Paul (and the Bible) on Physical and Heart Circumcision

1 Corinthians 7:18, Let him not be circumcised. In this chapter, Paul advises believers to remain in whatever physical state they were spiritually called (verses 20, 24). To the unmarried, remain unmarried (verses 1, 8). To those who are married, remain married (this is Paul’s advice, not YHVH’s, verse 10), even if one is unequally yoked in marriage (verses 12–16). To those who are circumcised, remain in that state and vice versa (verse 18). If called as a slave, remain as one (verses 21–23).

With regard to circumcision, Paul’s advice doesn’t require strict adherence as his circumcision of Timothy shows (Acts 16:1–4). In that case it was more expedient for the preaching of gospel to the Jews that Timothy be circumcised, so as not to be a stumbling block to the Jews who had a high view of circumcision. This type of circumcision was acceptable, since it was not done as a salvation requirement for Timothy.

1 Corinthians 7:19, Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing. What is Paul saying here? Is he confused, or does he have a larger principal in view? Paul’s bottom line in all of his writings is that circumcision is not a salvational requirement. If it were, then, obviously, women could not saved! As we shall see, however, the Scriptures teach that in the future, for those in certain ministry situations, circumcision will be a requirement (Ezek 44:7, 9). To understand the issue, let’s briefly discuss what the Scriptures say about circumcision.

Some will say that circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:29) is a “New Testament” invention that happily has replaced physical circumcision. This is not quite true, for YHVH has desired his people to have circumcised hearts from the time of Moses (Deut 10:16; 30:6) and Jeremiah (Jer 4:4). What’s more, YHVH will require the priests who will serve in his millennial temple (an archetypal model of YHVH’s plan of salvation through Yeshua’s death on the cross) to not only be circumcised in the heart, but in the flesh as well (Ezek 44:7). Not only that, but all those who will enter that sanctuary, both Israelite and non-Israelite, must be circumcised physically and spiritually (Ezek 44:9). 

Physical circumcision is not a requirement for salvation, and Paul teaches that redeemed believers not only can be saved without undergoing the rite of physical circumcision, but that all (including women) are circumcised through Messiah’s circumcision (Col 2:10–13; see also Phil 3:3), even as each person has “died” to sin and has been resurrected to new spiritual life through faith in and identity with his death, burial and resurrection (Rom 6:3–8).

Paul never disparages physical circumcision, except when false teachers make it a requirement for salvation, or when those who are physically circumcised parade it as a mark of spiritual superiority. Paul goes on to say that physical circumcision, however, is a sign, mark or token, and a seal (placed on someone) or an impression or stamp made by a signet ring signifying ownership, something which distinguishes one from others and by which one is known (Rom 4:11). Circumcision was a sign of Abraham’s righteousness and the faith he had in YHVH and a mark of YHVH’s “ownership” of Abraham. Faith precedes circumcision, but when one is circumcised, one commits to walk in the faith and righteousness of Abraham, and to enter into a deeper, more committed and more intimate (covenant-based) walk with YHVH Elohim. Perhaps physical circumcision as a mark of a deeper and more committed relationship with YHVH is the reason it, along with heart circumcision, will be required of all who will be allowed to not only minister in, but also to visit the millennial temple (Ezek 44:7, 9). In the past, the temple represented YHVH’s presence on earth, and it was viewed as a sort “the gateway to heaven.” In ancient times, those who sought the privilege of visiting this special and set-apart spot had to prepare themselves physically and spiritually to approach the Creator. They had to be ritually and spiritually pure, and physical circumcision was an aspect of this. For those of the priesthood who will be ministering in the millennial temple, physical circumcision will still be a requirement to fulfill covenantal, ritual cleansing and the requirements of spiritual types and shadows, for which that institution will be used to teach the unsaved peoples of the earth during the Millennium the truths of YHVH’s plan of salvation as it did in the past. Physical circumcision will be an outward sign that will (literally) go before the priest showing that he has committed himself to putting a way the filth of the world as represented by the foreskin.

Now if one is circumcised and doesn’t follow the Torah, then it’s as if he weren’t circumcised at all (Rom 2:24–29). In YHVH’s spiritual economy from Genesis to Revelation, YHVH always looks primarily at one’s heart attitude rather than at outward show involving religious rites, rituals and ceremonies. However, Yeshua clearly teaches in his Sermon on the Mount that YHVH not only prefers heart, or spirit of the law obedience, but letter of the law obedience also. He desires his people to love him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, which involves both a letter and the spirit of the law obedience. 

