Law of God carried out its work only after it became "written in the heart" of the individual, whether Gentile or Jew. Many of the Jews did not learn their Law well enough to transfer it from written "books" to their "hearts" where it could have effect through their "consciences". The prophet Jeremiah wrote of the shortcomings of the Jews when he said, "All the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart" (Jeremiah 9:26). And the words of God's writer in Hebrews 4: 12 very likely spoke of "circumcision of heart" when he said, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit,...and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart".
Did God ever reject or abandon the Gentiles in favor of the Jews?" No! It seems that God's implantation of His law directly in the hearts of Gentiles might be considered as an advantage given them over the Jews whose Law had to be learned from written "books".
In our comments on Romans 1: 9 we pointed out Paul' s apparent understanding of his personal human makeup as a three part being consisting of "spirit and soul and body." His statement in Romans 1:9 was, in effect, that "I" (my soul, or source of personal will-power) serves God in "my spirit" (a part of me over which my soul has control and can communicate with God). In Romans 2:14-15 Paul again revealed his understanding of the human makeup in his use of the words "heart" and "conscience." The word "heart" referred to the "soul" and/or "spirit" of the person. When the word "heart" was used, one can often determine from the context whether it was the "soul" or the "spirit" of the person which was meant. If the context indicated a function of the "heart" involving the personal will-power of a person, it was most likely the "soul" which was meant. If the context indicated a function of the "heart" involving God's communication directly with a person, it was most likely the "spirit" which was meant.
In Romans 2:15 the "heart" of Gentiles was involved with God's direct communication with the Gentiles through "conscience." The "consciences" of the Gentiles were trained "instinctively" by what God wrote in their "hearts." However, the "consciences" of people can be overridden by the desires of their "souls." Indeed, this was the way in which "consciences" became "seared" so that the communication from God was no longer" heard." Romans 1:32 revea1ed that peop1e so ignored their instinctively trained consciences that they practiced things worthy of death and gave hearty approval to others who did the same thing even though they had known the ordinance of God in the beginning. The fact that the word "heart" involves the function of "conscience" makes it appear that Paul's reference to the "hearts" of the Gentiles specifically involved their personal spirits.
An in-depth study of the Biblical usage of the words "heart", "soul", "spirit", "body", "conscience", etc., would help us gain a deeper understanding of many Biblical passages. The Bible "looks" at mankind in the full environment in which God created him, an environment which includes the invisible spiritual beings and the spiritual parts of mankind. Writers such as Paul lived, preached, and wrote of the power of the invisible God at work in all the spiritual as well as fleshly aspects of people in their lives in the eternal spiritual realm.
In Romans 2:16 Paul referred to "the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." In chapter 1 and much of chapter 2 Paul had warned the Romans of the terrible judgment of condemnation, the wrath of God, which was "revealed" to be "stored up" for all law-breakers, both Gentiles and Jews. But here Paul added that there was "good news" to be received along with the warning. "According to my gospel", said Paul, "God will judge ... through Christ Jesus!" Although the just and righteous judgment of God on that day would be the terrible and frightening application of God's wrath on law-breakers, the good news declared by Paul in His gospel was that God's judgment on that day would be through Christ Jesus in whom there is hope of salvation from the wrath of God.
In this first main section of his Roman letter (Romans 1:1 through 5:11) Paul very carefully and systematically presented evidence that the righteousness of God is revealed through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ which justifies sinners who believe. To this point in our study Paul had presented evidence that mankind had broken God's law for which the just penalty was application of God's wrath. He had also introduced the idea that there was good news in that God's judgment concerning application of His wrath would be influenced by Christ Jesus. Let's continue to follow Paul's systematic arguments.
"(17) But if you bear the name 'Jew,' and rely upon the Law, and boast in God, (18) and know His will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, (19) and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, (20) a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, (21) you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal?" Romans 2:17-21. NASV.
With the words "But if you bear the name 'Jew"', Paul made it clear whom he meant in verse 1 of chapter 2 when he referred to "you ... every man of you who passes judgment." He referred to the Jews of Rome whom he wanted to convince of their law-breaking and need to escape the penalty of God's wrath.
With a number of conditional clauses similar to this first one, "But if you bear the name 'Jew,"' Paul finally asked the Jews a rhetorical question, one that we might consider a "loaded" question. The sense of the question was, if you are a Jew, why do you break the Law of Moses which God gave especially to Jews? Each conditional clause which Paul used in these verses reminded the Jews of the advantages God had showered on them and the responsibilities God had placed on them through the special Law of Moses.
