Romans 4:9-12 (ESV)
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Faith Apart from Circumcision
We’ve seen that both Abraham and David were saved by faith apart from any work, position or fulfillment of the law. Paul turns his attention back to Abraham and the covenant God made with him through faith. Under the old covenant, circumcision was a physical sign of belonging to God’s kingdom. Paul’s Jewish Christian audience in the Roman church was very tied to the law and circumcision as the way to follow God. They were trying to convince the Gentile Christians that they too must be circumcised in order to belong. Because Paul is trying to unify God’s covenant story with humanity, a story that’s always been about faith, Paul highlights the fact that circumcision was given after God counted Abraham as righteous (several years later in fact). Circumcision was not the basis for God’s covenant but rather a sign of it. It was an outward sign of a sealed spiritual reality that Abraham possessed through faith. Membership in God’s family (and thus Abraham’s family) is on the basis of faith, faith that finds Jesus at the center and His resurrection as the ultimate covenant between God and humanity. The door is wide open for every race, culture, background and people groups. Glory be to God, there is only one door to walk through. There’s no guessing at which door might lead to God. No boasting that one door is better than the other. All who put their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord are welcome.
What happens when people depend on their own obedience or signs (i.e. circumcision, baptism, Lord’s Supper) as a measure of their righteousness?
What value do obedience and signs have in following Jesus?
How are you helping the local church make sure that the gospel message is open to all, regardless of race, background, family, education, etc.?