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But they lack reality with the living God on the heart level.


  • 1. Introduction!
  • In Search of Real Circumcision: Ritual Failure and Circumcision in Paul.
  • Der Feind aus alten Tagen (Die Amsterdam-Polizisten) (German Edition);

Paul knew that the most difficult people to reach with the gospel were not the pagans whom he described in Romans They may not be sure that God could ever forgive them. But they welcome that news when they hear it. Why did they need the gospel? Why did they need to get right with God? Yes, Paul knew.

The Letters of Paul as Rituals of Worship

He was one of them. At one time, he had taken great pride in his circumcision, his Jewishness, and his zeal for the Jewish religion Phil. So now he wants his fellow Jews who trusted in their religious rituals to see their need for the gospel. So he hits them with what would have been a shocking argument: the obedient Gentile will fare better on judgment day than the disobedient Jew.

Paul is trying to strip every religious person of his religiosity as the basis for acceptance with God, so that he will be driven to the cross of Christ for mercy. He wants us to see that…. Reality with God is not a matter of outward conformity to religious rituals, but rather of obedience that results from God changing your heart.

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Paul here hits the first and third reasons why the Jew would claim to have exemption from judgment. God instituted the practice of circumcision the removal of the male foreskin as a sign of His covenant with Abraham, over years before He gave Moses the Law see Genesis It symbolized moral purity and separation from the world unto God.

Under the Law of Moses, it became a sign of membership in the covenant community. So as a God-ordained ritual, circumcision was of value to the Jews as a reminder of their covenant relationship to God and of the need to be morally set apart to God. When Paul says that circumcision is of value, he is speaking to the Jews as Jews.

When he addresses those who are in Christ, he says Gal. Except for hygienic reasons, it holds no value for believers in Christ. For such Jews before the cross, circumcision was of value. But the perpetual danger of religious rituals, even of those that God commands, is that they become external only.

Thus from the earliest times Moses exhorted Israel Deut. Moses and Jeremiah were making the point that the physical ritual of circumcision had to be accompanied by its spiritual meaning, namely, holiness and obedience to God on the heart level. Without such reality with God, the ritual had lost its essential meaning and was virtually worthless. Several of the Jewish rabbis taught that no circumcised man will go to hell Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Eerdmans], p. Their circumcision meant nothing. Do the rituals of the ancient Christian church have spiritual value for us today?

Many who were raised in evangelical circles have moved to Episcopal, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox churches because they felt that the rituals and liturgy made them feel closer to God. Are we missing something if we abandon these rituals? To add other rituals, or to invest those two rituals with meaning that is not taught in the New Testament, is to worship God falsely.

In New Testament terms, every believer is a priest 1 Pet.

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Jesus is our high priest and He offered Himself as the complete and final sacrifice for our sins Heb. Also, the New Testament is clear that being baptized or partaking of communion are of no spiritual value, unless you do them out of faith in Christ. Baptism, whether performed on infants which I believe is wrong or on those old enough to understand what it means, does not convey salvation or forgiveness of sins.

If the baptized person acts in obedience to Christ as a confession of saving faith in Christ, then baptism is of great value. We should not minimize or abandon these rituals. But there is no spiritual benefit conveyed just by going through these religious rituals, apart from reality with God through faith in Christ.

Paul's Letters: a Quick Overview

At this point, Paul would have shocked his Jewish readers. He makes the point that…. 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? Cranfield, cited by Thomas Schreiner, Romans [Baker], p. There is debate about who is the uncircumcised man who keeps the requirements of the Law. Is this merely hypothetical? Does Paul mean that no Gentile has ever kept the Law or could do it, but if he could, he would be counted as circumcised and thus condemn the Jew?

Or, could Paul be referring to unsaved Gentiles like Cornelius Acts 10 , who were devout, God-fearing men? Or, is he referring to Gentiles who really do obey the Law because God has changed their hearts? Paul will explain this in verses 28 and 29, where he says that being a true Jew which means, one who is in right relationship with God is not a matter of external circumcision, but of internal circumcision of the heart, brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Those who have the Spirit are empowered to observe the law , but one only receives the Spirit by believing in Jesus, whom God has set forth as a propitiation for sin But they wrongly were concerned more about outward matters than about their hearts before God. As Jesus said Matt. Reality with God is a matter of the Holy Spirit changing your heart, not of your performing religious rituals.

Paul uses four somewhat overlapping contrasts to drive home this point: 1 not outward, but inward; 2 not the flesh, but the heart; 3 not the letter, but the Spirit; and, 4 praise not from men, but from God. God looks on the heart. You can impress people with polished prayers, powerful sermons, generous gifts to the church, and all sorts of religious activities. What was your motive when you did those things? And, what kinds of thoughts were you entertaining? In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul instructed this early Christian congregation on the sharing of the Lord's Supper and explained the reason for the sacrament:.

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.


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  • Aetherium, Book 7: Twilight of the Immortals.
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