For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
I. EXTERNAL RELIGION COUNTS FOR NOTHING. "For neither is circumcision anything. Religion is wholly in the soul.
1. No rite has any value in itself. Nothing done to the body is of any religious account whatever. Neither is anything done by the body. A rite may be a symbol, and as such a means of grace; but St. Paul plainly teaches that it has no magical efficacy.
2. Ecclesiastical position is in itself of no importance. Circumcision was the seal of membership in the Jewish Church. Yet it was nothing. We may be members of the strictest sect, or we may hold high rank in the most august Church. But before God this is just nothing.
3. Doctrinal orthodoxy counts for nothing. Not that truth is unimportant. But the mere intellectual grasp of theological ideas leaves us where it finds us; and therefore if we go no further it is of no consequence whether those ideas are true or false. Conversely, to dispense with rites, to be in no Church, or to be unorthodox, is no condemnation. Neither, however, is it a merit, as some extravagant admirers of the idea of heresy strangely assert. If circumcision is not anything, neither is uncircumcision.
II. THE ONE ESSENTIAL IS TO BECOME A NEW CREATURE. This great truth implies two others.
1. In religious matters the important question is as to what we are. It matters not what is done to us or what we hold. All of importance is in our own life and character. If we are not true and pure and self-sacrificing, if we have not the Spirit of Christ, all our orthodoxy, Church status, and ritual observances are an empty mockery. If we are thus Christ-like, any further question is irrelevant. The sole essential is then safe.
2. In our sinful condition we are not like Christ, but are so radically unlike him as to need a complete, new creation before we can be in a right condition. The requisite change is so thorough that no ordinary religious influences will accomplish it. Circumcision is nothing, because what we want is nothing less than the crucifixion and death of the whole old life and the creation of an entirely new life. When this change has been accomplished, however, it is the evidence of its own sufficiency. It is impertinent to raise little questions of rites, etc., when the new man bears in each lineament of his countenance, in the very tone of his conversation, and in the bearing of his whole life, the princely character of a son of God.
III. THE CHRISTIAN IS A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST. What circumcision symbolizes faith effects (Galatians 5:6). By their fruits ye shall know them." The gospel of faith proves its claims by the results that it works. Nothing else can make men new creatures. The gospel can do this. For those, then, who are still in the old life of sin here is a warning and an encouragement.
1. A warning. Renewal is necessary.
2. An encouragement. Renewal is possible.
No painful rites have to be observed, no difficult doctrines comprehended, no strict Church entered. All that is wanted is union with Christ in faith. The way is simple and clear; it is not easy and painless, for it is by being crucified with Christ. But it issues in a glorious new life. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.