Religious People’s Excuse #3: “Watch My Religious Works”

Circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
–Romans 2:25

In Romans 2, Paul examined several excuses that religious people use to say, “I don’t need Jesus Christ.” One excuse is “Look at my religious heritage.” Another excuse religious people use is this: “Look at my biblical knowledge.” Paul said that neither of those excuses is good enough.

A third excuse for not needing the righteousness of Christ is this: “Watch my religious works.” What does Paul say about that excuse? “Circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision” (2:25). Many of us have participated in an evangelism program that taught two questions you are supposed to ask somebody to see if they are truly saved. One of those questions is this: “If you were standing before God today, and He asked you, ‘Why should I let you into Heaven?’ What would you say?” If you were to ask a Jew in Paul’s day, his answer would likely be: “I have been circumcised, and my circumcision ensures that I am in a right relationship with God.”

But the purpose of that circumcision wasn’t to save people; it was to identify a male child as a part of God’s covenant. It was a way of identifying with the Jewish people. Nowhere in Scripture is the idea that physical circumcision automatically makes someone a believer. In the Old Testament, circumcision meant that you got to participate in some of God’s national blessings to the nation of Israel, but in no way did that physical act make you a believer.

Consider the Apostle Paul. Paul grew up in a Jewish home. His father was a Pharisee. In Philippians 3:5, Paul said he was “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.” Think about this: if being a Jew was enough to ensure his place in Heaven, then why did Paul need a Damascus Road experience? Physical circumcision was only a physical symbol of a spiritual circumcision that was yet to come.

That is what Paul said in Romans 2:28-29: “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” The Jews taught that physical circumcision saved a person. That is what the religious person does. He trusts in physical acts and religious works to save him. But Paul said, “No. Religion will not save you.”

The message of Romans 2 is this: religion is absolutely worthless in obtaining righteousness for you. Religious people are condemned before God in spite of their spiritual heritage, biblical knowledge, and religious works.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “How to Be a Christian without Being Religious” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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