Circumcision

“The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God’s law. But if you don’t obey God’s law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile.”
Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭25‬ ‭NLT

Way back in Genesis 17 we read about how God decided to make a covenant with a man, then called Abram. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants” (Genesis 17:1-2).

From God’s side of the covenant, He promised Abram many descendants, and a land in which to live. In the process, his name was changed from Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”, confirming that God promised that Abraham would become the father of many nations. But Abraham also had his side of the bargain to keep. We read this in Genesis 17:10-11, “This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between Me and you”. And so the Jewish custom of circumcision was introduced and faithfully followed generation after generation, right up until the present day.

However, Paul was continuing in his tirade against the Jewish Christians in Rome, who were all puffed up with their self-perceived status as special Christians. Perhaps there was a whiff of Gnosticism lurking in the air. But whatever the situation was, Paul dropped a bombshell – he told them there’s no point in being circumcised in you don’t obey God’s law. And just to add to their discomfort, he said, because of that, they might as well be uncircumcised Gentiles, surely an insult if there ever was one.

Is there a learning opportunity here for us 21st Century pilgrims? I would say so. And I’m not suggesting that all us men rush out and find a clinic prepared to circumcise us. Perish the thought! No – for the Jews, circumcision was supposed to be an outward sign of someone dedicated to God and His service. But sadly they ended up going through the motions of their religion, but neglecting its spirit. They felt secure in their physical status but were missing what that status really meant. Paul wrote very clearly to the Corinthian Christians the following, “For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments“. (1 Corinthians 7:19). 

We pilgrims must be a people who are obedient to keeping God’s commandments, in the way Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37, “Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind””. A people who are in a loving relationship with our wonderful Heavenly Father. Paul said to the Philippians, “For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort” (Philippians 3:3). Paul said in his Colossian letter, “When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature” (Colossians 2:11). So, the whole meaning of the word “circumcision” has been expanded to mean the removal of our sinful nature, and by so doing, has brought us closer to being the people God wants us to be. 

Sadly, many Christians have become somewhat tarnished in their faith. They go through the motions of the religion, attending church, warming a pew, putting an offering in the collection bag and so on, without stopping to think about what they are doing, or are supposed to be doing. The loving relationship that God so desires with His creation is far from their hearts. By so doing they are behaving much like the Jewish Christians in Rome. Perhaps, Paul would have said to them that they may as well have been unbelievers.

The clear message to us pilgrims is this – don’t get caught up in the trap that Paul warned his protégé Timothy of. We read in 2 Timothy 3:5, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Father God. We are so sorry that we neglect the loving relationship so freely available to us all. We get so caught up in our daily activities that we forget to put You at the centre of what we do. Please forgive us, we pray. Amen.

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