31 January 2014

Romans 2:17-29

“A person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart” (v. 29)


Gentiles (non Jews) and Jews are capable of good and evil. The Jews seem to have an advantage: they are guided by the clear teaching of the written law (in the first five Old Testament books). So would it not be reasonable to expect Gentiles to become Jews if in their hearts they are serious about doing what God requires? Paul, being a Jew who was trained as a Pharisee, was particularly sensitive on this issue, because that was standard Pharisaic policy. But what in fact have been the outcomes of Jewish history and faith?

The law was the finest gift entrusted to Jews. For Paul, as for every Jew, it had an extraordinary capacity to reveal God's will to everyone, Jew and Gentile. So Jews were essentially advocates of the law (with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) at its heart).

However, the law's weakness was its inability to make saints of its devotees. In practice, says Paul, Jews do not keep the law. Flawed Jewish lives dishonour God.

The underlying problems are the confusions and ambiguities in every human heart. They have to be reformed. However, no external, physical entity (even the law), nor any physical act, however significant (like circumcision), cuts any ice with inner spiritual turmoil. It is this apparently unstoppable turmoil that issues in ungodly behaviour.

To Ponder

  • Bringing up children to be good people is a heavy responsibility for parents and grandparents. How important as role models are adults in the family? How can the Church best help parents and grandparents?
  • The moral education of children and young people is influenced by many individuals, institutions and cultural forces. What in your experience best supports the young to work out right and wrong, and what most threatens their development?
  • Why do we find it so difficult to say sorry, and mean it?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.