Summary: Other than our faith, there is nothing we can appeal to in an effort to merit God’s favor.
Grace And Identity
I. Paul Defines A True Jew
A. Did the Jews have special privileges others did not have? Do they now? Where does the modern day Christian fall in this scheme?
1. The Jews did have special privileges.
2. God gave his Law to them; he called them as his special people; and some even propose they will once again enjoy a special place in his world plan prior to the end of time.
B. Paul mentions the Jewish practice of circumcision. (v. 25)
1. This part of God’s covenant began with Abraham the Hebrew and his descendants. (Genesis 17:9-14)
2. After initiating the covenant with him, God placed the requirement on him and his descendants that every male must be circumcised on the eighth day after birth.
3. Entering into that practice would prove they accepted the covenant obligations.
4. This law also applied to all servants born into Abraham’s household as well as foreign born servants he purchased.
5. The penalty for refusing the sign involved being cut off from the covenant family.
C. Why Circumcision?
1. Many children are still circumcised today, and we are now aware one advantage involves health issues. Some of the other laws God gave to Moses seem strange to us as well, but when we take into consideration the conditions under which they were given, we come to understand many of them also related to health concerns in a time when sanitation was not equal to modern standards.
2. It was a sign of obedience.
3. It was a sign one belonged to the covenant community.
4. As Paul will deal with, it was a sign of the “cutting off” of the old life; it separated the Jewish people from their pagan neighbors.
D. The term was also used to distinguish those who were followers of the one True God from those who were not; “circumcised” versus “uncircumcised.”
E. Unfortunately, many Jews came to wear this as a badge of honor and pride they felt made them better than the “Gentiles.” Some also believed obeying this practice meant they were accepted by God regardless of what else they did.
1. This matter is one that Paul will now address.
2. In his continuing apology that all are guilty before God regardless of their cultural heritage, he must address this matter so many put great stock in.
3. He will also define the true meaning of the practice. Just as there was the literal practice of circumcision, so there was a deeper spiritual meaning.
4. In fact, he will go so far as to say an uncircumcised Gentile could be a true Jew.
5. We can only imagine the anger this aroused from the pious Judaizer.
F. The cutting away that accompanied the procedure of circumcision actually referred to the cutting away of some things as it related to the spiritual side of a person.
1. The deeper matter under consideration is what a person has to do-or not do, to please God.
2. What does it take to enter God’s family?
3. Paul was addressing people who had a misunderstanding about salvation or who wanted to add to the pure gospel.
G. The practice of circumcision only has value if God’s law is obeyed. (v. 25)
1. The issue in Paul’s day was with those who thought a person had to be circumcised to become a believer.
2. While this is not an issue for people today, there are other things people have and do trust in for acceptance by God, so Paul’s discussion is not in vain or irrelevant.
3. Good deeds, baptism, confirmation as a child, and church membership are common actions people hope will make them right with God.
4. Paul would say the same thing to those who trust in those things at the expense of obedience to God and faith in him-they are of no value.
5. There will always be a need for this message, for it is the human tendency to think we are good enough or have done enough for God to accept us. It fights against our pride to admit we are helpless.
H. Paul’s terminology of being a true Jew versus not is akin to saying being a part of God’s family.
1. One who demonstrates obedience to God’s commands proves they are a true follower regardless of what trophies they may have that would appear to automatically qualify them for inclusion.
2. The Jew who claims circumcision as his badge of honor but who disobeys God is no better than an uncircumcised Gentile.
3. But the uncircumcised Gentile who obeys God’s law is accepted above the circumcised Jew who does not obey God’s law.
4. For the Judaizers, this teaching would have been heresy, but it reemphasizes what Paul is teaching-membership in God’s family has nothing to do with external qualities. It is an internal matter that must be taken care of. God is after inward righteousness not outward conformity.