is the subject matter of this evangel ? Does it
differ from the evangel of the UNcircumcision ? Why do the
differing titles arise ? Have the two evangels the same
objective ? Our discussion will seek to answer these queries.
Both evangels have the purpose
of bringing salvation, yet we must distinguish between
two aspects of salvation, for, in relation to each
evangel, salvation differs radically. We may understand
why it does so when we learn that the underlying
purpose of each of the two evangels is also a different one.
One evangel saves for the kingdom of the prophets
on the earth; the other for the ecclesia which is
Christ's body among the celestials. One evangel
is but a stage on the way to God's ultimate; the other
brings God's ultimate, for its inherent spiritual value is
such that it will consummate the eons. With these introductory
thoughts we will turn to the details of the Circumcision
evangel, merely mentioning, when necessary, matter related to
the evangel of the UNcircumcision.
Let us note the "of" and "to" of
Ga. 2:7 and 2:9:
The "of" implies an evangel
related to a particular privilege. The "to" indicates an
evangel for a particular people.
These titles arise and take
their point because the privilege of circumcision has
been cited as of the greatest value. As to privilege, the
Circumcision evangel is based upon God's covenant with Abraham
(Gen. 17:10). Circumcision was the sign of a perpetual
covenant. It is for a particular nation, whom God
invested with supremacy amongst the nations of the world, and
through whom God channels blessings to all the others.
But Israel had failed to enjoy
the promised blessings of circumcision. History had merely
unfolded and made Israel's delinquency apparent. Yet God had
promised them the inward spiritual reality signified by
circumcision (Deut. 30:5-6). The evangel of the Circumcision is
one more of God's means to bring such blessings to Israel.
The evangel of the
Circumcision is vitally related to the circumcised people who
are its chief beneficiaries. This evangel takes account of
Israel's privileges and prerogatives, and is founded on the fact
that they are to become the channel of blessings to the other
nations if they themselves accept its blessings, as
intimated by the Hebrew Scriptures.
Though the Circumcision
evangel is addressed to the physical seed of Abraham, through
Sarah, yet its special emphasis (i.e. in the so-called gospels
and the Acts) was around God's covenant with David (see
Acts 2:30). Though the title of this evangel arises in relation
to Peter (Ga. 2), yet as a matter of fact it had been initiated
by John the Baptist. His ministry was followed by that of the
Lord Jesus, and later by that of Peter at Pentecost (Acts
13:24-28). Thus these preachings were "a word of salvation" for
With the coming of Pentecost,
the priestly feature was added to this evangel, the death and
resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This had to be dealt with. It
was in its first analysis only another crime committed against
God's prophets by the Circumcision.
Though the Twelve proclaim the
historic facts concerning the death and resurrection of the Lord
Jesus as witnesses, yet they do not develop doctrine from these
facts. The Circumcision evangel does not deal with the deeper
and ultimate meaning and value of the death and resurrection,
nor of the cross of Christ. It is quite true that it tells of
the sufferings and the blood of Christ shed for the pardoning of
sin, but it says nothing of such matters as death with Christ
and deliverance from law; nor is the "word of the cross"
to be found in it. The Circumcision evangel does not mention the
snare of the cross. And the reason is plain. They go against
the particular position of Israel.
To help us to understand this
evangel, we should realize that it is proclaimed to those who
are in touch with God (Jn. 1:11). He came to His own. He
came to a people related to God by a covenant and by a form of
knowledge and truth in the law (Ro. 2:20). Thus, the ministry of
the Lord asserted that He came not to demolish the law (Mt.
5:17). Nor were others to teach the annulling of law (Mt. 5:19).
In fact, many of the points of the sermon on the mount were but
a development of the spiritual contents of the precepts of the
law. It was into minds instructed by the law that our Master
launched His evangel. It was not to people left to themselves
during many centuries. The Circumcision evangel did not take
away the law. From this fact we can understand why many tens of
thousands who had believed were inherently zealous of the
law (Ac. 21:20). The blessedness of keeping the law will be seen
in the millennial kingdom. Then God's law shall be written on
new hearts, and, consequently, life will be greatly prolonged.
