Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
To make his point about the validity of Gentile redemption without first being circumcised as Jews, Paul uses an argument called a “self-evident truth.” No matter what a man’s position on circumcision might be, he will not argue with this point, for it is self-evident.
What’s that, you have a question here…? Why is it self-evident? Seriously?
It is because, as any man will tell you, in order for a grown man to be circumcised, one of two factors must be present: A, Superior force, or B, great faith. (We’re funny like that.) That Abraham submitted voluntarily is a demonstration of faith, it is not the means by which he received faith.
Therefore, since salvation is by grace through faith, and faith is required for circumcision, circumcision, by necessity, must be irrelevant to the obtaining of faith in the first place.
This logic led to a first century theological crisis that plagued the early church, for as we know there was a great deal of conflict over this point when well meaning Jewish Christians asserted that Gentiles must become Jews before they could be Christian. Please understand that these Jewish brothers weren’t just trying to be difficult, they were actually trying to help, for they had been taught that no one could inherit the blessings promised to Abraham’s seed without actually being Abraham’s seed. Their understanding was entirely physical, and the descendants of Abraham were his descendants in the flesh; they carried Abraham’s DNA.
By the way, that is why circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, for it marked the very physical organ that would deliver Abraham’s seed, ensuring that any offspring produced would be sons and daughters of Abraham.
The entire Old Testament system was physical in nature, and what people then and now have a hard time comprehending is that this system was only an illustration of the reality which would come through Christ. Jesus provided the fulfillment of the descendants promise made to Abraham, for it was through Jesus that all nations would be blessed and through whom those descendants would be more numerous than the stars of the heavens.
The only thing was that Jesus was not born of a human father, and that is where we transitioned from the physical illustration, to the heavenly reality; that is how the Gentiles could be saved into God’s family without Abraham’s DNA. That is also why circumcision is not necessary for a Christian male, for physical DNA is irrelevant. Instead, the thing that counts is not our human birth or lineage, but rather being born again of the Spirit.
It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Abraham did not receive God’s blessing because he followed the Law, when Abraham was alive, there was no Law, for that came centuries later. Abraham was blessed by God because he believed God, and so it is for us to this day.