CIRCUMCISION IS OF VALUE IF YOU PRACTICE THE LAW: Peritome men gar ophelei (3SPAI) ean nomon prasses
(2SPAS): (Ro 2:28,29; 3:1,2; 4:11,12; Dt 30:6; Jer 4:4; Gal
5:3, 4, 5, 6; 6:15; Ep 2:11,12) (Circumcision
in Bible Dictionaries - Easton,
- Who are the most difficult people to reach with the gospel? I realize
that only God can save a soul and that nothing is too difficult for Him.
But, from a human standpoint, some types of people seem to be more
difficult to bring to saving faith than others are (Luke 18:24-27). The
Bible shows us that the most difficult people to reach are religious
people who trust in their religion. They relish their rituals and
religious traditions. They don’t see their need for a Savior from sin
because they view themselves as pretty good people. They think they are
right with God because of their religious performance (Luke 18:11-12).
They may be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha’i, Mormon,
Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. They can even be Baptists! They think
that their performance of their religious rituals will somehow commend
them to God. But they lack reality with the living God on the heart
level. Paul knew that the most difficult people to reach with the gospel
were not the pagans whom he described in Romans 1:18-32. Like Matthew or
Zaccheus (Luke 5:27-32; 19:1-10), the tax collectors, or like the sinful
woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), many
obviously wicked people know that they are sinners. They may not be sure
that God could ever forgive them. But they welcome that news when they
hear it. But the religious Jews didn’t see themselves as sinners and so
they didn’t see any need for a Savior. They trusted in their Jewishness,
in their possession of God’s Law, and in their conformity to the
prescribed religious rituals, especially circumcision.
Notice the flow of
Paul's argument to lead his readers to begin to see their NEED for "the
power of God for salvation" and the only kind of righteousness which is
acceptable to God (Ro 1:16-17). So in Ro 2:12-24 he deals specifically
with the Law and how it does not bring about a righteousness
which is acceptable to God. Now Paul
demolishes physical circumcision, the second major Jewish pillar on which they relied (in vain)
for salvation. The Jews believed that keeping
the Law and circumcision were necessary for salvation (see Acts
15:1-4,5-29), but Paul explains that they were wrong.
explains that "Paul here pursues the Jew into his
last retreat, in which he imagined himself most secure. He presses him
on the subject of circumcision, which the Jews viewed as their
stronghold—that rite even more ancient than Moses, and by which they
were distinguished from the other nations. The sum of this, and the
following verses to the end of the chapter, is, that the Jews being such
as the Apostle had represented them, all their advantages, including
circumcision, could only enhance their condemnation before the tribunal
of God, and that, on the contrary, if the Gentiles, who have not
received the law, observed its precepts, they would be justified without
circumcision. Two things are here to be observed, namely, what is
asserted of the Jews and Gentiles, and the proof that follows. The
assertions are, that circumcision serves only as a ground of
condemnation to transgressors of the law; and, on the other hand, that
the want of it would be no detriment to those who fulfilled the law. The
proof is, that before God the true Jew and the true circumcision consist
not in external qualities, but in internal and real holiness. The reason
why circumcision was not included in the enumeration before given of the
advantages of the Jews is, that in itself it is not an advantage, but
only a sign of other advantages; and it is mentioned here,
because, in the character of a sign, it includes them: to name
circumcision then, is to refer to them all. In this verse the Apostle
does not speak of circumcision according to its real and most important
signification as he does in the two concluding verses, but in that view
in which the Jews themselves considered it, as the initiatory and
distinctive rite of their religion, without the observance of which they
believed they could not be saved." (Haldane, R. An Exposition of Romans)
MacDonald explains "Here Paul links circumcision with the
Law of Moses and points out that it was only valid as a sign when it was
combined with a life of obedience. God is not a mere ritualist; He is
not satisfied with external ceremonies unless they are accompanied by
inward holiness. So a circumcised Jew who transgresses the law might
just as well be uncircumcised."
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
For indeed circumcision is of
value, if you practice the Law - The Amplified says "Circumcision
does indeed profit if you keep the Law." The fact is no one can
continually keep the Law.
