Faith and Circumcision
Romans 4:9-10 (ESV) -- Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
Circumcision is not a topic Christians talk a lot about. I write that jokingly because that is certainly not what you expected to read to begin a devotional. But I say it honestly because that subject is a reoccurring theme in Scripture. Circumcision was given by God to Abraham and Israel as a sign of the covenant He made with them. It was a core piece of how God set them apart from the surrounding nations.
Why is that? Because circumcision on the male genitalia, as the sign of the covenant of making them into a great nation as numerous as the stars, is the very thing by which God would fulfill the promise. They would be fruitful and multiply. And they were constantly reminded through circumcision that God had made a great promise.
Our text today gets into Paul’s discussion on circumcision, but he connects it to faith. Notice he asks if the blessing of faith being counted to them as righteousness is only for the circumcised, or is it also for the uncircumcised? Meaning, is it for Jews only, or Gentiles too? The obvious answer is for Gentiles too. But here is Paul’s argument: Abraham was counted as righteous through faith before he was circumcised. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant, but he received the covenant by faith when God declared it.
The point Paul is making is that circumcision doesn’t save anyone. Even in the Old Testament it was merely a sign, not the way by which people were reconciled to God. Faith has always been the means of grace. Later Paul will write about circumcised and uncircumcised hearts. At the end of the day, God is not worried about a piece of flesh on your body; He wants your heart to be for Him. He desires to see faith. And Abraham is an important reminder for us that before circumcision, he was a man of faith. Faith has always been the pathway to knowing God.
Call out to Him today by faith.
Don’t seek your righteousness in anything other than trust in Jesus. Faith reconciles you to God. Nothing else you can do precedes it.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why is it important that Paul points out that Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness before his circumcision?
- What reminders has God placed in your life of His blessings to you?
- What do some see today as ways of earning God’s favor? Where do you find your own heart drawn to in trying to earn His favor?
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