For circumcision truly profits, if you keep the law: but if you be a breaker of the law, your circumcision is made uncircumcision.…
Closely involved in the Jew's boast of his name and Law and God was his glorying in circumcision, the outward sign of the covenant of the Law. This leads the apostle to enunciate the law of symbolic religion, and to assert the supreme value of a true spiritualism.
I. SYMBOLIC RELIGION. The law of all symbolism in religion is wrapped up in the words, "Circumcision indeed profiteth, if thou be a doer of the Law." That is, the sign is of worth just in so far as it leads to, and attests, the thing signified.
1. Personal value. Man's nature is complex, and the spiritual and the sensuous react on each other. Hence a definite, tangible sign may help the spirit. So circumcision: God's people. So baptism and the Lord's Supper now.
2. Relative value. An attestation of spiritual truths can be emphasized by an outward sign. So circumcision spoke forcefully to the heathen around, and so perhaps baptism and the Lord's Supper have such use now.
II. A TRUE SPIRITUALISM. That, however, which is educative and attesting has no intrinsic worth. Hence:
1. The unvalue of mere symbolism: a childish trifling. Nay, worse - a perpetual condemnation, mocking the reality with the shadow.
2. The supreme value of true spiritualism. If the lesson is learnt, and the witness borne, the work is done; for "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him," etc. So the man of circumcised heart was the true Jew; the man of baptized spirit, and who feeds upon Christ by faith, is the true Christian. Let us learn, in the best sense, "Thou God seest me." - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.