Paul's argument was, if you bear the name "Jew" it follows that you "rely on the Law," that is, the special Law of Moses which differed in many respects from God's law for the Gentiles. And, it then follows that you "boast in God." The thought seems to be that you have a special relationship with God in which only you, as Jews, can boast. It then follows that you "know His will." The intimation is that knowledge of "His will" places responsibility upon you. If you "know his will," it then follows that you "approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law." That is, your responsibilities include "approving" through your life the "essential things" indicated by the Law. Perhaps, there is a meaning here of demonstrating God's priorities in your life.
Before finally posing the question, Paul continued with conditional clauses which illustrated the meaning of one being a Jew. If you are a Jew, it follows that you "are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth." These are characteristics which God intended the Jews to have as His special recipients of a special Law which was the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth. Having such knowledge and truth, God intended the Jews to be teachers who illustrated in their lives such figures of speech as "a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish." Indeed, the Bible reveals that the Jews were chosen by God and given this very special Law in order that the whole world, including all the Gentiles, might be blessed with the gospel of salvation from the wrath of God.
Paul's question for the Jews finally was, "You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself'?" Another question like unto the first was, "You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal?" Paul intended that the Jews of Rome recognize these as rhetorical questions illustrating the fact that they had not taught themselves the knowledge and truth embodied in the Law, and had not refrained from breaking such portions of the Law as "Thou shalt not steal." It seems that many of the Jews were aware that the Gentiles were sinners in need of Christ, but were not aware that their law-breaking made them sinners also, just as much in need of Christ as were the Gentiles.
"(22) You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? (23) You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law. do you dishonor God?" Romans 2:22-23. NASV.
Paul continued in these verses with his "loaded" rhetorical questions. The sense of his questions seem to be: you know the Law of Moses and boast in it, but you break that Law, don't you? The Law of Moses prohibits the breaking of marriage bonds, but you destroy marriages, don't you? The Law of Moses teaches you to abhor idols, but you rob temples and offer the proceeds to God, don't you? In these actions you dishonor God, do you not? Paul's purpose in these rhetorical questions to the Jews was to convict them of their guilt for breaking the Law. Such breaking of God's Law was tantamount to "dishonoring God."
"(24) For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, just as it is written." Romans 2:24. NASV.
This is one of the most poignant statements in Paul's writings. The Jews had in their special Law "the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth." With the special instruction given to them by the Law, the Jews were intended by God to be guides to the blind Gentiles and to be lights in the relative darkness in which the Gentiles dwelt. But the Jews had constantly broken their Law and, thereby, had failed to influence the Gentiles for good. Instead, Paul said, "God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
The Old Testament prophets had brought this accusation against the Jews many times. Ezekiel was very clear about this point. He said that when the people of Israel (later to be known as Jews) were dispersed throughout Gentile lands, the Gentiles said of them, "These are the people of the Lord." But the Gentiles observed them when "they profaned My holy name." Ezekiel went on to quote God, "But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went ... It is not for your sake, a house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, ... when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight". (Ezekiel 36:20ff)
Ezekiel made it clear that God was just as concerned for the Gentiles as He was for Israel. Although the people of Israel were chastised by God by dispersement among the Gentile nations, at the same time God sought to influence the Gentiles for good through the Godly conduct of the dispersed people of Israel. But the Israelites profaned the name of God in the midst of the Gentile nations where they went. It is interesting to note that, despite the evil conduct of the Israelites at that time, God predicted that the Gentile nations would yet come to know that "I am the Lord... when I prove Myself holy among you" in the sight of the Gentiles.
Paul said that this sin of the Israelites of old continued even into his time. The Law of Moses was finally fulfilled in Christ and the Jews, even many who had become Christians, were still unwilling to influence the Gentiles to His acceptance. All this unrepentant law breaking and passing of judgments against the Gentiles had resulted again in the name of God being blasphemed among the Gentiles.
God chose the Jews and gave them favored status that they might be a good influence upon the Gentiles and lead them to repentance. But the Jews had misrepresented God and caused the Gentiles to say in effect, "if you are the children of God, then we don't want to have anything to do with your God". Thus, the Jews made the Gentiles blaspheme the name of God.
Many of the Jews were false teachers. Instead of teaching God's word in its truth and purity, they
introduced heresies by their actions. In their greed they used the word of God to exploit people. But even
some Gentiles could see that such actions were wrong. Some Gentiles were better taught by the law written
in their hearts, than were the Jews by the Law of Moses. But it caused those Gentiles, who started as
seekers after good, to reject the true God and blaspheme His name.
