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Were circumcised (4059) (peritemno from perí = around + témno = cut off - see study of peritome) means literally to cut something off or away ("to cut off around"), signifying a removal of that which has been cut away. In Col 2:11 Paul is using the well known procedure of circumcision not to describe the physical act but to describe spiritual circumcision ("without hands") that results in spiritual rebirth. Paul used the concept of circumcision similarly in Romans 2:24-29, addressing the Jews who had the Law and physical circumcision and yet transgressed the Law, because they were not spiritually circumcised. TDNT - Non-biblical Use. Attested from the days of Homer, peritémnō means “to cut around,” “to make incisions,” “to encircle with a view to robbing” (e.g., cattle or lands), and then, as a ritual technical term, “to circumcise.” Thayer - to circumcise, cut off one's prepuce (used of that well-known rite by which not only the male children of the Israelites, on the eighth day after birth, but subsequently also `proselytes of righteousness' were consecrated to Jehovah and introduced into the number of his people. Peritemno - 17x in 15v - circumcise(4), circumcised(10), circumcision(1), receive circumcision(1), receives circumcision(1). Note the predominance of uses in Galatians - correct teaching on circumcision was a crucial issue in that epistle to counter the false teaching that one could only be saved by "Christ plus" something, in this case circumcision (see 5.1" class="scriptRef">Acts 15:1, 5). Luke 1:59 And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. Luke 2:21 ¶ And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. John 7:22 "For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. Acts 7:8 "And He gave him the covenant of circumcision (Ge 17:11 says it is the sign of the covenant); and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. Acts 15:1 Some men came down from Judea (to the church at Antioch) and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." (Ed: These "Judiazers" came down because they got wind of the Gentile conversions from the First Missionary Journey - and they demanded they added "circumcision" to salvation by faith alone! This spurred the pivotal Jerusalem Council to address this heresy.) Acts 15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." (Read Peter's strong refutation of this deadly, heretical teaching - Acts 15:7-11) Acts 16:3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. Acts 21:21 and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 1 Corinthians 7:18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Galatians 2:3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. Galatians 5:2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. (Ed: Something that no one can do, except Jesus!) Galatians 6:12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. Colossians 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; Peritemno - 41x in 37v in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - 17.10-Gen.17.14" class="scriptRef">Gen 17:10-14, 23-27; 21:4; 34:15, 17, 22, 24; Ex 4:25; 12:44, 48; Lev 12:3; Deut 10:16; Josh 5:2-4, 7, 8; 21:42; 24:30; Esther 8:17; Jer 4:4; 9:25 Of these Jews, Paul declares "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly (or just because one is born of Jewish parents and is a descendant of Abraham, has gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision and externally conforms to the Law like the Pharisees); neither is circumcision that which is outward (external, a physical thing, something visible, that which may be seen) in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (not by the written code, a spiritual and not a literal matter, real circumcision is heart- circumcision); and his praise is not from men, but from God." (Ro 2:28-29-note) The NLT paraphrases it "No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people." In Philippians Paul wrote that true believers (Jew and Gentile) "are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (Php 3:3-note) Again Paul reminds the Galatians that neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation ("the result of a new birth and a new nature in Christ Jesus, the Messiah" Amplified) (Gal 6:15) The NLT paraphrase says "It doesn't make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people." Paul's instruction regarding spiritual circumcision was not new, but was taught repeatedly in the Old Testament. Although circumcision was required by the Mosaic law, the rite was neglected during the days when the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness. Perhaps this was a sign that the nation had broken their covenant with God through their disobedience. The rite was resumed when they entered the land of Canaan, with Joshua performing the ritual on the generation born in the wilderness (Joshua 5). The Hebrew people came to take great pride in circumcision; in fact, it became a badge of their spiritual and national superiority. This practice fostered an exclusivist mentality instead of a missionary zeal to reach the Gentiles which was God's original intent for His "chosen" people. A daily prayer of a strict Jewish male was to thank God that he was neither a woman, a Samaritan, nor a Gentile. Gentiles came to be regarded by the Jews as the “uncircumcision,” a term of disrespect implying that non-Jewish peoples were outside the circle of God’s love. As discussed below, God applied the very same term ("uncircumcised") to describe His "chosen" people. The terms “circumcised” and “uncircumcised” became emotionally charged symbols to Israel and their Gentile neighbors. This issue later brought discord into the fellowship of the New Testament church and especially caused confusion about how one obtained genuine salvation. The Jews should have known the true meaning of circumcision for Moses and the prophets used the term “circumcised” as a symbol for purity of heart and readiness to hear and obey. For example, through Moses the Lord challenged the Israelites to submit to Circumcise then your heart (clearly speaking of a inward, spiritual work not an external fleshly work), and stiffen your neck no more. (Dt 10:16). An