Cole however understands this
passage differently writing "I do not understand him to mean, “if you
practice the Law perfectly.” Some think that when Paul mentions keeping
the Law in this section (Ro 2:25, 26, 27), he is speaking hypothetically
of perfect obedience, which no one can do. But I understand him to be
referring to a lifestyle of obedience to God’s Law, which is possible
for those who have been born again (Luke 1:6; 2:25). For such Jews
before the cross, circumcision was of value."
MacArthur - Circumcision is of
value, Paul explains, only if you practice the Law, that is, live in
obedience to God’s will. To the faithful, obedient Jew, circumcision was
a symbol of God’s covenant, His blessings, His goodness, and His
protection of His chosen people....A Jew who continually transgressed
God’s law proved that he had no more saving relationship to God than a
pagan Gentile, whom Jews often referred to as the uncircumcised.
(peritome from perí =
around + témno = cut off) (Click for more in depth word study of
peritome) refers literally to cutting
and removal of the foreskin. (See related discussion on
Circumcision) As discussed below both the Old and New
Testament also use the concept of circumcision in a figurative or
Here are the 36
uses of peritome in the NT --Jn. 7:22, 23; Acts 7:8; 10:45; 11:2;
Ro 2:25, 26-notes,
Ro 2:27, 28, 29-notes;
Ro 4:9, 10, 11, 12-notes;
1 Co. 7:19; Gal 2:7, 8, 9, 12; 5:6, 11; 6:15; Ep 2:11-note; Php 3:3-note, Php 3:5-note;
Col 4:11-note; Titus 1:10-note
There are only 4
uses in the
- Ge 17:13; Ex 4:25, 26; Je 11:16.
The absence of the article (before
circumcision) suggests that the argument may be extended to
everything of the same character as circumcision. Circumcision
was the seal of the covenant, and as such an assurance given to the
circumcised man that he belonged to the race which was the heir of God’s
promises. That was undeniably an advantage…but if the actual inheriting
of the promises has any moral conditions attached to it (as Paul
proceeds to show that it has), then the advantage of circumcision lapses
unless these are fulfilled. Now, the persons contemplated here (the
Jews) have not fulfilled them. (Romans 2 Commentary - The
Expositor's Greek Testament)
Is of value
(opheleo from ophéllo
= heap up or from ophelos = increase, profit) means to provide
assistance, with emphasis upon the resulting benefit. To help, to be of
benefit, to be of use, to be an advantage, to be advantageous. Passive
sense - to have benefit from, to profit. To be useful or
profitable. It is used usually with the sense of gain, profit in both a
material and non-material sense.
To provide assistance, with emphasis upon the resulting benefit (Jn
6:63). To be successful in accomplishing some goal, with the implication
that such might be useful.
Vine - in
the Active Voice signifies to help, to succor, to be of service; in the
Passive to receive help, to derive profit or advantage
used in the sense of “bringing or gaining spiritual benefit” in Jn 6:63;
1Co. 13: 3; 14:6; Gal. 5: 2; Heb. 4: 2; 13:9. Opheleo occurs in
the question “What does it profit a person ...?” in Mt 16:26; Mk 8:36;
Note that Paul is
not saying that circumcision will save a person, for by works no man can
be justified before God.
Opheleo denotes the basic idea of benefiting through a particular
condition or situation, hence, “to gain, profit, value.”
15x in 15v - accomplishing(1), benefit(1), benefited(1),
doing...good(1), help(2), helped(1), profit(4), profited(1), profits(2),
Matthew 15:5 "But you say, 'Whoever
says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has
been given to God,"
Matthew 16:26 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the
whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange
for his soul?
Matthew 27:24 ¶ When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing
nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed
his hands in front of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's
blood; see to that yourselves."
Mark 5:26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had
spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had
Mark 7:11 but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother,
whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say,
given to God),'
Mark 8:36 "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world,
and forfeit his soul?
Luke 9:25 "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole
world, and loses or forfeits himself?
