Archive for March 7, 2020

Why is Un-Circumcision Nothing?

March 7, 2020

Galatians 6: 11 Look at what large letters I use as I write to you in my own handwriting.

14 AS FOR ME, I WILL NEVER GLORY ABOUT ANYTHING EXCEPT THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. The world has been crucified to me through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.,and I have been crucified to the world through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. 15 BECAUSE BOTH circumcision AND UNCIRCUMCISION mean nothing. What matters INSTEAD is a new CREATION. 16 Let peace come to all those who follow this rule…..

This is the last part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It’s the part that Paul himself wrote down, and not his secretary who had written the rest from Paul’s dictation. It’s the conclusion, the important application.

In this essay I only have two questions, and this time I think I have answers for the two questions.

1. How and Why can Paul say that “uncircumcision” is nothing? I can understand why he would say that “circumcision is nothing”. His entire point has been that the circumcision of the Sinai covenant (and I add, also of the Abrahamic covenant) is nothing by which a sinner can be justified.

a. Circumcision is one part of many parts, and you can’t take one part of a covenant but not take the other parts. Because all the parts of a covenant  (all the commands and all the sanctions) go together. So, if you want to be justified by adding one part, then you will need to add the other parts.

Galatians 5:3 Every man who gets himself circumcised is obligated to keep the entire law.

“The entire law” is not some generic summary of all the laws and all the covenants in the Bible. “The entire law” is all the commands of the Sinai law.

b. NOBODY can be justified by obeying the Sinai law. This is not because sinners are attempting to obey the Sinai law. This is not because sinners are misunderstanding what the Sinai law commands. The Sinai law does require circumcision. The Sinai law does require holy war and holy separation from Gentiles. BUT NOBODY WAS JUSTIFIED BY OBEYING THE SINAI LAW . NOBODY EVER COULD BE JUSTIFIED BY OBEYING THE SINAI LAW.

In theory, every Jew (and every Gentile in the Galatian congregation) knows this. They all know that nobody is justified by obeying the Sinai law.

Galatians 5: 6 For in Christ Jesus NEITHER circumcision NOR UNCIRCUMCISION accomplishes anything

c. So I  think I understand saying “circumcision is nothing”. The Sinai covenant is nothing. It won’t justify. It never justified. And that “nothing” becomes a big big something if you think that nothing could in anyway increase or decrease your justification.

Galatians 5: 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ. You have fallen from grace.

Now that faith has come, now that Christ has come, now that the new covenant has come, the Sinai covenant is still nothing, which means that circumcision is nothing.  But even during the temporary time of the Sinai covenant, the circumcised could stay in that covenant and still not be justified before God.

 Paul seems to be saying something more–no longer can you stay in the Sinai covenant, no longer can your circumcision have any historical-covenantal significance. Because Christ is both the fufillment and the end of the Sinai covenant, which means that “nothing circumcision” becomes a very big something when Judiasers tell Gentile converts that circumcision is something.

Paul has an intense and important argument with the troublers who have come to the Galatians congregation. NOW THAT YOU SAY THAT CIRCUMCISION IS A SOMETHING, I am going to agree that circumcision is a something, but not in the positive way you have been saying, but rather placing any gospel importance on circumcision makes it SOMETHING that leaves you not reconciled to God by Christ.  This is not merely a disagreement about ethics, because your behavior in saying that the Gentiles are unclean is not only evidence of unbelief in the cross of Jesus Christ but is itself unbelief in the cross of Christ.
Galatians 5: 2 I tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all.

Unless you agree with Paul that “circumcision is nothing”, then Christ will be of no advantage to you.

This gets me to my first question. Why then say also that “uncircumcision is nothing”? If we are saying that being circumcised means that you are not and will not be justified, doesn’t that mean that “uncircumcision” is a big deal, a something and not a nothing?

If “uncircumcision is nothing”, why spend six chapters writing about not being under the Sinai law and not being circumcised?

Now I will give you the answer. The answer is that you can know that justification is not by circumcision AND STILL NOT KNOW THE GOSPEL. Yes, it’s important to know that justification is not by obeying the Sinai law. If you don’t know that, you miss the gospel. BUT (and this is an important but), I never thought anybody could be justified by keeping law, but I knew that but still without knowing the gospel of justification by means of Christ’s death.

I could give you some analogies. Yes, you need to know that Christ died only for the elect and that only the elect will be justified. If you deny that, you do not yet know the gospel. But also, you can agree with election and the extent of the atonement, AND STILL DO NOT KNOW THE GOSPEL. So denying universal ineffective atonement is “nothing” if you still don’t know that Christ’s death is the entire basis of justification before God.

