Romans 2:25
For circumcision truly profits, if you keep the law: but if you be a breaker of the law, your circumcision is made uncircumcision.
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(25-29) This section forms a connecting-link with the opening of the next chapter. “The characteristic mark and badge of the Jew has two sides, the one outward and formal, the other inward and real. Its essence consists in the latter, and without this inward circumcision the outward profits nothing. It is not necessary to be born a Jew to possess it.” Precisely the same language might be applied to the Christian sacraments, or to the privileges of any particular communion. Privileges they may be, but they depend for their efficacy entirely upon the disposition of the heart which underlies them.

(25) Is made.Is become,ipso facto, “is reduced to the case of.”

Romans 2:25-27. For circumcision verily profiteth — He does not say justifieth. How far it profited is shown in the third and fourth chapters: if thou keep the law — Here, as in many other passages, the apostle speaks to the thoughts of the Jewish readers. They fancied that circumcision, by showing that they were descended from Abraham, and were members of God’s covenant, would ensure their salvation, though they were ever so wicked. But the apostle tells them their circumcision would avail them only if they practised the law; that is, performed the things required in the covenant with Abraham; (see Romans 2:12;) in which case, as the seal of that covenant, it would give them assurance of salvation. But, if they did not perform the precepts of that covenant, their circumcision would be of no use to them. If thou be a breaker of the law — Living in known sin, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision — Is so already in effect. Thou wilt have no more benefit by it than if thou hadst never received it. The very same observation holds with regard to baptism. Therefore, &c. — As if he had said, Since the stress of all lies upon keeping the law, therefore, if the uncircumcision — That is, a person uncircumcised; keep the righteousness of the law — Walk agreeably to it; shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision — In the sight of God? He shall be accounted a Jew spiritually, (Romans 2:29,) and accepted of God, rather than you carnal Jews, who continue to live in sin, and boast of your circumcision. The expression, τα δικαιωματα του νομου, rendered, the righteousness of the law, is in the plural number, and rendered by Locke, the rectitude of the law; considering Paul as using it “for all those precepts of the law which contain in them any part of the natural and eternal rule of rectitude, which is made known to men by the light of reason: a rule of their actions, which all mankind, uncircumcised as well as circumcised, had, and is that which (Romans 1:32) Paul calls δικαιωμα του θεου, [rendered there, the judgment of God,] because it came from God, and was made by him the moral rule to all mankind, being laid within the discovery of their reason. And this rule of morality Paul says the Gentile world did acknowledge.” Doddridge renders the expression, the righteous determinations of the law; and Macknight, the precepts of the law; referring to the above-quoted expression, Romans 1:32, which he considers as signifying the law of God written on men’s hearts; or, as he here terms it: the law of faith, “the precepts of which,” he says, “the Gentiles may both know and keep. For the light of natural reason dictates its two great precepts, namely, that men should believe in God, and obey him from love. Further, the precepts of this law are very properly expressed by words which literally signify righteousness of the law, because they who keep them are accounted righteous in the sight of God; that is, are treated by God as righteous persons for the sake of Christ.” And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature — Those who are, literally speaking, uncircumcised. “The words, by nature, are added by the apostle to show that he is speaking of persons without revelation, and not of the converted Gentiles, nor of those who should hereafter be converted:” if it fulfil the law, That is, as to the substance of it, namely, the law of faith above mentioned. “For though the Gentiles were ignorant of the covenant that was made at the fall, and of its promises, they might both know and perform its requisitions, Romans 2:6-7. Accordingly, many of the Gentiles believed in the true God, and obeyed him from a principle of faith and love.” Judge thee — Condemn thee by his example, and make thy condemnation appear to be just, in that thou hast more helps and advantages, and yet performest less duty: who by the letter and circumcision — By trusting so much to thy having the law in writing, and to thy being circumcised, as if these things were sufficient to save thee: or by trusting to the outward privilege of circumcision, which thou partakest of according to the letter of the law, but wantest the internal and spiritual part thereof. Dost transgress the law — Takest liberty thereupon to indulge thyself securely in sin, as if these things would preserve thee from punishment. The judgment which the Gentiles, who fulfil the law, are here said to pass on the wicked Jews, is the same with that which the Jews are said, Romans 2:1, to pass on the wicked Gentiles; namely, that they are worthy of death. But they passed this judgment on the Jews with much more reason than the Jews passed it on them; because, while they condemned the Gentiles, they expected to be saved themselves, though guilty of the very same crimes, abusing far greater privileges, and breaking through much stronger obligations.2:25-29 No forms, ordinances, or notions can profit, without regenerating grace, which will always lead to seeking an interest in the righteousness of God by faith. For he is no more a Christian now, than he was really a Jew of old, who is only one outwardly: neither is that baptism, which is outward in the flesh: but he is the real Christian, who is inwardly a true believer, with an obedient faith. And the true baptism is that of the heart, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Ghost; bringing a spiritual frame of mind, and a willing following of truth in its holy ways. Let us pray that we may be made real Christians, not outwardly, but inwardly; in the heart and spirit, not in the letter; baptized, not with water only, but with the Holy Ghost; and let our praise be, not of men, but of God.For circumcision - John 7:22 note; Acts 7:8 note. This was the special rite by which the relation to the covenant of Abraham was recognised; or by which the right to all the privileges of a member of the Jewish commonwealth was acknowledged. The Jews of course affixed a high importance to the rite.

