Acts 16:3, Circumcised him. Evidently circumcision or uncircumcision wasn’t an issue for Paul. He had Timothy, who was half Jewish, circumcised, but not Titus who was non-Jewish (Gal 2:3). Both men were elders and teachers in the assembly of believers. Both men as Torah-obedient individuals would have kept the biblical feasts including the Passover, which in the law of Moses required men to be circumcised.
To have Timothy, who was half Jewish, circumcised was more expedient for the preaching of gospel to the Jews, 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.
Let’s discuss the Torah requirement that all male children be circumcised on the eighth day (Lev 12:2–3)and males keeping Passover be circumcised (Exod 12:48). Is physical circumcision now irrelevant, or was Paul rejecting the Torah on this issue?
First, in Ezekiel’s descriptions of the assumed millennial temple, all those entering in that temple will be circumcised both in flesh and heart (Ezek 44:9). In YHVH’s eyes, those entering it who are uncircumcised are defiling it (v. 7). Obviously, to YHVH, physical circumcision is a holiness issue, though not a salvational issue (as the Jerusalem counsel ruled in Acts 15). So there is still a place in YHVH’s spiritual economy for physical circumcision. Physical circumcision (in addition to heart circumcision) shows a higher level of obedience and holiness, not a lower level.
Second, the law of Moses stipulates that all men be circumcised in order to be part of the Passover (Exod 12:48). What I’m about to say is beyond the scope of this brief discussion, but the law of Moses (as opposed to the greater or Torah or the eternal principles thereof), it seems to me, was the administrative arm of the greater Torah that pre-existed the law of Moses. The latter contained rules and guidelines needed for a nation to function properly as such. It contained a complete legal code with penalties, a judicial system, an educational system, a taxation system, and government comprised of priests and tribal elders. For the nation of Israel to protect its spiritual integrity, Moses had to protect it from foreign or pagan defilement (spiritual pathogens), which could potentially lead to Israel’s apostasy. The circumcision requirement, to my thinking, was part of the law of Moses’ legal code for Israel regarding Passover observance, but wasn’t necessarily a requirement of the greater Torah, which applies generally to all men. My sense is that Paul in not making a big issue out of physical circumcision was appealing to the greater or higher requirements of the Torah (involving more spiritual and heart issues. At this point, please recall Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount teaching where he brings the letter and spirit of the Torah together. Paul’s seeming inconsistency with regard to whether men should be circumcised or not may be due to the fact that he was focusing less on the legal requirements of the law of Moses, which was the administrative subdivision of the Torah, and which was enacted to keep the legal, spiritual and cultural integrity of that nation intact. In other words, the law of Moses (the Torah in a codified form with laws specifically addressing the needs of that nation in that time and place) was Israel’s constitution. Here, Paul is focusing more on the greater Torah or the eternal principles of the Torah that pre-existed Moses, than the law of Moses. Moreover, when Paul came along, Israel was no longer a sovereign nation that ruled itself. It, therefore, was unable to follow all the specific legal requirements of the law of Moses (e.g. the implementation of the death penalty). Timothy was half Jewish and Titus was non-Jewish, and both were from Greek nations within the Roman Empire, and so some of the strict legal aspects of the law of Moses (e.g. circumcision for Passover) couldn’t or didn’t have to be applied as long as the greater principles of Torah (i.e. circumcision of the heart) were being kept.