28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 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.
Paul’s epistle to the Romans touches on some basic doctrines of the gospel of Christ. But sometimes they need a little study to be fully understand.
In these verses, we can replace the word “Jew” with “member of the house of Israel.” And “circumcision” with “a physical sign of discipleship.”
At this time, there was this emphasis among Jewish Christians (those who had Jewish heritage but chose to follow Christ) on circumcision being necessary for salvation. But Gentiles who had converted to Christ had not been circumcised. So the question was whether they needed to be circumcised to be true disciples.
Paul taught that what really mattered wasn’t the deadness of the law of Moses (where circumcision was required) but faith in Christ (circumcision of the heart).
Today, we follow God’s law because God has commands it. We need the ordinances of the gospel. That’s how God has establishes His work. We must follow the commandments.
But they are only tools to lead us to faith in Jesus Christ so we can be changed and forgiven by Him. That’s what it means that we are saved by grace after all we can do. We still have to do (keep the commandments, make covenants, and receive saving ordinances), but the Atonement of Christ, written in our hearts, saves.
Outward signs don’t matter if we don’t have the inward signs. The inward signs are what allow us to be changed and worthy to enter God’s presence.