Paul talks a lot about circumcision.
Most of his words on the subject point toward a new reality that has been entered into where the legal and physical nature of circumcision has been superseded in importance by the spiritual nature of a circumcision of the heart.
It kind of jumps off the page then, for a council [Acts 15] to be put together where the main issue to be discussed is whether Gentiles need to be circumcised, they come to the conclusion that they do not, then Paul goes out, almost immediately, and circumcises Timothy.
This would seem to be hypocrisy of the highest order. Paul was the one who brought the issue to the council in the first place. But for a few words, this would not have made much sense. Those words were, “because of the Jews who were in those places” [Acts 16:3]. The necessity of circumcision was one of the hottest of hot-button issues for the early believers. Paul took a strong stance against requiring it of Gentile believers, so why circumcise Timothy?
Paul (and apparently Timothy) was willing to set aside his conviction on a theological issue in order to prevent it from being a stumbling block for those that he would be approaching with the gospel. Paul was not willing to make Timothy an offense to the people to whom they would be carrying the good news.
Paul was the one who laid claim to having “become all things to all people, that by all means [he] might save some”. [1 Cor:9:22]
Can we make the same claim?
The splintering of Christianity into its innumerable factions serves to show that we have a hard enough time putting away our theological weapons when dealing with fellow believers. Can that attitude of intentional separation really lead to a people that are willing to be “all things to all people”?
Can I be a skeptic for the sake of the skeptic? A feminist for the sake of the feminist? A conservative to the conservative and a liberal to the liberal?
It is ok for us to have strong personal convictions on theological matters. It is ok to have passionate discussions on these topics among our brothers and sisters, even occasionally with unbelievers, but we have to be willing to set those things down for the sake of the gospel when necessary.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…” [Heb 4:12]
Rather than taking that sword and plunging it into the heart of one who was yet to believe, Paul picked up a knife, and Timothy took a tender wound upon himself for the sake of the one whose life could be radically changed by the news of Jesus Christ.