Romans 2:26
Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
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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.Therefore, if the uncircumcision - If those who are not circumcised, that is, the pagan.

Keep the righteousness of the law - Keep what the Law of Moses commands. It could not be supposed that a pagan would understand the requirements of the ceremonial law; but reference is had here to the moral law. The apostle does not expressly affirm that this was ever done; but he supposes the case, to show the true nature and value of the rites of the Jews.

Shall not his uncircumcision - Or, shall the fact that he is uncircumcised stand in the way of the acceptance of his services? Or, shall he not as certainly and as readily be accepted by God as if he were a Jew? Or in other words, the apostle teaches the doctrine that acceptance with God does not depend on a man's external privileges, but on the state of the heart and life.

Be counted for circumcision - Shall he not be treated as if he were circumcised? Shall his being uncircumcised be any barrier in the way of his acceptance with God? The word rendered "be counted," is what is commonly rendered "to reckon, to impute"; and its use here shows that the Scripture use of the word is not to transfer, or to charge with what is not deserved, or not true. It means simply that a man shall be treated as if it were so; that this lack of circumcision shall be no bar to acceptance. There is nothing set over to his account; nothing transferred; nothing reckoned different from what it is. God judges things as they are; and as the man, though uncircumcised, who keeps the Law, ought to be treated as if he had been circumcised, so he who believes in Christ agreeably to the divine promise, and trusts to his merits alone for salvation, ought to be treated as if he were himself righteous, God judges the thing as it is, and treats people as it is proper to treat them, as being pardoned and accepted through his Son.

26. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the … law, &c.—Two mistaken interpretations, we think, are given of these words: First, that the case here supposed is an impossible one, and put merely for illustration [Haldane, Chalmers, Hodge]; second that it is the case of the heathen who may and do please God when they act, as has been and is done, up to the light of nature [Grotius, Olshausen, &c.]. The first interpretation is, in our judgment, unnatural; the second, opposed to the apostle's own teaching. But the case here put is, we think, such as that of Cornelius (Ac 10:1-48), who, though outside the external pale of God's covenant, yet having come to the knowledge of the truths contained in it, do manifest the grace of the covenant without the seal of it, and exemplify the character and walk of Abraham's children, though not called by the name of Abraham. Thus, this is but another way of announcing that God was about to show the insufficiency of the mere badge of the Abrahamic covenant, by calling from among the Gentiles a seed of Abraham that had never received the seal of circumcision (see on [2184]Ga 5:6); and this interpretation is confirmed by all that follows. The uncircumcision; i.e. the uncircumcised; a figurative and frequent way of speaking: see Romans 3:30 4:9.

Keep the righteousness of the law; which none of them ever did; but admit they could, or else, which some of them have done, in sincerity, though with manifold imperfections; such as the two centurions, one of which is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, the other in the Acts: if in this sense the uncircumcised keep the righteousness of the law, shall they not be all one in the account of God as if they were circumcised? See Romans 4:10.

Therefore if the uncircumcision keep,.... These words are spoken hypothetically; if any such persons could be found among the Gentiles who keep the whole law of God; and can only be absolutely understood of such, who from a principle of grace act in obedience to the law; as in the hands of Christ, and who look to Christ as the fulfilling end of it, for righteousness; in whom they keep

the righteousness of the law perfectly:

shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? by this question it is suggested, that an uncircumcised Gentile, who keeps the law as in the hands of Christ, and under the influences of his Spirit and grace, and keeps it in Christ, is reckoned a circumcised person in a spiritual sense, and must be preferable to a circumcised Jew that breaks it.

Therefore if the {q} uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his {r} uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

(q) This is the figure of speech metonymy, and means uncircumcised.

(r) The state and condition of the uncircumcised.

Romans 2:26. Interrogative inference of the corresponding inverse relation, drawn from Romans 2:25.

ἡ ἀκροβυστία αὐτοῦ] referring to the concrete ἀκρόβυστος understood in the previous ἀκροβυστία. See Winer, p. 138 [E. T. 182].

τὰ δικαιώματα τ. νόμου φυλ.] The same as τὰ τοῦ νόμου ποιεῖν in Romans 2:14, as also the following τ. νόμον τελοῦσα of Romans 2:27.[708] A “perfect, deep inner” fulfilment of the law (Philippi), is a gratuitous suggestion, since there is no modal definition appended. Paul means the observance of the Mosaic legal precepts (respecting δικαιώματα comp on Romans 1:32 and Romans 5:16), which in point of fact takes place when the Gentile obeys the moral law of nature, Romans 2:14 f.

