Is Circumcision Of Male Infants Still A Mandatory Religious Obligation For Christians?

(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New International Version).

Circumcision was the seal of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants. Under this covenant, all male descendants of Abraham (including slaves born in his house and those bought with his money) were to be circumcised on the eighth day of life. Any descendant of Abraham who was not circumcised was to be cut off from his people. In fact, Abraham himself had to be circumcised when he was 99 years old, to seal this covenant between him and God. Consequently, circumcision was made a cardinal part of the Mosaic covenant, and no uncircumcised person was to appear in God’s house, or partake of the sacred feasts of the Lord in the Old Testament. Gentiles who wanted to be admitted into the Jewish faith had to be circumcised as a prerequisite. In fact, circumcision was such a fundamental part of Jewish theology that no true Jew would enter the house of an uncircumcised person or eat with them. To associate closely with uncircumcised people was a taboo for the Jews. Thus, an uncircumcised person was considered an outcast by God and his people in the Old Testament.

Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty ; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.

Genesis 17:2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Genesis 17:3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,

Genesis 17:4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.

Genesis 17:5 No longer will you be called Abram ; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

Genesis 17:6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.

Genesis 17:7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.

Genesis 17:10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

Genesis 17:11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

Genesis 17:12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner —those who are not your offspring.

Genesis 17:13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.

Genesis 17:14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Genesis 17:22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Genesis 17:23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.

Genesis 17:24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,

Genesis 17:25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;

Genesis 17:26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.

Genesis 17:27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Leviticus 12:1 The LORD said to Moses,

Leviticus 12:2 “Say to the Israelites: ’A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period.

Leviticus 12:3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.

Exodus 12:43 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal: “No foreigner may eat it.

Exodus 12:44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him,

Exodus 12:45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.

Exodus 12:46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones.

Exodus 12:47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.

Exodus 12:48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it.

Exodus 12:49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”

Exodus 12:50 All the Israelites did just what the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 12:51 And on that very day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.

The Acts 10:25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.

The Acts 10:26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

The Acts 10:27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.

The Acts 10:28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.

The Acts 11:1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

The Acts 11:2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him

The Acts 11:3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

Galatians 2:11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

Galatians 2:12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

Galatians 2:13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

The Jews continued to have such disdain for the uncircumcised until after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost, the gospel was carried by Jewish believers to non-Jews. With the acceptance of the gospel by the Gentiles, the divisive issue of circumcision had to be dealt with, as it threatened to tear apart the early church. After Paul and Barnabas had preached the gospel to some Gentiles and witnessed a large conversion among them, some Jewish believers insisted the new Gentile believers must be circumcised and made to keep the Mosaic Law before they could be saved. This generated a huge controversy which had to be settled by the Apostles in the first church council in Jerusalem. In that historic church council, the Apostles unanimously agreed that circumcision was not necessary for Gentiles who were turning to Christ. Not only that, it was also agreed in that council that with the exception of a few provisions, observance of the Mosaic law was not necessary for Gentile Christians. This council thus abolished circumcision as a mandatory religious requirement for acceptance before God. The Apostles made it clear that being uncircumcised was no longer an abomination before God. It was no longer a ground for rejection by God and God’s people.

The Acts 15:1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

The Acts 15:2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

The Acts 15:3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad.

The Acts 15:4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

The Acts 15:5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The Acts 15:6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question.

The Acts 15:7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.

The Acts 15:8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.

The Acts 15:9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.

The Acts 15:10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?

The Acts 15:11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

The Acts 15:12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.

The Acts 15:13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.

The Acts 15:14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.

The Acts 15:15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

The Acts 15:16 “’After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,

The Acts 15:17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ —

The Acts 15:18 things known from long ago.

The Acts 15:19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

The Acts 15:20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

The Acts 15:21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

The Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers.

The Acts 15:23 With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.

The Acts 15:24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.

The Acts 15:25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul —

The Acts 15:26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Acts 15:27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.

