ARE THE JEWS SUPPOSED TO STILL GET CIRCUMCISED IN THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Are the Jews supposed to still get circumcised in the Dispensation of Grace? What about Galatians 5:3-4? “ For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
Let us begin at verse 1 and move through to verse 9.
“ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.  For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.  For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.  Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?  This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
The problem in Galatia is false teaching in the form of legalism (Law-keeping as means of gaining God’s blessings, the belief that we can gain Heaven by our religious works, using the Law under the impression it will produce fruitful Christian service). Notice how the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul titles this “the yoke of bondage” (verse 1). That phrase hooks to Acts 15:10: “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Let us read the first five verses of Acts chapter 15 now.
“ And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.  When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.  And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.  And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.  But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
Paul’s Gentile converts (found in Acts chapters 13-14) were being told that they had to “be circumcised after the manner of Moses” or they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). “It was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (verse 5). Such notions parallel what we just read in the Book of Galatians, and that is no coincidence. The Galatians were saved in Acts chapters 13-14, and the apostolic conference of chapter 15 is repeated in Galatians chapter 2. Yes, never forget, Acts chapter 15 is quite useful in grasping Galatians.
Friend, you have used Galatians 5:3-4 to ask whether Jews still need physical circumcision in our Dispensation. You have misunderstood the context. Those being circumcised in that passage are not Jews but rather Gentiles. Specifically, they are Paul’s Gentile converts. Gentile believers in the Gospel of Grace have been misled to assume they are under Israel’s program (the Law of Moses, physical circumcision). Paul’s argument in Galatians chapter 5 is to show them they are not “rightly dividing the word of truth” as 2 Timothy 2:15 states. They are mixing dispensations, uniting the mystery and prophetic programs God has divided.
The only rightful purpose of the Law in our Dispensation is that it points out our sin and our need for the Saviour (1 Timothy 1:7-11). Like the Galatians originally, we have already recognized our sin problem and trusted Jesus Christ as the fully-satisfying sacrifice for our sins (Romans 3:23-28). The Law, our performance, plays no role in saving us from our sins—both the eternal penalty (Hell) and the temporary struggles (daily living). This is what the Galatians had forgotten since Paul left their midst. False teachers had entered and tricked them with denominational teaching (Galatians 3:1-3; Galatians 4:17; Galatians 5:7-12; Galatians 6:12-13)! Such dangerous individuals lurk in the pulpit of the average “Christian” church even now, and likely fooling most people reading these very lines!
Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 5 that, if those Gentiles in Galatia wanted to be physically circumcised, there was much, much more to Law-keeping. The Law system is an “all-or-nothing” arrangement—failure to keep it in one point results in being guilty of breaking all the commandments (James 2:10). In other words, the Galatians had not grasped the magnitude of the spiritual trouble in which they had placed themselves. By getting under the Law system, they were to follow every precept and each rule found in Moses’ writings—not just physical circumcision!! Since they had chosen to forsake God’s message of grace to them through Paul’s ministry, they were now subject to several hundred rules (the entire Mosaic system)! They had been justified unto eternal life by faith in Christ, but they had discarded that truth and returned to “work to be justified.” “Fallen from grace” indeed! Satan had deceived them, and he uses that same works-religion and (self)“righteousness” system to con us even now (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Such a performance system is “weak and beggarly,” Galatians 4:9 says. Such is spiritual immaturity, Galatians 4:19 says. “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” (verse 20). For the rest of the chapter, Paul differentiates between man’s efforts and God’s grace—we are not under the performance system but under the grace system! It is not about us but all about Jesus Christ!
Let us now address your first question, thereby “tying up” our comments to your second question.
ARE JEWS OBLIGATED TO BE PHYSICALLY CIRCUMCISED IN OUR DISPENSATION?
Physical circumcision for Jews (or even for Gentiles) is not required in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Today, there is no spiritual advantage to being physically circumcised and there is no spiritual disadvantage to being physically uncircumcised. The ground is level at the foot of Calvary’s cross (Ephesians 2:11-22). Such words were completely unknown prior to God’s Word through the Apostle Paul, our Dispensation of Grace.
