Tuesday, September 27, 2022

           Near the end of Romans 2, Paul addressed the matter of circumcision.  While not a pressing or even often-mentioned matter in twenty-first century Christianity or churches, this matter of circumcision was one that Paul and the early first century church often had to address.  Some teachers in the days of Paul and Peter emphasized the importance of circumcision and even its necessity for salvation and being able to relate rightly to the Lord.  And some would insist that circumcision imparted degrees of grace and righteousness to its recipients.  Paul battled this almost constantly as he emphasized the superiority of Christ and His cross to the physical acts and results of circumcision.  He wrote, “A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). 
            The only circumcision that makes a difference is the circumcision of the heart.  And Christ alone is able to perform this one.  The surgery that Christ performs removes the sin of the heart and its callousness, harshness and guilt.  There is often this belief that humans can do something to affect their sinful state and plight.  Surely, there is some human solution or recourse to sin.  But Paul teaches us that only Christ can deal with the sins of humanity that cling like barnacles to the heart, mind and life of all who dwell in and inhabit sin.  The most significant circumcision is performed not by human hands or tangible instruments.  Rather, this circumcision is performed by the Lord through His grace and cross.  We cannot remove our sinfulness or the stains of such sins because we are deeply flawed and broken.  As fallen sinners, we are seduced by sin and not separated from it.  As Paul wrote, “There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11). 
            The righteousness that we find and gain in Christ alone is not obtained by human ways or deeds.  It comes through faith alone, not by human works, but by faith in the final and finished work of Christ.  We read, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile” (Romans 3:21-22).  Both Jew and Gentile can enjoy this righteousness that comes by faith—a righteousness that circumcision could never supply or produce. 
            As we think on these things, we must ask whether we place faith in the finished work of Christ or our own abilities?  Do we magnify our goodness at the expense of the perfect righteousness of Christ received by grace through faith?  Do we even believe that we can make an argument for our goodness and righteousness?  While we might not put much (if any) faith in circumcision today, we can easily make the mistake of trusting our works to gain us credit before God.  Volunteering, charitable giving, activism, serving, self-improvement ventures have all become human ways of making ourselves good, right and even acceptable.  But apart from Christ and the completed work of the cross, such things are merely more barnacles on the human heart that demand the Lord’s attention and forgiving grace.  Give thanks today for the gifts of salvation and righteousness experienced as expressions of God’s grace and received through our faith in Him.  Our forgiveness and salvation depend not on our feeble and often failing attempts at being right or good.  We can, thankfully, lean upon and lean into the righteousness and merits of Christ.  “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16).  Have a great Tuesday!  Remember you can share our worship always at youtube.com/FirstBaptistKannapolis. 

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