John 6:63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits
nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
John 12:19 So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are
not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him."
Romans 2:25 ¶ For indeed circumcision is of value if you
practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your
circumcision has become uncircumcision.
Comment: Since no one can
continually practice the Law or practice it perfectly, circumcision in
and of itself is of no spiritual value.
1 Corinthians 13:3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor,
and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it
profits me nothing.
1 Corinthians 14:6 ¶ But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in
tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by
way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?
Galatians 5:2 ¶ Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive
circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
Comment: Christ is of no
spiritual advantage to the one who received circumcision as their
perceived means of attaining the righteousness God demands.
Hebrews 4:2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as
they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because
it was not united by faith in those who heard.
Comment: the unbelieving
generation of Israelites who failed to enter the land of Canaan because
of their unbelief had no spiritual gain.
Hebrews 13:9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for
it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods,
through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
28x in 26v in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Ps 89:22; Pr 10:2; 25:13;
Isa 30:5ff; 44:9; 47:12; 57:12; Jer 2:11; 7:4, 8; 12:13; 15:10; 23:32;
(prasso) means to perform repeatedly or habitually and stresses
the process leading to the accomplishment. The
present tense emphasizes
this is one's continual activity or habitual practice. Vaughan says, it
is almost like a compound word, “if thou be a law doer”.
recognizes that a Jew may protest, and say that his salvation is based
on the fact that he is a descendant of Abraham. Paul rightly says
that this is irrelevant regarding justification. Circumcision was a sign (Ge 17:11) of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants, and therefore
another token, besides the Law, of the special privileges which were
granted to the Jew and in which they gloried and sadly which they
misinterpreted to be the means of obtaining righteousness.
As illustrated by the Rabbinical quotations below in the next
section, the Jews believed that
circumcision guaranteed their salvation. They might be punished in the world
to come, but they believed that they could never be lost. Paul counters
this "spiritual red herring" and proceeds to point out
that circumcision is irrelevant regarding justification. In so
doing he again is preparing them to see clearly their desperate need for
the Gospel which is the power of God for their salvation, for in the
Gospel is revealed the righteousness that God demands and that He
provides to the one who repents and believes. Are you trusting in
anything that you can do to merit righteousness, right standing before
God? And dear believer, now that you are saved, are you still from time
to time trusting in anything other than the imputed righteousness you
have been granted? In other words you have been saved by faith in
the Gospel, but are you daily living in the power of the Gospel by faith
or are you falling back into works righteousness.
Cole - God instituted the
practice of circumcision (the removal of the male foreskin) as a sign of
His covenant with Abraham, over 500 years before He gave Moses the Law
(see Genesis 17). It symbolized moral purity and separation from the
world unto God. Under the Law of Moses, it became a sign of membership
in the covenant community. So as a God-ordained ritual, circumcision was
of value to the Jews as a reminder of their covenant relationship to God
and of the need to be morally set apart to God. When Paul says that
circumcision is of value, he is speaking to the Jews as Jews. When he
addresses those who are in Christ, he says (Gal. 5:6), “For in Christ
Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith
working through love.” Circumcision was a Jewish sign of the covenant
that ended when Jesus instituted the new covenant. Except for hygienic
reasons, it holds no value for believers in Christ.
Jerry Bridges emphasizes the importance in the believer's life of "A
Daily Appropriation of the Gospel" writing...
The second essential (of finishing
your life well) is a daily appropriation of the Gospel. I have
put personal communion with God first to highlight its priority because
that’s the absolute basic essential. But in actual practice I put my
daily appropriation of the Gospel first. That is, I begin my time with
God by reviewing and appropriating to myself the Gospel. Since the
Gospel is only for sinners, I come to Christ as a still practicing
sinner. In fact, I usually use the words of that tax collector in the
temple when he cried out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke
18:13). God has been merciful, and I’m quick to acknowledge his mercy in
my life, but I say to him that I come in the attitude of that tax
collector. “I need your mercy. I am still a practicing sinner. Even my
very best deeds are sinful in your sight, and I am an object of your
mercy and your grace.”