uncircumcised heart reflected a will that was hardened toward God’s commands. Circumcision as first prescribed in (Ge 17:10, 11, 12, 13, 14) meant to cut away the fleshly part of the male sexual organ, that part which might hold disease in its folds and so potentially might pass the disease on to the wives. Thus physical circumcision had an important role in the preservation of God’s people physically. Nelson's Study Bible has an interesting thought on physical circumcision noting that Since the Canaanite worship system involved sexual excess, the distinctive sign on the body of the male Hebrew would be a significant reminder not to participate in the rituals of the Canaanites. (Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. The Nelson Study Bible: NKJV. Nashville: Thomas Nelson) In any event, the more significant meaning of circumcision was as a symbol of the need for the heart to be cleansed from sin’s deadly disease. This "cutting" needed to happen internally, for God was calling for the removal of the "body of flesh", which was the predisposition to sin (inherited from Adam) and which kept man from being spiritually devoted to God. It seems that God selected the reproductive organ as the location of the symbol for man’s need of cleansing for sin, because it is the instrument most indicative of his depravity, since by it he reproduces generations of sinners. In any event, physical circumcision was a sign of being under God’s covenant with Abraham, a covenant that was entered into by faith, not by works. We find Abraham entering that unconditional covenant with Jehovah in (Gen 15:6) where Moses records that Abraham "believed (he "leaned his whole weight upon", he said in essence "Amen, Lord" or "so be it Lord") in the LORD and He reckoned [God imputed Christ's righteousness or placed it on Abraham's account] it to him as righteousness." In the midst of a series of warnings to Israel regarding punishment for disobedience to the LORD, Moses records a ray of hope in God's gracious promise that If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled (conveys the basic sense of being lowly, meek) so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land (this is the same covenant Abraham entered into by faith not works). (Lev 26:40, 41, 4242) The cause of Israel’s rebellion was an “uncircumcised heart,” a heart that had never been changed by the Lord and one which refused to bow (to be humbled) before Him. In Deuteronomy Moses commands Israel "Circumcise then your heart (clearly speaking of a inward, spiritual work not an external fleshly work), and stiffen your neck no more." (Dt 10:16) Without circumcision of heart, true fear of God and true love of God are both impossible. Again in Deuteronomy Moses gives a prophesy that the day will come when the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. (Dt 30:6) What God's law demanded, God's grace would enable. This verse primarily refers to the future salvation of Jews alive at the return of Christ, when by faith they will have their hearts circumcised. In the intervening centuries, God has partially fulfilled this promise, as there have always been physical Jews who by faith received God's promise of new life in Christ. In the OT, they were looking forward to the Cross, whereas in the NT they (and all believers today) look back to the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Thus circumcision of heart defines an internal work by God and is another description of true salvation, a salvation that imparts to that individual a new will that now desires to to obey God instead of to rebel against Him. This promise of a new heart would allows the Israelites to love the Lord with all their heart and soul, and receives it fullest expression in the New Covenant (see Jer 31:31, 32, 33, 34, Ezek 11:19, 36:26 discussed in the topic New Covenant in the Old Testament). This internal circumcision is what Jesus was referring to when He declared "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." (Mt 23:26) Jeremiah addressing faithless, unbelieving Judah and Jerusalem declared "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My wrath go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it." (Jer 4:4) As Biblical history records they refused to heed the warning and were utterly defeated by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah characterized rebellious Israel as having “uncircumcised” ears declaring "To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed (Hebrew literally = uncircumcised) and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the LORD has become a reproach to them." (Jer 6:10) Through Jeremiah the LORD later says "Behold, the days are coming, that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised (i.e., physically circumcised but not spiritually circumcised - then he mentions even some Gentile lands which practiced physical circumcision and puts "Judah" in the midst of these nations they loathe!)-- Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the sons of Ammon, and Moab, and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised (referring to the fact that most of the Gentiles were physically uncircumcised), and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart. (referring to spiritual circumcision)" (Jer 9:25-26) The Jews boasted in the covenant sign of circumcision, but it was only in their flesh. The true spiritual circumcision God desired had never reached their hearts. In a similar way, people today who depend on baptism and some other church sacrament (ordinance), and yet who have never repented and trusted Christ, are in the same situation as the Jews in Jeremiah’s day - they think they’re a part of the divine covenant, but their confidence is false and they stand deceived and in imminent danger of entering into a Christ-less eternity. Due to the passing down of teaching from one rabbi to another over the centuries ("traditions of men" = paradosis) the true meaning and requirement of circumcision specified in Ge 17:11 had been lost. And so by the first century we find rabbinical "traditions" (which were considered on a plane with the inspired Word) teaching such fallacies as: “No circumcised Jewish man will see hell” “Circumcision