For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
Paul was comparing circumcision to Christ. Those who had received circumcision, even as an act of faith to be right with God were relying on an external ritual that was always limited to demonstrating faith not securing it. Circumcision followed Abraham’s faith (Rom. 4:10). Circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith he demonstrated before circumcision (Rom.4:11). Righteousness was affirmed to Abraham on the principle of faith in God. It was not a faith to do something for God.
Paul was pushing away the biblical old testament requirement of circumcision. It had virtually supplanted faith and took on a life of its own with the idea that simply carrying out the act of circumcision was faith in and of itself. Romans reminds us of the difference:
Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised – Romans 4:9-12.
Circumcision was “… the sign which indicated a seal of the righteousness of the faith he had while uncircumcised…” So faith preceded circumcision and was a sign of the righteousness that he already possessed through believing God and having faith in His promise (Gen. 15:6). Circumcision was not the act of faith, but a sign that reflected and affirmed genuine faith. We could compare it to baptism in the New Testament. People were called to believe in the gospel and were immediately baptized, not because baptism saves but it is a sign and seal of genuine faith.
Faith, through the Spirit, embraces the hope of righteousness. This faith and hope are found in a person not in a tradition or religious practice. It is anchored to the person and work of Christ Jesus. Notice Paul states in verse six that circumcision nor uncircumcision mean anything, why? Because individuals were not saved by circumcision (or baptism or communion), but by believing God and placing faith in His promise. In the New Testament we believe in God (his credibility) and place faith in His promise (his veracity) in Christ Jesus as defined by the gospel. These other things are steps of obedience, not ways of securing God’s favor.
The hope of righteousness does not rely on our attendance or practice – it rests in the person of Jesus. When Christ returns, our hope will not rest at all on “all the things we have done” but in Christ himself. The glory of Christ will be in the work he has brought about in and through us for his purpose – it will be hard for us to take credit for any of those “accomplishments” since it is the Spirit of God who convinces and compels us to carry them out in the first place.
The implication of Christ’s return is that we embrace a person. Jesus will come for His children and far from waiting to get in line to show Jesus our resume, our first priority will be to be in his presence and praise Him for His overwhelming mercy and grace towards us; our hope of righteousness will be to celebrate Him before anything else.
In His grace, Pastor Brad