Yes, you need to know that we sinners don’t have “free-will” (power to the contrary against God). You need to know that we are born guilty and unable to believe the gospel. if you deny that, you do not know the gospel. But also, you can agree with condemnation inherited from Adam, AND STILL NOT KNOW THE GOSPEL. So denying “free will” is “nothing” if you still don’t know that Christ’s death (and not our regeneration by the sovereign God) is the entire basis of justification before God.

One more analogy, and then I will move on to my second question. Yes, you need to know that the Abraham covenant was temporary. God promised Abraham many children and land and that his seed would bless those Gentiles elected to justification before God. But God is no longer promising any child of Abraham that they will have many children or that these children will have land or be justified. And you need to know that the “Zionist” notions that Jewish people are “now God’s people” or “will be justified after they die” are false gospels. If you believe the “all in one covenant now” false gospel, you cannot believe the true gospel taught in the book of Galatians.

But all that being said, denying Zionism is not itself the gospel. Denying Zionism is “nothing” because Denying Zionism is not the gospel (even though you need to deny that there is still a covenant with Abraham in order to know and believe the gospel) .

When the disturbers of the Galatian congregation hang on to the Sinai covenant, that is bad for the gospel. When the Jewish Judiasers command circumcision for Gentiles, that is bad for the gospel. “If you do this, Christ will be of no profit to you.” But Paul at the end of the letter writes “BOTH circumcision AND UNCIRCUMCISION mean nothing. What matters INSTEAD is a new CREATION.”   As he had already written, in chapter 5, “neither one but creation”. 

Second question.  Is “new creation” our regeneration by the Holy Spirit or is “us being the new creation” our new legal standing in Christ, the mediator of the new covenant?


Those who read my essays might  might predict that I would ask. “what is new creation”?   And you might also predict that my answer would be Christ Himself, who is in an important sense of the word “seed”  (the most important sense) of Abraham.  Christ and not the Holy Spirit is the seed of Abraham.  The Holy Spirit did not become incarnate. The Holy Spirit is not now also Jewish. The Holy Spirit is not also human.  And so I asked that predictable question because I already knew the answer I wanted to give. And after all , the final rule of Galatians (written in large letters by Paul) is that I BOAST IN NOTHING EXCEPT THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

(The world has been crucified to me through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST  I have been crucified to the world through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST)

We get it. We got it.   The Holy Spirit did not die on the cross.  The work of the Holy Spirit in us is not “the cross”. The cross happened outside of us, in a different time and space, not now and not here in our hearts. We do not boast at the work of the Holy Spirit inside our hearts.

Can we stop now? 

My first question was, why in Galatians 6:15 did Paul say “UNCIRCUMCISION means nothing”. Was Paul writing riddles and paradoxes? I refer you above for my answer.  When nothing becomes a something, then the people who made it a something are in big trouble, and that not’s nothing.  But don’t forget that it’s still a nothing.   And people who never brought up circumcision, who never made a nothing into a something, might still not know the gospel. 

My second question is, why in Galatians 6:15 did Paul say  “What matters INSTEAD is a new CREATION”?

“Instead of” what?  Instead of physical circumcision.  Romans 2: 5 For circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 

Somebody who likes to use the word “imputation” (like me) could say, God then counts their physical circumcision as “uncircumcision” 

Romans 2: 26 Therefore if an uncircumcised man keeps the law’s requirements, will his uncircumcision not be counted as circumcision? 

Not all the uses of the word “imputation” have to do with God counting Christ’s death as the death of the elect sinners. Some uses of the word “imputation” have us “counting God as righteous” (because God is righteous). And this Romans 2 text is a different kind of counting/ imputation.  This one has to do with God and us “declaring who is a Jew”.  Some of this same kind of thinking takes place in Romans 9-11  (see also Colossians 2)

Romans 2: 28.  For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something VISIBLE IN THE FLESH 29 On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one INWARDLY and circumcision is of the mind—by the Holy Spirit.

So how does this text relate to the two Galatians texts–circumcision/uncircumcision don’t matter—new creation matters.  Paul writes to the Galatians that “visible in the flesh circumcision” is a nothing.  It is such a nothing that if  you get it done to your flesh, that means justification by keeping Sinai law, and justification by Sinai law is impossible.  ( Some might call it “hypothetical”, but let’s count it and name it as “empty set”—never happened, not going to happen). 

So what does matter in Romans 2?  “If an uncircumcised man KEEP THE SINAI LAW’S REQUIREMENTS….” 