It’s important that we come, first of
all, by appropriating the Gospel because it’s through Christ that we
have access to God the Father. Paul says in Ephesians 2:18, “For through
Him we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
We cannot come directly to God. We must always come through the blood of
the Lord Jesus Christ. But God not only allows us to come; He invites us
to come. The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have
confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new
and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is,
through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of
God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”
(Heb. 10:19–22). And so as we appropriate the Gospel it gives us the
confidence to come into the very presence of God to have communion with
Him (cf Ro 5:1-2). So we need to learn to live by the Gospel every day
of our lives.
In the early years of my Christian
life and even in my early ministry I regarded the Gospel as a message
for the unbeliever. Now that I was a Christian I personally no longer
needed the gospel except as a message to share with unbelievers. But I
learned the hard way many years ago that I need the Gospel every day of
my life. At the time I was serving overseas, and I was single and
lonely. Additionally I was struggling with some interpersonal
relationship issues. Every Monday night I led a Bible study at an
American Air Force base about an hour’s drive from where I lived. And
every Monday night as I drove home, Satan would attack me with
accusations of my sin. Out of desperation I began to resort to the
Gospel. To use an expression I learned years later, I began to “preach
the Gospel to myself.” And I subsequently learned that I continued to
need the Gospel every day of my life. That is why I list this
practice as one of the four essential elements.
Consider Paul’s words in Galatians
2:20. The apostle writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no
longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live
in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave
himself for me.” The context of this verse is the subject of
justification. In Gal 2:15–17 Paul speaks of our being justified four
times. He says we’re not justified by works of the law but by faith in
Jesus Christ, and he keeps repeating that thought. And then in Gal 2:21
he says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were
through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Clearly in this
entire passage, Gal 2:15–21, he is talking about the subject of
justification. He is going to get to sanctification later, but that’s
not in this context. The reason I make a point of that is because I want
to call your attention particularly to the last sentence of Gal 2:20.
“And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.” Remember, in the context Paul is
speaking about justification, not sanctification.
Now this raises an apparent problem
or question. That is, we know that justification is a point-in-time past
event. At the time you trusted Christ you were at that precise moment
declared righteous by God. You were justified. That’s why Paul in Romans
5:1 can speak of justification in the past tense when he says,
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And yet here in this passage he
speaks of it in the present tense. “The life that I now live in the
flesh,” today. The life that I live today, “I live by faith in the Son
of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” So if justification is a
point-in-time event that happened in our past, why does Paul speak of it
in the present tense? The life that I now live today I live by faith in
the Son of God.
The answer to that question is one of
the most important truths we can learn about the Gospel. For the apostle
Paul, justification was not only a past event; it was also a present
reality. This is where so many Christians miss it. They can look back to
the day that they trusted Christ. And if you press them on that they
will say, “Yes, I was justified at that time.” But today they seek to
live their lives as if it depends upon them. In their mind they have
reverted to a performance relationship with God. And so the thinking is,
if I had my quiet time and if I haven’t had any lustful thoughts and
these kind of things, then I expect God to bless me today. We want to
pay our own way. We want to earn God’s blessings. The apostle Paul
didn’t do that. Paul looked outside himself and saw himself clothed in
the righteousness of Christ. He saw himself declared righteous. We say
to a person who trusts Christ, “You have been justified. You’ve been
declared righteous. Your sins have been forgiven. You stand before God
today clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.” And then we can
point to eternity and say, “When you go to be with the Lord forever, you
will still stand clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.” Even
though we will have left our sinful nature behind, even though we will
be righteous people made perfect, as the writer of Hebrews says (Heb.
12:23), we will for all eternity stand in the righteousness of Christ.
That never changes.
