6 This is how even David himself speaks regarding the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness regardless of works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless works are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin.” 9 Is this blessedness then for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised? Because we say, “faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 On what basis was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised! 11 And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised, that they too could have righteousness credited to them.
the sign as a seal
The Judaism that Paul was raised in had seen circumcision as one of the works of the law which had to be performed in order to get on God’s good side. Obedient people did these works, and then hoped that they would be enough to gain God’s favor and prevent their destruction in Gehenna. They saw those who were uncircumcised as hopelessly lost, regardless of any semblance of moral character they might pretend to possess. The sign was an essential, without which there was no hope of forgiveness.
Paul says, nah. The sign was supposed to be a seal of the forgiveness itself. Circumcision was intended to celebrate the forgiveness that Abraham received because of his faith in God’s promise. And, since Abraham believed and was saved before he (or any of his children) had been circumcised, salvation in Christ could now be preached to the not now nor ever circumcised!
LORD, we celebrate the inheritance we have from our spiritual forefather, Abraham. We celebrate the forgiveness you gave him before he was circumcised. We celebrate the message of forgiveness by grace that the act of circumcision signified.