Romans 4:11- And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also” NKJV
Paul has spent a lot of time in this letter speaking about the circumcised and the uncircumcised, so in this blog we will look at circumcision a little closer. And to do that, we really do have to go back to the beginning, to Abraham.
It is in Genesis 17, that we first learn of circumcision. As God was about to fulfill His promise of Abraham having his son, God first had a conversation with Abraham. Here’s the conversation God had with 99 years old Abram in a nutshell:
- God told Abram His name is Almighty God- this needs a blog all by itself!
- God told Abram to walk before Him and to be blameless
- God told Abram that He would make a covenant between them
- God told Abram that He would multiply him exceedingly
Let’s just take a minute and process all that is going on here. God reveals to Abram that He is Almighty God. Whenever we see a new name for God, He’s using this opportunity to reveal more of Himself! The Hebrew name for Almighty God is El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One, or Almighty God! The One Who Has His Hands on Everything! The Many Breasted One! The One Who Pours Out His Blessings Abundantly! That is who was talking to Abraham! And Abraham recognizes the moment for what it is and falls on his face before God! But God doesn’t stop there! He continues by saying to Abram:
- That he would be a father of many nations
- God changed his name from Abram to Abraham
- He told Abram that he would be exceedingly fruitful
- God told Abram that kings would come from him
- God said that He would establish a covenant with Abraham and his descendants
- God said that He was going to give Abraham the land of Canaan for a possession
- Then He said that He would be their God!
The God Who Pours Out His Blessings Abundantly certainly promised to do that for Abraham. Every area of Abraham’s life was impacted by this blessing: his wealth, his family, his posterity, his influence, his relationship with God!
God also changed Abram’s name to Abraham! How many of you have thought, “I wish God had changed my name.” Well, He most certainly has changed your name, and mine too! He no longer calls us sinners, He calls us saints! He calls us sons of God! He calls us a royal priesthood! He calls us overcomers! And I can go on and on! Are you excited yet?!
Back to circumcision! Up until this point, God is talking about all that He is going to do for Abraham. Now He gives Abraham something to do!
- God tells Abraham that he and his descendants must keep His covenant throughout their generations!
- Every male child amongst them must be circumcised on the eighth day of life
- Circumcision would be the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants
- Circumcision is a cutting away of the male foreskin
This circumcision was about the covenant of faith between God and Abraham, to demonstrate, according to some commentators, having no confidence in the flesh. But at some point in time, it came to be about their faith in the circumcision. Two totally different things. Abraham believed God, and that, Paul is pointing out, is why God credited Him with righteousness and used circumcision to seal the deal. Circumcision didn’t initiate the relationship, the relationship initiated circumcision!
I read in an article that the Jewish customs around circumcision have become more than just the cutting away of the flesh. There is a “special” man who does a ritual during the circumcision which includes putting red wine in his mouth, and then saturating the baby’s foreskin with that wine as a part of that rite. Where is that in Genesis?
Before we become judgmental about them placing their trust in the circumcision and expanding on what God said, think about all the things we have done the same thing with. Prayer is a beautiful expression between us and God, but some try to make us think that we have to pray a certain length of time, with a certain amount of fervor, using exactly the right formulas to be heard by God; thus placing faith in the way we pray more than the fact that we pray! I know this to be true because God reminded me of it just this morning. All of the beautiful elements of our faith have deep and profound meanings behind them, but as we repeat them year end and out, the focus, for some, is removed from the original intent, to the ritual itself. This is why Jesus came! To remove the yoke of rituals off of His people and to give them the freedom of a relationship of love, which is our motivation to pray, or to do whatever we need to do! Not works!
Abraham’s sign of the covenant was given to him when he was just a man of faith. As such, Paul states that this enabled him, the father of circumcision, to also be father to those without the circumcision.
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.Romans 4:12 NKJV
Paul continues with his “argument” that the promise that God gave to Abraham and to his seed was given, not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith! For if it had been done through the Law, then the promise of faith would be made void.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:Romans 4:13-15 NKJV
This is true for all of God’s dealings with not only Abraham, but with Isaac and with Jacob. They were all before Moses, and therefore, before the Law. Faith, Paul reiterates, was the ground upon which God released His promises to Abraham, not the Law!
Later, Paul will expound upon this truth in detail, but for now he states that the Law brings wrath, not blessings. Our inability to keep the law means that it becomes a vehicle of God’s wrath towards us, especially if we regard it as the principle by which we are justified and how we relate to God.
The last point I will make today is on the end of verse 15 where Paul makes the statement that where there is no law there is no transgression. Transgression, according to the Vine’s is rendered as “overstepping” the limits, or going beyond. As I was reading through the commentaries, I found this thought and want to share it:
There is sin that is not the “crossing the line” of the Law of Moses. The root of sin isn’t in breaking the law, but in breaking trust with God; with denying His loving, caring purpose in every command He gives. Before Adam sinned he broke trust with God – therefore God’s plan of redemption is centered on a relationship of trusting love – faith – instead of law-keeping. When we center our relationship with God on law-keeping instead of trusting love, we go against His whole plan.https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Rom/Rom-4.cfm?a=1050013
I really like how David Guzik shares that the root of sin is in breaking trust with God, and in doing so we deny His loving, caring purposes in every command that He gives. I will end today’s blog with this thought: Paul addresses this issue of faith versus works of the Law with an expertise that cannot be ignored for he was one who executed the Law with strictest regards. Yet, after all of that, we still find many who can’t or won’t except that it is faith and not performance that moves the hand of Almighty God! Wonderful Jesus!