Circumcision in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the Gentiles were not required to keep the Mosaic law of circumcision. Paul specifically said, “Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:18, 19).
The apostle Paul here stressed that neither the keeping of the Jewish ceremony of circumcision nor failure to do so could affect a person’s relationship with the Lord through faith in Christ. He taught that outward obedience and keeping to the Mosaic law has no merit without faith in the Savior (Galatians 5:6; 6:15). The converted believer is received by God because of his faith in the ultimate salvation done for him by the Redeemer on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8, 9).
As circumcision was for the physical Israelite the sign of his covenant relationship with God, baptism became that sign for the Christian in the New Testament to their relationship with God. Paul wrote, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11–12).
The Circumcision of the Heart
In the New Testament, believers get circumcised in the heart not the flesh when they accept the gospel truth by faith and submit their lives to Christ. The Lord promised, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Hebrews 8:10 also 10:16).
In the Old Testament, God wrote the Ten Commandments (God’s law) on tables of stone (Deuteronomy 4:13), and Moses law in a book (Deuteronomy 31:24, 26). The Lord wanted that these laws should also be written on the hearts of the people. But the people simply wanted these law to be an external law and their observance to it a superficial obedience. God did not desire that His laws should be kept that way. He wanted His children to have new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26).
Under the new covenant, the Christians’ hearts are transformed by God’s grace (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Believers live in holiness, not by their own power, but because the Holy Spirit lives in their hearts and God’s principles are sealed in their minds (Galatians 2:20). They are converted by the Spirit and produce the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). The transformation can be done only by God’s power. For only God can “put” His law in the minds of the believers, with man’s agreement and cooperation (Revelation 22:17).
What Was Abolished at the Cross?
Circumcision was a ritual of the Mosaic law which was a temporary, ceremonial law of the Old Testament. This law was abolished at the cross (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14-17). Do people still circumcise today? Yes, and that is for health reasons, but of itself, this rite holds no more religious value. Please note that there are two different laws presented in the Bible:
- Called “the law of Moses” (Luke 2:22).
- Called “law … contained in ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15).
- Written by Moses in a book (2 Chronicles 35:12).
- Placed outside the ark (Deuteronomy 31:26).
- Ended at the cross (Ephesians 2:15).
- Added because of sin (Galatians 3:19).
- Contrary to us, against us (Colossians 2:14).
- Judges no one (Colossians 2:14-16).
- Carnal (Hebrews 7:16).
- Called “the law of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:24).
- Called Ten Commandments-“the royal law” (James 2:8).
- Written by God on stone (Exodus 31:18; 32:16).
- Placed inside the ark (Exodus 40:20).
- Will stand forever (Luke 16:17).
- Points out sin (Romans 7:7; 3:20).
- Not grievous (1 John 5:3).
- Judges all people (James 2:10-12).
- Spiritual (Romans 7:14).
- Perfect (Psalms 19:7).
In His service,