Circumcision

Concise Bible Dictionary:

The rite appointed by God to be a token of the covenant that He made with Abraham and his seed, and also the seal of the righteousness of his faith. Every male in Abraham’s house was to be circumcised, and afterward every male of his seed on the eighth day after birth. It signified the separation of a people from the world to God. During the 40 years in the wilderness this rite was not performed, but on entering God’s land all were circumcised at Gilgal, when the reproach of Egypt was rolled away (Josh. 5:2-92At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 4And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. 6For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: unto whom the Lord sware that he would not show them the land, which the Lord sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 7And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. 8And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. 9And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day. (Joshua 5:2‑9)). Circumcision became a synonym for Israel, so that they could be spoken of as “the circumcised,” and the heathen as “the uncircumcised” (Judg. 14:33Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. (Judges 14:3); Ezek. 31:1818To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 31:18); Acts 11:33Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. (Acts 11:3)). Contrary to the design of God, circumcision became a mere formal act, when the covenant itself was disregarded, and God then speaks of Israel as having “uncircumcised hearts.” Stephen charged the Jewish council with being “uncircumcised in heart and ears” (Lev. 26:4141And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: (Leviticus 26:41); Acts 7:5151Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (Acts 7:51)). In Romans 4 Abraham is shown to be “the father of circumcision,” that is, of all that believe as the truly separated people of God.
Hence circumcision is typical of the putting off the body of the flesh by those who accept the cross as the end of all flesh, because Christ was there cut off as to the flesh, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the [sins of the] flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:1111In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (Colossians 2:11)); and again, “We are the circumcision which worship God by the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:33For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)). “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth” (Col. 3:55Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Colossians 3:5)).

From Anstey’s Doctrinal Definitions:

However, in Romans 2:25-2925For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:25‑29), Paul explains that circumcision will not shelter a person from the eternal judgment of his sins any more than trusting in the Law will. He shows that a Jew needed to have more than the outward sign of circumcision in his body to be a real Jew of whom God approved. He says, "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." The Jews had "circumcision that is outward in the flesh," but they also needed "circumcision of the heart," which involved having faith, if their eternal destiny was to be secure. Circumcision is an outward sign promising outward blessing to Abraham and his descendants. It was connected with temporal blessings, such as: possession of the land of Canaan, abundant growth of crops, good health, protection from their earthly enemies, etc. These temporal things have to do with life on earth under the favour of God. The Jews, however, were mistakenly trusting in the rite of circumcision, which is connected with temporal blessing, and were imagining that it secured their eternal blessing.
The Jews are not alone in this misunderstanding. Many professing Christians are likewise trusting in outward things and rites such as: baptism, church membership, confirmation vows, etc., but those things will not secure a person’s eternal blessing either. Paul refers to circumcision in three ways in his epistles: