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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Thursday, May 30, 2024

So Why Not Get Circumcised? It's a Bible Command! (Spoiler: You Shouldn't)

And when a stranger [Gentile] shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.

-Exodus 12:48

The idea in this verse concerns the "stranger" (Hebrew: gêr). This concerns one, not of that nation, who is traveling among Israel who desires (wills) to keep the Passover feast. If he wants to keep the Passover and wished to honor the Lord in that way, he had to be circumcised. That is, he had to become a proselyte Jew. He did not need to be circumcised to have Life from the dead. Keeping the Passover had no bearing on that. 

We briefly step back and note that "keeping" any holy day or feast does not have anything to do with the gift or resurrection life. The Law had no connection to the gift of Life. Neither Adam, nor Abel, nor Noah, nor Abraham ever kept the Passover. None was circumcised. None kept the Feasts. The Law of Moses came some 430 years after Abraham was given his promises regarding the land and his faith which declared him righteous before the Lord. Abraham was given his promised while in uncircumcision.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many; but, referring to one, “And to your offspring,” which is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

-Gal 3:16-18

Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”

Is this blessing pronounced only upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised? We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

-Romans 4:4-10

We note that Abraham was justified in uncircumcision, centuries before the Law. We also cannot miss the quotation in Romans from the Psalms. This connects the doctrines of Romans to the doctrines of the Hebrew scriptures. The doctrines of justification were not new, they were just made clear and made possible in Christ. Romans and Galatians rely heavily on Moses and the Prophets. Romans 15:8 teaches us that Christ was sent "to confirm the promises made to the Fathers." Those promises include the promises to Abraham and to the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. They also include blessings for Gentiles.

We pause to marvel at God's grace and his assurance that he will keep his promise based solely on the work and perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Law had no effect on God's promises to Abraham. We read later in the Greek scriptures that one's place in the New Jerusalem and one's closeness to Abraham in the Kingdom on Earth will be dependent on one's strength of faith and one's service, but the Kingdom is assured and Life is assured. Nothing can annul that. No Law and certainly no decree of man. Works have their place, but not in regard to the undoing of the curse of death. We must rightly divide the hopes and rewards as we do all of scripture (2 Tim 2:15).

We note again here that the Law and the Feasts are particular to Israel and the covenant as laid out in Exodus 19:5-7. The "stranger" who wants to be included in the blessings of the nation of priests had to be circumcised, but it was merely an option, not a requirement for anything else. These receive no threats of damnation or anything like it if they are not circumcised or do not participate in Israel's feats. 

Thus, we make a clear delineation between the doctrines of justification unto Life from the dead and the doctrines of blessings under the covenants with Israel. Never the twain shall meet. And when it comes to the blessings in the Kingdom of Priests (as the covenant states), we are firmly planted in an earthly promise spoken by Moses and the Prophets SINCE the foundation (the overthrow) of the ages (not "before" as we have with the hope revealed to Paul).

We now look back at Exodus 12:48 and note the Passover came before the formal giving of the Law. This feast given to Israel through Moses in captivity in Egypt is addressed again in the Law in the Book of Leviticus. The truths concerning circumcision and the option for "strangers" living among them is made clear. These are truths for Israel and part of her promises connected to the promised land. 

And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.

-Leviticus 12:2-4

This is quite an interesting requirement as no children of Israel were circumcised in the 40-year wandering. It was Joshua who circumcised the generation that entered the promised land. We surmise that the generation that first practiced the Passover (Ex 12) was circumcised in Egypt. Quite the picture.

And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.

-Joshua 5:3-5


But let us go back to the beginning of Leviticus chapter 12.

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

But we know that no child was circumcised during the wilderness experience. 

The scriptures do not teach that those who are not circumcised shall be condemned before the Lord. Their disposition remains as one foreign to the blessings of Israel, not denied Life. This idea is carried into the Book of Acts. In Acts 21, there is an accusation made of the Apostle Paul that he was telling Jewish believers to no longer circumcise their boys. Paul takes great offense at the idea that he was NOT teaching these things. He certainly was. But as Paul continued to teach that Jewish believers should be circumcised, he warned Gentile believers to NOT be circumcised, lest they be obligated to keep ALL the Law. The practice and its connection to the Law had no place in any doctrine of justification unto Life.