Galatians 5:6: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Never do we find anything like this in Moses’ writings; in fact, we find the exact opposite!! Also see Matthew 10:5-7, Matthew 15:24, and John 4:22—these show us that Christ’s earthly ministry cannot apply to us either!!
A Jew needed physical circumcision as a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:7-14; cf. Genesis 12:1-3 and Acts 7:8). Since there is no nation Israel in God’s program today—she is fallen—there is no Abrahamic Covenant in effect either. God is blessing the world today, not through Israel’s rise, but through her fall. That is Paul’s message found in Romans chapter 11: “ I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”
While people today are physically circumcised for health reasons, that was not why God wanted Abraham and his seed to have it. It was a religious rite, later incorporated into the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:3). Circumcision is the sign of being separated from, or deadness to, the ability of our sinful flesh (an outward reflection of an internal, spiritual circumcision—cf. Romans 2:28-29). We cannot work in our flesh to please God. He will bless us, but not because we work to please Him (for we sinners cannot work to please Him—Romans 3:9-20). God will bless us simply because of His grace, His goodness, His performance. That is what Abraham learned in Galatians 4:21-31, when God rejected the son he produced in his own strength, and God gave him a son He caused to be born miraculously (cf. Genesis 16:1-16; Genesis 17:1-27; Genesis 21:1-21). Grace and works cannot cohabitate! That goes for Abraham, the Galatians, and even us! “And if it be by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).
Calvary cannot impact lost people if they are focused on their efforts. It cannot benefit Christians who are fixated on their labors either. Therefore, Satan’s evil world system exploits man’s natural self-righteous attitude. Lost people stay lost, dazzled by their “religious goodness” to such a large degree that Christ’s perfect sacrifice on Calvary means nothing to them. Christian people stay confused, saved by grace and yet trying to “prove salvation by works” or attempting to “keep salvation by works.” God does not want our efforts; He wants our faith resting entirely in His Son Jesus Christ. That goes for unsaved and saved alike.
Going to Heaven is all about Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary. We trust in that and that alone. It is not about our prayers, our water baptism, our confession of sins, our commandment-keeping, our sacrifices, our alms, our church membership, our circumcision!! Notice how religion is all about US, US, US, US, US! The cross wipes that all away—and that is exactly why the message of Jesus Christ is so offensive (Galatians 5:11)!!! It removes us and puts the focus exclusively on the Lord Jesus Christ. Our sin nature fights that, as it wants to be praised, worshipped, exalted. Religion is thus so appealing. Boasting is why God hates religion.
Romans 3:27–4:5: “[3:27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [3:28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [3:29] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: [3:30] Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. [3:31] Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. [4:1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [4:2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [4:3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4:4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [4:5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Faith in Christ—not works—is counted for righteousness! The lost person thus passes from death to life. Likewise, Christian living (daily sanctification) is just like justification unto eternal life. It is Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary. We are dead to sin (Romans chapter 6). Sin, our flesh, does not have dominion over us (Romans chapter 7). We are alive unto God by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans chapter 8). It is not we making ourselves acceptable to God; it is God making us acceptable to Him because of His Son’s merits applied to us!
Once we place our faith in Christ, we receive a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), and that new nature will produce good works. However, that is not the same as religion motivating us to do good works so we can be accepted of God. This “fine-line” distinction is how Satan deceives. People who do not want to know the truth believe the lie as though it were the truth. They claim to be Christian but then work. They say Christ is their Saviour but they cannot say exactly how He has saved them. They never can say for sure they will go to Heaven. That is because they are working to gain God’s favor—and if they die unsaved, they will surely learn they have inspired the exact opposite!
Friend, how urgent it is that we see we can be Scriptural and be completely out of God’s will! To grab Moses’ writings (the Bible!!) and try to follow them is to believe the Devil’s lie! It is important not only to be Scriptural, but also dispensational. If we want to do God’s will, we must follow the directions He gave in our dispensation—“the Dispensation of the Grace of God” Jesus Christ revealed directly to the Apostle Paul so he could then teach us (Ephesians 3:1-2). God’s Word to and about us is Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Romans 6:14-15).