WHAT 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
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 detail of the Circumcision
evangel, merely mentioning, when necessary, matter related to the evangel
of the UNcircumcision.
Let us note the "of" and "to" of Gal.2:7 and 2:9:
(1) OF - the divergent nature.
(2) TO - the distinct sphere.
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
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
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 (Gal.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 the nation.
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 (John
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 (Rom.2:20).
Thus, the ministry of the Lord asserted that He came not to demolish the
law (Matt.5:17). Nor were others to teach the annulling of law
(Matt.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 (Acts 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
(Acts 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 (Matt.3:8). Baptism was the outward sign of repentance. This was
so in John's pre-proclamation ministry, also the Lord's, and then in that
of the twelve (Acts 2:38). Pardon is ruggedly expressed by to let off
(Acts 2:38). Repentance and pardon call for faith in the declarations
which lead to them. Hence we read:
all that believe (Acts 2:24),
those who hear the word believe (Acts 4:4).
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
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 (Acts 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 (Gal.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 Peter 2:4; 2 Peter 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 (Matt.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" (Acts
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" (John 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"
(John 6:29). "And, when it is occurring, you shall be believing" (John
Faith, then, varies in its value and stability
according to its basic message. It may require works to perfect it (James
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 Melchizedek 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
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 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;
Matt.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 Pet.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 (Rom.11). A rich entrance will be
supplied into the eonian kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2
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.