Summary: Paul explains that salvation is not the result of works.
The fight over circumcision Romans 2:25-29
In 1995, a man by the name of McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight and made no visible attempt at disguising himself. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o’clock news. When police showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in unbelief and said, “But I wore the juice.”
Apparently, he was under the impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras.
“25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 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.”
The first question we need to ask is, what is circumcision, why was it done, what was its purpose, why was this procedure only directed toward men and if it was discontinued in the New Testament era, was anything meant to take its place?
I So, first, what is circumcision
There are two circumcisions discussed in scripture and one is the physical circumcision of the Old Testament and the other is spiritual circumcision of the New. The Old Testament circumcision was the surgical removal of the foreskin of a male. The word circumcise literally means “to cut around.” This practice originated with the covenant established by God with Abraham, his family, his slaves and eventually the rest of his descendants. It was first performed by the father as Abraham did and later, we also see Moses wife performed circumcision on her son. And as time went on circumcision was performed as a religious rite by a rabbi.
We find it’s beginning in Genesis 17 where it says,
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”
God promised him three things.
1) There was the National Blessing
This was the promise that Abraham and his descendants would not only dwell in the land they were traveling in but that he through his descendants would become a great nation. And of course, we’ve seen the Jews through the centuries occupying the land while they were obedient and then taken captive from the land because of their unfaithfulness. But, in these last days God has brought them to the land in unbelief and they’ll stay there until He fulfills His future plans and then we’ll see a revival of the Jewish people.
2) There was also a Personal Blessing
God promised that Abraham that he personally would accomplish great things. In Genesis 12:2 God said, “I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing.” So, he would be blessed and we know his God’s blessings are never just for the one He’s blessed but will be a blessing to those around him. When He promised to make his name great, you have to remember, Abraham is not only honored by Christians and Jews but even by the Muslims.
3) There was also a Universal Blessing
God promised that Abraham’s faith would be the beginning of a spiritual movement that would have an influence on every nation on earth. Genesis 12:3 says, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” And this happened because God’s covenant reached way beyond Abraham and we can see in history how those who treated Abraham and his descendants were blessed while those who mistreated he or his descendants were cursed.
The last part of God’s covenant was implied by the promise that “in him all families of the earth will be blessed.” And this was a veiled promise of the Messiah whose sacrifice and atoning death would provide forgiveness and salvation for all who believed in Him.
And then we’re told how Abraham was to seal the deal. It’s in verses 10-13, “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.