Today there is no partiality with God concerning fleshly Jews and fleshly Gentiles. The gospel of Christ may be accepted by both Jews and Gentiles who then are to dwell in one spiritual body as Christians. Christians now have become, in a figure, the "Israelites of God." The non-christians of the world have become, in a figure, the "Gentiles dwelling in darkness." It is God's desire that Christians, in their dispersion among the nations, honor the name of God before the non-christians of the world, and, thereby, influence them toward acceptance of God as their Lord and Savior.
But, alas, the actions of many "Christians" are such that the name of God is blasphemed among the non-christians of the world because of them. To the non-christian masses of people in the middle and far eastern parts of the world, anyone from the western part of the world is considered to be a "Christian". But the influence of many "so-called Christians" on the un-christian world is appalling. For instance, some men of Islamic faith have expressed to this writer their desire to become a Christian so that they might attend cocktail parties and imbibe alcoholic drinks as do the western Christians! You see, the Islamic faith forbids the partaking of alcoholic drinks, but the Christian faith, as demonstrated by their western friends, seems to approve it! Similarly, many instances of evi1 conduct demonstrated in the lives of the "so-called Christian" people of the western world influence people of the non-christian world to "blaspheme the name of God!" In order to combat this evil influence from the western world, this writer has sought to explain at every opportunity that Christianity was first placed by God in the middle eastern world, not the western world, and was God's fulfillment and extension of an earlier middle eastern religion. This writer has sought to influence people to examine Christianity in its original middle eastern form as related in the New Testament, not the forms to which many western people have distorted it.
What tremendous responsibility Christians have been given!
Peter predicted in 2 Peter 2:1-2 that false teachers among Christians would cause situations in which "the
way of truth will be maligned." Why doesn't the world accept Christ? The good news of the gospel is so
wonderful. It has the answers to all the question that the people of the world are asking. Christianity does
not have the shortcomings of all the other world religions. In Christianity people can look forward to the
perfection of God. People can actually get to see and be with God. Why doesn't the world accept Christ?
One big answer is evident. Many people don't accept Christ because of the lives of His "so-called"
followers! The name of God is blasphemed in the world because of His "so-called" followers.
In the mid-eastern and the far-eastern world, all the western world is known as the Christian world. Most of the people in the western world are only nominally Christian. When westerners travel and live in the east, they are looked upon as representatives of Christianity. The people of the east take their own "truth" (and they do have some truth for God mas made some truth evident within them) and measure the lives of the western "Christians." Almost invariably they say, "If that is Christianity, we don't want it." They make laws in some middle eastern countries to keep their people from being corrupted by "Christianity." On the other hand, some actually seek to be "converted" to "Christianity" so that they will have the liberty to do the things westerners do, to drink alcoholic beverages, to go to cocktail parties, to smoke, and escape the rigors of their own re1igion.
Someone may think that being a nominal Christian is better than not being a Christian at all. Is that true? In spite of his "wild ways" one who believes in doing good and helping his fellow men is not a detriment to Christianity, is he? Are the divisions of denominationalism wrong? What does denominationalism teach the world?
What are we in America doing to the world when we send out all kinds of so-called nominal Christians to influence the world, the assistance programs, the peace corps, the U.S. Missions? As a country we believe that our people represent something good and desirable to the world. We cherish "Americanism." But remember, to the people of the middle and far east, Americanism is Christianity! Most Americans represent themselves as Christians. But in doing so, many cause the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles!
"(25) For indeed circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law: but if you are a transgressor of the Law. your circumcision has become uncircumcision." Romans 2:25. NASV.
The rite of circumcision set a person apart as a Jew to be used by God for the purposes for which God ordained Jews to serve. The advantage to be enjoyed by circumcised Jews was the advantage of being close to God and serving God. Jews could maintain their relationship with God through their faithfulness to God. As always, however, faithfulness meant a continuous effort to obey God. In their case faithfulness to God meant a continuous effort to keep the Law of Moses. Of course, it was impossible for a Jew to keep the Law perfectly, but God had made provision in the Law for the repentant Jew to be forgiven of his Law breaking. God, in His mercy, made it possible for the faithful, repentant Jew to remain a Jew and to keep the advantages of his special relationship with God.
However, if a Jew became unfaithful in his efforts to keep the Law and was unrepentant of his Law breaking, he could not enjoy the privilege of being a Jew. Although he had been circumcised and set apart physically, he really ceased to be a Jew in God's sight if he became unfaithful. Being a transgressor of the Law, his circumcision was no longer of value for he became, in the sight of God, as though he were uncircumcised. Apparently, many of the Jews believed that they could break the Law with impunity simply because they had been born as Jews and carried in their flesh the mark of circumcision. Such was not the case.
