Summary: A religious person usually feels that he has a special standing before God, not only because of his intellectual assent to certain beliefs, but also because he keeps the ordinances, the rites, and the rituals of that religion. Paul shows in this passage t
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PASSAGE:
A railroad yardmaster called the telephone daily at exactly 11:45 to verify the time. After years of this ritual, the operator asked the yardmaster, "Why do you call each day at exactly the same time?" His reply, "I take my responsibilities very seriously, I call to be certain I blow the 12:00 whistle exactly at 12:00!" The operator’s retort was, "How coincidental, I set my clock everyday by your 12:00 whistle!!" (Dennis Clark - Sermon Central)
A religious person usually feels that he has a special standing before God, not only because of his intellectual assent to certain beliefs, but also because he keeps the ordinances, the rites, and the rituals of that religion. Paul shows in this passage that mere rituals will gain no favor in God’s sight. Like so many in churches today who consider themselves members of God’s family because of their baptism, the Jew thought his circumcision gave him special status with God.
The value of any divinely authorized ritual is directly related to the law that God has given. “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision” (v. 25). In other words, no outward ceremonial act can have any value if it is not related in some way to a dynamic, personal, Scriptural, and spiritual experience.
A man who doesn’t practice any rituals may be more righteous than a man who is devoted to them (vv. 26,27). Paul’s argument is simply that if a religious person doesn’t live by the clear teaching of the Word of God, in effect he cancels everything for which the divinely given ritual stands. Paul is not saying that a divinely appointed ritual is without value. He is saying that the value is limited by the condition of a person’s heart.
It seems that it is easier for us to be satisfied with trying to keep the letter of the law, and to ignore its deep spiritual implications. However God looks on the heart and not on the outward appearance. The truth of the matter is that the mere rite of circumcision did not make a man a Jew. Today, when Jewish boys become thirteen they go through a ceremony known as bar mitzvah. At that time in life they are believed to have reached the age of responsibility and religious duty. However, performing the ceremony of bar mitzvah does not make a man out of a boy.
Attending church, being baptized, or being accepted for membership does not make me a Christian, just as submitting for circumcision was not enough for the Jew. God wants my heartfelt devotion and obedience to Him and to His word.