Did the Messiah Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice do away with the covenant of physical circumcision? Some say it did. However, as we will see in this study, Scripture tells us that the covenant of physical circumcision is still active today.
There is a lot we could say about circumcision, but the covenant of circumcision was first given to the patriarch Avraham. Yahweh said it was to be a sign between Him and Avraham’s descendants in all their generations, for an everlasting covenant. If any of the males were not physically circumcised, they were to be cut off from the nation of Israel, because they had broken His covenant.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 17:9-14
9 And Elohim said to Avraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.
10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;
11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.
13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
In Scripture, a covenant is a very special kind of contract which lasts while the parties to it still live. That is, the parties to a covenant are not released until they die. Yahweh cannot die, so we will never be released by Him, and Avraham still has living descendants, who are still bound to this covenant. And as we show in the Nazarene Israel study, our lineage descends through Avraham, so we are heir to this covenant. (For details, see Nazarene Israel.)
But what about those who do not know if they descend from Avraham, or not? Or maybe they know they are of Avraham’s seed, but they are still not sure. How can they know that the covenant of circumcision is still for today? For one thing, we can read the Messiah Yeshua’s words. At Matthew 5:17-20, Messiah Yeshua tells us not to think He came to destroy the Torah (Law) or the Prophets. Rather, He said He came not to destroy them, but to fulfill the first part of the prophecies contained in them (as there are a great many prophecies contained in the Torah). In fact, He tells us that as long as heaven and earth are still here, nothing about the Torah can change.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:17-19
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill [the first part of them].
18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled.
19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
In this context, the term Torah refers to the first five books of Moses, and everything contained in them. So, when Yeshua tells us not to think He came to destroy the Torah, He is saying not to think He came to destroy the covenant of physical circumcision.
Because Yeshua kept the Torah perfectly, He would have been circumcised on the eighth day, in keeping with the commandment. We also know that Yeshua is our example, and that we are to imitate Him in all that we say and do.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 11:1
11 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Messiah.
In the fourth century, the Church Father Epiphanius tells us that the Nazarenes were still physically circumcising their children, following Yeshua’s example.
The Nazarenes do not differ in any essential thing from them [the Orthodox Jews], since they practice the customs and doctrines prescribed by Jewish Law; except that they believe in Christ. They believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that the universe was created by God. They preach that God is One, and that Jesus Christ is His Son. They are very learned in the Hebrew language. They read the Law [the Law of Moshe]…. Therefore they differ…from the true Christians because they fulfill until now [such] Jewish rites as the circumcision, Sabbath and others.
[The Church Father Epiphanius of Salamis, Against Heresies, Panarion 29, 7, pp. 41, 402]
So far, we have seen that the command to circumcise our children is for all generations, and that it is part of the Torah, and that Yeshua said not to think He came to destroy the Torah. However, sometimes Christians find this hard to understand, because they think they read something different in the Renewed Covenant, and especially in the words of Shaul (Paul). We want to talk about Shaul’s letters, but to put them in correct context, first we need to talk about the book of Acts.
In Acts 10, the Apostle Kepha (Peter) went to Cornelius’ house, and six men of “the circumcision who believed” went with him.
Ma’asei (Acts) 10:44-45
44 While Kepha was still speaking these words, the Set-apart Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Kepha, because the gift of the Set-apart Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
In a moment we will see how “the circumcision who believed” is also called “the Pharisees who believed.” That is, the term “circumcision” is a slang term referring to the Pharisees. These are like rabbinic Messianic Jews today. They believe Yeshua is the Messiah, and yet they still follow rabbinic customs and traditions (even though Yeshua came to replace the rabbinical order with a renewed order of Melchizedek). What we will see is that they are called “the circumcision” because they believe salvation comes from following the rabbinic procedure regarding physical circumcision. That is, they believe the rabbinic procedure regarding physical circumcision is all-important. We will look at that more in a moment.
When Kepha returned to Judea, the circumcision who believed contended with him there for having gone to Cornelius house, and having eaten with uncircumcised men.
Ma’asei (Acts) 11:1-3
1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of Elohim.
