26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?
The opposite of verse 25 is also true. This verse (26) is an inference from verse 25.
if [hypothetical] an uncircumcised [Gentile] man keeps [observes] the righteous [just] requirements [precepts] of the law,
“If”— This verse is a hypothetical calculation. One scheme flows from the other; if circumcision is in itself nothing, its existence does not save and its absence does not invalidate salvation. Gentile keeping of the requirements of the law was a hypothetical case (third class condition in the Greek). Although Gentiles were outside the pale of God’s covenant, they came to the truth found in it. There was, therefore, insufficiency in the badge of circumcision.
The word “requirements” or precepts is what the Bible prescribes as right. The argument is not that the Gentiles should keep the law; it is merely hypothetical and designed to demonstrate that everything depends on application of God’s revelation to experience. That is, the “law” here refers to Scripture in general. Circumcision can never justify or condemn.
The point of verse 26 is simply to show that the inconsistency of the Jew in not keeping the principles of Scripture is the counterpoint to the Gentiles who keep those principles. He argued this further in the next verse.
will not his uncircumcision be counted [calculated] as circumcision?
God will calculate or regard Gentiles as though they were circumcised if they apply truth to experience. Under this hypothesis, uncircumcision is hypothetically regarded through consistent argument as circumcision.
And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills [bring to an end] the law [Scripture], judge you who, even with your written code [the Bible] and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?
This verse answers the hypothesis of the previous verse, that uncircumcision will hypothetically be regarded as circumcision. This is an argument of consistency.
The Gentile who is true to Scripture by applying it condemns the religious, self-righteous Jew who preaches “written” Scripture and was ritually circumcised but does not apply it on a personal level.
The argument is that neither of the two grounds of salvation is an adequate basis of confidence before God. The following verses show that it is the reality of what one believes about God that determines a person’s relationship with God.
The next verse shows why (“for”) circumcision did not make one right with God. Circumcision was a badge or symbol and that was all it was—just like baptism is a badge and that is all it is. A wedding ring is a symbol of marriage, it is not marriage itself.
The true ground of salvation is faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
If a person attempts justification before God by works, he violates the finished work of Christ on the cross:
Ga 2: 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
If we try to live up to the law, we must do it perfectly without one failure. Galatians chapter five argues that if we attempt this, God obligates us to keep the “whole law” without fail:
Ga 5: 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.