On the following day Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. After
greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law.... Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them.

-Acts 21: 18-24,26

Paul taught Jewish believers to continue to circumcise and to observe the feasts. There was "nothing" that was true in the rumors about Paul. Paul, as a Jew, observed the Law.  How do we square that with what we see in Galatians regarding circumcision and the Law?

Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 
-Galatians 5:2-4

Why would Paul be adamant in Acts 21 that Jewish believers keep the Law and the Feasts, while here stating that circumcision would "sever" one from Christ? Is Paul contradicting himself? Did Paul teach error for the sake of some fake "unity?" Was he just ignorant? Galatians was probably written before the events of Acts 21. 

We must clearly saw what Paul was addressing in Galatians. Jewish believers were already circumcised (or  they would not be wring to become circumcised, See the case of Timothy's Circumcision). But a grafted in Gentile should recognize God's two-fold grace in that age. He had the free gift of Life as all who had faith. He was justified by faith alone. But if he became "bewitched" into thinking he could have a "better" salvation as a proselyte, he would be denying what Christ had already accomplished for him and he was bound to then keep all the Law as Paul was obligated. It would no longer be a witness to Israel to make them jealous. 

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched [deceived] you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

-Galatians 3:1-3

We must be careful in chapter 4 of Galatians to see the distinction Paul is making which he started at the end of chapter 3 (which we will look at next time). In the opening section is speaking to the Gentiles in Galatia of his own people, Jews.

Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ from a servant though he is lord of all. But he is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father. So when we were children, we were in bondage to the elements of the world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

-Galatians 4:1-7 


Gentiles were never under the law. 

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 
-1 Corinthians 9:20-21

Gentiles were those who worshiped the false gods of Greece and Rome. Paul switches his attention to them in Gal 4:8 to compare and contrast with the Jews who had the Law.

Previously, when you did not know God, you served those who by nature are not gods.

In Acts 17 we see this contrast and we see Paul's different approach to each group. In Thessalonica and Berea he visits the synagogues and preaches from the Hebrew scriptures ("daily examining the Scriptures, to find out if these things were so"). Yet when the Apostle visits Mars' Hill in Athens, he makes no case from the Hebrew scriptures, but addresses the UNKNOWN GOD they worshipped among the many gods ("who by nature are not gods"). This is the context for Paul's argument in Galatians. He had to address Jewish believers and grafted in Gentile believers in that age.

Today, we have many who come to Christ by faith, rejoice in his unfathomable grace, and then turn back to the weak and beggarly elements of the law. Israel has been set aside in this age (after the Acts Age) and all today are essentially Gentiles. Paul, in the Acts, went from being in chains "for the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20)  as he testified that he taught "no other thing that was not preached by Moses and the Prophets," (Acts 26:22) to being "the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles" post-Acts (Ephesians 3:1).

The answer to Paul's position in regard to Gentiles in the Acts Age is also found in the Law and in the verse I skipped in Acts 21. Remember, the stranger living among Israel was not obligated to keep the feasts. The Law was part of a covenant with Israel in regard to a kingdom and a priesthood for the nations. As the Lord goes through the Law, he commands Moses to "say unto the children of Israel" and similar. When he addresses the stranger, he does so in regard to his place among Israel (while remaining separate from Israel).  

“For the life of every creature is the blood of it; therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off. And every person that eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

-Leviticus 17:14-16

We note here the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. This teaches that the symbolic wine and bread of the Passover feast become the literal blood and body of the Lord at the words of the priest. This would be an abomination to the Lord who was "born under the Law" (Gal 4:4). In the Acts Age, Gentiles, while not being put under the entire Law, still were required to keep the "necessary things" of Acts 15 and Acts 21 taken from Leviticus for "strangers" living among Israel.

