Should Believers in Christ be circumcised?

The question has been asked, “Should a believer in Christ be circumcised?”. 

So we will answer this question.

First we notice that Peter (Cephas) was afraid of the Jewish party (group) of the circumcision and stopped eating with the Gentiles. So obviously, some people even in Paul’s day thought believers should be circumcised

Galatians 2:11-14 (NASB)

 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

 14But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

Colossians 2:13-14 (NASB)

13When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

There were some Pharisee believers who wanted the Gentile believers to be circumcised and to follow the Law of Moses. But Peter reminded everyone that the Holy Spirit cleansed the hearts of Gentiles and Jews alike by faith, reminding them that even the Jews could not follow it.

Acts 15:5-11

 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to  circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”

 6 The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

After listening to the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles, James said they should not make it hard for the Gentiles, but only gave a few restrictions, in Acts 15:19-21

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

The apostles and elders, indeed the whole church, agreed with Peter and James to not require the Gentile believers to obey the Law of Moses. As such, they told the Gentile believers they did not wish to burden them with anything other than to say they were to “abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

Acts 15:22-29

 22Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas–Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 and they sent this letter by them, “The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, 25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” 

It MAY be that practicing Jewish believers should circumcise their children, as  the Jews in Jerusalem had heard that Paul was telling Jews to not circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs, and to appease them, to show them Paul kept the Law and there was nothing to what they had heard, Paul was asked to undergo a purification rite. But notice the Gentiles were only told, “that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”   

Acts 21:20-25

 20 And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; 21 and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 “What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 “Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. 25 “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”

Personally, I think that Paul agreeing to undergo the purification rite is, more than likely, another example of Paul being all things to all people.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

I say this because Paul made it clear that not even Titus was required to be circumcized when they went to the elders in jerusalem to verify the gospel Paul was teaching in contrast to what the judaizers were trying to enslave them.

Galatians 2:1-5

 1Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcisedBut it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

Paul made it clear to not be circumcised if you are not and become a believer. We are actually told to not be cicumcised if we are not already.

1 Corinthians 7:18

Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.

It sounds like Paul did circumcise Timothy to appease the Jews in the area of Lystra and Iconium, or to which they were going to travel. Since Timothy’s mother was a Jewish believer, Timothy, being 1/2 Jewish (on his mother’s side), would be able to move among them without problems this way.

Acts 16:1-3

1Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

I again think this is another example of being all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 9:20 that he was not under the Law.

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;

Like Paul, we are not under the Law of Moses, but under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the law of Christ – I think they are the same.
Romans 8:2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

1 Corinthians 9:21

 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

So, while one might be able to make a weak argument that Jewish believers should circumcise their children, it is evident Gentile believers should not. And even if one might be able to argue that Jewish believers should circumcise their children, Paul made it clear that physical circumcision is unimportant. It is the condition of the heart that matters.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:18-20

18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

We see in Galatians 5:6,

 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

And in Galatians 6:15

15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

And in Philippians 3:2-3

 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh

We we see our cicumcision is not done by men, but by Christ Himself, in Colossians 2:10-12,

10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;  11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

So no, a believer does not have to be circumcised. It may be you could make an argument for Jewish believers to continue to circumcise their children, but that would be following the Law of Moses. We have been set free from the Law – even Paul was not under the Law. Why would one want to return to the Law of Moses, when we are under the Law of Spirit of life in Christ Jesus? As such, I do not believe children of believing Jewish people need to be circumcised either. But even so, we are to avoid foolish arguments about the law (Titus 3:9). We each must be convinced in our own minds of what is appropriate worship (Romans 14:5).

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4 Responses

  1. Ваш пост навел меня на думки *ушел много думать* …

    • finsfagsnats,

      http://babelfish.yahoo.com translated “Ваш пост навел меня на думки *ушел много думать* …”
      as
      “Your post directed me to the small pillows of *[ushel] many [dumat]*…”

      I am sorry, but I do not understand what was translated. Please find other words?

  2. >>>Should Believers in Christ to be circumcised?<<<

    For religious reasons I would say “no”.

    For health reasons I would say “yes”.

    • Yeah, People used to say it was better for health reasons, but research has shown this not to be the case, and in fact may cause problems. In fact, the American academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine circumcision.

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