2 And when Kepha came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision [who believed] contended with him,
3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
Kepha then explained how Elohim had blessed his visit to Cornelius by pouring out the Spirit on him and all his house. This made those of the rabbinic circumcision who believed realize that Elohim did not regard the rabbinic procedure as being essential, because Elohim had also granted the returning gentile Ephraimites repentance unto life.
Ma’asei (Acts) 11:15-18
15 “And as I began to speak, the Set-apart Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.
16 Then I remembered the word of the Master, how He said, ‘Yochanan indeed immersed with water, but you shall be immersed with the Set-apart Spirit.’
17 If therefore Elohim gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Adon Yeshua Messiah, who was I, that I could withstand Elohim?”
18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified Elohim, saying, “Then Elohim has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!”
After this, many Hellenized (Reform) believers in Antioch believed on Yahweh Yeshua, so the apostles sent Bar Naba (Barnabas) there.
Ma’asei (Acts) 11:19-21
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Master Yeshua.
21 And the hand of Yahweh was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Master.
In Acts 15, certain men of the circumcision who believed came down to Antioch, and they began teaching that the gentile converts had to obey the rabbinic process for gentiles converting to Judaism. In verse 1 this is called the “custom” (not the Torah) of Moshe because it gives a rabbinically-approved procedure for how to handle gentile conversion to Judaism.
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:1-2
1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the [rabbinic] custom of Moshe [i.e., Giur process], you cannot be saved.”
2 Therefore, when Shaul and Bar Naba had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Shaul and Bar Naba and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
Today the rabbinic “custom” of Moshe is now called the Giur (gentile conversion) process. In the Giur process, first a gentile convert learns how the rabbis say we are to keep Torah. If they pass their tests, the rabbis will consent to allow them to be physically circumcised. (In the rabbinic mind, following this specific process is what leads to salvation.) Finally, the rabbis tell the converts to keep the Torah. Interestingly, this is the same sequence the “Pharisees who believed” mentioned in Acts 15:5, is that first they must (pass tests and then) be circumcised, and then they said the converts can keep the Torah.
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:4-5
4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the ecclesia and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that Elohim had done with them.
5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and [then] to command them to keep the Torah of Moshe.”
That is, the “Pharisees who believed” said that after the converts had followed the custom of Moshe, then they could be allowed to keep the Torah of Moshe.
After there had been “much dispute,” Kepha rose up to say that Yahweh had chosen him to deliver the Good News to the gentiles, and that he had not imposed any form of rabbinic custom or Talmudic tradition; therefore, why did the rabbis seek to put a rabbinic yoke on the necks of the new believers, when Yeshua had called them out from under rabbinical authority? After all, the Nazarenes hoped to be saved by favor (grace) through faith, just as the gentile Ephraimite converts did.
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:6-11
6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
7 And when there had been much dispute, Kepha rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago Elohim chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Good News and believe.
8 So Elohim, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Set apart Spirit, just as He did to us,
9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore, why do you test Elohim by putting a yoke [rabbinic tradition] on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11 But we believe that through the favor of the Adon Yeshua Messiah we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Shaul and Bar Naba then related how many miracles and wonders Elohim was doing among the gentiles (even though they were not following rabbinic tradition).
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:12
12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Bar Naba and Shaul declaring how many miracles and wonders Elohim had worked through them among the Gentiles.
Yaakov (James) then said that he judged they should not “trouble” the returning gentiles by placing a yoke of rabbinic authority on them, but that they could enter the assemblies if they would first abstain from four things Yahweh says will get one “cut off” from the nation of Israel (idolatry, sexual immorality, strangled [or unclean] meats, and blood). Yaakov judged that if the gentiles would abstain from these four things, then they could enter the assemblies, and hear the Torah of Moshe being read aloud. In that way, the returning Ephraimites and Jews would come into compliance with Yahweh’s word (as opposed to being indoctrinated in the rabbis’ legal traditions).
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:13-21
13 And after they had become silent, Yaakov answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:
14 Shimon has declared how Elohim at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
16 ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek Yahweh, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says Yahweh who does all these things.’
18 “Known to Elohim from eternity are all His works.