Verily profiteth - Is truly a benefit; or is an advantage. The meaning is, that their being recognised as members of the Jewish commonwealth, and introduced to the privileges of the Jew, was an advantage; see Romans 3:1-2. The apostle was not disposed to deny that they possessed this advantage, but he tells them why it was a benefit, and how it might fail of conferring any favor.

If thou keep the law - The mere sign can be of no value, The mere fact of being a Jew is not what God requires. It may be a favor to have his Law, but the mere possession of the Law cannot entitle to the favor of God. So it is a privilege to be born in a Christian land; to have had pious parents; to be amidst the ordinances of religion; to be trained in Sundayschools; and to be devoted to God in baptism: for all these are favorable circumstances for salvation. But none of them entitle to the favor of God; and unless they are improved as they should be, they may be only the means of increasing our condemnation; 2 Corinthians 2:16.

Thy circumcision is made uncircumcision - Thy circumcision, or thy being called a Jew, is of no value. It will not distinguish you from those who are not circumcised. You will be treated as a pagan. No external advantages, no name, or rite, or ceremony will save you. God requires the obedience of the heart and of the life. Where there is a disposition to render that, there is an advantage in possessing the external means of grace. Where that is missing, no rite or profession can save. This applies with as much force to those who have been baptized in infancy, and to those who have made a profession of religion in a Christian church, as to the Jew.

25-29. For circumcision—that is, One's being within the covenant of which circumcision was the outward sign and seal.

verily profiteth, if thou keep the law—if the inward reality correspond to the outward sign.

but if, &c.—that is, "Otherwise, thou art no better than the uncircumcised heathen."

The Jews might object: If the former privileges availed not to righteousness and salvation, yet circumcision at least might stand them in some stead. In answer whereunto you have,

1. A concession; circumcision indeed is profitable.

2. A limitation; if thou keep the law; which is illustrated by a large antithesis, Romans 2:26,27.

3. A distinction; circumcision is of two sorts, outward and literal; inward and spiritual; the latter stands in force, and hath acceptation with God, Romans 2:28,29.

If thou keep the law; if thou keep it perfectly, to which circumcision obligeth, Galatians 5:3; or if thou use thy utmost care and endeavour so to do.