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put on you [Gentiles] no greater burden than these necessary things: Abstain from food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled animals, and from blood. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. 
-Acts 15:28-29


Whoever from the house of Israel, or from the strangers who sojourn among you, who eats any manner of blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people (i.e. cut off from Israel). 
-Leviticus 17:10

Both Israel and sojourners were restricted from consuming blood. But was this cutting off tantamount to damnation to eternal death? Of course not. It was a separation from the blessings of Israel and the promises in the covenant in the promised land. These are all earthly issues. They are connected to an earthly hope and earthly promises. Our hope in the current age is a hope in the far above the heavens (Ephesians).

Paul warns Gentiles in the Acts Age who had been grafted into the root which is Israel that they too could be "cut off" (Romans 11). Cut off from what? The context is cut off from the root which is Israel, not cut off from Life. Lose the free gift Paul just spent 10 chapters explaining is free? The gift he states just before his warning that cannot be lost? Paul emphatically writes:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Would he then turn around and warn ONLY Gentile believers that they would be "cut off" from grace because of their works? Of course not. They cannot be cut off from a free gift, but they can be cut off from the blessings of Israel.

For I speak to you Gentiles... Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

-Romans 11:13,22 

We pause to emphasize that Paul is making a distinction among believers as was the pattern of the Book of Acts, a pattern we no longer follow since "the middle wall of partition" was taken down Post Acts when Paul revealed the Mystery of Ephesian 3.

Note, too, that the "sojourner" (Hebrew "gêr" again, stranger) in Leviticus17 is juxtaposed against the "native" (Hebrew "'ezrâch" native-born of Israel). The Lord makes a difference. The Lord is not making a Law for the saved and unsaved (that makes no sense), but rather a Law connected to the nation in the land for natives and those living among them. God distinguishes Jew from Gentile with no inference of either being saved or lost.

We have these distinctions throughout the Greek scriptures. The Gentile centurion is juxtaposed against the "children of the Kingdom" in Matthew 8. And as we're seeing here, the Gentile believer is juxtaposed against he Hebrew believer in the Acts. But we are not contrasting their way to Life. That has always been by grace alone through faith alone. What is contrasted are promises, hopes, and callings. And we today must also compare and contract the promises, hopes, and callings of this present Age with the Acts Age. Compare the things that differ.

Now, let's look again at the repeated instruction from Acts 21, the chapter in which Paul defends himself against accusations that he is not teaching Jews to circumcise. .

As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” (v.25)

We see that gentile believers are distinguished from Jewish believers AGAIN in Acts chapter 21. After the Jewish believers complained that the new Gentile believers were not keeping the Law ("The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses”). Did the Apostles say as some today, "No! Nobody had to keep the Law after Pentecost!"? Or did they say as others today say, "Jesus desired all his followers to be Torah observant!"? These are two popular answers in our day, but unknown to the Apostles. Both are in error and the root cause of these errors is a failure to rightly divide the Word of Truth, to distinguish between the earthly hope and the heavenly hope.

And as we dismiss both these errant theological systems, we must also dismiss any gathering that claims to somehow be an "Acts Church."   

The apostles' answer was to turn to Leviticus 17 (the Law) and keep Gentile believers separate in practice from Jewish believers. Jewish believers were to continue to circumcise and Gentile believers were to observe the "necessary things" of Leviticus 17. Do you now see how this would make Israel jealous? Making Israel jealous is the expressed reason God grafted Gentile believers into Israel in Acts 10. This pattern of the "Acts Church" has no place in the current age or plan.

Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, "I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

-Romans 10:19

So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

-Romans 11:11

The error of some Jewish believers in Acts 15 was that one had to keep the Law "to be saved" (Acts 15:1,5). This was a reasonable misunderstanding. The keeping of the Law was connected to one's place in the Kingdom. There are good servants and bad servants in that House. What they failed to distinguish is that the gift of Life (resurrection from the curse of death) is separate from the Law. As Paul will clarify here (and specifically in Galatians and Romans) is that Life is by grace alone for all regardless of race.

