Philippians & Colossians

Circumcised: less focus.  Uncircumscribed: More Focus

“Is it a ‘small-t-tradition,’ or a ‘big-T-Tradition?'” goes the familiar saying of Fr. Jon Braun–likely said and heard by others within the Orthodox Church.  St. Paul seems to take the stance of circumcision being a ‘small-t,’ while preserving major Theological standings, such as that God is Uncircumscribed, as ‘big-T.’  A Jew himself, he reminded St. Peter, “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 2:16).  This verse is comparable to and, in my opinion, strengthens the verse in Colossians, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (2:13-14).  Particularly the words “wiped out” and “nailed” emphasize Paul’s strong distaste for those who think God may only be pleased if His people remain too indebted to the “handwriting” of the law, which came before “In Him [we] were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (2:11).  Paul uses his authority as an Apostle, called by Christ, Himself, to get his point across to the uncircumcised Gentiles that Christ crucified the old covenant of the Mosaic Law, thus, completing the Scriptures.  Likewise, in Paul’s opening to the Philippians, he urges them to focus on faith over the law, “…I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (1:25) and “…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27).

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