But if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision; i.e. if otherwise thou transgress the law, thy circumcision avails thee nothing, it gives thee no privilege above the uncircumcised. A wicked Jew is to God as an Ethiopian, Amos 9:7. The apostle corrects the carnal confidence and hypocrisy of the Jews, who valued themselves upon the account of this outward ceremony, and thought it sufficient to be circumcised in the flesh. Some think the apostle hath respect in these words to the time of the law, whilst circumcision was an ordinary sacrament of the covenant; then indeed it was profitable and available; but now, in the times of the gospel, it is abrogated: see Galatians 5:2,6. For circumcision verily profiteth,.... The plea from circumcision in favour of the Jews, and their acceptance with God, and justification before him, is here, and in the following verses, considered. The apostle allows that circumcision was profitable; which must be understood whilst it was in force, before the abrogation of it, for since, it is not profitable but pernicious; and then it was only profitable, in case the law was kept:

if thou keepest the law; that is, perfectly; for circumcision obliged persons to keep the whole law. Now the circumcised Jews did not keep it in such sense; wherefore circumcision was of no use to them, but, on the contrary, was an handwriting against them.

But if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision; that is, it is not accounted circumcision; it is of no avail; such a man was all one as an uncircumcised Gentile, and appeared to be uncircumcised in a spiritual sense: the apostle perhaps alludes to a practice among some of the Jews, to bring on and draw over the foreskin, after they had been circumcised; See Gill on 1 Corinthians 7:18.

{9} For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

(9) He precisely prevents their objection, who set a holiness in circumcision, and the outward observation of the law: so that he shows that the outward circumcision, if it is separated from the inward, does not justify, and also condemns those who are indeed circumcised, of whom it is required that they fulfil that which circumcision signifies, that is to say, cleanness of the heart and the whole life according to the commandment of the law, so that if there is a man uncircumcised according to the flesh, who is circumcised in heart, he is far better and to be more regarded than any Jew that is circumcised according to the flesh only.

Romans 2:25. Having in Romans 2:17-24 (not merely taken for granted, but) thrown a bright light of illumination on the culpability of the Jews in presence of the law, Paul now briefly and decisively dissipates the fancy of a special advantage, of which they were assured through circumcision. “For circumcision indeed, the advantage of which thou mightest perchance urge against this condemnation, is useful, if thou doest the law; but if thou art a transgressor of the law, thou hast as circumcised no advantage over the uncircumcised.”

γάρ therefore annexes a corroboration of the closing result of Romans 2:23-24, and does so by excluding every advantage, which the Jew transgressing the law might fancy himself possessed of, as compared with the Gentile, in virtue of circumcision. Stat sententia! in spite of thy circumcision! Hofmann is the less justified, however, in taking the μέν elliptically, with the suppression of its antithesis (Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 414, and generally Baeumlein, Part. p. 163), since against its correspondence with the immediately following δέ no well-founded logical objection exists.

περιτομή] circumcision, without the article. It is not however, with Köllner and many others, to be taken as a description of Judaism generally; but definitely and specially of circumcision, to which sacrifice of the body—consecrating men to membership of the people of God (Ewald, Alterth. p. 127), and meant to be accompanied by the inner consecration of moral holiness (see on Romans 2:28)—the theocratic Jewish conceit attributed the absolute value of a service rendering them holy and appropriating the Abrahamic promises.

ὠφελεῖ] seeing that it transfers into the communion of all blessings and promises conferred by God on His covenant people; which blessings and promises, however, are attached to the observance of His law as their condition (Genesis 17:1 ff.; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 5:3), so that circumcision points at the same time to the new covenant, and becomes a sign and seal of the righteousness that is by faith (see on Romans 4:11). This however the Apostle has not yet in view here.

ἐὰν νόμ. κ.τ.λ[707]] Not on the presupposition that, but rather, as also the two following ἐάν: in the case that, Winer, p. 275 [E. T. 366].

