For circumcision verily profiteth - It is a blessing to belong to the Church of God and wear the sign of the covenant, provided the terms of the covenant are complied with.
But if thou be a breaker of the law - If thou do not observe the conditions of the covenant, the outward sign is both without meaning and without effect. This was a maxim of the rabbins themselves; for they allowed that an apostate or ungodly Israelite must go to hell, notwithstanding his circumcision.
For circumcision - John 7:22 note; Acts 7:8 note. This was the special rite by which the relation to the covenant of Abraham was recognised; or by which the right to all the privileges of a member of the Jewish commonwealth was acknowledged. The Jews of course affixed a high importance to the rite.
Verily profiteth - Is truly a benefit; or is an advantage. The meaning is, that their being recognised as members of the Jewish commonwealth, and introduced to the privileges of the Jew, was an advantage; see Romans 3:1-2. The apostle was not disposed to deny that they possessed this advantage, but he tells them why it was a benefit, and how it might fail of conferring any favor.
If thou keep the law - The mere sign can be of no value, The mere fact of being a Jew is not what God requires. It may be a favor to have his Law, but the mere possession of the Law cannot entitle to the favor of God. So it is a privilege to be born in a Christian land; to have had pious parents; to be amidst the ordinances of religion; to be trained in Sundayschools; and to be devoted to God in baptism: for all these are favorable circumstances for salvation. But none of them entitle to the favor of God; and unless they are improved as they should be, they may be only the means of increasing our condemnation; 2 Corinthians 2:16.
Thy circumcision is made uncircumcision - Thy circumcision, or thy being called a Jew, is of no value. It will not distinguish you from those who are not circumcised. You will be treated as a pagan. No external advantages, no name, or rite, or ceremony will save you. God requires the obedience of the heart and of the life. Where there is a disposition to render that, there is an advantage in possessing the external means of grace. Where that is missing, no rite or profession can save. This applies with as much force to those who have been baptized in infancy, and to those who have made a profession of religion in a Christian church, as to the Jew.
As a precautionary measure, Paul wisely advised Timothy to be circumcised—not that God required it, but in order to remove from the minds of the Jews that which might be an objection to Timothy's ministration. In his work Paul was to journey from city to city, in many lands, and often he would have opportunity to preach Christ in Jewish synagogues, as well as in other places of assembly. If it should be known that one of his companions in labor was uncircumcised, his work might be greatly hindered by the prejudice and bigotry of the Jews. Everywhere the apostle met determined opposition and severe persecution. He desired to bring to his Jewish brethren, as well as to the Gentiles, a knowledge of the gospel, and therefore he sought, so far as was consistent with the faith, to remove every pretext for opposition. Yet while he conceded this much to Jewish prejudice, he believed and taught circumcision or uncircumcision to be nothing and the gospel of Christ everything. AA 204.1
Paul loved Timothy, his “own son in the faith.” 1 Timothy 1:2. The great apostle often drew the younger disciple out, questioning him in regard to Scripture history, and as they traveled from place to place, he carefully taught him how to do successful work. Both Paul and Silas, in all their association with Timothy, sought to deepen the impression that had already been made upon his mind, of the sacred, serious nature of the work of the gospel minister. AA 204.2
In his work, Timothy constantly sought Paul's advice and instruction. He did not move from impulse, but exercised consideration and calm thought, inquiring at every step, Is this the way of the Lord? The Holy Spirit found in him one who could be molded and fashioned as a temple for the indwelling of the divine Presence. AA 205.1Read in context »