“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
This is the climax of Paul’s argument in answer to the “Pharisees which believed,” who preached to those who were saved by faith of Jesus Christ, that “except ye be circumcised and keep the law, ye can not be saved.”
The force of it is more fully discerned when there is understood just what was claimed for circumcision, and what it represented to those who there preached it. By them it was held that “so great is circumcision, that, but for it, the Holy One, blessed be he, would not have created the world:” that “but for circumcision, heaven and earth could not exist:” “it is as great as all the other commandments:” and “how great is circumcision, since it is equivalent to ALL the commandments of the law!” Thus, in their estimation, he who was circumcised had, in that, all the keeping of all the commandments. How this emphasizes the weight of that sentence of Paul’s: “I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Instead of his having in circumcision all the keeping of the commandments, he had by that none of it at all; but was still in debt to do the whole law, with nothing at all wherewith to pay.
From the value, which they gave to circumcision, it is easy to see how the “Pharisees which believed” could insist that persons who believed in Jesus, and so were saved by the faith of Jesus, must yet be circumcised in order to be saved. This was so, and was so easy, simply because to them circumcision was greater than was Jesus; and because to them, in every sense, circumcision stood exactly in the place that Christ in truth occupies.
Thus the question involved between Christianity and “the Pharisees which believed,” the question which was settled by the Holy Spirit, and which is made plain in Galatians, is: Are men saved by faith of Christ, or by something else? Is Christ the true Saviour, or is something else the savior?
Yet, in reality, though that was the question, it did not stand exactly that way. Notice: the people to whom came preaching the “Pharisees which believed,” were already believers in Jesus; and the “Pharisees which believed” did not say that men should not believe in Jesus. They admitted that it is proper to believe in Jesus. They themselves professed to believe in Jesus. But they insisted that the faith of Jesus is not enough to save: salvation must be by the faith of Jesus and something else.
Therefore the question in reality stood: Is Christ alone sufficient for salvation? Or must salvation be by Christ and something else?
Does faith in Christ alone, save the soul? Or must salvation be by faith in Christ and something else?
Is it by Christ alone? Or is it by Christ and circumcision?
It is by Christ alone? Or is it by Christ and penance?
Is it by faith of Christ alone? Or it is by faith and works?
Is it by faith, which comes from God as the gift of God, and therefore itself works the works of God? or is it by a so-called faith, which springs from mere assent of the mind, is thus “of yourself,” and therefore must be supported by the works of the law in self and self-righteousness?
Is it by faith which works? Or is it by faith and works?
And to this question, in all the various and subtle ways of insinuating self in place of Christ, the divine answer stands full and complete forever, in the single mighty sentence, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
“In Christ Jesus”—that is, with whomsoever believeth in Jesus—“neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith.”
“In Christ Jesus”—with whomsoever believeth in Jesus—“neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision,”—neither works, avail anything, nor no works, —“but faith WHICH WORKS.”
“In Christ Jesus”—with whomsoever believeth in Jesus—“Neither circumcision . . . nor uncircumcision”—neither keeping the commandments availeth anything, nor not keeping the commandments; “but FAITH WHICH worketh by LOVE”—FAITH WHICH keepeth the commandments of God; for “this is the LOVE of GOD, that we keep his commandments.” And he who has Christ, and is in Christ, has IN CHRIST all the keeping of all the commandments.
Even as it is written in another place in Galatians: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but A NEW CREATURE.” Gal. 6:15. And this simply because “if any man be in Christ he IS a new creature.” 2 Cor. 5:17. If he is not a new creature, his profession of being in Christ is only a profession, and is vain.
And as it is written yet again in another place: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God” is something. But this only when the man “is a new creature;” only when the keeping of the commandments springs from the faith that comes from God as the gift of God; only when the keping of the commandments is the result of faith, which is of God, and which therefore works the works of God; only when the keeping of the commandments is the effect, of which the sole cause is “faith WHICH worketh BY LOVE”—faith which is of God and worketh by the love of God, which love in itself is expressed and can be expressed only in the keeping of the commandments of God, and which therefore is the keeping of the commandments of God, all of which is because of Christ within,—“Christ IN YOU the hope of glory,”—by whose obedience alone every believer in Jesus is made righteous.
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | September 4, 1900]