“But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.” (Gal. 2:3)
Paul comes to Jerusalem to explain his teaching to the leaders there. His work has been among the Gentiles while they have been working with the Jews. Paul brings two men with him, one a well know Jewish Christian and one a not so well known Greek. It appears that in Jerusalem a great deal of pressure was being exerted on Gentile converts to undergo the Jewish rite of fleshly circumcision.
Paul had been teaching the Gentiles in his travels that circumcision of the flesh was no longer required. This would apply to Jews as well as Gentiles. He did teach circumcision but he taught that the spiritual heart had to be circumcised through baptism. As in many things, the old way found new meaning in the gospel. It appears likely that Paul brought Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile with him to prove the point.
As Paul has suspected, the demand came for Titus to be circumcised. Paul was having none of it. Not to be obstinate but to assert the teaching he had received from God which was seconded by the other apostles. The answer of the apostles was not to require Titus’s circumcision thus endorsing the teaching that Paul was doing among the Gentiles.
In the early days of the church, Jewish Christians had a difficult time leaving the learning of a lifetime. Circumcision was doubly important to them because it designated them as God’s people. It is easy to understand how they would have expected the Gentiles to join them in this practice since Gentiles were now to be included in the family of God. The reasoning was simple; if you wanted to be among God’s people, you had to be circumcised.
Paul will explain to the Galatians as he does the Romans that the requirements of the law given by Moses are no longer to be observed. The Jewish believers had a difficult time with this. They could not reconcile centuries of keeping the law with suddenly being told it was no longer a part of the covenant of God with His people. Since fleshly circumcision of the males was an outward symbol of that covenant the Jewish community wanted to maintain the rite in their new Christian role.
Paul would talk about circumcision multiple times in the letter to the Romans and in his other letters. To Paul circumcision was really a matter of the heart and this is what he told the Romans in 2:29, “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart…” To the Colossians, he said, “In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism..” (Col. 2:11)
Task for Today: The answer to the question raised at the beginning of this section is “yes.” You need to be circumcised but not a fleshly circumcision. It is a matter of the heart and it is done by the removal of the old man in baptism. Be baptized and you will be circumcised in the heart and become a part of God’s new covenant people.