But what about from the time of our
conversion until the time we go to be with the Lord? For most
Christians it’s a performance relationship. That is why we need a
daily appropriation of the gospel, because it is our nature to drift
toward a performance relationship. Going back to those days of crossing
the Pacific Ocean and getting those navigational positions twice a day,
if we did not get those we would drift slowly off course. And if you do
not daily appropriate the gospel, you will drift toward a performance
relationship with God. And when you do that, you lead yourself in one of
two directions. If you have a very superficial view of sin in your
life—that is, if you think of sin in terms of the big gross sins that
society outside of us commits—then you will tend toward religious pride
because you’re not doing those things. But if you are conscientious and
if you’re seeing some of these “respectable” sins, such as gossip and
pride, jealousy and envy and a critical spirit and these kind of things,
if you’re seeing those in your life and you do not live by the gospel,
that can lead you to despair. And so oftentimes people in this second
category just kind of slack off because they can’t handle the tension.
They can’t handle the difference between what they know they should be
and what they honestly see themselves to be. And what resolves that
tension is the gospel, which reminds us that our sins are forgiven and
that we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. At the same
time, that which keeps us from spiritual pride is the gospel, because
again the gospel is only for sinners. But we are all sinners, still
practicing sinners, even though we’ve been delivered from the guilt and
the dominion of sin. Yes, that’s true. And we are now called saints,
separated ones. But we still sin in thought, word, deed, and most of all
in motive because we often do the right thing for a wrong reason or for
a mixed reason. We want to please God, but we want to look good in the
process. And so we come to the Lord and we say,
“Lord, I come still a practicing
sinner, but I look to Jesus Christ and his shed blood and his perfect
obedience, his righteous life that has been credited to me. And I see
myself standing before you clothed in his righteousness.”
That will get you out of bed in the
morning. That will get you excited about the Christian life, when you
see yourself daily clothed in his righteousness. And that will keep you
from loving the world. You can’t love the gospel and love the world at
the same time. So a daily appropriation of the gospel will keep you from
getting off course.
About a hundred years ago a great
theologian by the name of B. B. Warfield, who was a professor at
Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote these words: “There is nothing in
us or done by us at any stage of our earthly development because of
which we are acceptable to God.” Warfield is saying there is nothing
that we do in ourselves that makes us acceptable to God. He continues:
“We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be
accepted at all.” Then he continues, and this is important: “This is not
true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have
believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of
Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our
relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our
attainments in Christian graces or our achievement in Christian behavior
may be. ”What he is saying is that it doesn’t matter how sanctified we
become. It doesn’t matter how much we grow in the Christian life. He
says it is always on Christ’s blood and righteousness alone that we can
One of the sins I struggle with
frequently is the sin of anxiety; not anxiety in general, but anxiety
over delayed luggage on airplane trips. I have had so many bad
experiences with my luggage not arriving with me on the same flight that
I no longer assume my bag will arrive with me. Every time I go to the
baggage claim area I have to pray against the sin of anxiety.
A few years ago, after two
back-to-back really bad experiences, I said to my wife, “I have to
confess I’m just an anxious person.” The next morning in my time with
God I was reading in Matthew 8. Part of that chapter is the account of
Jesus and the disciples caught in a great storm on the Sea of Galilee.
In verse 24 the text says that a great storm arose, “so that the boat
was being swamped by the waves; but he [that is, Jesus] was asleep.” I
was arrested by the statement that Jesus was asleep in the midst of this
raging storm while the disciples were terrified.
As I pondered that scene the thought
came to me, Jesus was asleep in the boat for me. By that I mean that all
that Jesus did in both his sinless life and sin-bearing death, he did as
our representative and substitute. His perfect obedience as well as his
death was all on our behalf. In contrast to my sin of anxiety over
missing luggage, Jesus was never anxious. In far more desperate
circumstances than mine, he fully trusted his Heavenly Father. And I get
the credit for it. By his death he paid for the sin and guilt of my
anxiety. And by his perfect trust he clothed me with his righteousness.
So I left my time with God that
morning not feeling guilty because of my persistent struggle with
anxiety but feeling encouraged because I knew my sin was forgiven and
instead I had been credited with perfect obedience (in this case, the
perfect trust) of Jesus. So I went out into my day not only encouraged
but determined that by his grace I would fight against my anxiety.