The Acts 15:28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:

The Acts 15:29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

Paul took the issue of circumcision a notch higher, by teaching that those who insisted on being circumcised on religious grounds in order to gain acceptance with God had actually fallen from grace. The Apostle to the Gentiles maintained that the observance of that cardinal part of the Mosaic law was tantamount to denying the grace of God in salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. It was attempting to mix law with grace. People who do that are actually deemed to be denying the Lord and seeking to go back to the curse and bondage of the law. Paul was emphatic in warning Gentile believers to resist the pressure to be circumcised as a seal or sign of approval with God, as required by the law of Moses. Paul’s greatest fight was with Judaizers who wanted to bring Gentile believers under the yoke of slavery as represented by the Mosaic law. The law plus grace theology was the first corruption of the gospel, which Paul called “another gospel”. It was considered a perversion of the gospel of grace, and all those propagating it are placed under a curse! Paul was relentless in calling on Gentile believers to reject such a perverted gospel, and to hold unto the grace of God in Christ Jesus, as the law of Moses (including the requirement of circumcision) was a curse and a bondage which should be avoided at all costs!

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

Galatians 5:3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

Galatians 5:4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Galatians 5:7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?

Galatians 5:8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Galatians 5:9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

Galatians 5:10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.

Galatians 5:11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.

Galatians 5:12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Galatians 6:12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.

Galatians 6:13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.

Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Galatians 2:3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.

Galatians 2:4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

Galatians 2:5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel —

Galatians 1:7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

Galatians 1:9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Galatians 3:11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”

Galatians 3:12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

Galatians 3:14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Thus, Gentile believers are no longer under any obligation to circumcise their male infants as a religious duty, as circumcision of the flesh (the foreskin) is no longer a seal of God’s approval. The circumcision that matters now is that of the heart, by the Holy Spirit, who is now the seal of God for believers in Christ Jesus. The true sons of God are now identified, not by the circumcision of their foreskins, but by the fruits of the spiritual circumcision, for as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. To glory in circumcision of the foreskin is to glory in the flesh. We’re not to know any man any longer after the flesh. He that glories now should glory in the Lord. In Christ Jesus, circumcision does not avail anything. What matters now is the keeping of the word of God. It is faith which works through love that’s important, not the mutilation of the flesh. Anyone who so lives is approved of God, irrespective of the status of his foreskin. What is an abomination to God now is the uncircumcision of the heart. It is those with uncircumcised hearts and ears that God opposes and resists now, because they oppose and resist his will, and can never please him, being carnal and unspiritual.

Romans 2:28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.

Romans 2:29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

Colossians 2:10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

Colossians 2:11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

Colossians 2:14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

1 Corinthians 7:17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.

1 Corinthians 7:18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.

1 Corinthians 7:19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

Philippians 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (AKJV).

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (AKJV).

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

2 Corinthians 5:15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not from now on live to themselves, but to him which died for them, and rose again.

2 Corinthians 5:16 Why from now on know we no man after the flesh: yes, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now from now on know we him no more.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (AKJV).

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

1 Corinthians 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are:

1 Corinthians 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

1 Corinthians 1:31 That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord (AKJV).

The Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you (NKJV).

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

Romans 8:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God (NKJV).

In conclusion, circumcision started with Abraham, as a seal of the covenant between him and God, and was mandated for every male descendant of Abraham, including slaves born in his house and those bought with his money. Any uncircumcised male descendant of Abraham was to be cut off from his people. The Jews continued to detest and avoid close interaction with all uncircumcised people, until the birth of the church, after the ascension of Christ. With the coming into the church of Gentiles who were never under the Mosaic law, it was agreed by the original Apostles of the Lord that Gentile believers did not need to be circumcised before they could be saved. Paul made it very clear that circumcision of the foreskin does not matter anymore, and has been supplanted by the circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit, which is achieved by the new birth experience. Thus, the seal of God’s approval is no longer the circumcision of the flesh but the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Christians are no longer required to circumcise their male infants on religious grounds, as circumcision is no longer a religious obligation nor a seal of the new covenant in Christ Jesus. Embracing circumcision on religious grounds now is considered placing oneself back under the bondage of the law of Moses, and a falling away from the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

Thanks for visiting and for reading. We’d love to have your feedback please. God bless you!

Published by Dr. Ndubuisi Emmanuel Ojo

Dr Ojo is a Biblical scholar and teacher who believes firmly in the original Apostolic faith as the only authentic version of Christianity, and the only legitimate basis for Christian doctrine and conduct.

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