Is the one God blesses by crediting him righteous through faith only for the circumcised or uncircumcised? Paul addresses this question by, once again, pointing to Scriptural teaching about Abraham’s account of righteousness. Genesis 15:6 records Abraham being justified—God declaring him not guilty for sins—by faith several years before his circumcision ceremony (Gen. 17:22-27).
Then what was the point of Abraham’s circumcision? Paul explains that it was a sign of the justifying faith he already possessed. Circumcision was a personal certification given to Jewish males from God to signify His chosen people. Also, this covenant sign separated them from other nations who worshiped false gods. God’s blessing and command for circumcision is recorded in Gen. 17:9-14.
The Jerusalem Council
When a group of first-century A.D. Jews looked down on the uncircumcised Gentile believers, Paul played a key role at the Jerusalem Council in settling the dispute on whether Gentiles must be circumcised (Acts 15). After seeking God’s direction, they concluded: God’s circumcision (purification) of the heart results from repentance and faith. These were the only requirements for salvation; the Law served as a guide to highlight their sins so they might repent and return to God (Gal. 3:24-25).
Abraham found favor from God before he was circumcised—by faith alone. Likewise, our faith should be focused on Christ and His atoning work on the cross, which brings us into a right relationship with God (Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:4-7). The Law was—and still is—impossible to obey completely.
Ceremonies and rituals shouldn’t be confused as a substitute for faith, but rather as outward signs to remind us of our faith and tangible instruction for new and younger believers.