19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are [re]turning to Elohim,
20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moshe has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Some use this passage to say that physical circumcision no longer applies, because it is not listed among the four things the returning gentile Ephraimites and Jews need to do to enter the synagogues, so they can hear the Torah of Moshe being read. However, what we need to realize is that this conversation would have taken place in Hebrew, and the Hebrew word for “to hear” is shema (שמע). This word shema implies hearing with an intent to obey what is heard. In context, then, once the new converts agreed to abstain from the four things that would get them cut off from the nation, then they could enter the synagogues and hear the Torah being read, with the intention of obeying it. That would give them up to a year to become physically circumcised, because the Passover requires all males to be circumcised before they can partake of the Passover.
Shemote (Exodus) 12:48-49
48 “And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.
49 One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.”
What was decided in Acts 15, then, was not whether the returning gentile Ephraimites had to become physically circumcised, but only whether they had to follow the rabbinic procedure (and rabbinic authority), or not. We know this interpretation is correct because in Acts 21, Shaul had come up to Jerusalem for Pentecost. There he met with Yaakov (James, who served as the leader of the Jerusalem assembly). Yaakov told him that the people were misunderstanding his letters, thinking he is saying not to circumcise their children. There was an urgent need to clarify his teaching, so that the people would not think he was teaching against the Torah (and stone him to death). Let’s read carefully and try to imagine the conversation.
Ma’asei (Acts) 21:20-22
20 And when they heard it, they glorified Yahweh. And they said to him, “Behold, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah [of Moshe]!
21 But they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake [the Torah of] Moshe, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, nor to walk according to the [Hebraic] customs.
22 What then [is the truth]? The assembly must certainly meet [because it is a pilgrimage festival], and they will hear that you have come.”
If Shaul was not teaching against physical circumcision, how could he correct these misunderstandings, and help the people to realize that he did not teach against the Torah (or against physical circumcision)? Yaakov said that since Shaul came up to Jerusalem to separate a Nazirite vow, he should also pay the sacrifices for four other men. This required fifteen animal sacrifices, which cost a great deal of money in the first century. No one would pay for fifteen animal sacrifices if he did not believe in keeping the Torah—and this would show the world that Shaul also walked orderly, keeping the Torah of Moshe (which requires physical circumcision).
Ma’asei (Acts) 21:23-24
23 “Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have [also] taken a [Nazirite] vow.
24 Take them, and be purified with them, and [you] pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads—and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you [teaching against the Torah] are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the Torah.”
As we explain in Nazarene Israel, Kepha (Peter) tells us that Shaul’s letters can be hard to understand, and that even in the first century some believers (i.e., torahless Christians) were “untaught” in the Torah, and twisted Shaul’s letters to their own destruction. Kepha warns us to beware, and not to fall for this, lest we be led away with the error of the wicked.
Kepha Bet (2 Peter) 3:15-17
15 and consider that the longsuffering of Yahweh is salvation — as also our beloved brother Shaul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked…
The word wicked is based on Strong’s Concordance NT:113, meaning lawless (i.e., torahless).
NT:113 athesmos (ath’-es-mos); from NT:1 (as a negative particle) and a derivative of NT:5087 (in the sense of enacting); lawless, i.e. (by implication) criminal:
KJV – wicked.
Once we realize Shaul’s letters are hard to understand, now we are ready to read Shaul’s writings about physical circumcision.
One reason Shaul’s letters can be so hard to understand is that he was trying to reach a mixture of Jewish and Ephraimite audiences. Pharisees can sometimes think about the Torah as a checklist of legal requirements for salvation (such that if one obeys the legal checklist, the heart in which the commands are kept allegedly does not matter as much). Shaul had to help both them and the returning Ephraimites realize that while obedience to the letter is important, the heart in which the Torah is kept is even more important than the letter (although in the end, both are critical). So, he talks about these things from many different angles (which allows for confusion to enter in).
Romim (Romans) 2:25-29
25 For [physical] circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the Torah; but if you are a breaker of the Torah, your [physical] circumcision has become [as] uncircumcision.
26 Therefore, if a [physically] uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, will not his [physical] uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the Torah, judge you who, even with your written code and [physical] circumcision, are a transgressor of the Torah?
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from Elohim.
Romim (Romans) 3:1-2
1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?
2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of Elohim.
