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The Epistles of Paul - Romans Part 3, 04-18-2014
Before continuing with our presentation of Paul's epistle to the Romans, it is necessary to be reminded of the scope of the epistle, which includes an understanding of who it was written to, for whom Paul's words were intended. We cannot imagine that we may pick up and read a letter written to one particular party, and that we can then substitute any other party in its references unless the letter itself makes such an explicit allowance in its own expressions.
Paul's epistle was addressed to Romans, and these Romans were pagans, and not merely Judaean (meaning Jewish in this instance) inhabitants of Rome. This is apparent as Paul states that they had “reverenced and served the creation rather than the Creator” because they had fashioned idols out of living creatures, and such things could not be said of Judaeans. However it is also quite evident that the Romans themselves were of the ancient dispersions of Israel, since Paul tells them “that which is to be known of Yahweh is visible among them, since Yahweh has made it known to them”, and those things may only be said of ancient Israel. Paul also told them that “knowing Yahweh, they thought of Him not as God, nor were they thankful” and that “they changed the estimation of the incorruptible Yahweh into a resemblance of an image of corruptible man, and birds, and four-legged animals, and reptiles”, things which could only be said of ancient Israelites who at some point turned to paganism, which is indeed explained of ancient Israel in the books of the Old Testament. So Paul was writing to Romans, and the Romans were descended from Abraham through Jacob-Israel, and his own writing in his epistle is proof enough of the truth of that statement. There is much more in the chapters to come, and these things can also be demonstrated from an examination of the Old Testament and ancient history.
We left off in the last segment of our presentation where Paul explained that because they forsook Him, Yahweh handed the Romans over to unclean and lustful desires, which became manifest in homosexual behaviour and other immorality which had become prevalent at Rome. Such things are also manifest in secular Roman literature of the period. Then, at the beginning of chapter 2, Paul chastises anyone who would judge these things hypocritically, if perhaps they are also practising such immorality. Paul then reminds his readers of the impending judgment of God, but also of His promises of mercy in judgment, which should lead men to repentance. Finally, we saw Paul attest that the judgment of men by God is in equity according to the deeds of a man's life, and not according to the stature, or status which any man had while he lived. Paul wrote in verse 11 that “there is no respect of the stature of persons with Yahweh”, and by that he meant to distinguish Judaeans and Greeks: the Israelite remnant which maintained the law and the covenant in comparison to anciently dispersed Israelites who were put off from the covenants, that they would all be judged equitably by their works. Here in verse 12 Paul continues by explaining that mercy in judgment which Yahweh God had indeed promised to the children of Israel.
12 For as many as have done wrong without law, without law then are they cleansed; and as many as have done wrong in the law, by the law they will be judged,
There is a major difference here with all other translations concerning the way that the first clause of this verse is read. [I shall not repent of it.] The King James Version has here perish rather than cleansed, and all other translations read similarly. This difference lies in the interpretation of a single word, a verb, which is ἀπολοῦνται.
Here it is asserted that we must reject the usual derivation of this word from the Greek verb ἀπόλλυμι (Strong's # 622), which is generally to destroy, as the King James Version, Strong's Concordance, and all others have it. The verb λοῦνται (without the prefix, ἀπό) is the 3rd person plural Present Passive Indicative of the verb λούω (Strong's # 3068), which may be verified in either of the current editions of the Liddell & Scott lexicons in their entry at λούω. Therefore it may well be asserted that a correct root of this form of the verb is is ἀπολούω (Strong's # 628), which is to wash off, to wash clean rather than ἀπόλλυμι. Forms of this word ἀπολούω appear elsewhere in the New Testament at Acts 22:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:11. While the form ἀπολοῦνται may in fact belong to either of these two verbs (which is evident where it also appears at Matthew 26:52, Luke 5:37 and Hebrews 1:11, all certainly derived from ἀπόλλυμι), the manner in which it is rendered here is more accurate in the context in which it appears, and it is also much more consistent with Paul’s other teachings concerning Israel in relation to sin, for instance at Romans 11:26 and in 1 Corinthians chapter 3.
