Romans 2:29

29 But 1he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and 2circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the 3Spirit, not by the letter; 4and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Romans 2:29 Meaning and Commentary

Romans 2:29

But he is a Jew which is one inwardly
Who has an internal work of grace upon his soul: who has not only an outward name, but an inward nature; not the law of God in the hand, but in the heart; not an external righteousness only, but internal holiness; and who is not a mere outward court worshipper, but a worshipper of God in Spirit and in truth. The Jews have a F5 saying themselves,

``that whosoever denies idolatry, (ydwhy arqn) , "is called a Jew":''

so that, according to them, this is a name that is not confined to themselves, but belongs to all such who truly fear and worship God; and they say, in the same place, that Pharaoh's daughter was called (tydwhy) , "a Jewess", because she denied idolatry, and went down to wash herself from the idols of her father's house. And elsewhere F6,

``that faith does not depend upon circumcision, but upon the heart: he that believes not as he should, circumcision does not make him a Jew; and he that believes as he ought, he indeed is a Jew, though he is not circumcised.''

And circumcision is that of the heart;
which God requires, and he himself promises to give, ( Deuteronomy 10:16 ) ( 30:6 ) ( Jeremiah 4:4 ) , upon which last passage, a very noted Jew F7 has this observation, (blh tlm ayh taz) , "this is the circumcision of the heart"; the very phrase the apostle here uses: circumcision of the flesh was typical of this, which lies in a godly sorrow for sin, in a putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, and in renouncing a man's own righteousness in the business of justification. The ancient Jews had some notion of this typical use of circumcision. So Philo the Jew says F8, that circumcision taught (hdonwn kai paywn pantwn ektomhn) , "the cutting off of all pleasures and affections": and elsewhere he says F9: it is a symbol of two things particularly; the one is the cutting off of pleasures, as before; and the other is the removal of arrogancy, that grievous disease of the soul: and in another place F11 he calls purity, or chastity, (peritomhv peritomhn) , "the circumcision of circumcision". Now this our apostle says is

in the spirit;
meaning either the spirit or soul of man, which is the seat and subject of it; or the Spirit of God, who is the author of it: the Ethiopic version reads it, "by the Holy Ghost":

and not in the letter;
or "by the letter" of the law; but the Holy Ghost produces this spiritual work instrumentally, by the preaching of the Gospel. To which the apostle adds,

whose praise is not of men, but of God;
referring not to circumcision immediately spoken of before, but to the Jew who is one inwardly: and alludes to the name Judah, from whence the Jews are called, which comes from the word (hdy) , which signifies to "praise"; and intimates here, that such persons must not expect praise from men, who are only taken, with outward things, but from God, who searches and knows the heart.


FOOTNOTES:

F5 T. Bab. Megilia, fol. 13. 1.
F6 Nizzachon ad Gen. xvii. Apud Maji Theolog. Jud. p. 252.
F7 R. David Kimchi in Jer. iv. 4.
F8 De Migrat. Abraham, p. 402.
F9 De Circumcisione, p. 811.
F11 De Somniis, p. 1111.

Romans 2:29 In-Context

27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?
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 which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Cross References 4

  • 1. Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11
  • 2. Deuteronomy 30:6
  • 3. Romans 2:27; Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6
  • 4. John 5:44; John 12:43; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 10:18