Rom 2:25-27 “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?”
Paul makes a very clear and direct point here to his Jewish audience. They could be circumcised in the flesh and bear the outward mark of the law covenant. Bearing the outward mark did not make them keepers of the law. If they broke the law, then that outward mark was hypocrisy and they were no different than Gentiles who did not have the law.
This was a very hard message for the Jews to hear, because they trusted heavily in their interpretation of the law and prophets. In their mind, it was the law (more than God) that made them a special treasure. While they gave lip service to God, their heart was far from Him. They trusted in their own righteousness by the letter of the law.
Paul also pointed out another hard lesson for the Jews to hear. If those who had not received the token of the covenant in the flesh (Gentiles) walked righteously, then they were accounted as being the circumcision. Under the law, the Jews felt that Gentiles were beneath their consideration. It had to be very difficult to hear from Paul that the uncircumcision (Gentiles) who kept the law by the love of God in their hearts were more righteous than the circumcision (Jews) who were trusting in their own strength instead of relying on God.
Simply put, there were those Gentiles who kept the law of righteousness because of the love of God in their hearts. The Jews, who had the word of the law and the token of the law, had perverted the law for their own ends. They assumed they were righteous because of what they knew. Paul said righteousness was in putting into action the teaching of the law.
We might think “what does that have to do with us?” Like the Jews and circumcision, we may assume that joining the church automatically makes us righteous (or at least more so then those who have not). We may assume that baptism puts us in a position to judge others. However, unless we are living life through the mind of Christ, these gestures are as empty as physical circumcision.
Righteousness is not about some outward display on our part. Righteousness comes from knowing that we have no righteousness outside of Jesus Christ. Joining the church and then continuing to live life like we did before condemns us. Those who have never joined the church but live humbly before God judge us who trust in our own strength and not the other way around.
May we humble ourselves before God, confess our sins, and seek after His righteousness instead of trusting in outward appearances!