Israel's circumcision is a pledge that the law of God will find
no antagonism in their redeemed and cleansed flesh.
Note also that our Lord
proclaimed His evangel before His crucifixion, and, at first,
without reference to His sufferings. And when He did begin to
speak of these, His words were not understood
Even in the past, circumcision
should not have been merely an external rite, but should have
been of the heart (Deut. 10:16). Let us look more closely into
the features and announcements of this Circumcision evangel.
Take Peter as the exponent. He called Israel to repentance, told
them to be baptized, and so their sins would be pardoned (Ac.
2:38, 3:19, 5:30-32). Primarily repentance was a change
of mind and attitude to their Messiah. It calls for the
production of worthy fruits (Mt. 3:8). Baptism was the
outward sign of repentance. This was so in John's
pre-proclamation ministry, also in the Lord's, and then in that
of the twelve (Ac. 2:38). Pardon is ruggedly expressed by
to let off (Ac. 2:38). Repentance and pardon call for
faith in the declarations which lead to them. Hence we read:
all that believe (Ac. 2:24),
those who hear the word believe
In all this, that is, in the
evangel of the Circumcision, there is nothing to occasion the
arguments which arose against the evangel of the UNcircumcision.
The Jew had no reason to forsake circumcision or the law, in
order to follow Christ and the twelve. But the Jew must break
with both circumcision and the law, as Paul did, if he would
be justified by faith, which is the initial item of the UNcircumcision
The evangel proclaimed by Paul
removes the law, but Peter's evangel does not. The features of
repentance, pardon and baptism take their point in the fact
of law, but justification is apart from law. Saul was not
saved by Peter's evangel. Under the terms of Peter's evangel,
Saul ought to have been exterminated (Ac. 3:23). Saul was not
for hearing that Prophet, nor was he at all repentant.
Deliverance from law was
entirely absent from the Circumcision evangel. Later, mere
legalists joined issues with Paul on this question, yet their
objections could not be made against the evangel defined by the
term Circumcision. For the nations to adopt law would mean
nothing less than separation from Christ (Ga. 5:1-6). Why is
this ? The salvation to which Israel is being called is not
the salvation to which the nations are introduced.
Let us turn back to examine
pardon and faith in the evangel of the Circumcision. Pardon
means to let off. It does not put its recipients beyond
condemnation. It does not preclude falling aside. Nor does it
intimate reconciliation, just as law and ritual do not intimate
reconciliation. Pardon requires God to pass over the penalties
of sins. It requires the continuance of God's forbearance, yet
does not begin to display His righteousness, or the fact that
God can be and is also a Justifier. Pardon presumes that good
works will ensue. See the illustration regarding land which does
not bring forth good herbage (Heb. 6:7,8). Pardon requires
"things which have to do with salvation" (Heb. 6:9), and
"diligence . . . until the consummation " (Heb. 3:6,14; 6:11; 1
Pet. 2:4; 2 Pet. 1:5-11). There is great reward for endurance
(Heb. 10:35,36, 11-6. Here we see the force of "enduring" as
counselled in Mt. 10:22; 24:13). Even those of the nations, who
were previously in contact with God's revelation and, under the
Circumcision evangel, came into touch with Israel, were expected
to be "acting righteously" (Ac. 10:35).
The difference between the
faith of those who believe the evangel of the Circumcision and
those who believe the evangel of the Uncircumcision lies
in the message which each believe. The faculty to believe is the
same in each case, but the character of the faith is related to
the contents of the word addressed to them.
Note how a particular faith
arises and what its accompaniments are. The faith of the Uncircumcision
was sealed by holy spirit; but that of the Circumcision was
corroborated by signs, miracles and various powerful deeds (Heb.
2:4). Indeed, the powers of the impending eon, to which the
evangel directed them, were present along with the confirmation
of the Lord's message by those who hear Him (Heb. 6:5). Their
faith was called forth by these factors. Thus, around this faith
we find such aspects as, "believe the works" (Jn. 10:38).
Again, in response to the question as to how men may work the
work of God: "this is the work of God that you may be
believing into the One Whom He commissions" (Jn. 6:29). "And,
when it is occurring, you shall be believing" (Jn. 14:29).
