“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
In the Old Testament, starting with Abraham, God required male Jews to be circumcised. It was a physical sign of the covenant between them, they would be his people and he would be their God. For thousands of years, this tradition was practiced among the Jewish people.
For Paul, it is a perfect example of the legalism that began to plague Judaism. Christ came to abolish that, and Paul speaks strongly against it. In the early church, it was a heated debate whether or not Christians should follow the Jewish law. A big part of this argument was circumcision. One argument was that salvation was for the Jews and therefore one must become Jewish (be circumcised) before one could attain salvation through Christ. Paul rejected this altogether.
The answer, he said, is not in any outward sign or behavior, but in faith. He says quite simply that neither circumcision or uncircumcision makes anyone any more or less able to be saved. Neither is better. It simply doesn’t matter. It was a sign of an old covenant that Jesus came to fulfill and replace with a new and better one. The sign of that covenant is love.
Jesus told his disciples that the world would know that they were his followers by their love. Paul simply reiterates that sentiment in this verse. He says that the only marker that we need is not anything physical, it’s love. The way people will know we are Christians is not by circumcision or uncircumcision or any legalistic rule following. No hand washing or diet restrictions would be our mark. It would simply be the love that Christ’s true followers exude in their lives.
Is your life marked by faith expressed through love?
Thank you that we no longer live by the old law, but by the new covenant of Jesus. Thank you that we are not marked outwardly, but inwardly by faith. Thank you that we don’t have to earn our salvation, because we know we never could. We believe that Jesus Christ has saved us, and our faith is in him. Help us to express our faith through love, the way that he instructed us.
In Jesus’ Name,