Note September 18th, 2015: The entry for the word ἀπολοῦνται at the online Greek Word Study Tool facility found online at Tufts University fully supports the assertions made here concerning this word.
Paul informs us here that those Israelites who seek justification in the law shall be judged by the law, while those Israelites who seek mercy in Christ shall be cleansed of their sins. The accuracy of this reading becomes fully apparent in the subsequent lines of Paul's epistle, where he tells us that the Nations to which he is referring do not have the law. Paul makes this same conclusion himself where he states the following, from Romans 3:21-23: “21 But now apart from the law, the justice of Yahweh is made known, as attested by the law and the prophets; 22 but justice of Yahweh through the faith of Yahshua Christ, for all of those who are believing, for there is no distinction: 23 for all have done wrong and fall short of the honor of Yahweh”, going on to attest that no flesh shall be justified in the rituals of the law.
All men sin, as Paul professes in Romans 3:9 and 5:12, yet he is certainly not inferring here that they are all going to die for it. Yet such a position must be attributed to Paul in the rendering of Romans 2:12 as it is found in the King James Version and all other translations. Rather, Yahweh promised the children of Israel, those very same nations to whom Paul is referring, that He would cleanse all of their sins, and He does so only in Christ. From Isaiah chapter 53: “5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him [the promised Messiah] the iniquity of us all.”
Over and above the judgments of the Law, Yahweh promised the children of Israel that He would indeed cleanse them of all their sins. From Jeremiah chapter 33: “7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. 8 And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.”
Again, from 1 John chapter 1: “5 And this is the message which we have heard from Him and we announce to you: that Yahweh is light and there is not any darkness in Him. 6 If we should say that we have fellowship with Him and we would walk in darkness, we lie and we do not practice the truth. 7 But if we would walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of His Son Yahshua cleanses us from all guilt [sin]. 8 If we should say that we have no guilt, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we would admit our errors, He is trustworthy and just, that He would remit the errors for us and would cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we should say that we have not done wrong, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
The cessation of the power of the rituals of the Law to intercede for the sins of Israel in the eyes of God is indeed a matter of Biblical prophecy, as Paul states at Romans 3:21, which we have just cited. From Hosea chapter 8: “11 Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin. 12 I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing. 13 They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.” The reference to Egypt is as an allegory for captivity, and is not to be taken literally. Shortly after Hosea wrote those words, the children of Israel were indeed taken into captivity by the Assyrians.
We see agreement with these things which were written in Hosea in chapter 1 of Isaiah: “11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
In the words of the prophet Jeremiah we are informed that this holds true for the remnant of Judah in Jerusalem as well, from Jeremiah chapter 6: “19 Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. 20 To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me. 21 Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumbling-blocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.”
From the time of the captivities of Israel and Judah, the rituals of the law are clearly ineffectual in relation to sin, yet it is also clear from Isaiah chapter 1 and elsewhere that Israel is beckoned to do justly apart from the rituals. [It has also just been demonstrated that Judaism is wholly illegitimate.] Just as we had explained presenting Romans chapter 1, where Paul quoted the prophet Habakkuk, the law had failed when the children of Israel neglected it, and therefore as Paul cited the prophet where he said that “the just shall live by faith”. Here in the following verses of this epistle, in a parenthetical statement, the identity of the “just” is further defined by the apostle.
13 (since not the hearers of the law are just before Yahweh, but the performers of the law are to be considered just; 14 for when the Nations, which do not have the law, by nature practice the things of the law, these, not having law, themselves are a law; 15 who exhibit the work of the law written in their hearts, bearing witness with their conscience, and between one another considering accusations or then defending the accused;)
If “the Nations, which do not have the law”, can “exhibit the work of the law written in their hearts”, then those nations must have descended from the dispersions of the ancient children of Israel! They are the “just” of Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17: Israelites who are no longer under the law, but who nevertheless follow the spirit of the law written in their hearts.
