By David Baumann
A Reading from Romans 2:25-3:8
25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you are a transgressor of the law your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if the uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then the physically uncircumcised person who keeps the law will judge you who, though having the written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not the written code. Such a person receives praise not from humans but from God.
1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although every human is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
“So that you may be justified in your words
and you will prevail when you go to trial.”
5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their judgment is deserved!
9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all, for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who has understanding;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness;
there is not even one.”
13 “Their throats are opened graves;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of vipers is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery are in their paths,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
If it is “doing” the law by which one pleases God, whether one knows the law (Jews) or doesn’t know the law (Gentiles), and if a person is a “true” Jew (i.e., one who does the law) “inwardly,” because “circumcision is a matter of the heart” and “spiritual, not literal” — then what advantage do the original holders of God’s law have?
Well, as we saw in yesterday’s lesson, the one who has the revelation from God, has a responsibility to be “a guide to the blind.” As Paul recites the advantage that the Jew has over the Gentile, we see that the advantage is to be the first entrusted with the favor and oracles of God — the root system by which God’s plan is generated and his love spread in the world. The favored people of Israel received and hold the revelations that God gave, and not for themselves alone, but on behalf of all the nations.
Underneath it all we see God’s sovereign power and invincible love dedicated to the redemption of the world — as we saw earlier this week “to the Jew first but also to the Gentile.” And this is the point. God’s plan unfolds for his people, his purpose is not thwarted, and his promises are faithful and lasting. However his stewards succeed or fail — Jew or Gentile — “let God be proved true” in every circumstance.
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Maine
Church of the Holy Faith, Santa Fe, N.M.