While physical circumcision is not a requirement for salvation (much like water baptism), in doing so, one is demonstrating one’s desire to be obedient to all the Word of YHVH including the commands of Torah. Yeshua clearly stated that not one jot or tittle of the Torah has been nullified, and that those who keep all of YHVH’s Torah commands will obtain a higher reward in his eternal kingdom than those who do not (Matt 5:17–19), and they will be able to approach closer to him in his temple in the Millennium.


3 thoughts on “Paul (and the Bible) on Physical and Heart Circumcision

  1. What I love about Paul is that he distinguishes between what he himself is saying and what YHVH said…

  2. This is contradicting to me. There is a commandment for circumcision on the 8th day.

    Matthew 5:17-19 Yeshua said “ I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, wtill heaven and earth pass away, one 2jot or one 3tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 xWhoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Paul is not the Elohim or the Messiah. How can Paul trump the Elohim commandment and the Messiah”s word. Beside, Paul kept the whole law, and he also circumcised Peter. John 14:15 “if you love me keep my commandments. We have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling where circumcision is concern. It is how much you love Yeshua. He is the one came to let us know that the commandments are still enforced, and He is the one who died for us.

    Paul is an apostle to the Gentiles, studied the Torah all his life, he was teaching from the Torah because there was no “New Testament “ at the time when he was preaching the gospel. Paul is not God. Therefore he cannot change God’s words.

    • Okay, let’s calm down a bit, cool our jets, and back up and take look at the bigger picture and context, use some common sense and logic.

      So let me first ask you a question? How does an adult man (Jew or Gentile) who is uncircumcised and who is coming to faith in Yeshua fulfill the Torah command to be circumcised on the eighth day after he is born? That seems to be what you’re suggesting happen.

      So what is Paul really saying regarding circumcision? I don’t think it’s what you think. So let me clarify.

      First, Paul never taught against the Torah, including circumcision.

      Second, in all of Paul’s writings, the validity of circumcision as a Torah command is not in question. This is not even the issue he is addressing. The issue he and the first Jerusalem counsel were addressing in Acts 15 was whether circumcision is a precondition for salvation. It is not. Never has been all the way back to Abraham. Paul addresses the requirements for salvation in Romans 4. Circumcision is not part of the mix here.

      Third, Neither Paul nor I are questioning circumcision of a baby on the 8th day as a Torah command. But that wasn’t even the issue in Paul’s mind according to his writings. So the argument you are making was not even the issue. What the issue was is this: When an adult Gentile men would come into to faith in Yeshua, is circumcision a prerequisite for salvation and fellowship in the assembly of the saints? That’s what was the main issue at the Acts 15 Jerusalem counsel, since there were Pharisee believers who said circumcision was a requirement for salvation (Acts 15:1, 5). They were wrong. This is not Torah. This was never the case with Abraham. He was saved for 24 years before he was circumcised. Extra-biblical Jewish tradition of that day, and rabbinic tradition of today stipulated/es that one can’t be part of the community of faith unless they are circumcised, even as an adult. This is not biblical. This is men’s traditions.

      Fourth, Paul was not opposing circumcision. He was opposing requiring grown Gentile men be circuncised who, after hearing the gospel, wanted to be saved through a relationship with Yeshua the Messiah. The problem was that there were those in Paul’s day who were saying that these Gentile men couldn’t be saved unless they dropped their pants and had the surgical procedure. In the days before anesthesia, that might have been a little stumbling block to people receiving Yeshua and getting saved, don’t you think???? Even in our day!!!!

      Should men be circumcised? Yes. Is it a precondition for salvation. No. Is it an act of Torah obedience? Yes? Does it show that one wants to be pleasing to YHVH in all ways? Yes. Is there a blessing in it? Yes. But beyond that, heart circumcision, which physical circumcision points to, is the most important thing, both in the Torah and now. Consider this fact: One can be physically circumcised and not heart circumcised and a spiritually lost as a goose, but one be heart circumcised and not physically circumcised and still be saved.

      I hope this is clear to you.


Share your thoughts...