From Jeremiah chapter 31: “31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Paul paraphrases Jeremiah at Hebrews 10:16 where he says “"This is the covenant which I will devise for them after those days, says Yahweh, giving my laws upon their hearts, I will also inscribe them upon their minds”. He is clearly speaking to Israelite heirs of the covenant in both epistles, Hebrews and Romans.
In Romans chapter 4, Paul asks his readers “1 Now what may we say that our forefather Abraham has found concerning the flesh?” Then he says that “13 Indeed, not through the law is the promise to Abraham or to his offspring, that he is to be the heir of the Society, but through righteousness of faith.” So we see that Paul taught these Romans that the promises of God were to Abraham, and to Abraham's offspring. Then Paul in Romans 4 proceeds to define the faith of Abraham by saying that “16 Therefore from of the faith, that in accordance with favor, then the promise is to be certain to all of the offspring, not to that of the law only, but also to that of the faith of Abraham, who is father of us all; 17 (just as it is written, 'That a father of many nations I have made you,') before Yahweh whom he trusted, who raises the dead to life, and calls things not existing as existing; 18 who contrary to expectation, in expectation believed, for which he would become a father of many nations according to the declaration, 'Thus your offspring will be'”.
The honest observer of Israelite history (which certainly may be called it history because the historical accounts of Scripture are verified in countless ancient inscriptions discovered by archaeologists) can easily determine that most of the children of Israel forsook Yahweh their God for paganism, and either migrated away from Palestine over the eight centuries leading up to the Assyrian deportations, or were carried into Assyrian or Babylonian captivity. These are those to whom Paul refers when he says “then the promise is to be certain to all of the offspring, not to that of the law only, but also to that of the faith of Abraham, who is father of us all”. Notice that Paul qualifies his remark by first stating that “the promise is to be certain to all of the offspring”. Then Paul describes the faith of Abraham as Abraham's having believed God when he was promised that his offspring, or seed, would indeed become many nations.
The intention of the Scripture is absolutely contrary to the universalist idea that somehow many nations magically became Abraham's seed. Rather, Abraham's seed became many nations, this can be demonstrated in ancient history, and Paul of Tarsus understood that history. If one is not of those nations, one cannot be a Christian, because Abraham believed that the nations of the promise would come from his loins, and for that belief he was accredited by God. If one believes contrary to Abraham, then we certainly cannot expect that person to be accredited by God! Rather, if you are not one of Abraham's seed, then you cannot share in the faith of Abraham, because Abraham did not believe in you! To be of the faith of Abraham, one must not only believe what Abraham believed, but one must be a product of the very promise that Abraham believed in!
Paul began this part of his discourse with a reference to hypocritical judgment. Now Paul tells the Romans that “when the Nations, which do not have the law”, meaning the law of God, “by nature practice the things of the law, these, not having law, themselves are a law”, meaning that they did well to found a society based upon a common sense of justice and the rule of law, “who exhibit the work of the law written in their hearts”, meaning that by doing so they fulfilled that promise made to the children of Israel that God would write his law on their hearts, as attested in Jeremiah chapter 31.
We have corroboration in Isaiah chapter 51: “1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. 2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. [This is a Hebrew parallelism, Abraham being the rock, and Sarah being the pit!] 3 For the LORD shall comfort Zion [His people]: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. 4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. 5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. [The final 26 chapters of Isaiah are addressed to the isles and coastlands of the west: to dispersed Israel.] 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. 7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. 8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.”
The people “in whose heart is my law”, meaning those people who had the law of God written in their hearts according to the promise of Jeremiah chapter 31, are also those who can “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you”. If one is not of Abraham, Yahweh then reminds us that “I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him”, and therefore anyone else attempting to join the flock is a pretender, an infiltrator who does not belong.
