June 25, 2017

The Good Shepherd is … the Lord of My Life

Dan Wokaty

He Is a Jew

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. Romans 2:29

In the area where I live—Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico— the word “Jew” has been ascribed a horribly bigoted and offensive connotation. Unfortunately, the word is often used incorrectly to describe a man of low ethics who steals when he can, who cannot be trusted with your possessions, and who cannot be expected to keep his word. Sadly, throughout history, the word “Jew” has often evoked similar negative thoughts and emotions. This is an indication of Satan’s attack on a nation that in the Scriptures God repeatedly calls His own.

True, the pages of Jewish history include some unattractive blemishes. For instance, Hollywood’s Ben-Hur depicts the Jews as fond of Jesus and the Romans as the ones who desired Christ’s death. In actuality, though, the Jews were the ones who demanded His death, even if they executed Him indirectly by turning Him over to the Roman authorities.

So how does one accurately describe a Jew? Certainly not by using terminology such as “dirty Jew,” the words Phil Donahue thought (without reason) must surely be used by every Fundamentalist Christian. (I’m referring to a 1980s Donahue program in which Donahue interviewed Dr. Bob Jones III with the purpose of ridiculing Biblical Christianity.) As a dispensationalist, I believe God still has the Jewish race in His future plans, specifically during the literal thousand-year reign of Christ.

There are many types of Jews (ethnic Jew, Messianic Jew, Jew by Jewish proselytism), but in Romans 2:29 Paul refers to the person who is a Jew inwardly. According to the lexical aid Bible Works (a very useful Bible study CD program), the primary definition of the Greek word “Jew” is “Jewish, belonging to the Jewish race,” and the secondary definition is “Jewish as respects to birth, race, religion.” Most often, the primary definition comes to mind when one thinks of the word “Jew.” However, Romans 2:29 presents to us the antitype; that is, the spiritual definition of a term normally defined by reference to physical attributes.

Romans 2 teaches clearly that one who believes his good works are his salvation (“whosoever thou art that judgest,” v. 1) will be damned (“thou condemnest thyself,” v. 1). In other words, his judging (krino) will be his condemnation (katakrino). In its logical progression, chapter 2 directs us to the final thought, seen in verse 29: God’s people are those whose hearts are circumcised (the antitype of the physical procedure of circumcision). In other words, their spiritual condition is based on a heart changed, not on actions performed.

Does that mean we are not responsible to live a godly life? Is it not true that our Christianity is based on our faith in Christ, and not on our works? Doesn’t the Bible say that we are “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28)? Yes, but let us not lose our place in Romans 2:29. The verse concludes by stating the very purpose for the life of the believer: “whose praise is not of men, but of God.” The Christian’s life purpose is to earn God’s praise. It is not to earn his salvation; nor is it to sus- tain his salvation. The purpose is simply to do what is pleasing to God in every aspect of his life.

There is not a waking minute that is not an opportunity to “work out [or provide evidence of] your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). With this in mind, when you wake up in the morning and meet the Lord in prayer, ask God to direct you in how you may help people understand, through your life, what Romans 2:29 means. Greet the first person you see in the morning and determine to prove to him through your actions and reactions that a Christian is not a people pleaser, but a God pleaser (figure out how to “wash his feet”!). When on visitation, be sure that you are not simply witnessing out of obligation, or so that you will feel good about yourself, or so that your pastor will praise you from the pulpit. Love that one to whom you are witnessing. Don’t spin him a line. Definitely don’t give him the gospel in a rote, memorized, monotonous tone.

So, Biblically, who is a Jew? According to Romans 2:29, I am one inwardly. How can I prove to the world outwardly what I am inwardly? More specifically, how do I help the world know what a true Christian is? I show my true identity by knowing what the Word of God requires of me, and by fulfilling that responsibility to the best of my ability, in the lives of every man, woman, and child with whom I cross paths.

I am a Christian; therefore I exist only to please my God.


Dan Wokaty is a missionary serving under Mexican Gospel Mission.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November / December 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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