The Letter of the Law of Christ
Romans 2:28, 29 say, “For 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 of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
I was talking to a young man not long ago who referred to himself as a "liberal Christian". He was making reference to Rom. 2:28, 29 when he said his life is a “life in the Spirit”, and mine is a “life in the letter.” It is sad to see so many totally misunderstanding these beautiful passages of Scripture and using their false interpretation to mislead others. The biggest mistake always occurs when they try to separate the Spirit on the Christians’ inside from the letter of the New Testament that the Spirit gave us (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17).
The first thing that should be understood about Rom. 2: 28, 29 is that Paul is referring to the letter of the Old Testament law of Moses which was God’s law for the Jews before Jesus was crucified. Paul never intended to mean that God's command for the Jews to be circumcised under the law of Moses in the Old testament could be cast aside as long as it was replaced by some sort of spiritual experience or good intentions on the inside. On the contrary. Paul was saying that not only was obedience to God's law on the outside necessary, but this obedience was to spring forth from the inside out of sincere love for Him and His Word in the heart.
Paul was always trying to bring Gentiles and Jews together in the one body of Christ, the church of Christ (1 Cor. 12: 12, 13; Gal. 3: 27-29). Eph. 2:14-16 and Col. 2:14 say Jesus abolished the Old Testament law of commandments which was for the Jews, but also contrary to all, so He could bring Jews and Gentiles together under His law. In the spiritual sense, His law in the New Testament makes Gentiles Jews inwardly because obedience to His law makes us heirs of the spiritual blessing for Abraham and his seed, the nation of Israel, the nation of the promise (Gen. 12:1-3; Gal. 3:27- 29; 4:4,5).
So, we are under law. For some reason, some like to call it the “letter”, even though Paul’s “letter” of the law was referring to the Old Testament law of Moses, which was nailed to the cross of Christ (Col. 2: 14). I prefer to call it “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2), or “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1: 25), or “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
In John 14: 15 Jesus said, “If you love Me You will keep My commandments”(NASB).When we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22: 37-40), we will love His law in the New Testament and obey it. We won’t try to separate the Spirit from the letter that the Spirit gave us (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). One who loves God will come to understand they go together, and will be justified by God when his/her faith is made perfect by obedience to that law (James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:22; Heb. 5:8, 9). Our obedience to God will be our way of life. We won’t be perfect, but we will confess Jesus Christ is the Son of God, be baptized into Christ where the blood is that saves, walk in the light of His Word and be cleansed of sin by His blood as a result (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27-29; 1 John 1: 7-9).
Timothy Sundlie - evangelist for the La Crosse church of Christ