That’s what it means to live by the
Gospel. That’s why we need to appropriate the gospel every day of our
lives, because God only accepts us for Christ’s sake. God sees us
clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and he wants us to see ourselves
clothed in the righteousness of Christ, so that we will come to him on
that basis and seek to relate to him through the merit of the Lord Jesus
Christ and not through our own works. All of us in our sinful nature are
prone to slide toward a works-based relationship with God. And even
though I have been preaching this kind of message for many years, I can
tell you honestly it is so easy to revert in that direction because of
our sinful human nature. It is our sinful nature that thinks we must
somehow earn God’s favor by our own hard work or our own faithfulness.
Now we want to be faithful, we want to work hard, but not in order to
earn God’s approval, but because we have God’s approval. And so a daily
appropriation of the gospel is essential to enduring to the end. (Consider
reading this entire book with sections by highly respected Christian
Stand- A Call for the Endurance of
the Saints- Justin Taylor, John Piper, Jerry Bridges, Jerry Bridges,
Randy Alcorn, Helen Roseveare, John MacArthu)
Instituted by God -Genesis 17:9,10
Described -Genesis 17:11; Exodus 4:25
Enforced by the law -Leviticus 12:3; John 7:22
Covenant of circumcision -Acts 7:8
Circumcision in the flesh -Ephesians 2:11
Concision -Philippians 3:2
A painful and bloody rite -Exodus 4:26; Joshua 5:8
Promises to Abraham previous to -Romans 4:9,13
A seal of the covenant -Genesis 17:11; Romans 4:11
Introductory Jewish ordinances -Galatians 5:3
Outward sign of -Romans 2:28
Inward grace -Romans 2:29
Necessary to enjoying the privileges of the Jewish State -Ex 12:48; Ezek
On males home-born and bought -Genesis 17:12,13
On the eighth day -Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3
Even on the sabbath day -John 7:22,23
With knives of flint -Exodus 4:25; Joshua 5:3
By the heads of families -Genesis 17:23; Exodus 4:25
By persons in authority -Joshua 5:3
In the presence of the family, &c -Luke 1:58-61
Accompanied with naming the child -Genesis 21:3,4; Luke 1:59; 2:21
First performed on Abraham and his family -Genesis 17:24-27
Not performed in the wilderness -Joshua 5:5
Performed by Joshua at Gilgal -Joshua 5:2,7
Punishment for neglecting -Genesis 17:14; Exodus 4:24,26
Without faith, vain -Romans 3:30; Galatians 5:6
Without obedience, vain -Romans 2:25; 1 Corinthians 7:19
Denominated by -Acts 10:45; Galatians 2:9
Held it unlawful to intermarry with those not of the -Genesis 34:14;
Held no intercourse with those not of the -Acts 10:28; 11:3; Galatians
Despised as unclean those not of the -1Sa 14:6; 17:26; Mt 15:26,27; Ep
Sometimes performed on slain enemies -1Samuel 18:25-27; 2Samuel 3:14
Abolished by the gospel -Ephesians 2:11,15; Colossians 3:11
Performed on Timothy as a matter or expediency because of the Jews -Acts
Necessity of, denied by Paul -Galatians 2:3-5
Necessity of, asserted by false teachers -Acts 15:24; Galatians 6:12;
Trusting to, a denial of Christ Galatians 3:3,4; 5:3,4
Paul denounced for opposing -Acts 21:21
Saints the true spiritual -Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11
Readiness to hear and obey -Jeremiah 6:10
Purity of heart -Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6
Purity of speech -Exodus 6:12
BUT IF YOU ARE
A TRANSGRESSOR OF THE LAW YOUR CIRCUMCISION HAS BECOME UNCIRCUMCISION: ean de parabates nomou es (2SPAS) e peritome sou akrobustia gegonen (3SRAI) e peritome sou akrobustia
gegonen (3SRAI): (Ro 2:23; Jer 9:25,26; Acts 7:51)
The NLT paraphrase gives a
good sense of what Paul is saying -
But if you don't obey God's law, you
are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile
Fitzmyer - Paul’s
equating a good pagan with a circumcised Jew, would have been an
abomination to Pharisaic ears.