After telling them that they exhibited the law written in their hearts, Paul commended the Romans for “bearing witness with their conscience, and between one another considering accusations or then defending the accused”. This also is a fulfillment of Scripture, where Israel, having neglected the law, was admonished to judge righteously. From Isaiah chapter 1: “16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” We see a similar admonition to the King of Judah, in Jeremiah chapter 22: “3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.” We cannot assert that Roman law was perfect in the eyes of God, however it nevertheless met the basic requirements of Biblical Law regarding fair trials and the consideration of witnesses in judgment. Furthermore, the Romans did have laws safeguarding the estates of the deceased, and ensuring that a woman could hold and inherit property, to some degree safeguarding widows and orphans. It is apparent in the words of the prophets cited here and in others, that among other sins the ancient Israelites were depriving women and orphans of their estates. From Zechariah chapter 7: “10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. 11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.”
16 in a day when Yahweh will judge the secrets of men, according to my good message, through Yahshua Christ.
Paul is professing that it is through Christ that Yahweh God shall judge men, a message consistent with Scripture. From Isaiah chapter 33: “ 22 For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.” From Revelation chapter 19: “behold! A white horse, and He sitting upon it Faithful and True, and He judges in righteousness and makes war.... and He has upon His garment and upon His thigh a name written: 'King of Kings and Sovereign of Sovereigns'.” As Christ Himself admonished, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Paul has been criticized here for referring to the Gospel of Christ as “my gospel”. Paul also calls this same gospel the gospel “of God” at Romans 1:1, “of His son” at Romans 1:9, “of Christ” at Romans 1:16, and “of peace” at Romans 10:15, quoting Isaiah. Then at Romans 10:16 Isaiah is quoted again where he wrote “Yahweh, who hath believed OUR report?” (Isaiah 53:1). He refers to the gospel again as the gospel “of God” at Romans 15:16, “of Christ” at Romans 15:19 and 15:29, and as “my gospel” once again at Romans 16:25. Yet he refers to the gospel simply as “the gospel” at Romans 1:15, 10:16, 11:28 and 15:20. Therefore, do we have five different gospels? Certainly not! But there is only one gospel which Paul presents, and all Christians should likewise assume a sense of ownership responsibility for it.
From Proverbs chapter 23: “23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding. 24 The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.” We all have an opportunity to fulfill this in the manner of 3 John, where the apostle says to Gaius: “3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” When you “buy the truth”, as the writer of the Proverb said, you certainly can claim a stake in it as your own, keeping in mind the admonition of the same apostle, of course, where he wrote in another epistle that “no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21).
17 But if you are called a Judaean [the MT has Behold! You are called a Judaean], and depend upon the law, and boast in Yahweh, 18 and you know the purpose, and you scrutinize the things that differ, being instructed from the law, 19 and have persuaded yourself to be a guide of the blind, a light for those in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of the childish, having the semblance of knowledge and of truth in the law: 21 are you really teaching another, not teaching yourself? Proclaiming not to steal, do you steal? 22 Declaring not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? Loathing idols, do you commit sacrilege?
As we have seen in the prophets Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah, from before the time of the judgment of Yahweh against Israel and Judah, and the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, sacrifices are no longer an acceptable propitiation for sin. Therefore apart from Christ, the children of Israel have no manner by which to appease Yahweh, having no other propitiation for their sins. Therefore if one is to cling to the law for righteousness, then one must keep the entire law perfectly, since in transgressing any one point in the law. there is no propitiation! Christians, realizing that all men sin, with repentance can then look to Christ for mercy and righteousness rather than to the law.