So is Galatians (or Romans 2 for that matter)  teaching us that becoming “new creation” means that the Holy Spirit causes us to keep the Sinai covenant laws?  Or Is Galatians teaching us that “new creation” means that the Holy Spirit will cause us to keep Christ’s commandments ? 

Galatians 5: 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything. What matters is FAITH WORKING LOVE.

Galatians 6: 2 Carry one another’s burdens. In this way YOU WILL FULFILL the law of Christ.

I Corinthians 7: 18 Was anyone already circumcised when he was called? He should NOT UNDO HIS CIRCUMCISION

I suppose that “undoing your circumcision” would be “uncircumcision”.  And I think there are medical procedures which actually do this. But then would come the question, what’s the difference between having your circumcision undone and simply never having been circumcised in the first place?  But the answer is ultimately still the same—UNCIRCUMCISION IS NOTHING. 

(One more analogy—the difference between somebody whose parents superstitiously got them watered “just in case” and somebody whose pagan parents never got them watered—and the answer is still the same, watered twice or watered once or watered never, water is not circumcision and water is nothing, so therefore if you allow yourself be watered to begin or to increase justification, then you cannot be justified, but that being said “water is nothing” because “not water” is not the gospel. )

I Corinthians 7: 18 Was anyone called while uncircumcised? He should NOT GET CIRCUMCISED. 19 Circumcision does not matter and uncircumcision does not matter. BUT KEEPING GOD’S COMMANDS DOES MATTER.

Can we now return to my second question, and can we have an answer this time  (not going some place else like Corinthians or Colossians 2 or Romans 2)? 

When Galatians 6 says “new creation”, I can see how that relates to the Holy Spirit causing us to obey commands (inwardly from invisible motives of the heart) but what does that have to do with the rule about ” I BOAST IN NOTHING EXCEPT THE CROSS”?  Is that hyperbole, because the apostle Paul does write about many things, not only about Christ’s death. But does Paul glory in anything else? 

Philippians 3: 2 watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh.

Paul serves and obeys by the Holy Spirit. Paul does not boast in the Holy Spirit.

Paul does not put confidence in the flesh (circumcision or “being strong on the local church” or “going by my conscience” or “being reliable”).  But Paul does not boast in his not putting confidence in the flesh. Paul does not boast in his lack of self-righteousness.  Nor does Paul boast in his lack of “other sins”. 

Paul boasts in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, and Christ’s resurrection from Christ’s death is NOT REFORMATION IN CONTINUITY WITH THE PAST.  Christ’s resurrection from Christ’s death is the New Covenant and the end of the Sinai covenant (and the end of the Abrahamic covenant).  The seed of Abraham now risen from the dead brings blessing to the elect from the Gentiles (and from the Jews) .  Resurrection from death is NOT ” he didn’t ever really die”.  Resurrection from death in history is God reconciled by the death of Christ the seed of Abraham come in the flesh for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ.

What is “new creation” ?

Romans 6: 9  Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all time.  But in light of the fact that Christ lives, He lives to God.

“New creation” is having been raised from the dead.   It’s not having been given a new nature.  It’s not only having been caused to believe and obey the gospel. Believing and obeying the gospel is a result of “new creation”.  Those God has elected and then legally placed into Christ are “new creation”. Instead of talking about a regeneration inside us, to glory in the cross is to glory in Christ’s resurrection from the death that frees those who God places into Christ’s death.  Those who are thus justified are free from still needing to be justified or assured of justification by keeping some of the laws of the Sinai or Abrahamic covenants. 

Galatians 2: 20 I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Sinai law, then Christ died for nothing.

NOTHING.  All or nothing.  Either justification (and life, immortality, freedom from guilt)  by our keeping covenant. Or justification  (and lasting life) by Christ’s death on the cross.  If Christ died for something, then keeping Sinai is nothing. If keeping Sinai is something, then Christ died for NOTHING. 

Saying that the Sinai covenant is something is ANTI-GOSPEL. 

Saying that the Sinai covenant is nothing, however, is not the gospel.

The gospel is Christ having died for the sins of the elect on the cross. 

Christ having once died is EVERYTHING. 

The disturbers of the Galatian congregation want to have the flesh of the Gentiles cut.  Paul responds–circumcision is nothing. But Paul also responds—I wish those who attempt to get you to do this nothing would “cut off their entire organ”.   Galatians 5: 11 IF CIRCUMCISION IS STILL PREACHED, THEN  THE OFFENSE OF THE CROSS HAS BEEN ABOLISHED.  12 I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves dis-membered” 

There is an either or here., a big something from all this “nothing” .  The Sinai covenant has been abolished (not only “ceremonial” parts, but entirely). If the Sinai covenant has not been abolished, then we do not boast in the cross.   If circumcision has not been abolished, then we abolish boasting in the cross. 

