Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Practical Purpose of Physical Circumcision

In today's culture, typical arguments in favor of circumcision focus on health issues. I'm not going to attempt to validate circumcision with science, and I'm not interested in addressing the claims of those who consider modern circumcision to be a barbaric practice that ought to be illegal. I simply want to pose and answer a couple of questions. According to God's Word, what benefit, if any, does physical circumcision have? Is there a biblical reason for Christian parents to circumcise their sons? On the other hand, is there a biblical reason for them not to?

As I've already endeavored to show in this series on circumcision, there is a mandatory spiritual circumcision in effect for Christians today that is required for salvation, and this is completely independent of whether a person is physically circumcised or not. Therefore, when reading about circumcision in the bible, we should be careful to specify whether physical or spiritual circumcision is intended, which I have done in the following scripture that will begin the present discussion, which is on the practical benefit of circumcision:

 1 Corinthians 7:19
[Physical] circumcision is nothing and [physical] uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.
This is an interesting statement for consideration! Does this mean that God was unjustified in commanding circumcision in the first place, since it is "nothing?" Lest we think that God didn't know what He was talking about for the 3000 years between the Abrahamic covenant and the New Covenant, Paul gives us a compelling reason to believe otherwise:
Romans 3:1
What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of [physical] circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Physical circumcision, according to Paul, has value! Being circumcised means that a person's parents have committed to teaching them God's way. Think about it: an infant does not decide to be circumcised on his own, it is a decision that the parent makes for them. The point that I'm getting at is that physical circumcision is a commandment to parents as part of a larger pattern of teaching them God's way.

For this reason, I was careful in my study of the Acts 15 Conference to state the difference between an infant and a grown man being required to become physically circumcised. In the former case, the emphasis is on the parents' decision to raise their child to know God's way, but the child will ultimately determine for himself whether he will become spiritually circumcised. In the latter case, the grown man who is uncircumcised still has the same choice to determine if he will become spiritually circumcised, the difference being that his parents may not necessarily have given him a Godly foundation from his youth to help him pursue that path.

God knows that parents play a huge role in determining the values that a child will embrace as they grow up - Proverbs 22:6 confirms this: "train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." For this reason, God actually commanded parents to teach their children His laws:
Deuteronomy 6:6-7
And these words which I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 
In conclusion, the commandment for parents to teach their children God's law has not changed, and in my view physical circumcision is still a part of that command. The Acts 15 Conference does not state that children should no longer be circumcised - this issue is simply not addressed anywhere in scripture! Rather, the decision rendered was that adult men coming into the Church do not need to bear the burden of circumcision at their age. On the other hand, it is not a burden for a baby to be circumcised since he will not even remember it. Furthermore, I've also explained that circumcising male babies but not adult males is not at odds with Paul's teachings in 1 Corinthians 7:19 and Romans 2:25-29 that true circumcision is of the heart by keeping God's commandments, since the circumcision of a baby is a requirement for the parents and has no bearing on the child's future salvation.

If you are spiritually circumcised, then you will teach your children all of God's ways - this is a clear commandment that no one can dispute! What remains for you to decide is whether this admonition includes physically circumcising your child. My opinion is that physically circumcising male children is still required as a first step in carrying out one's intention to teach them God's way, with my primary reasoning being that I have seen no evidence to the contrary in the scriptures.


  1. This is worthy of a discussion... I'd suggest we do it over a cold frosty beer or a glass of Pinot Noir, or perhaps a Doctor Pepper.

    1. Sounds like fun - I look forward to it :)


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