From Romans 2:9-10 Paul is comparing Greeks to Judaeans. Many of the Greeks, as well as the Romans, were actually descended from Israelite tribes who settled various parts of the Mediterranean coasts as early as the time of the Exodus itself. Compared to Judaeans, the Romans would fit into the category of Greeks, since Greek was not properly an ethnic designation but one of language, religion and custom. From Romans 2:12 Paul is comparing those of the ancient dispersions of the children of Israel, which would include the Romans and many of the Greek tribes, and who were “as many as have done wrong without law” who were also promised to receive mercy apart from the law, with those of the Judaeans who continued to depend upon the law for their righteousness, and therefore “as many as have done wrong in the law, by the law they will be judged”. In reference to this latter group we have the words of Christ in John chapter 9: “39 And Yahshua said: 'For judgment I have come into this Society, that those not seeing would see and those seeing would be made blind!' 40 Some of the Pharisees being with Him heard these things and they said to Him 'Are we also blind?' 41 Yahshua said to them: 'If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now you say that ‘We see’, your sin remains!'”
Something which should not be overlooked in the Book of Acts is this, that there were Judaean assemblies all throughout the Greco-Roman world, in all of the major cities, where Moses was read each Sabbath. Luke records the words of the apostle James in Acts 15:21: “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” Those synagogues, or assemblies, were well-attended by both Judaeans and Greeks, the same people Paul is comparing here. This is evident in Luke's accounts of every assembly throughout the Greek world which was visited by Paul. The Judaean teachers of the Law were indeed aspiring to be guides of the blind and lights for those in darkness by teaching them the Law of Moses, as the accounts in the Book of Acts clearly illustrate.
23 You who boasts in the law, through transgression of the law you dishonor Yahweh? [Neither the NA27 nor the NA28 punctuate verse 28 as a question. The King James Version agrees with the text.] 24 Indeed “the name of Yahweh through you is blasphemed among the nations”, just as it is written.
Here Paul apparently cites Ezekiel chapter 36, of which the Judaeans are but one late fulfillment: “19 And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. 20 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. 21 But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. 22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.”
However the reference may also be to Isaiah chapter 52, which is perhaps more appropriate in the context of this chapter of Romans: “1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. 2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. 3 For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. 4 For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. 5 Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed. 6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.” The children of Israel, put away in disobedience, profane the name of Yahweh their God every time they invoke it. The next line of that passage from Isaiah is an announcement of the Gospel.
25 For circumcision indeed profits if you would practice the law [D reads “if you would keep the law”]; but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.
As the apostle James said in his epistle, “10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Before he wrote his epistle to the Romans, Paul had written to the Galatians (5:3) “And I testify again to every man getting himself circumcised, that he is obligated to do the entire law.”
26 Therefore if the uncircumcised should keep the judgments of the law, would his uncircumcision not be counted for circumcision?
From Deuteronomy chapter 10: “15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.”
From Jeremiah chapter 4: “4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”
Circumcision was a sign of the Old Covenant, that one would agree to submit to the commandments of God. Yahweh was not pleased with circumcision alone, but with obedience: with the substance of the covenant, and not merely the form. For this reason Paul told the Corinthians that “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19).
27 Then the uncircumcised from nature who is fulfilling the law shall judge you who through writing [the word is singular and without the Definite Article] and circumcision are a transgressor of law.
All men sin, and therefore no man can be justified by the law, especially since “... it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins”, as Paul professes at Hebrews 10:4.
I would not read verse 27 as a question, and neither do the NA27 or the NA28, although the King James Version does. The Greek article, καί, translated “then” here, is often used by Paul to continue interrogation (as it is used at Romans 3:8, 1 Corinthians 6:2 and 12:16, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Hebrews 1:5 and 7:11). But καί is also often used by Paul to reply to the interrogation in his rhetoric (for which see Romans 11:35B [although both the NA27 and the King James Version do read that clause as a question], 1 Corinthians 4:8D [although 4:8C is not read as a question in either the NA27 or the King James Version], 2 Corinthians 2:3, 11:22 (thrice); 2 Thessalonians 2:6, and Hebrews 3:19).