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Why, then, do the apostles, including Paul, give out a separate set of rules for Gentile believers? And later in Acts 21 why was Paul still teaching circumcision and feast-observance for himself and for Jewish believers? So much so that he took a vow. Would the writer of Galatians who warned against circumcision so vehemently turn around in cowardice in the face of James?

The answer is again found in the Law itself. As we noted, they applied Leviticus 17. And this was approved by the Holy Spirit himself. We keep coming back to this, and related points, because almost all local gatherings of every denomination imaginable thinks its a successor to the Acts church.

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you [Gentile believers] with anything beyond the following requirements...

The "following requirements" referenced being the Law of Leviticus 17 which is quoted in Acts 15 and again in Acts 21. The Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius in Acts 10 (before he was baptized, for the record), which is what amazed Peter. He had seen Gentile faith in Matthew 8 ("greater faith than all in Israel") and Matthew 15. He saw the Samaritan woman and the Samaritans have faith. What he never saw was the power of the gifts in a Gentile before Cornelius. This was the beginning of God's plan to "make Israel jealous."

“Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?"

Many today would lay a yoke upon believers that they cannot bear. The Law was not the means of cleansing. The Law could and can only condemn if it is applied that way. In its proper place, it is part of a priesthood covenant with Israel, not a means of either being granted Life or maintaining Life in Christ. If so, "Christ had died in vain." But Christ has not died in vain! He saves to the uttermost! He is all sufficient!

The foolishness of trying to add the Law, in any way, to one's gift or resurrection life is even more profoundly foolish in the this Post-Acts age. Our blessings are from "before the foundation of the ages." Before Adam. Before the laying down of the current creation. Certainly no Law given to an earthly people for an earthly priesthood could annul these blessings "in the heavenly places." 

For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

-Col 3:3

Our life is "hid with Christ in God." It is untouchable. The Lord already sees us in the flesh as "dead." He sees us already in our risen life (Col 3:3) We are not subject to days and feasts or Sabbaths or things of the earth. We carry our bodies of death in dignity and seek to walk in the new nature and not according to the lusts of the old nature (the flesh), but this is not for a place in a priesthood in an earthly kingdom. We no longer walk in the shadow of Israel's blessings. That plan has been temporarily set aside. We walk in the light, in the new nature (spirit), and we let no man judge us according to the Law, not even the Law of Leviticus 17 for "strangers" among Israel.


And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of 
no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh.

-Col 2:13-23

Before we leave, we turn back to the full passage in Exodus 12 where we began. 

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover. No foreigner shall eat of it, but every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then shall he eat of it. A foreigner and a hired servant shall not eat of it. It must be eaten in one house. You shall not carry any of the meat outside of the house. Do not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. When a stranger lives as a foreigner with you, and would like to keep the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it. He shall be as one who is born in the land; but no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. One law shall be to him who is a native, and to the stranger who lives as a foreigner among you.”

Exodus 12:43-49

Can the Law more clear here? You must be circumcised to partake in the feasts. Are the self-proclaimed Torah-observant of our day holding to this Law, clearly stated? And we cannot miss the last verse which lays out one Law for all in the matter of the Passover Feast. Both native Israelite and the stranger living among Israel have the same requirement for the feasts: circumcision. The Lord states clearly that the "Lord's Supper" IS the Passover (Luke 22:8-15). This is why believers in Corinth were keeping that feast (1 Cor 5:7-8; 11:23-24). We have no such feast (or any feasts) in the current age (Col 2:16-17). 

There is no hint in Exodus of the gift of resurrection life. As we have seen, the Law cannot annul the promises to Abraham. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. There is no idea here or anywhere that obedience to things like feasts have any effect on one's free gift of resurrection in Christ. And just the thought is blasphemous. That's a strong word, but anything anything, even the good and holy law and covenants, that is added as necessary to what Christ alone accomplished deserve a strong word (and condemnation).