The Origin of Paul’s Gospel
Sabbath School Lesson 2017 Quarter 3 Lesson 2 Thursday
The lesson asks, “Why did Paul not require Gentile converts to be circumcised?”
Was it for increasing his number of converts? What was the original design of the male genitalia? What was the purpose of circumcision in the first place?
This from one of the founders of our church;
“If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God’s law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone. And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 364.2
And Ellen White says there would have been no need for the Ten Commandments if they had heeded the simple commands given to Abraham. There would have been no need for circumcision. It’s just that God added and added and added because we needed it. Finally we have this complicated system, which in some ways makes it more and more difficult to understand the truth.
Now is this blessing pronounced only upon the circumcised or also upon the uncircumcised? We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he was circumcised? See what a telling argument this would be with circumci sed Jews, you see. It was not after; it was before he was circumcised. Abraham’s faith was mentioned and recko ned to him as righteousness before he was even circumcised.
Now he received circumcision. God instructed him to do that, as a sign or a seal of the righte ousness which he had by faith, while he was still uncircumcised. How about that? You see, our works are just evidence of the quality of our relationship with God. What He wants is th at relationship. The works will follow. If I go around cheating, lying, stealing, and killing, a nd misbehaving, and acting like an utterly untrustworthy person, how can I say: Oh, I do lov e God and I want to be His child, and I have faith? James says that’s nonsense. Faith is show n by works, appropriate works. Paul had said that earlier in Romans, you remember. “It isn’ t merely the hearers of the word who are justified, but the doers.”
Faith is a willingness to listen to God and to accept His counsel and to do the things He asks us to do; and, God said to Abraham, I want you to practice circumcision. That is, what God chose in the culture of that time as a sign of the relationship we’ve already established, a relat ionship of trust. Now the purpose was to make him the father of all who have faith without b eing circumcised, and thus, have righteousness reckoned to them. But then he hastens to say , “And likewise the father of the circumcised, who are not merely are circumcised, but also f ollow the example of the faith, which our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
Paul said to start his speech, “Oh, people of Athens, I see that in all things you are deisi daimonesteros”, that’s one word. “You’re very religious. Why,” he said, “you’re so rel igious, you even have an altar to the unknown god. I’d like to tell you about Him.” Th at’s a very fine way to start the speech. And then he went on quoting philosophers and learned scholars. And some were impressed, and some were won. And Ellen White do esn’t agree with some of us who make light of that speech. She says “Hear him match l ogic with logic, and philosophy with philosophy.” She was proud of him.
But it still wasn’t the best way, and Paul said on reflection, “I don’t think I did it the best way. From now on I wi ll preach nothing but Christ, and Him crucified.” Would that be a narrowing of his me ssage, or a refocusing of his message on the broadest possible base? Now he would spea k to the truth about God in the great controversy. It was a larger, not a smaller messag e; a broader rather than a narrower one.
It’s just that he was reoriented now. He would always be talking about the truth, revea led by Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. “By which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. For neither circumcision amounts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” Galatians 6:15
The plan of salvation does not just offer forgiveness, but it offers a new creation. And n ow this is a very important verse for us to understand, that Heaven is not going to be pe opled by pardoned criminals, but with newly created saints. There has got to be a chan ge there, a new heart and a right spirit. I think that’s a most important statement.
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