ἀκροβυστία γέγονεν] Has become עָרְלָה, has lost, for thee, every advantage which it was designed to secure to thee over the uncircumcised, so that thou hast now no advantage over the latter, and art, just as he is, no member of God’s people. Paul conceives of the latter as a holy people, like the invisible church of God, in which the mortua membra of the people have no part. The same idea is illustrated concretely by R. Berechias in Schemoth Rabb. f. 138, 13 : “Ne haeretici et apostatae et impii ex Israelitis dicant: Quandoquidem circumcisi sumus, in infernum non descendimus. Quid agit Deus S. B.? Mittit angelum et praeputia eorum attrahit, ita ut ipsi in infernum descendant.” See other similar passages in Eisenmenger’s entdeckt. Judenth, II. p. 339 f.

γέγονεν] Present of the completed action; Romans 7:2; Romans 14:23; John 20:23. It is the emergent ethical result, which takes place.

[707] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.Romans 2:25. περιτομή: the absence of the article suggests that the argument may be extended to everything of the same character as circumcision. ὠφελεῖ: Circumcision was the seal of the covenant, and as such an assurance given to the circumcised man that he belonged to the race which was the heir of God’s promises. That was undeniably a great advantage, just as it is an advantage now to be born a Christian; but if the actual inheriting of the promises has any moral conditions attached to it (as Paul proceeds to show that it has), then the advantage of circumcision lapses unless these are fulfilled. Now the persons contemplated here have not fulfilled them. ἐὰν νόμον πράσσῃς: the habitual practice of the law is involved in this expression: as Vaughan says, it is almost like a compound word, “if thou be a law doer”. Similarly παραβάτης νόμου a law transgressor. The law, of course, is the Mosaic one, but it is regarded simply in its character as law, not as being definitely this law: hence the absence of the article. γέγονε: by the very fact becomes and remains.25. For circumcision verily profiteth] With this verse a minor section or paragraph begins. The thought is not in. strict sequence with what has just been said, though in full connexion with the same general subject.—“Profiteth:”—for comment on this word, see Romans 3:1. Circumcision was the gate to ample privileges; above all to the familiar knowledge of the written oracles. But these privileges would finally benefit only the personally pious Jew.

if thou keep the law] Lit. if thou do the law. The reference, probably, is not to absolute righteousness (q. d., “if thou act with sinless obedience”), but to practical sincere piety, as contrasted with neglectful or wilful disobedience. The emphasis here is on the destructive effect of this latter. In Galatians 5:2-3, where a widely different error is combated (not native Jewish pride, but Judaical ritualism creeping back amongst Christians), the Apostle emphasizes as he does not here the vast demands of the covenant of circumcision viewed as terms of justification.

is made uncircumcision] The benefits of thy circumcision are as if they had not been.Romans 2:25. Ὠφελεῖ, profiteth) He does not say justifieth; the profit is described chap. 3 and 4 Circumcision was still practised among the (believing) Jews.—ἐὰν, if) Paul not only speaks, using the ad hominem argument [argument on his adversary’s own principles to confute him], but also speaks according to his own sentiments, and shows, that they are deceiving themselves, who are trusting to circumcision, though they have violated the law.—παραβάτης, a transgressor) A word abhorred by a Jew, Romans 2:27.Verses 25, 26. - For circumcision verily profiteth (not justifieth, but only profiteth: it is of advantage, and no unmeaning rite, if thou understandest and carriest out its meaning; it introduces thee into a state of knowledge and opportunity, and certainty of Divine favour), if thou keep the Law: but if thou be a transgressor of the Law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. If therefore the uncircumcision keep the ordinances of the Law, shall not his uncircumcision he counted for circumcision? Here, again, as in vers. 10, 11, 14, 15, the impartiality of God's dealings with all men alike is distinctly declared. Breaker of the law (παραβάτης)

Rev., transgressor. See on James 2:11.

Thy circumcision is made uncircumcision

"But if any citizen be found guilty of any great or unmentionable wrong, either in relation to the gods, or his parents, or the state, let the judge deem him to be incurable, remembering what an education and training he has had from youth upward, and yet has not abstained from the greatest of crimes" (Plato, "Laws," 854).

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