Was Paul Against Circumcision?
The Judaizers accused Paul that he was against circumcision. But this was a false. Paul lived a life of adaptation (1 Corinthians 9:19–23); he lived as a Jew, among Jews and permitted the Jew in the Christian church freedom to remain in his ceremonial practices until he saw their insignificance in the light of the gospel of faith (Romans 14:1–10; 1 Corinthians 7:17–24).
The apostle himself had taken the Nazirite vow (Acts 18:18). He allowed Timothy to be circumcised (Acts 16:3). Thus, there was no truth for the charge that Paul taught the Jewish Christians “not to circumcise their children.” The charge was a created by of his enemies.
Paul taught that circumcision was commanded by God in the Old Testament (Leviticus 12:3). It was an external “sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness” of a covenant relation between a nation, or people, and their God (Romans 4:11). Although the rite was individually done, the reception was not by faith on the part of the child who was to undergo this ritual. Thus, circumcision was merely a national sign.
Circumcision in the New Covenant
Circumcision became without a meaning when the worship of God, in Christ, was no longer a national sign (Galatians 3:28, 29; Colossians 3:11). Circumcision became a living relationship to Christ by faith (Romans 3:22–24; Galatians 3:26, 27; Ephesians 2:8). Through, Christ of the new covenant of salvation by faith (Jeremiah 31:31–34; 2 Corinthians 3:6–9; Hebrews 8:6–13), the old covenant sign, circumcision, was no longer important.
Paul preached, “circumcision is nothing,” so far as a man’s connection to God is considered (1 Corinthians 7:19; Romans 3:31; 8:4; 1 John 2:3). In the gospel of Christ, circumcision has no place (Galatians 5:6; 6:12–17). Jew and Gentile are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:16, 27–29; Colossians 2:9–14), who has erased the “middle wall of partition” between them (Ephesians 2:11–17). All must be saved by Christ alone, “by grace … through faith” (Ephesians 2:4–10; Romans 3:26–30).
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 law has no merit without faith in the Savior (Galatians 5:6; 6:15). The converted believer is received by God, not because of any good deeds that he may do, but because of his faith in the ultimate atonement done for him by the Redeemer on Calvary (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). Baptism is the ceremony of self-surrender, of the death of the old person and of his burial in the watery grave.
The apostle Paul didn’t teach a religion of “touch not; taste not; handle not,” as taught and stressed by men (Colossians 2:20–22); of rules and scrupulous practices (like circumcision) that had no real moral and spiritual meaning (Romans 14:1–10; Galatians 4:9–11; Hebrews 9:9, 10), and which in view of the life and death of Jesus Christ had no longer significance (Colossians 2:8–17).
In His service,