Neither Circumcision nor Uncircumcision Paul was concerned about God-fearing Gentile…
Neither Circumcision nor Uncircumcision
Paul was concerned about God-fearing Gentile believers taking on Jewish status (the works of the Torah) in order to earn salvation. He said, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5). The “we ourselves” of whom he speaks are the Jewish believers of which he is one. In other words, “We Jews are trusting Messiah for righteousness. We are not relying on our status as Jews for exoneration and salvation.”
Paul went on to state, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). He used the terms “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” to mean “Jewish” and “Gentile,” respectively. Neither being Jewish nor being a Gentile is relevant to the issue of exoneration before God and salvation. In the Messiah Yeshua, the only thing that matters is the faithfulness of Messiah working through love, transforming us, and bringing us into the kingdom. Within this love, being Jewish and being Gentile loses relevance.
When Paul said neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything, Christians often mistakenly assume that he completely dismissed the value of Jewish identity. We read this to mean that being Jewish no longer has any relevance. That mistaken read- ing has led to a smug, anti-Jewish arrogance on the part of Gentile Christians.
On the contrary, Paul did believe that being Jewish was important. He clarified that in two important passages from the Epistle to the Romans:
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1–2)
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the esh, is the Messiah. (Romans 9:4–5)
Paul did not dismiss Jewishness at all. He only meant to say that the question of Jewishness is irrelevant in regard to salvation. To paraphrase his sentiments, he says, “We Jewish believers rely on Messiah, not our Jewishness, for salvation, so why would you God- fearing Gentiles decide that Messiah is inadequate for salvation and that you must become Jewish in order to merit it? Don’t you realize that as far as salvation in the Messiah is concerned, the question of whether you are Jewish or Gentile is irrelevant?”