Gentiles and Circumcision
In the Mew Testament church, the question was: is circumcision applicable to gentile believers? Certain men have taught that, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). Some maintained that Gentiles who wished to join the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12) should be subject to circumcision in addition to their acceptance of Jesus Christ.
The Jerusalem Council convened to settle this question (Acts 15). And it ruled against the necessity of the Gentiles to observe the Jewish ceremonial law. The Council declared, “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you…saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”… it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…” (Acts 15:24-29).
However, not all seemed willing to accept the decisions of the council. A strong party developed that continued to insist that Gentiles should accept Judaism along with Christianity. A group of zealots from this party upset the churches, a situation that gave rise to the Epistles of Paul to the churches, in which he clearly taught that the ceremonial system of Judaism was no longer applicable.
The New Testament teaches that neither observing the Jewish rite of circumcision nor failure to do so have a bearing on an individual’s relationship with God through faith in Christ. For outward ceremonies are without value without faith in the Savior (Galatians 5:6; 6:15). The believer is accepted by God, not because of any good deeds that he may do, but because of his faith in the atonement of the Redeemer on Calvary (John 3:16; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8, 9).
Which Law Was Abolished at the Cross?
The end of Judaism did not mean the abrogation of all the laws that God had originally given. The ceremonial law of Moses (that included circumcision), which pointed to Christ, naturally came to an end when Christ fulfilled it. Jewish civil law had already largely passed away with the passing of the nation’s sovereignty. But God’s moral law of the Ten commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), which is a transcript of His character, is as eternal as God Himself and can never be abrogated. Jesus Himself said it can’t be changed or abolished (Matthew 5:17,18).
In all his teaching concerning the end of the Jewish legal system, Paul made it clear that the moral law (Ten Commandments -Exodus 20) is still binding. He said, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). And when speaking of the end of circumcision, he specifically concluded, “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:19). Here are the two 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).
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In His service,