Keith Hunt - Circumcision in the New Testament? Restitution of All

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Circumcision in the New Testament?

How important is this physical act?


                         Keith Hunt

    Let me try to put it all together for you.

    We can know from the OT and from Jewish history that physical
circumcision was a very important part of Jewish life. It was
like having the morning breakfast in the respect of circumcision
being very much a part of Jewish life. It even carried certain
religious symbolism with some Rabbis, that made it so strong a
physical act that when we see it as they taught it (I have some
books that show what they taught about it), we can immediately
understand WHY the subject of circumcision in connection with
salvation soon became an issue to be dealt with and answered in
the NT Church of God.

    And that is the first thing we need to get clear in our
minds, the circumcision issue as it was in the NT church. The
nut-shell of it all is given to us in Acts 15:1. Some in the
church were teaching that physical circumcision was required to
be saved. For them it was to be a part of salvation, hence of
course that would be for all males, Jew and Gentile, in the NT
church. Paul and Barnabas, and Peter and others already knew
the truth of the matter. They already knew physical circumcision
was NOT required for salvation BY ANYONE (Jew or Gentile).
Concerning circumcision and salvation, circumcision of the flesh
was a none issue with Paul, Barnabas and Peter. They taught
it was not required for salvation. The Jerusalem conference of
Acts 15 agreed after the whole subject was debated. Naturally,
the Gentiles who did not normally practice the rite, needed to
know, because some in the church had been teaching they needed to
be circumcised, so we have the latter part of Acts 15.

    Even if you were a Jew, what could physical circumcision do
for you other than physical (if you want to argue there may be
some physical benefits, even that can be debated), so it really
now, in the NT age did not matter, and really meant nothing.
    Paul in writing to the church at Corinth, which was a mixture
of Gentiles and Jews, said to ALL  of them (including Jews), 
Circumcision is NOTHING and uncircumcision is nothing, but (what
is important) the keeping of the commandments of God(1 Cor.7:19).
    Paul taught Jew and Gentile, that being or not being
circumcised meant nothing. If you were or were not, if you had it
performed on your son or did not, it was nothing.
    It gained you no more lottery tickets to win the jackpot,
with God. Doing it or not doing it, did not put you in some
favored salvational position, either way, with the God the
    What did matter with God is that you were willing (from a
humble repentant heart) to keep His commandments (Jesus had also
said the same in Mat. 19 on inheriting eternal life).
    The teaching of the whole Bible, and especially the NT, tells
us as also does the OT, true circumcision must be in the heart
and mind. Everyone is on the same level playing field for
salvation. All have sinned, all need to repent, all need to come
under the grace or forgiveness of God, to be put on the salvation
road. The Father shows grace to us through Jesus Christ His Son
who came as God in the flesh to overcome sin and death, by never
sinning and dying on the cross for all sins of all mankind.
    And physical circumcision has no part in this, with God. You
gain no more points with the Eternal if you are circumcised or if
you are not.

    Paul spoke out against those who still kept teaching that
flesh circumcision was to be done to be in a right relationship
with God, in his letter to the Galatians.

    Paul (and others in the church) taught many things to Jew and
Gentile, male and female, rich and poor, bond and free. He taught
that physical animal sacrificing in a physical Temple by a
physical Levite priesthood was not required to do under the
    New Covenant age. Paul taught that going up to Jerusalem to
observe the Feasts of God (one central location) was not required
(just as Jesus had said to the Samaritan woman at the well, John
4), and himself did not go up to Jerusalem for a 14 year period
(Gal.2:1) yet he observed God s feasts. And as we have seen Paul
taught the church at Corinth (Jew and Gentile) that physical
circumcision was nothing. 

    Did Paul get quite a reputation for himself among the Jews,
and among those Jews who still wanted to perform such rites as
the ones above? Oh, you bet he did! Many Jews among the Gentiles
would now through Paul have stopped observing animal sacrificing
at the Temple. Stopped going up to Jerusalem to observe the
    Stopped circumcising their children, stopped taking vows. And
stopped doing many other rites of the OT. Paul had acquired
himself quite a reputation all right. Notice what many had been
informed about Paul in Act 21:17-21.
    James knew what the truth was, and what Paul really taught
about these physical matters of the laws of Moses, at least the
ones that were very important to  zealous of the law  Jews, such
as the Temple rites and circumcision of the flesh. He knew that
    Paul taught such things did not have to be done that no one
any long HAD to do them, but he knew Paul taught that IF you
wanted to still do such things you could.
    He knew that Paul taught it was NOT SIN to perform such
physical rites. Hence, James asked Paul to perform physical rites
at the Temple (verses 22-26), to show some Jews in the church
that Paul was not against doing such rites IF you so desired
to do them.

