Romans 4:12


Sunday, 7 April 2013

…and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. Romans 4:12

The previous verse showed that Abraham was “the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised.” Today shows that likewise, Abraham is “the father of circumcision.” The Greek actually leaves out a definite article before “father.” He is “father of circumcision.” This is an abstract term for the concrete principle similar to saying someone is “father of the modern jet airplane.” However, Paul includes a caveat concerning those circumcised people. It is those who are not “only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith…”

Being circumcised but lacking faith has already been addressed and then it was supported by Paul’s inclusion of David’s quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures. In order to further substantiate it, Paul pulls out a word for “walk” which is only used a few times in the New Testament,  stoichousin. This word finds other uses in secular Greek writings to indicate the concept of military order. There it has the idea of keeping in rank or walking in step with a leader.

In other words, those who are of the circumcision can’t claim any special participation with Abraham unless they walk in the manner of Abraham, which has been shown to be a walk of faith. Other Jewish writings designate Abraham “the head of those that are circumcised” or “the head to them that are circumcised.” However, Paul calls him “father of circumcision.” The difference is immense. The first indicates a relationship is contingent on circumcision, but the second indicates that true circumcision is contingent on faith.

What this means, and it is of the highest concern for those who are circumcised, is that in order to be saved the Jews must come under Abraham’s covenant of faith which was while he was still uncircumcised, not the other way around. The entire concept of circumcision had been turned upside down by those who bore the sign.

Unfortunately, this is still the case in Christianity today. Far too many sects and denominations insert the law where it doesn’t belong by imposing its restrictions on those who have been freed from them. The sign of the saved Christian is an internal one; it is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Attempting to add to that can only bring in unhappy consequences and a life of walking in uncertainty.

In the same way, some believe they are saved through their denomination and that others are excluded. Or, they may believe that baptism is a saving grace comparable to the Jew’s belief in the effectiveness of circumcision. However, both of these ideas are dispelled when one understands that it is faith, and faith alone, which restores us to God. We too must come under the covenant of the faith of Abraham.

Life application: Was there a time when you called on Jesus Christ as Lord by simple faith? If so, then remember that move and return to it. Live in it and revel in it. If you’ve been adding external requirements to it and have wondered why your walk is a meandering one, then re-evaluate your walk. If someone is teaching you to follow certain dietary requirements, certain days of church attendance, etc., then you are only harming your walk of faith. Look to Jesus and what He already did and then glory in that.

O most precious Lord, by faith Abraham was declared righteous and so he is considered the father of faith for all who walk in his steps. Help me to be a person of faith, putting aside attempts to merit my salvation by adding to what You have already done for me. What could I add to the work of Jesus? In Him my rest is found and in Him I shall take my rest. Amen.

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