|Dr. Couch, what is a "real" or "true" Jew, as mentioned by some translations (such as the RSV) on Romans 2:28-29? It would seem to me that a Jew is a Jew, and all Jews would be real or true by birth.|
ANSWER: The translators of the NAS do not add the words "real" or "true" to the passage. It simply reads: "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not be the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God."
The amillennial and covenant theologians wrongly think that Paul is saying that God is finished with the Jews as a people. But, they argue, that Gentiles are now Jews in spirit and have replaced Israel as the people of God.
But they completely miss Paul's point. This entire section begins with verse 17 where we see Paul is addressing the Jewish people. He starts off: "But if you bear the name Jew, and rely upon the Law and boast in God, ..." Paul continues the "You Jews ..." through almost the entire section. "You who boast in the Law ..." "Circumcision is of value, if you ..." Paul continues his argument though he changes to the third person from verses 27-29, but his point is the same.
The Jews were trying to say they were favored with God simply because they were Jews by birth. This is not true. They had to be "believing Jews," as Jews who were trusting in God, and, who were embracing Christ when they realized that He was their Messiah, and that He had died for their sins. Otherwise, simply being a Jew by birth, and being circumcised as a Jew, meant nothing!
Circumcision was of value if they kept the Law. If they did not keep the Law, but were transgressors, then "your circumcision meant nothing … it became uncircumcision" (v. 25). The physical Jew had to be a believing Jew, "one inwardly" (v. 29) and one who was circumcised in the heart not simply outwardly.
God still has promises and plans for the physical Jew, the one who is of the generation of Jews. But too, they had to be believing Jews, if not, they were not saved. There are still advantages for the people of Israel (3:1-2) but if they do not trust God "their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?" (v. 3). No, of course not! "May it never be!" (v. 4).
Paul makes an important and final point on the subject in 11:28. "From the standpoint of the gospel they (the Jews) are enemies (the Jews) for your sake (the Gentiles), but from the standpoint of God's choice (His election) they (the Jews) are beloved (in His eyes) for the sake of the (Patriarchal) fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob); for the gifts (of God) and (His) calling (His election) are irrevocable (unchangeable)."
God has called forth the Jews for His purposes and He will not go back on His promises!
Woodrow Kroll adds:
"Paul says that two things are necessary to be truly Jewish: (1) to be born of Abraham through Isaac (that circumcision that is outward in the flesh); and (2) to be spiritually in tune with Abraham's God (that circumcision that is inward in the heart or spirit). As the apostle Paul is using the word, no one can claim to be Jewish who is not born of Abraham through his son Isaac. But to the requirement of the circumcision of the heart. … The only true Jew is one who is a Jew by race and a believer by God's grace. Thus Paul concludes that mere physical birth alone cannot make a Jew righteous." (Mal Couch, gen. ed. The Book of Romans. Woodrow Kroll. AMG, 35-36)
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch