I have confessed before that I am no theologian or biblical scholar. These verses from Romans frankly reminded me of the first time I tried to figure out circular logic in an Excel spreadsheet – I was dizzy to say the least. But, Paul wrote very carefully. The seemingly esoteric and convoluted writings of Paul were purpose-driven (not in the vernacular of Rick Warren). Paul had not yet been to Rome, as Greg Strong pointed out on Monday. But, he wanted to present a letter to the Roman church which would be his introduction to a very well-planned and rehearsed ministry that Paul wanted to fulfill when he would finally get to Rome.
One of Paul’s theological themes in his letter is that everyone is a sinner – Jew and Gentile. Paul is trying to illustrate how true Christ-followers are freed from sin, law and death. At the same time, there is a place for Jewish laws and customs. Paul uses circumcision in the examples in these verses. In today’s words, Paul is saying that the ends do not justify the means. Christianity does not work that way. To be a true Christian, the ends and the means are the same thing (i.e., “let us do evil that good may result” is condemned). Being circumsized does not make one a faithful Jew. As Paul says, one must be “circumsized of the heart”. There is some powerful imagery in that statement! Obviously, Paul is talking about the work of the Holy Spirit within each of us. This is the basic point of these verses – the outward and physical versus the inward, spiritual aspects of Judaism and Christianity.
So what does this mean to us, today? Live outwardly as you live inwardly. Don’t be a silent Christian. Don’t justify the means to get to your “end”. Just live in the love of Christ and share it with as many people as you can.