You are - The verb is in the
present tense signifying that if you as a Jew "are habitually a
transgressor" or "if that is the habitual course of your life" than you
are in the same condition as an uncircumcised Gentile.
(parabates from from pará = beyond or contrary to +
baíno = to go; see study on cognate noun -
parabasis) describes one who
steps on one side and thus goes beyond or steps across a line. A
transgressor is a violator of the law, one who goes beyond the law.
It refers to the the person who steps
beyond a fixed limit into forbidden territory. The point is that the law
draws the line that should not be crossed or "stepped over". Where there
is no law, people do not deliberately disobey God but they disobey in
his discussion of discussing
There must be something to transgress
before there can be a transgression. There was sin between Adam and
Moses, as was attested by the fact that there was death; but those
between the law given in Paradise (Ge 2:16, 17) and the law given from
Sinai, sinning indeed, yet did not sin ‘after the similitude of Adam’s
transgression’ (or offense = parabasis Romans 5:14-note).
With the law came for the first time the possibility of the
transgression of law.
Vincent - The primary sense of the preposition
para is beside or by, with reference to a line or extended
surface. Hence it indicates that which is not on its true line but
beside it, either in the way of falling short or of going
beyond...Parabasis differs from the Homeric hyperbasia transgression, in
that the latter carries only the idea of going beyond or over. A mark or
line as a standard is thus implied. Transgression implies something to
transgress. With the law came in the possibility of transgressing the
law. “Where there is no law there is no transgression” (Ro 4:15). Hence
Adam’s sin is called a transgression (Ro 5:14), because it was the
violation of a definite command. Paul habitually uses the word and its
kindred parabates or transgressor, of the transgression of a commandment
distinctly given (Gal 3:19; 1Ti 2:14; Ro 2:25, 27). Hence it is
peculiarly appropriate here of one who boasts in the law. It thus
differs from hamartia or sin in that one may sin without
being under express law. Sin (hamartia) was in the world until
the law; i.e., during the period prior to the law. Death reigned from
Adam to Moses over those who had not sinned (hamartesantas) after the
similitude of Adam’s transgression (parabaseos). The sin is implicit,
the transgression explicit." (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New
Testament. Vol. 3, Page 1-31).
Wuest - The word parabasis when used
of human conduct, indicates a violation of the rights of others, or of
limitations imposed upon one. This word Paul uses (in
Gal 3:19 where Paul writes " Why the
Law then? It was added because of transgressions (parabasis) , having
been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed
should come to whom the promise had been made") to indicate the purpose
of the giving of the law. Before the law was given by Moses to Israel,
the wrong doing of man was recognized as hamartia, sin, a deviation from
the course of right conduct. But when the law was given, sin was seen to
be, not merely the following of evil impulses, but the violation of
explicit law. Thus, the exceeding sinfulness of sin was recognized by
the human race, which otherwise might not have been evident. The law
therefore was not given because of the existence of transgressions, but
to show hamartia (sin) in its true light, an overstepping of what is
right into the realm of what is wrong. This revelation of the true
nature of sin, would cause man to fear God’s wrath, which in turn would
give strength to the weakness of man’s moral sense and thus educate his
conscience and make it more sensitive to sin. The particular phase of
the Mosaic law here as well as throughout all of the Galatian letter is
the purely mandatory statues of “Thou shalt,“ and “Thou shalt not.“ The
law was given therefore to set the stamp of positive transgression upon
already existing sin. It was not to give the knowledge of sin as sin,
but to show that it was a violation of God’s commandments." (Wuest,
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Studies in the
Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans)
In short, parabates describes one who
this English verb derived from transpass, from the Latin trans, across
or beyond and passus, a step. Webster's 1828 entry says
that trespass means "Literally, to pass beyond; hence
primarily, to pass over the boundary line of another’s land; to enter
unlawfully upon the land of another. A man may trespass by walking over
the ground of another, and the law gives a remedy for damages sustained."
