by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 8 March 22, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(110)Thesis:The "Jewish" problem was a fundamental refusal to stop "promoting" themselves.
Introduction:So far in our studies of Paul's very aggressive denunciation of his "kinsmen according to the flesh", we have seen that his fundamental charge against them has been the charge of "flagrant hypocrisy". We have seen that he deliberately makes this charge in the fiery, smokey, atmosphere of the Day of Wrath when Yahweh is going to vent His Holy Anger against those whose "secrets" consisted of deliberate hatefulness, but whose "external behavior" was an on-going attempt to conceal that hatefulness. In our last study, we noted that Paul leveled the most severe accusation of hypocrisy possible: You are the cause of the blasphemy against Yahweh that is going on among the nations.
This evening we are going to begin to look into Paul's "explanation" of the predicament the Jews are in because of their "secrets", their "theology", and their "actual practices". According to 2:25, "circumcision" is of extraordinary value "if" a given foundation is in place, but if that foundation is not already in place, "circumcision" becomes its veryopposite. There is nothing more dangerous than to "believe" something that is actually dead wrong.
I. Why God Instituted "Circumcision".
A. This "why" question rests upon two facts.
1. It is a male-only issue [there is no indication of any kind that God had what is often referred to in our generation as "female circumcision" in mind].
2. It very obviously did not prevent the deterioration of Israel's national theology to the point that Israel could not even recognize her Savior-God when He came into their midst.
B. This "why" question has its answers originally given in Genesis 17.
1. The setting of Genesis 17.
a. It is post-Genesis 15.
1) The significance of this is shown in Romans 4:10-13.
2) The point: "circumcision" has nothing to do with being an actuator of the relationship that Yahweh offers to man.
3) Circumcision was a post-love/faith addition made by God.
b. It is pre-Genesis 21.
1) The significance of this is shown in Hebrews 11:11.
2) The point: "disbelieving, post-conversion, people" have a fundamental need for a divine stimulus to re-focus on the promises He has made to them.
3) Circumcision was a continuous reminder of the issues involved in the relationship God had initiated.
2. The contextual issues of Genesis 17.
a. The initial issue of the chapter is Yahweh as El Shaddai summoning Abram to a commitment to walk before Him so that he may become all that Yahweh wishes for him to be.
1) This is a summons to an assumed condition of the heart.
a) A summons to a commitment that finds no pre-interested desire is of no effective value.
b) Yahweh already knows Abram wishes in his heart to be what Yahweh wishes him to be.
2) The summons, at the minimum, suggests that Yahweh is going to do something to enhance the ability of the one summoned to actually fulfill the summons. This is fundamental to the grace of God and a direct link to the identity of Yahweh as the Almighty Executor of Power.
b. The focus issues of the covenant issues of Genesis 17 are all "offspring" related.
1) "I will multiply thee exceedingly".
2) "Thou shalt be a father of many nations".
3) "Thy name shall be Abraham".
4) "I will make thee exceeding fruitful and will make nations of thee".
c. All of these "offspring" related issues have their physical point of focus on Abraham's "loins" (Genesis 35:11).
3. The focus upon "circumcision".
a. Yahweh deliberately takes the central figure in the "loins" of Abraham and addresses a painful and permanent alteration from the way He orginally created it.
b. By so doing, He makes it impossible for Abraham to ever engage in sex with his wife again without a very sharp reminder of two things:
1) "I have been summoned to walk before the Creator of Pleasure, Yahweh".
2) "Yahweh has made some very important-to-me promises that are to be backed by His Omnipotence".
c. Because Yahweh has made it, thus, impossible for Abraham to enjoy the greatest physical pleasure of life without being "re-focused" on his "calling" and "Yahweh's powerful promises", Yahweh has actually provided the central ingredient necessary to Abraham's ability to fulfill the summons.
1) The only thing God has ever committed Himself to responding to in the entire scope of His Book is the Galatians 5:6 combination of love and faith. He claimed that He would respond if He found the least mite of that combination: Matthew 17:20.
2) The only things God is going to reward when the final days come are those things which sprang out of our bodies by virtue of the working of His Spirit within us: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
3) The "in-the-body" reminder that Abraham was subjected to, thus, became a stimulus to re-focus on the summons and promises every time the issue of serious pleasure arose.
C. This "why" question, however, is intensified by the further content of Genesis 17.
1. It is not difficult for anyone to understand how a combination of pain and permanent disfiguration, followed within one year by the fulfillment of an entire life-time of longing, in the context of the greatest pleasure devised by God for man, could be an effective "re-focusing tool".
2. The difficulty arises in the further requirement that this entire process be pursued every time a male baby is born in the nation.
a. There is an enormous liklihood that there does not exist one male adult in the whole world who has any remembrance of the pain or the disfigurement of a circumcision that he was subjected to when he was within 8 days of his birth.
b. Doesn't this pretty much erode the impact of circumcision?
3. That the impact was effectively eroded is indisputable from the history of those whose circumcision took place on the eighth day after their births.
4. So, why did God demand circumcision on the pain of excommunication (Genesis 17:14 and Exodus 4:24)?
a. John 20:29 addresses this question with this answer: the one who successfully meets the conditions of blessedness is blessed; but the one who did so with the least demandingness of "proof" is the most blessed. The point: anyone who vicariously entered into the reality of his own circumcision by simply being a witness to it later on, would be able to have his own sex life be for him a tool of "re-focus". It is even more difficult for a woman -- she has an even greater hurdle to overcome.
b. The "love/faith" issues of the relationship Yahweh was to have with the nation depended upon the people having at least a minimal "in the flesh" tool for re-focus.
5. So, why did God suspend the demand after Christ was crucified?
a. First, because it had been so perverted by then that it was functionally useless. The Jews had effectively turned it into an "actuator" and, thus, killed it as a tool of promise. Beware the danger of not dealing with status lust.
b. 1 Peter 1:8 in conjunction with 2 Peter 1:4 addresses this question with a very similar answer: it is not necessary to have experienced circumcision to be able to experience the fulfillment of the promises. What is required is the love/faith reality, and after the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit became the replacement for the "in the flesh" instrument.