It is importance in studying any of Paul’s writings to come to understand the mindset of the Apostle, when he sat in front of his blank papyrus, and pondered upon his purpose for writing.
To do this we need to consider where Paul was at, in his Christian experience and his present circumstances. We need to consider how Paul must have thought concerning those he was writing to. What prompted him to write?
Firstly Paul, a Jew, was writing with Gentiles in his mind. ( see verse…”other gentiles”
You may remember that when Paul was arrested by God on the road to Damascus that God said the reason he had been chosen was to take the gospel to the Gentiles. This was an amazing commission, for Saul, as he was then, was a Hebrew of Hebrews, steeped in his religious traditions and a firm believer in being a member of Israel, as God’s chosen nation”
However after a few years of contemplation, with the Holy Spirit’s aid, he began to read the Old Testament in a new way, with a new pair of eyes. In fact he realised that he was being shown a mystery that God had hidden since the foundation of the world. It must have blown his mind, for no Jew had ever even contemplated the possibility of such things as he was being shown.
The word “revolution” does not fully suffice to describe this apparent “reversal“ of God’s plans, nor of Paul’s understanding of them. He came to realise that from the beginning of time God had a salvation plan for the whole world and his revelation of Himself to the Jews through the Law and all its accompanying rituals was merely the backcloth for when Jesus, the Messiah came on the scene. Furthermore, by his death on the cross, Jesus exploded, both in heaven and earth, a complete change in relationship between God and man. This was the real "Big Bang" of new ceation.
From some Old Testament prophecies, one could surmise that what Jesus, as God’s Son accomplished by his death would have been thought more cataclysmic in heaven than ever realised on earth. This was a completely NEW Testament, completely “out of the blue” so to speak.
Paul makes some remarkable statements in his writings. He says that this new revelation of how man can now be justified, made righteous, in God’s sight, by faith is not a new revelation at all, for it has always been so. The Jews had thought that by their efforts to keep the commands and rituals of the Law they were accepted before God, but Paul points out that not one person had ever been able to keep the whole law of God since day one. But, and that is a BIG BUT, certain people had been counted righteous before God, not by their works but by their FAITH. Abraham and David are mentioned in Romans and Galatians and in Hebrews 11 a whole list of many the heroes of the Old Testament.
Paul goes so far as to say that though in the Old Testament one gets the impression that all those who were circumcised were “marked” as the chosen people of God, that this was not actually the complete truth. In chs 9-11 he goes to great pains to explain that not all those known as Israelites were the “chosen people” of God. For they had thought that when Abraham was circumcised in the flesh, this marked him as accepted before God, but the real truth from God’s viewpoint, was that his faith had justified him and the circumcision was significant in the cutting off of the flesh. For the flesh is of the Devil and has no way of pleasing God or bringing acceptable in his sight. So how wrong can you be?
You see, faith is the very life of God. So those who carried on the rituals of their religion just as a human performance would not be counted righteous unless they did it all by faith. Faith that believed why they sacrificed, rather than the mere fact of there was merit in their works of ritual sacrifice. For their sacrifice was but an temporary symbolic substitute for their own death penalty for sin, until the coming of the promised Messiah. For all that they did in their ceremonies were mere parables of the work that the Messiah would do. The epistle to Hebrews is all about this. Paul says that all that was done under the law was but a “shadow” of the real thing. The true Hebrews were those who saw the eternal and invisible rather than the natural and earthly
In the Old Testament God promised he would make a completely New one, and this was accomplished by what Jesus did, by his life and sacrificial death.
Now the upshot of all that was the fact that the Gentiles who never had access to the ceremonies and rituals of the Jewish religion could now be included in the chosen nation and become a child of Abraham simply by exercising the faith of Abraham for it was not the circumcision of his flesh that justified him before God, but by the faith which circumcised his heart. God now counts all those who put their faith in Christ . God counts them cut off and separated from their old life, and alive unto himself in Jesus Christ. In other words they have been circumcised in their hearts. They are now identified from heaven as being accepted IN Christ Jesus. Note the following verses from Romans ch 2:28-29.
Rom 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
This is the reason why he wrote Romans ch 9-11, which cause much controversy among Christians today. Paul explains to his own people that this has always been God’s plan. He has not changed the goalposts and just because the Jews may have got the wrong idea for 2000 years, that is not God’s fault. Perhaps if they had been more obedient and less unbelieving they would have seen the truth. And furthermore, he points out that the disgruntled Jews who feel they have been discarded in favour of the “gentile dogs”, that God is Sovereign and he can choose whoever he so desires. He can reveal his plans as slowly or mysteriously as He decides. The clay cannot tell the potter, “Why have you made me thus?” God has always looked for faith, and not religious works, which "as work" infer reward or payment, and tend to gender pride. God deals with the humble and contrite of heart in grace. Under this new agreement, all who simply acknowledge their sin and their inability to do anything in the flesh to compensate for their wrongs, have simply to believe that Jesus paid the full penalty for man’s sin when he died on the cross. God raised him from the dead to confirm that his sacrifice had been accepted.
So on the basis of this revelation Paul had done all to tell the whole known world about the Good news that salvation was now available to all men. Little wonder that his greatest enemies as he took his missionary journeys, were in fact the Jews. Their blood must have boiled at what he said. But the great consolation for Paul was that Jesus had experienced exactly the same reaction. In Col 2:24-5 Paul identifies his sufferings as the continuance t of the suffering of Christ’s body- of which he was a member. In fact, Paul gloried in such persecution, for to him it was proof that he was following in the steps of Jesus, and also that in his original Damascus road encounter, the Lord had told him, he would suffer for Him.