25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if [hypothetical] you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
The indictment against the Jew reaches its climax in verses 25 to 29, where the focus narrows down to the symbol of “circumcision.” Circumcision was the symbol of Jewish identity.
Paul continued the argument that applying truth was more important than knowing or mechanically following it (obviously, we cannot apply what we do not know). Possession of truth in the form of written Scripture is not the same as entering into its reality.
Paul continued a diatribe form of argument. The argument in this passage is that circumcision has no value without reality. Ritualistically following circumcision is not the same as the reality of faith behind the symbol. The argument is simply one of consistency. Paul did not argue for circumcision or uncircumcision as the proper way.
25 For [explanation] circumcision [the symbol of being a Jew] is indeed profitable if [hypothetical] you keep [practice] the law; but if you are a breaker [transgressor] of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision [a Gentile outside the covenant].
Verses 25 to 27 demonstrate that God will judge according to reality rather than ritual. The Jews with all their privileges but without engaging in the reality of those privileges are just like the non-Jew without faith. Therefore, they are liable to God’s judgment. Physical circumcision in itself does not guarantee salvation. Circumcision has value only in that it is attached to the covenant God made with Abraham—justification by faith.
Ga 6: 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
Circumcision was the cutting off of the foreskin of the male penis. This was a reminder of the covenant relationship God had with His people (Abrahamic covenant).
The “if” is hypothetical (third class condition in the Greek). The Jewish violator of God’s Word was like the Gentile who broke God’s Word. This made circumcision amount to nothing. Circumcision was the symbol of being a Jew (Ge 17:9-14). Circumcision did not affect what it signified; it was simply a symbol. The rite of circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Israel. If a person became circumcised as a ritual act without the reality of God’s Word, it stripped circumcision of its reality.
The inward reality must correspond to circumcision, the outward sign. The sign lost significance to many Jews of Paul’s day. A person who engages with the Word of God is truly a believer, but a person who violates Scripture is reckoned as a non-believer. Mere acceptance of Judaism is not equivalent to being a true Jew.
Ritual without reality is useless.
Ritual is no substitute for reality. Many believers today operate by mechanical, outward religion rather than by application of truth to experience. They gladly go through their rituals of church attendance and other religious acts, but they do not possess the reality.