25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
1901 ASV Translation:
25 For circumcision indeed profiteth, if thou be a doer of the law: but if thou be a transgressor of the law, thy circumcision is become uncircumcision.
26 If therefore the uncircumcision keep the ordinances of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be reckoned for circumcision?
27 and shall not the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who with the letter and circumcision art a transgressor of the law?
In 2:26 there is a spelling difference between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 of the word translated "not". It has no significance of any kind upon the meaning communicated by the words. This is the only textual difference to be found in 2:25-29.
I. What is the "Connection" Between "Circumcision" and "Keeping the Law"?
A. Circumcision was given by Yahweh to Abraham 430 years before the Law was given.
B. How did it get to be "the" point of focus so that Paul deals with it in our text as "the" tie to "Law"?
1. Clearly, "circumcision" is the major issue of Romans 2:25-29.
2. Apparently, it was "errant Jewish theology" that turned a 430-year-old "token" of an earlier covenant into a "major bone of contention".
3. Thus, Paul, in Romans 2:25-29, is dealing with that "errant Jewish theology", not the original theology of the divine institution of circumcision.
a. The core issue of that "errant Jewish theology" was the foundational dogma of "righteousness through the performance of the Law" (see Romans 10).
b. The central assumption of that "errant Jewish theology" was the foundational dogma of "human capacity": man can obey the Law apart from any special divine provision.
4. How did the "Jewish theology" get so far off track?
a. First, it is clear that anyone who took the Pentateuch seriously would see the huge focus in Genesis upon Abraham. By the Word of God, he was made the central, and pivotal, figure in respect to the "blessing" of God. Thus, the "Jews" deemed it "necessary" to be "significantly connected" to Abraham.
1) That they did this is easily seen in their argument with Jesus in John 8:33 and 8:38.
a) They rejected Jesus' teaching of "the bondage of every man" on the basis of "their professed freedom in Abraham".
b) Jesus pointed out their "slavery to sin" as demonstrated by two chief characteristics...
i. They desired to kill Him.
ii. They resisted His words so that those words could not settle into their thinking as "guides" of their theology.
c) They then went to their "fall back" position: God is our Father.
d) And Jesus rejected that as demonstrated by their virulent, murderous antagonism to Him as a Truth-Speaker (8:40) in stark contrast to Abraham.
2) It is clear from the "fall back" position that they considered their link to Abraham to be their link to God.
b. Second, it is clear that the "Jews" had taken the "token" of circumcision to be the "significant connecting link".
1) Two things were going on...
a) They were already operating on a "human capacity" assumption that pushed the question of "motive" (the "why?" question of action -- Why am I doing this?) issue off center stage and replaced it with the question of "action" (the "what?" question of motive -- What does a right motive insist upon in this situation?). This "action" question is impossible to answer when the "motive" question has been squelched.
i. 1 John 2:16 tells us what the "possible" motive questions are.
ii. When the "pride of life" is the guiding motive, all else is deceptive window-dressing.
b) They were already operating on a deluded application of the physical laws of cause/effect as those laws had been hauled "motive-free" into the realm of relationship.
2) The "significant connecting link", thus, was "possessing the token of the covenant" in their "bodies"...the physical cause/effect issue.
c. Third, when the "Law" did finally come along, they completely missed its "point".
1) In "Jewish theology", the "Law" was God's explanation of how "responsible man" was to live...a "regulation of capable man".
2) In "Pauline theology", the "Law" was God's revelation of how absolutely badly irresponsible men were living.
a) Galatians 3:19.
b) Romans 5:20.
3) Thus, what was designed by God to push man to look for a totally different "method of life" was twisted by the "Jews" into an affirmation of their "capacity" so that they could "revel" in the "pride of life".
II. Paul's Use of the "Token" to Press the Total Failure of the "Jew".
A. He adopts the "human capacity" mindset with the background of final divine judgment.
1. First, he claims that if the "token" is taken to be a "human-ability-based loyalty bond" (rather than a divinely instituted "focus-generator"), any disloyalty turns it into its opposite: circumcision is, by transgression, turned into uncircumcision.
2. Then, he claims that if "true loyalty" is actually practiced by someone who does not have the "loyalty bond" in his flesh, his actual loyalty overrules his lack of "tokenism": true loyalty turns uncircumcision into circumcision.
3. Then, as a complete "turn of the tables", he actually declares that the one who has rejected the "tokenism" in favor of the reality will sit in judgment on the one who boasts in the token but denies the reality.
4. It must be understood that Paul, for the sake of argument, has adopted a false premise -- the human capacity mindset. He is not teaching that the uncircumcised has the ability to keep the Law; he is only arguing so that those who have embraced the lie can see it for what it is.
B. He uses the central thesis of the "Jewish theology" to destroy the "Jew". In a "responsible man theology" irresponsibility is intolerable.