Let us note at this point that the principle of "obedience of faith" that was required of a Jew to keep his relationship with God under the Mosaic covenant was a universal principle which God has always applied to His people, even to His Christian people under the New covenant. A Jew could remain in close relationship with God only through faithful obedience to God. Likewise, a Christian can remain in close relationship with God only by exercising faithful obedience throughout his life. (See this writer's comments on Romans 1:5.)
"(26) If therefore. the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? (27) And will not he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who through having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?" Romans 2:26-27. NASV.
Paul continued in these verses with his rhetorical questions. If a Gentile believed and obeyed God's law written in his heart, will not God claim him as if he is one of the chosen nation of Jews? "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts,..." (Romans 2:14-15). If the Gentiles believed and obeyed God, God accepted them regardless of the fact that they were not Jews and were not circumcised.
Will not the obedient Gentiles judge or condemn the disobedient Jews? The implied answer to the rhetorical question was yes. But Paul did not imply that these Gentiles had set out to condemn the Jews. Rather he implied that God might "point to" the righteous actions of Gentiles to teach and influence the Jews to change their disobedient ways. Later in the Roman letter Paul said that he was calling the salvation of righteous Gentiles to the attention of the Jews in order to make them jealous to want also to receive salvation. (Romans 11:11-14). The sense of the question seems to be, will not the righteous actions of the relatively ignorant Gentiles show clearly the righteousness of God in a judgment of condemnation against the disobedience of the well informed Jews?
"(28) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly: neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. (29) But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." Romans 2:28-29. NASV.
Paul wrote this letter to Roman Christians. Some of them were of Jewish background, some were of Gentile background. But this section of the Roman letter was written specifically to the Jewish Christians to convince them that they were not superior in any way to the Gentile Christians by virtue of the fact that they had been set apart in the flesh by the rite of circumcision. However, the statements of Romans 2:28-29 about circumcision are of great importance not only to the Jewish Christians, but also to the Gentile Christians.
First of all, these verses set the Jewish rite of circumcision in proper context. Circumcision was not just an outward sign to set the Jews apart physically. It had other facets which were more important than the outward sign. Physical circumcision, or the "cutting around" of flesh, was done on Jewish boys when they were only a few days old. Although the baby boys could not understand anything at all about the rite at their age when the circumcision took place, their parents should have understood it, and the parents had the responsibility to teach the Jewish boys the full meaning of the sign as they grew up. They had been set apart in babyhood as candidates for later submission to God's "circumcision" of their hearts. When their hearts became "circumcised" they became Jews in a much deeper, more meaningful way than they had been since birth. God's purpose for the Jews was not just to set them apart physically, but to set them apart spiritually as special spiritual vessels for God's use. Thus, Paul said, "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart. ..."
Apparently, some of the Jewish Christians did not understand their former relationship wi th God to be a spiritual relationship rather than a "letter of the Law" relationship in which they were merely set apart physically from the rest of the world. Many Jews boasted in their observance of the "letter of the Law" and expected praise from men. Jesus had warned them about this attitude during His teaching ministry on earth. He said that their proud "letter of the Law" attitude received its own world1y reward and did not warrant a spiritual reward from the Father. Jesus had said to the Jews in His Sermon on the Mount, "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." (Matthew 6:5). Then Jesus had gone on to speak of their spiritual relationship with the Father which was the really important part of being a Jew. "But when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (Matthew 6:6).
Now that they had become Christian Jews (one might say "fulfilled Jews") it was high time for them to understand the principle of circumcision. It was a universal principle of God which applied both to Jews and Gentiles under their systems of laws before Christ, and it is also a principle which applies to Christians in the New Covenant. Therefore, Paul's explanation of the true objective of Jewish circumcision here in the Roman letter is important not only to Jews but to Gentiles as well. Although not all people of the world were called upon to be circumcised physically, it was a universal principle of God that all those who draw nigh to God to be "used" by Him must be "circumcised of heart."
The physical rite of circumcision was applied only to the Jews under God's Old Covenant with them. But spiritual "circumcision" had always applied to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. Thus, Paul spoke of "circumcised" Gentiles when he asked rhetorically, "If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?" (Romans 2:26). God regarded Gentiles, who kept the requirements of God's law for them, to be "circumcised" spiritually. Finally, in the Romans letter Paul explained circumcision to Christians, both Jewish and Gentile Christians, because the principle was important to Christians as well.