saves us from hell.” The Midrash (non-inspired Jewish writings after return from Babylon with the purpose being to "fill in the gaps" of the Torah - and here is an example of their gross misinterpretation of the Word of Truth) says “God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised would be sent to hell. Abraham sits before the gate of hell and never allows any circumcised Israelite to enter.” In Acts Stephen infuriated his Jewish audience with the indictment that "You men who are stiff-necked (literally "hard necked" and thus obstinate, stubborn, rebellious) and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did." (Acts 7:51) Comment: Their uncircumcision in heart and ears marks the Jews as just like the unsaved Gentiles (who were often referred to as the "uncircumcision"). Their sin had never been forgiven. They were as unclean before God as the uncircumcised Gentiles they detested and they therefore stood themselves condemned before God. A crisis erupted in the church at Antioch when Paul and Barnabas returned from the First Missionary Journey (Acts 13:4, Second = Acts 15:35, Third = Acts 18:23), and gave a report of numerous Gentile conversions (men who were physically uncircumcised - and this was the point of contention)... “some men (Judaizers) came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." (Acts 15:1) (At the Jerusalem council that followed the events of Acts 15:1 we read) But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5) Comment: Circumcision and keeping the Law was the supposed means of obtaining perfect righteousness before God were the two great errors of first century Judaism The Judaizers insisted that a believer from a non-Jewish background (Gentile) must first become a Jew ceremonially (by being circumcised) before he could be admitted to the Christian brotherhood. A council of apostles and elders was convened in Jerusalem to resolve the issue (Acts 15:6-29). Among those attending were Paul, Barnabas, Simon Peter, and James, a leader of the Jerusalem church. To insist on circumcision for the Gentiles, Peter argued, would amount to a burdensome yoke (Acts 15:10,19). This was the decision handed down by the council, and the church broke away from the binding legalism of Judaism which demanded physical circumcision and obedience to the Law. In Romans 2 Paul discussed (and refuted) the false belief that obedience to the Law saves (Ro 2:12-24) and the false belief that physical circumcision saves (Ro 2:25-29). In Romans 2:28, 29 discussed earlier, Paul teaches that there is a difference between being Abraham’s physical descendants and Abraham’s spiritual children. Jesus had said the same thing to the Pharisees, “I know that you are Abraham's (physical) offspring” (Jn 8:37). But then He went on to say, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham (believe like Abraham did and become his spiritual children also).” (Jn 8:39). MacArthur has an interesting comment that God selected the reproductive organ as the location of the symbol for man’s need of cleansing for sin, because it is the instrument most indicative of his depravity, since by it he reproduces generations of sinners. (MacArthur, J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word Pub) Paul's use of the metaphor of circumcision implies that the "persuasive arguments" in Colossians had an element of Jewish traditions of men (Col 2:16, 17-notes) Paul leaves no doubt that the Colossians were freed from this physical rite which only removed a portion of the body. In contrast the "circumcision by Christ" has resulted in removal of the (entire) body of the flesh. Due to the passing down of teaching from one rabbi to another over the centuries ("traditions of men") the true meaning and requirement of circumcision had been lost. And so by the first century we find rabbinical "traditions" teaching such fallacies as: “No circumcised Jewish man will see hell” and “Circumcision saves us from hell.” The Midrash (Midrash from Hebrew meaning to “search out” = implication of discovering truth not seen on the surface. Refers to a group of Jewish OT commentaries between AD400-1200) says “God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised would be sent to hell. Abraham sits before the gate of hell and never allows any circumcised Israelite to enter.” Charles Hodge gives an excellent principle writing that “Whenever true religion declines, the disposition to lay undo stress on external rites is stressed. The Jews when they lost their spirituality supposed that circumcision had the power to save them.” Apostasy always moves the religious focus from the inward to the outward, from humble obedience to empty formality. Be aware that many so called "scholars" equate circumcision with baptism, reasoning that baptism has taken the place of the OT rite of circumcision. But Paul teaches that if we are Christians, we have been both circumcised and baptized, using both of these primarily with their spiritual meaning as discussed in these notes. Eadie comments that the blessing described in the verse had been already enjoyed, for they were and had been believers in Him in Whom they are complete. Through their living union with Christ, they had enjoyed the privilege, and were enjoying the results of a spiritual circumcision. Why then should they suffer the incision of a sharp flint or a glittering knife—in itself, at best, but a sign—when they had already experienced the blessing of a circumcision that drew no blood, and gave no pain—a circumcision “not made with hands”?...The circumcision made without hands is plainly opposed to that which is made with hands (Ep 2:11-note Ray Stedmann writes: I will never forget an incident that occurred a number of years ago here at the church. A young man came to my office carrying a thick Bible under his arm, which he had been reading. Looking at me very earnestly, he said to me, "Would you circumcise me?" After I had picked myself up from the floor, I explained to him why, one, he did not need physical circumcision, and, two, what circumcision meant. I pointed out that it was an eloquent symbol when it was properly understood. (Read the full sermon Beware!))

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