11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
First, a brief history lesson. The earliest Christians are Jews who trust in Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus is the King. Jesus fulfills God’s call for Israel to become a blessing for the whole world, not just Jews. Sure enough, Paul is called by God to share the good news of King Jesus to the non-Jews of the world. The Gentiles.
But, there is a problem. Back at Church headquarters all the leaders are Jewish, because all the first Christians are Jewish. So, there is the temptation to keep practicing the Jewish rituals while following Jesus. If you don’t follow the Jewish way to being a Christian you don’t have the approval of the “Mother Ship.” This is adding to Jesus. Jesus plus…you might call it
Yet, Jesus himself, rebelled against following rituals in order to be right with God. It is trust in God that counts, not human rituals. But the Jewish Christians didn’t want to give up their human rituals. The most important human ritual for Jewish males is the initiation ceremony of circumcision. Cutting off the foreskin.
This is a problem for two reasons.
- You are making a human action a condition for being a Christian.
- This action is cutting off the foreskin of a man’s penis. The Jewish tradition is you do this when a baby is 8 days old. But, what if you are an adult Gentile? Hey, do you want to become a Christian? Well, do I have a deal for you.
Do you see the challenge Paul is facing?
The early church leaders are adding to what it means to be a Christian. They will only give their approval if the Gentiles follow the Jewish ways, along with following Jesus. Yet, Jesus himself specifically said we are no longer to follow these rituals. So, basically the early church leaders are saying if you want their approval you have to go against the teachings of Jesus.
Paul will have none of this nonsense. He says it is not cutting away the foreskin that makes you right with God. It is surrendering your whole body, your whole life, to Jesus that makes you right with God. Joining Jesus in his mission to transform the world. And when you are transformed by Jesus, it is his power working through you. Trusting in God has nothing to do with man’s approval.
What are examples of human rituals you have seen made into something added to what it means to be a Christian?