17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely [p]upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and [q]approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a [r]corrector of the foolish, a teacher of [s]the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who [t]preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast [u]in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice [v]the Law; but if you are a transgressor [w]of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So if the [x]uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who [y]though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor [z]of the Law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:17-29
The apostle Paul had an interesting dynamic he was dealing with during the beginning of the church. He had Jews who were coming to faith but who felt they were greater than gentiles because they had the law and the original covenant God established with Abraham. But the point the apostle Paul was making is that having the law means nothing.
The purpose of the law under the Old Covenant is not meant to lead a person to righteousness. The purpose of the law was to reveal man’s need of a savior. The law of God was to govern the nation of Israel and as we see throughout Israel’s history that time and again they failed to keep the law.
A person is considered a law breaker if they break one jot or tittle of the law. It is impossible to perfectly keep the law. We who are born into sin are not able to keep the law because our sin nature leads us to sin and to break the law. There was only one who was able to perfectly keep the law and that was Jesus Himself.
Jesus stated that He did not come to break the law, but He came to fulfill it. Through perfectly fulfilling the law Jesus would become the ultimate sacrifice for humanity by giving His life. This is why John the Baptist calls Him the Lamb of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The sacrifices of the Old Covenant all pointed to the sacrifice that Jesus would make. When we study the Old Testament through understanding who Jesus is we see that everything points to Jesus. Jesus is the center of all things. This is why the gospels are in the middle of God’s word. Everything before and everything after simply points to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and resurrection at Calvary.
The apostle Paul is trying to get Jewish Christians to understand that physical circumcision means absolutely nothing when it comes to being righteous before God. Circumcision was giving to Abraham by God and it distinguished the nation of Israel from all the other gentile nations.
But the mistake many early Jewish believers were making is they were putting their trust in the law and circumcision. Circumcision of the heart is what truly matters and this is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are circumcised we come to a place of true repentance and the Holy Spirit begins to transform us from the inside out.
The bottom line is that our faith and trust is not in our ability nor our performance. Our faith and trust is built upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the focus of all things and it is because of Him alone that we are righteous before God. We can always go boldly before our Father in Heaven simply because of our faith in Jesus. Yes we may fall short at times, but our standing before our Father in Heaven does not change. This is why the gospel message is so powerful. God has freely offered us salvation, though it cost Him a great deal, He has offered it freely to us to any who would place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.