“Is He the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” —Romans 3:29-30
Biblical Christianity is a monotheistic religion; we serve one God who is spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. Yet, although God is one being, that is, in what God is, in His deity God is three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory. The salvation of souls takes place because the Father has decreed it, the Son has secured it, and the Holy Spirit has applied it through God’s Word.
“Circumcision” and “uncircumcision” are New Testament terms that either describe a bodily condition or an ethnic persuasion. Here, it speaks of an ethnic persuasion: the circumcision, being descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; that is to say, the circumcision are Jews or the nation of Israel. The uncircumcision, on the other hand, applies to everyone else; that is to say, they are all non-Jews or all other nations other than Israel.
There is an interesting phrase here which speaks about the one God, our Creator, who has justified Jews by faith and non-Jews through faith. I’ve always been more than a little curious why this has been phrased this way. It uses two distinctly different Greek words: “by faith” (εκ πιστεως) and “through faith” (δια της πιστεως). Some commentators suggest that these two terms basically mean the same thing; and in the spirit and heart of our key theme, “justification by faith,” they do mean the same. In Romans 3:22 we are told that there is no difference or distinction between men as far as their justification by faith in Jesus Christ goes. Philippians 3:9 says,
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”
This may generally note that they are one in the same.
Nevertheless, though I believe that both groups of people are justified by and through faith in Christ, it would seem that the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the distinction in this way, which some other commentators also suggest: that the Jews were born heirs of the promise, whereas the non-Jews were strangers brought into the promise by the sacrifice of Christ. As Ephesians 2:12-13 speaks explicitly of the non-Jews, it implies the other concerning the Jews:
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
Although some preachers, commentators and expositors express this view, they don’t give a reason for it being here. My question is, “Why would the Holy Spirit want this known?”
I believe it is given for our humility as we work out in our own understanding the law of faith. You see, the Jew has nothing to boast about in his being a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because the righteousness of God is manifest in Jesus Christ apart from any attempts to keep the Law of Moses. They are justified by faith according to God’s marvelous and amazing grace. Likewise, the non-Jew has nothing to boast about in suggesting that he is special because he received God’s grace apart from the Law and Covenants. They, too, are justified by grace through faith. Therefore, both groups must humbly bow to the law of faith for there was nothing in any individual that allows him to attain or maintain salvation. Let me paraphrase the heart of this verse:
“Jews, are you saved by God’s grace? Good, then don’t boast that you had something others didn’t have because you had to be given faith by God, just as any other man. Gentiles, are you saved by God’s grace? Good, then don’t boast in Romans 2:29, saying that you are a Jew because you are ‘one inwardly [because] circumcision is that of the heart, in spirit…’”
We have always that blessed reminder in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Read the previous article in this series, “A Faithful Conclusion” (Romans 3:28).