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Romans 2:29

ESV But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
NIV No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person's praise is not from other people, but from God.
NASB But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from people, but from God.
CSB On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart--by the Spirit, not the letter. That person's praise is not from people but from God.
NLT No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
KJV But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

What does Romans 2:29 mean?

Paul concludes this section by defining what is required to be truly Jewish. Paul was born Jewish, lived as a devout Pharisee (Philippians 3:4–7), and was converted to faith in Christ for his salvation. He is more than fully qualified to address this issue. Paul has recently indicated that true Jewishness is not about mere birth and circumcision. Circumcision, likewise, is not "outward and physical."

Now he states the positive side of this claim. True Jewishness, to be included in the people of God, happens inwardly. True circumcision is about the sincere heart of a person. That circumcision is "by the Spirit, not by the letter."

Bible scholars disagree about whether the word spirit in this verse should be capitalized. In other words, is it talking about Holy Spirit or not? If so, then Paul is saying that this heart circumcision, this being set apart as a member of God's family, is carried out by God's Holy Spirit. That fits with other passages that describe the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation. If Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit, this is his first mention of Christian salvation.

The alternative is that Paul is referring to someone being circumcised in their own spirit, not by following the mechanical requirements: "the letter of the law." Or, perhaps Paul means that this heart circumcision is about following the spirit of the law and not about the letter of the law.

In any case, true Jewishness is about what happens inside a person and not just about being born an Israelite and being circumcised. Paul insists that Jewishness must be sincere from the inside out. This basic principle applies to Christian faith, as well. Labels and behaviors are not what matter; it is faith which identifies us as a true believer.

When it is sincere, when a person is circumcised in their heart and set apart with God's people, that person is praised by God. After all, God knows our hearts. Otherwise, this person receives praise only from men who see the outside actions of a person that may or may not be sincere. The praise of men is far less valuable than to be praised by the God who truly knows us.
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