    Paul did those physical things not because he HAD TO, but
because he WANTED to.
    Such physical rites as circumcision and Temple rites was now,
while the Temple and priesthood still stood, a matter of personal
choice, could do or could not do, gaining no more points with God
either way.

    People often got Paul wrong, thought he taught this or that
when he did not, often misunderstood what he wrote, thought he
was preaching against Moses  law period, when he really was not,
only teaching that some physical laws are not a requirement,
not a MUST any longer, but are now personal choice matters as
long as the  conditions to perform those physical rites were
still in place (such as the Temple and priesthood).

    Paul was also a man that used the  expediency  law when the
situation called for it, as long as he was still under the law to
God, as he once said. To the Jew he became a Jew, to the Gentile
he became a Gentile. He used laws and customs of either (but not
breaking the laws of God) at times to win then for Christ. If
some Jew was going to be offended when Paul was among them,
because he thought his child would not be circumcised, then Paul
would have been the last one to deny fleshly circumcision of
the baby.
    That is exactly what took place (but not with a baby but
grown man) in Acts 16:1-3.
    Paul had Timothy circumcised, NOTICE IT, not because he was a
Jew, or because Paul believed it was still a law of God that all
Israelites be circumcised, BUT, as it is written, because of the
Jews that were in those quarters....The Jews there would have
been offended with Paul because they knew Timothy's father was a
Greek, and would not have had Timothy circumcised. Paul had
Timothy circumcised "because of the Jews" and so used the law of
expediency, to win over those Jews to Christ if possible.
    Physical circumcision, doing it or not doing it, was as Paul
taught the church at Corinth, nothing  but the keeping of the
commandments of God, that was something (backed by Jesus  own
words in Mat. 19), and to not offend anyone if at all possible
was also an important part of the teachings of Paul in other
letters. He once wrote he would not drink wine while the world
stood if it would offend a brother.
    Physical circumcision under the New Covenant was a none issue
with Paul. It was a nothing issue with him. Could do it if you
wanted, could not do it if you did not want. Do it and other
physical rites, to give none offence if the situation was such.
In Acts 16 the situation with some Jews was such and Paul had
Timothy circumcised to not offend those Jews. And that was the
only reason to so circumcise Timothy. It was not because he HAD
to be.

    You must remember the context of the years. Some in the
church were still teaching you had to be circumcised to be saved,
and Jews among the Gentiles, that Paul was trying to reach with
the gospel of Christ, were under the Old Covenant (still in the  
process of being taught the Gospel of Christ), practicing
physical circumcision, and would have been very offend by Paul
with Timothy (now with Paul and being put forth as a converted
man of God, as co-worker with Paul in the work of God) if        
Timothy had not been circumcised. For Paul under the New Covenant
age or Gospel of Christ there was only one circumcision that
counted for anything (the other to him as we ve seen was  nothing
)and that was the circumcision of the HEART and so he expounded
that to the church at Rome (also made up of Jews and Gentiles) in
his letter to them, chapter 2:25-29. Circumcision in the flesh to
Paul was  nothing  and if you so were but did not keep the law of
God, the commandments of God, then it was un-circumcision to you.
It would then mean absolutely nothing. If a policeman, dressed up
in his police clothes with his badge on his chest in full
display, went out and robbed a bank, killing some people in the
process, then his badge (standing for law and order) would mean
nothing. You may be given that badge when 8 days old, and boast
about it when an adult, but it is nothing whatsoever, has no
meaning at all, if you do not live up to what that badge
represents and stands for. You may not have the literal badge,
but if you are living in law and order, then YOU ARE the badge.

    To Paul there was only one circumcision, that of the heart
and mind, the physical was nothing.  To Paul the physical rites
of circumcision, vows and their sacrifices to end them, animal
sacrifices at the Temple, and such, could be done IF you desired,
but if you did not desire, they did not have to be performed BY
ANYONE - Jew or Gentile.
    Then with Paul, there may be times when such needed to be
performed so no offence would be given to anyone who might be
offended if such were not done.

    The NT Passover service. The heart and mind of the true NT
circumcision should be the bottom line. A humble repentant
attitude and all that that means as expounded by the whole Bible,
is the meaning. Usually this service is then to be partaken of by
those baptised in the body of Christ. There may be the exception
to the norm when for unusual circumstances someone ready for
baptism cannot be baptised until AFTER the Passover service.
Their heart is correct, they are circumcised in the heart. They
are qualified to partake of the Passover in that situation...well
that is my judgment on the matter.

    I also believe children and others who may want to observe as
lookers on  this very special service should be allowed and
encouraged to attend.

    Written January 2000

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