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:
12 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.
1901 ASV Translation:
11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might be reckoned unto them;
12 and the father of circumcision to them who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had in uncircumcision.
I. Circumcision as a "Seal of the Righteousness of the Faith".
A. Clearly, Paul is arguing that there are divergent "futures" for the uncircumcised and the circumcised.
1. If "righteousness" can be reckoned to those who are "uncircumcised", there has to be a future in the Kingdom of Righteousness that is diverse from the future in that Kingdom that has direct links to "circumcision".
a. Both groups are "reckoned" to be righteous by faith.
b. But circumcision stands as a distinction between them.
2. The covenant of circumcision has always been a covenant upon the nation that physically descended from Isaac and Jacob.
a. It was established between Abraham and his physical offspring.
b. It was made a critical aspect of participation in the promise of the Land of Canaan.
c. But it was never the critical, fundamental requirement of participation: that was reserved for the issue of "justification" and that, in turn, was tied directly to whether one exercised the faith of Abraham.
1) The reason for this is obvious: no one can have any good part in God's future plans who is not reconciled to God.
a) Reconciliation requires two items: an objective basis for forgiveness in light of the demands of Justice; and a subjective basis for a reconciled relationship between two former antagonists.
b) Faith is the method of application that accepts the objective basis and embraces the reality of reconciliation -- and all that reconciliation implies (including the cessation of rebellion and the progression of heart-based involvement with God).
2) Thus, the issues of "justification" and the consequent "circumcision" were made, and kept, distinct from each other.
3. But uncircumcised people can become "sons of Abraham" by the exercise of the same kind of faith that he exercised.
a. This is a specific kind of non-physical reality: sonship as an issue determined not by physical generation, but by replication of the father-characteristic: faith.
b. This non-physical reality forms a basis for "righteousness by faith" without being in the gene-stream of Abraham. [John the Baptizer claimed that God could raise up sons to Abraham from stones: what did he mean?]
c. The reality of "righteousness by faith" inescapably introduces the reality of reconciliation with God; which, in turn, inescapably introduces a good part in the coming reality of the Kingdom of God.
1) This inescapability forces us to realize that there has to be a future for the uncircumcised in the Divine Plan that is disconnected from the future that the covenant of circumcision introduced.
2) The conclusion must, therefore, be that the "Land" promise was for the nation of Israel, and all non-Israelites have no part in that promise.
a) The question is this: what is the big deal about the "land" for Israel when it is obvious that other "lands" must be the residences of other "nations"?
i. If everyone gets some "land" what is the big deal about Israel getting that particular piece?
ii. Where does this take us?
b) Clearly, there is something special about that particular piece of real estate that is not matched by any other portion of the earth's geographical parts.
i. It is prophesied to be the geographical center of Messiah's Kingdom.
ii. As such it will be the place where Messiah actually physically resides.
iii. As such it will be the place of closest physical proximity to Messiah: an issue about which the promise to be made a pillar in the Temple with the resulting reality of never having to depart from it has some implications.
iv. There is "something" special about "close proximity".
B. As a "seal", physical circumcision was an indicator both of the inviolability of the commitment of God and the reality of the futuristic nature of that commitment.
1. As a "seal" it spoke of things to come; this is clearly a statement of things not present.
a. This has always been somewhat of a difficulty for the impatient who want the future now.
b. Thus it has always been a statement to the impatient about the necessity of the process that incrementally brings the future into the present.
2. But a "seal" is also a guarantor of things promised so that, even though there is not the level of experience hoped for in the present, there is the impact that hope generates.
a. Hope generates an ability to patiently await the expected fulfillment.
b. Hope stimulates the emotional life of the one in whom hope lives.