What, then, was circumcision?  Paul says that it was a sign, or rather a seal, of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was circumcised.  (“The righteousness of the faith” here almost certainly indicates the imputed righteousness which he apprehended by faith, rather than the quality of his faith.)  In other words, God gave circumcision as a visible token to Abraham that he was a recipient of the divine favor, a true member of the family of God, and an heir of heaven.  It was God’s stamp of approval upon the faith of Abraham, a visible indication that Abraham’s faith really had been counted to him for righteousness; and it had been counted so long before God ever gave circumcision to him and his offspring.


Because Abraham was counted righteous before God through faith, which he had long before he was circumcised, Abraham then is not only the father of those descended from his loins, but is a spiritual father to those who trust in the Redeemer Who came from his family.  And, since Abraham received righteousness as a gift of God when he believed the promises, the same thing may hold true of any who exercise the same faith, even if they too are uncircumcised.  This is Paul’s clear argument, and it is his answer to the question as to whether God’s justifying grace is the property of the circumcised Jew only, or if it devolves upon the Gentile as well.  Imputed righteousness, then, is for those who possess the reality of faith, rather than a mere mark in the body.