Read & Study the Bible Online - Bible Portal
Circumcision (4061) (peritome from perí = around + témno = cut off) refers literally to cutting and removal of the foreskin. As discussed below both the Old and New Testament also use the concept of circumcision in a figurative or metaphorical sense. (See also exposition of Scriptures on Circumcision) 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. Bartlett comments on the Jewish misinterpretation of physical (and spiritual) circumcision writing that for the Jews... Circumcision was commonly regarded as affording immunity from penalty. In these assumptions, the Jews overlooked two basic facts, namely, that birth is not worth, and that rites do not in themselves confer rights. And we must keep ever in view that it is faith alone which saves. Forms without truth are plates without food. They are empty words without meaning and value. (Galatians 3:1-22 - Doctrinal Exposition) (Bolding added) The Jews should have known the true meaning of circumcision, for Moses and the prophets repeatedly used this very 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, and stiffen your neck no more. (Dt 10:16). Comment: Clearly Moses was not speaking of physical circumcision. Can't you hear the Jewish audience say (I am speculating here) "What in the world is Moses talking about? I can't cut my own heart. I wouldn't be able to live without a heart." Whatever their response to this truth, it was clearly spoken to "peak" their interest. Even in this same sentence, Moses gives a clue as to what he meant for he associates an uncircumcised heart with one who stiffens their neck (clearly a metaphor that pictures a person who was stubborn and/or disobedient - the Hebrew words translated "stiff necked" are elsewhere rendered "stubborn" in the NASU - e.g., Dt 9:6, 13, 31:27, Neh 9:16, 17, see also same 2 Hebrew words in Jer 7:26, 17:23, 19:15). In other words, 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 (Ge 15:6) where Moses records that Abraham believed (Hebrew = "aman" conveys basic root idea of firmness or certainty. Thus Abram in a sense "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." (Ge 15:6) 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, 42) 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. Moses gave Israel a prophetic promise that 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 (cp Ro 11:26, 27-note), when by grace through faith their hearts will be spiritually 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 (the so called remnant). In the OT, these Jewish believers 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 (Ezek 36:27). This promise of a new heart would allow the Israelites to love the Lord with all their heart and soul. This promise is most fully expressed in the New Covenant originally promised to Israel (see Jer 31:31, 32, 33, 34, Ezek 11:19, 36:26 discussed in the topic New Covenant in the Old Testament). The physical circumcision God had called for was always meant to be an external sign of an internal change of heart resulting in a love for God. Thus Paul wrote that in Christ the believers at Colossae were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Col 2:11-note) Here in Romans 4:10, 11, 12, 13 Paul is explaining the figurative meaning of circumcision as the "cutting off" of Christ from the living via Crucifixion. Earlier in Romans Paul had made it clear that he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward 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; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Ro 2:28, 29-note). This internal "circumcision" is what Jesus was calling for in the Jewish leaders (who knew the letter of the law) when He declared You blind Pharisee, first clean (katharizo - aorist imperative - commanded calling for an immediate, definitive response!) 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 (not a suggestion but a command) yourselves to the Lord and remove (command) 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) Comment: You would have thought (considering the "promise" of God), that the Jewish hearers would have sought to obey this command or at least to humble themselves and seek His face that He might reveal to them what this metaphor meant. Tragically, as the Biblical record reveals, Judah refused to heed the divine (merciful) warnings and were utterly destroyed by Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar. (Read the sad words in 2Chr 36:15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21) 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 (clearly alluding to the Jews who refused spiritual or internal "heart circumcision" available only by faith in the Messiah)-- 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 (Gentiles) are uncircumcised (literal - most of the Gentiles were physically uncircumcised), and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart. (figurative - lacked 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. 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) 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 uncircumcised Gentiles and they therefore stood condemned before God. A crisis erupted in the church at Antioch when some men 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) 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. In summary, here in Romans 4:12, Paul is saying 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). In summary, in these passages in Romans 4, Paul insists that physical circumcision is not what counts (Ro 2:28, 29-note). There must be faith in the living God (Ro 4:3-note). Those of the circumcision (those who are physically Jews) who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are the true Israel of God (Gal 6:16) (Click analysis of the phrase Israel of God) BUT WHO ALSO FOLLOW IN THE STEPS: alla kai tois stoichousin (PAPMPD) tois ichnesin: (Job 33:11; Proverbs 2:20; Song1:8; 2Corinthians 12:18; 1Peter 2:21)

Be the first to react on this!

Group of Brands