God praises those who are Christians inwardly, whose hearts are circumcised
Circumcision of the Heart
The Jews and the Law
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 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.
Paul’s sardonic inquisition of the Jews could also apply to smug and self-righteous Christians.
He mocks the Jews who are proud of their law, who boast of their special relationship to God, who are convinced that they know his will and approve of what is superior, who are convinced that they are guides to the blind, lights for those who are in darkness, teachers of the foolish because they have in the law and in scripture, the embodiment of knowledge and truth. Yet, they secretly do the very things they excoriate others for doing.
Circumcision does not make a Jew. Ticking the right belief boxes does not make one a Christian. True Jews have their hearts cleansed and purified by the Spirit. True Christians have their hearts cleansed and purified by the spirit
These true believers may or may not be praised by other people, but God praises them.
Romans 2:28 Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
The last sentence echoes Jesus’ wry, sad and exasperated comment in John, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”
Accepting praise from one another actually militates against and weakens our faith. Our sight and world-view become horizontal. We focus on what we can see, on people.
Our choices are no longer governed by what will, so to say, impress God but what will win us praise from people. (There is just a single occasion when Jesus is recorded as being astonished, and that was by the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman.)
And we are the losers, because we dilute our faith, that essential navigational tool to steer us through the thickets of life.
Those, however, whose heart has been purified by the Spirit seek the praise, not of man, but of God.
And what peace there is in that, in seeking praise from the audience of one.