Daniel chapter 7 tells us that certain evil forces would make war with the saints and prevail “22 Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” Therefore it is apparent that the righteous also shall judge the wicked.
From the Wisdom of Salomon, chapter 1: “1 Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him. 2 For he will be found of them that tempt him not; and sheweth himself unto such as do not distrust him.”
And again from chapter 3: “3:1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them [as Christ asserted in John chapter 10]. 2 In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, 3 And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. 4 For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. 5 And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. 6 As gold in the furnace hath he tried them [1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 1 Peter 1:7], and received them as a burnt offering [2 Corinthians 2:15, Philippians 4:18]. 7 And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. 8 They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign for ever.”
Therefore there are several witnesses, that the saints of Yahweh shall indeed participate in the judgment of the world. As Paul professes in 1 Corinthians 6:3, from the King James Version: “3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels?”
28 One by appearance is not a Judaean, and not by appearance in flesh is circumcision; 29 but in concealment is one a Judaean; and circumcision is of the heart; in Spirit, not in writing; of which approval is not from men, but from Yahweh.
The universalists love to abuse Romans 2:28, imagining that it means the exact opposite of what Paul had intended. One can not imagine that where Paul says that “one by appearance is not a Judaean”, that anyone other than the children of Israel can come into the covenants of God. The promise of the circumcised heart was meant only for the children of Israel. Deuteronomy chapters 28 and 29 tell of blessings and curses for obedience and disobedience, and warn that Israel would be taken into captivity and alienated from God for their disobedience. The eventual putting away of Israel in punishment was foreseen at this early time. In Deuteronomy chapter 30, however, there is a prophecy of Israel's restoration: “1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”
In the first century, there were many Edomites, Canaanites and other converts to Judaism who were circumcised in their genitals and pretended to keep the Law. It is of these as well as of the Israelites who had not yet accepted Christ that Paul says “one by appearance is not a Judaean”. But the true children of Israel were to return to Yahweh God through His Christ, with hearts circumcised for obedience to Him. Both the law and the prophets preclude the possibility of these things for anyone other than Israel, by explicitly prophesying of them for Israel. From Isaiah chapter 44: “21 Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. 22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” Once again, apart from the law, the sins of Israel were forgiven. Paul was only teaching as Gospel exactly what the prophets had written concerning the Gospel.
Romans chapter 3:
1 What then is the advantage of the Judaean? Or of what utility is the circumcision? 2 Many by all means: firstly for reason that they have been entrusted with the sayings of Yahweh.
First, Paul is concerned for the Judaean, the Judaeans of his time, who are not the Jews of today. Of the Judaeans, Paul tells us in Romans chapter 9 that he is only concerned for his “kinsman according to the flesh”, and proceeds to compare Jacob and Esau where he says that not all of those of Israel are Israel, indicating with certainty that many Judaeans were actually Edomites, something which is also learned from the pages of the historian Flavius Josephus. Paul's concern is for true, genetic Israel, and he labels the Edomites as “vessels of destruction”, so we certainly cannot assume that they are part of those who have an advantage by having the Scriptures.
Secondly, because the Judaeans had the sayings, or oracles of God does not preclude the fact that the Christians among the dispersed Israelites of the nations also had them, and they certainly did. There is nowhere in Scripture where we find that the Judaeans possessed the sayings of Yahweh exclusively, and they certainly did not. Paul is only stating that the Judaeans had access to the Word of God, and therefore they also had every opportunity to search out the Truth of the Faith.
3 Therefore, what if some of them have not had faith? Shall their lack of faith nullify the faith of Yahweh? 4 Certainly not! Rather, Yahweh will be true, and every man a liar, just as it is written, “that you should be just in your words and you shall prevail [B and the MT have you may prevail] when you are judged [or “you shall prevail in that for which you are to be judged”].”