Faith, then, varies in its
value and stability according to its basic message. It may
require works to perfect it (Jas. 2:22), or endurance to prevent
shrinking back (Heb. 10:38). And so, with the delay in the
coming of the kingdom, the position arises as to whether the
faith of the saints will continue, and so confirm the reality of
the repentance, the baptism and pardon. If the kingdom was to be
postponed indefinitely, to what purpose was their change of
attitude toward Him Whom Israel had slain and gibbeted? In the
epistles of Peter, and in that to the Hebrews, the saints are
urged to maintain the faith which had accompanied their
repentance and pardon. And so we may turn to these epistles to
extract a brief view of them and their relation to the evangel
of the Circumcision.
The Hebrew epistle.
Many are the details to which we could turn. Briefly: that which
the Lord began, which those who heard Him confirmed, and
God corroborated (2:3,4). This ministry to Israel had emphasized
that the slain One was their King. But now they are shown that
their avowal was related to the Apostle and Chief Priest, Jesus,
over the house of God (3:1). They are urged to hold to this
avowal (4:14). This Chief Priest, unlike those of the Levitical
Priesthood, had sat down in the holiest (10:12). Here is
the intimation why He had not returned as announced by Peter.
Their avowal was a foundation (6:1) for maturity; the maturity
is that which comes under the new covenant (10:14).
The law perfected nothing, yet
the law is being transferred, as also the priesthood. They are
pointed to the glories of the Melchisedek Priesthood, related to
a more perfect tabernacle. Now that they have such a Priest they
are introduced to a better covenant and better promises. They
have now a Priest according to the power of an indissoluble
life. The law is to be imparted to their comprehension
and inscribed in their hearts. Like the worthies of old,
whose faith was not requited, they were to hold to their avowal.
Now they have a living way
into the holy places and may approach with a true heart, in
assurance of faith, and hearts sprinkled from a wicked
conscience. Jesus, by His own blood, has hallowed them. And,
like the sin offering burned without the camp, so He suffered
outside the gate of Jerusalem. They are to carry His reproach.
He, though He sat down, will yet appear the second time, apart
from sin, for salvation through faith.
Peter's epistles: The
standpoint is that of one who heard the Lord when on
earth. It is addressed to expatriates dispersed by the
persecution in Acts (8 and 10). It seeks to encourage their
faith amidst further persecution. They are reminded that they
are chosen to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus
(1:2, Heb. 12:24). These matters speak to them of the covenant
and the mercy seat (Ex. 24:8, Lev. 16-14). They are regenerated
to a living expectation (1:3), of incorruptible seed (1:23). The
allotment in the land may have faded, but they have a living
expectation of an incorruptible and unfading, allotment (1:4).
This expectation will become a salvation to be revealed in the
last era (1:5). Though sorrowed by present trials, yet glory and
honor awaits them at the unveiling of Jesus Christ (1:7).
Endurance gives grace with God (2:20).
Their salvation is related to
the seeking and searching of the prophets, who told of the
sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow (1:10-12, Mt.
13:10). The sufferings they were enduring were the outcome of
the sufferings Christ endured, for they were Christians.
Peter reminds them that they
are living stones of the spiritual house. They were a holy
priesthood (2:5). The Stone, a corner capstone, has been
rejected by Israel's builders (2:7), yet these believers are a
chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a procured
people (2:9). In making known the power and presence of the Lord
Jesus, Peter had not followed wisely made myths (2 Pt. 1:16),
but had declared that of which they were spectators (1:16). And
this is further confirmed by the prophetic word, which is a lamp
appearing in a dingy place. They were to confirm their calling
and choice; under no circumstances to trip - as had the nation
of Israel (Ro. 11). A rich entrance will be supplied into the
eonian kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pt.
These considerations, though
largely confined to one side of the matter, stress that one
immediate objective of the evangel of the Circumcision is to
lead forward to the glory of the Hebrew prophets. Later
Israel will come to the cross of Christ, but that is in the New
Creation. Then there will be no Circumcision nor Uncircumcision.
E. H. Clayton
to Martin Lee (GoodNewsGospel.info)
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