What is Circumcision?
A Rite of Identification
The rite of circumcision was instituted by God for Abraham and his descendants through Isaac as the token of the Abrahamic Covenant (see Genesis 17:1-10, 21). All Jewish males, eight days old, were required to be circumcised, although Abraham was 89 years old when he was circumcised. Any non-Jews who wished to become members of the commonwealth of Israel were required to submit to the rite of circumcision, whatever their age might be (see Genesis 34:14-17, 22; Exodus 11:48).
Often the term circumcision is used in reference to people of the Jewish community, just as the term uncircumcision is used for Gentile people (see Galatians 2:7-8; Colossians 3:11). Circumcision also means, in the New Testament, the significance of putting away all carnal lusts of the flesh (see Colossians 2:11).
Is Circumcision Required For Salvation?
The Apostle Paul addressed the issue of circumcision in Romans and in several of the other letters he wrote in the New Testament. Paul concluded that circumcision was not necessary for someone in order to be saved, but faith was necessary in order to be saved and go to heaven.
“Since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” Romans 3:30
“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.” 1 Corinthians 7:19
Paul notes the rite of circumcision in relationship to Jewish believers and non-Jewish (Gentile) believers is not the central issue with regard to salvation. There is no need to for a Gentile convert to be circumcised. On the other hand, there is no obligation incumbent upon a Jewish convert to be uncircumcised. In the New Testament, this rite had no direct reference on the life of faith (see Romans 2:25, 29; Galatians 5:6; Acts 15). (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. II, p. 433)
“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Galatians 5:2
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6
To accept the rite of circumcision as a condition of salvation is to abandon the liberty for which Christ liberated us and to bind one’s self to the slavery of legalism. Depending on circumcision, or any other work, means renouncing justification by grace through faith (in Christ) and takes one out of the spirit of grace (“fallen from grace”) and puts him under the dominion of the law. (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. II, pp. 530-531.)
Circumcision affects only the outward physical body, not the soul. A surgical operation can have absolutely no effect on the old nature. But a new creature, the only thing that is important is to be a new creature in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). In the new man, there is an obligation of outward distinctions. National privilege has been obliterated; ceremonial standings have been obliterated; cultural and social castes all have been obliterated, and “Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. II pp. 536, 598).