Galatians 5:1–6 (NKJV)
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.Galatians 5:1-6 (NKJV)
Paul inserts a short summary of the value of grace through faith versus law by using circumcision as his primary object of discussion. He calls his disciples in Corinth to stand fast in the liberty that came from Christ. He warns against being once again entangled with a yoke of bondage. He then identifies circumcision as a sign of that bondage. Many of a Jewish mindset began to insinuate that all Christians, including Gentiles, should be circumcised as the Jews were for thousands of years. In Christ, though, the rigid adherence to that sign of the Abrahamic covenant was not necessary. Those who would insist on its observance were placing a bondage on Christians, especially Gentiles, who were coming to the Lord. While perhaps not meaning it as literally as it appears in this writing, Paul insists that being bound by one point of the law binds one under all the law. If you observe the ritual of circumcision, then you must obey every commandment and teaching of the law. This embracing of the law would bring an estrangement from Christ, and perhaps even a fall from grace. Therefore, Paul insists that neither circumcision or uncircumcision should be an issue. The hope of righteousness comes by faith, and faith working through love.
In our world today, circumcision is something that varies from culture to culture as to its observance. Many Americans are circumcised at birth, while other sub-cultures in the US see no need for it. As many years as we are removed from the coming of Christ and the onset of Christianity as a religion, the issue does not necessarily carry a religious connotation. This may be largely because there are many, many more Gentile Christians today than Jewish Christians, and any adherence to the old ways of the law are primarily limited to Jews in the Middle East and around the world. What Paul commanded has now become the norm. However, there may be pockets of local traditions that still mark the practice of many sects, denominations, or movements of Christianity. Traditions should be examined for their validity, and our motives for certain extra-Biblical practices should be weighed when something never commanded by God is floated before a people as law, gospel, or truth. No tradition should be considered sacrosanct if it is simply “what we have always done.” Determine the validity of your traditions as you go, so that you do not need to sacrifice a sacred cow later. Stand fast in the truth, not in the error of your ways!
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