Unlimited: Circumcision and the Law
Aug 15, 2022 349
Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised (Rom. 2:25.)
For the Jewish people, there were two great signs that God had given them of their special status as his special people: circumcision and the Sabbath. The Jews boasted in these two things over the Gentiles.
In the earliest apostolic church, the focal point of controversy was over circumcision. This was because of Paul’s teachings in the Gentile churches of the west: that physical circumcision was no longer required for followers of Jesus. This is reflected in the argument that Paul is making here.
Paul points out to them that circumcision in itself has no value. If you break any point of the law, you stand condemned.
Paul is saying that if a Jewish person is circumcised and keeps the law, then circumcision has some value, but if that person does not keep the law perfectly, then nothing else they do matters. James clearly expresses this:
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10.)
The Jewish people in Paul’s time attempted to keep the law as a means of being righteous before God.
Paul points out to them that circumcision in itself has no value. If you break any point of the law, you stand condemned. You will fail to attain righteousness. Paul appeals to his hearers’ knowledge of themselves. They know they are all lawbreakers and will fall short of salvation.
For the Jews, it was circumcision, but different Christian churches tend to focus on different things as the mark of their distinctiveness, giving these things the greatest value. These might include social issues, rituals, diet, and dress. Can you think of some different churches and what they emphasise?