Pastor James J. Barker

Text: ROMANS 2:17-29


  1. Circumcision was a token of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. It was much like a wedding ring is a token of marriage. A man could be circumcised and live like a heathen, just like a married man can wear a wedding ring and be an adulterer. So circumcision in itself could not make a man a better Jew, any more than wearing a wedding ring makes a man a better husband or getting baptized makes one a better Christian. In fact, many people think they’re saved because they were baptized.
  2. Whenever you see the word "uncircumcision" in the Bible (2:25-27), Paul is referring to Gentiles, those who were not circumcised because they were not part of the covenant God made with Israel.
  3. We are speaking here of circumcision in the context of God’s covenant with Israel. Paul is talking about the Jews (2:17ff). Many Gentiles get circumcised today for health reasons or other reasons, but this has nothing to do with what Paul is teaching here in Romans 2.
  4. Circumcision was a physical mark upon Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gen. 17:10-14).
  5. Circumcision was "a token of the covenant" between God and the descendants of Abraham (17:11), specifically the Jews.
  6. This was a serious matter, so serious that if a man neglected to be circumcised, or neglected to have his son circumcised, "that soul shall be cut off" (17:14).
  7. We see this in the life of Moses. Moses was a Jew who married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, a Midianite. Moses was not careful to have his son circumcised; therefore God nearly killed him (Ex. 4:24-26).
  8. The key verse in our passage is found at the end of Romans 2. We are going to look at what Paul calls the circumcision "of the heart" (2:29).



    1. Many people profess to be religious, whether they be Jew or Muslim, Catholic or Protestant or Baptist or Adventist, JW, Mason, Mormon, what have you. This old world is full of religion. And this world always will be religious. The book of Revelation tells us that there will be plenty of religion during the tribulation period, and that the whole world will worship the antichrist and the devil (Rev. 13).
    2. Now in Romans 2:17 and following, Paul is dealing specifically with the Jews. Many Jews are religious. In my neighborhood there are many religious Jews, and they have many conflicts with the irreligious Jews. And the same thing is happening today in Israel.
    3. In fact, the Orthodox Jews have a very bad reputation (Pharisees).
    4. Before he was converted to Christ, Paul was a very religious Jew. He was also lost and on his way to hell (Phil. 3:5-9).
    5. The Jews had great privileges. "To them were committed the oracles of God" (Rom. 3:1,2). This made the Jews rather boastful (2:17). They were the ones instructing those "in darkness," guiding the (spiritually) "blind," instructing "the foolish" (2:18-20).
    6. But with these great privileges come great responsibilities (2:21-23). This principle is found all throughout the Bible (James 3:1; Matt. 11:20-24).
    7. Once again Paul warns of the danger of insincerity, inconsistency, and hypocrisy (2:21-24; cf. 2:1).
    8. Nothing turns unsaved people away from the Gospel faster than religious hypocrites (2:24). "As it is written…" (II Sam. 12:14). It should be noted, that even today – 3,000 years after David committed adultery with Bathsheba – unbelievers like to bring this up. It brings them comfort but it shouldn’t. David suffered greatly for the rest of his life. The baby died. Then Amnon raped Tamar. Then Absalom killed Amnon. Then Absalom tried to take the kingdom away from David. And on and on it went.



    1. Paul goes on to say that keeping religious rules and rituals (such as circumcision) cannot save anyone (2:25). This is the great theme of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians (cf. Gal. 5:1-12).
    2. An application can be made here in regards to infant baptism. Millions of lost souls are on their merry way to hell believing they are Christian because some priest sprinkled them when they were babies. This is one of Satan’s greatest deceptions.
    3. Any rite or ordinance can only be meaningful insofar as it is the outward expression of an inward experience. No outward ceremonial act can have any value if it is not related in some way to a genuine spiritual experience that is dynamic, personal, and scriptural.
    4. To be circumcised in the heart means to be walking in the Spirit. Those who try to please God by keeping the law are not walking in the Spirit, but are walking in the flesh (Gal. 6:12-15; Phil. 3:2-6).
    5. It is this contrast between the circumcision made with hands, and the circumcision made without hands that is one of the marks of Paul’s epistles.



    1. Circumcision is physical and visible. I was reading a book by Donald Grey Barnhouse, and he said that before WWII, Nazi soldiers would check men to see if they had been circumcised before killing them.
    2. But circumcision also had a deeply spiritual meaning, which can be properly understood by comparing Scripture with Scripture (Rom. 2:29; cf. Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; Jer. 9:26; Ezek. 44:7,9).
    3. It is this spiritual meaning that Paul deals with here and elsewhere (Rom. 2:29; cf. 4:9-12; Col. 2:11-13).
    4. If Romans 2:25-27 is difficult to understand, perhaps an example from the book of Acts may help to illustrate. Cornelius was a Gentile. He was "uncircumcised." Yet he was walking in the light God gave him and God saved him. On the other hand, the religious Jews, those who had been circumcised, hated Jesus and persecuted His followers.


  1. Have you received this invisible "circumcision of the heart"?
  2. I referred to Dr. Barnhouse’s comments on circumcision. His chapter on this passage is very good. He concludes with these words: "May we accept the knife that circumcises our hearts. May we be willing today to have God cut deep into our being."

| Customized by Jun Gapuz |