Circumcision was the sign given to Abraham as an outward recognition of the faith that he had in the promises that God had given to him. It was a sign that sealed the covenant of faith between God, Abraham and his descendants.
But what is important to note in this is that it was not the physical act of circumcision that was the point of this whole process, but the faith that the recipients of the circumcision held. The Jews had a law that every male child born had to be circumcised on the eighth day after being born, but what was then the important part of this process was that the child grew up to hold the faith that Abraham had before God. Circumcision was to be a sign as a reminder of that faith.
In this section of scripture Paul discusses these distinctions and as we learn what he had to say we can see that there are many applications of this same principle. We also see how deceit can lead people astray to believe that the the act is more important than the faith, that is, that circumcision is more important than believing the promises of God.
Getting Your Priorities Right
Jesus provided a similar principle to this when He spoke to the Pharisees calling them blind guides when they got this principle wrong. We see this in Matthew 23:16-17.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?
This is such a typical way for man to think. Gold is greater than the house of God! What a load of rubbish, as Jesus points out.
It is the temple that makes the gold in it sacred. The gold was dedicated to the work of the temple and the service of God, not the other way around.
And the same is true of circumcision. Which is more important? Cutting off a useless piece of skin on the body or remembering the faith the circumcision is a sign of? Cutting off the flesh will not bring a person salvation or make them righteous in the sight of God, but faith will. So it is clear that it is a matter of the heart and spirit that is important here, not a physical act.
Application To Christianity
If we apply the words of Paul in Romans 2:25-29 to being a Christian we see the same principle at work. Paul wrote,
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Now if we were to read those verses again and replace Christianity instead of circumcision, and Christ instead of the law, we see the same principle. The first part of the first verse for example could then be paraphrased to say,
For Christianity is indeed of value if you obey Christ…
Just as a person under the law needs to obey the law to get the benefits from the law, so too a Christian needs to obey Christ to receive the promises of Christ. And just as circumcision is not a matter of cutting off the skin but a matter of the heart, so too Christianity is not something you do on Sundays, it is about faith in Jesus Christ and growing into the image of Christ by obeying His teachings.
But there are many in the church who do NOT follow the teachings of Christ. There are many who have been deceived. The bible warns us that there will be deceivers and antichrists who will go out to lead Christians astray.
There are those who believe they will be saved purely because they were baptised as infants. Others who think they can do what they like during the week as long as they turn up to church on Sunday. There are some who do many great works in the name of The Lord such as building cathedrals or churches and going out as missionaries, building schools and so on, but they do not have Christ in their hearts. They think they can buy a place in heaven.
But what does The Lord say about such people?
21 “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
It is not the mighty works that defines a Christian, just as it was not circumcision that defines a Jew under the law. It is obedience to the teachings of Christ that determine who is or is not a true Christian.
And this is where deceit and deception come into play. The devil is the father of lies and liars and who is identified as the dragon who is, “The deceiver of the whole world. ” (Revelation 12:9) The primary work of satan is to oppose the will of God and in so doing he will seek to deceive and destroy the people of The Lord.
The nature of deception is that it is cunning and well disguised. As satan disguises himself as an angel of light, so too his deceptive teachings have the appearance of things that are good, but are not. Just as he would seek to replace the true Christ with himself as a false Christ, so too his teachings will try to replace the truth so that people follow what is false.
That is why it is important to search the scriptures diligently and to pray about everything seeking the guidance of The Lord on every matter so that you are able to find the truth.
The devil will seek to bring you into bondage, but Jesus said that the truth will make you free. So any teaching that leads to any kind of bondage needs to be carefully considered before accepting it as it may be a trap of the devil to bring you under his control. In Jesus we have freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from the law and the freedom to choose to follow Him. But the devil binds and ensnares people tying them up in laws, ordinances, rituals and all kinds of false practices. Paul described the approach the devil uses when he wrote to the Colossian church saying in Colossians 2:20-23,
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations- 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)-according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
These fleshly practices have the appearance of being pious and religious, but they are of no value in transforming you into the image of Christ. On the outside they look good, but inside they make not a dot of difference to any person.
Paul then goes on to describe how a person should consider their walk in Christ, not by severity in the flesh, not by having the outward appearances of what people consider to be Christian, but by the internal changes in the heart and mind that come through faith and walking in the teachings of Christ. He says I Colossians 3:1-4,
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Set your minds on Christ. Seek the things that are above and not the things of this earth. Focus on the teachings and the ways of The Lord and learn how to walk and live in the Spirit. That is what true Christianity is and that is what we are called to as we follow Jesus.
True circumcision and true Christianity are matters of the heart and spirit, not the flesh.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Jan Willem Geertsma of www.geertsma.nl)
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