Today’s Readings: 2 Chronicles 25 & Romans 2:17-29
So how do you recognise an Australian? It can’t just be through ‘appearance’; that you look like one …. and it can’t just be through accent; that you sound like one ….
Is it producing a Medicare Card, or a passport; a birth certificate or a Citizenship Certificate? I can produce a passport, but openly speak out against my nationality or deliberately undermine all that is ‘Australian’. I can be ‘born’ in one nation, and then through application and process become a citizen of another nation.
Certainly living in Australia means living by the law of the land; but that doesn’t make a person Australian, as even those who are visitors to the nation are expected to obey the same laws (in the same way visitors to others nations are expected to obey the laws of that nation).
Paul as he concludes this chapter, is reminding the followers of Jesus in Rome of what it meant (and means for us today), to belong to God’s family; no longer a matter of position underpinned by a Jewish promise.
Circumcision was a physical action which marked and identified God’s people of the Old Testament; yes, a people born into a race who God had called to himself and set apart as his people. But there was still an expectation with this, that God’s people would obey God’s laws. Living it out was as important as being born into a citizenship.
But the mark of what it means to belong to God’s family had changed. Paul emphasises how circumcision no longer guarantees salvation, in the same way the lack of circumcision did not exclude people from salvation.
‘A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.’ Romans 2:28-29
A parallel today is Christian dynasty; born into a Christian home, raised on scripture and maybe even going to a Christian school, does not make a person a Christian. Right standing with God or salvation is not as a result of these circumstances. They are not the identifying factors of being a citizen of heaven.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart God that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:10
Becoming a citizen of heaven starts with a decision; a profession of personal faith in Christ (not inherited), that is then expressed in transformation and spiritual growth, by the Spirit of God. In other words, the circumcision that counts before God is a changed heart which becomes fully devoted to God. And in this action, citizenship changes from earthly to heavenly.
‘Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.’ Ephesians 2:19