The Berean Expositor
Volume 40 - Page 124 of 254
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"Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the
commandments of God" (I Cor. 7: 19).
If the statement `circumcision availeth nothing' sets aside any hope in the flesh, the
addition of `uncircumcision' really sets aside anything the flesh can either do, or be.
Treat the flesh ceremonially, or leave it naturally, the result is the same--nothing avails.
Paul refuses to go half way, and change from the circumcision party, to the
uncircumcision party. "A plague on both your houses" he might say. "Uncircumcision
can become as much a ground of boasting as circumcision--away with both."
The passage I Cor. 7: 19 is parallel with one in I Cor. 3: 7:
"So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that
giveth the increase (is EVERYTHING)",
for so the mind must finish the sentence. So in I Cor. 7: 19 "Circumcision is nothing,
and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God is THE
ONLY THING THAT MATTERS". The words `but faith that worketh by love' round
off the passage much the same as the mentally supplied additions do in these citations
from I Corinthians. The only thing that avails is `Faith that worketh by love'.
The next question we must ask is why does the Apostle not simply say `but faith' and
leave it there? No one who has followed his argument so far can be left in any doubt that
`faith' apart from legal or carnal ordinances is the only instrument in justification. The
time, therefore, has come when he should make it quite plain that `Faith only' does not
mean an empty, lifeless faith. We are reminded by James that the devils believe that
there is one God, but although their faith is true, that faith will not save them. We may
appreciate the turn taken by Paul here, by turning aside for a moment to consider a
parallel argument used by him in connection with the place of the law. In both the epistle
to the Romans and to the Galatians the law is said to `work wrath', and to have entered
that `sin might abound'. The law is shown to have been `weak because of the flesh'
(Rom. 4: 15; 5: 20; 8: 3).
In Galatians neither life nor righteousness can come by the law, and all who are under
the law are under the curse; yet Rom. 7: 12 declares, nevertheless, that the `law is
holy', and the commandment `holy, and just, and good', and in Rom. 13: the full glory
of the law is established in the saying:
"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath
fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13: 8-10).
Now this self same teaching awaits us in Galatians:
"For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to
the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in
this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Gal. 5: 13, 14).
Here then is the reason for the addition to the argument in verse 6. Circumcision is
useless as a means to justification. It is also just as evil to believe that by abstaining from