Paul writes: “Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the congregations. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” (1 Corinthians 7:17-18)
When people “converted,” they did not convert from one religion to another; but from one people group to another. Members from both Israel and the Nations were sometimes willing to fully cut their ties with their communities and switch communal alliances. Some Jews went through surgery that hid the signs of circumcision; while some non-Jews adopted Jewish ancestral ways of life (the code word for which was “circumcision”).
The great apostle believed that Israel and the Nations, while retaining their distinct identities, must offer joint worship to God. In the New Covenant community, discrimination between Jews and Gentiles was now forbidden; while functional distinction between them was rightfully upheld.
Paul’s reasoning was simple: If Gentile Christ-followers become Jews, then the God they worship would be too small. He would be the God of the Jews only. If, however, Gentile Christ-followers, as the Nations, would worship Israel’s God alongside the Jews, then the grandeur of this One God would become evident to all (Romans 3:28-30).
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