The lack of faith in men cannot change the substance of the faith as it is outlined in Scripture. The truth is truth in spite of men. From Isaiah chapter 59: “12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey [a perfect description of our social and economic conditions today]: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. 17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.” The truth may fail among men in the world, but Yahweh God will uphold it and sustain those who seek to keep it.
As for Paul's last statement, “that you should be just in your words and you shall prevail when you are judged”, it is a quote from Psalm 51, from the Septuagint: “1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of thy compassions blot out my transgression. 2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I am conscious of mine iniquity; and my sin is continually before me. 4 Against thee only have I sinned, and done evil before thee: that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” The last clause is difficult, the Hebrew text varies from the Septuagint and from Paul's citation, and the pronouns seem to be improper. David said this prayer after he had wrongfully taken the wife of Uriah, when Nathan the prophet admonished him, and it is not God who is being judged. Rather, David professed his own sin, found both punishment and mercy with God, and a man who admits the truth and confesses his sins shall prevail when he is judged, by finding mercy. The King James Version has the final clause to read “that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” In any event, Paul is taking as a model the judgment which David attributes to Yahweh and applies it to men. David honestly confessed his sin, and while he was to some degree punished for it, he nevertheless found mercy with God.
From Proverbs 28:13: “13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
From 1 John chapter 1: “9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Rather, as Paul says here, God shall be true and every man a liar.
5 But if our injustice introduces the justice of Yahweh, what do we say? Is Yahweh unjust then, imposing wrath? (I speak from manhood.) 6 Certainly not! Otherwise in what way does Yahweh judge the cosmos?
The exclamatory phrase “Certainly not!” (μὴ γένοιτο) is literally “May it not be!”, which the King James Version commonly rendered as “God forbid!”
From Proverbs 14:12, or 16:25: “25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” And again, from Proverbs 21:2: “2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts. 3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”
From Isaiah chapter 51: “4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. 5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.” All of this, of course, refers to Israel exclusively.
7 Indeed if the truth of Yahweh were increased by my lie for His honor, why then am I still judged as a wrongdoer?
Some have rashly and unjustly claimed that Paul is promoting dishonesty here, when indeed he is condemning it. The language of this passage is a little clumsy in King James Version, but it says pretty much the same thing. Even if the truth and honor of Yahweh were augmented by a lie, the liar is still a wrongdoer, so we should not lie even if we somehow vainly think that by our lie we are helping God.
8 And shall we not (just as we are slandered and just as some suppose that we say,) bring about evil things in order that good things may come?
The Great Uncial manuscript 0219, which is from the 4th century, or perhaps the 5th, and attests to only a few verses in Romans chapter 3, adds the words “upon us” here to the end of the question. And Paul concludes:
Of these, which decision is legitimate?
The phrase ὧν τὸ κρίμα ἔνδικόν ἐστιν, or “of these which decision is legitimate” is translated quite literally, and in the context of the preceding dialogue it seems very naturally to be a question, yet neither the King James Version nor the NA27 or NA28 mark it as such. The King James Version has an incomplete sentence in its place: “whose damnation is just.” The word κρίμα (Strong's # 2917) is a decision, judgment, sentence, condemnation, or a matter for judgment, a law-suit, and may describe a good judgment as well as a condemnation. The word ἔνδικος (Strong's # 1738) is according to right, right, just or legitimate, according to Liddell & Scott.
The scoffers at Paul's time were claiming that Christians may as well sin more often, so that the grace and mercy of God would be even more abundant. Paul addresses them further in the latter part of this third chapter of Romans. These accusations were serious, as it can be told from the writings of Tacitus and Tertullian that both Jews and pagans were regularly accusing Christians of all sorts of crimes, from adultery to infanticide, and they were apparently doing so merely on the basis that Christians believed in the forgiveness of sin apart from the regiment of sacrifices in the rituals of the law. Because Jews and pagans could not fathom that Christians could practice morality apart from a system of laws and penalties in sacrifices, they ascribed to Christians the sins which they themselves commonly practiced.