Let’s read that interesting verse: “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision” (NKJV). Before we consider the meaning of circumcision in this verse, it is important to see what Paul taught in verses 17-24. We will consider verses 17-20 first: “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.” Paul is reminding the Jew of how they were “resting on the law” (which means they were trusting in the law to save them and to keep them from God’s holy judgment on sinners). They were proud of this knowledge of God’s Word and of their ability to teach others God’s will. But Paul needed to ask them some searching questions, which we see in verses 21-23, “You, therefore, who teach another, do you teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written.” In these 5 questions Paul exposes these self-righteous and proud Jews for what they were; namely, HYPOCRITES! They taught others to keep the law and they themselves refused to obey the very laws that they taught.

In verse 25 Paul adds another thing that the Jews prided themselves in: CIRCUMCISION. The act of circumcision, which removed the foreskin of a Jewish boy as a sign of their covenant relationship to God (see Genesis 17:10-12), was meant to express to others that they were a SEPARATED PEOPLE TO THE ONE TRUE GOD. Yet their disobedience to the Law of Moses negated the meaning of circumcision, for instead of their life being one of moral separation to God, they were living in sin. Thus the sign of circumcision was invalid and profited them nothing; their breaking of the law put them on the same ground as the sinning Gentile who had never been circumcised and separated to God.

What we really learn in these verses (and the verses to the end of the chapter) is that external ceremonies and rites mean nothing to God unless they are accompanied by a life of obedience to Him. This is borne out in verse 26, “Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keep the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision.” There were Gentiles who were obeying God’s Word even though they had never been outwardly circumcised, yet in God’s eyes their obedience marked them out as being truly SEPARATED TO HIM, which, again, is what circumcision signified. Their obedience to the limited light that they had, condemned the Jew who had been given the superior knowledge contained in the Law of Moses. This is seen in verses 27, “And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law.”

Paul then sums up the matter in verses 28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one OUTWARDLY, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one INWARDLY; and circumcision is that of the HEART, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Let me ask the reader, “Are you trusting in OUTWARD ceremonies and rites (such as baptism and observing the Lord’s Supper) to save you? “ Or are you trusting (in your HEART) in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and proving your faith in Him by living a life of obedience to the Word of God? We hope and pray it is the latter, for if it is you are truly CIRCUMCISED (set apart to God) in God’s eyes. (302.2) (DO)