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29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.


but [emphatic—strong contrast] he is a Jew who is one inwardly [not open to public inspection, hidden, concealed]; and circumcision is that of the heart [motivation center of the person], in the Spirit,

This verse expresses the positive side of the argument.

The idea of being a Jew “inwardly” is at the heart of the argument from Romans 2:17. The inner soul-life of the believer is what is important before God. It is the internal reality that matters to Him.

The phrase “in the Spirit” indicates that a Jew inwardly fulfills God’s revelation instead of outward conformity to it. The action of the Spirit takes place within a person. True circumcision, not mechanical observance of the written code of Scripture, is the work of the Spirit. Authentic belief is inward. It is possible to be a descendant of Israel and not be a true Jew.

Is 29:13, Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men . . .”

Je 4:4, Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.

not in the letter;

Circumcision and outward rite in themselves hold no distinction with God. They do not secure salvation. Following the “letter” of the law is not the point; there is a heart matter as well. There are dissimilar levels of responding to the Bible.

whose praise is not from men but from God.

A true Jew receives his praise from God and not from men. Praise from men comes from appearance; praise from God originates from the inner man. God sees the inner aspects of man.


It is not the outward but the inward that matters to God.


Some people try to hide their true self but attempt to put on a show of something other than what they are. This may impress our peers but not God. To God, it is simply a legalistic attempt at superiority over others. Personal authenticity comes when we allow our true self to show. This is biblical transparency.

Jn 1:47, Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”

Php 3:3, For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,