Inside Outside — A Matter of the Heart

“One Year Bible” New Testament Passage
Romans 2:25-3:8

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 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 from God.  Romans 2:28-29 (NKJV)

In the days of Jesus, there were three things that distinguished orthodox Jews.  There were three outward “markers” that determined authenticity.  Those were Sabbath-keeping, dietary laws, and circumscision.  It is interesting to note that these are the three that Jesus and Paul dealt with the most! 

Jesus was constantly confronting the Sabbath issue.  He would heal on the Sabbath, He would even pick some corn!  His disciples were once questioned because they didn’t wash their hands properly (a part of dietary law).  Circumcision was a huge issue surrounding the ministry of Paul. 

These “markers” are always outward signs that people use to determine legitimacy.  They can be manners of dress, or ways of talking.  They can be hair or make-up for women.  They are OUTWARD signs that people use to show how holy they are.  They usually involve what we DO or what we DON’T DO.  “We don’t smoke, we don’t chew, we don’t run with girls who do.”

Paul agrees with Jesus (Matt. 15).  It is not what is on the outside that make a man holy.  It is what is on the inside.  It is your heart.  Being right with God does not start with religious observances or outward appearances.  It starts with a heart of faith — a “circumcision” of the heart done by the Holy Spirit.

Our prayer today is that God help us to stay right on the inside.  Then the outside will be ok. 

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2 Responses to Inside Outside — A Matter of the Heart

  1. Chesca says:

    I’ve always loved this clarifying verse of God’s expectation of His people and of my capacity to be included in His kingdom as a Gentile, and as a woman. Of course women of the OT were included in the covenant – I know that. But I always wondered how, exactly. B/c they were attached to covenant males by marriage or broth or both? Where was their ” marker”? Even though, I know OT passages make it clear that God looks at the heart and it is from the heart that true obedience flows, this circumcision thing was always one of those little ? marks for me. It never says in the OT how women were to be signified as being included in the covenant. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no feminist, in the negative sense of the term. It’s just been theological with me. Maybe the inference is they were under the “covering” of their fathers, then their husbands. The ? mark remains. But in the NT there is no longer any distinction b/t male and female! How affirming of women and their place in the heart of God.

  2. Bob Clanton says:

    Your comments and questions are interesting. It is important to remember the difference between Old Testament and New Testament — particularly the difference between outward compliance with the covenant and inward. Circumcision was an outward “marker”. But circumcision did not automatically mean the person was accepted by God, i.e. born again (to use a NT term). Many who were circumcised in the OT were “lost” or without God — ex. Israelites who worshiped the golden calf, Esau, Ishmael, the list goes on. In the New Testament surely all the Pharisees were circumcised and yet Jesus one time called them sons of the devil!
    The fact that circumcision could only be done in males does not exclude females for acceptance by God. It was reflective of the outward/national sense in which the covenant was understood and practiced. No doubt, God in choosing circumcision as the “marker”, chose to emphasize FAMILY, PATERNITY, and THE RADICAL NATURE OF CONVERSION while prefiguring New Testament truth.

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