Circumcision is a widely debated topic for modern-day Christians. Some Christians believe that circumcision should be done because it is commanded to us by God.
Others, however, believe that it is a doctrine in the Old Testament that was already superseded during Christ’s coming.
Let’s delve into this more as we study what the Word says about circumcision.
Physical Circumcision According to the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, we can read that circumcision was really instituted by God to set apart His people and those who do not believe in Him.
This can be read thoroughly in Genesis 17 during His covenant with Abraham:
“This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:10-14).
This is one of the reasons why circumcision is primarily known as a Jewish practice because they follow the Torah. This verse is also the basis for modern-day Christians who follow the practice of circumcision.
Its Spiritual Meaning
However, other modern-day Christians do not follow the practice of circumcision because they believe that it is not a necessity. There is a debate that it has a more spiritual meaning than strictly physical.
In Acts 15, we can read this thoroughly as Peter says that the act of circumcision is not the basis of salvation, rather, the grace of Jesus Christ is.
James also emphasized to the Gentiles that there is no need for physical circumcision but, instead, the salvation given to us by Christ, and following Christ through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is all we need, as it is written in Acts 15:28-29,
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
This spiritual understanding of circumcision is confirmed by Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and Philippians, as it is written in the following Bible verses:
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 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. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them (1 Corinthians 7:17-20).
Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek (Galatians 2:1-3).
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:8-12).
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:1-3).
These verses emphasize that the practice of circumcision is not through the flesh, rather, in the heart. By receiving Christ in our hearts, we now have a spiritual marker within us that separates us from the believers and the non-believers.
Salvation is what separates us because by receiving Christ, we are saved, and we are a step closer to receiving eternal happiness with Our Father and Our Savior.
Circumcision to Abide by Societal Norms
The verses in the New Testament state that circumcision of the physical body is not required to receive salvation. It states that circumcision is a spiritual matter and not practicing this does not condemn us from receiving salvation.
However, the Bible does not say that it is wrong to practice circumcision. In fact, Paul circumcised Timothy because of the presence of the Jews in the area and He did not want Timothy to be ostracized.
Paul wanted to take him 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 (Acts 16:3).
He did not circumcise Timothy because he needed to in terms of belief, but because of societal norms that needed to be done and so as not to hinder Timothy from exercising his Christian freedom in the presence of Jews because being circumcised during this time was a big deal in their community
There are times when we can participate in societal norms in order to belong and, thereby, share the gospel. Even if our Christian belief does not necessarily demand us to do so, the practice of circumcision has become a societal norm and a free choice for Christians to make.
Circumcision Based on Health Decisions
Another reason why modern-day Christians practice circumcision, apart from the Old Testament covenant and current societal norms, is the health factors. There are numerous scientific studies that tell us that being circumcised is healthier and cleaner.
However, other studies reveal the exact opposite, and there still remains a scientific debate as to whether this practice is really the healthier option or not.
Why Does This Matter?
There are many views about circumcision that modern-day Christians lean on today. Some believe it should be done according to the Old Testament covenant, while others believe that the New Testament has stated that it holds a spiritual meaning rather than a physical one.
Despite the two statements, what is clear is that circumcision is a believer’s choice. It may not be a demand as stated in the New Testament, but sometimes it is a norm in certain countries and societies, and studies have shown it is a healthy choice — and for this reason, Christians follow the practice.
Nevertheless, what is important is that physically circumcised or not, the love for God and neighbors still remains the overlying importance in our Christians lives.
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Glory Dy has been a content creator for more than 10 years. She lives in a quiet suburb with her family and four cats.