Shaul is saying that even if someone is not physically circumcised, if their heart is right, then that condition is hypothetically better than being physically circumcised when the heart is wrong. However, in 3:1 he reminds us that even if the heart of the matter is most important, obeying the letter still profits much in every way.
In Romans 4, Shaul further explains that when Avraham was called to the covenant, he was not physically circumcised, showing that Elohim’s favor can rest on us even if we are not yet obeying the letter. In other words, Avraham’s heart was right, and this is why Elohim later gave him the commandment to become circumcised, as an outward sign of the covenant (rather than physical circumcision being the covenant itself, which is how the rabbis treat it).
Romim (Romans) 4:9-12
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Avraham for righteousness.
10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,
12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Avraham had while still uncircumcised.
In 1 Corinthians, Shaul uses the term circumcised as a euphemism for being Jewish, while he uses the term uncircumcised as a euphemism for being Ephraimite. This makes sense when we realize that Ephraim is the bride, but that many Jews are also attached to Ephraim (and they will still be part of the bride when the tribal allotments are re-allocated, after Armageddon).
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 7:17-24
17 But as Elohim has distributed to each one, as Yahweh has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches.
18 Was anyone called while circumcised [Jewish]? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised [Ephraimite]? Let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of Elohim is what matters.
20 Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it.
22 For he who is called in Yahweh while a slave is Yahweh’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Messiah’s slave.
23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
24 Brethren, let each one remain with Elohim in that state in which he was called.
In Galatians 5, Shaul explains that we do not preach circumcision as a means of salvation (like the Pharisees do). We are not justified by our performance of the commandments. Rather, we are justified by our faith, and we keep His commandments out of love.
Galatim (Galatians) 5:4-11
4 You have become estranged from Messiah, you who attempt to be justified by Torah; you have fallen from favor.
5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.
9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
10 I have confidence in you, in Yahweh, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.
11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross (or stake) has ceased.
Even if we were to keep the Torah perfectly, we can never be justified (saved) by obeying the letter of Torah. Because of this, Shaul says we should never teach as he did when he was still a Pharisee, that our salvation is a result of becoming physically circumcised in keeping with the rabbinic ritual. Rather, salvation comes because of faith working in us through love, and that is a result of Yeshua’s sacrifice on the stake (cross). Therefore, while we do want to obey the commandment to be physically circumcised, we do not do it to obtain salvation, but only to obey Elohim out of love.
Shaul continues with this theme in Galatians 6. He says those of the circumcision who believe seek to make a good showing in the flesh. They would compel us to be physically circumcised according to the rabbinic custom, because it would mean they could boast how many believers are obeying their alleged authority. However, what we need is to focus on abiding in Yeshua, and Him in us, because salvation is not due to the work of our hands, but because we have a deep abiding relationship in the person of Yeshua Messiah (and if we will dwell in Him, He will lead us to fulfill the commandment).
Galatim (Galatians) 6:12-15
12 As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross (or stake) of Messiah.
13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the Torah, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
14 But Elohim forbid that I should boast except in the cross (stake) of our Adon Yeshua Messiah, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
15 For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
In Ephesians 2, Shaul uses some rabbinic slang terms. He says the Circumcision (i.e., the rabbinic Jews who believe that salvation comes from being circumcised according to the rabbinic ritual) call the Ephraimites the Uncircumcision, because they had previously forsaken the Torah (which calls for physical circumcision as an eternal sign of the covenant).
Ephesim (Ephesians) 2:11-13
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands —
12 that at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without Elohim in the world.
13 But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.
Shaul reminds the Ephesians that they were not brought back into covenant with Yeshua by the performance of a rabbinic Messianic Jewish ritual, but by the blood sacrifice of Yeshua.
In Philippians 3, Shaul warns the Philippians to beware of what he derisively calls the mutilation. He is most likely referring to the Pharisees who believe here, in that the rabbinic custom is to take away the entire foreskin (as opposed to making a small cut in the foreskin, as explained in the Nazarene Israel Passover study).
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!
3 For we are the circumcision, who worship Elohim in the Spirit, rejoice in Messiah Yeshua, and have no confidence in the flesh…
Shaul also says that we are the true circumcision (so to speak), because we have no confidence that a cut in our flesh is going to justify us before Elohim.
