This is clearly not our understanding! In fact, such a teaching would totally misrepresent and ignore what God is saying about circumcision.
As we explain in our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”, God gave man timeless physical and spiritual laws, including health laws, as well as temporary ritual laws, which had a passing and time-related purpose. For instance, God told man that certain animal food is good to eat, while other animals are not fit for consumption (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). These are health laws, given for the good of man, which are still in effect today. In fact, they will still be in effect at the time of Christ’s return (compare Isaiah 66:16-17).
The law of circumcision was clearly not a timeless health law, but a temporary ritual law. We should, first of all, consider why God commanded circumcision. God commanded the practice of circumcision as a sign of the covenant (Romans 4:11; Genesis 17:11), which God made with Abraham and his descendants, along with any who would want to come under the same covenant of promise. At the same time, circumcision constituted itself a covenant (Acts 7:8). But circumcision was not to be understood as a timeless health law. The reason is that the law of physical circumcision only came into effect long after the creation of man, and that it is no longer required today. If it were a health law, then it should have been in effect from the time of man’s creation, and God would still require it today, as He would not deprive man of something that is good for him.
In some regions of the world, including the state of Israel, parts of the Middle East, and the USA, circumcision is still popular and it is being practiced by some or many. In other parts of the world, for instance in Europe, circumcision is mostly ignored. Some claim that circumcision has beneficial physical effects; for instance, that it reduces the risk of urine infection; lowers the risk of cancer of the penis; or protects women, married to circumcised men, from cervical cancer. Those claims are by no means undisputed — and the same results can be achieved, in any event, by proper hygiene and cleaning. In fact, there exist today two streams of scientific medical schools, which either advocate or speak against the wisdom of physical circumcision.
It is clear to us that God would not have asked Abraham and ancient Israel to become circumcised, if this procedure had been harmful to them, and if it had produced medical side-effects. At the same time, we must emphasize that God did NOT give this law as a health law. It was strictly a temporary ritual law, such as the laws of sacrifices and washings.
IF circumcision were a health law, why did God conceal the knowledge of the same from those who lived prior to Abraham, including righteous people such as Abel, Enoch or Noah? There is no hint that they practiced circumcision — but this does not mean that they thereby violated any health law. The same is true for righteous Abraham, BEFORE God asked him to get circumcised, at the age of 99 (Genesis 17:1, 24), and to circumcise his son Ishmael at the age of 13 (Genesis 17:24) and newborn sons on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12), in addition to all the men of Abraham’s household (Genesis 17:27).
We also read that Paul taught the Gentiles, who wanted to become Christians, that they did not have to become circumcised. IF circumcision were a health law, Paul would have taught them to violate and break one of God’s timeless physical health laws. This very concept, that Paul would have taught this, is preposterous.
Notice Paul’s teaching in Galatians 5:1-3:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed, I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes uncircumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law” — including all of the other rituals and sacrifices, which were likewise abolished at the time of Christ’s death.
In fact, as Acts 15 reports, a big controversy arose in the early Church over the issue of circumcision (Acts 15:5). Some felt that Gentiles had to get circumcised to become part of the body of Christ. We see that this question had nothing whatever to do with whether circumcision was a health law — that thought did not seem to have even entered the minds of the advocates of circumcision — but, as mentioned before, it had to do with an outward sign (Genesis 17:11; Romans 4:11) of the “covenant of circumcision” (Acts 7:8). The apostles and elders agreed, however, that circumcision was not required for Gentiles, in order to become a part of the Church. Note Peter’s clear response to the advocates of circumcision: “Now, therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke [the yoke of bondage, referred to by Paul in Galatians 5:1] on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:11).
In Ephesians 2:11-15, Paul explains again that uncircumcised Gentiles can become part of the “commonwealth” of spiritual Israel — the Church — without having to be first physically circumcised. (At the same time, the Bible teaches that the heart of a converted, baptized person is spiritually circumcised, compare Colossians 2:11; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; 9:25-26). Therefore, the law of circumcision never was a physical health law, nor was it ever intended to be understood as one. It was a ritual law that served a purpose from Abraham until the time, when Christ died for man.
This is the reason why Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 7:18-19: “Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” Notice, too, Romans 2:28-29: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly [i.e., by being circumcised, verse 27], nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Finally, notice Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”
Whether parents decide to have their son(s) circumcised or not, is a matter of individual choice. We neither advocate nor condemn the practice, as long as it is not done with the erroneous belief that it is required today, either from a spiritual or a physical standpoint. Circumcision must not be practiced, if one believes one can become justified thereby (in that case, Christ will profit him nothing, compare Galatians 5:2), and it would be a misconception if it is practiced in erroneous compliance with the belief in a time-less godly “health law” for man.