Deuteronomy 10:12–22, Romans 2:25–29, 1 Corinthians 7:17–24
Circumcision has long been a sign of being Jewish. For many years, it was used to identify Jewish males and hold it against them. In Deuteronomy (Moses’ farewell address), Moses speaks of the circumcision of the heart. Moses defined circumcision as being fully devoted to God. There is a warning here that could easily be ignored, don’t rely on actions being evidence of your relationship with God.
Paul’s struggle with the Jewish converts is that they often brought “the Law” with them. As Christianity had come through Judaism, there would be many well-meaning believing Gentiles (non-Jews) who would look to the Jews for wisdom regarding the right steps to take. The Jews would default to the way they were raised, the Law. Adult Gentile converts were looking to be circumcised so that they would be in the right. Paul wanted them to realized that physical circumcision was never the point.
The same thing that Moses was trying to get through the Israelites heads (and hearts) was the same thing that Paul was still fighting, and trying to prevent the Gentiles from following the same path. He was pretty desperate on behalf of his spiritual children and grandchildren.
Whether it was Rome or Corinth, the “battle” raged on. Minus slavery, we were called to remain as we were (e.g., if Jewish be Jewish, if Gentile remain Gentile) as when God called us. It was not our blood, our skin, our nationality, our wealth that saved us but trusting God.
1) The church often falls into the same pattern of circumcision. The world does, too. Have you judged others’ or your salvation based upon tattoos, smoking, drinking, or the lack of them, or something else? How about the nation they came from, or the language they speak?
2) Why do we have to always be on guard against actions rather than faith?
3) Why do we often trust actions rather than faith?