Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
February 10, 2013
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
1901 ASV Translation:
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing.
3 Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.
- I. Paul's "Behold".
- A. He clearly wants to make sure that his "point" is elevated to a position of extraordinary significance.
- 1. The use of "behold" by Paul is rare (only in Romans 2:17 and our text here).
- 2. John is the majority user in the New Testament and his uses indicate a deliberate attempt to push a particular focus of attention.
- B. This type of "forced focus" can only be taken to indicate that Paul is about to write something that simply must be taken seriously.
- II. "I, Paul".
- A. In terms of "needed information", neither the "I", nor the "Paul" is necessary.
- B. This is, again, a deliberate attempt to make as certain as can be that his readers give a lot of careful thought to what he is about to write.
- III. The "Highly Significant Claim".
- A. Addresses the submission of a Gentile to the Jewish rite of circumcision.
- 1. There could not be a pronouncement that would carry a greater "shock" value than Paul's attack upon the issue of being circumcised.
- 2. Since Paul's insistence that the Galatians "stand fast in their freedom" is focused upon an attempt by false teachers to compel a commitment to keeping the Mosaic Law, it is a bit odd that he goes after "circumcision" rather than "Sabbath keeping".
- a. The Mosaic Law had a "sign" that was to be indicative of a person's interest in being in submission to it (Exodus 31:13 and 17).
- b. Circumcision was also a "sign", but it was given to Abraham as a "token" of the covenant between God and him (Genesis 17:10-27) at the age of ninety-nine. Since it was "an everlasting covenant" (17:13) and the penalty for violation was "being cut off from his people", it would appear that Paul is focused upon any/every "work" that anyone might put forward as a reason for God to extend blessing.
- 3. Normally, a refusal of circumcision would be taken to be an indication of an unwillingness to be associated with God's covenant with Abraham, but Paul made it abundantly clear in Galatians 3:29 that being "of Abraham's seed" is of utmost importance.
- a. What is going on is that Paul is deliberately tying circumcision to the theology of merit being promoted by the Judaizers.
- b. Paul clearly understood that circumcision was a post-justification imposition by God upon Abraham and his household (Romans 4:10-12) as, what he called, a "seal" of the already possessed righteousness of faith.
- c. What is beyond obvious is that circumcision is not something that anyone "under" its covenantal boundaries could "refuse". It was done by others to babies that were only eight days old. Once established, the practice could only be extended to men who could "refuse" if those men wished to become a part of the covenantal family. Thus, "refusal" was tantamount to "rejecting the covenant of the family", i.e., the Mosaic Law. This boils down to a refusal to become a "Jew", which is Paul's whole point: the Gentiles simply must refuse to become a first century "Jew", or Christ will be of no benefit to them.
- d. Circumcision was for Abraham's household. Thus, for anyone to receive it, they had to want to be of his household. But, Paul has already taught that one can become "of the seed of Abraham" through faith by baptism into Christ, the Seed (3:26-29). Thus, circumcision has been supplanted by the baptism of the Spirit and to return to it would be a major error.
- B. Pointedly declares that "Christ is of no 'profit' to any such person.
- 1. What he means by "profit" is explained in the following verses. He means that Christ will not provide a declaration of righteousness before God ("justification") for anyone who desires to become a first century Jew.
- 2. In Acts 16:3 Paul circumcised Timothy. In our current book of interest, Paul refused to allow Titus to be circumcised (Galatians 2:3). This is not a contradiction. In Timothy's case the issue was avoiding an unnecessary offense; in the case of Titus the issue was avoiding doctrinal error.