So have I answered my second question yet? Am I saying that the Holy Spirit is nothing, keeping commandments is nothing, and that Christ’s death on the cross is everything?  Either we are identified with Christ’s death or we are identified with the Sinai covenant? 

Galatians 3: 2 Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Sinai law or by hearing with faith?  After beginning with the  Holy Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh (obeying the Sinai law)? 

We need to keep thinking about how receiving the Holy Spirit (from Christ) relates to hearing with faith the good news about Christ and His resurrection from death.   Abraham believed the gospel of resurrection. Abraham believed the gospel about his seed in the flesh.  But how does receiving the Holy Spirit have to do with not only Christ’s resurrection but also our believing this gospel? 

Galatians 3: 13  Christ  redeemed us elect Jews  from the curse of the Sinai law by becoming a curse for us.   14. THE PURPOSE WAST was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that Gentiles would receive the promised Holy Spirit.

God promised Abraham not only many children and land, but also promised Abraham that his seed would bring blessing to some Gentiles. And the blessing of Abraham for these Gentiles is not only justification through Christ’s death on the cross but also receiving the Holy Spirit so that they would believe the gospel about Christ’s death and resurrection. 

When we are describing “new creation”, we  are not talking about all Gentiles or about all Jews. 

Galatians 3: 27 For AS MANY OF YOU as HAVING BEEN baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment.

This text does not say that the Holy Spirit baptized us into Christ. Nor does this text teach that baptism is water.  But in the “new creation”, there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. 

Those in the new creation are “all one in Christ Jesus.” 29 as many as belong to Christ, they are Abraham’s sons. 

Abrahams’s seed is not only the one person Christ.  Abraham’s seed is also, in another sense, the new creation, those who believe in the gospel.  Abraham believe in the gospel, and as many as believe the gospel are heirs according to one of the promises God made to Abraham. 

Genesis 22: 14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide. 15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven
16 and said…“BECAUSE YOU HAVE DONE  this thing and have not withheld your only son 17 I will make your seed as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore…. All the nations will be blessed by your seed BECAUSE YOU HAVE OBEYED MY COMMAND. ”

“The new creation” has to do with the promise God made to Abraham about blessing Gentiles.   Galatians 3: 19 The Sinai law was added … UNTIL the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.

“Them” and “you” gets a bit confusing in Galatians. 

Galatians 3: 13  Christ  redeemed us elect Jews  from the curse of the Sinai law by becoming a curse for us elect Jews.   14. THE PURPOSE WAS that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that Gentiles would receive the promised Holy Spirit

Galatians 4: 4 God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Sinai law, to redeem THEM under the Sinai law, in order that we Gentiles would receive adoption as SONS And because YOU are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into YOUR hearts.

Is the “you” only Jews or only Gentile or both?  Well, what is the “new creation”?  

I suppose you could call me a “dispensationalist” because of what I am answering about “new creation”, but you should not call me “Marcionite” because I am not at all denying that the God who abolished the Sinai law (separations from the Gentile part of creation) is the same God who gave the Jews the Sinai covenant to begin with. 

I stop while agreeing that there is a lot of “not yet answered” in my second answer, but here add on last texts from Galatians. 

Galatians 5: 17 The Holy Spirit desires what is against the flesh. 18 But if you are led by the Holy Spirit, you are not under the law.

I don’t want to go back to nothing is something and something is nothing, but  It is not being led by the Holy Spirit that causes us (or anybody) to not be under the Sinai law.    In which case, many would suggest that we translate “the law” instead of “the Sinai law”, because that will smooth over some questions we don’t want to (or can’t)  answer.  

But I would still stay that those who were never under Sinai law are not justified from being under the Sinai law.  Those who were never circumcised do not need to become “uncircumcised”.   It is not the gospel for antinomians to say “we know we are justified because we know that we are not under the sabbath and or any of the other Ten Commandments”.  Yes, it’s true, you never were under the Sinai or Abrahamic covenants. That does not mean that you are now in the new covenant.   

If you are led by the Holy Spirit, then you know and believe the gospel about the seed of Abraham and why He died on the cross for the sins of the elect. The Holy Spirit caused you to know this gospel.   Your believing this gospel did not place you into Christ’s death. But if you are indeed not under the condemnation of Adam with which you were born, then you are led by the Holy Spirit and you continue to believe the gospel. 

Galatians 5:  The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control…. 24 Now AS MANY AS who belong to Christ Jesus live by the Holy Spirit.  We must also follow the  Holy Spirit.