Here are the 5 uses of parabates
in the NT (no uses in the Lxx) -
Romans 2:25 For indeed
circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law; but if you are a
transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become
Romans 2:27 And will not he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps
the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law
and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?
Galatians 2:18 "For if I rebuild
what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
James 2:9 But if you show
partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as
James 2:11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not
commit murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder,
you have become a transgressor of the law.
(ginomai) means to come into existence. The
speaks of the permanence of the
resulting condition (uncircumcision). In other words since you
(Jews) are transgressors of the law, your circumcision has become
uncircumcision and the result is that this state is a settled one.
(akrobustia from ákron = the extreme +
búo = cover) means uncircumcised (the foreskin not cut off) or uncircumcision and thus
referred to the prepuce or foreskin.
Paul is saying that the physical rite of circumcision without any internal transformation
equates with a foreskin! And so Paul uses akrobustia
figuratively, in a negative sense of lack of relationship with God and
the perfect righteousness His law demands.
was also used as a term of
scorn and derision by Jews, for they equated uncircumcision
with being a pagans, non-Jewish peoples or Gentiles. Can you imagine how a self-righteous Jew
must have felt when he read Paul's argument!
Akrobustia is used
14 times in the
Septuagint (LXX) - Ge 17:11, 14, 23, 24, 25; 34:14, 24; Ex
4:25; Lv 12:3; Jos. 5:3; 1Sa 18:25, 27; 2Sa 3:14; Je 9:25
Akrobustia is used 19 times in
the NT -
Acts 11:3 saying, "You went to
uncircumcised men and ate with them." (Refers to Gentiles)
Romans 2:25 (notes)
For indeed circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law; but if you
are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become
Romans 2:26 (notes)
If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law,
will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
Romans 2:27 (notes)
And will not he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law,
will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and
circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?
Romans 3:30 (note) since
indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the
uncircumcised through faith is one.
Romans 4:9 (note) Is
this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised
(Refers to the Gentiles) also?
For we say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness."
Romans 4:10 (note) How
then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not
while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
Romans 4:11 (note) and
he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the
faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of
all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be
reckoned to them,
Romans 4:12 (note) and
the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the
circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our
father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
1Co 7:18 Was any man called already circumcised? Let him not become
uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be
1Co 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but
what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.
Gal 2:7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the
gospel to the uncircumcised (the Gentiles) just as Peter had been to the circumcised
Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision
means anything, but faith working through love.
Gal 6:15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a
Ephesians 2:11 (note) Therefore
remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called
"Uncircumcision " by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in
the flesh by human hands--
Colossians 2:13 (note)
And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of
your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all
Colossians 3:11 (note)
-- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew,
circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman,
but Christ is all, and in all.
Why does Paul address circumcision so directly? The Jews had been taught and
had come to believe that physical
circumcision secured eternal salvation. Below are a few quotations from
Jewish sources that express this false belief...
commenting on Book of Moses writes that...
Our Rabbis have said that no circumcised man will see Hell.
Circumcision saves from Hell.
The Midrash (Jewish traditions compiled about 200AD, basic
part of the Talmud) Tillim says,
God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised should be
sent to Hell.
The Midrash also taught the absurd notion that...
Abraham sits before the gate of
hell and never allows any circumcised Israelite to enter.
In sum, the rabbis taught a false gospel declaring that...
God will judge the Gentiles with one
measure and the Jews with another. All Israelites will have part in the
world to come
Paul is arguing that physical
circumcision (or physical water baptism or any rite or ritual for
that matter) does not secure salvation for anyone. It is well known for
example, that the Egyptians circumcised their boys and obviously they
were not saved. It is amazing and sad that many, if not most, of God's
chosen people were willing to stake their eternal destiny on a lie.
Things haven't changed much, have they?
ILLUSTRATION: Circumcision or baptism or any other
rite practiced in an attempt to gain salvation is analogous to a label
on a can of fruit or vegetables. If the outer label doesn’t match
with the inner product, something is "rotten"!