What then is the meaning of "circumcision of the heart?" The word "circumcision" means a "cutting around" with a keenly sharp instrument, ostensibly to expose something that has been covered. God 's requirement for "circumcision of the heart" seems to indicate that there is something in the heart that is naturally covered but needs to be "cut around" and exposed in order to allow our relationship with God. What is it in the heart that needs to be "circumcised?"
When we examine the Biblical usage of the word "heart" we find that it did not refer to the physical "blood pump" part of one's body but to the invisible, spiritual "inner man" which consists of one's soul and spirit. The Hebrew writer spoke, in Hebrew 4:12, of an element like a "two edged sword" which could pierce ''as far as the division of soul and spirit." This verse speaks of the "soul and spirit" which make up the spiritual "heart" of a person. It speaks of the necessity of "cutting around" the soul to expose and free the covered spirit. The keenly sharp instrument to be used in the operation, figuratively sharper than a two-edged sword which can divide bone joints from the marrow within the bone, is the "word of God." Is this not a reference to the "operation" which Paul refers to as "circumcision of the heart?" This writer believes that it is.
The purpose of "circumcision of the heart" is to enable one to draw nigh to God and become God's useful servant. Why must the "soul" be divided or cut apart from the "spirit" of a person? Does the "soul" somehow hinder the "heart" from drawing nigh to God?" Is the "heart" which has not had the "soul" cut apart from the "spirit" unacceptable in God's presence? This writer believes that the "natural heart" in which the "soul" has not been cut apart from the "spirit" is, indeed, unacceptable to God and unable to draw nigh to God.
That part of the "heart" which is referred to as the "soul" is the very essence of the personality of a person. It is that part of a person which "manages" the other two parts of the person, the "body" and the "spirit." It "manages" the "body" and "spirit" of a person by means of its own characteristics of volition, intellect, and emotion. These are powerful human characteristics and naturally influence the "soul" to be very selfish in its "management" of the human being.
The part of the "heart" which is referred to as the "spirit" is that part which is capable of communion with other spirits in the spirit realm. Of course, God requires the useful Christian to "walk" according to His Holy Spirit, for the Christian is "being led by the Spirit of God," and "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." (Romans 8: 4,14,16.) In order for our "spirits" to function as they should in cooperation with God's Holy Spirit, it is necessary that our "spirits" be free to do so.
But in our natural descendancy from Adam, our "souls" tend to selfishly cover up our "spirits" from communion with God's Holy Spirit, being unconverted from the world and "seeing" no need for communion with God, or for being a useful servant of God. In the natural man who has developed to maturity in a world without Christ, the "soul" completely smothers any attempt of the human "spirit" to commune with God. Thus, Jesus said, "Whoever wishes to save his soul shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul for My sake shall find it." (Matthew 16:25.)
The writer of Hebrews has said that it is necessary to cut apart and divide the human soul from the human spirit and that the instrument of such an "operation" is the "word of God." (Hebrews 4: 12. ) When this "circumcision of the heart" has been accomplished through the action of the "double edged word of God," then the soul has been converted to God's way and will henceforth "manage" the "spirit and soul and body"' of the human being to be a fruitful servant of God. The "circumcision of the heart" is then a grasping of the salvation offered by God and an acceptance of God 's offer to use one for God's own purposes. But those "uncircumcised of heart" cannot approach God. This is the universal principle which Paul expounded in Romans 2:28-29.
As we complete or study of Romans, chapter two, we see that Paul reasoned to get the Romans to understand that there was really no difference in the standing before God of Jews and Gentiles. They both had law imposed on them by God. They both had broken their laws and, without Christ's salvation, stood condemned.
Apparently many of the Jews felt that they always would remain in good standing with God, not subject to God's wrath, simply because they had been born into a Jewish family and had been set apart physically by circumcision. Paul informed them that they had it all wrong if they believed that. Paul reminded the Jews that they had been more favored by God than had been the Gentiles. But God had favored them for a special purpose. If they had carried out that purpose, they would have been able to remain close to God. But their favored position did not give them "a license" to ignore the spiritual aspects of their relationship with God. Just because the Jews had "heard" the Law they were not justified before God. They were not "doers" of the Law. Therefore they, the Jews, were in the same boat with the Gentiles, without excuse, and in danger of the wrath of God.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? These questions open the third chapter of the Roman letter as Paul continues to point out that:
The Jews have broken God's special Law given to them through Moses.
The Gentiles have broken God's law written in their hearts.
(This has been taken from the book, "God's Righteousness Revealed," a commentary on the Roman Letter by F. M. Perry.)