29: Circumcision

Question: What is the Christian belief about circumcision? Reading through the NT we have read a lot about it in Romans. From what we have learned regarding the health standpoint we understand it to be unnecessary. Religiously is it considered more of a metaphor for spiritual circumcision?

Response: That’s a great question. It’s important to seek God’s will for the raising of our children, even in the tiniest details of parenting. I think that is a great heart to have in all areas of parenting.

While this is a sensitive topic (ouch!), I’ll try to address it the best I can. In the Old Testament the cutting off of the foreskin was a requirement for all Jewish males and was performed eight days after birth (Genesis 17:10-14). However, I don’t think there is any spiritual reason to be circumcised according to the instructions and guidance given to us in the New Testament.

Since Jesus’ time that has all changed. The only thing we have to do to go to heaven is to put our faith in Jesus Christ, believing that His death on the cross is completely sufficient to pay for our sins. There is no amount of good works that we can do to sufficiently cover our sins, or even help in doing so. Circumcision will not help, and neither will going to church, giving to the poor, or even doing the best we can. The only thing that will pay for our sins is having faith in Christ’s death on the cross. As you read through the verses below I think you’ll find that we are clearly released from the act of physical circumcision. As you mentioned, the only positive references to circumcision after the time of Christ are those that speak of it symbolically.

I’ve heard both pros and cons for it medically. I’d tend to lean towards believing that it probably has some medical benefit, just because most of God’s commands seem to have an earthly benefit to obeying them.

So in short, I don’t see any spiritual reason to have a child circumcised, and my personal conviction for it medically comes in at a good strong 51% in favor of it. I think there is total freedom in this area; if you don’t have a compelling reason to do it, then don’t. If you think it may have some medical benefit, or have some other reason for having your child circumcised, then feel free to do it.

Here are some scriptures for further study:

Acts 16:3 Paul wanted to take [Timothy] along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. NIV

Romans 3:29-30 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. NIV

1 Corinthians 7:18-19 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 . Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. NIV (See 1 John 3:23)

Galatians 2:2-3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me[/Paul], was compelled to be circumcised , even though he was a Greek. NIV

Galatians 5:2-6 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised , Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. NIV

[Note that in Acts 16:3 Paul encouraged Timothy to get circumcised so that Jews wouldn’t get all caught up on that instead of focusing on the message of Christ. If we are trying to obey the law by circumcision, then we would be obligated to obey the whole law (which is impossible for us). However, it is possible to get circumcised or to circumcise our children for other reasons, just as Paul circumcised Timothy for other reasons.]

Galatians 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. NIV

Colossians 2:11-12 In him you were also circumcised , in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. NIV

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. NIV

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