Circumcision: Is there anything we should know about it today?
Most people know what this is, but in case you don’t it is the cutting away of the foreskin on the male phallus. It is something that is typically done on infant males, although the operation can be performed at any age. The Mosaic Law [what people often call the Old Testament] commanded the people of Israel that this be done on the 8th day after a child’s birth.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me [God] and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money [speaking of slaves] of any stranger [non-Israelite], which is not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money [slaves], must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. [Emphasis added]
Abraham was the first to be circumcised. It confirmed a covenant God made with him and for his progeny. The law given about it was directed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and to all their descendants. Even though this was commanded then, we have no such commandment that’s directed to us today. It is now simply an elective procedure that has no spiritual significance for us at all.
On the internet you’ll find comments about how circumcision may have some health benefits. For instance, it may lower a man’s risk of sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, and penile cancer. But you’ll find nothing in the writings of our apostle, the apostle Paul, that demands it for us as believers. Again, there’s nothing that tells us that it has any spiritual significance today whatsoever.
1 Corinthians 7:17-19
17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God [as with those given to us through the writings of the apostle Paul]. [Emphasis added]
What we find in Paul’s writings tells us there have been Jews that have tried to impose this rite on Gentile believers as if it was essential for their salvation. The apostle Paul tells us a lot about this in his letter to the Galatians and his letter to the Romans. But the apostle Paul tells us circumcision for today is of the heart, not of the flesh.
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. [Emphasis added]
The blessing of God today is available to the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Unlike in times past, Jews [the circumcised] and Gentiles [the uncircumcised] now are all on an equal footing.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham [when he was first a Gentile] for righteousness.
10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. [Emphasis added]
Both need the reconciliation and resultant salvation of God.
When I was in seminary, I was shocked and amazed how intelligent professors could teach that today circumcision has been replaced by water baptism. Then, to make matters even worse, I was told that this was why they believed in infant baptism. Of course, my first question was to ask where is all this taught in the Bible? As I hope many of you know, there’s absolutely nothing anywhere in the Bible that teaches any of this. But so it is with this and so many other “religious” teachings. The 66 books of the Bible and particularly the writings of the apostle Paul must always be our authority, not “religious” traditions. However, we shouldn’t be surprised at such thinking. Our Lord in His earthly ministry dealt with this just as we must deal with it today. Our response to these people should be much like His.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [Emphasis added]
For more information about baptism, please see my article about it on this website entitled— Baptism: What are we to believe about it?
Probably the most important thing to understand about this is that circumcision has nothing to do with your salvation, but the same thing can be said about any other kind of work. What a job it is getting people to understand this! People are saved today by grace through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and nothing more.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
This message must never be confused with what is called the gospel of the circumcision that included obedience to the Mosaic Law and water baptism. That was all a part of Peter’s gospel, not ours today.
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me [Paul], as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; [Emphasis added]
It is the apostle Paul, our apostle, who informs us of this. He tells us that faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for us through His death, burial, and resurrection is the sole basis for anyone’s salvation today.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit [that is to say], that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
When someone adds anything to this perfect righteousness God credits to the believer, they’ve distorted what God provided for us. People in their arrogance often think they have something to contribute to the matter. The Bible tells us otherwise. We are saved by grace through faith in what God provided through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
Our Savior, therefore, gets all the credit for providing what was essential for our salvation. Let us all be faithful to express our appreciation for it by our service to Him through good works, even as this Ephesians 2 passage goes on to tell us.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. [Emphasis added]
Good works should but may not follow the salvation of any believer. What the person does after their salvation does not demand any form of maintenance for the person to keep their salvation. We’re saved by grace, and we’re kept by grace. Our salvation is sealed the moment we are saved.
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, [Emphasis added]
Whatever good works a believer does affects the degree of their eternal reward, not their salvation. So, you can relax about the security of your salvation as you should get on with studying your Bible so you can mature and become effective in your service to the God who saved you. For more information on this, please go to my other articles about it on this website—
Essentials: What are they for salvation and spiritual growth?
Growth: How can one progress spiritually?
Growth: How is this done spiritually?