Saturday, 16 February 2013
For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Romans 2:25
Paul turns to the ancient rite of circumcision to justify the comments he has previously made. “For” tells us that what was stated leads to this conclusion. “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law.” The rite of circumcision was given to Abraham in Genesis 17. However, he was declared righteous by God in Genesis 15 many years earlier. The rite was a sign of the declaration, not the other way around. Therefore, if one keeps the law (which was later instituted through Moses, a member of the promised line who received the rite), then the circumcision has profit. If not, then it is entirely without merit.
In order to understand this, think of a person who was not of the covenant people. If he was circumcised, perhaps to be a spy against Israel, what good would his circumcision do in regards to the law? Nothing; it would mean nothing. The circumcision needs to be accompanied by a belief that what the law is proclaiming is also worth living out.
Paul then gives a validation of this by turning the premise around – “But if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” If the law was given and circumcision is a sign attached to those who have received it, implying that it is binding upon them, then when the law is broken, the sign means nothing. Suppose you are the citizen of a nation and you are given an oath as a sign of that citizenship – “I promise to defend the constitution of…” As a validation of that, you are given a uniform with stripes and a flag of your nation on it. If you ship off to war and become a traitor, the uniform means nothing. “Your allegiance has become non-allegiance.”
An outward sign must be accompanied by an inward compass or the sign means nothing. This is true within a family, within a work environment, or in any other group or organizational context. Without this inward conviction, the outward sign has no point or purpose. Moses realized this when he spoke to the nation after their 38 years of desert wanderings in Deuteronomy 10:16 –
“Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.”
In the very next sentence, verse 10:17, Moses says that the Lord “shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.” “No partiality” is tied directly to “circumcision of the heart.” It is an internal conviction, not an outward sign, which demonstrates a person is in right standing with the law. This is especially true because Paul (in fact the entire Old Testament as well) shows that none can meet the demands of the law perfectly. Therefore, all are guilty before the law and the sign of circumcision is of no value unless accompanied by faith in what the law provides when the law is broken – mercy and forgiveness through conviction and repentance (such as the Day of Atonement ritual).
The importance of “uncircumcision” is of such weight and moment to Paul that he will use the term 19 times in his letters. Only one other time is it used in the New Testament – in the book of Acts. Understanding this connection between the inward change and the rite clearly shows us that baptism is not a New Testament equivalent of circumcision. Infant baptism carries with it the same inherent flaw as what Paul speaks of. To understand the fault of tying infant baptism in with circumcision, you may wish to take time and watch this sermon where I discusses the issue in detail –
Life application: If you are relying on an external sign, rite, or affiliation in order to please God, you have made an error in your thinking. The holiness of God demands that all who enter His promised heaven must be perfect in all ways. Nothing can be added to an imperfect being to make him perfect. Instead, there must be a complete change in the person – moving from unrighteousness to righteousness. This can only come about by faith in what God can do, not man; this can only come about through Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus today.
Heavenly Father, may You continue to remind me that the external things of my life – my denomination, my church attendance, my giving, and my title of “Christian” can only have meaning if my heart is directed to You. And then Lord, give me the willing desire to pursue You and thus prove that the externals really reflect what is inside me. Amen.