ΕἸς ΠΕΡΙΤ. ΛΟΓΙΣΘΉΣΕΤΑΙ] will be reckoned as circumcision (εἰς in the sense of the result; see Romans 9:8; Acts 19:27; Isaiah 40:17; Wis 9:6; Theile, a[710] Jac. p. 138). The future is not that of the logical certainty (Mehring and older expositors), or of the result (Hofmann), which latter sense would be involved in a form of expression corresponding to the γέγονε; but the glance of the Apostle extends (see Romans 2:27) to the last judgment. To the uncircumcised person, who observes what the law has ordained, i.e. the moral precepts of the law, shall one day be awarded the same salvation that God has destined, subject to the obligation of fulfilment of the law, for those who through circumcision are members of His people. As to the thought comp Matthew 8:11; Matthew 3:9; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6. The reference to proselytes of the gate (Philippi) is not only arbitrary, but also incorrect, because the text has in view the pure contrast between circumcision and uncircumcision, without any hint of an intermediate stage or anything analogous thereto. The proposition is to be retained in its unlimited expression. The mediation, however, which has to intervene for the circumcised as well as for the uncircumcised, in order to the procuring of salvation through faith, is still left unnoticed here, and is reserved for the subsequent teaching of the Epistle. See especially ch. 4.

[708] τὸν νόμον τελεῖν means, as in Jam 2:8, to bring the law into execution. It is only distinguished from φύλασσειν and τηρεῖν νόμον by its representing the same thing on its practical side, so far as the law is accomplished by the action which the law demands. Comp. Plat. Legg. xi. p. 926 A, xii. p. 958 D; Xen. Cyr. viii. 1, 1; Soph. Aj. 528; Lucian. d. Morte Peregr. 33. On the whole, τελεῖν frequently answers to the idea patrare, facere. (Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 804.)

[710] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

Romans 2:26 f. Here the inference is drawn from the principle laid down in Romans 2:25. This being so, Paul argues, if the uncircumcision maintain the just requirements of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be accounted circumcision, sc., because it has really done what circumcision pledged the Jew to do? Cf. Galatians 5:3. ἡ ἀκροβυστία at the beginning of the verse is equivalent to the Gentiles (ἔθνη of Romans 2:14), the abstract being put for the concrete: in ἡ ἀκροβυστία αὐτοῦ, the αὐτοῦ individualises a person who is conceived as keeping the law, though not circumcised. As he has done what circumcision bound the Jew to do, he will be treated as if in the Jew’s position: his uncircumcision will be reckoned as circumcision. λογισθήσεται may be merely a logical future, but like the other futures in Romans 2:12-16 it is probably more correct to refer it to what will take place at the last judgment. The order of the words in Romans 2:27 indicates that the question is not continued: “and thus the uncircumcision shall judge thee,” etc. κρινεῖ is emphatic by position: the Jew, in the case supposed, is so far from being able to assert a superiority to the Gentile that the Gentile himself will be his condemnation. Cf. Matthew 12:41 f. ἡ ἐκ φύσεως ἀκροβυστία should properly convey one idea—“those who are by nature uncircumcised”. But why should nature be mentioned at all in this connection? It seems arbitrary to say with Hofmann that it is referred to in order to suggest that uncircumcision is what the Gentile is born in, and therefore involves no guilt. As far as that goes, Jew and Gentile are alike. Hence in spite of the grammatical irregularity, which in any case is not too great for a nervous writer like Paul, I prefer to connect ἐκ φύσεως, as Burnes does (Moods and Tenses, § 427), with τελοῦσα, and to render: “the uncircumcision which by nature fulfils the law”: cf. Romans 2:14. τὸν διὰ γράμματος καὶ περιτομῆς παραβάτην νόμου. The διὰ is that which describes the circumstances under which, or the accompaniment to which, anything is done. The Jew is a law-transgressor, in spite of the facts that he possesses a written revelation of God’s will, and bears the seal of the covenant, obliging him to the performance of the law, upon his body. He has an outward standard, which does not vary with his moral condition, like the law written in the pagan’s heart; he has an outward pledge that he belongs to the people of God, to encourage him when he is tempted to indolence or despair; in both these respects he has an immense advantage over the Gentile, yet both are neutralised by this—he is a law-transgressor.

26. Therefore, &c.] St Paul reasons from his last statement, as from what is self-evident to conscience.

the uncircumcision] i.e., probably, “the uncircumcised man;” for see below, “his uncircumcision.” The form of speech is most unusual; such a word as “uncircumcision,” when used personally, almost always referring to a class, not an individual. Perhaps even here it is so used, but then immediately (in the words “his circumcision”) an individual specimen is considered.

keep the righteousness, &c.] See above on Romans 2:25. Here again, practical piety, the will to do God’s revealed will, is in view; not sinless obedience. Cornelius (Acts 10:35) is a case exactly in point. He was not sinless; he needed “saving” (a significant word there); but he “feared God, and worked righteousness,” and the Divine welcome was his.

the righteousness] Better, the ordinances; the special precepts, of whatever kind.

Romans 2:26. Ἡ ἀκροβυστία, uncircumcision) that is, a person uncircumcised, for to this the αὐτοῦ, his, is referred.—λογισθήσεται) The future; shall be counted, by a righteous judgment. In Romans 2:25, γέγονεν, the preterite, implies, is now made.

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