In Colossians Shaul says that we are circumcised by the “circumcision made without hands,” which refers to the circumcision of our hearts. Even though we were dead in our trespasses and the uncircumcision of our flesh, we have been made alive together with Him.
Qolossim (Colossians) 2:11-14
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah,
12 buried with Him in immersion, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of Elohim, who raised Him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross [stake].
Verse 14 is almost surely mistranslated. Here is how the Aramaic Peshitta reads:
Qolossim (Colossians) 2:14, Peshitta (Roth)
14 and, by his mandates, he blotted out the handwriting of our debts which existed against us, and took it from the midst, and affixed it to his stake.
Verse 14 does not say that Yeshua did away with any of the commandments in the Torah. Rather, what it says is that He nailed the record of our sins to His stake (cross). In other words, He wiped out our criminal record of sins, giving us a fresh start.
Returning to Galatians, chapter 2 tells us that Shaul was sent to the uncircumcised (meaning gentile Ephraim), while Kepha was sent to the circumcision (meaning Judah). After 14 years, Shaul went up to Jerusalem, and even though Titus not truly a gentile (but a Greek Jew), he did not feel the need to join the rabbinic circumcision who believe, because he knew that salvation does not result from the works of our hands.
Galatim (Galatians) 2:1-9
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Bar Naba, and also took Titus with me.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.
3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek [Jew], was compelled to be circumcised.
4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Messiah Yeshua, that they might bring us into bondage),
5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But from those who seemed to be something — whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; Elohim shows personal favoritism to no man — for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.
7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised [Ephraim] had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised [Judah] was to Kepha
8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles),
9 and when James, Kepha, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the favor that had been given to me, they gave me and Bar Naba the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles [Ephraim] and they to the circumcised [Judah].
Just as the Greek Jew Titus did not want to be caught up in rabbinic bondage, we also should stand fast in the liberty by which Yeshua Messiah has made us free, and not believe that salvation comes from following the rabbinic tradition regarding circumcision. If we attempt to justify (or save) ourselves by obedience to a rabbinic ritual, we will fall from His favor. Notice how Shaul tells us in verse 4 that if we attempt to be justified by the work of our hands, that it causes us to fall from favor (grace).
Galatim (Galatians) 5:1-6
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Messiah has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of [rabbinic] bondage.
2 Indeed I, Shaul, say to you that if you become circumcised [meaning, of the circumcision who believe], Messiah will profit you nothing.
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised [meaning, the circumcision made with hands] that he is a debtor to keep the whole Torah.
4 You have become estranged from Messiah, you who attempt to be justified by Torah; you have fallen from favor.
5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Physical circumcision is only a sign of the covenant (and not the covenant itself). Our faith is demonstrated when we obey the commandment to become circumcised, but technically the covenant does not rely on the state of our flesh. Rather, the covenant is granted to us because He has given us faith working through love.
Qolossim (Colossians) 3:9-11
9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Messiah is all and in all.
There are more examples we could use, but what we have seen in this study is that circumcision was given as a sign of the eternal covenant between Yahweh and Avraham, and his descendants. Since both Yahweh and Avraham’s descendants are alive today, the covenant of physical circumcision is still active.
We have also seen how in the first century there was a group of Pharisees who believe. They tried to teach that the returning gentile Ephraimites needed so submit to the rabbinic customs and procedures regarding physical circumcision, but how this was ruled against in Acts 15, and how it was witnessed against in Acts 21.
We have also seen many passages which tell us that we should beware of the rabbinic Messianic Jewish error of mixing the commandments and teachings of men with the pure Good News of Yeshua.
Finally, we know that physical circumcision is also for the future (and that it is not replaced by the circumcision of the heart), because Ezekiel 44 tells us that no foreigner (i.e., no gentile Ephraimite) who is uncircumcised in his heart or in his flesh will enter Yahweh’s sanctuary, and that this includes the foreigners who are among the children of Israel.
Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 44:9
9 Thus says Yahweh Elohim: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel.”
So now let us ask again, did Yeshua’s sacrifice do away with the covenant of physical circumcision?